Spouses with Aspergers


My husband was recently diagnosed with Aspergers. He graduated from college, but his self-absorption, social awkwardness and rigid behaviors have negatively affected our marriage. Is there hope for our relationship?


If there is one word that describes the reaction of a family member to the diagnosis of Aspergers (high functioning autism) in someone you love, that word is loneliness. Certainly it is not easy to bridge the communication gap that exists in the everyday life which you describe. It is important to look at the history of your relationship. You must have had good times together and shared positive feelings about each other. Try to recapture whatever glimmers of that you can of what brought you together. You may benefit from consultation with a mental health professional who is experienced in helping people in your kind of situation. Even if your husband won't go with you, you may gain some insight into the relationship that will help you regain some hope, and possibly change the chemistry of what is happening right now in your relationship.

It is often both a major relief and a major disappointment to be diagnosed or married to someone who is diagnosed with Aspergers. Your hopes may be dashed and it may feel worse right now, but the truth is your spouse is still the same man you have loved and married. There is no way out of the Aspergers diagnosis, but now that you and he know more about him and his sensitivities and behaviors, it is finally possible to find ways to compensate and learn and change and grow.

People can change. Since your husband functions at a high cognitive level, he will be able to use that to learn social behavior that is less awkward and rude. In order to work on this it will be important for him to accept his diagnosis. That is the next hardest step. After that, you and he can work on overcoming the hurdles and progress can be seen. He can change.

Once the diagnosis is made and then accepted, adults with Aspergers are able to move forward – not quickly and easily perhaps – but slowly and steadily. It takes patience and perseverance. You will both have to change some of your current understanding and expectations. In every marriage couples must make some sacrifices and compromises that they did not expect, and this often brings couples to a deeper more mature place in their love, marriage and commitment to one another.

In a marriage it is common for a husband and wife to have some disagreements. They may find little things that get on each others nerves. They may often misunderstand one another, but usually a couple can find a way to work things out in a healthy relationship. However, a couple affected by Aspergers may have larger issues. A wife may start to see a particular pattern in the actions of her husband or the way he avoids confrontation. She may not understand why he doesn't remember things or offer to help her around the house. She may wonder why he doesn't catch on to her hints for affection or let her finish a conversation. At first she may pass it off as laziness or stubbornness. For a couple not knowing of the possibility of Aspergers, it may soon lead to frustration, anger and hurt feelings.

Once husband and wife accept that Aspergers is going to be part of their lives, there are steps they can take to make their relationship work. They may have to accept the lack of spontaneity. They must realize they need to be more direct in their communication. It may be difficult at first, but there are many support groups and self help ideas that can be found on the web.

Here are some helpful relationship tips:
  • Ask your spouse to ask questions when he is not sure of nonverbal cues.
  • Be accepting of each others dislikes, quirks, or calming activities.
  • Communicate with your Aspergers spouse precisely and directly. Since Aspergers adults have trouble reading non-verbal cues, you will need to give full and complete messages. Do not speak ambiguously. Try different forms of communication, such as letters, lists and email.
  • Establish routines and plans agreed on by both partners.
  • Find help for yourself. Get involved with a support group for spouses of Aspergers adults. If you become depressed, don't hesitate to get medical assistance.
  • Prepare yourself to take on the majority of the parenting responsibilities. Many men with Aspergers have difficulty relating to children. It is usually up to the non-Aspergers spouse to provide a nurturing and consistent environment for children.
  • Recognize the traits of the disorder. Aspergers adults frequently have a lack of empathy and an inability to consider the viewpoints of others. They often prefer rigid routines that others find difficulty to follow. Do not see any of this as a personal attack -- this is part of the disorder.
  • Respond instead of reacting. This can be difficult when you're frustrated with your Aspergers spouse, but if you force yourself to remain calm, you will have a more positive interaction.
  • Seek on-going professional help for your spouse.
  • Set up times to openly listen to each other.
  • Set up to do lists, calendars, reminders.
  • Talk openly about finances. Aspergers adults frequently have poor money management skills. An Aspergers husband may want to spend lavishly on his hobby, yet be critical of normal household expenses. Using a third party, such as a financial planner, may be helpful.

Married couples affected by one or even both partners with Aspergers can have a happy, loving, and successful relationship. It may take a little work and a little extra effort, but it is possible and it is worth it. Couples that truly love each other can and will make their marriage work.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


Anonymous said...

