Accuracy in Questions and Answers

Disclaimer: When you’ve met one allistic (non-autistic), you’ve met one allistic! The communication quirks and difficulties my allistic counterpart presents may be totally different than the communication quirks and difficulties another allistic counterpart may present.

My allistic counterpart and I recently unearthed another communication issue in our marriage.

When I ask a question it’s because I want or need an accurate answer to the question. I’m looking for helpful information. When counterpart responds, he tends to give the response that he thinks the person wants to hear. This leads to extremely frustrating exchanges that don’t give me any helpful info and that feel to me like a waste of time and energy. Then I often also end up feeling lied to if the response was only intended to be what he thinks I want to hear and then he can’t follow through with it.

We’ve talked at fair length about this, so I know that this isn’t a malicious thing on his part, even though I assumed it was for many years. I experience untrue responses as lies (which makes sense to me) and would call them out as such for most of our marriage.

To him, lies are more deliberate and ill-intentioned and he was often very upset about me calling his statements lies because to him he was telling me his intentions, which were intended well, not lying in order to hurt me.

So, it’s more complicated on his end that simply lying. He’s only recently really understood that I need to know as soon as possible if plans are going to be different so that I can make alternative plans as far in advance as I can.

In the past, he would hope that things could happen as planned and give me responses that reflected his desire for things to go as planned. Then, when he would miscalculate and plans would have to change, I’d be upset that he hadn’t given me any indication that might have been a possibility in the first place.

My upset reaction was interpreted by him as being upset with him for not being able to do what he’d said he’d do, which was only a very small portion of what caused my upset. Really, the most upsetting thing for me, was not having time to prepare for a change in plans.

His untruths would leave me feeling as though I couldn’t trust him to give me a straight answer about anything important as I reeled from not having any transition warning time. They would leave him feeling like he’d failed at basic human-ing since he hadn’t been able to follow through on what he’d said.

If I’m going to the trouble of using my energy to ask a question it’s because I need an accurate response. I need the information for some reason, usually in order to plan things out in a way that both works for me and works with the circumstances of the day.

If I can’t plan, if I don’t have accurate info to base a plan of off, this can easily lead to a meltdown. Especially if I’ve been as clear as I can be about the information I need and receive the opposite – a placating response that gives me the least helpful information possible.


5 thoughts on “Accuracy in Questions and Answers

  1. This overall is something I already partially understand, as an allistic person who has been learning about how autism often manifests for quite a while now. But you say: “because to him he was telling me his intentions, which were intended well, not lying in order to hurt me.” I’m trying to imagine an example where this plays out and can’t really picture it. Could you give me an example, even if hypothetical, to explain when your husband would be telling what you interpret as a lie and he interprets as his honest intentions in an answer?

    Is this the white lie conundrum, which is for personal subjective things like “Did you like my cooking?” where “no” might be interpreted as offensive in many contexts, and the social proper way to answer even if the truth is no is usually more… nuanced?

    I’m sorry, I just want to be sure I’m properly understanding.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No problem! I had wondered if I should include a direct example.

      The “white lies” aren’t as big of an issue in our relationship (he doesn’t tend to tell them to me, I think), but yeah, it would be upsetting to me if I found out that he’d lied to me about liking my cooking when really he would be happy never to eat that again. Because I might make plans to make it again for him (thinking he’d liked it), which would be wasted effort based on a lie (how I’d experience it).

      I want helpful information from answers, not patronization (how that type of misinformation feels to me).

      The worst bits of misinformation for me are usually household-management-affecting type things.

      One example is telling me when he expects to get off work (he works from home, but I try not to interrupt him when he’s working). He’ll say something like, “I’ll be done with work by 5:30 today!” and then 6:00 rolls around and I’ll still be waiting for him and can’t get anything done with dinner or anything because I was going to make something with him since he’d be off work and now it’s too late to do what I’d wanted to do, but the plan in my head is still “make x at 5:30 with counterpart” and I can’t figure out how to change it because I don’t know what the new plan is or what to expect so I do nothing & we end up stressfully scrambling for dinner very late.

