How to cope with an asperger husband
Coping With a Partner's Asperger's Syndrome - Autism Center
It takes a lot of work to make a marriage or other long-term relationship a success. And when one partner has Asperger’s syndrome, the relationship can be even more of a challenge. Given that Asperger’s makes emotional connections and social communication extremely difficult, it’s no wonder that a partnership between a person with Asperger’s syndrome and someone without it can be filled with stress, misunderstandings, and frustration.
To understand how Asperger’s can create such angst in a relationship, it’s important to know how people with it are affected. Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that is part of the autism spectrum. It is considered a high-functioning autism spectrum disorder. Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that one in 68 American children born today has some sort of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Another study published on CDC also shows that ASD is over four times more likely to be diagnosed in males than females.
People with classic autism can have severe impairments in language development and the ability to relate to others. Those with Asperger’s syndrome are affected to a lesser degree, but often have difficulties connecting on a social and emotional level. They have a hard time reading verbal and nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions, and may have trouble making eye contact. They sometimes don’t pick up on “how” something was said, only on “what” was said. People with Asperger’s may also lack empathy, the ability to understand the feelings of others. They may unwittingly say or do inappropriate things that offend or hurt others’ feelings.
Though each person with Asperger’s syndrome is unique, some common characteristics include:
- Above-average intelligence
- A keen interest in or obsession with a particular subject — an unusual interest in trains, for example — and being a master on that subject
- Having strict routines or rituals and having a hard time with change or transitions
- Sensory issues
Because of these eccentricities and their lack of social skills, people with Asperger’s may make few friends and are often considered loners.How Asperger’s Syndrome Impacts Relationships
Lack of empathy is one of the most challenging problems for someone with Asperger's who is in a relationship, says Kathy Marshack, PhD, a psychologist in Vancouver, Wash., who works with couples affected by Asperger’s syndrome and the author of Life With a Partner or Spouse With Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge? The non-Asperger’s member of the relationship gets angry and hurt by the partner’s lack of emotion and understanding, often saying things like, “You just don’t get it!” Because the person with Asperger’s does indeed “not get it,” he or she pulls away and gets angry and defensive, Marshack explains. Over time, the emotional disconnect can chip away at the relationship. The non-Asperger’s partner often feels unloved, worn down, and depressed, she says.
Asperger’s/non-Asperger’s couples also face a number of other challenges, including:
- Sexual problems. Marshack says sex is one of the first things to fall apart in these relationships. Half of the problem arises from sensory issues, but the other half is the lack of empathy. People with Asperger’s can’t gauge what their partner enjoys (or does not enjoy) by reading their body language. Says Marshack, “Who wants to constantly talk their way through sex, saying things like, ‘Please put your hand here’?”
- Strain during social settings. Because a person with Asperger’s syndrome has difficulty with social skills, Marshack says, the non-Asperger’s partner is always ready to swoop in and “save” his or her partner from embarrassment. Socializing can become simply too much work, and the couple stops doing it or the partners start living separate lives. Sometimes the Asperger’s partner abuses alcohol to lower inhibitions and feel more “normal” in social situations.
- Parenting problems. “When children enter the picture, it’s often the demise of the relationship,” says Marshack. The non-Asperger’s partner is often devastated by the lack of empathy shown to the child: The Asperger’s parent may ignore the child, make caustic comments, and not recognize when the child needs comforting. Sometimes the Asperger’s parent is overly strict or way too lenient, leaving much of the real parenting up to the non-Asperger’s partner. This sets up a parenting battlefield, even though both parents love the child.
Tim Bennett, a painter living in Great Britain, is in a long-term relationship with Tray, a woman with Asperger’s syndrome. Tray refuses to move out of her small one-bedroom apartment or share it with Tim even though the couple have a son together. Francis, age 6, also has Asperger’s and related behavioral issues. Bennett says that since he and Tray have vastly different parenting styles, they find it better to parent Francis separately to avoid conflict. Tray has a particularly hard time dealing with Francis’s behavior and runs the risk of having a public meltdown if the child is difficult. On the upside, “she can enter into play with him in ways that I cannot, imaginatively creating worlds together," Bennett says. "So we complement each other in many ways as parents. "Asperger’s Syndrome: A Delayed Diagnosis
Jurintha Fallon also knows the difficulties of living with an Asperger’s partner. The stay-at-home mom of two teen boys in Connecticut says life with her husband, Rob, a successful computer engineer with Asperger’s syndrome, is “like riding a roller coaster 24/7 without being strapped in.”
