Despite your good intentions, as a partner or spouse with Asperger’s (high-functioning autism), you may turn into an asshole from time to time (at least according to your significant other). There may have been many occasions where you lost all patience/composure and thought, “Fuck It! I’m sick of being treated like shit, and I’m going to go off!” You lashed out like a frenzied crazy-ass. Then, after the dust had settled, you regretted everything you said and did.
When you find yourself infuriated and unable to calm down, you need to have a plan in place. Haven’t you burned enough bridges already?! If you want to improve the relationship with your partner or spouse, then use some of the simple, yet highly effective tips listed below.
10 tips for the Aspie with rage-control problems:
1. Do a “personal status check” to see how your body is responding to an anger-provoking situation. Are you clenching your teeth? Is your blood pressure rising? Are you getting hot? These are physical signs of impending rage that you can have some control over – IF YOU CATCH IT EARLY. Thus, in these times, immediately go into prevention mode (“intervention mode” will be too late at this point):
- Consciously attempt to relax your neck muscles
- Slow down your rate of speech
- Artificially lower your voice
This not only has the effect of slowing down your rage response, it also has the potential side effect of having your partner lower his or her voice since that is the only way that they can hear you.
2. In the early stages of getting agitated, try to shift your attention to something else and don’t stew in anger and resentment. Don’t look at your partner, and don’t field any questions or comments he/she makes. Tell your partner that you will discuss the matter when you have calmed down.
3. If you fear a rage attack, remember this one word: Disengage. If you can’t use your anger constructively, then you shouldn’t use it at all. Having a little anger now and then is o.k. – and even can be a good thing. But, you have to gain the right focus and stop letting your emotions yank you around. That’s what a good warrior has to do, even if the fight exists solely in his or her mind.
4. In the “heat of the moment,” put physical distance between you and your partner. In the typical case of a person with Asperger’s, “where there’s heat, an explosion is not far behind.” You’re about to be emotionally hijacked by your rage, and words will not be enough to prevent any hasty behaviors on your part.
5. In the event you can’t leave an argument or hostile situation (e.g., the two of you are in the car), you can still squeeze your fists and breathe. Important point here: Practice this during controlled moments of anger or when you’re by yourself and feeling calm! If you make this technique a habit, you’ll have an easier time utilizing it subtly in any situation. This is called “prevention.”
6. Know that hazardous situations usually end up being about “having the fight” instead of about what led up to it. If your true goal is to fight, then by all means, go ahead and knock yourself out. If your goal is to avoid a fight, then keep your mouth shut. Bite that damn tongue until it hurts, because if you allow your current state of mind to go one more second, you will probably not be able to control your words or behavior from that point forward. Don’t add to your long list of regrets.
7. Let’s be realistic. You will get into arguments from time to time – there’s no way around it in relationships that you truly care about. But you can argue without losing your freakin’ mind. You can never escape confrontation 100% of the time -- but you can’t resort to handling it like a bouncer at a nightclub. Constructive conflict is a varsity-level skill in the game of anger-control, but one you must learn. Create a set of "diplomacy strategies," write them down, and use the often!
8. When you are getting upset, “appeal” to your partner so that he or she can “run interference” for you. Tell him/her that you’re about to “lose it” and need help to cool off. How can your partner help? By allowing you to take a time-out for starters.
9. When you start to get livid over something that is relatively minor, it’s a good idea to tell your partner that you (a) don’t want to get any angrier than you already are, (b) want to slow the pace of the conversation, (c) need to focus on the problem in question, and (d) want to recognize how your partner feels without judging him or her.
10. Lastly, you may have experienced numerous occasions where you “threw gas on the fire” during a heated argument. This is because you think less and feel more during those times. STOP and ask yourself, “Why do I feel this way, and what kind of resolution am I looking for?” And you can do the same thing with your partner (i.e., ask, “Why do YOU feel this way, and what kind of resolution are YOU looking for?”).
This will get him or her to think about their response. In addition, it makes you a thoughtful listener and gives you more time to create a calm response. This can help defuse angry outbursts – and even allow your partner to realize that he or she is an equally contributing member to the problem in question.
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