What the heck is this?
March 22, 2012 2:16 PM Subscribe
My boyfriend seems to have a kind of blindness around other people's feelings and motivations. I don't think he has Aspergers -- more like ADD and some narcissistic traits, perhaps. What might this be called, how can I gently help him with it, and how can he help himself?
posted by sockratties to Human Relations (34 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm really not sure how to frame this question, so I hope that mefi can help me out. I want to say first of all that I don't want to DTMFA, so I'm hoping you can all help me analyze this situation and learn from it. If I need to DTMFA in the future, I will.
My boyfriend seems to have a lot of difficulty anticipating how people will feel and to be extremely self-centered, to the point of not understanding when others will get upset about something. He has to have his way, in small things like where we go to breakfast or what order we run errands -- or he gets upset. He has really severe social anxiety, hates parties and going out, and gets very defensive if he feels criticized. He has to feel in total control of his environment or he has panic attacks. He seems constitutionally incapable of doing things he doesn't want to do. He gets very needy when under external stress.
- He really hates being "pinned down" to schedules, timelines, or plans, not just with me but with anyone. It makes him very grumpy and defensive. He's kind of a superstar at work so he gets away with a lot, but he misses meetings all the time because he won't be pinned down to a schedule. Nevertheless, he works really hard and is extremely creative and productive.
- He comes up with a thousand reasons why something he doesn't want to do is impossible, instead of clearly communicating that he doesn't want to do it. He often thinks other people are being assholes when they are merely opposing his point of view. He has a brilliant strategic mind for getting his way, finding loopholes, and getting out of things. He's never overtly verbally abusive in the sense of saying mean things. It's more a kind of total inability to see points of view other than his own, in the moment. He gets defensive very easily and blames others for his frustrations.
- He doesn't like to play board games because he feels like he has to win at all costs, but he doesn't like to make other people feel bad about losing. (So this is a perfect example because he can't imagine that others wouldn't feel as bad as he does about losing, he has to win at all costs, but he also doesn't want to be a jerk and hurt others.)
At the same time, he is extremely loving, caring, and supportive. He asks how I feel and communicates with me. He remembers concerns that I have. He really pays a lot of attention to making me feel loved. He's changed a lot of things about how we interact in order to make me happier. He's wonderfully affectionate, extremely interesting and smart, and when focused on me really tries his best to understand and support me. This is really the best relationship I've ever had. I love him very much.
In the span of a few weeks, he has gone from being very defensive about these issues to being much more open to talking with me about his thoughts and feelings. It's becoming clear to me that he has trouble identifying his own motivations and listening and communicating with others. I really enjoy the growing trust in our relationship and I think he would be open to learning more about these issues and how he can help himself and I can help him. He is realizing that these problems get in his way at work as well as in our relationship.
He was diagnosed with severe learning disabilities and ADD as a child, which means that he forgets things easily and often switches context in a way that is confusing to others. He was not diagnosed with Aspergers at that time, as far as I know. I think he might have some sort of disability in understanding others' motivations that he then covers up with defensiveness and super love-y behavior.
I was in a relationship with a narcissistic sociopath, and this doesn't feel like that. He has a big personality, loud, confident, and bold, but he has a kind of sweetness that narcissists don't usually have.
My father has Asperger's Syndrome (and I have some Aspie traits), and it doesn't feel like that either. I'm thinking maybe it's some kind of sensory integration problem? Sometimes he is very sensitive to touch and little things (like having his hair touched gently) bother him.
I feel like there's something here that I just can't put my finger on. Boyfriend is in his late 20s, if that matters.
- What might this be called? (Feel free to speculate wildly and make internet diagnoses)
- How can I gently help him with it?
- How can he help himself?
- What can I do to deal with my frustrations about these traits in him?