I can 100% relate to you! I will be married to my husband (who has Asperger's) coming on 19 years...it is a day to day struggle. Our oldest daughter (soon to be 15) also has it, but milder. Its nice to know I'm not alone...but yes, very lonely and overwelmed! =(

Anonymous said...

My husband has not been officially diagnosed, but has taken the online test and we have suspected he has Asperger's ever since our daughter was diagnosed.

I actually have found that knowing what I now know, I have become much more understanding and less peevish. What used to drive me crazy with frustration is now just a part of life with the man I love.

The most important thing I have found to remember is that the things that drew me to my husband in the first place and the things I love about him have not changed with the diagnosis. The only thing that has changed has been the day-to-day dynamics. I now know to communicate with written messages and notes rather than blast him with a long list of verbal expectations. I am more sensitive to "zone out" times and understand why he has them and why he sometimes needs them.

Knowing doesn't remove challenges, but it helps my creativity kick into gear and it actually enlivens the marriage - we aren't just any other boring couple. We get to go about life and marriage in a new way with new little twists and in the end we will be closer and stronger than ever before.

Anonymous said...

"The Five Love Languages" is a good book for a couple dealing with Asperger's to read. My husband and I refuse to use Asperger's as an excuse to leave me feeling stranded. Someone with Asperger's CAN learn how to speak a love language they do not understand. It takes a bit longer and takes more effort and communication, but it CAN be done. He can learn what fills me up and connects with me. Then he can make it a part of his routine and I can accept that what may feel "mechanical" at times, is actually a HUGE step out of his comfort zone that he is making because he does love me so much.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

Well, it seems that everytime a situation arises with my 14 year old grandson, you happen to post something related to the specific problem we are having.

Today's message about spouses with Aspergers could not have come at a more likely time. My son and his wife have been divorced for over a year and it has been very hard on all concerned. All four children have been greatly affected by this. I have thought for a long time that my son had bi-polar issues, but now I seriously believe that the Aspergers was probably a real possibility with him in youth...we just did not know about it back then. It is beyond repair, his marriage, and he needs counseling. Hopefully we will find the right outlet for him to learn to cope with the situation.

Thank you for your posts....they are very helpful.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

I’m hoping we will get some ideas. We have a very intelligent 21 year old classical improvisational piano player, who sleeps all day and is up all night, and doesn’t communicate much. He talks a lot to himself. We are in need of ideas.

Thank you,


Anonymous said...

Mark I have often wondered if my ex husband was mis diagnoised as a teen with paranoid scychophania instead of aspergers, sometimes he comes off as someone ois out to get him but I also see traits of aspergers from the social aspect that my son has, could doctors have diagnoised someone with paranoid schycophania ?

Bernard said...

Hi All!
Thank you for this wonderful post. A veritable oasis in the desert of despair!!! I was married to a woman for 22 years with what I now suspect is Aspergers!!! All the symptoms described above were present. The things that hurt the most was the loneliness and the feeling of loss of oneself. She couldn't get me....or the kids!!! And in fact, she would often vocalize her inability to empathize.
While I am sympathetic to the Aspergers couples - and wish them all the luck in the world - I personally cannot live without empathy....without understanding and reinforcement from my spouse.
I realized early in the relationship that something was missing and tried to make due. Now two years after our split, I realize how I was kidding myself, how I had deluded myself into thinking that I could live without it!!! She tried, but it just didn't work! I realized that she just didn't get it!!!
I had lost myself and am now at age 55 working on myself....on "bringing myself back." I wish I could be more positive for those who find themselves in this predicament, but I can't.
Thanks for reading my post!

Anonymous said...

Hi Bernard, i absolutely understand you completely, for me it's almost 5 years of marriage and I'm already tired and burned out, I am absolutely leaving him and I need to work on myself because I have become something else, I am exhausted and I want to breathe. I wil not try to save thi marriage or else I'll end up in blood rage because he pushes every buttons no matter how much patient I'm, i am human and I'll break because my husband is evil and vicious so I need out like yesterday. I hope you will find yourself back and you will absolutely feel alive even though it hurts, you will be okay. Stay strong, we will be fine. I wish the rest of you well if you're fighting for your marriages and always remember to not forget who you are and turn to something you hate.

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