Updated April 21, 2020 and 4/11/21
This is an old post about Neurodivergents and love, and over the last seven years, after working with even more Neurotypical’s (NT) who are loving someone who is Neurodivergent (formally Asperger’s (AS)) I have learned many more than five good reasons to love someone who is Neurodiverse.
And the extensive comments below give you a flavor for how intensely people feel about the subject, both pro, and con.
Regardless, loving someone who is Neurodiverse isn’t up for public debate. It’s a very private matter, and one I’m particularly invested in.
The gap in understanding between the NT and their ND lovers is large. But the love in a neurodiverse couple is deep and real.
I’ve been “accused” of being Neurodivergent because I’m a fan, and I’m not sure how to respond. It’s a bit like being accused of having a gluten intolerance that makes you a lousy person to cook for.
Okay. Guilty as charged. I’m gluten intolerant.
But to argue that a cook should never date those with gluten intolerance is fine and dandy until you fall in love with one. Then you make wheat pasta for one because pasta without wheat sucks. In other words, you adjust.
I am not Neurodivergent, so I do a particularly respectable job of reading the minds of NT’s and encouraging them to adjust their thinking to become more happily married. Science-based Gottman Method couples therapy is great for that. But I am also great at figuring out why someone who is ND might think, act, or feel the way they do, and helping them explain it to their loved one. And the vast majority of those who are ND I see in an intensive format are delightful people. I am so happy to help.
I like puzzles and making these relationships work involves finding all the missing pieces and putting them in an orderly fashion. And I love couples who work hard to adjust to each other, as is the requirement in neurodiverse relationships.
Neurodivergents and love
We’re going to talk about Neurodivergents and love. While some may declare a Neurodivergent love relationship is impossible, I beg to differ. As a psychologist who specializes in science-based work with couples, I am here to tell you that loving someone who is Neurodiverse is not only possible, there are a great many good reasons to do so. A Neurodivergent and love are not mutually exclusive.
If it’s so great, you might ask, why don’t more people declare: “I love someone with autism!”? Often because most of the couples I work with don’t even know their spouses have the condition.
It shocks them to discover that their husbands or wives aren’t “narcissistic” or “mean” or “unloving,” but have a brain that functions differently. And those who do know are often AS snobs who “can’t believe” someone doesn’t know “something so obvious.”
Is it challenging to love someone who is Neurodiverse ? Of course, it is. Once you both learn how, it is as rewarding or heartbreaking as any other marriage.
Okay, so many people right off are going to say producing a reason to love a Neurodivergent will be generalizations and these aren’t true of everybody who is Neurodiverse.
They say, (and with good reason) “If you’ve met one person who is Neurodiverse, you’ve met one person who is Neurodiverse.v ”
But there are generalizations you can make about why to love a Neurodivergent, and like all generalizations, of course, they won’t hold true for everybody.
I’ve had the good fortune of being in contact with several people who are in intimate relationships with a person who is Neurodiverse (ND), a mild form of autism, or themselves are ND.
I’ve taken a passionate interest in the subject of love, relationships, and ND-NT bonds. Many sites on the internet tell you about problems with these couples. But here are some of the good reasons to love a Neurodivergent.
1. Reason number one for why to love a Neurodivergent: They’ll tell you the truth
A lot of Neurotypicals (NT’s) have an ambivalent relationship with the truth. We like the truth if it is good news or flattering. We’re less sure if we’re confronted with things that challenge our notion of self or our own goodness.
You ask a ND ”Do you like my dress?” and they are going to tell you the truth. If you don’t want to hear the truth, the blunt truth, don’t ask them.
If a possible answer is going to send you storming out, angry at them for saying whatever comes next, ask someone else. A ND is going to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly, and will do it without malice, without sly intentions.
They’ll just tell you what they think. Like it, or not. So, one good reason to love a Neurodivergent is that if they tell you something when you ask them, they mean it.
And sometimes ND’s don’t understand that NT’s like to hear some truths over and over like “I love you.” Just tell them. Say “I want you to tell me you love me at least three times every day. It makes me happy to hear it.” Okay. No sweat. Your ND will probably have no idea why it is necessary, but if it makes you happy, fine. He or she will work it into their daily routine.
This is a hotly debated topic in the comments section. Refinements, of course, are necessary but would make up a much larger post. I’ll get to writing another specific post on this topic of lying and truth-telling. Stay tuned, but for now, read the comments below. The readers are very helpful in teasing out the nuance.
2. If you’re kind… They won’t cheat on you with someone else
Does this mean that no ND ever had a sexual affair? Or that if they have an affair, it means you weren’t nice enough to them?
Of course not. I’ve worked with couples where the ND has had an affair. And these affairs are distinctly different from the NT affairs I’ve worked with. A subject for another post.
But having to deal with people, especially relating intimately, takes a lot of work for a ND. In some ways, it is like your dentist wondering if you’ll be sneaking off getting an optional root canal with another dentist.
“Why?” the ND might ask. “Why would anyone voluntarily do that?”
It is hard enough having one intimate partner. Juggling two is just ridiculous, from an ND point of view.
Loyalty is really an under-acknowledged virtue and good reason to love a Neurodivergent. If an ND falls in love with you, they will remain as steadfast and true as any canine companion (no insult intended).
They can be enormously forgiving and generous in spirit. They have more than likely taken abuse from NT’s all their lives, so they’ll assume that it’s a thing you, as an NT, do too.
Terribly unpleasant, but the natural course of things. This may change as children grow up with the diagnosis, and learn that bullying, teasing, and cruelty is not a thing to tolerate from anyone.
It shames the NT spouse to realize that their past behavior has been what amounts to emotional abuse toward their ND spouse. Most often it was unintended abuse.
It stuns a loving NT, once they realize this. There are many, many adult NDs who are undiagnosed and struggling in their relationship. All of those years of fighting and angry accusations were misguided, and the NT’s expectations were unrealistic, many even fantastically so.
It would be like demanding your spouse fly, and being angry at them, as they repeatedly drop to the ground. To truly love a Neurodivergent, you must utterly understand a Neurodivergent, and understand their history of abuse. And not add to it.
Neurodivergents and Love? Good Couples Therapy Can Help
It is why I have such a powerful desire to work with these couples: the unnecessary heartache is enormous.
But getting back to sex, sexual affairs just aren’t too likely. Sex itself is an uncertain proposition for a lot of NDs. Their bodies might work just fine, but it is all the subtle non-verbal stuff that makes it hard to figure out if that person is flirting with you.
Educational videos about flirting help the single ND recognize the signs. Their bodies also can be over-stimulated with sexual arousal. They might find kissing too wet or become upset that you’re touching them too lightly, or might need a sheet between you when you have intercourse, so they can relax.
Try explaining that to someone you just met in an airport lounge.
This is not to say that an ND won’t get intensely involved in talking to the opposite sex (or the same sex if they are gay or lesbian) online about asphalt or fiberglass boats.
It just means if he’s up until 3 AM chatting with another woman, it’s likely going to be asphalt or fiberglass boats…To truly love an Neurodivergent, recognize that some people will be more engaging and exciting to talk to about asphalt or fiberglass boats. But having sex? You will rank #1 as a preferred sexual partner. (If sex gets a ranking at all….)
Clinicians working with NDs that do have affairs have to look deeper. Often the same arguments that on the face of them look ridiculous are actually true with those ND spouses. “She wanted it and I didn’t know how to say no…”
It might, in fact, be the truth.
And rehearsing just what to say to break it off (or better yet being there to do it) is an excellent idea.
3. There are no hidden motives…What you see is what you get
Unlike the crafty NT’s, who can work out sometimes elaborate ruses to achieve their aims, you can pretty much guess the motives of a Neurodivergent, once you know them well. If not, just ask.
Loving someone who is Neurodivergent can mean that behaviors can be confusing, though.
“Why did my wife start eating the meal she cooked, without telling us that dinner was ready? Is she angry at us?”
She’s not setting you up to eat a cold dinner.
It isn’t a “defense mechanism” against intimate family time… or passive aggression. She started eating because the meal was cooked and she forgot to call her family.
She Just Forgot
That’s it. End of story. You are the one with hurt feelings (and a cold dinner) but instead of getting emotional, get some mechanism in place that enables her to remember “Eat with family.”
Those new to Neurodivergent dating say it is sometimes impossible to predict what their intimate Neurodivergent partners will do next, or how they will respond to something.
I think this is because unlike an NT, an ND will probably be responding honestly, in the moment, or to an internal stimulus that isn’t immediately obvious but is eternally logical once it’s made clear.
It may be hard for NT’s to predict because other NT’s have learned a lot from other NT’s.
NTs may do things out of obligation, or to “please” their partners, regardless of whether it is actually something they want to do or not. They are predictable because they follow NT rules, the NT “hidden rulebook,” that is at once instinctual and invisible and “obvious” to everyone else until these are violated.
Things like: “Don’t tell your hostess you hate her cooking” or “Don’t comment negatively about your wife’s appearance, even if she asks: ‘How do I look?'”
Want the Truth?
It’s just hard to know whether she wants the truth or not. She does and she doesn’t. It’s in the hidden rulebook, but nobody gave the ND that book. And some things are simply lacunae, like “Look under the stall door to see if someone is in the bathroom, not between the slat” is something “everyone” knows, but not letting Doris French kiss you on your birthday is not, if Doris isn’t your wife. Letting her kiss you on the cheek is fine. And no more than “2 Mississippi’s.”
So many rules to learn, especially about sex. (“When wearing any Teddy, it means your wife wants to have sex with you. Don’t limit it to mean only the ones you bought for her.”)
She doesn’t want to be touched that way in the beginning, but she isn’t lying to want you to do that exact same thing when she’s adequately aroused. What’s adequate? Yep, working it out is a challenge.
Neurodivergents and Love Means Sometimes Love is Blind…
Most NDs have a tough time predicting what will please their partner, because they can’t take another’s perspective. We call it “mind-blindedness.” Loving someone who is Neurodivergent means accepting that you are going to sometimes feel “left out” or “forgotten about.”
But not out of spite or malice. And if you can be direct, clear, and make a request, and not act out of spite or malice yourself, things will go a lot more smoothly.
If you ask “why” as in “What is the deep motivation behind your current behavior?” you may get something as straightforward as “because I wanted to.” It isn’t a dodge. It isn’t a personality disorder like “narcissism.”
It is the absolute truth. ”Why this and not that?” might bring you a very idiosyncratic answer like “I took the long route because that shorter route has a line of red houses that are very distracting and unsettling for me to drive past.” Loving a ND is learning all the puzzle pieces that they’re composed of, and learning how to live with them.
Not uncovering their “true motivations.” To love a Neurodivergent well, try to figure out the quirks.
Once you do, you will have a pretty good idea of what to expect. But for reasons like “I knew you hated me doing this, so I did it to teach you a lesson” is not going to be in it (unless they are mimicking).
Because how would they KNOW you really hated it? Why would they spend time out of their day to do THAT? It’s ridiculous. They’d have to plan ahead, keep you and how you feel constantly in mind, and they want to spite you. Lack of spite is a good reason to love a Neurodivergent.
4. They will understand your need to be alone
One thing that gets a lot of NDs in trouble with their loved ones is the need to be alone.
After a great block party where everyone had a ton of fun, they want to be in their rooms for the rest of the day playing video games or reading about the French Revolution.
No, they don’t want sex.
No, they don’t want to invite the Flanagan’s back to the house for an evening of charades.
They want to be alone.
Neurodivergents and Love…and Time
If you want to get into a huge fight with a ND intimate, you can simply insist on interaction at this point. Complain about how they never want to socialize (after they’ve spent 4 hours socializing…) or how they don’t love you enough because they don’t want to make love. You might watch them explode in an angry tirade.
I prefer the term “meltdown” because it more accurately describes what is happening. Their nervous systems simply can’t handle “it,” meaning “socializing with people” (you included…) anymore.
There is no “point” to this meltdown, other than the feeling of overwhelm, but if there were a goal, it would be simply this:
To get you to GO AWAY.
NT’s happily married to NDs understand this need for quiet time, especially after socializing. A good reason to love a Neurodivergent is that you will have time for yourself. Make the best of it.
5. They make excellent fun friends when you share the same interests
Loving someone who is Neurodivergent is simply different. No, they don’t ‘dish the dirt’ about other people, and they may not even call you on your birthday, unless you specifically direct them to, and program it into their smartphone. But they can talk endlessly about mutually fascinating subjects and can be enormously interesting and fun.
Not every ND is Mozart or Einstein, but every ND usually has intense interests that they know a phenomenal amount about. They can teach you things about these interests that you would never get from anywhere else. They are, by and large, more than happy and excited to share what they know with you when they aren’t overstimulated.
A good reason to love an Neurodivergent is when you find a common interest, they likely know much more about it than you do and will be happy to engage with you in it endlessly.
“I love someone with autism”
Great! Love is a wonderful thing. You’ll work with all the challenges that an ND-NT relationship brings because you have found a delightful person to love. Like every couple, there will be issues. And like most couples, most of these problems will not change. Sixty-nine percent of marital problems are “perpetual.”
They will continue to be “issues” between you. What makes loving a Neurodivergent so great is that once you find all the puzzle pieces and understand how they fit, you both can relax and have a great life together.
Okay, so you have to have a code at parties that says: “Look at their face. They look bored. Move on.”
But they’ll be a truthful, faithful, “what you see is what you get” guy or gal who will respect your need to be alone and do your own thing and will share their passionate interests with you.
And they are unlikely to say, “No offense,” because it is difficult for them to imagine that anyone would be upset about whatever it was that you might get offended about. That would require putting themselves in your situation, and seeing out of your eyes…which is something they CAN NOT DO.
But hey, as spouses go: You could do worse.
Get help for your Neurodiverse marriage
Originally published August 10, 2013
It’s unfortunate that this article speaking of the positive aspects of marrying a partner who is neurodiverse is buried under thousands of articles portraying such a marriage as pure Hell.
I’m sure it was no picnic for the ND spouse to be married to the NT spouse in alot of these cases.
Marriage is about complimenting one another’s strengths and weaknesses.
I’d love to see an article written (and maybe you have and I’m just not aware of it and would be thrilled to be directed to it) about a relationship in which both partners are ND. In our case he is an Aspie (his favorite term, not a label I put on him) and I am bipolar and most likely somewhere on the spectrum as well. It’s wonderful to be able to be with someone and be able to be unmasked all of the time, to never have to explain what it means to have a differently wired brain, to be able to relate on such a deep level. Aaaaaand it’s awful, because my particular brand of ND longs for raw communication and expression, while his causes him to run screaming in the opposite direction when I attempt it. I want him to be more interested in me, my life before him, what I’m feeling. He wants me to be more interested in Roosevelt nickels, especially ones with rare flaws. And I AM. Because I obviously dig rare flaws. But it’s so hard to find middle ground, and right now we’re not together (because of my manic knee-jerk response to his autistic stonewalling..see what I mean?) and I’m miserable and have no idea how to bring him back. Help?
Ya, Kim, not something a blogpost response can adequately address. But these issues are able to be negotiated…
Could you please elaborate on the differences between AS and NT affairs?
I have been in a romantic relationship with an AS man for about six months. He told me that he was divorced. Once a month he would travel to see his kids who live out of state with their mother.
I recently found out that he had been using a fake name with me. When I confronted him about it, he ghosted me. Eventually he got back in touch and confessed that he is actually still married and moving back to live with his wife and kids.
I’ve been really traumatized by this. I’m trying to make sense of what has happened. When I ask him about his behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and motivations, he is unable to give me any meaningful answers. I really thought this person cared about me. Before I confronted him about his lying to me about his name, he seemed so loyal, devoted, and borderline obsessed with me. He can’t even tell me why he cheated on his wife. He says everything in their marriage is fine. I mean, it’s obviously not, but I can’t get any insight from him.
I just can’t make sense of this. I’m hoping you could share any insights you have on why an AS might seek out an extramarital romantic relationship. I think I’m really trying to understand who and what I am/have been to this person and how I could have gotten it so wrong. Any insights or observations from your experience would be greatly appreciated.
My apologies, Grace. We can’t provide that kind of personal insight. You clearly have been “taken” by a fraudster, regardless of how his brain is wired. Perhaps the best explanation of why he did it is: “he could.” Dr K
My nic name is well Nic. The main problem I have in my experience is well I am not enough of a total disaster. Let me explain: when I come to every forum, blog topic on this Aspie marriage as u mentioned how negative it is before this one. What I mean is I am educated, employed,take part in my faith,I have a very happy long standing stable marriage and a close relationship with my son.
So what’s the problem! It almost did not happen because an article like this did not exsist till 2013. I believed the only information that was out there.
Also,I had a train wreck of a marriage that was short lived when I was young. I had the sneaking suspicion “it was all my fault “ . it wasn’t by the way. I got a dear jane note that said “I hope u find out what’s wrong with u, but I waited long enough “
Ok. I did find out what was “wrong” with me. But I also found out what was right with me too! To be a college educated verbal adult woman and be diagnosed with any kind of Autism was very rare at the time unless more profoundly visibly impacted. So Around 2002, my formal diagnosis changed my life forever. It was the happiest day of my life!!!! I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t mean. I wasn’t a constant screw up. All that changed! It really did!
