BOOK REVIEW: The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be A Better Husband by David Finch

David Finch chronicles the life-changing moments he experiences as he goes from an ego-centric, self-centered jerk to an empathic, thoughtful, and caring husband. Lots of men need to learn the lessons in this book and lots of wives would appreciate it if they did. 

Finch makes the usual mistakes of only thinking of himself, spending too much time at work, and neglecting the various needs of his family. What makes Finch different from most men is that he is not choosing to be a reclusive bullhead. Instead, Finch does not have the natural capabilities to think of others because he has Aspergers Syndrome; typically referred to as a mild form of Autism.
Aspergers Syndrome is a condition defined by the Mayoclinic as a developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others. Furthermore, people with Aspergers Syndrome typically exhibit social awkwardness and an all-absorbing interest in specific topics because of a lack of empathy. In other words, if you tell him to consider the feelings of others, he will have no idea what that means or how to do it.  

As an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome, Finch was only interested in what his needs were and his obsessive-compulsive tendencies made his behavior even more unbearable. He was disturbed by the fact that anyone would take a shower in less than an hour and when some friends played their usual board games out of order, he became increasingly agitated. “Don’t they know we always play Boggle first?” Biologically, it is impossible for him to think of others. It would be like telling a fish to breathe air. He could maintain the sense of empathy in his courtship days, but to his own admission, maintaining this persona was exhausting once he was married.
The real Finch was released on his unsuspecting, non-OCD wife, Kristen. However, it was because of Finch’s love for Kristen that he overcame his biology and taught himself to be a better husband. Men, if you want a happy marriage, learn from what was exhausting work for Finch. You have the talent that he lacked naturally so no excuses.
After Finch was diagnosed with Aspergers, he kept a journal, outlining behaviors that were appropriate and that were inappropriate. Keep in mind that this was not just affecting his marriage. Finch’s behaviors were so severe that he would often be late for work by several hours just because he did not know how to dress the kids or behave when his morning routine was out of sync. His wife did everything and it was killing her. Finch had no idea how to think outside himself and had to learn how to do a lot.
Here are just a few of the “best practices” that are reflected in the chapter titles:
  1. Be her friend first and always.
  2. Use your words, ie. Don’t blow up or pout if things don’t go your way.
  3. Get inside her “girl world” and look around. You must know who your wife is if you are to make her happy.
  4. Just listen
  5. You must do things around the house that you don’t want to do because, guess what, that’s part of running a house. For Finch, it was doing the laundry.
  6. Go with the flow.
  7. When necessary, redefine perfection. What is your picture of a happy marriage? It might not be what someone else’s is. Be happy with what you have and make the most of it.
  8. Be loyal to your true stakeholders.
  9. Take notes: Be aware of how you are performing as a parent and spouse. Also, care about it.
  10. Give your spouse some space.
  11. Be present in moments with the kids.
  12. Parties are supposed to be fun.
  13. Do all that you can to be worthy of her love.

Most men don’t think of their wives’ needs because they just don’t. Their’s is a choice where Finch, over an almost two year time period, had to train himself to think of others, to be in the moment, and to not freak out when things did not go exactly as planned (those with Asperger’s don’t like surprises).
Maybe other men do not see the value in considering their wives’ feelings, maybe they don’t want to make the effort, maybe their wives make it difficult to do, or maybe they are just jerks. 
Finch admits that his efforts were not totally without self-serving motives. He wanted to be happy and he realized the only way this would happen is if he made his wife happy. This sort of unselfish love is what every marriage needs. Think of him/her first and happiness will come. 

Because of Finch’s efforts to please his wife, he remarks that he would often get teased about being, “gay.” He would want to spend time with her by doing things she enjoyed, and by having a general interest in her happiness. “Which is more ‘gay?’” he asks. “Watching a movie and then having hot sex with your wife, or falling asleep alone on the couch watching half-naked UFC male fighters go at it?” His point is well made.