Jurintha and Rob have been married for 20 years, but he was formally diagnosed just two years ago. She had long suspected something was different about Rob. Jurintha’s lightbulb moment came 11 years ago when her younger son was diagnosed with Asperger’s. “Our son’s behaviors and diagnosis are what quickly led me to believe my husband also had Asperger’s," she says.
Jurintha describes Rob as functioning as an adult on an intellectual level but as a child on an emotional one. The couple has experienced many relationship pitfalls because of Asperger’s, but perhaps the most significant issue has been Rob’s lack of empathy, she says. This issue came to a head a few years ago when their older son had a life-threatening bicycle accident while staying with grandparents in Maine. Jurintha and Rob were at a business event in Boston, but Rob didn’t want to leave to be at his son’s bedside. Rob believed his parents had the situation under control so it was unnecessary to make 2.5-hour drive.
Jurintha finally convinced Rob that they had to go. “The first question my son asked was ‘Did you leave work right away to come up?’" Jurintha says. "I had to lie. Rob didn’t see how upset my younger son was and how exhausted his parents were either. He started working the next day."
After that incident, Jurintha demanded that Rob see a psychologist to get an Asperger’s assessment. After the diagnosis, Rob started therapy, and he has made big strides in understanding how his Asperger’s affects the marriage. “I am very proud of him,” Jurintha says.4 Ways to Cope When Your Partner Has Asperger’s Syndrome
For the most part, people with Asperger’s want to be loving partners and parents, but they need help learning how to do it, says Jurintha. Here’s how to make life a little easier for everyone:
- Communicate your needs directly. Do this either verbally or in writing and without emotion. Don’t hint — they just won’t get it, Jurintha says.
- Set clear rules about parenting. Marshack says that the Asperger’s partner needs to agree to stop talking to or disciplining the child in certain situations if the non-Asperger’s parent says to. The Asperger’s partner might be missing something the other parent can pick up on. Discuss the situation as a couple and work out a solution.
- Consider therapy. Marshack suggests starting with individual therapy for both partners and then doing couples therapy. Realize you can’t “fix” your partner, but education is the first step. “Read everything you can about Asperger’s, and become an expert about the dynamics of your own relationship,” Marshack says. Jurintha adds that therapy can help you learn to cope and do more than just survive the relationship.
- Seek support. Consider joining a support group. One online option is Aspergers and Other Half, a support group for women whose partners have Asperger’s. Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults With ASD is another community for men and women who love an adult with Asperger's.
Both Jurintha and Tim stress how much they love their partners and are committed to their relationships. “In the end, we love each other, we both know this, and are learning to cope with each other," Jurintha says. A little humor doesn’t hurt either. “We have a funny thing we say to each other: ‘You drive me crazy!’ ‘Ditto!’ It’s just as challenging for him to cope with me as it is to cope with him."
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How to Cope With a Spouse With Asperger Syndrome
In This Article
Thinking about how to survive your marriage with a spouse who has Asperger syndrome? Want to live a healthy and happy marriage?
Before starting, remind yourself that in a happy marriage, partners can only control their own behavior and change their own selves, not their partner’s.Asperger Syndrome
Asperger syndrome is a disorder characterized by difficulties in social interaction and non-verbal communication accompanied by restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), Asperger syndrome means:
Asperger syndrome affecting marriage
Asperger syndrome (AS) is a developmental disorder. It is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), one of a distinct group of neurological conditions characterized by a greater or lesser degree of impairment in language and communication skills, as well as repetitive or restrictive patterns of thought and behavior.
Asperger’s marriage refers to Aspies’ marriage, i.e., people having symptoms of Asperger syndrome (AS).
Either both persons or one of them is an Aspie. Mostly it is said that Asperger’s marriage would end up leaving the couple devastated.
But that’s not true; not always does Asperger’s marriage end up in divorce, but it is possible to overcome the frustrating conditions occurring in marital life with the right Asperger’s marriage advice.Difficulties due to Asperger syndrome
People with Asperger’s face many difficulties in life. Some include:
- Problem in social interaction & communication
- The restricted and repetitive pattern of behavior or activities
- Difficulty in emotional interactions
- May have trouble making eye contact
- Say or do something unintentionally that would hurt people
- Difficulty in understanding gestures, facial expressions or body language
- May not understand others feelings
- Sexual problems
- Issues with people’s proximity
- Stress and confusion caused by sarcasm, jokes, etc.
- Clumsy movements and uncoordinated behavior
- Depression and anxiety
Are you living with an adult with Aspergers?
The complications can affect the marital relationship directly. These difficulties mentioned above can be removed with Asperger’s marriage advice and by taking appropriate steps.