My particular condition has a name and it’s beautiful. I have non verbal learning disorder or N.V.L.D.my doctor explained out of 100 people processing any visual information including anything to do with social skills I would be the worst one.He was not suprised I was divorced. My chance of happy marriage was dismal. He was honest. I did ask a question that changed my life. I asked if I did marry what should he be like. he said, A kind and effective verbal communicator. Despite how the label sounds, I am like an Aspie but with super extreme verbal ability. I was heartbroken about a totally single life but decided to teach special education as a vocation like ministry.
While completing activities in a workbook about social skills, I met this man. I tried to tell him that we couldn’t get serious. I would ruin his life. People like me don’t marry. I am not like any other woman. He was like, I know and that’s exactly why I love u. We married on Saint Patrick’s day and I say that’s the day my luck changed. By the way, he has a 4 year college degree in communications! The article above is so like “us”. We have been married 15 years almost. We have married over 7 times on purpose to renew our vows after taking marriage workshops that offer that at class graduation. I wear two rings each one with seven stones. One for our wedding and our son’s birthday. 7 is the number of completion in the Bible. I consider my life as a non nuerotypical person complete as a wife and mother. If u deeply love a person a little like me they will appreciate it much more than u will ever know. U can have a richer life than is ever talked about but it takes work and love and kindness.
You Go, Girl!
I Am currently dating someone who is straight open with his AS. He once asked me if Ive noticed any of his behaviour and I answered, no. I find him pleasently “normal”.
In my opinion, communication is easy with him. Perhaps bc we communite more or less the same – or I understand his way of communicating. I relax immensly around him. I cannot relate to the troubles of having an aspie partner, maybe it is too early in to the relationship.
I belive he is the most loving, concerning, supportive and sweetest man Ive met for many many years. I feel his honesty in everything he do or say. And, I have been living in an abusive relationship for 9y so I belive I can recognize differneces in behaviour. Especially manipulative ones.
Now, im thinking about having an AS evaluation myself, and also one for ADHD. So many things have started to make sense, when dating him. And also bc of other things. Not just him soley. Having both diagnosis running in the family (dad, grandparent, cousins, aunt and uncle), it dosent sound far fetched. It would explaine a lot.
I am in a 3 year relationship with a beautiful man on the spectrum. Our relationship for 75% of the time is wonderful and we are a match. I issue I am having now is his 90 year old mother is telling him what to do regarding our relationship. And I just discovered this out. She lives in another country but he speaks with her weekly and why I did not recognize this earlier is due to the simple fact his mother and I were giving him the same advice. But now there is conflicting perspectives and he is going by what she is suggesting. Thus, causing conflict with us.
I’m not sure what to do.
Issues of mixed loyalty is a common neurodiverse issue. Sometimes a person on the spectrum can be married for decades and still consider his family-of-origin his “real family.” It might be helpful to explain how, given his relationship with you, he should talk to you first about problems or difficulties he is having being with you. While his mother loves him, and wants the best for him, she cannot know, first hand, like you do how to resolve the matter.
It’s never going to be a reciprocal relationship and numerous studies have shown the profound negative impact on the NT spouse. The autism community needs to stop glossing over the very real emotional anguish experienced by NT spouses. My husband is an Ivy League educated surgeon who can’t hold a job and who has been sued for malpractice multiple times. Yes, he has a good heart and he means well, but I can’t rely on him for anything, no matter how small. He will never be able to empathize and he is incapable of being a fully functional equal partner. People with ASD CREATE stress; they do this constantly even though of course it isn’t deliberate. The autism community needs to stop sugarcoating these issues because what you’re doing is damaging.
We could all benefit from not generalizing based upon our personal experiences. Clinically, I have helped many neurodiverse relationships, but not all. I haven’t been able to help all neurotypical relationships either. But it sounds like both of you could use the help of someone who understands this thing. And “never be able to empathize” is one of the most horrible lies that circulate around the web. It simply isn’t true of those on the spectrum.
What if a gay Asperger falls in love with a gay Asperger and they are in their 50s …. ?
We call that “fate” or “good fortune.”
Its like sugar coating a relationship with Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, Psychopathy, Sociopathy, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and the long long list of mental health issues (NOT physical issues) which are unnoticeable at first and only comes to surface when living or spending time together. Like the author mentioned she had gluten intolerance but I am unsure if her gluten intolerance affect some other person except she might take long time in bathroom and for sure the affect is not the same as the affect of undiagnosed Schizophrenia on the partner. You do not stop loving your partner because of any mental or physical health issue. If you do stop loving someone because of their mental or physical health issues then you are the one not even worth of any love or even having a partner.
If an Asperger (defunct diagnosis, now ASD) is undiagnosed and the neurotypical is unware about it then life will be HELL (yes in capital HELL). No amount of sugar coating by couple counselling will make it better. Life will be similar to living with someone with undiagnosed Schizophrenia, undiagnosed bipolar disorder, undiagnosed borderline, undiagnosed narcissistic personality disorder. You will keep on trying to understand and make sense of the confusion and the chaos.
If the Asperger is diagnosed then life can be pretty much adjusted to make it more tolerable and pleasant, and fulfilling. The work would be done by the Neurotypical partner and their willingness to how much and what they are willing to adjust (adjust not sacrifice). This is coming from someone married to a wonderful husband for last 14 years who is recently diagnosed to be on Autism Spectrum (High functioning, he is a doctor). So all this sugar coating is useless unless you are actually aware of what you are dealing with. I absolutely love my husband. He was my first ever boyfriend (met in medical college) and is the only man in my life so far. He is a wonderful father to our two kids. We are rebuilding our relationship now in new direction with new understanding knowing that he didn't choose to have Asperger but he choose to be with us (me and our kids) and now its our responsibility to strike a balance and knowing what I know now about his limitations, to make our life together as much happy, content and functional as possible. Our son is also on Autism Spectrum and we both absolutely love and adore our son and I am grateful that he has a diagnosis and his future partner will know beforehand what she will be dealing with rather than finding it out after years of unintentional misery. Once you know what you are dealing with you immediately develop compassion (if you are a decent enough human being). And once you develop compassion and your perspective change and you look at them as more of a victim then the abuser and if you love them with all your heart then life will be absolutely fulfilling. We are at the stage where I am full of compassion now for my husband and want to help him live life to fullest without getting myself abused or hurt (physically and emotionally). Now its like I am raising three kids instead of two and out of the three two are on Autism Spectrum and I love all three of them with all my heart and I am not sacrificing myself in it. Its a balance like everything else in life. It is my family and I will love them forever.
Asperger (ASD) is genetic. People can develop all sort of mental health issues or physical health issues later in life at any stage of relationship even when they don't have any issue to begin with. Will you stop loving a person if he/she develops some health issue? You do not stop loving a partner because of their health issues (mental or physical), you adjust life accordingly, adjusting to their needs. But saying that you wont have to adjust and life will be all bliss and candy floss that is undermining the struggle of a neurotypical partner in neurodiverse relationship with an undiagnosed Asperger.
I agree with every one who has said that life is hell with undiagnosed Asperger partner. Yes.
Ask them to get a diagnosis by people who are qualified to give a diagnosis.
Maybe maybe its a personality disorder you are dealing with and not Asperger or ASD.
After you have the diagnosis and if it is actually Asperger(ASD) then you learn to love them differently. Develop compassion. Develop understanding of their limitation and condition. They didn't choose the autism for themselves, they were given that and you are given the responsibility to help them and yourself to create a much better much productive, much happier life. Take the challenge if you love them enough or leave them without damaging or abusing them (probably they will leave you when they realise the relationship is not working in their favour).
Can Asperger (high functioning autism) fall in love. Absolutely yes. My husband is absolutely in love with me and I know it with all my heart and soul. Does he lie? Yes he can lie but not very well, I can always catch him when he lies and he lie to protect himself from anxiety provoking situations. Does he have empathy? Yes somewhat, but not like a neurotypical. But guess what all the mindless killings and crimes and violence are mostly carried out by the "very empathic" neurotypicals. Just see around the world and realise that its not Asperger's doing it. Is he a good father to his kids? Absolutely, he adores them and love them. I might disagree on some aspects of his parenting where he allows our daughter to watch whatever she want to on TV and I have to intervene to change the channel because he fails to see any issue in that.
Can Asperger have any other personality disorder like narcissistic personality or borderline or any mood disorder like bipolar along with baseline of Autism spectrum? YES . So maybe maybe all the negativity wasn't stemming from Asperger's or autism alone. Maybe they have an additional personality or mood disorder on top of that. My husband was raised by a narcissistic controlling mother who abused him emotionally and when he married me he told me that I love you because you are unlike my mummy. I didn't see it as a red flag at that time. I was very naïve and grown up in a very compassionate and conservative home.
Most of my husband`s narcissistic traits were his acquired defence mechanism that he maladapted from years of abuse growing up with his narcissistic mother. He shed that shell later in our marriage with lots of love compassion and understanding from my side. Were those years difficult on me? Yes. Even if the stabbing wasn't intentional or out of malice I was still bleeding.
Somehow I find the whole article paradoxical because if life was bed of roses with Aspergers partner then why are they seeing the couple councillor. The author does couples therapy. Why are they in therapy if everything was good. They are there because they are struggling in their relationship. So yes all the negativity in comments from neurotypical partners is real and there is a reason for it and we have to accept that and not undermine one for other. What neurotypicals version of events is, is true and not exaggerated. Most of them have suffered greatly and have not healed yet. I truly hope they heal. Even knowing that the hurt caused by our Asperger partner was unintentional will help in healing. More importantly acknowledging that neurotypical partner was hurt will be a step towards neurotypical healing and a step towards developing compassion for the Asperger partner. It is sure hard work to live with anyone different from your own self. It is hard work to live with partners who have schizophrenia, partners who have bipolar, partners with anxiety and depression, partners with fibromyalgia, partners with ulcerative colitis, partners with spinal injury and hundreds of other diagnosis. You do not hate a partner for something beyond their control and one that they didn't choose for themselves. You do not stop loving them. You choose to develop compassion and adjust or leave the relationship without harming anyone. Undermining is a way of negating the whole experience and will not help anyone. People will shut down and not report their experiences and cycle of learning will stop.
Oh my goodness thank you for this! I have been with a man for two years who is just beginning the process of obtaining a diagnosis. He is 41 years old and the reason be is on this path is because after two years of what j deemed emotional abuse I was ready to be done. I had my bags packed but I just couldn’t walk away from someone who I love without figuring out why he couldn’t love me (I have my own issues ckearly.) I started researching after I had made an offhand comment about how literal he was and it was like a switch was flicked and I could suddenly see every instance of “emotional abuse” from a different perspective so I brought it to his attention.
It turns out his 9 year old niece is being tested and when he spoke to his sister he said when she described the “quirks” that led to the testing he said it was like she was describing him so we sought help from a local ASD specialist. This is all new so I’m still figuring out the nuances of communicating with him more effectively but I am so grateful to see articles written from a positive perspective because most of the articles I’ve read have really highlighted the negative.
Of course I know that figuring out what works and what doesn’t will be a challenge but it’s worth it for someone I love so much. So thank you for your thoughtful and honest comment to this article. It helps to hear from someone who was once in the same boat I am in now. I truly appreciate your perspective!
My experience exactly. Thank you for the details and sharing. I’ve lived the NT side, divorce and not realize why there was so much hurt. Trying again because I recognize the why behind so much of what we each experienced over 20 tests.
I am an aspie who has fallen in love with a doctor who is an aspie. I sort of suspected he is an aspie when I first became his patient, but have recently had it confirmed. He is a dear soul, has a brilliant brain, and his voice is like a huge cat purring. But he terrifies me, because of all he sexual abuse I have suffered in my life. He has made m want to maybe break out of my own stockade after I have been hold up in there for nearly 58 years. Is there any hope? Thank you. I have never been married or had a ‘significant other’. In fact, no man has ever even asked me for a date.
As a woman married to a man with aspergers, you are really sugar-coating it. Love is not blind. Personally I’d rather my husband cheat on me that assume I’m an idiot. I’d rather have a husband that can converse than having a man tell me he likes fat women as he pinches me on the butt at 5’6″ and 120. I asked my husband once if he’d learned anything about himself in the 1 and 1/2 years of therapy that he participated in with his ex of 30+ years and he said nope. Enough said. If they are young and diagnosed and understand their issues, go for it. If I had to perform physics everyday to stay in a relationship, I’d leave. If they want to work at it, good luck.
Jennifer, I’m glad you made this comment. The truth is, in all probability, he actually DIDN’T get much out of his 18 months of therapy with his ex. So very view therapists, never mind couples therapists, know how to recognize someone on the spectrum, never mind know how to work with this type of couple effectively. AANE.org a group devoted to neurotypical people have only in the last several years begun to offer targeted training to couples therapists in working effectively with this populations. If you have two people in couples therapy who have no idea the third speaks a different language, the therapy isn’t going to get very far.
And if not many couples therapists have been trained, we can assume even fewer spouses have been.
You’ve mentioned many things in that brief comment that suggest that your husband doesn’t have the first clue about how to be socially appropriate. He should not be calling anyone an idiot or fat. That’s rude. And if he wants to be rude to you, there are many things you will not want to do for him in return.
Even those last two statements of mine speak to the gulf that exists in communication between the spouse and a person on the spectrum. “Who doesn’t know that it is hurtful and rude to imply that someone is an idiot? What husband thinks it is okay to call his slim wife ‘fat’?” Well, if he’s on the spectrum, maybe he does know and is trying to hurt your feelings, but maybe also he simply doesn’t. Hard as that is to believe.
Maybe “fat” refers to his enjoyment of your flesh on your butt, but there are many other words I imagine you would prefer hearing. He needs to know that, as well as why the word “fat” is insulting to you.
I have now worked with many couples where one partner is on the spectrum, and honestly, I have worked with many more neurotypical husbands that say intentionally hurtful things than those who are neuroatypical. The key word in that sentence is “intentional.” Now that I have this aane.org training and supervision, I speak very plainly and ask the man if he knows why his wife is upset by what he said. Often he has no clue. He thought he was giving her a compliment. And like someone who is learning English, I explain that it is often considered offensive, and what was he trying to communicate about her buttocks?
He might answer “It is soft and full, and I like that” or “I like the shape of it” or “I know that a butt is mostly made of x material and technically that is fat.”
For most readers, you’ve had limited exposure to many people on the spectrum who are in marriages and how they function. As I mentioned in this article, there is a lot of diversity depending upon what strengths and vulnerabilities the person has. It is a spectrum of abilities, not a less-to-more range.
Understanding fully the strengths and vulnerabilities of each individual is essential, and, as a clinician, to know how to do that effectively.
I am very grateful for the training I have received through AANE.org, and they also offer courses to individuals, couples, and grandparents. It is worth taking one if you feel you simply don’t understand why your husband could be so cruel.
Again, thanks for this comment.
Upon reading several of your articles they spoke to me and gave hope as to how the Gottman method and sex therapy may help my romantic relationship. I would very much like to connect for more info and possible counseling with you.
Please advise as to next steps. ?
Thank you for this article. I laughed out loud several times reading it.
I have been reading a lot of articles on this topic lately and sadly there is so much hate for these dear human beings. This one was a breath of fresh air, hopeful and reassuring.
Everyone understands things differently than everyone else. NT or AS or anybody. It takes love and determination to make communication work!
It’s so nice that you took the time to put this into perspective.
I’m not in a relationship with someone who has AS right now, I just know a super nice guy who has it, and I’ve been researching it a lot lately.
Thanks so much, Dr K! This article was wonderful.
Hey, a very late "Thanks!" M. -Dr. K
Thank you. I enjoyed reading your well informed piece on AS/NT relationships. I was diagnosed with ASD (aspergers) at 46. Been together 20 years, married 12. 3 kids aged 9,8 and 6. Wife now wants a ‘parenting marriage ‘. I am insulted, frightened and sad about this. I do understand her frustrations but the good outweighs the bad with me….I felt she thought that too…life goes on and I’m still happy…thanks for the aspie friendly analysis.
Simply with what and the way you wrote, it is clear that you are a good and caring individual- I am sorry for this stress in your life, spend as much time researching and learning as you can to train yourself to regularly check with yourself about your thoughtfulness and sensitivity, make an earnest effort, and communicate with your wife how important it is to you to do this and work towards healing your marriage.. Is she open and willing to do her own hard work to enlighten herself on the reasoning behind, and intentions of your statements and behaviors- so that she may go forward from a perspective of compassion and desire and willingness to support you as you work on interacting with her in a way that makes her feel cared for and valued- your marriage can heal and thrive beyond what it ever has, but only if you both put in earnest effort.. I hope for healing and enlightenment for both of you…
It's hard to have a detailed explanation of what she finds to be problematic and what she wants to be changed. Often, she has a hard time understanding it herself.
I can't stress enough how important it is to work with someone who understands and has training in working with both couples therapy and neurodiversity. Otherwise, you often end up with two neurotypicals who simply can't make sense of the ND person and one with the power to diagnose!!!
Again, check out the referrals via AANE.org.
