The impossible has (may have) just happened: to the best of our ability (we’re both doctors, my partner and I), we’ve figured out that my partner may be an Aspie, too.
It all started about a week ago, with a Twitter post (“tweet”) from Tania Marshall, PhD (link to tweet) that linked to an article from the Daily Mail UK (link to article) titled, “So is your impossible husband actually autistic?”…
Having been together for over 17 years, I suspected something was different about him. Masculine (the positive side) in every way, he was not “your typical guy” in any way.
When I reached my own Asperger’s discovery and realization a while back, I had suspected that he showed some of the unique traits, which might answer why he remained so separate from the rest of the world, so I suggested that he take the same questionnaires that had given me my clear answers and brought so much clarity, transformation, and peace to my life and indeed, my world.
I’m not sure exactly what his score was (true to form for him, he didn’t tell me), but it didn’t exactly break the meter. In fact, it didn’t even register in Asperger’s territory. But through the years he had indeed been–frequently–that “impossible” partner, which, although I’m an Aspie, too, has caused a lot of discord over the years.
I was confused. (Was he) Aspie? Or not Aspie? I posed the question as a comment to Tania’s article.
She posed a question back: “could he be a guy with a female phenotype?”
I was puzzled at first. I hadn’t heard that there were different phenotypes. I’m an Aspie female and I know other Aspie females, and we all scored well into Asperger’s/autistic territory when it came to our assessments (online or administered by a professional). We were clearly Aspie, and that was that. I hadn’t heard of any female phenotype, nor had I imagined that it would score more neurotypical/allistic (non-autistic) on the “standard” questionnaires.
Limitations (Twitter demands brevity, and I’m sure Tania Marshall is an extremely busy professional) required that I exercise some deductive reasoning. My theory is this: Asperger’s is much more commonly recognized in males, and thus, the questionnaires and checklists are more likely to have a male-oriented bias. Those with the male phenotype of Asperger’s would score more highly (even if we are female by gender). Whether Asperger’s/autism “presents” differently in males and females, or is simply perceived differently by others (as Rudy Simone asserts in her book “Aspergirls”) due to being measured by different gender-based yardsticks, makes for an excellent discussion.
But given Tania’s male-vs-female phenotypes scenario… whether a female phenotype would score differently on the questionnaires is less clear (to me; maybe others have more solid knowledge on that topic. Continuing on with my theory…) it’s possible that if a female phenotype exists, people of that type may score differently on the questionnaires.
Maybe “puzzled” doesn’t quite describe what I felt. More like I was kind of lost in a sea of confusion. But then I got to thinking…
And I revisited the Asperger’s Syndrome traits/characteristics lists and websites I had stumbled upon during the early stages of my own discovery. And yep, it appears that he fits a lot of the list, too. Some of those traits, we have in common; others, on the list, one of us has, while the other doesn’t. He does have a lot of the traits on the lists; he just has a different mixture/combination than I do.
And together, a couple nights ago, we began to reflect. True to my form, I made mental lists, which I eventually wrote down. We untangled the mystery and mentally laid out what we knew.
Like me, he has only had a few good friends at any given time. None were his age. All were eccentric in some way. His closest and longest-time friend has been retrospectively figured to be an Aspie. And, he married a solid Aspie (me), and has been able to withstand the sometimes(often?)-challenging package deal that I am.
Like me, he hates confrontation. He denies feeling any anxiety when thrust into such a situation, but it’s possible that he may not admit it, or that he may not even be aware of it.
Like me, we cherish our periodic Alone/Apart Time.
Like me, he’s loyal and faithful. Neither one of us is going anywhere.
Like me, he doesn’t desire children. The mess, the smells, the extra work, the noise, etc, are too overwhelming for our senses. That decision was not difficult, and did not take much time to reach.
Like me, he can be blunt, or at least, straightforward. There have been unexpected negative responses to some emails he has sent. To him and me, they seemed neutral and simply businesslike (they involved business, after all). The recipient responded to him as though he’d slapped them, accusing him of being cold and rude. I’ve requested several times that he allow me to look over his letters and emails to “soften” them before they are sent.
