S2 E9: Toxicity Was My Own Dealbreaker - Not Neurodiversity (transcript)

Jodi Carlton, MEd, LLC
S2 E9: Toxicity Was My Own Dealbreaker - Not Neurodiversity (transcript)

[beginning of introduction]

Kathy: Okay. I'm calling you out on something.  

Jodi: Nothing like having a best friend who is admittedly neurodiverse and has no problem calling you out on your own podcast for the masses to hear. But that is one of the reasons, one of the many reasons I love Kathy so dearly. We have a really great relationship and we represent a neurodiverse friendship that is thriving because we both are capable, motivated, and willing, those three pillars that I'm constantly talking about. Domestic relationships are also capable of the same kind of quality relationship that Kathy and I have. So hopefully we'll be a beacon of hope for some of you who are listening.

In today's episode, we have a really important conversation about toxic traits in people and how that's a very different thing from neurodiversity. Kathy and I both have experienced toxic personalities in our marriages and our relationships. 

I also want to take a minute to say that today is the last episode of my summer series on communication and of sharing my neuro-diverse relationships with you guys. You got to meet my autistic daughter, Abby, and my son early in the summer. You also met my mom and my best friend, Kathy. It's been such a joy for me to share the people with you that you hear me talking about all the time. I'm constantly telling you guys that I am surrounded by neurodiversity and that I love so many people in my world who are neurodiverse. So I was thrilled to be able to share them with you. And then all of them agreed to come and talk to me on the show. 

So today's the last day of that series. And I'm going to be taking a little bit of a break from the podcast for the next month or so, but I'm not completely leaving you. We're going to try to have some little something at least for you every week. And it may be a clip from my YouTube channel or maybe even a little sneak peek clip from my private video library. 

And if you don't know about that, I do have a private video library that's got close to 90, 95 videos in it at the moment. I'm actually in the process of reorganizing that video library into smaller chunks that are a little bit easier to listen to. It's organized by categories, things like Relationship Clarity, Conflict, Communication, Toxicity Abuse, Diagnostic Traits and Characteristics, those types of categories. There's a lot of stuff in there that those of you who have gotten in there and listened to those videos have just found to be super helpful. 

It's a lot to digest though, so I'm going to be breaking that library up into smaller video bundles. So be on the lookout for that. Anytime you want to see what I've got to offer you, just visit my website jodicarlton.com

And of course, if you decide you'd really just like to speak to me personally. Maybe you are dealing with the question of whether or not you're in a relationship with someone who's neurodiverse or maybe you're wondering if you're neurodiverse yourself, and again, neurodiverse just means that that brain works differently, and the way we process information and communication and language, emotions relationships. Sometimes, some people refer to ADHD and some types of learning disabilities, those types of things, as neurodiverse. Usually, when I'm talking about it, I'm referring to autism. So if you're curious, if you're thinking that maybe you or your partner, the person you're married to, or you're dating for a while, is autistic, you might call it "on the spectrum," then that's something that I can really help you get some clarity. I do have a comprehensive relationship evaluation that I do. I assess both of you and some of you may be thinking, " why does one of the partners need to be assessed if they're not the one in question?" The reason for that is neurodiversity in a relationship is about how you are different from one another. If someone is neurodiverse, then that does mean that their brain works differently than the typical individual statistically than the average, but in a relationship, it's really more about how you are relative to one another. 

So, how do your brains work? What are your expectations? How do you interact with each other from a relational standpoint or an emotional standpoint? How do you use language and approach language? In this comprehensive relationship evaluation, I actually assess both of you with the same set of assessment instruments, and then we sit down and we go over all those scores together. We talk about what it means, and we talk about how each of you scored.

And well, every time it's, it's so enlightening for couples to see how different they are, but then also sometimes how similar they are. What I tell folks, being in a relationship is not about being the same. It's not about trying to get your partner to be more like yourself.

That's where a lot of couples get stuck. We want our partners to be more like us, do things more like us, and think more like us. Really there's strength in diversity, there's strength in differences. I oftentimes use the analogy of the military. If we were all Navy, or all Air Force or all Army, or all Marines, all Coast Guard, all National Guard, we would not be a strong military. Here in the U.S., we need to have diversity. We have different strengths and different weaknesses. Together, you're strong. 

