Living With An Aspergers Partner/Spouse

Folks with Aspergers often live in their own little world. Intimate relationships with someone identified as having Aspergers is difficult simply because they have a problem with communication and empathy (abilities healthy relationships rely on). Getting into a romantic relationship with an ‘Aspie’ will require you to change your expectation of "normal" behaviors. In exchange, however, you might find yourself part of a lasting and satisfying relationship.

Here are some tips for those who may be in a romantic relationship with an ‘Aspie’:

1. Accept the fact your Aspergers partner views you as an NT or "Neurotypical" (i.e., someone without Aspergers). ‘Aspies’ created this term. They use it to specify men and women without any of the ASD diagnoses. Social-skill training for Aspergers individuals consists of learning how to communicate in the “Neurotypical” style. NTs should try to come to terms with this particular view of their behavior at the start of the relationship.

2. Aspergers individuals do not react to the normal give and take of organic conversation. Though often talkative and articulate, they might speak all night on topics that only interest them. As a word of caution here: do not to try to engage in the monologue or change the topic. When they are done speaking (which they will be eventually), you can then bring up the next subject.

3. Aspergers individuals have a problem with expressing physical affection. They're oversensitive to stimuli (e.g., touch). He might not be comfortable holding your hand, getting unpredicted hugs, or kissing in the beginning. You might not understand this since you may have witnessed him showing affection to close family members. His lack of physical affection doesn't mean he does not care for you. Aspergers individuals don't react well to change and require a great deal of time to adjust to new surroundings and people.

4. Aspergers individuals have a problem with interpreting nonverbal communication (e.g., facial expressions, tone of voice). If you get annoyed with them for some reason (e.g., they don’t seem to listen, they appear to be blind to how you’re feeling), it’s best to talk to them as calmly and rationally as you can. He probably will not "understand" your feelings. Ignore his “mindblindness” – or it'll only irritate you much more.

5. Aspergers individuals take vocabulary at face value. Sarcasm, humor and innuendo befuddle them. When communicating with him, keep the vocabulary clear and direct and steer clear of figurative language. They do not lie, so stay truthful with them.

6. Aspergers individuals understand the “basics” of a romantic relationship. He might not behave as an average sweetheart; however, this does not alter his role in your life – or your place in his. When attempting to indicate your desires to him, be positive and concrete. State the obvious. Dropping hints and coy behavior will get you nowhere fast.

7. Be patient while you help your Aspergers partner develop some necessary social skills. He'll most likely listen to you more than anyone else.

8. Do not take offense if he does not remember to reciprocate feelings, greetings, verbal expressions, or if he doesn’t respond when you ask a question. Aspergers individuals have a problem with social hints so, if anything, carefully remind him you need an answer.

9. Intellectual curiosity to the point of infatuation identifies Aspergers. Respect that they value their space, time and interests. Understand you may be one of these pursuits that they focus on. If after a period of time their curiosity about you weakens, realize that it does not reflect their intimate emotions towards you.

10. Try to make use of technology to your benefit. Text-messaging and internet-based communication will be a better way for you to communicate with ‘Aspies’ since it cuts-down on the amount of social and non-verbal hints you may expect them to interpret in a telephone or face to face dialogue.

For more information on how to relate to an Aspergers partner or spouse, see below:



Comment

Dear Mark

Many thanks for your book, it has helped me a great deal from much despair in dealing with who I am certain is/was an Asbergers boyfriend. He is a lovely guy in so many ways and I love him SO much but the pressures over 2 1/2 years of my having to take responsibility in so many areas (social, financial, organizational) and not receiving much empathy, comfort or support PLUS being completely misunderstood by him when I have criticized this or asked for clarification, led to acrimony, temper tantrums and sometimes violent impulses on both our parts. To the point where we had to part to get some breathing space and to try and reassess the situation. It is 6 months now since we have lived apart.

It is only in the last week or so that I have been convinced he is an Aspergers , I was alerted by a comment someone made who recently met him. I am now trying to encourage him to get a proper diagnosis and being patient and understanding with his resistance to the idea of Asbergers. (He claims to have had an autism test which tested negative) I think he will in time come to listen to me. He is seeking psychotherapeutic support, waiting to be referred to one by his GP (This is for stress and for unresolved trauma when he had the stupid job of nightclub doorman and he constantly got beaten up) plus he is interested in emdr therapy.

The thing is I still adore him and I cant move on. I helped him, two years ago come off anti psychotic drugs and anti depressants which were really making things worse for him, making him slow, obese and he looked like death on them. Physically and mentally he improved so much off the drugs and started doing yoga and other relaxation techniques. He looks great for it now and his art work is attracting professional attention and important exhibitions. BUT I was so puzzled as to why other things didn’t improve. 10 years previously he was diagnosed as a psychotic depressive, which he is absolutely not. He never suffers from psychosis or paranoia (except what is logical from not reading social cues). His depression Im guessing was from the problems that the world has thrown at him that he could not negotiate given his obvious limitations.

He easily mentally overloads at work and constantly gets interrupted by distracting thoughts (he is a part time care assistant for the elderly) He is nagged there for not being receptive to simple commands and not being organized enough. His speech is monotone and he mumbles so that sometimes its hard to follow what he is saying. This guy has very high educational achievements but cannot get employed to his educational ability. He can talk obsessively about a subject and then be very shy.

Now I understand what is wrong, my sadness and depression have lifted somewhat and I feel as if I want to try again and need some advice. The problem is that he got so hurt and fed up from my constant nagging when we lived together and then after we split my asking to go over our past and explore our feelings and my subsequent upset when he couldn’t voice his feelings, that he is understandably wary of me now. He is weirdly contradictory about whether nor not he wants to try again and in fact if I press him he yells at me that I do not understand the pressures that he is under (which before I didn’t)

What is confusing is I know he still loves me. He is loving and happy when he sees me (kisses and hugs me) and still accepts my help and speaks/texts to me every day. when I say, ‘look if you don’t want this relationship then why come over, kiss me, hug me tenderly and accept meals, favours etc? Is it just you want me to help you in your life? Please go away and stop doing it as my hopes get raised. You are messing my head around’. He doesn’t seem to take that on board, gets upset and runs away for a bit and then comes back.

So, Mark, I am all confused and feel obsessive about this. And it is affecting me badly in my work and life. I spend too much time feeling sad. I don’t know if I am being rejected or not. I love this guy so much Im willing to take on board the amount of support he needs (yet don’t think I can actually live with him) but I feel really gutted that he keeps telling me to ‘see other men’, when Im still so involved emotionally with him and he seems to encourage it by his actions, his looks, his presence etc.

Its his telling me to see other men that confuses me most - as if I do, I cant invest so much of my time and energy in him and really I should get him right out of my life till I can heal. Perhaps he doesn’t get that.

My friends all say, ‘don’t see him, you are punching below your weight, he is a child and will never give you what you want’. But they don’t know the loveliness and tenderness of when things are good with us.

Yours in confusion Cordelia

(Im in my late 40s and he is 35 there are no kids involved and wont be!)


Comment

I would say to him "can we just be friends" ...and go from there. Unfortunately, it may take a year or two before he trusts in the relationship again.

Just be friends for now, and if it's meant to be, the relationship will be restored back to its original level of intimacy in due time.

You know how to handle the Aspergers-related difficulties differently now. Thus, the relationship can be a "new and improved" version of the original one.

Mark

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