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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.

A person with Aspergers may have trouble understanding the emotions of their partner, and the subtle messages that are sent by facial expression, eye contact and body language are often missed. Because of this, a person with Aspergers might be seen as egotistical, selfish or uncaring.

These are unfair labels, because the affected individuals are neurologically unable to understand other people's emotional states, and they are usually shocked, upset and remorseful when told their actions were hurtful or inappropriate!

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Anonymous said...

A few days ago I purchased your ebook on Living with an Asperger's Partner. I found it very helpful, although I have discovered much of what you have shared by myself through much agony and struggle. I almost left my husband of 38 years last year, but got through that crises and we are still together, and I am happier than I have been for a long time. The key to this change is the fact that I have come to believe that my husband is an aspie. This realization has answered so many questions and bewilderments, and I have a peace now that I haven't had before.
What I would like to hear from you about is this: My eldest child, a son, 35 yrs old has stopped talking to me...I think because I didn't go ahead and divorce his dad. Do you have any advice on how to help adult children who hold so much resentment and bitterness? We are a Christian family and know about forgiveness, but he has shut us out of his life. Is there any hope for reconciliation? Is there anything I can do to help my son? I shared with him that I really believe that his dad has aspergers, but he said I was just continuing to be an 'enabler'. Any advice?

Mark said...

I would simply educate your son about forgiveness
(and how holding resentment will only hurt him).

The fundamental misunderstanding of forgiveness is that we
think that forgiveness is something we do for our out-of-control
kids because we are superior to them or self-sacrificing and
magnanimous. We believe our kids have done us harm, but we,
being the morally superior one, the wiser one, and in our
magnanimous generosity, forgive them.

Forgiveness is not for the other person – it’s for you! We can
find the truth of this in the meaning of the word ‘resentment.’
Resentment means to feel again. As long as we hold resentment
we are feeling that hurt again and again and it keeps us from
living, growing and understanding. It puts a damper on our lives.
It saps our energy and clouds our perceptions.

The first time your child hurt you in some manner, it was his/her
responsibility and burden, but every time you allow that hurt to
come into your soul after that, you bear the responsibility and
burden for it.

Resentment is a knife one wields by the blade. Forgiveness is a
way for one to go on with one’s life and to avoid having that
other person’s wrong-doing on your mind, robbing you of
energy, robbing you of happiness, and continuing to yield the
same amount of hurt over and over again.

Forgiveness means that you have healed the hurt your child
inflicted on you; that it is no longer commandeering your
happiness; that you have taken back your power by
understanding the flawed humanity of your child and let him/her
go from your heart and open yourself to wishing him/her well.

The choice is yours—to forgive effortlessly and easily when you
decide your peace of mind is more important than holding anger
and resentment. You can forgive immediately or later and
effortlessly and easily. Just do it. You deserve to live a healthier
life with peace of mind.


Anonymous said...

My wife and I have spent a lot of time talking and arguing about our relationship over the years and have gradually been narrowing down the core issues. This process led us to diagnosing my AS and my wife's affliction with "Cassandra's". There isn't much written on Cassandra's and how to recover from it as there is on other AS issues. With regards to our situation the core issue seems to be trust. My wife doesn't trust me which causes her to be closed off to me which makes it impossible to reach her. Any advice or referral you could make on this subject would be appreciated.

Unfortunately advice like what is mentioned in your e-book and other similar sources seem to emphasize on a better understanding of the AS partner from the NT partner. So far that is the last thing my wife is open to conceding and she feels justified in dishing out pain to me as justice for what my AS has caused her to feel over the last 20 years. Unlike my father, I am not one prone to anger in times of stress. In the past I cowered and played victim to my wife's anger which just made her more furious because I was the one who made her feel bad and yet she was made out to be the villain. Since my diagnosis we both understand what's been going on all these years and this has released me from playing the victim most of the time and removed my resentment from our dynamic. Unfortunately she can't seem to let go of the instinct to lash out at me when she feels bad - either because of an AS moment or something that triggers a past painful memory. The result these days is a constant emotional roller coaster which is leading my wife to the precipice of making some drastic actions unless something changes right now.

If you are familiar with the situation we find ourselves in perhaps you could make time for a telephone consultation to which I would be more than happy to pay for, Remember though that she doesn't want to be told she has to understand me and my AS - she wants me to make the changes.

Mark said...

Based on what you’ve told me so far, the core issue here (that will need to be resolved before you address any of these other issues that you mentioned) is a big matter of trust. I have a strong sense that the trust-level is very low between you and your wife. If you don’t re-establish trust, you will never get these relationship problems resolved (I promise!). Re-building trust will definitely be your first step toward getting some cooperation from your wife.