The following are some basic Asperger’s marriage advice you need to keep in mind in order to save your relationship with Asperger’s.
How to survive an Asperger marriage?1. Listen to your spouse
The first Asperger’s marriage advice is to always listen to your spouse, who has Asperger syndrome.
They just want you to listen to them. So you must listen to whatever they want to say. Be patient and listen to them talk. Try to avoid ugly arguments as much as you can. This will help build a good relationship.
Maintaining a good bond in a marriage calls for effective communication and to communicate means to both, talk and listen.2. Communicate
Living with someone who has Aspergers can make it challenging for you to communicate or have them express their feelings.
It is said, communication is the first thing to do in order to save a marriage. Communicate with your spouse. Listen to them and ask questions about the things that you don’t understand. Talk to them in a respectful manner. Don’t ask questions in a defensive way and avoid quarrels and arguments.3. Stay positive
Another Asperger’s marriage advice is to always focus on the positive aspects of the relationship. Think positive. Act positively.
Whatever your spouse says or does is not meant to hurt you. Focus on the positive qualities which are brought to the relationship because of that person. Focusing on negative aspects will only take you away from your spouse.4. Pay attention to partner
How to make someone with Aspergers happy?
Pay attention to your spouse’s desires and needs.
Our Aspergers relationship advice is to try to do things that make your partner feel happy each day. If they like to see you caring for them so much, do care for them each day. Do whatever they like for the whole day. If they want you to help them in doing dishes, help them no matter what.5. Accept the differences
Your partner’s routines or whatever they do the whole day is not meant to hurt you. They do this because of the condition they have.
If you don’t like their doing, it is fine. You don’t need to like them, but Asperger’s marriage advice is to try not to take them personally. Accept their differences and understand that they have a different way of taking care.6. Stay calm
Your spouse with Asperger’s can appear egotistic or selfish and sometimes uncaring when indeed, it is not the same. They are not intended to hurt you.
Instead, this is the consequence of not understanding how you feel and what you need. Remembering this will relieve your worries and distress.7. Let them feel free
One of the most important Asperger’s marriage advice is to try not to control your spouse’s behavior. Asking them to behave correctly or according to you may result in distrust and resentment. This will help a lot in becoming a happy couple.
Follow the above rules to get better results in married life. Understand each other and eliminate negativity from your life.8. Therapy
Living with a person with Asperger’s can be difficult and with therapies, you can witness some amazing results.
You can help your spouse by taking them to therapists from time to time. Some of the therapies for Asperger Syndrome include:
- Speech therapy for inculcating voice control
- Psychoactive medicines for depression, anxiety, and Attention Deficit & Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy for personal difficulties and challenges
- Physical and occupational therapy for improved coordination
- Social skills training classes for developing communication skills and reducing social stress and anxiety
In the video below, Author and Psychologist Kathy Marshack, Ph. D., tells us all about her latest book: “Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?” in which she gives steps from clinical experience that may help save relationships.
You can also get in touch with the Aspergers marriage support group to help your partner. Not just this, there are various support groups for wives of Aspergers to provide them help and guidance of any kind.
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Cynthia Kim: "Asperger's Syndrome and Marriage"
Cynthia Kim is a woman with Asperger's syndrome who wrote the book I Think I'm Autistic: A Guide to Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders and Self-Knowledge for Adults (several chapters posted on her website) about finding the reasons for their problems, about the first attempts at self-diagnosis and, finally, about understanding the need for an official diagnosis and the process of undergoing a diagnosis. Cynthia was 42 years old when she found out she had Asperger's Syndrome. She writes a blog, Aspie's Reflections, where she writes about self-diagnosis tests, the complexities of life that come with Asperger's syndrome, the experience of mothering an autistic woman, and her marriage to a neurotypical husband, nicknamed "The Scientist."
As a woman with Asperger's who has been married to a neurotypical partner for 25 years, I have found some amazing benefits in being an aspint partner. I also ran into some serious problems. This series summarizes 12 lessons my husband and I have learned (often the hard way). I hope some of them will be useful to other couples who have set themselves the task of working on an aspi-nt marriage.
Part 1: Introduction, household chores, understanding the importance of apologizing
Being married to someone with Asperger's is a challenge.
Although, this is putting it mildly. Some people may say, and much harsher: that it is impossible. A quick Internet search for "marriage aspergers" turns up many horror stories.
Being married to an aspie is hard work. At times, the NT partner may feel more like a caregiver than a spouse, especially if the aspie partner's symptoms are severe.
