Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Aspergers Men and Intimate Relationships

"I hope this isn't a stupid question, but can men with Asperger's or HFA have normal intimate relationships? I want to know because I'm currently dating one and I'm wondering how far to let this relationship develop."

That would depend on one's definition of "normal." What's normal for one couple may be quite abnormal to another. In any event, it is very possible for men and women with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism to develop an intimate relationship WITH THE RIGHT PERSON (i.e., someone who will learn about the disorder and make any necessary adjustments in relating to the Asperger's partner). In some cases, that “right person” may be another individual with the same disorder who understands and has the ability to cope with the idiosyncrasies of another person on the autism spectrum.

Some of the barriers to relationships include a sort of “extended adolescence” or maturity issue in adults with Asperger's. This can mean that the individual marries later in life and lacks the ability to have solid relationships until they are older.

One of my Asperger's clients recently stated that he feels that the relationship with his wife is challenging, in part due to his overwhelming need to focus on his obsession of choice. He feels that he lacks a strong interpersonal connection and has to make a conscious choice to put his focus on his wife, to the exclusion of his desired focus of choice. He is accustomed to being solitary, and he finds it difficult to concentrate with others around him, including his wife.

Relationships do take a lot of work when one partner is on the spectrum. The social skills required make relationships challenging for adults with Asperger's, particularly if diagnosed with it in adulthood. Unfortunately, the divorce rate among couples affected by Asperger's (i.e., one partner is on the spectrum, and the other is not) is higher than in other groups of people. However, interventions (e.g., marital counseling) can work well if the therapist understands the unique features of Asperger's as it affects relationships.

We don't know statistically how many Asperger's men develop "normal" relationships or how many find themselves unable to relate to a partner in an interpersonal and intimate way, but we do know that those with good communication and social skills have a better chance to succeed in a relationship than others.


Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


•    Anonymous said... as in most relationships, you have to express your needs. but you also have to explain how those needs can be satisfied. you will need lots of initiative, and teach him how to take initiative.
•    Anonymous said... For 15 years I have an intimate relationship with a wonderful man, he got only a few years ago his diagnosis Asperger. We don't live together in the same flat or village, only every second night he stays in my place with me. He did not agree to marry or even have children with me. This was very hard for me, by now I can cope with this. I can understand now he needs to withdraw into his own walls, where he can "recover from my emotions" and the intimacy/closeness. This enables him, to cope with the relationship. Meanwhile I know of many As/Nt couples and with most of them I observe difficulties. The stress of unplanned or chaotic (from the view of the AS) situations especially with kids, which can't be avoided, enhances the troubles. So I realised after some difficult years, our way of living allows him, to be a loving and caring partner I keep forgetting he's on the spectrum. Also of other AS/NT couples I know, only in finding an unusual way of living together, they manage to be a couple.
•    Anonymous said... I have autism and am married and trying for a baby. Why would it be any different for a male?
•    Anonymous said... In reality I cannot answer this question with any great certainty, as it is dangerous to generalize with anything to do with autism. However like NTs some HFA/Aspergers are quite capable of maintaining close relationships with other people on the spectrum or even with NTs. Just like NTs some are better suited to this than others. People on the spectrum can vary enormously and some may have a higher emotional intelligence than others and allow for socializing and forming closer bonds. Others may just prefer to be alone and there is nothing wrong with that. I myself have two boys on the spectrum and of course am a fully fledged aspie, lol I have been married for 30 years to an NT. Like any other marriage we have had times when we have had to work hard, but generally we understand each other and support each other. I do know other autistic people who have children and have good, warm and loving relationships. Remember that autism does not define us, condemn or damage us and we are not diseased. So there is hope for many and especially for those who have a diagnosis and develop a sense of self awareness and acceptance. My advice to anyone in these mixed relationships of autistic/NT to be patient, accepting of each other and make adjustments if possible. Maybe it will be hard sometimes, but like with our kids, always rewarding in the long run. Good luck! Brian
•    Anonymous said... My husband has Aspergers and we have a great and intimate relationship. There are some differences: I typically drive, I typically talk to waiters, he often doesn't look me in the eyes, and sometimes I have to pose an important question to him and then walk away so he has time to think about it. He can't always just respond on the spot for important and/embarrassing topics. We'll have been married for five years this May!

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Anonymous said...

Of course they can develop an intimate relationship. Just know that there is no "normal" - for anyone! But it won't be bizarre or outrageous. My husband gets it (me being an aspie) and I'm mature enough to step out of my comfort zone to meet his needs when he gives me gentle reminders.

Anonymous said...

I really like these articles. I'm fairly certain both me and my husband exhibit aspie like characteristics. We have worked hard to get to the level of intimacy that we have. I do have feeling of dread and worry about my Aspie son sometimes. He is so smart and funny. I hope he finds lasting relationship that builds him up and helps him succeed.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing "normal". Everyone has some type of issues or needs. It is all about learning different tools and having patience. I really struggle with my husband sometimes and I constantly have to remind myself that his process isn't going to be the same as mine.

Mary Kelly Godley said...

I have AS and I was married for 13 years before getting the diagnosis. We have a happy marriage although it has become easier now that there are explanations for my sometimes eccentric behavior or unusual mood swings. However my non-AS hubby has many issues of his own. I know there are loads of undiagnosed AS people out there who are in relationships and I think they have the same chance of success as NT relationships provided you are with the right person.

Steve Borgman said...

An article I wrote a while ago on the topic of Aspergers and marriage received a number of heated comments from people on the spectrum who felt that I focused too much on some of the challenges Aspergers presents in the relationship. It's important for anyone who is 'neurotypical' to be sensitive to how difficult it is for the person with AS to accept neurotypical thinking. Both partners have to study each other and be sensitive to each others' differences.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

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Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content