Which task do you want me to do first?
I am fortunate to be married to a clever, kind and supportive husband. He also has Asperger’s. In the early years of our relationship, especially as he spent more and more time with me at my house it became apparent that chores, tasks and housework were going to be an issue.
In the interests of a harmonious household, and ensuring our relationship had a future I had to do some adjustments to my own expectations of what he was capable of and how we could work together.
Rules of engagement – task by task
I couldn’t get my head round why he couldn’t just do as I asked him to do and why he had a meltdown if I gave him more than one task at a time! What was wrong with him? He never spontaneously picked up a cloth or a vacuum, I had to ask him EVERY time! It was exhausting.
Because I CHOSE to feel that way instead on reflecting and asking my (then boyfriend) how he feels about it all.
We actually had one of those sit-down chats where we talk about serious stuff. Not an easy chat and lots of eye contact was avoided, but we managed to talk honestly with each other and come to an understanding:
- I will ask for one task at a time to be completed
- I will describe the outcome I desire (not the method/instructions to get there)
- I will state clearly the deadline for that task (and I always make sure I respect the fact that he might be in the middle of a game/film/book etc)
- He will be honest about whether he can complete the task, and to time.
This way my hubby can choose if he can complete the task and as each task is always a new task I am not nagging him. Each new request has not been uttered before today.
Sometimes there are many tasks to complete in one day (housework usually) and I will pair them up and give him a choice. Do you want to do the washing up or vacuum the lounge? That stops any pathological demand avoidance from kicking in.
Lastly I never give him more than one task at a time unless I can write out a list. The list doesn’t have more than three things on it (unless I’m away for several days) and the choice of what order to do them in and when is up to him.
He’s not the kind of guy that gets tasks out of the way either – often I arrive home, and as soon as he hears my car on the drive, he leaps up and starts a task. I used to get cross about this as I wanted him to complete the task earlier in the day so that when I got home we could spend some ‘quality time’ together. But that is me trying to exert my will over him again, so it truly must be up to him to decide. I have to be okay with it. I am not his parent!
Getting the task-approach agreed saved our relationship!
I could have spent years getting really cross about how my husband doesn’t conform to the way everyone else does chores; never sees the dirt and never picks up the vacuum, never spontaneously does the washing up or ironing, or he didn’t do it the way I would do it, but by letting that all go, I have made much more room in my life to love my man. He’s just not wired that way.
By reaching a lasting and relevant agreement I found a way around the frustration. We have harmony in our home and no reason to argue over the little things….
Because, communication isn’t optional.