But if you're married as an aspi-nt, it's no coincidence that you ended up there. You have made a conscious choice to share your life in what is essentially a cross-cultural partnership. Like any cross-cultural exchange, an aspi-nt marriage can be a rewarding experience or a nightmare. There is not much self-help literature for those of us in aspie marriages, especially for an aspie woman with a neurotypical man (the reverse combination is much more common).
In addition to the usual factors that determine the success of a marriage, there are several unique factors that can destroy or strengthen an aspie marriage:
- How severe are the symptoms of the aspie partner
- How socially experienced the NT partner is
- How willing are both partners to work on how to improve or accept what cannot be changed
As a woman with Asperger's who has been married to a neurotypical partner for 25 years, I feel lucky on all three counts. I am on the high end of a functioning autism spectrum and my husband, The Scientist (as he will henceforth be referred to hereinafter), has strong social skills. Most importantly, we are both very good at adapting and accepting.
It wasn't always easy. Sometimes it was damn difficult, almost impossible. More than once we considered whether we would be better off apart than together. But we also discovered some amazing benefits of our aspi-nt partnership. Hopefully some of the things we've learned will be helpful to other couples who have the task of living in an aspi-nt marriage.
Lesson #1. Divide household and family responsibilities according to each partner's strengths
I am well aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I am good with organization and planning. And very bad with ironing. I have the patience to help with homework and sit through a two-hour soccer practice. I must not be allowed near power tools. It is a real pleasure for me to explore ways to manage family finances. The thought of having to call my neighbor to confirm our presence at the party makes me want to put it off for a few days, and then I need to lie down and relax.
You are lucky if your partner has slightly different strengths and weaknesses than your own. Sharing household chores makes life easier for both partners and solves one of the biggest potential pitfalls in an aspi-nt relationship: the nt-partner's tendency to feel more like a caregiver than a spouse and loved one. If an aspie partner has well-defined responsibilities that she excels in, then delegating things she is weak at will help her not feel unimportant.
Successful partnerships are built on a rational division of labor, and marriage is no different.
Lesson #2. Apologize if you have done something that the partner perceives painfully
This is true for both partners, but especially for the aspie partner.
At times it is difficult for an aspie to understand why something is hurtful. Deal with it. It doesn't matter if what you said or did was unintentional. It doesn't matter what you like best. It doesn't matter if you think it's stupid or pointless. Just apologize.
I know it's hard. My first impulse is to say "that's not what I meant" or "what's the problem?". But this is a bad idea. If your partner has been harmed by your words or actions, then this is a big problem. Ideally, your NT partner can calmly explain what you did and how it made them feel: "It makes me uncomfortable when you point out in front of other people that I'm not paying attention to the conversation." And then you can just as calmly consider your point of view and apologize: "I'm sorry. I didn't realize I bothered you. I'll try not to do this in the future."
Obviously, it is not easy to carry on such a conversation in a calm and friendly manner. For a long time, my husband thought he was just carrying me. After learning more about Asperger's, he began to understand that this is the reason for the stupid things coming out of my mouth. Now he tries to calmly notice when I act insensitively.
We both realized that even if he told me what was bothering him, I could still do it again in the future. I'll try not to, but there's no guarantee because Asperger's makes it difficult to generalize from one situation to another. It is very likely that I will say something like this without realizing that it is unpleasant, because, in my opinion, it is not the same thing. It's a matter of faith for an nt partner to give an aspie the benefit of the doubt when that happens, but this kind of trust can be one of the things that will keep your marriage going .
Part 2: Bad days, lack of social skills and sensitivity to touch
Lesson #3. Accept that aspies can have both good and bad days
I try to keep some of my most annoying aspie traits under control, but there are times when symptoms I thought were under control suddenly reappear or get worse. This tends to happen when I'm stressed or anxious.
A few weeks ago, an unscheduled four-hour wait at the DVM triggered a bout of perseveration . Even though I was aware of it, it was very difficult to stop replaying the situation in my mind over and over again, and worse, out loud. Not that I really wanted to recalculate our potential wait time based on the speed and number of customers served that were ahead of us, and even in the strange DVM numbering system containing six different prefixes plus a periodic return to the missed number queue. And I didn't enjoy the obsessive tracking of every clerk disappearing for a break, thereby increasing our waiting time, or repeatedly pointing to an arbitrary list of required identification documents. I just couldn't help it, even though I was aware of what was happening and how my perseveration added to the stressful situation for both of us.