Once you learn to recognize, "Hey, my way of doing things, my way of thinking, my way of feeling, my way of approaching problem solving, my way of interpreting the world is truly that it's my way and my spouse or my partner has a really different way."

One of my clients just today sent me the analogy of a prism and how when light enters a prism one way it may project a triangle onto the wall, but when the light enters the prism in other way, it may project an entirely different shape or color onto a different wall. It's still the same prism, it's still the same object that the light is passing through, but what comes comes out of that object can look very different depending on the perspective, the point of view. That's how it is for us in relationships.

 And, a key to really connecting is recognizing that your own perspective is just yours and that your partner's perspective is totally legitimate and totally valid, and actually adds so much value to your relationship when you learn to stop and go, "Hey. What do you think? What do you see? What do you hear? What are you feeling? What are you experiencing? Tell me more about that." That curiosity is so important. 

If you think that would be helpful and useful for you and your relationship, visit me online at jodicarlton.com. We start with a consultation appointment where I'm going to learn a whole lot about you and give you some immediate feedback about your relationship right then. If there's any question about whether or not someone's neurodiverse I can give you some immediate feedback about what I see, but a relationship evaluation is really going to give you the most insight. 

So let's move on to part two. I know you're dying to know how Kathy called me out, so let me put you out of suspense here. Listen to this great conversation that she and I had. 

[end of introduction]

Kathy: Your conversation with your mom and the comment you made about that, if you had known about your ex-husband's neurodiversity, that you guys might still be together. I've had those thoughts myself, but I'm calling you out. Because I think we both know that neither one of us would be in those relationships even if we understood a little bit better not because of the neurodiversity, but because of toxic traits. 

Jodi: Okay. Yeah. So you're talking about my podcast with my mom. In that podcast episode, I said that if my ex-husband and I had had someone who could have spotted the neurodiverse traits, I don't know if that marriage would've worked. You know, yeah, you're right. Um, I vacillate and you and I have talked about this so many times over the years. I know that there, there was also toxicity in that relationship with my ex-husband, who is neurodiverse. You know, I actually did a video about that today. You haven't seen it yet, probably because it's, it's on TikTok and it's on Instagram and I just put it on Facebook. But neurodiverse relationships can work and can thrive. I mean look at us. We're not in a domestic partnership, but we're in a neurodiverse relationship, but toxic relationships can't and you have to know what your deal breakers are. I'm always telling people, you have to know what those deal breakers are, and toxicity is one of them and you're right. You're right. My marriage was toxic. There were definitely toxic traits there. 

Kathy: I mean, I am actually still friends or friendly with my ex-husband. Our divorce was easy and nice and we used one lawyer. Because he and I were good friends, even with him being neurodiverse, even with me being neurodiverse, we were still really good on friends, but once we got married and we were in that day to day span with each other, that's where some of the toxic traits and things that I feel were very damaging to me as a person self-esteem wise and from how I felt about myself.

I think that came out. And, but as far as a relationship of being friends and navigating that, we still have so many shared interests. We could still talk, but I guess, it's about also knowing if that person is relationship material for you.

I think that's where I kind of goofed up. Maybe because we were such good friends, I thought we could be romantic partners and that's where it just didn't really work too well. But for some people, it could. It all depends on the people involved. 

Jodi: Yeah, for me, it was similar because we were really good friends too. We had a good friendship. 

As long as both parties are interested and motivated and willing to learn about themselves and learn about each other and to have that motivation and willingness to say, "okay, this is me, this is what I'm bringing to it and this is you, this is what you are bringing to it. We are different, but different's not bad. It's different," then that works. But what doesn't work is when you've got somebody who's not willing and somebody who's like, "Nope, I'm right. and you're wrong. My way, not yours. I'm not gonna budge," and then there's judgment. 

There are all sorts of other toxic traits too that have nothing to do with neurodiversity that are other layers of a person. Sometimes it's their background. Sometimes there's been abuse in their background. Sometimes there are just personality disorders that are layered on top of neurodiversity. You have to look at all of that because if there's toxicity there, those relationships can't be fixed. 

