Did I do it wrong?

Looking for opinions from people not on the autism spectrum here (or those who are but have better insight into what neurotypical people like, I guess). The post is long and begins with a bunch of context. If you wanna cut to the chase, scroll down to the line of asterisks and read from there.

I’ve wondered if I might be on the autism spectrum ever since I went on a date with a guy diagnosed with Asperger’s who claimed he could totally sense one of his own. At first I thought that was just a line to try to endear me to him – establish an us-against-them vibe or whatever – but I have since read so many things about autism that hit home for me that…yeah.

One big autism thing that resonates with me is that apparently it’s common for people to find a person on the spectrum to be rude and the autistic person can’t understand why. In my case I understand why in a…technical sense? But I don’t, like, get it.

People seem to really want a cursory “how are you” at the beginning of every conversation, even if the two of you are strangers and you can’t possibly give a shit how the other one is, so I’ve forced myself to make a habit of that. Personally I dislike fakeness and the “how are you” thing often just feels like a way of softening someone up before asking something of them, but it’s what most people want so fine.

The other big thing people seem to expect as a matter of course is that you’ll remember details about them and follow up unprompted. “How was your vacation?” “Did you end up adopting that puppy?” “Where did you and Bob end up going to dinner?”

I do like it when someone does this with me. But it’s not, like, a requirement at all. I can’t remember a time when I started a conversation with a loved one and waited for them to say “so how’d the thing go?” and got mad when they didn’t; if anything I’m surprised when someone does remember details like that. I figure we’re each the hero of our own story and I can’t expect people to recall every little thing that happens to the side characters. If I want someone to know a thing about my life, I just tell them. I don’t resent this or even consciously think “Oh, they must have forgotten that my job interview was on Tuesday, I guess I have to remind them.” I just go “hey guess what? I think my job interview went well!”

On the flip side, I have a shitty time remembering things about other people and even when I do, it often doesn’t occur to me to ask about the things. I’m actively trying to develop the habit but it doesn’t seem to stick. I care about the people in my life, and if one of them tells me “the test came back positive” or “I got approved!” I’ll completely be sad for them or thrilled for them and support them as best I can. But usually they’ll have to tell me that a happy or sad thing happened.

Anyway. The Dandy has said that he never felt supported in past relationships, so automatically I started feeling nervous because I have a known habit of forgetting to ask people about their shit and with my anxiety etc I often need a lot of support, myself, and my partners have sometimes felt that I was kind of a pit of neediness and didn’t give much back.

Today The Dandy went to the funeral of a family friend. I rallied all of my limited focus and managed to remember to text him last night saying I was thinking of him, to let me know how the funeral went, and that if he needed snuggles after he could totally come over.

He never replied, nor has he replied to my text today asking how he’s doing. He often lets texts go unanswered (which I hate, btw; I like more contact from a partner than he gives me) so I don’t know if he’s distraught or just being his normal self.

Meanwhile, I ended up doing some hardcore apartment recon today – including looking at two places – and I didn’t have anyone else to come with me and give a second opinion on the places and I feel totally lost and alone and scared. This is a huge decision and I’m afraid I’ll fuck it up. And I really want to tell The Dandy all about my day and ask him for his opinions on a bunch of stuff but I’m afraid it’ll come off like “yeah so I know your friend just died but LET’S TALK ALL ABOUT MY THING NOW.” I’m fairly sure The Dandy wasn’t close with this guy – his parents were and he was just expected to attend the funeral to support them – but I just don’t know. So I haven’t said anything because I’m trying so hard to avoid being the constant-crisis, oblivious, attention-sucking girlfriend. But it’s hard.


But here’s a fun coincidence – when I got home from all the apartment-hunting, Mine texted me saying he wanted to talk to me. And what he wanted to talk to me about is that he feels I’ve been ignoring his problems lately and obsessing over my own.

Mine’s mom has had several heart attacks over the past couple of years. She had her latest one at the end of January, at which time Mine told me about it and said it had been a terrible week and he just wished he could be in my arms. I sympathized and sent him virtual hugs. The next day – trying to stay vigilant and do that follow-up thing people like – I texted that I was thinking of him and hoping he and his mom were doing okay. He thanked me and said the doctors were running a bunch of tests (maybe I was supposed to say something here?). Two days later he said “I wish you were here” and I sent back a heart.

Later that same day, shit started falling apart at my gallery job. The boss was being pissy with me over my anxiety symptoms (which she interpreted as laziness and/or stupidity, as most people do) and I was feeling like “oh nooooo I’m fucking everything up again and I will never be able to live a normal life or hold down a normal job” and I began a fairly involved, two-day text conversation with Mine in which I angsted about this and debated whether I should quit the job while I was ahead, or hold out on the off chance that I could avoid fucking up a thousand more times and getting fired. Mine listened and offered well-considered advice.

He also asked me how things were going outside of work and I told him how I’d just shelled out $700 to fix the wall that I water-damaged, I’m still seeking a new place to live because my psychotic neighbour bullies and terrifies me, and while technically I was approved for disability benefits back in mid-December, I still haven’t gotten anything in the mail (I called them and they said they don’t even have a decision on file yet and it can take a couple months) so I’m sitting here in this horrible limbo of not knowing whether I’ll be financially secure during my summer slow season or not. We talked about that for a while, too.