Anxiety or sensory overload can exacerbate a wide range of Asperger's symptoms. When I'm stressed, I'm more clumsy, less open to touch, more inflexible in thinking, less willing to deviate from routine, more vulnerable to looping, more prone to tunnel vision, and likely to have a lot of trouble with auditory processing. Symptoms that usually do not affect my functioning become a significant obstacle. I know it's hard for my husband to control himself in a stressful situation and then deal with the flare of my aspie traits above everything else. Moments like these really test our marriage and I'm still working on ways to make them (moments) less horrific for both of us.
Touch, one of the most important and fundamental aspects of intimate relationships, can be uncomfortable for people with Asperger's. While I'm making a lot of progress in this area, there are still times when I shy away from being touched.
Certain types of touching, particularly light touching and occurring at unexpected times, are very likely to be unpleasant for an aspie. When I am intensely engaged in activities, touch is often perceived as a distraction rather than a spontaneous display of affection. I also withdraw from being touched more often when I'm stressed or anxious.
At times my brain is so busy figuring out the meaning of certain types of touch that it's hard to just relax and enjoy the moment. Because aspies don't receive many of the non-verbal cues involved in an intimate relationship, we rely heavily on the intellectual side of our brains to process how an intimate moment will proceed. Sounds romantic, yes.
All this is difficult for the NT partner, who naturally craves physical affection. While it's hard to change my attitude towards touch at the wrong time, I try to compensate by initiating physical contact when I feel comfortable.
Liane Holliday Willey once included holding her husband's hand five times a day on her to-do list. Putting hugs on your to-do list may seem cold and mechanical, but that doesn't mean the action itself will be mechanical. Since I consciously started looking for opportunities to initiate a small amount of touching per day, being physically affectionate has become more natural and feels good for me .
Lesson #5. Accept that the nt partner may need to compensate the aspie partner's social skills many times over
No matter how hard I work to improve my social skills, I still routinely miss non-verbal cues, ranging from puzzled looks and awkward pauses to hostility from other people.
Here is a recent example of the Scientist and I meeting with the salesperson about a new apartment:
The salesperson says to the Scientist (whom she had seen earlier):
- Nice to see you again!
The scientist says to the Merchant:
- And I'm glad to see you.
The salesperson tells me:
- I'm Linda. Nice to meet you. Sit down
I say to the Seller (shaking her hand and sitting down):
— And I am pleased to meet you.
The Scientist says to the Salesman:
- Linda, I don't think you know my wife...
I had no idea what caused the awkward pause until the Scientist stepped in and told the salesperson my name. And it dawned on me: The scientist already knows Linda and therefore did not introduce himself. I must have subconsciously imitated his behavior, so I didn't introduce myself either.
Sounds like a no-brainer, but it happens a lot and upsets people. As an aspie and as an adult, you may find it difficult to accept the need for this type of help from your partner. Again, get over yourself. We all have natural skills, but social skills are not on the aspie's list of natural talents.
This is an area where training can help. If the nt-partner is ready, then you can use role-playing games and talk about how to behave in unexpected situations. However, both partners must understand that no matter how hard an aspie works to improve social skills, it is unlikely that they will reach the natural level of social competence for NT.
Frequent correction of social slips can be difficult for the NT partner and is likely to be problematic throughout the marriage. Acceptance can take a long time in situations where change is slow and inconsistent.
Part 3: Compromise, aspi-style communication and understanding of annoying elements
Lesson #6. Recognize that aspies need to spend a lot of time alone
Being alone is how people with Asperger's syndrome recuperate. If I go to my home office and close the door behind me, it doesn't mean I don't enjoy being around my family. And it has nothing to do with how much I love my husband. This does not mean that I am indifferent, selfish, cold or insensitive. This means that I have exhausted the limit of social interactions and need to recuperate.
Somehow, the Scientist figured this out years before we knew about Asperger's and learned to recognize that I was reaching my limits in interaction, sometimes even before I did. If we have guests staying for several days, he will definitely arrange a schedule so as to give me time to be alone. If he notices that I'm getting tired or retreating during a long social event, he suggests getting away from the crowd for a short time so that I can take a break. He also understood that if I say that I need to stop participating in a social situation, then it is better to do it, otherwise it will cost me dearly, and it is not worth it.
I probably look like a social tyrant. Maybe that's the way it is. I am certainly not one of the ordinary wives who thrive on entertainment and companionship. But I have learned that being realistic about my limits and pushing them where possible will be less destructive to our relationship than being sly and eventually crying.
