If Men Are From Mars, What Planet are Guys On the Spectrum From?
It’s long been said that Men are From Mars, at least according to the book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. But that begs the question of where guys on the spectrum come from? We’re certainly nothing like our neurotypical counterparts, so we must be from a different planet entirely, right?
In Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus, John Gray describes how the typical man copes with stress, typically retreating into his "man cave" where he can detach from his emotions and the situation entirely.
He might engage in a hobby, say motorcycle repair or woodworking, until he rearranges his brain and it has been restored to its normal equilibrium and he can once again face the issues at hand.
Men, Grey describes, are fixers and doers, rather than talkers, whereas women need to discuss their problems openly with people to restore their sense of balance.
Some describe the autistic brain as "the extreme male brain." Dr. Hans Asperger considered boys with Asperger's to possess an "extreme variant of male intelligence."
On average, women tend to be more empathetic than systematic and people with autism do tend to think in schematics of one kind or another.
So are autistic men just more native to Grey's concept of Mars, or do we need a planet to call our own? I tend to think we need our own planet.
The idea that men and women fall into such distinct camps is an extremely broad generalization. Autistic men and women are more likely to consider themselves non-binary--we're multi faceted creatures. Maybe autistic people in general, both men and women, need their own planet.
Shannon, my podcast co-host, is off the charts in terms of systematic thinking. To her, everything can fit into a rubric or be explained with a Venn diagram. Shannon LOVES her Venn diagrams!
Though we're both Asperger's, neither Shannon nor myself fit into Grey's concept of how men or women operate. In fact, the argument could be made that our roles are reversed and Shannon approaches things in a more Mars-type way, while I'm more of a Venus type person. Still, neither of us fits into Grey's mold, so we must come from our own separate planets.
Autistic men are our own breed of person and you can’t stereotype us. Men on the spectrum often get tagged as unemotional or hard to read when it comes to their emotional state. That can be a fair statement, but not always a true one.
If you ask anyone I’ve dated, including the current woman I’m dating, they will tell you that I’m a very emotional person and that I often wear my emotions on my sleeve. That’s different from the typical male on the spectrum, at least in my experience, and I’m proof that every person on the spectrum is a unique individual with traits all their own.
I’ve even been accused of being the girl in the relationship when it comes to being emotional. To be clear, I do have all the required guy parts, so I’m very sure that I’m NOT the girl in the relationship. At least from a physical standpoint.
Autistic men often have a hard time communicating their thoughts and feelings. We don’t all have the same difficulties in communicating. For some of us, simply talking to our significant other about what we want, or need can be an overwhelming feeling. Maybe it’s because we don’t know what to say, or because we feel like we won’t be heard if we do say anything.
Even though I’m a very emotional person, there is a pretty regular disconnect between my brain (what I’m trying to say) and my mouth (what actually comes out). Sometimes that stops me from communicating, though I generally do communicate and am often misunderstood. At that point I have to backtrack and spend a good amount of time trying to come up with the words I really meant to use, which can be very frustrating for both parties involved.
It’s no secret that men and women communicate in different ways and this translates to women on the spectrum as well. They don’t always communicate in the same way as their neurotypical counterparts and that can make it frustrating for both parties.
When communication is poor it can lead to a lot of different feelings and hinder us in various ways. In my case, poor communication often results in feelings of rejection, which in turn has led to more poor communication. This has happened in romantic relationships, in communication with my family (or a lack thereof), and with people in general.
Rejection is something that I’ve struggled with my whole life and, at age 50+ is something I still encounter on a pretty regular basis. It hurts to feel like you’re not understood. And thus not accepted, by those that you feel should understand you or at least want to understand you.
It hurts even more when you know the other person could actually listen to what you have to say and either doesn’t, or does and just lets it go in one ear and out the other with little to no regard for your feelings.
How do we fix this communication problem and bridge the gap between the autistic man and women (or same sex couple), whether they’re on the spectrum or not? That’s a good question and, surprisingly, it has a fairy simple answer.
Communication is about listening and understanding as well as speaking. If we listen to what the other person is saying and try to understand it, that’s a step in the right direction. If you don’t understand what the other person is saying, or if you think you may not be entirely clear on their meaning, (are they sarcastic? Sincere? Well meaning?) then ask for clarification.
Knowing what the other person meant by what they said and having them know what you meant can go a long way to solving communication problems.
As men on the spectrum, picking up on facial cues or inflection of a person’s voice aren’t necessarily our strong suits, so asking for clarification is vitally important if we want to have a solid relationship, again, be it romantic, with family, friends or co-workers.
We may be from a different planet, one that has yet to be identified, but if we can figure out how to communicate in a common language, we’re one step closer to having fulfilling, satisfying relationships and lives. In the end isn’t that more important than where we come from?