A couple days later I asked him if he could help me out sometime with learning how to properly clean my house. Nobody ever taught me how so when I do clean, I always feel like a giant faker/impostor. I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m doing it wrong. I was hoping whenever I saw Mine next he could either clean while I watched or vice versa and I could get a feeling for what normal people do.

He did not respond to this at all. Over a week later he texted “Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t been around.” He does this a lot – vanishes for a while, even when we’re in mid-conversation. I responded by asking him how his mom has been, just in case he fell silent this time because of horrible developments with her health. He said things were a little rough for a while. That was a couple of days ago. Admittedly at this point I got distracted or something and forgot to reply, so today he texted asking me how I’m doing.

And from there we segued into him telling me he feels like I’ve been focusing on my own problems more than his and I honestly can’t tell if that’s fair or not.

Like yeah, we talked about my stuff over the past while more than we talked about his. But what the fuck am I even supposed to say about his mom’s heart attack other than “Oh that really sucks/I hope she’s okay/I’m thinking of you”? Most of the shit I’m going through is stuff I can do something about and need advice on, so yeah, it involved big talks. And I did ask about his mom a couple of times without prompting! And aside from not responding to “it’s been kinda rough” I never ever ignored any statement of his about how difficult things were for him or how sad he was! And if he needed even more “oh that sucks/I’m thinking of you/I hope she’s okay” he could have prompted it by just telling me again that he was having a rough day or whatever!

Just, like…I don’t wanna sound like an asshole here but how much “Oh you poor baby, there there” am I supposed to be doling out? For real, what’s the quota? Should I have been saying it every day? Every two days? Maybe it’s less about intervals and more about making sure I never ever mention how I’m doing without asking him how he’s doing? I honestly don’t know. I kind of feel like he’s being unfair to me here – at the very least he could have told me he needed more attention – but I don’t know. I so often fuck up and make the normals angry with me without understanding why. Maybe this is one of those times when any normal person would have understood how to behave but I just…didn’t.

I expressed some of this confusion to Mine (more politely though). I apologized a bunch for making him feel neglected and explained my thing of being terrible at remembering to follow up with people’s stuff and told him that I do try. He admitted that he should have told me what he needed and said he understands about my weird blank spot with follow-ups. Although in retrospect I realize he still didn’t tell me what he actually needed from me in order not to have felt neglected.

He said that he needs to take some time to mull over our relationship. At which point I mentioned that by the way, his habit of dropping off the face of the earth for weeks at a time kinda drives me crazy, but thank you (sincerely) for at least giving me a heads up this time. But yeah, regular contact (no matter how minor) is a big part of me feeling loved, and his inconsistency in that regard is the main thing keeping me from feeling closer to him. He said he knows this and he apologized. And I guess now we’re just not gonna talk for a while and maybe one or both of us will decide to break up in a more final way than we already did when we agreed he was no longer my sub.

But…yeah. Was I actually that neglectful and selfish or was Mine expecting an absurd amount of attention? If he wanted me to talk about the thing with his mom for as many paragraphs as I talked about whether or not to quit my job, what the fuck was I even supposed to say? How do I fill in that much space? I mean I guess I could have been all “oh, what treatments is she getting?” blah blah blah but I thought talking about his mom’s chest being cracked open and rummaged around in (or the future possibility of it) might be upsetting to him so I tried to just express sympathy and let him talk about shit to whatever depth he needed to. Did I do it wrong? Seriously asking.



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5 responses to “Did I do it wrong?

  1. jooyous

    So, I honestly don’t think there’s an autism/normie divide here and no one knows what the fuck they’re doing. Like, sometimes people say “how are you” and they mean “hi” and sometimes they’re trying to get your “fine” out of the way so they can launch into how they’re doing, and sometimes they awkwardly stare at you. I think a similar thing happens to listening to people’s problems; like, there’s no right or wrong way. People just sometimes don’t mind and feel helpful and sometimes they do mind, depending on what else they’ve got going on.

    I think what happened here is that his problems are bad but not really engaging to talk about, so he engaged in talking about yours until he felt kinda over-extended and then felt resentful about it? But, you’re right, there’s not much that “there there” will do, so it wasn’t really your fault, it was just the nature of the situation. So there wasn’t really anything you could have done, or anything he can tell you to do differently next time. It might not even work out that way next time.

    I think “what is the correct answer though??” is also a human thing and not necessarily an aspie thing, but I also don’t think there is a right answer in this case. 🙂

  2. trillian

    Here’s what I figured: if a person has problems, even if they don’t want to talk about them or have already extensively discussed them with you, they expect you NOT to talk about yours i these times. There is a limited attention space allocated in people’s brains for “trouble things” so if their own fills it up, they really don’t want to hear about anyone else’s. If they are okay they are glad to listen to your shit but if they are not okay they will feel you are selfish mentioning yours. (it’s not true but that’s how they feel.) So my solution is, talk about my problems with those only who are doing finest the moment. But keep it to a minimum with those who aren’t.

    • trillian

      sorry so much typo in there, but can’t edit it

    • play

      Oh yes, that makes a lot of sense. Unless both people’s problems are somehow similar in character and it is possible to just rant and lament together. But if I am shaken up by something my capacity to deal with other people’s problems, even just listening, definitely goes way down.

  3. Pingback: I’m a heartless monster | hiding in plain sight

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