Lesson #7. Compromise
This is good advice for any marriage, but it's especially important if one of the partners has Asperger's Syndrome. Some of the compromises you make may turn out to be unconventional. For example The scientist and I realized that we needed to compromise on my attendance at social events. He receives many work-related invitations to dinners, cocktail parties, award ceremonies, and so on. We have come to the conclusion (after a long and painful discussion) that it is unrealistic to expect me to attend every event (his preference) or none of them (my preference).
Our compromise: I will attend important events, and he will go alone to less important ones. This means that I will be uncomfortable at times (talking to strangers - oh no!), and he will be awkward at times (justifying my absence). As with most compromises, both are not entirely happy with this position, but this is the least bad option.
Compromise can be a difficult skill for an aspie. I have found that a cost-benefit approach can help. What will it cost me to do this for a partner? What will it cost him if this is not done? What are the potential benefits for him, for me, for our relationship?
For social events, the biggest expense is usually the anxiety a few days before the event and the physical exhaustion I feel after. The benefits are usually a happy husband and some pleasant moments of social interaction. Listing costs and benefits as specifically as possible gives me relief and helps me to compromise more often, rather than reflexively rejecting all invitations to social events because they require a lot of work.
Lesson #8. Identify annoying elements and try to work around them
Annoying elements may seem strange or even incomprehensible to the NT partner. Case in point: I don't like the bathroom fan running while I'm taking a shower. The hum of the fan and the feeling of moving air on my damp skin is an unpleasant experience. To complicate matters, the light and fan in the bathroom are on the same power supply, so to avoid the fan, I have to bathe in semi-darkness. The scientist thinks it's stupid. He rolls his eyes when I flip the switch. He says I'll get used to it. It indicates that the fan is on the other side of the room. He understands many of my quirks, but not this one.
All aspies have irritant elements that trigger the stress response. Some people have a lot of them, others have a little. Annoying elements can be natural/sensory (sounds, smells), social (crowds, public speaking), situational (new places, unexpected changes). Some annoying elements, like the fan in the bathroom, are not strong. They cause discomfort or low levels of anxiety, but you can get used to them. Others are more serious - lead to outbursts of anger, tantrums or unexpected dumbness.
If the aspie partner has clearly identified and communicated elements that irritate him, then the nt partner should do everything possible to reckon with them and, if necessary, use accommodation. Sometimes accommodation is easy and no need to explain why it will be good if the aspie gets the right conditions. Other means of accommodation can cause tension in the relationship. If the aspie partner only sleeps well if she sleeps alone, or she cannot bear shopping, then both partners should be open and honest about how feasible such conditions of accommodation are.
Lesson #9. Communicate
You'll find this tip at the top of most "secrets to a happy marriage" list. The nuance in marriage with aspies is that we have serious communication deficits. The neurotypical partner may believe that the conversation is going on, but almost everything he says does not seem to get through. Neurotypical people communicate in a way that is difficult for aspies to interpret.
Here is a typical example: one day I was making lunch and the following exchange took place:
Me: "I found an interesting new recipe for chorizo and grits. Do you want to try it?"
Scientist: "Good. I'm not hungry."
I was a little offended that he did not want to try a new dish, it seems that I was very nervous, but I overcame myself and cooked myself. Thinking he might want to try it, I offered to try it.
Scientist: "Hey, is that all you did?"
Me: "Yeah, you said you didn't want anything."
Scientist: "Well, I thought you'd cook something for me anyway."
Me: "I asked you if you wanted something to eat, you said you weren't hungry."
Scientist: "I didn't feel like a long romp and wasn't sure there was enough [food] for both of us."
I was stunned. There would be no extra work in doubling the portion and I had a lot of ingredients. Why didn't he just say yes when I asked if he wanted to eat? Apparently, I should have understood that his "no" means "yes". Apparently, this is what "good wives" do. We both felt bad after that: he felt like I was selfish, cooking only for myself, and I felt like I failed the test.
Please note that we have been married for twenty-five years and know each other very well. However, this still happens from time to time.
Aspie needs direct communication. Forget hints. Forget about body language and implied meaning. We need to accurately explain the wants, needs and expectations of our NT partner. And perhaps we need to be told repeatedly and in different ways before we understand.
Part 4: Love and acceptance, aspi style
Lesson #10. Find out how your partner shows love
Aspies and NT speak completely different languages when it comes to expressing love. You can either learn to translate your partner's "love language" or spend your marriage figuring out if the person you sleep next to every night really loves you.
How does this translation work? Like this:
Scientist: "You don't have to make me lunch every morning. I'll grab something at the cafe."
Me: "Not a problem. It takes a few minutes. Plus, I know you want something healthy to eat. Plus, you won't have to wait in line."
Scientist: "You mean you make me lunch because you care about me?"
