Wednesday, September 13, 2023

An Aspie's Wedding: Same Song Different Verses

My book got published, I discovered I could present in front of people, and I had a full-time job for the first time in my life. It was 2010 and slowly, the belief about not having a job, and friends started to thaw, but could I be happy? I, sadly, tied happiness to being in a relationship, and try as I might, a relationship just wasn't in the cards. That is, until summer 2013.

She was from China, and after a couple dates, we went Facebook official. It's actually harder to think about this time period than it is back in 2003. Maybe it was because I was at full tilt all the time with presenting across the state of Missouri over 100 times a year, and my 20+ races I worked all across the country on the weekends. With the intensity of my schedule, and the importance of my work, I had no ability to see the cracks in the road I was on.

A relationship can quickly go from a week to a month, to six months before you know it. I tried to convince myself that I was happy, overlooking the serious incompatibilities between us. I still had no ability to stand up for myself, or to explain myself to another person verbally. One night, when we went to a concert at Powell Symphony Hall, she saw a friend and introduced me to her. Being a social outing, and in a crowded place, I was in a highly defensive state. What does this mean? In this state, my eyes are constantly scanning the room, and I can't easily engage in small talk. I kept looking at my then girlfriend with the look of begging to end this barrage of questions she was asking me to describe to her friend all the things I do, but the room kept filling up with more and more people and the background chatter was escalating to a near deafening level. I couldn't hear her questions, and she angrily told her friend, "Well, I guess he doesn't like you!"

After the concert, on the drive home, she lectured me, "Aaron, you have to talk more. What will my friends think of you if you do that again? You need to talk. That's all there is to it." It was Christmas 2003 all over again. I can't help that state of being in that environment. I'm capable of marvelous things when the environment is right. Equally, I'm capable of highly awkward social encounters when it's a noisy, crowded, and random environment. 

I was hurt deeply, but I held it to myself. Life tip for you: Don't do that. The following months were akin to an airplane that has lost the rear tail and is in a long, spiraling downward spiral to the ground below. With each week I resented those words, and I think she began to attempt to cure me. I was thrust in uncomfortable environment after uncomfortable social encounter. One thing about Asperger's is that there's no cure. I can grow, and have grown immensely, but if you're under the impression that you have the power to simply make all the challenges go away then, well, eventually that downward spiral hits the ground.

It was awkward, it was painful, and I doubt I'll ever be able to write about that breakup, but I have talked to her since, and she has apologized for trying to change me the way she did. As with Emily, we both were younger than our ages and while I had professional maturity, the knowledge of the need to express myself wasn't there and this relationship was destined to end the way it did.

A few months later, I met someone else and spent over a year seeing if she liked me. It became awkward for me, and I regressed back into thinking that a relationship equaled happiness. This, probably, made every action of mine seem unnatural which never allowed for a relationship to ever begin. From that, I got into another relationship that, again, my inability to communicate led to the end of it. 

Yes, it's my wedding week, which probably has you wondering why I've spent three days talking about everyone except my fiancé. One, it's provided stories to relate to you as a quick look at the challenges of being on the autism spectrum and being in a relationship, but it also is to paint a picture of who I was, and why meeting Kristen was so incredible.

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