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What to do about manipulative behaviour… challenge or 'compromise'(3 Posts)
I'll try to be brief here, but there is a backstory and I don't want to drip feed so here goes…
Dh was diagnosed with mild ASD 12 months ago, after three difficult years of mis-matched expectations and arguments. We have been married 10 years, we have four young children, things used to be a lot easier when we had more time to work things through, and I had a lot more patience. I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and am on medication for this. We are also undergoing couples therapy with a non-ASD therapist, and I am aware that this is probably not going resolve our problems, but it is helping a bit at the moment.
So, dh's best friend lives in a different part of the country with his wife and kids. It is dh's best friend's 40th birthday party in a few weeks, and we were invited months ago. We accepted months ago, and arranged to stay in a local hotel, because although we had been invited to stay at the house, there are various other couples staying to, some of whom we know but not very well, and others that I don't know at all. We both felt that it wouldn't exactly be easy to stay at the house in these circumstances - hotel would be preferable.
Another of dh's friends had a 40th party locally a few weeks ago, and I stayed at home because I didn't feel up to it. Dh's best pal was there, and they all got to talking about his impending party. Several mutual friends are travelling from our part of the country, and my closest and oldest friend was invited at this point, and she asked me which hotel we were staying at - we might as well stay at the same place.
Dh at this point said he'd rather stay at his friend's house, and in no circumstances wanted to stay at the same hotel as my friend. There is no history between my friend and him, in a negative way anyway. She was the friend who introduced us both over 10 years ago. I've always had a great relationship with her. She was at school with dh, and although they are not what I would describe as 'close', they get on well, at least superficially.
I felt really awkward about saying to my friend that we would be staying elsewhere. I stalled, and said we hadn't booked anything yet. She booked and let me know. I suggested to dh that if it were that important to him he could stay at his mates house, and I could stay at the hotel. Feel faintly ridiculous doing this, but genuinely feel not up to staying on the sofa at his friend's house with people I really don't know.
I quizzed dh about why he didn't want to stay at the hotel with my friend, her dh, and other mutual friends. He played the ASD card and said it was the social aspect - having breakfast with them, possibly getting taxis together etc. I said that he would have to socialise more staying at the house than at the hotel, and these are his friends dating back to school days…
I don't feel particularly supported emotionally by dh. He doesn't seem to understand how I feel about going to the party and doesn't seem interested. He just 'wants' to stay at his friend's house, and 'doesn't want' to stay at the same hotel as my friend. I said that this was awkward - how could I explain this without lying? My friend, after 10 years of this kind of behaviour, probably feels that we don't want to see her! I could say, "Ah, the hotel was booked so we've stayed nearby" and with that in mind I decided to compromise for an easy life, and booked an alternative hotel.
I suggested to dh that I could talk about this with my parents and sister to get some perspective, because sometimes I feel like I'm going mad, but he said that it might get back to my friend (our parents know each other). In all honestly I don't mind this - if she finds out that dh is responsible for the 'odd' behaviour (e.g. she invites us to stay with her and her husband, we decline, they suggest going out for a meal, we decline, I meet up with her and the children while dh is at work…) it would be a relief to me, but anyway. Decided not to talk about it to my family as they would think it really unusual and it would just make me feel worse.
In 10 years of marriage we have been away for weekends and breaks and day trips with his best friend and their family. I get on well with them, the kids get on… but I have local friends that the children all get on well with, and other friends like the person I have known all my life, and dh refuses to go out with them. I understand and am not trying to minimise the effects of ASD on his anxiety around social situations, but I do feel that I am being manipulated here, and it always ends up him getting his own way, and my friendships suffering. How far would you push this? I am trying very hard to 'own' my own feelings as advised by the therapist, and not blame dh for feeling disappointed etc, but I genuinely don't know how to handle this situation and countless others that are similar but different… He always wants things 'his way' and will only compromise if it is his suggested compromise. Sorry for long post!!
Has he always been like this, and how have you resolved things and got him to compromise and socialise on your terms before his diagnosis?
Given that he is clearly capable of making and keeping friendships and getting invited to things, it sounds to me like the ASD diagnosis is being used as a bit of a cop out for avoiding social situations with your friends that he could manage perfectly well if he wanted to, he just doesn't want to, which isn't terribly fair on you.
Although much of what you've described about the hotel etc. could be the case for anyone who isn't particularly extrovert and dislikes feeling trapped in prolonged social settings, it doesn't just apply to people with ASD.
He hasn't always been like this, but I've noticed that gradually over the years he has become less and less willing to spend time with anyone other that his best friend. He was more tolerant before the diagnosis, but now it is as though he has a reason and no longer has to try. He feels the diagnosis has helped him so much because he now understands why he is the way he is, whereas I feel that it has been the beginning of a nightmare, where he no longer wants to meet me half way or take into account my feelings. I suppose in the past I didn't particularly try that hard to get him to socialise on my terms because when the children were very small or I was pregnant, we led a different kind of life, much more time at home, and fewer local friends who I have now developed close bonds with. I keep coming back to the fact that the diagnosis was 'mild' - and I'm sure many people have similar traits and characteristics without having a diagnosis. I don't mean to sound like I am minimising what I know is a very real condition which affects people in a very real way, but it seems as though it is shaping the way he interacts with me now. Is it selfish of me to view it like that?
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