Understanding and translating how your partner thinks about love and intimacy can be difficult in an Aspi-NT relationship.
Lesson #11. Agree that there are things you will never understand about your partner
No matter how long you live together or how much you love each other, there will be moments when you feel that your partner is the most misunderstood person on Earth. Aspie and NT brains have key differences. The sooner you accept this, the less disappointed you will be when your partner does something that makes you scratch your head.
Many times the Scientist refused to talk with the words: "I just don't understand you." And not because he didn't try. He asked me many questions, intently trying to figure out what I said or did. He restrains himself and waits while I sit silently and stare into nothingness, unable to put into words what I feel. He repeats what I said to make sure he heard me correctly. But no matter how many different ways I used to explain it, it doesn't make sense because he and I are wired so differently.
And it's mutual. The day the Scientist told me that he felt what he would describe as physical warmth when he said, "I love you," I was stunned. I tell him every day that I love him, but I never connected these words with the physical sensation.
Logically I can figure out what that physical sensation might be, but I'll probably never know exactly how he feels. Similarly, I can tell him that my brain keeps track of the conversations at all the tables within earshot when I'm sitting in a crowded restaurant, but I think that he can never repeat this experience in his head.
We can make educated guesses about what's going on in our partner's head, but there will always be experiences that we can't really understand.
Lesson #12. Have realistic expectations, but don't stop trying to grow and improve your relationship
When an aspi-nt marriage faces daily challenges, it can lead both partners to despair. I repeatedly thought that leaving would be easier and less painful than trying to work through problems.
Balancing realistic expectations with a concerted effort to improve will help keep the relationship going. Realistic expectations must be mutual. A neurotypical partner should not expect an aspie partner to become a typical human overnight. (The scientist says that he would not want this, even if it were possible).
Also, the aspie partner should not expect the nt partner to simply put up with an endless flurry of unbridled aspie behavior. Knowing what can be changed and what can be tolerated is important.
The second part of this equation is how you can get a warm attitude from an aspie. I am a firm believer in trying to improve my ability to function in the neurotypical world. Before anyone grabs my throat and talks about the potential evils of assimilation, let me explain.
The day I told my husband about Asperger's, one of the first things he said was, "I love you just the way you are." I cherish this and I know that he did not say at all because he wanted to make me feel better. He meant exactly what he said. But I still know that life is hard for me. I find it a hundred times harder to live the way I am. So when I say I want to improve my level of functioning, it's because I want to struggle less every day, I want the people around me (whom I love) to also struggle less. This has nothing to do with meeting the expectations of the neurotypical world. It's all about creating a less stressful and more enjoyable life for yourself and your family.
The above material is a translation of the text "Asperger's and Marriage".
Weaknesses of men with Asperger's syndrome
symptoms and manifestations
Relationships, love and family formation have never been diagnosed and are perceived as eccentric, a little weird, or loners. If you are in a relationship with a man on the autism spectrum, you may have noticed many of the following traits. Note, "traits", not "character flaws". This article is about the symptoms associated with the disorder. And the affected person can often have very little or no effect on most of these symptoms. This article is not written to accuse or ridicule men on the spectrum, and it should be noted that they have more advantages than weaknesses (and there is a lot written about them on this site). But in this article, we will focus on some of the features associated with Asperger's syndrome that can negatively affect romantic relationships.
A man with Asperger's syndrome often has the following features, expressed in different people to varying degrees:
- Special interest (eg coin collecting) is common among men with Asperger's and may have been something they have been doing for years. They are literally in love with it and often have an exhaustive collection of things related to their interest, as well as incredible knowledge in their subject area.
- Although men with Asperger's Syndrome often have a high level of intelligence, it happens that they remain in low-skilled jobs for years or move from one job to another. This is the result of their problems with social skills and communication.
- A man with Asperger's may have a pet (often a dog) to which he has a very strong attachment. A pet is a friend who does not make demands on a person and accepts him as he is.
- Men with Asperger's appear selfish or indifferent. They can speak without considering how their words will affect others.
- Men with Asperger's have a tendency to blame other people instead of themselves. In an attempt to maintain their image and protect their unstable self-esteem, they blame others for things they should be responsible for.
- Short temper is not uncommon in men with Asperger's syndrome. They "explode" over relatively minor things (for example: a burnt dish, a missing book, etc.). Disruption of plans is another reason for the manifestation of their temper. At the same time, the man himself may understand that he is behaving badly, but feel unable to influence it.
- In a romantic relationship, a man with Asperger's may resist physical contact and open displays of affection or hints of affection.