Like me, if he senses (based on past experience) that “bad blood” might be created if he says something unpleasant, he’ll keep it to himself and not say anything at all. This was not an intuitive skill for him; he had learned the hard way.
Like me, he lives in a rich internal world, which often makes him appear withdrawn (at best), or cold or narcissistic (at worst). I know that his mind is churning, but I don’t know anything else. When I’ve asked him what he’s thinking about, his answer is often “nothing”.
Sure, it’s possible that he’s thinking about something unpleasant that he’d simply rather not get into a discussion about. It’s also possible that he may be allowing his brain to rest or reset. And it’s also possible that he may not know how to express what he’s thinking; it might be too vague, involved, or complex, or the English vocabulary may not exist.
Like me, his IQ is “up there”. I don’t know what his is, but I do know my range (IQ is never an exact number; it’s always a range), and we seem pretty matched.
Like me, he needs to get plenty of downtime, preferring to spend it at home, and his home is his solitude, his safe haven and barrier from the rest of the world.
Like me, we view the rest of the world as a place in which we don’t fit….and we don’t mind not fitting in, because to us, “normal” sucks.
Like me, he has “special interests” (which I like to call “primary interests”), although his are narrower than mine. Law enforcement/emergency services/communications, “conspiracy theory” (although the much more rational end), Traditional Asian Medicine, and parts of the technology umbrella (including ham radio, internet and phone systems, etc) are his special interests.
He collected/collects things, too; his collections have included Star Trek memorabilia, police supplies (including the patches on each department’s shirt-sleeves), survival gear, Asian Medicine books (although he’s selective), DVD box sets (documentaries, old discontinued shows) and movies (always cult classics that no one else cared about), German Shepherd figures, and ham radio gear.
I’ve often described us as “two lone wolves”, together only because we travel a parallel path. But recently, I’ve realized that the connection goes deeper than that. It’s not your typical “chemistry”, as is so often the case in relationships throughout the “rest of the world”; it’s more of a comfortable sense that “we’re both quirky, independent, odd, and eccentric, and no one else would ‘get’ us, but we tolerate each other, so let’s just stick together”.
It’s also a sense of feeling comfortable being ourselves around each other. And importantly, the connections we do share may not be “typical” or ignite a lot of excitement on the surface, and we don’t share a lot of connections (in terms of quantity), but those we do share are unusual, deep, complex, interesting, unique, and incredibly strong/binding.
And when I say “lone wolves”, “lone” is right; it has been a largely lonely partnership. I’ve begged for affection over the years; he’s been incapable of giving it. To do so simply doesn’t cross his mind. He had never been interested in dating in high school, which, I’m fairly certain, probably stems from his visual impairment. He can see, but not well enough to focus on things or to drive. Early on, he reached the conclusion, what’s the point of asking a girl out on a date if you can’t drive? What girl is going to be interested in that, unless she’s even more disabled than I am?
Like me, he has unconsciously built an environment and entire life around his neuro-type; he is adamant about his clothing being soft and not scratchy against his skin…to the extent that he doesn’t even wear jeans. He rips the scratchy tags out of his shirts. He insists upon his lighting being low, ambient, and incandescent; his furniture being soft and comfortable (leather is out), and his environment being calm and relatively quiet (save for when I get the urge to fire up the MP3 playlist and sing along). His hearing is superb and his sleep quality usually sucks.
Like me, he experiences more anxiety than he realizes. It’s always there. He just doesn’t verbalize it, and/or he’s not aware of it.
In fact, he doesn’t verbalize much, actually. You can only tell he’s super-duper-excited about something when he goes off on a (calm) monologue about it for a while.
Like me, he’s an INTJ, the rarest Myers-Briggs type.
Like me, he has his subtle routine. He has his favorite TV shows, his rituals with the cats (whom he prefers over dogs, although he likes both), his dislike for feeling humid or damp, his set Way of Doing Things.
