Before you read this newspaper article did you know about Asperger's?
Sue: Didn’t know about it as such no, but I mean I had been very aware, all through our marriage, that there was something, there was a lack of connection. We weren’t able to communicate in what to me was a meaningful way and that, in and of itself, caused a lot of problems and a lot of stresses. And I have even described it to friends, as it’s as if he is not wired properly. And it's, you know, in describing Richard’s behaviour to people, I would sometimes get the response of well it is just that men are different from women thing. Obviously to some extent that is true with Asperger's. But it is a much more extreme difference then people think of when they use that sort of language.
Richard: Or that is just a man on a bad day.
Sue: Yes, but when people say that sort of thing, they have their own mental image of what they mean by that. But it still didn’t match up with what our experience was.
Can you give me some examples of the kinds of things you are talking about in terms of not being able to communicate.
Sue: Richard could never recognize when I was upset about things. He couldn’t relate emotionally to what was going on in the home with me or with the children and if the emotional ambience became quite obvious he literally switched off, went completely blank and he was in that state. It didn’t matter what you said to him, it was as if he just never heard it and then he would go away and then he would re-appear a couple of hours later and behave as if absolutely nothing had been said. So I could have been very worked up about something, trying to get a point across that this is what had upset me or... this was why I was frustrated about something and it would be as if he had never heard anything of what I had said, and there would be no comeback on that at all. I understand now that that is a very autistic reaction; that they get to a certain point, they will overload and beyond that somebody with Asperger's or with an autistic condition just literally cannot hear anything that is being said. And that can be very difficult to cope with, to feel that you are just not being listened to and to get no feedback from what you are concerned about. What you are upset about.
Sue: Yes, I mean on a number of occasions we tried various forms of counselling which hadn’t really had any effect at all because the general aim of most sort of relationship counselling is to try to get both sides to appreciate the other person’s point of view and that is something that Richard just couldn’t do. He couldn’t put himself into my shoes and see anything from my point of view.
Richard: I remember, the counsellor was saying, “You should take more account of your wife’s feelings.” But even then I think I knew the problem was that I didn’t know what her feelings were and that was why I wasn’t taking account of them, so it wasn’t helping. They were telling me to do something that I knew I wanted to do but I couldn’t.
Sue: So for example, if I became upset and it became obvious in the home that I was upset, you know and I would eventually may be stomp upstairs and slam the bedroom door and just shut myself away to try and cool down over something. Richard would make remarks like, “Oh, she is sulking again.” And that was the only label he could put on it, which didn’t help anyway, because I didn’t feel that I was sulking, I was trying to express that you know, that somebody had upset me. And it felt like an accusation from him. “Oh she is sulking again.” So I just had to always back off. And just accept that I just couldn’t get across to him what the problem was and trying to get him to, to talk about feelings was impossible.