- Job interviews are often a problem for men with Asperger's Syndrome because their impaired social skills make them unable to respond correctly or misunderstand the interviewer's non-verbal cues.
- Men with Asperger's have spent decades learning how to be acceptable in society.
- Men with Asperger's Syndrome often have a reputation for being difficult to communicate with. Others believe that they have a bad character or that they prefer their own social circle.
- Many men with Asperger's want to have friends but are considered loners. They usually have a much reduced capacity for social interaction compared to "ordinary" men.
- Many men with Asperger's have learned to lie in order to cope with life's challenges. For example, instead of admitting that they are overwhelmed by noise, that they are tired of being around people, or that they want to pursue their special interest, they may lie and say that they are not feeling well or that they have an appointment.
- Many men with Asperger's Syndrome marry, but the relationship lasts only if both partners are willing to work on problem areas.
- Many men with Asperger's fit the "computer genius" stereotype.
- Many men with Asperger's syndrome fail to make small talk. They focus on the topic of interest to them and talk about it endlessly, but cannot fully understand the exchange of remarks in a general conversation.
- Many men with Asperger's find employment and are generally reliable employees. However, even with the same qualifications as "ordinary" men, they cannot find jobs as easily due to a lack of social skills.
- Sensory traits mean that men with Asperger's do not like things like seams on clothes or tags on shirts. Hearing features are possible: such a man may not like loud noise or certain music. In addition, crowds can be confusing, and men with Asperger's may avoid all of the above.
- Sexual problems may become apparent if a man with Asperger's Syndrome has not received adequate sex education at an earlier age. In some cases, he learns about sex by looking at pornography on the Internet. If he tries to repeat such scenes with his partner, it can lead to great confusion.
- Social activity may be limited. The wife of a man with Asperger's usually forms his social circle while he stays at home.
- Some men with Asperger's syndrome come to a secluded lifestyle, they are beginning to be called "hermits", "recluses". They seem to find it easier to live this way, and they feel more at ease than when they face the complexities of interpersonal relationships on a daily basis.
- Some men with Asperger's syndrome prefer to have a confirmed diagnosis, while others would prefer to lead the same lifestyle as before. However, some people deny the possibility of having Asperger's and get offended when someone brings up the issue.
- Some men with Asperger's Syndrome become persistently defensive over time and find it difficult to confront or discuss things with them. It is often the result of bullying and isolation from peers at a younger age.
- Teamwork can create problems. A man with Asperger's works better if he has his own office without noise and distracting social interaction.
- When courting a girl, a man with Asperger's syndrome comes across as quiet and reserved. In marriage, these qualities can become a cause for disagreement, because his wife will be disappointed by his lack of sociability.
In addition to the above, some men with AS have the following traits:
- Often "in their own world".
- Attention narrowly focused on his interests.
- Possibly suffering from obsessions.
- Very concerned about their plans.
- Can be very critical of themselves and others.
- Very unhappy when others ask them for clarification or some sympathy.
- Engage in some business (sometimes divorced from reality) for hours without a break.
- May annoy friends by asking them to confirm they are "normal".
- Can often be physically and emotionally distant.
- Can sit in the library for hours, pursuing their special interest.
- Collect items.
- Desire friendship and social contacts, but find and maintain them with difficulty.
- Difficulty understanding the feelings of others.
- They do not always recognize people by sight (even some family members).
- Find emotions confusing and uncomfortable.
- Great difficulty with small talk and idle chatter.
- Have a strong desire to communicate something, because of which they may appear dull or offend.
- Intense passion for one or two subjects.
- Lack of empathy at times.
- Lack of interest in other people.
- Preferences can be very rigid.
- Limited interests.
- They are clumsy, have poor coordination of movements.
- Feel oppressed by their partner's need for communication.
- May have a stony, expressionless face most of the time.
- Have difficulty saying "I love you" and showing physical affection.
- Have a great need to leave and be alone.
- Eccentric people.
- Occasionally experience idiosyncratic attachment to inanimate objects.
- Difficulties with the implementation of the curriculum despite a high level of intelligence.
- Perhaps they don't try very hard to keep their friendship.
- "Hang out" in social situations.
- Problems in non-verbal communication (eg, difficulty understanding body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice).
- They often feel that their partners are ungrateful and irritable when they complain (eg "you don't care about me" or "you never listen to me").
- Often take words personally.
- Preoccupied with their plans.
- Repetitive routine, rituals.
- Inflexible social behavior due to an inability to automatically adapt to changes in social situations.
- Sensitivity to product consistency.
- Single-tasking (monotropism).