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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:


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!)


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.



Anonymous said...

I am a 58 year old woman. My Aspergers partner is 45 years old. We have been together 15 years/ I feel i am not wanting to get old with him.... Its all too much. I want my freedom back! No more rules, routines, and rituals I feel i have to fit into his way of living, and feel i am in aspergers training, as i find myself doing things like he does, and the way he needs his environment to operate... I believe that any Neuro-typical who values their lives and existence ,should not be in this situation. Its been hell on earth, and i want a life of my own ,as im only going to get older! What then? I wont be able to keep up. I resent him, and find his company jarring, and my heart drops when he comes home at night. I am not being unfair, as i care deeply about him, and he has some wonderful qualities, but not the ones i need at this time of my life. Should i not want to be happy? I would love to read the book, but cant afford it.....But i cannot see how you think anything could change what i feel .There is no way in the world an Aspie and a N/P can cohabit sucessfully. I really believe that. Unless, of course i sacrifice my life for him. I have always had 'Lame Duck Syndrome' rescuing all the poor things in the world. Now i am the lame duck. Is he going to care and look after my emotional needs? NO! Thanks for listening, Regards, Lynn

Anonymous said...

My partner has Aspergers, I am convinced, we have so many problems and he fits all the criteria. Obviously he is undiagnosed, we are both 39 and have a two year old together, and I have tried to broach the subject with him to which he is very hostile at the mere suggestion.

We have been together for 3 years, and I have two teenage girls also from a previous marriage, and I am at breaking point. My self esteem is on the floor from the constant criticism and negativity , and his sarcastic jokes at my expense which are constant, and we just cant communicate properly about anything. He doesn't empathise, not in the sense of showing compassion or much sympathy, he sees any dislike from me towards the way he behaves or talks as me telling him how to be or criticising him which then makes him either angry of depressed, and if he upsets me its my fault and Im just being negative or oversensitive and he hasnt done anything wrong. He always thinks he is right! I just get emotional and angry while he is detatched. If I can't find something to help I can see myself just walking out one day soon and he will never understand why. I have never met anyone like him, and I have never had problems or arguments like ours, over the simple things we do, before in my life. I have tried and tried, but one little thing wrong and we are back to square one as he keeps a mental list of all the times a day I react in a way he doesnt like and constantly tells me. He manages to find insults and slights in anything from me putting an emphasis on a particular word to me talking passionately about something. He is now out of work and has hardly any friends, neither do I any more since we have been together, and we live in the UK where there is little in the way of help at all, especially if undiagnosed.

I'm pretty much at the end of the road really. Every night I tell myself I am entitled to feel how I do, that its not me thats the problem and that life is too short for this, and every morning I cant face ending it, but I cant carry on much longer like this.

Anonymous said...

There is something about you Mark, your website, your e-book, your voice on your phone voicemail prompt, the tone of your email. I believe you really want to help people with Asperger's and their partners. I feel that you are called in your heart to do this work. I feel comfortable reaching out to you for help and support. Thank you for being there for people like us who struggle.

Anonymous said...

I have recently started a relationship with a successful, internationally respected businessman with Aspergers and ADHD. And my goodness it's already hard work. He displays most, if not all of what you mention.
I fell in love with his quirky way of communicating, his cryptic mind, his ability to pick up a musical instrument and play it, his artistic creativity and what first appeared to be an enthusiastic view on life, but now I know it to be his "game" face. I also respect his ability to run a successful and influencial business. We had been childhood friends, in fact as he recalls first sweethearts, and reconnected after 33 years, all of these characteristics and personality traits were just how I remembered him... a fascinating soul.
Now, I'm still attracted to all of this, however wonder if I should peruse the relationship based on his "Homer Simpson" inability to connect emotionally, his thoughtless way in which he speaks his mind without realising he is being hurtful, as well as all the other complexities that this syndrome presents. I have already spent many times in tears, not understanding the "why", longing for a compliment and explaining to my friends his anti social behaviour.
He has been married twice before and has indicated to me that he'd like to take things slowly with me as he feels" there could be the L word involved and a few decades thrown in". This is one of only three compliments I have heard verbally. The others come in a glance or a squeeze of a hand and mostly through music.
I, on the other hand am an enthusiast, who loves people, I am spontaneous, adventurous and reliable, I too have good business nous. I look for the good in others and play to their strengths, while being aware of their weaknesses, and consider myself to be accepting and understanding almost to a fault. He finds me funny with a an intelligent mind and I believe to be desirable in his eyes (although I am often told of his other conquests, to which I reply that I am not going to compete with them, I am a 45 year old woman, who is very happy in their skin.) He tells me he is attracted to me and interested, these sorts of conversations are staccato in style are like statements. I gather information, rather than have it delivered.

