Some thoughts

Life in a Mixed Marriage – trouble with pink polka dot flan dishes

It was a lovely sunny day down here in West Cornwall and David and I decided to go for a walk. Last time we did this it was a three hour trek along the coastal path to Morvah via Portheras cove. I’m always astonished to think how much effort I have gone to, how much money I have spent over the years, going on holiday to get scenery this good. This land gets under the skin – but this article is not a travelogue…

On August Bank Holiday Sunday we went in the opposite direction from Portheras, westward to Levant via Geevor mine. This was a much shorter walk and we returned via the village of Trewellard where David suggested we pop into the Trewellard Arms because they always have a good selection of whisky and I do like my single malt. I thought it was a great idea and appreciated that David was changing his routine for my benefit: the natural end to the walk for him would have been to stop off at our closer-to-home local, the North Inn. David prefers the beer there but the whisky choice is very limited.

Living with someone on the spectrum makes it important to be aware of the importance of routine and also to understand that when a routine is broken it represents a much greater ‘gift’ than one might realise.

So, we made our way up from the coast and the path came out pretty much opposite the Trewellard Arms and David said something along the lines of, ‘So, are you up for it?’

As a neurotypical this question lit a touch paper and here are some of the thoughts that fired off as a result:

  • Yes of course I would like to go in
  • No, it’s only 5.30, much too early to go pubbing
  • No, David would much prefer to go to the North Inn
  • Ah, but it’s Sunday, David’s routine is to go to the NI on Fridays
  • So yes…
  • On the other hand…
  • I don’t really like pubs
  • I really like single malt…

You get my point, nothing so straightforward as a straight yes or no.

The whole time these thoughts were buzzing around in my head like a swarm of bewildered bees, David was getting more and more impatient at the lack of decision making. So I grabbed at one of the bullet points, and said ‘yes’.

There then followed a lovely hour or so during which David sampled the beer and I indulged a couple of single malts. As we drank, we worked out the details of what we were going to include in a seminar on Asperger’s being run by a friend in Penzance.

Now the point about our relationship, about the way we navigate our mixed marriage, is that we don’t hold back on discussing any issues that crop up and so we soon started to talk about what had happened on the way to the Trewellard Arms and I was reminded of something that often happened when I was married to OD.

In those days – newly married, not much money – I would often be taken by a longing for some obscure domestic object. Let’s say, a pink polka dot flan dish. OD would then scour the shops for my heart’s desire (this being long before the Internet) and once he’d tracked it down, he’d take me to the shop to look at it in the flesh. I’d study it for a moment, then look at the exorbitant price tag (I’ve always had expensive taste) and say something like ‘Nah, I don’t think I really want it after all.’

It drove OD mad. I didn’t understand, I thought I was being sensible and saving our hard earned pennies.

I told this story to David and his response was, ‘But of course he got upset – he’d found it for to you. How could you be so ungrateful as to refuse his offering?’ He then drew a parallel with cats catching mice and proudly presenting the little corpses to their owner, but I think we’ll let that one pass for now….

I then said, but what about the expense? What if the pink polka dot flan dish had cost £4,000 – should I still have bought it?

David replied, ‘You like it, you want it – we’ll find a way to pay for it…’

And at that point, I was brought up short. I told him, ‘God, you sound exactly like OD.’

All OD’s frustration suddenly made sense. To me, the whole thing had been about the thrill of the chase, the delight in having someone so devoted as to search out this ridiculous object which I so desired. My part was to admire it, then politely refuse it.

Politeness. That word again. So many pitfalls for the neurotypical and their autistic partner. OD died a long time ago, but I still wish I could tell him I’m sorry, and that now, at long last, I understand.


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