He reminds me of my ex-husband.

After years as my mother’s caretaker, and the year after her death of searching for myself and realizing I wasn’t as awful, weak, or inadequate as she believed I was, I fell under my ex-husband’s spell. He directed such an intense and unwavering spotlight of love in my direction that I was sure of how much he knew and wanted me. Without the information neither he or I knew before we married, and learned together a few years after our wedding, I lacked the self esteem to observe that he didn’t know me at all. I missed most of the signs, and talked myself out of understanding the most glaring behaviors that showed me exactly what kind of life I would have with him.

He could list things about me, things he’d seen me do, like knitting or baking a cake, or speaking lovingly to my daughter, but the first time he saw me, he had become so attracted to his image of me that he fixed onto it tight and attributed everything he wanted in a woman to me, until his fixation even distorted my true physical characteristics. His family was surprised to see how short I was because he had told them how wonderful it was to meet a tall, powerful woman.

If I’d known the true, irreconcilable differences between our ways of seeing the world around us, I’ve have done some crying after breaking up with a boyfriend, not had to rebuild a life out of the emotional rubble that trying so hard with him had made of my life.

I watch this man struggle with his new power, and I see the situation through the eyes of a woman who recognizes danger now. The danger isn’t in how he thinks, or that he has personal power. The danger is similar to the one I discovered in my marriage: that the ways in which we experienced the world were unsuited for us working together. My ex-husband would be unsuited for this man’s job too. It wouldn’t matter if he wanted it. It would be impossible for him to call up the understanding necessary to make decisions for a wide variety of people’s wellbeing. That understanding could be deep and appropriate at any moment, but not available in a predictable or teachable way. That’s why our marriage was as unsuitable for my husband as it was for me.

The therapist who diagnosed my ex-husband also taught college courses about the autism spectrum. She told me that she could try to help us with our marital difficulties, but that she was coming into it as his therapist and counseling us because he wanted it. She made it clear that the therapy wouldn’t necessarily be the best thing for me. Focusing on one person’s needs first, makes sense for parents learning to do what’s best for their child, but it’s rare to go into a marriage without the expectation that each person’s needs are equally important. She would only agree to try to help us because she knew I also had a therapist of my own who’s job was to focus on my needs.

He reminds me of my ex-husband, who I stood up for when his family had trouble absorbing what his challenges were. I was sad about the pain he had brought to my life when the reality of who I was didn’t match the woman in his dream, the one who didn’t need anything from him but the things it occured to him to do — the woman who would be happy loving him and doing everything he loved to do with enthusiasm and a smile on her face. I was sad about the very human times when his intelligence joined his pain and let him direct some terrible, life-altering hurt my way, and I had to learn that anger about that was okay. But I was supportive of his individual needs until the day he left me. I cared about who he really was and how I could help him without destroying myself.

The United States deserves a president who can understand the importance of multiple views at a moments notice, grasp the meaning and importance of subtlety, and consider possible consequences of actions at least a few steps ahead. We deserve a president who both values and sees reality more than the things he needs to believe. We deserve one who can access, whenever neccessary, the part of the self that cares about how other people feel. This is how you govern while doing the least amount of harm. We don’t have that now.

He reminds me of my ex-husband and the damage done before we parted ways.

I’ve discovered that for me, this is the crux of why it hurts so much to see what’s happening, to listen to what this president says when I want so much not to. This is why it shuts me down at times until I can barely think, until I open my mouth in a silent scream and wonder what the stress of this is doing to me. There are other reasons for the tension inside me, but this is the one that’s been hardest for me to wrap my head around and see clearly, this part of me that’s come to feel something other than complete disgust for this president despite the awful things he’s said and done, this part that feels it understands something important not to forget. It fights with my insides and defies the logic of my anger.

I know this that I’m feeling is called something. There’s always a name. But these days I’ve noticed how much controversy there is around nouns like that. Many folks take glee in finding unkind words for these sorts of feelings. So, call it whatever you like, or nothing at all. It’s still what I’ve been feeling every day. I wrote it down here because I was finally able to see it and put the words together. I needed to get the words outside myself in some way.

I wrote about it because I am a writer and this is what I do. It’s sometimes the only thing I can do.

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