Kathy: Right. I do think of myself now as neurodiverse, but I'm willing to step back and look at things differently and understand that I may have some sort of impairment and that I have to just give it that extra effort or time or whatever, I would hope that I'm not gonna fall into that toxic category, but I did find at that place with their dad is that we were just not able to come to terms and I didn't feel like he was putting any effort in. I felt like we were better off as friends and I really wanted to preserve what was left of everything.

We don't live far from each other. Even though the kids are older, he was able to offer some really good advice about Alex when he had his last upset. Maybe he recognizes it in Alex and was able to give that good information, but, the last time Alex got upset was after a disagreement with me because we can push each other's buttons.

So I pushed his buttons. He pushed mine and my ex-husband simply pointed out. He's like, "you let that emotion get in there. You gotta take that emotion out, treat it logical, treat it transactional. Alex didn't do what he promised he would do." In this case, it was him taking care of our family pet while I was out of town. And, he's like, "if you end up having to call the critter sitter, then you charge him for what he promised he would do." And then he's like "just take the emotion out. And that will work. When you get too emotional, Alex just shuts down," and he was not wrong. 

Jodi: He has really been able to help you a lot with Alex with those decisions and it's interesting because he really does get Alex quite well, but interestingly, he is not at all open to the idea of himself being neurodiverse. I know that's a conversation that has been had with him a couple of times that has been shut down immediately. Yet also even though he understands him really well, his version of neurodiversity actually looks a little different. So that script doesn't fit him and so he doesn't see it. 

Kathy: Yeah. Same inability to process, the same perseveration. Or all the different executive function type things going on, but comes out in vastly different ways with each of us.

Jodi: Yeah, it really does. You're like the poster family. 

Kathy: We've got a Bingo card full. 

Jodi: Well, is there anything that you think would be helpful for people to hear?

Kathy: I know this was actually more with Alex when he was younger, but I still think that this holds true. There was when he was younger, there was a book that I had happened upon that just to me, it was like the heavens open up and I was like, "oh my God, I understand that," And, I apply it to myself.

So it was, Asperger rages, which Alex most definitely had the explosive stuff, but anybody who goes through what we call an Asperger moment in my family will recognize it where it's a bell-shaped curve. With any bell-shaped curve, you have a little beginning and a little teeny ending.

In this bell shape curve, this graph that it had, those were what they called the teachable moments. So on the ends, which unfortunately those are small moments sometimes. Then on the up curve to a tantrum or a meltdown would be the rumbling where, for us, that's triggering, whatever's getting us tense as adults and we're just starting to, you know, mmph. And then the top of course is the actual meltdown, but what was most important was that down slope was called "recovery." That is not a teachable moment. That is not a time when you should be approaching someone who's "spectrumy" and it's so true. It's like I get upset with Alex or I get upset with anybody, you know, work.

I've rumbled, I've exploded and now I need to recover. Once I've recovered, then I can go back into something that's healthy and workable and progress to learn for the next time. Definitely held true with my son. Now caveat, if you can pause the rumbling, do something to help ease those triggering things, then you might be able to avoid the whole curve, but, unfortunately, if you don't and you actually hit that, "I'm really, really upset," then you have to wait. That I think is so hard for all of us, whether it be a child, whether it be an adult, because especially neurotypical people a lot of times, and even sometimes me being a little different, kind of a mix of the two, there would be so many times where as soon as something's over, you wanna talk about it or you want to go through it. Especially with my son. No. 

Jodi: That's such a great tool and it's so visual. It applies to everybody. It's so good too, I mean, really everybody not just in parenting, but just for ourselves. I think it's helpful when we feel that when we're at that beginning like you said when the rumblings are coming if we can stop the trigger at that point, great. But if we don't, we have to wait it out. We have to wait it out. Because so many people want to try to talk about it and push and wind up with what's called flooding. There's just emotional overload or just sensory overload, just overwhelm in general, and there's nothing productive coming out of that for anybody, nothing.

Kathy: Yep. That's why it's not teachable. And, and what's so hard is, that recovery time for each person and for each incident for each person can be so different. Sometimes it's a short recovery, especially if it was just a small issue. Sometimes it's a big recovery

Jodi: It can take days for some people and it's hard to wait that out, but if you try to pursue somebody before they're out of that recovery period, you're not doing yourself any favors because you are, you're not gonna get anywhere. It's not gonna be productive at all.