Thank you so mucj for this post. I have suffered with his motives and not being able to “put his self in my shoes”. I will do my best to remind myself he is mind blind and can only think as he does. It is asking a fish to fly. He shows his love through acts of service and words of affirmation are not present. Actions speak louder thsn words is another reminder. Thanks again
This is a great article. I’ve been in a relationship with an aspie woman for 1 year, and I can tell you it is the healthiest relationship I have ever had. The open and honest communication, total trust and loyalty, respect for solitary time but love for togetherness, and acceptance and forgiveness of my flaws has been unparalleled. We’re both introverted and don’t mind a lack of chit-chat. I love when she talks about things she is passionate about…sometimes she has a one-track mind and singular focus, but I admire her dedication and her passion, and she is able to balance that with her passion for me, as well as encourage me to pursue my own passions. Have we had a few communication set-backs? Yes. Has she unintentionally hurt my feelings by being a little too blunt? Once or twice. Do we have other setbacks? Occasionally. But honestly, I think her aspie traits are some of my favorite aspects of her personality, and I wouldn’t change her for anything. That’s my experience 🙂
I’m so glad you found someone to love. DrK
I just realized this week that my husband was AS. I know. It took me long enough.
I knew he had quirks. We have always joked around that I married Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.
At first our marriage was so rocky. He never got my needs. I have left him 3 times. Each time, I wouldn’t come back until we had an agreement on his behaviors. After 9 years, 5 of them in counceling (one of our agreements, we will remain in counseling for as long as we are married), we have our routine down. Dinner at 5. Agreed upon show for TV viewing until 7. Personal time until 9. One hour of getting ready for bed which includes watching 1 TV show and our own routines. It sounds rigid and it is, however, once you get the routine down, you plan around it. At 7, I know I can go visit friends, work on quilting, go for a walk, whatever I want. I don’t have to coordinate with him, I know that time is mine and I plan on it. I only have to let him know what I’m doing if I leave the house.
We fought a lot less after I stopped pressuring him to have sex or tried to get him to touch me or become emotionally intimate. After I realized that pattern of fighting went away, I just started to accept, that’s how it is going to be. I no longer pressure him to have sex or lots of physical contact. At the time I figured he was asexual and bought toys. (I have since learned that the reason why he could be handsy while we were dating is because that is what you are supposed to do when you date i.e. mimicking)
Building intimancy into the routine was difficult but important. He now knows that he has to kiss me good-bye every morning or I get angry and wonder why his is mad at me. He doesn’t love kissing me good-bye, but it is now part of the routine that he doesn’t give a second thought to. We hold hands in church and not while he drives.
I know that he cannot fulfill all of my needs. I started looking for ways to get my needs fulfilled while still being faithful. Toys for sex. Good friends/family for empathy and hugs. Massages once a month.
Why did I stay with him?
We have a good friendship. We laugh a lot together. We are both computer nerds. He gives great advice if I ask him about a problem. He IS honest. He is consistent. He is smart. I can respect him. We both know that he hates dealing with my “emotional crap” so he has learned that he needs to set aside a time once a week for me to talk about what is bugging me so we can deal with it intellectually. Otherwise, I’ll do some silly emotional thing like cry or want a hug. LOL By scheduling a time, it helps him to mentally prepare and puts it into a routine. Afterwards, we have dinner and quiet time.
We joke about all of this. We have a date every Friday, dinner and playing video games. We each select 1 extra date a month. Terry has suprised me with how much thought he puts into these dates about taking me someplace that he thinks I will enjoy. He takes the effort when giving gifts to really think about what that person really wants. I was impressed before, but now that I fully realize how hard that is for him, I appreciate him more. He knows that is isn’t like everyone else and that’s OK. I’m pretty unique too.
I have always been empathetic, but I have learned to be patient, direct, and self-sufficient. Having a good sense of humor and learning just to accept the other person is critical. I had to accept his quirks (AS) and he had to accept my emotions (AT).
This is not an easy road. I have experienced full soul crushing heart ache and peaceful moments of joy. If you are on that road and choose to stay on it, it can be worth it. However, like any relationship, it takes two. Terry never gave up and always tried to improve himself (once he understood). He sets aside time (mostly in counceling admittedly) to see things from my perspective. You have to have or learn a good sense of self, have good personal boundaries, and a good sense of what is normal AT so you don’t get sucked into thinking you are crazy.
One last bit of advice, know how long his obsessions go. That way when he decides to obsess over something super obnoxios, like learning to play the electric guitar for hours on end during “our tv time”, you know you only have to put up with it for 6 months. His next obsession… bicycling. It’s much quieter and just in time for gardening season next month.
This is a great article. I have entered into a relationship with a woman with Aspergers and it has been emotionally up and down. I feel unimportant a lot of the times as she tends to forget to acknowledge me, yet goes off to her forums to chat. This article helped a lot. It makes me feel less hurt and anxious, but it is still something hard to work through.
Interesting little article because my ex-aspie partner lied, a lot but I figured they were little lies so I let it go. He had an extremely reactive temperament so I avoided most subjects especially if they were important, meaning we just didn’t discuss things because it was too exhausting for me and he ultimately cheated, walked out after 6 years, didn’t say goodby, and refused to speak to me ever again. Devastating after working so hard to keep the peace and make him happy!
Oh, wow.. ???
I love my husband. We got married four years ago. How could I have not seen this.
It is killing me inside. I am such an affectionate person. .it is so painful being withheld from affection and love.
He has hurt a couple of times, and yelled at my 12 year old grandson, son and daughter. How can you deal with someone, or quieten someone who will not reason when they have made a mistake, or is yelling at you grandson who has done nothing wrong… but just starts yelling at you when you try to explain?
This is all so emotionally crippling.
This is written so well. I wish I had read this one before. I don’t know if it is too late now though. ??
Thanks for the well written article and ita def a much needed reminder of what I love about my Aspie hubby.
We’ve been together for 2 years and I came across his condition earlier this year. I thought he was cheating on me because literally on our honeymoon he changed and we didn’t want to have xxx.
He lacked romance, socially awkward, alot of alone time and never complimented or said he loved me. I came across a comment where someone suggested Aspergers. I started researching and he ticked all the boxes, I cried bevause it all made sense and I realized how this will impact our marriage. We’ve discussed it and he doesn’t think it’s a big deal lol. I tell my hubby what I expect of him and he’s being keeping to his routine. I love that he’s really trying to make our marriage work. It’s challenging but i’m trying to stay positive because I know he loves me the only way he can.
All the best to everyone else in their relationships and I hope we can embrace the good in our Aspie loves xxx
It was so reassuring and validating to read your comment!
The minute I married my husband, sex came to a screeching halt. Our first year of marriage had me wondering if he was cheating (because he obviously didn’t need me) and wondering what I had done wrong. There were multiple confrontations and fights that he didn’t seem to understand.
For example: I confronted him about why he wouldn’t make out with me anymore. We always made out when we were dating, and after marriage – nothing! His response: “Well, we’re married now.” He said it so nonchalant, like it was an honestly, simple explanation. I was perplexed – and pissed. When I pushed him, he said he never liked making out because it has “too much spit”. You can imagine how I reacted. I just started thinking I had married the biggest a-hole.
Shoot forward, two years later his mom drops something casually in about his Asperger’s. So, I confronted my husband about it and he was like – so what? It doesn’t matter. He treated it so casually that I thought maybe his mom was over exaggerating (his little brother is severely on the spectrum).
We are ten years married now, and our relationship has been up and down, but he is still one of the best humans I know and I love him to pieces. I’ve “known” he has been on the spectrum for 7 years now, but here we are, struggling again when it comes to the big sex issue.
There is a huge difference between knowing your husband is an Aspie, and understanding your husband is an Aspie. It wasn’t until I read all of this as a result of one of his searches to try to address our intimate issues that I was just like – woah: my husband HAS Asperger’s.
I instantly started crying and I feel like such a big “B” word. He seems to do so much so “normally”, that I never really truly understood the extent of this. This new understanding has changed EVERYTHING. I am so deeply impressed with what he has been able to master in the last 36 years and how hard he constantly tries. It opened up communication about his sensory issues as well, and as he has read I think he has felt less alone and more validated as well.
Husbands with Asperger’s can be so amazing. While I was feeling quite frustrated, I feel that has shifted to being so impressed, and working more gently toward better understanding each other. (The frustration still comes and goes!) However, I think finding a therapist in our area who can help us through these next steps together.
I am in a relationship with a woman who has a reported IQ of 140 and has a math degree from Penn State. It has become clear to me that she has (HFA). She never tells me thanks, she never says she likes me, she never says she admires me, she never compliments me, she never says she appreciates me. She may have emotion, maybe even feelings, but I rarely if ever see them. It is incredibly difficult for me. I am frustrated and even angry at you for defending such people. I have read websites that have likened them to sociopaths. They say, that even though they do feel, and want to express emotion and care, that they can’t do it. Thus, you still feel alone, and unloved.
I have also seen all of the obvious signs of HFA. She has little to no interest in anything but a small circle of friends. No interest in News, travel to mars, admiring beautiful mountains or a wonderful and amazing ocean. Completely dead there. She talks over people, doesn’t seem to realize when they get bored, yet she still talks. Too many details, I don’t want to be there and experience what you just experienced literally that takes too long, give me a summary. She doesn’t seem to get that.
I am always at fault. I am always wrong. Social norms don’t matter to her if she “in her own mind is innocent, meaning not breaching the monogamous relationship ethics” She can spend 6 hours once a week with a married guy at his house whom she used to have sex with… without any regard to my feelings. As long as her intentions are good, my feelings do not matter period.
Dating someone like this is very much intolerable, are you autistic?
It’s puzzling to me why you are still dating her, Ben.
You know what you want: You want a woman who shares your interests (News, travel to mars, admiring beautiful mountains or a wonderful and groovy, amazing ocean) someone with a large circle of friends, and a woman who tend to get right to the point in her communications, and summarizes. Someone who admires you, verbally compliments you, and actively shows her appreciation. You also want a woman who easily expresses her feelings.
This ‘highly intelligent math wiz’ isn’t it.
Why are you still dating her?
Why do you care and get angry at me for discussing the positive features of people with HFA?
You know how easy it is to read “hate sites” that insult, disparage, and even pathologize HFA as “sociopathic.” Why not go there and continue the hate speech?
Imagine the same complains and bitterness about the blind or deaf.
“My blind girlfriend can’t ever appreciate my beautiful face or enjoy a sunset with me…”
My deaf girlfriend just doesn’t enjoy my love for music, and doesn’t see the point of rock bands…”
“You’re an idiot for talking positively about the [blind/deaf]. They are horrible partners. They are impossible to date if you are sighted/hearing enabled. You must be one of them to talk positively about them…
Yet somehow, if you wrote that about blind or deaf women, you might be thought of as a jerk. Thoughtless. Even intentionally cruel.
People are born with HFA. They aren’t put on the world to match your ideal of a “great date.” And they have limitations which, if they (like any neurotypical) are motivated, they’ll try to make adjustments, to make you happy.
Clearly you are angry at this woman for visiting a guy she used to have sex with. And you find dating her intolerable.
Why do you continue to torture yourself and stay with her?
Why do you search the web for one of the few pages that has something positive to say and rank on it and (attempt to) insult the writer?
For those who don’t know, there are websites devoted to hate speech about people with HFA. I know many of these angry responses are from people who either run or own these sites. And it’s not enough to simply hate. They want to spread that hate.
They quote statements like: “It does not take an advanced degree in mental health to understand the emotional deprivation and extreme psychological stress that would result from ongoing interactions with such a person.”
I missed the neurotypical bulletin that told me that I must date and marry people with HFA.
But some people, kind, thoughtful, loving people, have fallen in love. They got married and have children. One is neurotypical. One is neuroatypical. And they come to me to learn how to love better. Both of them.
While I don’t ignore the challenges to the neurotypical spouse in remaining in these marriages, that’s not what I’m writing about in this piece. Let me also add that it’s also very challenging for the neuroatypical as well to get so “up close and personal” with someone. As it is for those which developmental trauma, PTSD, avoidant personality, etc.
And that’s the kind of work that I do: helping them to love better.
People with neuroatypical functioning are not sociopaths. They are not narcissists. They are not evil or cruel by nature. They have limitations and they are very, very diverse. And in some (thankfully) small circles, hated, discriminated against, maligned. And in large circles they are totally misunderstood. And very, very human.
I am NT female, love an aspie (who doesn't reciprocate, but I can't help how I feel about him 🙂 and my dad and sibling are aspies. I amde so much reading about neurodivergence, it fascinates me. Love your answer.
If I am kind, they won’t cheat? How about if I am normal and sometimes unkind because we are in a fight? Are you saying, I always have to be kind to prevent her from cheating? It really sounds like you are saying that. No relationship is always kind, there are difficulties and troubles. Sometimes relationships will have unkind times. So if we have an unkind time, she should cheat? That sounds like what you are saying. Will they cheat then? How about “mind blindness” As I have read while doing research on people with Incredibly high IQ’s and Autism, they can hide things. A lot of things. Here is a quote I ran across on the web, maybe you should listen, “One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient”. Another quote “It does not take an advanced degree in mental health to understand the emotional deprivation and extreme psychological stress that would result from ongoing interactions with such a person.”.
“One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient”.
That’s a quote, Ben, you might want to take to heart.
Your responses and feedback are brilliant, thank you for all of this! Those on the spectrum need and deserve support and for all of us to learn about the rough framework involving falling on this spectrum, that we may feel empathy for their individual struggles and engage in efforts to encourage more available and informed education and resources for therapeutic assistance, and enlightening the general public of the real struggle that is not intentional, and varies so vastly between individuals in this very diverse area of the population..
I am so thankful that such great strides have been made toward educating others about and providing support to those, like me, who suffer from severe depression and anxiety.. I have gone from a state of complete inability to function or even speak, followed by no desire to exist and seeing only desolate darkness drowning me, to now engaging actively in life, genuinely experiencing great and frequent joy, and the ability to express my own strengths of empathy and desire and ability to be a support to others who are struggling, and someone who might give you a warm smile as I pass you on the street, for instance- a huge factor in getting me here has been the sharp reduction in the stigma regarding my mental illness- which made me feel perpetually worthless, with no hope for anything other than agony.. Now I feel so much more freedom from the harsh and hateful judgments that bombarded me everywhere I turned, in person, online, in movies and shows, even those I had thought would be safer as it depicted someone with a similar label but who displays outrageous behavior, self centeredness, and engages in almost ruthless harm toward others- countless references to someone simply being on a psychotropic medication directly indicating they were “psycho” as in literally engaging in at least some if not a lot of harm toward others in an actual state if psychopathy- being on an antidepressant= I must be a psychopathic woman to be avoided at all costs- try to imagine on some level the pain and suffering these messages caused- the countless avoidable suicides that took place-
Now, I am seeing and discovering an itch to promote hate toward a hugely diverse group of people struggling with the mental struggles experienced by those on the spectrum, and ludacris generalizing
of an entire and extremely diverse group of people, consisting of gross misinformation with the purpose of inciting more abuse and defamation-
Some of the most dear people in my life have been on the spectrum..
Thank you for countering all this ugly barrage of words, it breaks my heart as I love these individual so dearly, and have found love in the arms of a warm and caring “aspie” as he identifies himself, who adores me and cares for me with frequent and regular nurturing physical affection and compliments- I have never been happier- his little quirks and tendencies are adorable and he and I laugh when I tease him as we kiss- he is romantic, a good listener, and reaches out to make me feel cared for and valued in so many different ways- he treats me like a queen- before him, I had only know abuse from men, men who were not remotely on the spectrum in any way-
It devastates me to think such an incredible gem of a human being is being lumped into the target of these hateful and cruel attacks- this is what hate and point blank, black and white discrimination accomplishes..
Thank you for being a voice to counter these things, to exquisitely extinguish these sickeningly ignorant and abusive messages.. thank you for being a person of love and light who promotes awareness and support in the wake of a vulnerable group of people being viciously targeted and portrayed in a hatefully and grossly warped manner…
Mind blindness is a double edged blade, you can’t substitute your behavior into an autistic situation and expect to predict anything.
Simple answer is hell no. We are not vindictive and in and of itself the very idea of cheating is intolerable. We overly developed Kantian ethics, why I do not know, but the reality is a relentlessly overactive conscience. Even while being cheated on the idea of returning that pain to a partner is beyond vile. I can’t speak for all but many others I’ve met enjoy kindness because they can only understand kindness.
I have been dating an aspie for a year. He had never dated anyone before me and he is 53. I am 52 and had been married before and never really had a satisfying relationship until I met him. He realized on his own that he had characteristics of Asperger’s while we were on a “break.” I began reading more and understanding why we seemed to be having the same argument–did he see a future? Was I the one? And on and on. But truthfully, I have never met such a pure, gentle soul as him. I just could never figure out why he shut down and vanished when we had problems. I love him more than anyone I have ever known. Sure, he has a one hour routine he goes through before bedtime and we have had communication issues, he has forgotten to be with me on holidays. I mean just weird stuff. But I did try to date while we were on our break and this man holds my heart. He is so honest and never hesitates to help out if I tell him exactly what I want or need. I am a very empathetic, but direct person. Once I realized why he was shutting down, I felt immense empathy for how alone he has felt and odd for his whole life. Maybe it is hard sometimes, but the pros outweigh the cons and I am crazy about him. I cannot imagine being with anyone else because he is my heart. He is also funny in a way that really resonates with me. I just wanted to speak up for people who are like me, in love, probably not patient and not understanding why he was acting the way he did. Once you learn that these patterns are not their fault, it is easier to communicate better and understand the person you love. I do consider myself a walk in the park either, which maybe is why it works. All I know is that he is a wonderful person who is unlike anyone I have ever met. If possible, I will spend the rest of my life with him. I think we all strive for perfection, but we are not perfect. Not only can I accept his flaws, but it makes me feel good to accept some of my own too. So if you are an aspie thinking you will never love, there is someone out there who is looking for a person with your purity, honesty, strange humor, intelligence and an innocence that makes you utterly unique and special.
