Another Monday morning and a weekend slipped away too fast. MrZ returned with a bad head cold, complaining that he didn’t like to feel mere mortal; to me it’s evidence of the emotional stress of the last week. When he had finally told me he had mid semester exams this week I felt terrible, if I had known that I would have understood his snarkiness and let it slide last week, but I had been too caught up in my own stresses to have put two and two together. We are a family under pressure this year. A family – as Mstr13 said, he’s one of us now, we have to work it out.
I spent a long time not knowing how to feel about my relationship with MrZ as he seemed to be full of contradictions and I had trust issues to start with. It’s so hard to get a relationship off the ground in these days of internet dating with everybody feeling like there are endless choices and being so quick to trade anyone that is a less than perfect fit against their checklist of ideals. At this stage of life it is unrealistic to think you’ll enter into a relationship without baggage or that you will meet a person without baggage, it’s just not going to happen. With my personal history of holding on too long and not letting go in the face of a toxic and abusive relationship I was always on high alert in the dating scene, fearful of trusting the wrong person. Despite almost two years with MrZ, I guess I still am.
My biggest leap in terms of feeling comfortable in this relationship has only been fairly recent, when I was confronted with a new round of challenges regarding my high functioning spectrum son. He is not easy to live with and MrZ would sometimes make complaints about him that left me feeling defensive, but not only that, I would get frustrated because in fact MrZ shared a lot of those behaviours, just in adult version. I began to say that to him, which he didn’t like, but it was quite true and he really couldn’t deny it. He would ask me how I put up with a particular behaviour in Mstr13, and I would point out it was the same tolerance that allowed me to put up with a similar behaviour of his. Ouch.
As the issues with Mstr13 at the highschool earlier this year escalated and he refused to re-engage with the sort of help from psychologists that had got us through the primary years, I was forced to learn more about the spectrum myself. He had never had a definitive diagnosis although it had been acknowledged that he was borderline Aspergers (they don’t use that term for high functioning autism anymore, just spectrum disorder). Apparently it is quite common for the symptoms to escalate as puberty hits and that certainly is the experience we are having. It’s been trying.
I began to read anything I could get my hands on about Aspergers, and the more I read and learned the more I recognised MrZ too. Was this a bad thing? I learned that it is highly heredity and MrZ has a brother with autism so it is likely he’s a bit higher on the scale than the average person too. I also recognised my father in these descriptions, and for the first time started to see that Mstr13’s traits came from my side of the family. With all the difficulties I have with his father I had assumed it stemmed from there, but now I could see it is different. This was heartening to me, his father is a narcissistic person with addiction problems and I feared my son following the same path, but now I could see a different path for him, a more positive one that my understanding and support could influence.
I began to look at myself and my family in a different light too – my extreme shyness as a child and being a perfectionist – these can be spectrum traits, and it is quite typical for it to affect boys significantly more than girls. Suddenly a lot more about my dysfunctional family made sense, although my son, like my father, doesn’t have the coldness or lack of empathy that stems from a typical lack of understanding of emotion in spectrum people, if anything we (including myself here) are exceptionally emotional people with too much empathy. MrZ however is not.
While this information helped me understand a lot more about MrZ, it also made me think hard about our relationship. The deep, emotional connection that I crave with my partner is never going to be there, he simply does not experience the world the same way that I do. Our relationship will always be difficult in that regard, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work, in fact if I remain tolerant and he continues to try and respect my emotions we will work, and we might actually make each other more balanced as people. Highly emotional events like my recent miscarriage will always be difficult to navigate however, and I will probably need external support and to be able to not judge MrZ for his inability to give me what I need at that time.
It also explains our communication difficulties, which is another area that needs work and a bit more confidence from me. I need to learn that the contradictions between his words and his behaviour aren’t a sign that I’m being used and deceived, nor is it necessarily a red flag for an abusive relationship, a lot if the time it’s an indication that his focus is on practical issues and he doesn’t think of the emotional effect his words sometimes have on me.
MrZ has already demonstrated that he can step up when I voice my needs clearly, so my biggest challenge is really to understand my own needs at any given time, and to be able to ask for them to be met clearly and succinctly. As a person with a history of not having had much help, even when I ask for it, this is a huge challenge for me. It involves learning to trust, and to rebuild a self esteem that has in the past been battered and bruised. I also need to be able to turn my focus inward sometimes, whereas I am used to my focus being outwards, on my work, on my family, on my relationship. So first and foremost I need to become more self aware and this journal blog will be be the tool I use to do that, to regularly step into the eye of the storm and steal a few minutes peace to think and try and understand what is really going on WITH ME while the whirlwind of life continues all around.