      Of course, in this scenario, he knows by 5:30 that he’ll be late (he’s still working and it’s the time he told me), but in his mind he doesn’t tell me because he’s still hoping it’ll only be a few more minutes and he’ll have been mostly right about the 5:30 thing and I’ll still be happy because he got done early (before 6:30-ish).

      Meanwhile I’m feeling lied to because why isn’t he done and why hasn’t he told me any helpful information about the situation? Often I would just take a nap or shut down during those times in order to cope with the uncertainty.

      Sometimes he would be up to two hours later than I was told 😦 He had intended be done by 5:30 and wanted me to be happy about it so told me 5:30, which often ended with me melting or shutting down because I wasn’t able to prepare for the 2-hour delay. He interpreted my reactions as being angry with him for finishing late & would redouble his efforts to convince me that he would finish early next time, with the same results. Rinse and repeat.

      I became very distrusting about it all over the years, saying things like, “I’ll just assume you’re never coming home” because making plans without basing them on him at all was the most practical thing I could think of, but he didn’t really like that response and would protest…. it was a mess and we had no idea why it was upsetting to the other.

      He’s been doing very well with giving me accurate updates about his finishing times since we figured out why it was an issue and I’ve been coping much better ❤

      This post has another example:

      His promise to clean the house was him stating his intention to do so.

      When I promise to do something it's not a statement of intent. I will move heaven and earth to get something done if I promise. Usually I do NOT promise or unequivocally state that I'll do things for that reason. I'll say, "I'll do my best to…." or "If I'm feeling up to it I will…."

      I suspect that those qualifying the uncertainty statements are maybe assumed to be present by allistics even when the statement sounds solid?

      But I need to be explicitly told that there's doubt. If I ask counterpart whether he'll do something then I need to know that there's a possibility it won't get done as soon as he knows that's a possibility. Otherwise I can't plan for it and will be blindsided in very horrible ways.

      I also realize that some of those expectations are practically unrealistic in certain situations and that things sometimes unexpectedly come up, but if I'm to have the energy to deal with the actual emergencies that nobody could've foreseen then I need to have as much warning as possible in the situations where warning was possible.

      We've reached a pretty good understanding and balance with that, I think 🙂

      I hope that was helpful and please feel free to ask for more clarifications too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think I’m on your side, he was just… inaccurate/misinforming you and being extremely unhelpful in those examples! There’s a reason you needed to know when he’d be home! Of course. Thanks for that clarification.

        I am an adult who lives with my adult brother and our father and share a car with my brother, and we often need to be very exact about when someone will be home vs. not so we know when we can start using the car for ourselves, etc… 😛 As an example that is relevant to the “When will you be home” type of circumstance.

        And if your husband meant “I’ll really try but it might not happen” about cleaning or coming home by that specific early time, then he should say that. I like honesty too.

        I’m glad you two were able to communicate and figure out the problem and reach understanding and balance. Part of it might be a big fear of disappointing the other person (maybe disappointing yourself?) could be so overwhelming that you can’t admit that you probably will fail to finish your work by 5:30, and that kind of thing? I don’t know.

        I like the idea of “I don’t know” being acceptable, truthful, answers… Or ranges of times as the answer to “when”, etc.

        Even with cooking I would be honest with most people – to be socially acceptable often take an “it’s not you, it’s me” approach but make it clear “I didn’t like it as much as I wish I did” at the very least, talking around saying “no” but definitely not lying and saying “yeah it was delicious”! XD

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I really need absolutes or I get irritated. I tell allistic people that. I understand how my sister (whom I live with), may not be able to make it home from her job on time. I’ve mentally prepared that (due to being a supervisor), she might have to deal with a co-worker issue or work related issue. I have a very hard time with people who can’t make up their minds.

    Liked by 2 people

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