Family navigates complexities of Asperger’s syndrome

Published 1:57 pm Friday, September 24, 2021

DEAR ABBY: I’m a minor living at home with my parents and my brother. Everything’s pretty stable. Mom works, but she isn’t gone all the time or anything like that. However, I have a lot of problems with my dad.
He has Asperger’s syndrome, and his behavior has caused many issues for me. The least of them is that every time I try to talk about any concern I have (with him or not involving him), he takes it personally and makes it all about himself. This and other emotionally invalidating behaviors have been happening for as long as I can remember, and it makes me feel guilty about my feelings.
I have been going to therapy to deal with my father problems, along with other mental health issues. My therapist has been encouraging me to feel sympathy for how much anxiety my dad has to deal with. Mom tells me he really does love me and it’s just the Asperger’s syndrome that is getting in the way. But I’m tired of hearing about how hard things are for him, and I don’t think I should pay him any respect for his feelings if he doesn’t give me any. His behavior is especially hurtful while I’m struggling with various mental health issues. Do you have any advice? — GIRL IN TURMOIL

DEAR GIRL: Yes, I do. Listen more carefully to what your therapist is trying to convey. You share something in common with your father; you both have diagnosed mental disorders. What you expect from him may be beyond his ABILITY to give. This is a sad situation, but the sooner you accept it, the less often you will look to your father for the emotional support he is unable to provide. When you need to discuss your issues, talk to your mother or your therapist, and you may find the support you are seeking.
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DEAR ABBY: For the last 20 years, my wife and I have had a Friday night happy-hour tradition. We use the time to get caught up and to reconnect. Occasionally, we’ll invite others to join us, but it’s usually just the two of us, and we like it that way.
Some longtime friends from another state moved to our community recently. We invited them to a couple of happy hours and enjoyed the evenings, but we did not intend for our Fridays to become a foursome every week. Apparently, our friends think otherwise and keep showing up every Friday.
While we enjoy their company, we want our Fridays back! How do we get out of this arrangement and reclaim our connection time back without hurt feelings? — HAPPY HOUR FOR TWO, PLEASE

DEAR HAPPY HOUR: You describe this couple as longtime friends. Because their move is recent, they may be having trouble making friends and becoming involved in your community. The next time they show up, you and your wife should suggest some activities and ways for them to widen their circle of acquaintances. Then, the following Tuesday or Wednesday — well BEFORE they show up on your doorstep — give them a call and explain that your Friday nights are usually reserved for you and your wife “to get caught up and to reconnect” after a long and busy week. Let them know you will INVITE them to join you for happy hour when you are up for company.
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