"My Husband Has Asperger's"
"I've never understood what Susan wants from me," said Neil, 50, in a slow and reserved tone. "I fell in love with her right away. She was beautiful and seemed so caring and gentle. But soon I learned she also had a scolding, demanding side, and I've seen a lot of that over the years. I can't do anything right in her eyes. I try, but I often don't understand what I'm doing wrong.
"I know that Susan thinks that I'm a bad husband and father. I'm sure she mentioned the time I commented on our daughter's artwork -- a mistake she has never let me forget. I hated to see Lisa crying, but honestly, I didn't understand what was so awful. I was just telling the truth. Frankly, I've never been able to understand why people even bother with white lies.
"Susan complains I'm a distant parent, but she turned the kids against me long ago by making me out to be the ogre while she acted as if she was their protector. One time Jake and I were building model airplanes, and I was teaching him how to use an X-Acto knife safely. Susan overheard me and came down hard on me for 'squelching his creativity.' That was the end of my model building with Jake.
"I know it's not just Susan, of course. I've had my share of problems with people I've worked with over the years as well. One time I was fired for taking an old typewriter from a storeroom. It had been just sitting there, gathering dust, so I thought to myself, Why not bring it home? It just seemed like the logical thing to do. I guess other people didn't see it that way.
"Susan has always blamed me for problems at my jobs, and I can't say that she is totally wrong. Dealing with people -- even with my friends -- has always been hard for me. I try to make small talk but I get anxious and just want to be left alone. And Susan's criticism doesn't help. She's a social person; over the years we've fought repeatedly because she dragged me to a party or school event where I was miserable. When we go out with another couple, she gives me the third degree afterward: 'Why did you say this? Why didn't you do that?'
"In all honesty I've always felt different from everyone else. Other people seem to have a secret way of communicating, some kind of mental telepathy that connects them. I just never have had that kind of connection. Those articles about Asperger's made me realize maybe that's literally true. Maybe that's what's behind our struggles -- and I'd like to learn more about it. I want to feel closer to Susan and our children. She doesn't think I love her, but I do. I want to get it right for once."
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