The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch purports to offer marriage advice to people with Asperger syndrome. Finch discovered he had the disorder when his beleagered wife administered an online personality test, on which he scored 155 out of a possible 200. He answered an emphatic “yes” to such questions as, “Do you feel tortured by clothes tags, clothes that are too tight or are made in the ‘wrong material’?”
The book’s advice, however, can apply to anyone’s relationship and everyone’s life. Chapter headings include “When necessary, redefine perfection” and “Just listen.” Most affectingly, Finch decides to examine and change his own behavior.
Though his wife Kristen is probably not perfect (but she seems pretty close), he nowhere addresses her flaws. Instead, he works on himself, and he works very hard. The title’s journal of best practices is for real; in his obsessive, Asbergian manner, he keeps detailed notes on his own insights, Kristen’s suggestions, and his successes and failures. He’s hilarious, by the way.
Sometimes, of course, our spouses (or parents or partners) are so over-the-top awful–ragingly alcoholic or abusive, say–that changing our behavior is destructively co-dependent. But, in most situations, it makes sense to do what we can, and what we can do is change how we react. My feeble attempts to change my own self instead of the Other so have made a great difference at different times in my life.
We can’t change the other person. What we can do is look in the mirror.