“I am a very empathetic, but direct person.”
It’s a quality I see in most neurotypicals who are successful in relationships with neuroatypicals. Direct. patient. empathetic communication.
It also works between neurotypicals as well, by the way.
“I do consider myself a walk in the park either, which maybe is why it works.”
tk, Nobody is. Just a lot of us don’t realize how challenging we can be…
“So if you are an aspie thinking you will never love, there is someone out there who is looking for a person with your purity, honesty, strange humor, intelligence and an innocence that makes you utterly unique and special.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ve been humbled and become more thoughtful and less certain when working with couples just like the two of you.
Keep up the loving!
I have read these posts and I agree with them both the positive and negative ones. I recently ended a 1 1/2 year relationship with someone who I feel is an Aspie. He is undiagnosed but I was told by his sister and I have noticed “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck., well..”. We were dating for about a year before I moved in with him, though we were having issues at about 8 months in. This past year has been “Crazy Making”. When I read this post I am more saddened than indignant.. Perhaps if I or he knew , it would have been different. I have tried (unsuccessfully) to get to the root of our issues. Therapist after therapist said it was because we were “too different”, I am an extrovert, he is an introvert…..but that wasn’t it. Then I thought it was cause of our past family trauma (abuse on both sides) …..that was part but not the whole story……see when you date someone who is not diagnosed and you are not informed, you default and operate from an NT perspective…and why wouldn’t you? How would you know there is a difference? For example before globalization and wide immigration, people lived their lives from their own cultural references, the same is with cognitive world interactions. But imagine my surprise when my needs for understanding were met with denial, blame and name calling (I’m insecure, jealous etc) meanwhile, in NT land, all the things I had asked for were givens with ex boyfriends. Things like: PIck your gf up from the bus station when its late at night in an new town,, or perhaps don’t email your ex on her birthday, the day after our anniversary – which you don’t do anything for were met with argument after argument were I was the bad guy who didn’t understand him, mind you I know that he did not understand me…… But the irony is that to the outside world he is brilliant, so kind (he works in refugee issues and as a Caucasian Canadian he is seen as a demi-god), so generous and engaged with other people’s suffering yet, he could not notice it at home. It was like he was almost incapable of accepting responsibility or criticism for his actions. as if he could not hurt anyone with his words or lack of affection….but he can….he definitely can. I felt like my reality was off, things began to stop makings sense. Up was down and right was left. ….Right before we broke up I found a counselor I thought would understand his perplexing behavior, she initially said it was our childhood trauma that was playing out though she did say that “he has a broken relational function” and is not capable of meeting my emotional needs from his past abuse…..I accepted this but something still wasn’t quite right, when I began to look in to HFA as his sister said he was, i researched and found patterns that fit his behavior, when I told our therapist that I think he might be on the spectrum, she harshly said “NO, I don’t think there is anything fundamentally wrong with him”……..I was shut down, not heard, invalidated and reinforced this “crazy making” mantra already in my head……I was then blamed for asking him for things that he could not give me. I was told to “leave him alone and not talk to him about my needs”-I tried, but I couldn’t, cause as a NT with NO FORMAL TRAINING OR UNDERSTANDING of autism how I was to do that? So I kept asking for emotional visibility,, we kept fighting and he broke up with me….now I am living in the spare room, trying to act as roommates…….., while he lives out his life seemingly emotionally removed from me….it’s been 3 weeks and the way he can just “turn off feelings”…..well it does feel so weird, almost creepy to me (and that would be the same feeling I would have for an NT person as well)….., To be fair though, he did try. He too went to counseling to figure out what was happening but these counselors only saw him from an NT perspective and he played the victim well. Because some HFA have an issue with memory my ex only remembered THAT we fought……not his contributions to my frustration……so I was always portrayed as some irrational person who has anger issues – always the aggressor and he the victim…they would ask him if he felt “safe with me”??!!! meanwhile NO ONE ASKED ME TO DATE, if I felt safe with him…. While he was not largely encouraged to see how his behavior could have contributed to things, the 4 times it was it was placed in an NT framework that was quickly abandoned during an argument. I was left without knowledge, or tools or insight to even understand what as happening much less make it work…..as was he.
I think the forums where women “bash” their ex’s/hubby’s is like when you send a message in a bottle into the ocean. You hope someone finds your note and reads it and realizes that you are alive and a real person, because despite the well intended generalizations of this blog there is another generalization with Aspies, that might even be considered a theory (if we believe that theories are generalizations that have been tested over time to be consistent in outcome), the generalization that NT/AS relationships are EXCEPTIONALLY hard on the NT partner. These NT partner blogs reveal not just blind anger, but a real sense of loss, bewilderment, fear, hurt, confusions, isolation, depression, suicidal idealization , low self esteem, rejection, always being blamed and saying sorry for having feelings and expressing them in an NT way……these things, while also present in NT/NT relationships, are experienced very differently in NT/ASD relationships. And sadly the medical/psychological community has largely dismissed these experiences. But I suppose that is the hypocritical nature of these communities. It appears to validate one you must invalidate the other. For years, women have reported experiencing heart attacks differently, depression, anxiety, emotional abuse, all things that were invalidated by these communities at first for many, many, many years……But when people suffer together it goes beyond “misery loves company” it becomes a legitimate lifeline to share experiences and have it echoed back to be seen heard and respected……indeed someone found the message in the bottle – even on the other side of the world!!
This experience has been a lovely, heart wrenching and soul crushing one. Before I met him I was lively, vivacious, kind and confident, I have been left a shell of that woman. Though he says how pretty I am, he has not touched me in 3 months…..from an NT perspective I would think there’s another woman, from an ASD perspective, it’s his autism….so my response would have had to have been tailored to each perspective….see the difference information makes? But alas I know that similar to while I was in my relationship with him my tears are in vain. Aspies can move on with relatively little discomfort as they process emotions very differently than NTs which is why they can “recover” faster and easier than NTs – it hurts when you consider how someone can “process you out of their life”.
Look I’m not hear to bash Aspies, though it might sound like that, but I am not. I only highlight one lived experience of living with loving someone with undiagnosed HFA. The forums are out there and there is enough consistent material to recognize themes and and commonalities in these experiences but THERE IS NOT ENOUGH RESEARCH ON THESE EXPERIENCES and yet social conventions for all NTs, ASDs and everyone else has that women are the ones to bear the emotional responsibility for a family, but not tools to help us in these situations. There has been much research on children with autism to help them cope better in society,, and then research for parents of autistic children to help them cope with their children in society- and there are support groups, workshops, meetups etc, I’m sure by now there must be dating sites for parents of autistic children……but there is virtually no support for women who are struggling with being with an undiagnosed HFA………To the women on here who have found an Aspie who is loving and kind, yes! Do share your stories, it is wonderful to read and gives hope and positive beautiful messages,….but please, please, everyone recognize that our stories matter too. That’s all. Thank You.
“See when you date someone who is not diagnosed and you are not informed, you default and operate from an NT perspective…and why wouldn’t you? How would you know there is a difference?”
The more couples I work with, the better able I am to help each articulate what is REALLY going on with the other, not the projections and assumptions that each has about the other.
“I only highlight one lived experience of living with loving someone with undiagnosed HFA.”
These are the typical couples I live with, with one person who was never diagnosed, and a partner who has a drawer full of pathologies at the ready, and a history extremely poor help as a couple.
And the senseless pain of assuming that in this case, Cassie, your partner was thinking and feeling something he wasn’t about you or the relationship…
Thank you for sharing.
I hear you. I understand. I am in the same rocky boat. Keep talking, we all need to hear you.
I completely understand. My husband would never get tested but he checks many of the boxes. Because he’s undiagnosed, he doesn’t realize that most of his criticism of me is really about me just not following his rules and “systems”. We haven’t had sex in years and he cringes when I touch him. I’ve mentioned to people in the past that I’m certain that if something ever happened to me or if I left him, he’d get over me in less than a day. I need to stop comparing him to non Aspergers people because it just makes my heart hurt to see couples deferring to one another in conversation, holding hands, laughing at one another’s jokes. He has never said I’m sorry and never says I love you. I just figured it out recently and am reading everything I can get my hands on. Hopefully knowing will help me understand him and feel more kindly towards him.
Thank you for sharing Cassie. This has been almost exactly my experience except my undiagnosed husband moved out after 25 years of marriage ( during Covid with our 3 teen/young adult boys home ) believing that I have an anger problem and because he was “emotionally abused”. I only suspected that he may be on the ASD 6 months prior to his departure but he has considered my suspicion laughable. And then I discovered he was having an affair. I think I only survived because I am a fighter but it has not been easy. I fall into such sadness and feelings of despair when I am not angry because I still believe that had he acknowledged the possibility and sought out an evaluation, I may have been able to interact with him differently, and have a good relationship the way so many people have described. But he has simply been unable to shift his perspective ( or perhaps doesn’t want to even though I think he still loves me ) . However, I am still viewed by him in such a negative way that it is toxic. I tried for the past year to ” figure it out” by reading books on NT/ASD marriages and how to recover from an affair, reading articles, watching videos, sending him information , suggesting therapy, etc. but nothing . He dismisses it all and then I fall back into such anger… I fall back into the same pattern, interacting with him as if he is the NT asshole. Sadly, it’s time to divorce.
Just a quick note … to say that Aspergers is a ‘mild’ form of Autism is to say ‘I really dont understand Aspergers!’. There is nothing mild about being an Aspie. You spend your life trying to fit in, or not fitting in and being challenged as to why dont you fit it. You experience constant anxiety, fear, confusion, and hope like hell you didnt piss anyone off because you are a good person but just say the wrong things at the wrong time because you dont read people. Or you cant face going to work again because you are so exhausted from masking or camouflaging your social deficits, or today is just to peopley out there and too many sounds, smells, interactions. There is nothing mild about Aspergers.
I agree with all five points. The question is : is it worth it?
My story – I have realised only last night when I could not sleep due to the very recent break up with my Aspie boyfriend that he is actually Aspie. It’s is always hard to have a breakup. Last 8months were like roller-coaster. He is always very excited and loving when seeing me first 12h and usually 24-48 h later he becomes very distant and quiet showing no attachments and even worse when saying or acting like he is thinking only about himself and his needs and as the consequence hurting my emotions …Often that moment he is withdrawing from our interaction to decompress saying he has lots to do at home and disappearing half of the weekend. I was not aware of his condition for 11 month long relationship. I would assume he does not know that his sex drive and focus on this and luck of people interacting skills and bad communication are signs of Aspergers. I am wondering if his adult children and ex wife know about it… Now when we stated we are not working together as he was making me unhappy and my clear emotional disappointment was making him unhappy as a result. We stayed in this swing for long enough to feel frustrated and powerless. He was blaming on us being in different stages of life ( I am16years younger and have 2 boys<10) but it is not only that but the most important part was to my understanding his condition. I know from my web search it is a hard work to maintain a healthy relationship with the Aspie but I truly love him and I was very patient and supportive when he was badly acting. He is intelligent, vibrant when having good times, we enjoy visiting new places, lots of walking, great sex… Communication suffers though and now looks like it's is all over anyway… Knowing he has got the Aspergers is helpful though and I am wondering how I should tell him… Sending a letter maybe.
Autism’s social deficits are reversed by an anti-cancer drug
Human Connectome Project.
Consistent specific brain connectome patterns are evidence that autism,psychopathy, Anxiety-depressive,trichotillomania,ocd,are connectome brain variations; rather than “disorders”. They are minority groups. With NT’s as being a majority. NT is not a correct or superior group;rather NT is just one,of several connectome groups among the neurodiverse world population.
Therapy should focus on how people involved in an inter-neural relationship; c
learn how communicate, negotiate their interactions, and helping couples learn to resolve conflict effectively.
Anecdotally, people with AS in general are supposed to operate at about 2/3 their chronological age.
use google translate on this please: https://forskning.no/psykiske-lidelser/2016/08/noen-blir-nesten-kvitt-symptomene-pa-aspergers-syndrom
Deficits can occur in people with autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cocaine addiction, and brain damage suffered from alcohol’s neurotoxicity.[4
interesting quote from Simon Baron Cohens book “Autism and asperger syndrome. the facts”
page 61: “A final limitation of the mindblindness theory is that a range of clinical conditions show forms of mindblindness(such as patients with schizofrenia, or narcissistic and borderline personality disorders, and children with conduct disorder), so this may not be specific to autism and asperger syndrome.”
read this please. 🙂
from the book “Autism as context blindness” author: Peter Vermeulen
If you want to read this book, its on amazon and Peter Vermeulen is on twitter and youtube.
quote from page 21:
“I argue that people with autism do have a theory of mind but that their social cognitive abilities are not activated by the more basic subcognitive processes that activate them in people without autism”
“Context blindness is a deficit in the ability to use context spontaneously and subconsciously to determine meanings”
“However, there does seem to be a positive correlation between context sensitivity and age in people with autism. Context sensitivity seems to improve with age, but it remains unclear to what extent there is improvement and whether there is a difference compared to the progress made in neutotypical development.”
“But the news is not all bad. The result is what counts; not the method used the get there. So here comes the good news. Various studies have shown that people with autism can, to a certain degree, take context into consideration, especially when you push their context button. They still do not do it spontaneously, but the end result appears to be fairly good – in these studies the individuals with autism performed as well as those without autism.”
People with asperger struggle with something called “executive function”, maybe not every aspect of this but at least some. They need professional help to create more connections in the brain… from the wikipedia article about neuroplasticity: “Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity or neural plasticity, is an umbrella term that describes lasting change to the brain throughout an individual’s life course”
Applied Behavioral Analysts (ABA) enthusiasts have been trying to get rid of Autism by rewiring the brain since the mid 1960’s. In some cases they have been successful and at least alleviated the symptoms.
One day those methods used that are directed at “treating”AS,will b considered inhumane and archaic. I believe that our society should consider that the human pop consists of several neurotypes brain patterns;of which NT is the predominant pattern of brain among humans.
There is the ongoing Human Connectome
Project which has provided irrefutable evidence that will monumentally impact societal perception,terminology,and treatment of people with minority neurotypes.
Also look into Neurodiversity movement
Thank you. Dearly.
While I think it’s important to give people hope – both the NT and the Aspie – you need to be more balanced. This article isn’t balanced. Well perhaps it is, but from a certain perspective – an outsider’s perspective. Interacting with an Aspie as a friend, therapist or colleague requires so much less from you than interacting with them as partner or child. Intimate relationships are a whole different ball game, and no amount of understanding of the Aspie, and how he/she ticks, and what he/she needs, can ease the pain that comes from not being heard, not being seen, not being understood, not getting what you truly need. Being pushed to the other side of your own life to change and accommodate a person who cannot reciprocate. In the end, you stop feeling, you have to stop feeling. This article presents five good reasons to love an Aspie from an outsider’s perspective. You have to love someone with all your heart to understand how desolate this place is. Ironically, empathy is not enough. You have to go there. I mean no offence to all the Aspies reading this. I’m just calling it as I see it. Like you guys/gals do all the time x
It is written from a perspective of a couples therapist who works with AS/NT blends. I do know that many partners do stop feeling, as you describe. They demand something in the exact way they will not get it: spontaneously and like an NT would give them. And when they do that, they believe that they are inherently superior and that their AS partner is unable to “reciprocate.” However, this is mindblinded also. The funny thing is that I teach two NT’s many of the same skills I teach AS/NT couples, which is to use their words and to describe how they see things and what they want and why. Sometimes NT’s are offended by this. They see no reason to have to explain why they need to hear “I love you” more than once or why they should have to approach sex in a particular way for it to be enjoyable to all. And then they do feel not heard, not seen or not understood, because they believe that their partner should just “get it” and they don’t.
What is important to recognize is that these challenges are problems all couples face, just not in the same way. Two NT’s share a more common set of similarities, but they still will have heartbreaking differences–heartbreaking that is, if they see differences as bad. No one should simply be the one to accommodate, while their partner is catered to. That’s not a relationship. And AS by their very requirements to live in the NT world make continuous adjustments and adaptations. For love, they make more, or they don’t, and it’s a deal-breaker.
As I started out my piece saying, if you meet one AS you have met one AS. Some, I’m sure, like some NT’s, are totally impossible to live with and unwilling to adapt. But love, true crazy love, has people working really really hard to make the other person happy, because it makes THEM happy to see their partner smile or laugh. That we all share.
Thanks for writing. Dr. K
Yes, I feel you. The despair of not getting what I truly need. Yet, loving him utterly.
OMG, Donna. Perfectly said. Good luck to us both.
And I would add that once you recognize that you are asking for something that your partner can’t give you in the way you want to receive it, try to figure out a way your partner still CAN give you a part of it. And find other loving people in your life to give you what your partner can’t.