There are so many things I love about him and so many things I see as just too hard work.
What would your advice be to me at the onset of a relationship like this?

Anonymous said...

My spouse has never been diagnosed with Aspergers, but has physical conditions (since childhood) and characteristics which could categorize him as High Functioning. He is not open to the idea that there may extenuating circumstances to our marital/parental challenges, however.

I have two major issues that I'm praying this book will address: financial disclosure/budgeting and mourning a loved one. Our 20yo son (also named Mark) passed on last year after a close encounter with a brain tumor, and this brought many issues to the surface, as I'm sure you can imagine. We've been together for 28 years (including co-parenting one -now grown- child with his ex,) so there's a lot more to consider than potential AS. Looking forward to hearing what you have to offer by way of resolving some of the day-to-day and long-term challenges we face as a family. Appreciate the information and encouragement you provide on the website.

Anonymous said...

I am constantly exhausted trying to create better communication and to create win / win situations. However if I don't, the nastiness that comes from him when he feels threaten or doesn't get his own way, is most of the time unbearable. And he doesn't seem to have any understanding of what he has said or why he said it. I just get a blank look...

For the past 6 years I have been aware that Aspergers may be the reason / explanation for all our issues and my partners at times 'strange' behaviour. I did discuss this with him years ago and he was open to finding out more. However, after bringing it up with his doctor (who did a brain scan and said his brain was fine!) and a relationship counsellor I was the one that felt awful because they dismissed me and my concerns. So for a few years I decided to say nothing to anyone including him but to have it in the back of my mind that I need to take Aspergers into account for his behaviour and my responses.

Our lives together for the past 7 years has been the best and the worst years of my life. The good is that we have travelled together and I have been encouraged to get out of my comfort zone and have new experiences. He is a very hard worker (to the point of being a workaholic) and a good provider. He can also be the most supporting loving man...when things are going his way. The bad is that we have had a terrible time with the children from his previous marriage because he has no boundaries with them and he mostly does everything they say because he is so insecure with them. He has constantly chosen to listen to them over me. Hence, our relationship has been off and on for 7 years and we are now on our third try at living together. I admit I am struggling with menopause and I don't feel as strong as I used to. Having to deal with him and he's need and wants is the reason I have been on the net looking for answers and explanations as to why when we love each other dearly one minute and then everything just falls apart so quickly. This is usually about him getting his own way. He would rather have his own way than be happy.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mark! I believe that my husband has been given the opportunity of Aspergers (I use "opportunity" instead of "challenge"). We have been married for 13 1/2 years and after tons of marriage counseling that didn't work, my "Tug" told me to research Aspergers. I bawled when I read your site! I have been the nurturer to our children, the primary provider, ran the household and tried to keep peace in our home not knowing why I was being treated the way I was, when I knew that deep inside he loved me. It was freedom to see that I wasn't crazy all these years! Thank you for this site, we haven't read the book yet but this is already making a difference. We have three brilliant sons and I believe you are going to help us be better parents too. I can't thank you enough, a million pounds have been lifted off me!
Blessings on you and all you do!

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

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD 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.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

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 or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your 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.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

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

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD 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 ASD 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."

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here
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.

Click here for the full article...