I have done two things this morning (aside from the daily activities I partook in): sorting out the red wine bottles we have into ones my wife can use without asking me; and continuing with the decorations for Christmas. These pretty separate things (I can see a possible red wine and Christmas celebration connection which isn’t applicable in this case) are connected by a difference in how my wife and I see the world and it involves imagination. At least I think it does.
I was having my after-work doze yesterday and was woken by my wife saying that dinner was ready. As I sat down, I notice a half open bottle of cabernet sauvignon from 2003 on the table. I recognized the bottle because I have bought this particular wine label in the past as a consistently reliable (it’s Australian) enjoyable wine that is a bit more expensive than the standard price for wine. I also recognised this wine because I knew this particular bottle had been bought for me as a birthday present by a good friend of mine.
Now intellectually I know this wine is probably past is best drinking date (though I believe cabernet sauvignon keeps pretty well in general). I also acknowledge that I don’t really drink wine as a rule nowadays even when we have a special meal (I am often driving). I can also understand that I suspect my wife didn’t want to disturb my sleep and that she didn’t want to go out and buy some wine. So she found some old wine and decided that it would be fine to use it in the lamb casserole she was making. I understand all this and yet I have a real problem accepting what she did.
I think the basic problem is that this particular wine, a favourite of mine, was giving to me as a present and therefore I have an emotional attachment to it. I can’t really tell you what emotion it is except that when I worked out what my wife had done (she didn’t say anything) I was furious and outraged. This is my present that she not only has opened but used to make a casserole (I am not convinced that a good wine needs to be used for cooking). Except I keep this to myself, we have a guest staying this weekend and I don’t think it is appropriate to fall out over a bottle of wine in front of them. Though I don’t think it is necessary the bottle use that is the problem, it is the action and the lack of thinking through the consequences that really annoys me because it is a constant theme in our relationship (buying me a book as a present and then reading it before she gives it to me is another pet peeve of mine).
When my wife offered me some of the wine to drink with the meal, I say “no thank you” (I think) but I suspect in a rather constrained way. I was torn in a number of ways. I don’t really drink wine and wasn’t in the mood for it (though it is hard to tell when I am angry). I feel petulant and childish and feel the need to punish my wife for her behaviour (no I know that doesn’t make sense). I also understand that she didn’t mean to hurt me. I also think that if I don’t have a drink now, I may never get the chance to taste “my” wine. This storm of thoughts resolved itself into my original thinking of not wanting wine anyway, but I do wonder if I was forcing myself to be polite in front of our guest.
Latter after my wife and guest have gone to bed I find a replacement bottle of wine on the side in the kitchen. It is the same wine from the same producer except it was made last year, and it wasn’t a birthday present. My rage is triggered again. Does she not know that the year is vital to the wine? Is this supposed to make it all better? I find out the next day that it turns out our guest is being thoughtful. I appreciate the effort but I am disgruntled. I stay up late writing about values but eventually tiredness overtakes me and I need to sleep. I feel the need to be by myself and spend the night on the sofa kept warm by some blankets and my dog.
The next morning I am determined to be okay about the wine, knowing that time will dissipate the anger and relevance of the misdemeanour but acknowledging that I will need to write this out. I can’t remember how it started but no sooner have we said hello than my wife is wanting me to do one of a number of things to ease her workload. This doesn’t fit in with my plan for writing though. My hurt is still fresh and I have no inclination to help her at that moment. She gives me the option of what I could do, but I choose to not do anything. This is not the answer she wants and she is getting angry with me, her demands and anger will eventually become too overwhelming for me and I aim to cut this off from happening. I firmly say I want to be left alone at the moment. I suspect that this happened more than once, but the result is that after a few choice words, my wife angrily leaves.
After my wife leaves and goes off to the supermarket, I consider her requests. The word control cropped up about the wine with regard to accessing it, and it seems reasonable to me that my wife should be confident in choosing some wine from our stocks to use when she wants. I go through the wine bottles and find four reds, I have my doubts about one bottle but decide that she could use three of them. I leave them out on the side in the kitchen so that she can label them in some way. I then proceed to decorate the Christmas tree. In the peace and silence of the house, I find a certain amount of pleasure going through the seemingly endless hanging decorations. Many of the decorations have memories associated with them, particularly the ones the children chose each year as they grew up.
We are sitting around the kitchen table again. Our friend mentions the Christmas decorations and I make a comment about the numbers of hanging decorations we have for the tree. My wife feels we have too many and wants to do a cull. I don’t want to reduce the numbers. I don’t want to lose those memories of my children. These decorations have more meaning to them than just an object to be hung on the Christmas tree. I don’t think my wife gets this, they are something to get rid of, something that will be put on a list and tick off. It seems my wife focuses on the end result, whilst I remember the history of how we got there and treasure that.
Imagination is one of the triad of impairments that an autistic diagnosis is based on. It seems to me that my ability to see the consequences of my actions shows imagination in some sense. I find it very hard that my wife seems to lack this ability. Of course I have my own problems too, I can logically deduce a conclusion but I seem unable to connect with the emotion that may follow. I understand my wife is upset, but then so I am, and I need to look after myself first before I can be supportive of her. There is a balance to be struck of course, otherwise I would do nothing for others and that really isn’t how I would see myself.
There also seems to be an issue about control. It seems logical to me that if I know more about something then my thoughts carry more weight about it (wine for instance) but that take into account human’s emotional needs. My limited understanding of myself is difficult enough, understanding somebody with a wider range than mine seems pretty impossible at the moment.