It is that profound disappointment that can help you to emotionally grow. And the deep love you feel that allows you to recognize that the relationship, as it is, (not the way you expect it to be), is enough for you.
Thank you for this. I’ve loved a man on the spectrum for 5 years. In the beginning I thought he was just very different and somewhat strange but I found his ways “charming”. Fast forward to now, he has grown to trust me, love me in a way that is so obvious to me now. We don’t live together but he makes it clear that I am an important part of his life as he is mine. Once I accepted our differences as well as our similarities our friendship has blossomed into something beautiful. I’m grateful to have him in my life. I’m more emotionally mature as a result of our friendship and my ego gets told to “shut up” quite often.
As a neurotypical female engaged to an AS male.. this is accurate. I did research into Asperger’s before we started dating but it took about a year to recognize some of personal quirks. The fact that he managed to love my daughter at the same time amazes me. We now have two children together and even when he has his difficult days, he tries so hard to be there for everyone. So yes it is definitely worth it to find an Aspie.
There’s a reason why we prefer talking to a person face to face than through text messages. I think for an autistic person, socializing is like communicating through text messages because they have a hard time with reading social cues. It’s very important to communicate clearly and not expect hinting to be good enough even if others think it’s obvious.
As an NT who has been in two long-term relationships with an asperger partner, I think what is being completely overlooked in how aspergers can be detrimental in relationships for NT partners is that the basis of the interactions simply are NOT REAL. Yes, the aspergers partners are great at being compliant with our requests down to a tee which feels good in the beginning, but it isn’t what they really feel. It’s just that they’re great at imitating and avoiding conflict and can maintain that throughout the whole relationship with ease. Eventually, an occasional situation will expose what the asperger partner really feels and this can be shocking to say the least. This undercurrent creates what feels like being actors in a play; dissonance, confusion and what may seem like insanity for the NTs. NTs certainly have their relationship flaws in avoiding conflict and lying but it doesn’t last long because the “emotional” part of them will eventually belie this and at least a conversation addressing this can be had and further potential growth for both partners in the relationship in a truthful way. I know this from personal experience. I tried very hard to be okay with the superficial “pleasantness” but it just wasn’t REAL even though I still loved them for trying! Anything less than that is “playacting.”
For an autistic person, there’s pressure to act normal like using the right facial expression for the right occasion. When people try to correct them, they might develop a habit of suppressing their emotions to hide their facial expressions. Their brains are wired differently. To make their expressions look normal, they have to fake it which may be superficial. I think that’s why they often wear a blank expression.
I think you are often dealing with a person who has been traumatized, Terry. They are play-acting to avoid being hurt again. Like living in on a hostile planet, many AS’s have to figure out how to get by without being blamed. Or hated. Or rejected. The ‘going along’ is a version of:
“Whatever you want, just don’t hurt me.”
I see that also with a lot with NT’s who have been traumatized. They have learned from their past that saying what they actually want or actually feel actually ended up in them getting clobbered. So they are superficially compliant and then do what they can get away with doing; when no one is looking.
I’m not overlooking the impact on NT’s. And there are a number of websites out there that espouse hatred of AS and “pity the poor NT’s who are involved with them.” Even here in the comments, you can read that attitude.
But I wrote an article to say there are good things about these relationships, too.
But being afraid, as you point out, is a big problem, and we’re afraid of what we don’t understand or can’t figure out. If I can’t figure out what I will do that will suddenly make you angry or disappointed and hurt, I’m going to grab onto what you say will make you happy if I love you. I play act if I am trying to get by and keep my head low. But that’s very odd to an NT in love.
And it’s going to be odd for the NT to say: “I know you want me to be happy. That feels great. And I want you to be happy too. It’s not going to happen all the time for either of us. We have to figure out what’s a good trade off. If I’m always happy, but then you are miserable, that’s not going to work for me. Or for you, if you’re doing what you want, but it makes me miserable, that’s not going to work for me either. We have to keep working at it until we figure out a good balance that feels fair to both of us…”
And this takes time and a basic enjoyment in each other’s hobbies and interests. Perhaps these shared interests are even more important in AS/NT blends…
i believe there is a militant mob on the internet working to spread lies and hatred against people with aspergers.
Hello, I am a Aspie. I have never had much luck in asking a girl that I liked out. Was always too concerned about if just asking her out would annoy her or she wouldn’t want to be around me anymore after I did. That gap always seem to wide for me to ask. I wouldn’t mind dating, but I am not in any hurry to do so.
You always risk annoying anyone when you ask anything, but hey, you can always ask. Just accept “No” for an answer, if that’s what she says. You can make it less threatening too by asking to go out in a group, like: “We’re all going to see this group. Did you want to go?” The more people get to know you, and spend time with you, the better. Get your feet wet. It’s good practice. Gottman committed to dating 100 women before he met his wife (luckily it didn’t take that long…)
By the way we both are 28years old. Just i know all as are diferent,just i am scare to be lonely with him,because i read all mean coments about as/nt relationship. But otherwise i feel stupid to be afraid of something that didnt even happend to me….right? P.s i sugested some thing that i have read about improving relatioship like writing notes to each other,but for now he sees it like theraphy…..so i just hope when we will have hard times that he will acept my sugestions on working on it. But otherwise,i am very happy with my AS boyfriend.he listens,cares,calms me,talk with me supports me,pushes me when i am not motivated to do so. He is my best friend. Sometimes i need more expression of feelings from him.byt he does it just diferent with work not just words.he was first who said “i love u” ohhh and he is very handy,he fixs everything at my home or his home,do not need ask:).
What’s there not to like? Will you have problems at some point? YES! Welcome to a relationship with ANYONE!
“I’ve had the good fortune of being in contact with a number of people over the past month who are in intimate relationships with a person with Aspergers Syndrome (AS), a mild form of autism, or themselves have AS.”
But, you have never had a “good fortune” to be in a relationship with someone with Aspergers Syndrome…I have had that “pleasure”…My guy is probably the best possible version on an Aspie. Still, I wish I knew 13 years ago (before having kids) what I know now. I wish I was aware of it and what it is…Because, I would run away as far as I could and I would never look back!!! Life is too short. Too short. Do not fool yourself.
I’m not sure what you mean by “best possible version of an Aspie.” You fell in love 13 years ago and decided to have children with this man. You clearly aren’t happy right now, and you blame your husband’s Aspergers. And perhaps if he realized how you would have responded to him over time, he might have made a different choice too.
Your comment is the equivalence of “I wish I never married you!” which is contempt. Contempt is like throwing acid on love. It puts you above your partner, and clearly, that’s how you feel: superior as an NT.
Marriage is a series of accepting differences, and working with them. We can say ‘stay away from…” this type or that type of person, but it’s ignoring that no one gets to choose ‘perfect humans.’
If I never knew a spouse happily married to someone who is on the spectrum, I’d agree with you. But I do.
I know NT’s who are happily married to their AS’s, and choose to stay happily married.
I know people who wish they knew it was Aspergers years ago because they would have interacted with their spouse differently, and they wouldn’t have taken things so personally. They would have understood, and that understanding would have facilitated their communication. I know AS who wish they weren’t so villainized and made bad for things they had no understanding of. Or AS’s who wish knew they could train to memorize facial expressions in an hour to more accurately read faces and learn the secret non-verbal language that NT’s have known from birth.
If you’re not happily married. You can learn to be. You don’t have to be unhappy and resign yourself to it because of your husband’s Aspergers. But you do need to find someone who can help you to cross-communicate between AS/NT’s.
Don’t fool yourself into believing you have to be miserable because your husband has AS. Life didn’t deal you a bad hand. You have the power to impact and improve your marriage.
And you believing he is somehow the lucky one to have you, while you’re the miserable one to end up with him, is keeping you stuck and unhappy. And contemptuous of the father of your children.
What impact is that having on your kids to see him as so fatally flawed? And are they fatally flawed and will you tell them you wish they were never born if they have AS? Or communicate that to them implicitly?
Imagine if he was telling people publicly he wished he never married you. And never to marry a woman like you, because life is too short…
Great post 🙂 I am woman from Lithuania. and in our country to find stories bad or good about AS and NT relationships is impossible. my short story. I am NT woman, i have boyfriend for a year now whom i know (he wasnt diagnosed) is AS. i am working with autistic children so it took me maybe 3month to figure it out. We are from different cities, and soon i will be mooving in with him to his city. i had break down now i need advise or i dont know what i want. i always was saying to him that mabye he has As he was angry about that, i guess all people will be if thety “have something “. but one week ago, he agreed and told me about his difuculties in his life how he had to push himself to not be alone and go to chat with people, because as he said “being alone was more comfortable for me, but not better” he wanted his life to change and be happy so he pushed himself to work job where he has to comunicate with people, he organize music events for kids in his city. He said he could just be the sound gyu in teh concert but he pushed himslef and everything he doesn alone – comunication that this events for kids would be possible. (i dont know if i make sense). overall, why i am writing here? because i am scare not of WHAT OUR REALATIOSHIP IS NOW” BUT after reading everytghing on the internet and 90 % says run and fast, i got scare ABOUT THE FUTURE WHICH WE WILL HAVE BECAUSE ALL THESE WOMAN WROTE ABOUT NIGHTMARE. but for now – to me is the longest and best relationship i have ever have. at first it was hard to understand that he needs space to be alone- sometimes, but now i want why. its hard was to bel;ieve that he had no girlfriend till i come to his life(of course i was the one who made move, but in my experenxe i am that woman who makes move no matter Nt or asspie it is, i just like sometimes dominate, because i am not shy, comunicative no barries woman). so thats my reasons why i fell in love with him and still i am afraid because sometimes i scare about things that not happend 😀 MY LIST:
1. becauise of him i quit smoking and drinking ( i was kind of a party girl, because all friends has bf, so i drag myself in to the bar 2-3 times a week, drink a lot , sleep with bunch of guys, seeking for realationship or atention, but never getting true love). and i dont miss parties, because now the best party is with him, every weeking with vine and candles and his guitar and chating.
2. i lost weight, becasue he doenst like to sit at home in from of tv, he likes to explore, cities, or go for a long walking, which is new for me, but amazing loving that because walking with him about 2 houirs, holding hands, talking and joking.
3. we both love thearte, we go to it. we both like traveling – we travel alot in out one year relationship. he is the best travel buddy, couse i am bad with maps or finding something, and we make out travel like that – i will pick what i want to see in the country ort city, he finds how wew ill get there and so on. perfect. he loves concert- i like to go too,
4. every morning when i am at his house, he makes me coffe, he always cleans the dirty dishes after eating. i cook he cleans. now we are decorating our home – it was so much fun to go with him in the furniture shops, to find out bed, coffe table and so on. He alwasy tries to involve me in the making desicion thing. like now, we are searching for a lamp in the bedroom, sometimes i said just pick it up, becasue lamps, is boring for me, but he wants me in in so i help him to pick lamp, and he tries to help me pick the decorative pillows on the bed.
5. he always listen to me, and believe me i am that person who can talk monologue for hours, about my job, he get tired, but he listens. (og i got my dream job because of him, he pushed me not to be afraid of triynd something new,
6 we always going when i want to meet my friends or family, he never says no, i do not have many friends, but we comunicate and meet with 2-3 my friend couples 2-3times in a month, because many times we are at his town, where he dont have friends, just work colleges and so on(its small town)but we talked that we need to finde friends, and he said “we will work on that” i believe in him. of course we can always come in my town to visist friends when i will move in with him.
7. we say i love u every day for a year now, he complimenst me- nots so much but its ok.he love holding hands, huging, every morning he hugs me and we wake up each other with smile, and laught. in one year we fight about 4 times. and its becasue missunderstanding that i didnt know about aspergers, because one day i was angry on him, because he was angry that i tell him tiome to time that he is doing something wrong, typical AS – other to blame, but i see and my probl;em, that i can be arogant and do not want to change someting in my. and i asked”if i walk away will u stop me?” he said”No” i have got upset that he wont fight for me because i would do, becasue i am so happy with him. but then he tought and said “i wouldnt stop u, because i wont think our relationship will ever end”
7 (i guess) he comforts me, sais that everything will be ok, because sometimes i am very emotional, and i can get my shit together when it comes to hard times in work i get scare and starting panic, he listes me and gives me advice and calms me.
I am better person because of him, he is my rock, i would like to be his rock to, but he likes to deal in hard time alone, its hard to understand, but even NT people need to deal with problems alone, yes when he have bad day he shuts up and deal it in his own way, i guess u dont have to AS to be like this.
8. we are romantic couple- i get flowers, not so often but i get, he l;ikes candkle light, music wine, and my compmany, i have never had this in my preveus relationship, because we would be in the bar and drinking till pass out.
so my point is, i am happy with him, of course there is something that makes him AS, his shutdowns, he will never ask us to go meet my friends, but i do that and he goes, so whats the different, but he offers me to go for a walk, or concert, travel somewehere, or now he is working on my dream (and also its for him a lil but) i want to have dance class to teach dancing. now he is searching a place for that, he believe in me more than i do. he saing that this place will be for both of us. i could teach dance he can make his concerts and events for children. his eye contact with is me is perfect, we like in the morning to stare at eatch other eyes with a amsile – magic 🙂 oh aboyt sex? i am so happy with it, becasue i am very non sex person, in other relationship i was struguling and didnt need that much sex as i partners, and now the “want sex” level is i can say the same, i dont feel presure,. i dominate at sex but its fine, as i said i like to be dominated sometimes. we both want kids, a ot, but i keep teling him about sperm donor, couse i dont wanna my kids be on spectrum, and get throug what he did, and mabye be alone in their life, he is not happy with this sugestion. mabye now. because now iots just one week, when we openly talked about AS, and mabye he will change, or mabye our kids wont be in spectrum. i dont know i ma scare of that. but my point is…..that i am pretty happy with my life with him, its better than ever. but after reading that they do nopt show love and u feel alone, i am afraid that after moving in he stops doing what he is doing for me and i will be in nightmare. what guys do u think reading my story? i know just few thing i love him very much, i cannot live without him, and i am better person with him, and my life is better and i am having alot of fun with him:) sorry for mistakes, writting early in the morning, and english is my second language
So this is your story of love. It is a great story. The AS/NT is only a subtext, and a small one at that.
There will be adjustments in living together. You will have to negotiate alone time and “us” time. You can ask him to find someone who does “neurofeedback” and you may find that AS is more flexible in many of the troubling symptoms that once thought.
And your English is much better than my Lithuanian… No worries!
I am glad you are in love, and I encourage you to enjoy this bonding time together. It won’t always be like this, perhaps. But this time will help you to weather the rougher times.
These last comments are interesting and timely for me. I wrote a message here about a year ago because I was gathering information about the Aspie I was dating and all I could find was negativity and hate for AS partners, it was so distressing. But I pushed on and we are dating still, over two years now. And oh how I can relate to what everyone is saying!
I totally understand why NT people will say Aspies don’t have empathy because I have experienced this in my own relationship. But it just isn’t a true statement. My AS partner does not always read my signals, but he has more empathy that a lot of NT I’ve met, he just expresses it differently.
Sometimes I get tired of asking what I need, pointing out that I’m too tired to hear about the weather, reminding him it’s been a week since we were intimate or that I want him to hold my hand. But read that sentence again…poor me, I think…yeah, i need to ask for some things, but when I do I get them! And they are noted and filed away for future information. He wants to please me. He also doesn’t lie, treats me with a special code of respect, sees me for exactly who I am, admires all parts of me, and supports everything I want to do. He is not always kind or attentive, no, but he also accepts when I point this out.
When I find myself feeling “poor me” about what I think I’m not getting I just try to remember that my previous NT relationships were not that different. Yeah, they said “I love you” all the time, but my ex husband still left me emotionally but stayed physically for many many years. My Aspie doesn’t say I love you yet, it hasn’t worked well for him in the past, but he shows me his love all the time. And I know he does. It takes maturity and self knowledge to know I don’t have to hear it from someone else to feel it myself. And, I do hope to hear it one day because I know he will mean it.
Yes, my AS partner isn’t the most physically demonstrative person in public, but I get that in private. Why do I need all of that PDA anyway? I don’t. It’s only to make me feel better about something I should already feel good about. Again and again, by understanding my partner, I just see myself more clearly. Some things I need, no questions or doubts, but mostly I realize I keep looking outside myself for something that I will never find. Maybe briefly, but it will always end.
And you want to hear something both amazing and sad? It took two years to get to the gooey center of this man. He has been criticized, misunderstood and treated unkindly (by some) for so long, it took that long for him to just get comfortable with me! And I never do this to him, ever. I told myself from the beginning, knowing right away he was someone to try and understand better (and thankfully finding out about the AS), that if I couldn’t accept him as he was, I needed to move on. But this doesn’t mean I don’t set boundaries or even get mad, I am just careful to keep it where it needs to be. He is horrible with time. Always always late, just gets lost in it, so I have to set limits around it. And every time so far that I have come to him and said, “Yeah, this isn’t working so well” he has met me and made changes. He has tried and that is more than I can say for other NT relationships.
I don’t know if we will stay together. Sometimes I do feel I am working really hard, but I think that is on me. We haven’t made any promises to each other but if we did I think I would have to ask for certain things/considerations. But truly, if we aren’t doing well or I am feeling disconnected and depressed, all I have to do is ask or to show him how I like to be loved and shown love and he would do his best. And maybe some day I will figure out I need something different, but it won’t be because he doesn’t have empathy or is unlovable. Not at all.