Like me, he was the underachieving black sheep of the family, whose father was tough on him and refused to understand or cut any slack.
Like me, he’s excellent at investigation and research.
Like me, he’s quirky and unusual. The normal “guy” has nothing on him, and a “normal girl” doesn’t interest him.
Like me, he can separate himself emotionally from ordinarily-emotional situations that the rest of the world would flip their shizz about; he made an excellent Emergency 9-1-1 dispatcher because he could remain detached from the emotionally-charged situation and keep a cool head, doing what needed to be done, without getting emotionally caught up in the tragedy unfolding at the other end of the phone. Someone drowned in a lake? Gas station held up at gunpoint? Kid in a hot car? Fine; emergency services on their way; next call.
Other people thought he was a crazy, cold, uncaring, heartless prick who didn’t care about anyone…until one night, when he took a call that he knew that someday, he might have to relate to: an elderly man pleading with his wife to stay with him, not to die in his arms. She was slipping away and there was nothing he could do.
That was the one emergency call that got to my partner. His deep and complicated empathy revealed itself after all. Otherwise, he often appears totally devoid of empathy, other than a close connection with the cats…and probably me, although an observer wouldn’t be able to tell (and sometimes I can’t, either).
Like me, he hates change if the current situation is working fine. He put up quite a “fuss” (an emotion-free monologue) when his smartphone unexpectedly (and automatically) updated its Operating System overnight and forced him to get used to the new interface. It annoyed him so much that he actually talked about it…and still occasionally mentions it months later.
There are some differences, though, too.
Unlike me, he’s fine with eating the same foods for a few weeks (or months or sometimes years) in a row. (On the other hand, I insist on variety, getting irritated if I eat the same thing a third consecutive night.)
Unlike me, he’s not particularly affectionate. (I’m one of those unusual Aspies who craves hugs.)
Unlike me, he can be sexually aroused just by looking at an attractive female form (which was me, a few years ago; my health has downgraded and I’ve gained some weight, but I’m taking steps to get that healthy form back again).
Unlike me, he usually tolerates the mall just fine. (Like me, he also likes the fairgrounds.)
Unlike me, he doesn’t seem to suffer very much anxiety, or at least he (outwardly) handles it well. He’s certainly not insomniac like I am; his sleep schedule is pretty regular, although his sleep quality sucks (and mine is the opposite–quality over quantity, and not much predictability).
Unlike me, he’s adamant about not having anyone over to our house. He’ll make concessions for me when I really want them, but it’s certainly not his preference. He has often said that his home is his sanctuary, his reprieve from the rest of the world.
He married an Aspie; now why on earth would he go and do that? (Grin) Why did he open up to me so readily on our first date, which was a 13.5-hour walk around the Mall of America, where the nonstop, not-awkward conversation took us around twists, bends, and scenic overlooks, covering subjects (airborne nuclear particle fallout patterns, anyone?) that are unheard of for a first date?
Why did he open up so readily to me about such unusual subjects on that first date?
Why did we instantly feel like such good friends at the end of that first date?
Why were our feelings so mutual and unprecedented (we both felt them and we’d never felt that way about anyone else in our lives)?
How have we reached such effortless agreement about home decor and child-free family structure and self-employment?
How and why have we stuck with each other all these years through all of our trying times, quirks, issues, and oddities?
Maybe, it’s more than just “chemistry”.
Maybe it goes deeper than the desperation to find a significant other.
Maybe, just maybe, it might be because he’s one of the (Aspie tribe) gang, too…(?)
(Hence the quote from Yoda in Star Wars in the title; when asked if Luke Skywalker was the only one of his kind, Yoda replied “no. There is another Skywalker”.) 🙂
We’re looking into it.
(Note: Special Thank You to Tania Marshall, PhD for reaching out to me! I’m sure she’s aware she’s changing many lives, but may not be aware of just how many!) ❤
(Image Credits: Spite n’ Malice (featured image; footer image unknown)