As I reevaluate my life, I’m finding more examples of the friction that my autism caused between me and my ex-wife.
The reevaluation of my life continues, unabated. Sometimes things I had forgotten, come back to the fore when I discuss with other autistic people. I have collected here more examples of the friction that living with an autistic man was causing between my ex-wife and me. I’ll remind you that neither of us knew that I’m autistic. We both knew about her ADHD and that was that.
Sometimes my ex-wife and I were involved in discussions about where things were located in the world. A discussion between a third party and my ex-wife might have gone like this:
“You know that bowling alley?”
“Yes, the one across the street?”
My ex-wife would be the one placing the bowling alley across the street. This phenomenon did not happen so much in the last house we were in, but it did happen quite a lot at our previous house, in the suburbs. When my ex-wife said across the street, and we lived in that house, I knew she was no longer making any sense, because the only thing across the street there were other neighbors. Note that, in the dialogue above, the third party just goes along with what my ex-wife says.
As far as I know, I was the only person taking my ex-wife to task over her way of explaining where things were in the world. See, my literal mind takes across the street very literally. If you say A is across the street from B, I imagine starting from B, walking across the street, and right there and then being at A. I do make some allowance for things that are not right in front of one another, but there is a limit. Not so for my ex-wife. For her, you could reach point A after a small trek across multiple streets, or city blocks.
Mind you, we did not have huge disputes over this predilection of hers. However, we had multiple discussion over this language problem, and it was definitely a source of friction in our marriage.
Another source of friction happened when she moved my things. I’ve learned recently that this is a characteristic that multiple autistic people share. Autistic people like to have their things organized a certain way. Now, I’m not saying that my domicile is an exemplar of organization or cleanliness. Far from it, not so much because of dirt, but because there are some items for which I don’t care so much about position. However, there is a set of things that I like to be able to readily find.
For instance, I like to be able to find my tools where I put them last. This way, when I need to use those tools again, I don’t have to look all over the place to find them, prior to doing what I actually want to do. This was a source of occasional friction between my ex-wife and I. Sometimes I was in the middle of working on something, so I left the tools out. She would move my tools around, and then I would puzzle over the fact that they had moved. Eventually, I’d ask her if she had seen them, and yep, she had moved them.
Another thing that irritated her, and I don’t recall talking about this before, was when I was deep in thought over something, and she came to talk to me. She’d interrupt my train of thoughts, and I had to ask her to repeat the start of what she said. This might have something to do with the way my brain is wired differently from hers.
For instance, my ex-wife was able to listen to an audiobook or a podcast and still do useful stuff, and feel that she did not miss anything. She was able to multitask. I, on the other hand, cannot multitask. If I focus on something, then my mind is entirely focusing on it. I cannot split my mind in two and listen to a podcast and at the same time try to do any useful work. I can eat a sandwich in parallel without problem, but as soon as the task becomes more complex, I’m no longer listening to the podcast.
So when she initiated talk, and I was absorbed by a task, I had to set aside my task, and ask her to repeat herself, because I did not hear what she said. She was slightly irritated at my behavior. I guess, in her mind, it was a sign that I was not interested in what she had to say, much like me not registering her glares. The issue with her glares was explored in the following article.
However, it was not disinterest on my part. Mind you, I probably looked slightly annoyed when I was interrupted, but it was a slight annoyance, and not something major. What could cause me to respond the way I did when my wife stopped me? I think it was a mild form of autistic inertia. In a discussion, someone suggested hyperfocus, and yes, that’s what it is, but I’ve found hyperfocus to be grouped under the rubric of autistic inertia on sites where autistic inertia is discussed.
Mind you, autistic inertia can be much more dramatic than what I experienced. I remember other autistic people talking about having to take a few minutes in the car prior to going to the grocery store. Others talk about having issues with getting up from bed, or going to bed. My case is not as dramatic as this.
So there you have it. Am I going to find more sources of friction between my ex-wife and me? In all likelihood, yes! However, that’s a topic for a future article.