I hope this makes sense, but we NT women have got to realize we are trying to get certain men to live up to a culture and expectations that are unrealistic for any man. Yes, there is a level of connection that you may not achieve with an Aspie partner, I understand that fully, and that may be very important to you. I’ve had that with NT men so I know what is missing. But…my AS partner and I are intimate and connected in other ways, ways I could have never dreamed of before, so different yes, but no less important, at least to me. I am grateful for every day we have had together with no strings on how long that will be.
I couldn’t agree more.
Agreeing to something after having it explained isn’t empathy. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but it isn’t empathy. And empathy is the foundation to relationships and intimacy.
Comparing expressing love for someone to the “duty” of lining up cereal boxes a certain way makes my heart hurt.
“‘Tell me you love me.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because I like to hear it…’ ‘Why? I already told you, so why do you need for me to keep saying it?’ ‘Because when you tell me you love me, I feel warm inside, and I like that feeling. I want to have it over and over. Tell me every day. I want to hear it from you once a day…’ And perhaps he will think you a bit weird, but he can learn to tell you once a day, whether he understands why or not.”
It doesn’t give me warm, tingly feelings when I have to explain why I want to be told “I love you.” That’s not an unsolicited, unprompted expression of love, but a “weird” duty they have to do because the crazy, over-sensitive NT wants it. That’s not a loving or fulfilling relationship for a neurotypical. Or at least most neurotypicals anyway.
“And they are unlikely to say ‘No offense,’ because it is probably difficult for them to imagine that anyone would be upset about whatever it was that you might get offended about. That would require putting themselves in your situation, and seeing out of your eyes…which is something they CAN NOT DO.”
Isn’t empathy the ability to be able to understand others by putting themselves in someone else’s situation? That lack of being able to put themselves in our shoes and see from our eyes is the main problem of being with someone with Asperger’s. Sure, they may be fun friends while bowling, but that doesn’t negate the fact that their lack of empathy is most damaging to the relationship.
Empathy can be expressed when someone understands what another person is going through. Why they need WHAT they need.
I have plenty of couples on my couch every day who have no “empathy” for their partner. They can’t see the world through their partner’s eyes. But when their spouse opens up and talks about themselves, they begin to. They can say: “I can see you point of view.”
Aspies may say: “I can understand your point of view.” Even if their cognition gets “sticky.”
It may be hard for me to put myself in your shoes, if I’ve never experienced anything like what you’re going through. I’ve never been one of several wives, for example. But it’s possible if you talk to me about that experience. I may not agree that I would feel that way, or want that life, if the roles were reversed, but that doesn’t mean I have no empathy. It means you need to take the time to explain to me, in a way I can understand.
Couples have all sorts of weird “duties,” Megan. But their duties are done with love and devotion. And I doubt that any Aspie that has reached adulthood is surprised by the fact that an NT wants the AS to do something “automatically” that doesn’t come naturally to them.
And in a loving couple, that “duty” is returned by putting the cups in a certain way, or turning the cereal boxes with the labels out. These are acts of love. You can call them “duties,” and in many cases you’d be right. The attitude is what counts.
I can learn. I can have someone tell me about their life, and while I may not agree with them, if I love them and trust them, I want to understand.
“That’s not a loving or fulfilling relationship for a neurotypical. Or at least most neurotypicals anyway.” And given the percentages, most neurotypicals never have to…
I don’t think Brianna is mean as such, but she does have an agenda that’s somewhat vengeful and misplaced. Her blog is based on what she reads on a forum for women like her, who all feel they have suffered greatly as a result of being in a relationship with a man with aspergers. This is really the whole point of that forum – to provide a place where they can be amongst others who have suffered the same as them, and say all the worst things about their partners and exes without holding back like they would have to elsewhere.
While the need for such a place is more than understandable, it’s really unfortunate that it’s lead to some of them such as Brianna coming to the conclusion that all AS/NT relationships work out as badly as theirs did. This is pretty much what happens to people when they are surrounded by a consensus of agreement – they start to believe it as the absolute truth. To them, all NT women they know of in such a relationship unanimously agree that it is a disaster, because pretty much all those women are on that forum.
However Brianna does not seem to be aware that the consensus on that forum is something they have themselves engineered. People are attracted to a groups where they feel they can relate to others. Those who have more positive experiences do not go there, or else leave very quickly or are asked to leave. Some are even banned if they attempt to give an opposing point of view.
It’s also worth noting that most of their partners are undiagnosed. Even assuming that they all do genuinely have aspergers, it is usually the relationship issues themselves that lead their partner to that conclusion. So once again this is a self-selecting sample, since without significant relationship issues such a diagnosis is far less likely to happen. The aspie will just continue to be thought of as neurotypical, though perhaps one who’s a bit quirky. This also goes for relationships you see in your everyday life. If you assume that all AS relationships are disasters, you will also assume that any healthy ones you know of cannot be AS ones (and if the AS person does in fact know of their condition, why would they necessarily tell you unless you are a close friend).
I understand the desire to try to get word out there and try to protect others from going through the same misery as oneself. However what’s really going to be the result of such an effort? If successful all it’s going to do is make aspergers into more of a stigma. Parents will be less keen to diagnose their AS child, perhaps denying them the help that could have made a world of difference to them and their future relationships. Aspergers adults will be discouraged from seeking a diagnosis or confiding their condition in others.
Whats more, even if every accusation made on that forum were fair and true, they are almost entirely describing people who never knew or understood their condition. If aspergers is NOT stigmatised too much, and more children continue to be diagnosed young, they will have a much better chance than prior generations at overcoming difficulties and developing healthy relationships. Parents of AS children should have the chance to teach them social awareness and give them a better chance to find happiness, and to make someone else happy. For this, neurological differences need to be embraced and understood, not shunned!
Empathy IS a requirement, Brianna.
What I’ve said over and over is that AS DO have empathy. They just do not have it like NT’s have it. It requires more of NT’s to help the Aspie KNOW what they are thinking and feeling. They can’t read it on your face.
I still believe it is cruel to say that AS’s have no empathy. You said it again. That’s what I’m pointing out to you, and from your response, it seems clear that you aren’t accepting that as a possibility, or your own responsibility for repeatedly saying it over and over in a public forum.
My goodness, you’ve even directed people to a website to promote these views, and even your email address is a hateful attack on aspies.
Your mind is made up. YOU have an agenda.
And you are right. I, too, have a therapeutic agenda: It is to stop the sort of distorted views of human beings with Aspergers that you are firmly entrenched in promoting… views that are all too popular in the general public.
The view that AS have no empathy is wrong. It is inhumane.
And, in the face of different information, if you continue to insist they are right, then yes, I think you’re acting in a cruel way, just like any other -ism like racism or sexism.
Especially if you’ve since had a chance to learn about Asperger’s and you’re still writing like a person who is totally ignorant of the topic.
I left out an important point, one that you assumed: My ex did not disclose his diagnosis to me. He purposefully hid it. I related to him as if he were the NT he was trying to pretend to be. In that context, there was no way to understand his behavior. I finally found out from his mother. I knew nothing about Asperger Syndrome. Even so, I believe that empathy is a requirement for real emotional connection. Without empathy — an awareness of someone else’s thoughts and feelings, mutual understanding, caring, and expression of that care — there can be no real connection. It’s depressing to feel your own lack of empathy for what I experienced, and to be told instead that I’m insensitive and cruel. If the way I feel is “all too common,” perhaps there’s something important that you’re missing. I certainly hope you’re not a therapist. You are obviously unable to do anything but try to shame NT partners into feeling their normal human emotional needs are somehow selfish, and to blame them for the problems as you did here with me: “Truly you didn’t have the knowledge, set limits, etc…” Maybe others will fall for your agenda, but I’m not one of them.
I dated a man with diagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome for two years, and ended up emotionally exhausted, exasperated and depressed. Though it was of course not his fault, he simply could not connect emotionally. My normal needs for emotional intimacy, connection and support went unmet. The relationship was all about meeting HIS needs and understanding HIM and giving up my needs and my expectations of a relationship being about mutual connection. What was left was riding bikes together, going to the movies and having really bad sex—he had zero passion and was like a machine. Had no clue how to seduce a woman or engage in foreplay; it was simply about physical relief for him.
I finally came to my senses and realized that I was giving up more and more of myself and my normal emotional needs for love and support and for being known and understood. I was giving up everything that makes for a fulfilling relationship, and receiving nothing in return except criticism and invalidation and long-winded, boring lectures on economics. I’m still recovering more than a year later. Many, many women who’ve been involved with Aspergers say they became deeply unhappy and depressed, which isn’t surprising when you consider the emotional deprivation. It’s ongoing and relentless.
I have nothing against my ex. I realize he had a disability. But it’s craziness to be expected to give up your normal human emotional needs; in fact it’s not even possible, and if you try it will only end badly for you. Being “excellent fun friends” is not a substitute for a mutually fulfilling adult relationship. And their “honesty” hurts; it stems from their lack of a “social filter.” There’s a saying: “honesty without kindness is cruelty,” and that couldn’t be more true.
I have to say, there’s a meanness to your comment. I can’t quite put my finger on it, except to say many people really want to truly understand the various ways people show love. And it doesn’t seem like you had the slightest bit of interest in learning about AS, as your comment demonstrates.
To imply somehow that it’s not possible for a NT to have their “normal human needs” met by an AS, is ridiculous on the face of it. To say that it’s “in fact it’s not even possible” is not only wrong, but it dehumanizes people with AS. Maybe for you, this particular relationship wasn’t working. Fine. You left it. And I agree that many women involved with men with AS become deeply unhappy and depressed. However, that’s not the entire story.
My article is trying to suggest something different. It’s saying that people who are in love, truly in love with someone with AS have to learn new skills. They have to figure out something about how to express emotional needs more concretely. They have to learn to set limits and say: “You’ve been talking about X for 30 minutes. Now it is my turn to tell you something about my interests, and I want you to listen to me, and care about it, because I care about this topic.” It has nothing to do with being “genuine” or “fake.” It has to do with exchanging with each other information about things we care about. If you don’t have a nature interest in what your partner is saying, it is because you are a different person. Not ever NT/NT is totally fascinated by what the other cares about. That’s not the point. If you care about that person, you can and should learn that it is your job to figure out how to show attention and patience. And learn enough to indicate that you’re listening. It’s not a conversation that you have NT to NT. But it is a conversation you have with an AS.
I’m clear that this conversation never happened between the two of you. If you’re like most NT women, you didn’t believe it was your job to do anything other than “be” and expected your AS boyfriend to act “normally.” No one asked you to give up your needs. But if you really love an AS, you have to EXPRESS your needs in clear and concrete terms. If he loves you back, and is intelligent, he will try to figure out what the heck you are talking about, but don’t expect it without a conversation. “Tell me you love me.” “Why?” “Because I like to hear it…” “Why? I already told you, so why do you need for me to keep saying it?” “Because when you tell me you love me, I feel warm inside, and I like that feeling. I want to have it over and over. Tell me every day. I want to hear it from you once a day…” And perhaps he will think you a bit weird, but he can learn to tell you once a day, whether he understands why or not.
It is wrong to say that all people with AS cannot connect emotionally. It’s wrong to say, and it’s cruel, because it’s a myth that all too many people believe. AS folks have limitations. These limitations can be assisted in an AS/NT marriage. They speak different languages of love, and they need a common baseline of understanding. Relationships ARE about mutual connection. And with an AS/NT marriage, it is about the NT KNOWING what they want that helps them to feel connected. If that’s expecting the AS to just “know” when you’re feeling sad, or lonely, or disconnected, you are going to be disappointed. If you take every frank statement as a criticism or invalidation, you’re going to have hurt feelings. And if you don’t tell your AS partner things, they won’t know any better, as in: “Don’t tell me I look fat ever again, even if you think it. That’s not appropriate to say to a person, unless they ask you specifically. And if they don’t know you have AS, tell them you don’t know what they mean by “fat” and change the subject…”
Some AS, like some NT’s are pretty unskilled lovers. Really skilled lovers can help them get better. And really, you complain about your AS lover not knowing how to seduce you? OMIGOD. That’s like mocking the blind for not being able to read a non-braille book.
Exactly what made you think that was a reasonable expectation of him?
On the other hand, some AS I know have a few drinks and they’re all about being flattering and flirtatious. They have a very hot sexual life with their NT wives. The kind of sex, according to their NT wives, that they’ve never had with other men.
No one is telling you that you should have stayed with that guy. Truly you didn’t click with him, or have the knowledge or interest to set limits, say what you wanted, guide the conversation to be more equal, or to be blunt and patient and kind about what you wanted in bed. But to suggest that somehow your own limitations with that particular relationship should condemn all NT/AS relationships is “crazy.”
It’s depressing to read the contempt in your words and your absolute certainty that every NT women in love with an AS man will end up the same way that you did.
It’s wrong. It’s terribly cruel. And it’s insensitive…and all too common.
Goodness gracious. What seemed to be the simplest list on the internet for positive traits of AS persons turned out to be the longest reading I did all day. This comment section, whoa!
First, I have to say that this was the first piece I found on AS that made me laugh. I laughed out lot several times when I read the different points. It was the first piece that made me feel positive and hopeful about my NT experiences so far with a (strongly suspected) AS guy. Laughing about the good traits, generalized so be it, flooded me with NT feelings of joy and reminded me only of all the funny and sweet times my AS partner has been responsible for.
Not to diminish some of the critiques from NT and AS readers, for I can relate to some of those comments as well, but I mainly want to express how much weight this site has lifted from my mind and the anxiety it has begun to induce in me. The last question so far that was left by Laura is the exact same question I have now, and information on how to communicate AS and encourage a possible diagnosis to an undiagnosed AS person would be a great addition to this comment thread/forum.
I was hoping someone would see the humor…Thanks Jenn!
First off, my experiences are just that: My clinical experience. And I’ve heard of two opposite reactions that have changed the way I’ve approached telling someone I think they have AS (or the opposite just recently, that I didn’t think they did!).
A. Total “ho hum” by the Aspie. Melt-down by the NT.
This reaction began to change the way I talked about my diagnosis to Aspies. I used to be full of fear and trepidation to give such news. Now I first have an individual meeting with the Aspie, and then the partner (I’m a couples therapist, so both are available). If I believe the person has AS, I tell them in the feedback session. I will often say: “Have you ever thought that you have Aspergers? At this point, it is a defunct diagnosis, but I still find it helpful to describe a set of behaviors and ways of processing information. I think you might have it, and here’s why…” Then I explain why it is important that people know it is AS, rather than Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or “self-absorbed” or other negative labels…
I’ve also commonly recommended Neurofeedback to those with AS, if they have problems regulating their affect.
B. Denial. I’ve never really seen this, to be honest, but heard about it. If I faced it, I’d emphasize that the label isn’t as important as identifying what I see as a different way of neurologically processing. I ask about autism in the family. If that’s present, I mention that it does run in the family. Then I drop it.
To be honest, I’m more invested in the NT accepting it, because I often see the AS being blandly interested, and seldom follow-up with their own research, but the NTs usually research thoroughly.
Hope that helps.
I agree that therapy that primary objective should b to Foster acceptance between interneurotypical people who are in a romantic relationship. If you Google Asperger’s connectome,then look under images…there’s one where it has three connections side by side,…a NT, an Asperger’s,and a psychopath. Look at the NT;then consider which one of the other two connectome it closely resembles;….it more closely resembles the psychopathic connectome.
Since NT are the majority of the human pop;and we are having communication and understanding difficulty with minority neurotypes;we are labeling and diagnosing them,from our perspective,as having a disorder,deficiency,syndrome,etc; instead of considering that it may be us,who have certain deficiencies and disorders.Or, that there exist several languages of communication:one for each neurotypes brain connectome pattern; where we NT’s have only developed skills for mastering one:NT language.
We say that Asperger’s can’t read facial expressions; yet we describe their facial expressions as blank. Maybe our perception-based on our brains neuroconnectivity; interpret their faces as blank…..the same way an as person’s brain neuroconnectivity causes them to perceive NT faces as blank,or,unreadable?Consider that maybe the neurotypical brains of BOTH, cannot read EACH OTHERS facial expressions….same goes for nonverbal communication….verbal communication….behaviours,stimuli.
For example,the idea that as senses bcome easily overstimulated where the as person needs time alone to decompress….What if, it is the majority NT population who’s senses are blunted and therefore don’t experience overstimulation in our everyday experiences?
Jenn – I don’t know if you get notifications when someone responds to a post. I just wanted to reach out and say hi because it seems like we are in the same boat. I am working on an email to my AS partner since that is his preferred method of communication. I haven’t hit send yet…but one of the things I have acknowledged to him in my message is that I am aware that any diagnosis he may receive would probably mean more to me than to him. But if he is willing to read into it simply for the chance to gain some insight into my POV, it would mean the world to me. I wish you the best of luck!!!
Do you have any advice on how to suggest to someone that they look into the possibility that they are on the spectrum? And/Or any good source materials on sex and the AS/NT relationship?