A few couples seem to go along and never have any problems with – or damage done to – the trust level. Others can really struggle with this issue. Couples sometimes get stuck because one – or both – partners see trust as an “either-or” situation. For example, the Aspie husband is perceived as being “emotionally unavailable” by the neurotypical wife, or he does something else that’s damaging to the trust level. Then the wife fees like she has lost all trust in the husband.

The problem, or the sticking point, is: How do you rebuild trust from nothing? How can you earn trust back? Viewing trust as a matter of degree can help create a way back to a trusting relationship.

The first step is to think of a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least amount of trust, 10 the most. Let’s say that you said something your wife perceived as rude and insensitive. Let’s also say that the rude comment reduces the trust level from 9 down to 3. That’s a gap of 6 trust levels. Creating a plan to get back to a high trust level will be difficult if you try to go from 3 to 9 all at once. It’s just too big a leap.

The next step is to talk about - and agree on - what changes need to occur to go from 3 to 4, then from 4 to 5, 5 to 6 and so on. In this way, several positive structures are set up: (a) both partners have a way of monitoring the progress toward the goal of re-establishing trust, and (b) both partners have something to work toward. In addition, there’s a built-in incentive for each partner (e.g., less stress in the relationship).

In many relationships, trust is like a video game at the mall. In the video arcade, the more tokens you have, the more you can play. In much the same way, in relationships, the more trust you have, the more you can do – and the more relationship problems you can eventually get resolved.

At this stage, many spouses will ask me, “How do I know things are really different …that I’m not just spinning my wheels in the mud?”

That’s an excellent question, and the best answer I can offer is: Simply watch and see if your behavior matches your words. If it does, you’re on the right track. If your behavior doesn’t match your words, then you know the trust level is still too low to save the relationship. For example, if you say, “I’m going to prove to you that I can be a sensitive and caring husband” …but you don’t really demonstrate this in your behavior, then you can expect the low trust level to remain.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Music to my ears.
Found you on youtube.
I have a partner who has apsergers he is 48 but win't admit he has this.
He has been admitted twice now to a mental hospital and diagnosed as bipolar, however he leans far more to aspergers.

I am now living with him have been for 6 months we jave known each other for 3 years if which we trid it twice before but I had no idea what aspergers was until he dropped his bundle so to say when he moved in, I love him dearly we also have his 14.5yr old daughter with us and she is also on the way to having aspergers, hios 19 yr old has bipolar........what am I doing I am an NT, love is blind but have caught on to this early so will be buying your boo this week he is oly just letting me have the budget.

i thank you

yes it is hard
how can i get him to admitt it, he does say sorry for his short comings of which he knows there are many
it seems that 35yrs and under they admit but over then it is hard.
My sister also has an aspergers partner, my best friend has been married to one for 40 yrs but they live apart

it is becoming so popular.

I get mine to relax by having a glass of wine if only they could make wine in a tablet.

thank you again


Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

Thanks for all the great information in your e-book. My wife and I have read a lot of things regarding Aspergers and haven't came across anything quite like yours. I saw a couple of videos on youtube and decided to buy the e-book since it seemed to have a lot of what we were looking for.
I (the one with Aspergers) haven't yet gotten a professional diagnosis although we're both pretty sure of it from reading and learning about it, as well as doing some online quizzes and tests. We're just a bit unsure of how to go about getting a professional diagnosis and what the typical costs would be. We're living in northern Vermont and don't know where to start with the process or who would have enough experience to diagnose Aspergers or who to even contact about it.
There are a couple of places I'm going to contact such as: The Aspergers Association Of New England and The Asperger Society, but besides that we don't have much to go on.

Thanks so much for your great work!

Anonymous said...

I have been with my husband for 35 years. I met him when I was 17 and we married four years later. We had three children, one of whom died nearly ten years ago in a car crash. Our other two children are now grown, the younger is finishing her degree.

My husband was diagnosed with AS nearly two years ago at age 54. He realised it himself for a few years before he mentioned it to me. I didn't know anything about the syndrome, despite being a paediatric nurse, but when I researched it online, I recognised it immediately, so many boxes ticked, and I thought all along that he just had his own strange ways.

It was a relief, it was also a devastating thing for me. I felt that at last I was justified in my feelings. The confusion, anger, resentment, low self-esteem and the list goes on. I realised quickly that there would be no changing of the realities of his situation. Why did I ever think I could change him anyway? Such madness on my part.

The problem I am dealing with since then is the sensitivity that I have built up to the least annoyance and irritation. I have built a wall around myself to protect from all that goes on, but it isn't a great wall at all. I over react to the smallest criticism, or any percieved mis-intended gesture. I suffer from what I call 'emotional sunburn'.

