I am not sure if this is the right place but I am hoping to find a forum where I can learn to be a better companion for my SO. We just recently discovered that he demonstrates a lot of common autistic traits. I have found a lot of interesting, positive articles but certain things/behaviors still puzzle me and I want to find better ways for me to cope with them.
I want to be clear. I don’t want to change him, I only want to change the way I look at his traits, my understanding of his traits, and the way I communicate with him. My SO and I use to have a lot of fights in regards to his autistic traits, but now that we have identified it as autism, and that I have been trying to understand it better, it’s been better for both of us. However, some of his traits still trigger arguments and I am trying really hard to improve on my end. I am hoping to find tricks/knowledge so that I can learn faster, so he can be happier, being himself.
One particular thing that I am unable to understand, and that he is unable to explain to me is this:
When he is particularly stressed out, he starts to extravagantly clean the house or whatever else in the most inconvenient way. It drives me nuts and I am not sure if (1) I am causing it and/or (2) if I can help him through it somehow. I have 2 recent examples.
This Saturday, we had plans to go on a day trip out of the country with 2 friends who slept over. We had a set, yet slightly flexible schedule for wake up/departure. We also had a breakfast and coffee plan. We woke up on time, at breakfast on time, etc. But about 10 minutes before our departure time, he decided to do a deep clean of the car, with the vacuum and everything. At first when he asked our friend to bring out the vacuum, I just rolled my eyes a bit, but by the time our departure time rolled around, I asked him to end it and make it a quick cleaning since it was time to go and vacuuming was not a part of our schedule. But 10 minutes later he was still at it, and that’s when I noticed that he was acting (I don’t know how to say it) “out of character”. This went on for about 30 minutes, until I finally got mad about it and he stopped vacuuming the car.
That same night, late in the evening, once we had returned from our trip, our day time dog sitter’s child had fallen asleep on our couch so I decided it would be best to invite them to sleep over since they lived far away and it was past midnight and the child was asleep. This through my SO into a deep cleaning/dusting of the house, after midnight, while we had 4 guests over. I tried to ask him why he was cleaning the house and he said he was tired and he had a lot of cleaning to do so I asked him to go to bed (a few times) and I also reassured him that I would help him clean once our guests were gone and he did go to bed after a while.
It’s hard because our guests often notice that he is acting oddly and they ask me what is causing him distress, but I definitely don’t want to say: he is acting oddly because having people over and breaking his routine does this to him (aka it’s your fault).
When I get angry at him, it often triggers all kinds of other reactions in him, so I would really like to learn not to get angry. It's a vicious circle of autistic trait-->anger-->austistic trait-->anger. I have figured out that to break the circle, I need to understand why he is behaving that way. I think I dealt with it better in example 2 but I still think I could improve my reaction.
I understand that this whole event was out of the ordinary routine and that is a reason on its own to be extra stressful for him. Now I am just rambling on…
I guess my main 3 questions would be:
I would kindly appreciate your constructive criticism & advice please.
OMG this sounds just like my husband! The cleaning sprees also do my head in and are often before bed. Its definitely linked with how stressed he is feeling and is nothing to do with me/you. I have learned I cannot control how my SO is feeling- all I can do is establish boundaries for my personal wellbeing- this has taken years of learning and support from a counsellor specialised in Asperger's -who is also aware of my husbands personality traits. It does help when the house is clean and tidy but interestingly if he is extremely stressed he will find something else to get angry about and gets into a "loop" of anger/low mood/irritability (even his skin itches!). He tends to take his mood out on me so that's why the boundaries are important with consequences for unacceptable behaviour. If you look into his childhood stuff you may get an understanding of any fears or emotional issues that can help understand some of the behaviours. Other people will accept eccentric behaviour- I just leave my SO to get on with it. Laughing often helps my SO - he enjoys attention and being appreciated- however in a cleaning outburst he is best left on his own- to get on with it- I note he feels better afterwards- more relaxed. On a positive note he is well liked at work (struggles to make friends out of work) is exceptionally good at his job and has amazing problem solving skills!! Hope that helps!