I can’t tell you how happy I am to have found this and other articles. I am really enjoying the comments on this one though and all the different perspectives. I met my current bf online over 4 years ago. There was something about him that was so unique and different. He was passionate about so many things, super intelligent, technologically focused, but with an artistic mind, played piano, guitar, and was always really interested in taking on new projects. But he was also so odd in a good way haha. Emotionally clueless at times which at first I thought was so endearing and kind of adorable. But in the back of my mind, I suspected that I might get frustrated with it. When we first started dating, I was separated but not divorced. He didn’t want to tell people we were dating. It felt weird to him to say he was dating someone who was still technically married even though I was the one who initiated the divorce. I thought our relationship might be over for good because he was getting overwhelmed, I think keeping the secret was too much for him. We reconciled months later and things were GREAT. He even told me he loved me! And then, very recently, little things crept up. His sex drive nose-dived, he started withdrawing more often, he would cancel plans with me because he wanted to be alone. I tried to convince him that he was clinically depressed. I took everything personally. Sometimes I would tell him I loved him and he would only stare back at me. I started badgering him about the sex which only turned him off more. I used to joke with mutual friends that he was on the autism spectrum. But about a month ago, my insecurities crept up, and, like the couple who have a baby just to save their marriage, I suggested we talk about moving in together to save our relationship. I think I could hear his head exploding. He withdrew from me completely for weeks. I thought it was over. I had resigned myself to it. But when I emailed him and messaged him about just being friends, he said he didn’t know what he wanted and that he couldn’t think logically. All my friends said, relationships aren’t always logical! He’s being controlling! He is selfish! But I thought, no. No way. He might be, but he isn’t being that way to be mean or spiteful. So I talked to him and he said he wanted to work it out. But he didn’t want to get married or move in together until we worked things out consistently for a while. He said he couldn’t break up with me. If I wanted out, I would have to dump him. But I just couldn’t, because I love him. He said, “I think I love you too, but I don’t know what love is”. He has told me before that he loves me – I asked, why would he say that if that’s how he feels about love? He said, because that’s what you wanted to hear. I was taken aback, but I retained my composure. Nevertheless, we agreed to disagree about the word love. He thinks it’s something that humans created. It’s illogical to him. He is right, to an extent. To him, cuddling and showing affection is enough. Why does he have to say it? I didn’t get it at the time (at the time, being yesterday…haha) But for all his talk of being logical and practical, I started researching Aspergers today. And HOLY FREAKING CRAP! He is TEXTBOOK! I messaged him tonight and said, “I may have overreacted yesterday about the love thing. I think I understand where you’re coming from now and you’re right. Even though you don’t think it’s anything special, it is what I wanted to hear and I still do. And I appreciate that you recognized that.” I think I may be able to make this work, because I do love him and I think he’s an amazing person. There are some aspects of the spectrum that I think he is pretty mild on. I think he maintains eye contact pretty well and he is super affectionate mostly when we’re alone. But he hits so many of the other traits on the list, it’s crazy. Now, I just want to find an article about the best way to tell someone with Aspergers, that they have Aspergers…haha. That and the sex thing. I think I need to stop pushing him because it only makes him overwhelmed. And yesterday he did say he would try to put himself in my shoes sometimes, but he noted that sometimes he has a hard enough time putting himself in his own shoes. Thank you for this year old article. It may have saved my sanity and my relationship. And if it doesn’t, at least I’m not reading this too late to have tried to make it work. Thank you again to you and all the commentators here. It’s so great to see I’m not alone.
Glad it helped. It all can be very confusing for a neurotypical!
This was really helpful to read. I have a friend that I believe has Asp. He has anxiety already… but his behavior at times fits for an aspie. It been tough. As an NT, I can be very sensitive emotionally. And I always assumed how a person acted showed how much they cared. Things went down hill when he would never follow through with promises or his word. This was bad when it came to having plans. He would either show up late, or sometimes not at all, and wouldn’t call or anything. (This is a personal peeve of mine, as i think it shows Lac of consideration for another person. I told him this after it was turning into a habit) Then, I was going through a rough time a while ago, and he actually picked up on this and made plans to hangout and try to cheer me up. Well, when the time came, he decided to go hangout with work friends after work instead…and just kept me waiting. For hours. Didn’t even try to get a hold of me to tell me. When I finally heard from him, I was too upset and pissed off that I couldnt even address it. I let him know I was very upset but I had to sleep so I couldnt talk about it then. When I Tried the next day to explain myself, he barely listened. Kept trying to change the subject and cracking jokes. The fact that he didn’t seem to care enough to allow me to speak, set me off again and I had it at that point and he got screamed at. That moment was my breaking point. Before then our friendship was mostly all about him. His likes, his hobbies. For hours he would talk and talk and I tried to engage him in return. Which was fine. But the second I tried to talk about anything I liked, or whatever, he would tune me out. Or interrupt me, and talk over me saying something unrelated entirely. That in turn would change the subject back to him. I found out someone who does this is a conversation narcissist. I felt like I was being talked at. Not talked to. It sadly, got to a point where we just stopped being friends all together. I guess I was being emotionally abusive by how I got upset. I didn’t know he could be an aspie, and so.. I was reading him all wrong. He would get so frustrated with me being emotional and didn’t understand why I couldn’t just let things go without addressing the problem. Mainly he just wanted to avoid conflict all together and expected me to let it go. If anything does bother him. Or he gets stressed out or depressed, he will pretty much shut everyone out and stay in his own world. Problems are just something he can’t hand well it seems.
I’m happy to say that we are friends again.. and I have taught myself not to get too emotionally attached to his behavior. I knew our friendship would never be an even two way street. Even though I have told him flat out what things he did that hurt my feelings, (Like being so self focused and not listening when I talked), he will forget and not change the behavior. At times he seems to understand and will make an effort, but our friendship is still mostly all about him. It is lonely. And it very hard not to take it personal. Because I’ve been lied to and cheated on to many times. I stopped believing in what people say but instead I watch how they act. Their actions showed me the words they spoke we’re true. With an Aspie this seems so different. I still love him and care for him. The last thing i want to be is emotionally abusive to him. Reading this helps me understand it so much better. It’s a challenge for me to be more direct in what I want from him. I’m modest and never want to impose or force myself on others, but he is different and so I have to change my approach. It has been going a lot better now that I’ve kind of figured him out. We haven’t had a disagreement in months and get a long a lot easier.
I do have a question though, if its alright. Its something I’ve noticed that he does that has always amused me. He would be sweet and buy me a gift or present out of the blue once and while. But the gifts have always been things he happens to like. I’m touched that he acted with kindness and thought of me, but I was always amused by what the presents were. A book he loved. Or a game / movie he really liked. To many I think they would view this as self absorbed and not being able to see the other person. He even once told me he saw this thing I would LOVE! I then asked him why he thought I would love it. And he was stumped and actually said.. “I don’t know” I mostly just starting seeing this as him wanting to share the things he liked with me..and that made him happy. Is this normal for an aspie?
A really great example, Puzzled Lady, of how NT’s can really misunderstand and be really negatively impacted by an Aspie. It also illustrates how, once you understand, instead of being hurt, you recognize that this is a cognitive limitation, not an intentional slight.
Your story also shows that, yes, “Why do you think I would like it?” is a confusing question. The only real answer might be: “Become I do!”
This really helped me feel more positive about myself and my history.
To Robert, you sound a really lovely, sensitive guy. I’m sure you will meet someone special. Just be open to being in a relationship even if it’s a scary thought. I’m involved with an aspie who sadly keeps me at arms length. I wish he would let me get close to him….maybe one day he will. Good luck with finding a lovely lady Robert x
I think it is great to see positive traits of Aspies posted online, even if they are broad generalizations, as no one is shy about putting up a list such as this of negative traits.
I have been reading about Aspergers for the last couple years and have come to strongly suspect that I am an undiagnosed Aspie. I am a 39 year old female. This syndrome explains so much about me. I get sensory overload by things like fluorescent lights, the sounds of electrical appliances, crowded rooms, etc. I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell.
I become easily overwhelmed and shut down when people are making demands on me, at which point my husband tends to accuse me of being passive aggressive. I am sometimes averse to sex because it is just so messy and invasive. These two issues have caused a lot of problems in my marriage, and then to top it off I found out that my husband of 11 years has a pornography addiction he had hidden from me. He also criticizes me for my poor time management skills.
Our 8 year old son is seeing a child psychologist to be evaluated for autism spectrum next week. He is hyperactive, incredibly intelligent, and talks nonstop about video games.
My family laughs at me for thinking I am an Aspie but from everything I have read it makes perfect sense to me.
A lot of people have commented (regarding your article) about lying. In my life I mostly have lied to avoid conflict. (And I’m not very good at it.) I have been criticized so much in my life and I have tried so hard to be what everyone wanted me to be until I was just so mad at everyone because it feels like the harder I try the worse it gets.
Often it has felt like people misunderstand the things I say on purpose so that they can have the fun of being offended or spreading rumors about me. I don’t trust a lot of people anymore.
I don’t mean to sound so bitter, I have felt a lot better about myself after what I have read about AS. Now I spend more time happily nerding out and don’t worry so much about whether or not I will ever fit in the community.
I am troubled by my marital issues though, because my husband was the first man I dated who didn’t seem to be an addict or abuser of some type, and it has been devastating to me to find out that he hid his porn addiction from me for so long. Looking back, I can see how gullible I was, and how many excuses I was making for him. Ugh!
I really like what you have to say, Nadia. It was really my goal to make Aspies just simply humans with positive, and vulnerabilities like the rest of us. Thanks for sharing that with us.
This article is clueless drivel, and is hurtful to myself as an aspies.
Everything about this is offensive from the picture of a robotic guy, to the inferences we have no empathy, to the pigeon-holing of how people with aspies behave and operate.
You obviously have little real learning of the incredible diversity of which aspies types come in, or of the actual syndrome as it affects us on the capacity of intimate relationships, so you should just leave us alone, really,
Wow. So I guess you didn’t identify with the article. Women, especially, don’t fit a clear, recognizable pattern, so if you yourself don’t see yourself reflected in it, it’s understandable. As I said, every Aspie is different.
I was flattered to find that most folks on one site devoted to AS actually agreed with the majority of my points (although there was an active debate about two issues that my readers did tease out in their great comments: truthfulness & faithfulness. I am grateful to those who contributed for spending the time to share. Hope you took the time to read them. Quite good.
But as I said in the first part, it is a generalization, and it’s not going to hold true for everyone. It wasn’t meant to hurt or offend. I’m sorry that it had that affect on you, Kristian. For the record, I did try to outline that the empathy piece is a real misunderstanding that NT’s have, not a fact I was confirming. I do appreciate the diversity, and see AS/NT couples often in my practice. Yes, they are diverse, and the misunderstanding between how NT’s read AS’s and what AS partners really intend is painful to watch.
Thanks for chiming in.
As far as generalizations go, these aren’t bad. I can see this article being very helpful for NT people who are new to any and all things Asperger’s. Thank you for this.
Valuable perspective. I do wonder if this is related to executive function challenges? It would seem most would end a marriage such as this but his inability to change and inability to plan has resulted in frustration. It would seem integrity such as honesty isn’t lost on him but knowing his actions are inconsistent with his desire causes a great deal of frustrations. It is so sad to witness. He sums it up as life is hard and drifts along. He is intriguing because he has figured out other areas of life as he is ivy educated and successful professional. Interesting for sure.
I believe that is right on. “Sins of Omission” is sort of a common lie people try to disguise.
My short-hand is to ask yourself: “Is this something my partner would be interested in knowing?”
Clearly, if he’s having an affair, the answer he wife would give is “yes” in all likelihood. It is the sort of technical thinking that is common.
I have been in an affair with a married and diagnosed aspie for over a year. He and his spouse tried living apart together because of fighting and he went looking for companionship due to loneliness. I have no idea about her except she doesn’t use his last name and they are together often but not sexually. Twenty four years. He says he can’t lie and is rather proud of that. I asked if his wife knows about me. His response is no. It has never come up. Deceit is not viewed as a lie.
I find this article to be quite silly and basically generalizes a good part of the population regardless of Aspergers. My husband, in lieu of an apology, regularly begins lying, regardless of how ridiculous he sounds. He often tells the exact same lies that the rest of us tell, for the same reasons; to make ourselves look better to others, to avoid trouble in a relationship, to keep waters smooth with others and/or to avoid fault or blame.
I find that my high functioning autistic husband has no idea why I would want alone time, ever. He was raised in boarding school in France and has no idea what privacy means and as such has no need of it, and makes no bones about his disdain of my need for occasional personal space. It is true that if he is emotionally exhausted that he’ll retreat and I get alone time, but thats not really the same thing. My need for alone time, unfortunately doesn’t always coincide with his emotional schedule.
And yes, they do make fun friends, but realize that your other friends will be far more important to you in this relationship than they might be otherwise. When you don’t have a partner to discuss ALL of your other interests or daily life with, your friends will become a lifeline.
My husband is lovely with an extraordinary mind and many wonderful traits , and I understand this article was a generalization, but it sends a fluffy and somewhat untrue message to those really contemplating an Aspie/NT marriage. A marriage between an Aspie and a NT is a really challenging prospect and you will find they, just like the rest of us, are capable of hidden motivations, especially when it has proved effective in the past.
Ya, it sure looks like his brain functions just like yours does. I’ve studied neuropsychology for years, and I can tell you that it’s very hard stepping away from how one sees the world and envisioning a different perspective than one’s own.
I do hope you’ll read the many comments that people have written here. I think you’ll understand that not everything can be said in a short article. But your comment highlights just how complicated marriage to an Aspie really is. It can be lonely unless you truly understand the complexity of the difference in the thought processing.
I don’t wish to trivialize these differences. Only to counteract the message that your comment emphasizes, which is that despite the drawbacks, there ARE good reasons to love an Aspie.
Thanks for writing, Jennifer.
DogwoodTree said it all. Brilliant words.
I try to love people for who they are. After all, if I had the need to change them, I would not be trying to love them, but instead, somebody that I have created and does not exist (and I personally think that’s very silly). I try to love people for their many qualities and many flaws. Love the person but also love the essence, that’s the key. Once you have love in your heart, little else matters. You will almost never hear me say “oh, please change this about you, change that about you, this bothers me, that bothers me”. I simply don’t do that. I will do my best to accept you for who you are. If you wanna be like that too, read stuff about existentialism, especially Nietzsche, Sartre, Foucault*. Psychoanalisis is also good to help you understand, although it can be used for the purposes of deception, and I hate that.
I am 23 years old guy and I’m also an Aspie and I took a psychology major here in Brazil for four years, which helped me grow so much, and nowadays I am a lot better at understanding people, most of the time I’m better than my therapist, because I can analyze almost everything about them, and connect that data with a lot of situations from their past, coming up with an answer. So I’ve become quite good at that. So good that a lot of my psychology colleages feel threatned (in a good way) by me.
Ever since I was little, I’ve always created scenes with people in my head, in a lot of different settings, so I would analyze what they’re doing, and what I should do/say/facial expressions/body language/their reactions/my reactions/the setting, etc. Literally, hundreds of thousands of hours spent doing that. I was obsessed with that for many years.
First off though, Aspies are people, so they can either be good or bad. That being said, though, I think that all of us (particularly us Aspies) are really good at heart. But society can corrupt us. After several years of severe bullying, depreciative name calling and being constantly told that you are cold/dumb/aloof/dead weight/antisocial/silly etc., who doesn’t bend? You NTs, have you ever put yourselves in our shoes? I guess not. (And I’m not trying to justify the bad behaviors of some of us, I am just saying, try to see it a little from our perspective).
I HATE lying/cheating. So, whenever I do so, trust me, I have a list of very good reasons (in my opinion) to do it. I’m a very honest/caring person, although I can be often perceived as an extremelly cold guy (maybe because I’m very logical and can’t empathize in a lot of situations).
My entire life has been a struggle to make people happy and to not bother them in any way (that’s what my mom taught me). So I’ve always tried to be very helpful and kind. I have spent time (23 years) and a lot money doing that. But what did I get in return? Nothing at all. So, lately, I’m beginning to realise that people aren’t prepared for kindness where I live, and so I’ll just do whatever suits my needs and makes ME comfortable, until I find someone worth my kindness and worth receiving the good I have to give. That doesn’t mean being a jerk, though. It means that I will put my needs first, if they don’t harm anyone else that I love.
I CANNOT take chitchat/small talk. You will never find me talking about other people. I don’t “trash” anyone.
It is very hard for me to make friends, so much so that I’ve completely given up on it. Because I’m looking for pure people, people who do not have evil in their hearts, people who wanna grow and make this planet a better place for all of us. People who wanna get, but have a whole lot more to give. Where are these people?
I cannot watch shows of ridicule, because it hurts me like 1000 bees have just stung me. I have been in their shoes and I instantly imagine myself in that horrible situation again. This has absolutely scarred me for life, and there is no therapy that can take this away. Why the hell do they have shows like that in the first place? Do you get a kick out of that? I’m sorry NTs, but most of you are quite pathetic.
*Although worth a read, Foucault is not technically an existentialist.
So, I’m an (suspected) AS wife, married for 19+ years to an NT husband. I just figured out the whole AS thing about a year ago. Previously, I had assumed all of my issues came from growing up in a dysfunctional and abusive family, but the way I turned out from it all is so different from my sisters. The deeper I dug underneath all that stuff, the more I realized there was something else going on with me. That’s where the AS showed up.