At the moment I am feeling angry and worn out. I want to stop feeling the way I do. There has been a lot of progress on his part, but it was made at a huge price. It takes forever to achieve a small result. We negotiated that he would retire early to reduce stress, and that I would continue to work. I have had to plead, beg, argue, cajole to ensure that some small tasks are done while I am away. I always start with a polite and friendly overture. ask for what I need in a nice way and usually only progress to the screaming nag after twenty or thirty nice requests. I need help in the home if I am out at work. I am 51 years old and get tired. I still do all the cleaning.

I realise I am getting bogged down in detail now. I know this isn't helpful. I would like my husband to read some of what you have to say in the booklet, but I fear it will just go in one side of his brain and out the other. But, I will find a thing or two to get working on myself.
I don't know where to get help changing the pattern of my own behaviour. I am ashamed of some of what goes on in our marriage and don't need anybody telling me to leave him. That is not going to happen.

I will close now, as I feel myself getting distressed.

Anonymous said...

My partner has never mentioned that he has AS, and I don't even know if he knows that he may have AS - I just came across autism and AS by chance, but after reading about AS I find that my partner ticked all the boxes, and I can almost be certain that he has AS.

Our relationship started off great and I think we really liked each other. However, as we go further down the road, conflicts began to arise and it came to a point that we stopped communicating with each other. I think the conflicts that we had were just very "typical" in an AS-NT relationship, and we "stopped communicating" because he shut me out, and I got too frustrated and depressed that I just wanted to give up and walk out of the relationship.

I don't know how to start talking about it and, knowing my partner, I am afraid that he will take it in a very negative way, gets angry with me and shuts me out again. I have tried to talk him by saying that, looking back at a conflict we had recently, I can see a lot of differences between us, and perhaps that's why we have conflicts from time to time. I said I want to understand him more, and I also hope that he can understand me more. I didn't want to push him too hard, so I asked him to let me know if and when he feels like talking about it, as communication and understanding is a two-way thing. He said okay, but it's been a while and he has not come back to me on this. What should I do?

Also, I know that he is very upset recently about some arrangements at work, which he talked to me about it briefly. Since then, I can see that he has completely lost his drive and dedication to his job. I am concerned about him, but every time I asked him if he's alright, he said yes. Is there anything I can do to help him? I have heard that while NTs (especially women) like to have someone to talk to when they are upset, people with AS may not feel the same and they may actually prefer some space and privacy. Is that the case? I just wanted to let him know that I care about him, I will always be there for him and that he is not alone - is there anything I can do? He has gone very quiet and I think he is depressed. If he doesn't want to talk, shall I leave him alone and give him space? After all, I just want him to be happy and give him the support as a partner, but I don't know what's the right thing to do.

Anonymous said...

I'm 99.99999999% that my husband has Asperger's. (I don't say this lightly because I have an MS in psych, too--not practicing; life had other plans.) Behavior leading to this includes meltdowns when his routine get changed in any way, shape, or form (I refuse to travel with him due to a couple of them that occurred in restaurants--he went totally batsh*t on me about hiking permits the last time we went to Upper Michigan together); not being able to understand why I teared up over a news story over children who were starving; no sense of boundaries (telling me what to write or sing); refusing to follow directions about caring for the dog (Orion was a dog; Oakley is a dog; therefore, Oakley should be exactly the same as Orion even though he's a very different breed and I had to deal with some neglect issues) leading to a dangerous situation; hyperattentive; drawing social cues from movies and tv shows and then wondering why I don't act like women on tv do over clothes and jewelry (I'm a hippie at heart)...oh, I could go on.

He's also brilliant--three patents in telecommunications. And funny. And can be incredibly sweet at times. And brings me a piece of chocolate at bedtime.

Cutting to the chase--how do I handle his meltdowns and self absorption? He refuses to believe that he has any issues and when I tried to talk him into marital counseling, he told me that there was absolutely nothing wrong with how he communicates and it's my hormones.

And how do I change myself? My dad was an Aspie who drank and used Darvocet to cope. My brother has Asperger's. My niece does, too. I thought that Ali was shy just a bit eccentric when we were going out. But now I feel like the mother to a 4 y.o.

Anonymous said...

My husband is in denial and refuses any help for himself or for our 18 year old, who was diagnosed by the autism team at KU Med Center three years ago. In addition I am quite certain that my husband also has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I have a Masters Degree in Speech and Language Pathology and have sensed a problem for many years, but once again, my husband refuses to get any help. I believe my father-in-law also has AS. After 26 years of marriage and four children, I am nearly ready to file for divorce. Both my husband and son are very, very high functioning (gifted in fact). Some aquaintances just think they are both very funny and quirky and yet, I am pulling my hair out, because they don't see the meltdowns, etc. that happen at home. Many friends and family members do see their inappropriate behaviors and don't know why I have stayed all these years when he refuses to get help. The two of them are not exactly alike, of course, but each exhibits many of the AS characteristics. My husband and I have been getting marital counselling since I have threatened divorce, yet progress is very, very, very slow.

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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

Click here for the full article...