The holiday season can bring both extreme excitement and extreme dread for some of us.
Winter activities and added commitments, constant music and flashing lights, sugary delights, and financial strain can be challenging for most couples, neurotypical and non-neurotypical alike. Aspies thrive when there is consistency, clear expectations and a calm atmosphere.
Not easily achieved during this time of year.
As we quickly approach 2017, I thought I'd share three quick holiday Aspie survival tips I've learned over the years.
1 - COMMUNICATION
All three tips include a sort of communication, but it's so incredibly important I think it should get its own category.
Communication is key to every relationship all year long, but it becomes extremely important when navigating the unexpected chaos of the holidays. If your Aspie Man is like mine, he doesn't really want to be in the nitty gritty of planning the holidays, but has a few things that are important to him.
Start out by writing down an overview of the month, including what you both would like to see accomplished during the holiday season. You don't need to cover all the details at this point, unless that's how your roll =). This is extra nice to do away from the house and all the distractions home life holds. This year we spent the afternoon at a wonderful winery. We talked a little about the holiday food, who was going to be in town, our own travel plans, and an estimate for the budget.
Family life is constantly changing which means your plan will need constant adjusting. It is helpful to set aside 15-30 minutes after work and review the coming three or 4 days. The kids can wait, the dog can wait, the dinner can wait. You and your man staying on the same page is the highest priority.
We called this "couch time" when we had littles at home. The kids knew unless someone was bleeding or dying they could wait a few minutes until we were done talking. We did this all year long, not just during the holidays. It helped the Inventor feel heard and it helped me feel connected to him too. We stuck with less than 30 minutes which helped us keep from getting into a deep of conversation and also helped the the kids trust we would be available in short order.
The daily connection would be the time to bring up details and expectations for the coming days. Which leads us into tip number two.
2 - CLARITY
Writing details down is super helpful for us. This can be in the form of a big family calendar, bullet journal or simple list form. Something that can be emailed or texted is helpful too.
When communication is clear and specific it removes the "oh I forgot" or the "I had no idea you meant that!", conversation.
And when I say be specific, I mean be specific.
Saying "We need to go to our nieces ballet recital on Thursday." just won't cut it.
It should sound more like the following, "This Thursday, after you get home from work, I need you to clean up right away. We have it down on the calendar that we will be attending our nieces ballet recital at 6pm. We need to leave the house by 5:30pm to park and get a seat. Would you wear your nice slacks and a tie please? I will have snacks out for you to grab, but we need to head right out." This convo should have started on Monday and it's helpful to have a little reminder each day. A text the day of is a HUGE win too!
Again, be specific in your expectations. Aspies, just like neurotypicals want to get it right the first time. Being specific helps everyone succeed!
Need a few more ideas?
👎🏻 "We need to put up the outside Christmas lights."
👍🏻 "On Saturday morning could you and I get the Christmas lights hung by 1pm?
👎🏻 "The kids are coming over tomorrow to get the Christmas tree."
👍🏻 "The kids and I would like you to help us pick out our tree. Would you drive us at 10am?
👎🏻 "My mom is coming over for dinner tomorrow."
👍🏻 "My mom and I would like to spend some time together. Would it work with your schedule for her to come to dinner tomorrow night about 6pm? We should be done by 9pm."
This type of planning takes a bit more organization and explaining but can save TONS of stress in the long run.
With all this communicating it can be easy to forget our manners and talk only in what I call 'task mode'. When talking with our spouses sounds more like one giant "to do" list instead of a conversation. This leads us into tip number three.
Many Aspies struggle with social anxiety, sensitivity to sounds and touch, and become overwhelmed quickly in crowds. As much as I want the Inventor to attend all the holiday parties we are invited to, it isn't fair of me to expect him to attend an event four times in a week with me.
Talking together about all the invitations that have been received and pointing out a few he may enjoy, but then giving him the option of attending or not, shows respect and consideration. It is important to let him know which events you really don't want to attend alone, but release him from the rest. When you can do this without holding it against him, it makes for a pleasant night for you both.
For example, using the situation above, the conversation could go something like this, "We talked about staying for refreshments after the ballet recital, is that something you are still comfortable attending? I would like to stay and can get a ride home if you rather head out early."
For me, adjusting to the Inventors social needs is easier said than done. I want my Aspie Man to be with me. I extremely dislike being alone and I hate those awkward conversations at parties that sound something like the following:
"So, where's the Inventor? Working again?" "Wow, we never see him." "Are you two doing okay?"
If you struggle with this too, try to remember, it is NOT our responsibility to make excuses or explain to anyone. A simple, "I'm loving being out tonight, you look amazing in that color! How are your kids doing these days?" switch in the conversation usually does the trick. People love talking about their kids!
I should note here, as a recovering co-dependent, it is OKAY for us to go to parties, hang out with friends, catch a movie and go to dinner without our Aspie Men. Most would be happy for us to get out and have some fun without dragging them along.
Connecting with family and friends during the holidays could be considered an unspoken requirement in some circles. It is in mine and I love the feeling of emotionally connecting. However, as non-neurotypical couples we need to remember our level of connection may look different to our neurotypical counterparts, and that's OKAY.
The main goal is for you and your spouse to ENJOY the holiday.
Please also remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS. I get it!
Aspie life is a challenging life, but we can do it! I'm here to help too. I'd love to hear from you and know how your holiday is going. Just leave a comment below or email me direct at email@example.com
Thanks for stopping by pretty lady and please take the words of Christopher Robin to heart, because it's true!
"You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”