Many “neurotypical” spouses (i.e., the spouse without Aspergers) often feel overly responsible for their Aspergers partner; however, it is important to acknowledge that there is choice connected to that responsibility.
If you choose to take on responsibility for others, decide on how much and when you feel it is appropriate.
Tips for the neurotypical partner:
1. Acknowledging that your Aspergers spouse will “not get better” or be “transformed” into the person you thought he was can sometimes help with your tolerance level. Certain behavior can be modified or changed, which can make daily life less stressful for both you and your Aspie. For example, routines and agreed timetables can help, as can looking at how you talk and what language is used. With acceptance of the condition come a range of other issues, such as grief and the realization of what is not going to be. For some, there will be a feeling of disappointment, loss and unfulfilled potential. Talking to a counselor can really help. They can listen and empower you to explore the issues, emotions and choices.
2. Do not leave ambiguity in your statements, and do not assume your wishes or emotions are acknowledged and understood. For example, it may not be enough to remind your Aspie that you have family over for a meal. You may need to go through the evening in detail, explaining what you want him to do, and not do (e.g., greet everyone once, and don’t go to bed before the guests leave, etc.).
3. Know that you are not alone (although it may often feel as though this is the case). Professionals are getting better at recognizing the condition and developing appropriate service – although this will often seem too slow for many needing help now. Use what help is available through a partner support group and/or counseling.
4. Often times, neurotypical partners spend so much time looking after others that their own needs are not acknowledged by themselves or others. Decide what you want and how you can get it (e.g., where can you go for conversation, support, etc.). Take time out to pamper yourself – whatever helps to relieve your stress.
5. Try and see what structures may help and what may hinder. For example, it might be important to agree how meal times will be conducted (e.g., sitting down together at the table). To be rigid on all times (e.g., we will eat at 6pm) may be more difficult if you cannot always meet the schedule (e.g., dinner at 6.15pm may cause stress to both of you).
6. Aspergers is a complex condition, and it is important that your source of moral support is informed and understanding of these complexities. The benefit in talking to someone who understands many facets of Aspergers should not be under-estimated.
7. Ending the relationship is certainly an option. It is important to get legal advice so that you understand the financial and practical implications of separation. Advice from a legal professional is exactly that – it does not mean you have to leave; it can just help eliminate the unknown. Counseling can be helpful in making the right decision about whether or not to file for divorce.