Kathy: Yeah, it's a lot of wasted breath, which it's just so hard because our reaction I think as humans is when we see something's gone wrong. We immediately wanna go in and fix it and make it better, and having that patience to wait it out is really difficult.

Jodi: That's your reaction. Some people are really avoidant. They're like, " Nope, I'm good. I'm just gonna go in the corner of here and pretend nothing happened."

Kathy: Yeah, there might be that too, but for those of us who are actually trying to improve be in touch, we would hope that once we've recovered, we're like, "okay, I'll come back to the table now."

Jodi: I'm much more like that too. I have a tendency to push too soon and I've had to learn how to just keep my mouth shut, especially with my kids. Just in relationships just to wait, just take a breath and wait, and you know, the whole, the old saying never go to bed mad...I do not agree with that at all. You know, trying to work through it and talk through it. No, I think sleeping on it is the best thing you could ever do because that gives your body a physical refresh. I literally am working with a couple right now that have told me that they've sat up all night long, um, trying to talk through stuff and, he's had to call in work the next day and miss work.

It's not worth it to anybody. Those marathon talks. I tell my clients and I try to live by this myself. I don't always. I don't always follow my own guidance, you guys. It's hard for me too. It's hard for all of us, but those marathon talks are never good. I, I set timers. Set timers. If you struggle with it, put a timer on your phone and say, "Okay, we're gonna talk about this for 30 minutes," but wait for that teachable moment before you even do that.

Kathy: But even with that said, and I think we've both experienced this it's like when you're having those marathons and you do need to take that break, I mean, I think it's totally fair to say to someone," I care about you. We need to work on this. We need to sleep. We need to refresh," but it's very difficult when that other person says "you are just running away." Hopefully to all your couples that nobody will take that stance, and they will understand that taking a breather and a rest to recover is not running away, but it's part of that neurodiverse cycle. It's not about cowardice or avoidance. Sometimes avoidance, but not, I mean, it is just part of a very, very, you know, mental cycle that a lot of people have to go through.

Jodi: Yeah, it is, but, and it's not just neurodiverse. I mean, "you're just running away" is a really controlling and manipulative thing to say. It's also that insecure, anxious attachment people who feel abandoned when somebody sets a boundary, will be more likely to say something like that, but that's not healthy. It's not healthy. Having that boundary and saying, "I need a break" that is healthy. So if you're recognizing yourself in what Kathy said, it's important for you to learn how to step away and take a break because you are in the middle of fight or flight in those moments too. If you're struggling to turn it off and, and walk away, then you are in a fight or flight mode, fight probably. You need to stop because you're just not, you're not getting anything accomplished. 

Well, I think that was a great episode.

Kathy: And we could go on forever, but yeah,

Jodi: What else? Anything else? Any other great words of wisdom? 

Kathy: No, no, I'm gonna stop now. You know we could talk forever and ever because just the things that you go through as a parent with neurodiverse kids and then with your own relationships, there's just so much there, and I'm sure that all the people that come to you for assistance have all of that too. It's just amazing. You just gotta break it down little bits at a time.

Jodi: They do. They do. Well. Thank you for coming and talking to me. And maybe you'll come back sometime. I'll have to have you back we'll have more of those talks. 

Kathy: Yeah. Unfortunately, I have more experience with children than with adults, but, you know, that's, your area of expertise, but again, those children become adults. So I guess there's always, you know, applicability across the universe there, but thanks for having me.

Jodi: Well, thanks for being here. All right. Well, bye, everybody.


Jodi: Okay, that's a wrap for this summer series. Be sure to tune in each week for a relationship tip of some kind during the break before the next podcast season. Also, if you want to be a guest on a future podcast episode, I'd love to talk to you, whether you are a partner in a relationship or you're someone who's neurodiverse yourself, or maybe you're a professional who works with neurodiverse couples. To do that, just visit my website, jodicarlton.com and navigate to the podcast page and just complete a podcast guest request form. My staff will be in touch with you to get that set up. I'd love to talk to you.  Hope the rest of your summer is great.

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