Had a sudden (maybe obvious) revelation as I read Aspergers Syndrome for Dummies last night: that people with Aspergers have great difficulty (perhaps even find it impossible) to control their tone of voice. That doesn't mean, necessarily, that they're bored or annoyed or indifferent. Just that it sounds like they are!
All these years of arguing with Ethan over his tone. It even happened today. His response to a chatty comment from me was met with what came across as an irritated and grumpy response. And so the usual process ensued: I react. Telling him he's rude, irritable, impossible to have a conversation with. He gets defensive, and confused and deflated because, in his mind, he didn't sound grumpy at all. He swears he didn't feel grumpy and can't understand why I think he is all the time. When I repeat back to him what he's just said and how he's said it he harumphs disdainfully and insists he didn't sound anything like that. And, inside his own head, he probably didn't. To the rest of the world though, he sounded thoroughly hacked off. I get increasingly exasperated and therefore emotional and heated. And here we come to the second part of my newly discovered information - that people with Aspergers get stressed and anxious when other people's speech takes on a highly emotional tone (which is what my speech is like at least 50% of the time!)
So, while I'm screaming at him in frustration and very outwardly expressing my irritation and annoyance, in both words and tone, he literally is closing down emotionally and socially until we reach a point where he says something cross and stomps off. And I'm left not having achieved anything other than creating two very irritated and disillusioned people.
I'm slowly realising that my emotional response to his flatline tone is just making everything worse. Suddenly I'm seeing that there might be another way. That I need to change how I receive Ethan's communication (the problem is that the rest of the world won't). And that I need to keep calm and factual when speaking to him. But I am an emotional person. And while part of me recognises that I need to meet Ethan halfway on this journey of surviving a marriage between an Aspergers and a neurotypical person, the other half doesn't want to deny who I naturally am. But I guess that's part of the cost.
Just a little PS - It's disappointing, and just a little embarrassing when Ethan's absolutely literal understanding prevents him from 'getting' jokes like the following:
An English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Australian, American, Chinese, Indian and Russian man walk up to a bar. The bouncer says 'There's no way you're getting in here without a Thai.'
Members of my assembled family smiled, chortled or commented. Ethan was smiling but looked blank. It was family so I could ask Ethan if he got it. No. he didn't. We explained it to Ethan and our 8-year-old daughter at the same time! Ethan is a genius in many ways, but infuriatingly clueless in others. I'm not criticising. His brain's just wired differently. But it's just sad and a bit discouraging that we can't laugh together. Because for me, and in the words of another blog from a neurotypical wife of an Aspergers man, laughing helps.