What you said about not being spiteful…that explains so much for me. Some of the things I say and do, people get so easily offended, and I’ve had the hardest time figuring out why because I don’t mean them any harm. But if they’re assuming I intend harm in it, then I guess there are ways to interpret what I say and do as being harmful and mean.
What you said about loyalty really nails it. I’ve never, ever even slightly wanted to cheat on my husband, because, honestly, one intimate rel’ship is more than enough to try and manage (especially on a physical level).
What you said about lying, and what some of the commenters have said…yes, I learned to present the truth in a favorable light in order to avoid antagonism, but even at that, I’ve always as long as I can remember, had a great difficulty with the thought of outright lying. And it took soooo many emotionally abusive interactions with my family while I was growing up in order to learn how to do that. I learned out of necessity how to examine a statement or situation from as many perspectives as I could imagine in order to present the truth in a way that is least offensive as possible. At first, I couldn’t imagine perspectives very well. But I’ve intensely studied people and their reactions to statements and ideas and interactions in order to learn their patterns and predict likely outcomes and responses to things.
Perspective-taking itself can actually be a very aspie thing to do. Think about Temple Grandin taking the perspective of cattle going through the washbins on their way to the slaughterhouse, and how she could see what was so unsettling to them and what they needed in order to feel safe to move through the baths. But it’s not an emotional perspective…it’s a cognitive function, an abstract experience of almost literally moving into the cow’s head and seeing through her eyes. It’s kinda like the way I can visualize algebraic concepts or abstract computer systems. It’s visual perspective-taking, not so much emotional. Although there can be emotional perspective-taking in some cases, like when seeing an animal or child in pain, or seeing someone being teased and mistreated by others. It’s very easy to over-identify with those situations when I’ve experienced so much of it myself.
I’m very high-functioning, although I also have a lot of very strong aspie traits mixed in with the fainter ones. But so many of my adaptations are simply cognitive in nature. I study people, and write complex algorithms in my head for how to interact with people. Scripts.
I’ve been working with a team of therapists this summer in an equine therapy program, and it has taken me all summer long to develop a fairly reliable set of algorithms…a program…I can use in therapy sessions in order to have productive and open conversations with the therapists (and the program still has a lot of bugs in it…last week’s session was a total flop); I had to write a new relational program for therapy interactions because it’s so different from anything I had experienced before.
The way I think inside and experience the world is so unusual, apparently. And then I had learned to emulate the dysfunctional behavioral patterns I grew up around, not realizing there was anything different. As I’m exposed to other ways of relating, and other patterns I can emulate, things are changing for me. I’m finding healthier role models. But it’s still just an act on so many levels (albeit a more functional act than the acting I was doing before).
I guess my challenge, and my question, is how to move away from a lifetime of emulating others as best I could in order to survive, and instead find who I really am underneath…but then that’s a very different person than the people around me think I am. And it’s a much harder person to relate to. The more I let myself be more authentic, the more I find peace only when I’m completely alone. I’m slowly learning to be more okay with and even to enjoy the company of my DH and kids, but that’s only when I’m fairly rested and stable, or when I simply bury the real stuff inside of me in order to put the mask back on for everyone else’s sake.
But that’s very stressful to do, and these days, I can’t do it for very long. I’ve spent over 40 years faking some semblance of “normal”, and I’ve run out of energy to keep it going. No experience of being loved really gets inside, because what people love on the outside, is just a facade. No one (including myself) really knows the real me. And the more I’ve pursued being a more authentic version of myself, the more people have pulled away from me because I’m too weird, too unable to connect. If I stop faking connection…there’s no connection at all.
An exceptionally useful set of observations. Thank you for making them. I really like your comments on perspective-taking being cognitive. That is very insightful and so true.
As far as your question about being yourself, you need to teach the people you really like and care about the “rules” for being around you. Neurotypicals can learn rules too, not just people with AS. And if they are going to be your good buddies, they will have to learn new rules and you will have to learn new rules together. Don’t give this “privilege” to everybody. “Everybody” isn’t safe or to be trusted. Just pick people that are curious, and interested in you or the things that you say. After a while of being with them with your “faking it” mask, tell them that you have “quirks” that you want to feel more comfortable showing around them. Do it in private with them, so they don’t have to worry about other people’s reactions. Ask them if they can take true, simple, direct honesty, from your own perspective. Tell them you need them to be very concrete and direct with you, and not expect you to pick up “subtle hints.” Tell them you are very intelligent, but just can’t “read their minds” or their facial expressions or subtle meaning, but you are perfectly capable of responding to direct statements and requests. For example, tell them to say:
“I want to go home” instead of “Is it getting boring in here?”
Anyone who thinks you are “too weird” doesn’t know you well enough to find you fascinating. You ARE fascinating. You are unique and valuable. And the better you learn what you need to be “likable” (verses “normal” which is a highly overrated thing to be…),– like sleeping or eating well, or leaving places that are overstimulating sooner rather than later– the better able you are to show your real self to very cool people who like you and grow to love you for EVERYTHING you are.
I want you and all the AS who are reading this to hear me very loudly and clearly when I talk to you about many traits others consider “weird” or “rude”:
“If you are curious, and you are honest, I really like to work with you. I like your honesty. I learn from the way you think. You humble me all the time, in recognizing how limited I am in seeing the world through your eyes. The way you think is a fascinating puzzle to me. I know each of you is so different, even with similar traits. I am honored to work with you, and to help you explain to your partner, and allow me to explain to your partner how lucky they are to have you in their lives. I want to help you learn the many ways you can take care of yourself and your partner so you can love and be loved well. I, myself, am terribly flawed and far, far away from being normal. And it makes me a very helpful and curious person with many gifts to offer to the world.
I want you to see yourself that way, too.”
I do believe that all of these generalizations are true. Again, they are generalizations, which means they may not apply to all Aspies.
One thing that I have been very concerned about lately and I see here, is the view that Aspie men, in particular, are liars, cheaters, etc…I am not saying that all Aspie men are saints, but I do not believe they are worse than NT men. In fact, many of the issues expressed as bad Aspie men traits sound exactly like AD/HD traits in men.
I am an Aspie and my husband has AD/HD. Our son is both 🙂 . Many of these issues regarding lying, talking to other women, etc. we have dealt with. Many therapists used to think that you had either AS or AD/HD, but that you could not have both. In the last couple of years it has been shown that in fact you can have both and even more, many Aspies actually DO have both. So before we start putting all the lies, cheating, etc…on being an Aspie, I suggest you do some research on AD/HD. I have a feeling that just as I did, you will find many of the negative traits you have expressed here are actually directly related to AD/HD.
PS by the way, I loved the post. My son is just as you have described here 🙂
I believe we can say that no particular “type” of person has a corner on the untrue, and none of us qualify for sainthood.
I also think that we need to appreciate living in a world full of “hidden rules” that you don’t understand and no one will explain to you, because these rules are so “obvious” to them, that they don’t know that they even exist! And on top of that, if you “follow them,” (by some accident of fate) you’re ignored and considered “normal,” and if you don’t, you’re considered “odd” or worse.
It would behoove you, in this situation, to use whatever intelligence is at your disposal to try to figure out what you’re “supposed” to do and what you’re “not supposed” to do, and we can all assume that if you keep looking at other people’s mouths and not their eyes (and eye brows) you are going to have to rely on what they say or how they react to you, rather than rely on the subtleties.
I have to stay that I can completely understand in this situation how the entire subject of being “truthful” gets confusing. Something like:
“If I tell you my truth, you get all upset at me. (e.g.:”You’re penis is very small.”) I’m not really sure why I’m not supposed to say that, but okay. I won’t mention your genitals, but you DID ask me what I thought of them when we had sex. Then you say: “I don’t want you to talk to other men.” which is crazy, because my father calls weekly, and I love my father. Besides, you are always mad at me, and Bill from work is not. In fact, he bought me lunch last week. Now you say I’m not supposed to let people buy me lunch. If I can’t talk to Bill from work, I can’t keep my job. And if I can’t talk to my father, I will have no close family relationships, which you say are important to YOU. I have no idea what you want from me….”
ADHD makes the issue so confusing as well, and you are right that they often go hand in hand. Impulsivity may be more of the story in ADHD than Aspies. We might summarize and say “Those with ADHD don’t slow down to think things through, while Aspies just may be avoiding confusing unpleasantness.”
While working with a couple (as their marriage counselor) for a number of months I was convinced of one spouse’s AS and the other’s NT. I don’t use labels much and did my best to be more certain before discussing and making a referral to a specialist who would more thoroughly evaluate my client so we could all get on board with a plan of action. My coaching is very habit shift based and all the tools and approach of the Gottman Institute (longitudinal couples studied research based stuff) and was the first time anyone really understood and helped with the habit shift coaching on the spot the way I did, so said the NT. That is the key to my story, “so said the NT.” The other partner was not in agreement that anything they were doing was problematic even to the point of arguing that giving listening cues (like nodding or uh huh) was rude, and so would just stare intensely while someone talked.
It is refreshing to hear in the comments here of folks feeling relieved about learning how Asperger’s is something they can see has been going on for them, because it was so frustrating having someone who could benefit from it, just disagree.
I was thinking I could be of great assistance to couples when AS is mucking up things and developed a special breakout session/gig idea that just demos a conflict processing tool with a real couple, live, and provides the booklet with all the instructions in a group learning format. The AS like people I know think the idea is great but it is odd what happens when an AS involved couple inquires. They always ask if the demo will have other couples exactly like them and then they describe their version of an AS involved relationship and lose interest when I can’t guarantee the exact match of other participants. I am baffled about getting the door opened properly for couples with Asperger’s concerns to walk through.
Thank you for such a content rich discussion, commenters! It is helpful as a marriage counselor!
Regarding the conversation issues…I think what is at its core (generality) is something like this;
I think that the AS mindset is that communication is for transmitting information.
I think that the NT mindset is that communication is to reinforce social bonds.
My natural response to someone telling me about a problem is ‘Well, how about this or that’? In other words, this particular female aspie’s natural mindset is ‘So-and-so has a problem. I care about so-and-so. If I solve the problem, they won’t be upset any more. ‘ Tends to backfire though. But I suppose solution-focused is task-focused.
And to be honest, I don’t think NTs have affective empathy for AS/HFA people, either. I think there is a double empathy problem, here. Cognitive understanding + sympathy is entirely possible, I think. True empathy of the ‘put yourself in the shoes of someone with a different neurology’ variety …I don’t think that’ll happen, personally. I think that that might require pathways that simply don’t exist.
Also, that communication = trasmitting of information thing can easily lead to no new information = no new communication. In other words? That unwise farmer in the joke always struck me as an undiagnosed Aspie.
On their 50th wedding anniversary, the farmer’s wife said she was leaving him. He asked,
“Why?” She said, “Because you don’t love me.” He asked, “Why do you say that?” She said,
“Because you never say that you love me!” He replied, “I told you that I love you on our wedding
day. If I ever change my mind, I’ll let you know!”
My boyfriend and I have known each other for 6 years and started dating 6 months ago. He has AS and I am an NT. As an older couple (both in our 50s) we have our moments, but I can truly say he is the best thing that ever happened to me.
I am learning about his quirks and the things that make him tick, just as he is with me.
However, he is the most loving, affectionate, kind, generous man I have ever met. We ask lots of questions of each other and I ask for clarification when I don’t get what he is saying.
But we work at it.
Sometimes it is truly exhausting, but so worth the extra effort.
Hi, I’ve been seeing a guy for two an a half years, I’m 60 and he’s 57. I’ve been through hell and back with this guy, I’ve broken off with him hundreds of times, not that he takes any notice, he can be rude, has a terrible temper when we go shopping and hates parties because he says’s he’s to shy. When we’ve been to Christmas Party’s he often disappears to a quiet place in the house and is happy with that.
He did say a couple of things to me when we first met that always stuck in my head.
1. He wishes he could talk to people the way I do and be as friendly as me.
2. He Wishes he was more confident.
3. Often he would say, I like those words you just used, I might use that, I never thought to say that.
eg He thanked me for tidying his fathers house, I said your welcome. He said, I like that, I might use that, I always say “that’s ok” because I just can’t find the right words.
I have always tried to psychoanalyze my man, because I’ve never been treated or spoken to this way and even though I’ve always found him different, sometimes unbearable, thoughtless and dam right rude sometimes, he’s also a beautiful caring person.
At first I thought he was a narcissist, he’s never found a mirror he hasn’t fallen in love with, nearly everything I read about Narcissist was him, but there was always a big BUT?
I suffer from Depression, anxiety and Type 2 Diabetes, most people I know would never know this. My partners mood swings, selfishness and rudeness affected my stress levels so bad, especially my sugar levels with my diabetes, that’s when I new I had to get rid of him and look after me. I see a psychologist every 4 to six weeks my man is mentioned every now and then. Last week I mentioned something about my man, I told her I can handle him a lot better now as I had to think how really lucky I am. I own my own home, have no reason to get married and no way would I ever live with my man or any man, the good thing is he is the same, this way we can both have our own space and I need lots of it, PLUS I WILL NEVER! do a mans washing again, been there done that. Both of us have been married, lost our homes, had to start again in our early fifties…
Anyways, while talking about my partner she asked me if I ever thought he might be an Aspie? I will admit I had heard about Asperger’s but that’s all.
So I decided to read about it, OMG!!!! it was like a light switched on!!!! All they say about being an Aspie is NEARLY 100% correct. Their are all types of Aspies, their not all the same a bit like different types of depression I suppose….
The first 2 years of our relationship was hell the sex was pretty bad to, he could never look me in the face for very long, he was also unwell, I stood by him until he got better, that took over a year (now this is where the big BUTT comes in!) from the day the Doctor told us he was better, I was no longer going to put up with his abuse, now when he upsets me I tell him to go home or if I was at his place and, I would go home. One day I received a phone call telling me a friend of mine had committed suicide, I wanted comfort so went to his home in tears, when I told him, he just looked at me, and I really mean just looked at me. I said Honey I’m upset I came all this way for a hug, can’t you see I’m upset? He said, “well I don’t know her?”
I can laugh at it now, but it was then I realized he had no Empathy and did not understand my facial expressions I just thought he was weird! I was gob smacked and drove home really upset.
Now I’m pretty sure he’s an Aspie. I had to find something simple to show him so he would understand with out thinking I was trying to find faults….. Viola! I found a site called “Dude, I’m an Aspie” This Guy Matt is a cartoonist and decided to explain Asperger’s in cartoon character to his friends it’s AMAZING!!!!
My man doesn’t tell me he loves, hardly takes me out so when he came to my place, I suggested we take his father out for dinner as he was going over sea’s the next day for three months, his father is 82, I thought it would be nice to surprise him… he said ok, ring dad. While I was on a role, I told him, about the site that explains why he is different to other people, I said it explains he’s not weird he’s just wired differently and how special he is.
I showed him the website, he looked at the cartoons, I read and explained any questions he asked, he was so happy!!!! he kept saying “this is me, this is sooo me” I haven’t seen him this happy ever! he wanted to know ” if this is common, I said yes” again very happy……
Now I will admit I’m the type of person, if anyone upsets me I let them know and we discuss it.. if I don’t like them I won’t waste my time. But I’ve always seen something very special in him , guess that’s why I kept giving him another chance and so glad I did..
Now according to one of the web sites, I read about falling in love with an Aspie, I can see nearly everything I have done in the way I communicate with my man is about 50% correct, I’ve now learnt that calling him an arse hole when he’s rude or upsets me doesn’t work, BUT! explaining why I’m upset and how it hurts me, does work, he has stopped blaming me for everything and has been trying harder. I do have to explain it every time but that’s ok . I have also learnt that they really are wired differently.
Yesterday he said something that normally would upset me but I thought maybe he just got the wording wrong when I asked him to explain it was a completely different answer, and was something that didn’t upset me at all. He ‘s never been a man that would ever just walk up and cuddle me but has never rejected me cuddling him because he loves it, yesterday after we had another talk about Asperger’s he came over to me with open arms for a cuddle, I thought it was beautiful… We both have a lot to learn about Asperger’s, I’m really excited, as we both love to laugh, we both look young for our age and we both can enjoy each others company and both love our space, I have lots of friends, he loves his golf, to me all looks good…. We both have a lot to learn and it will take time and that’s ok…. I am excited for him, when he’s happy so am I…….. 🙂
Wow, Veronica. What a great story!
It is great what some understanding can do.
Thanks for sharing this story.
I’m at a crossroad whether I should marry my AS partner or I should get on with my life.
He can’t propose to me. We have established a trusting, stable relations up after many flare ups and intense fighting.
I’ve even spelled out to him, that him not proposing, but wants me to tag along, quit my high paying job and go to a place where he wants me to, that doesn’t offer the same career opportunities is a bit far fetched. What needs to happen is that if he wants a family with me, then we need to get married, I need a ring and a proposal, and I want him to stop flirting around online with numerous women who thinks he’s a guru in his industry.
He doesn’t think this is cheating.
To me, he is an intellectually engaging, kind hearted person but his behavior is off the chart difficult to understand for a NT like me.
For example, I work long hours and earn as much as he does. But he still depends on me to cook, shop, clean, and go out of my way to spend all my money on flights to take him away for holidays. Otherwise he never books anything for me, he never buys me anything, we hardly have any sex, we never kiss… And he doesn’t remember my birthdays or Valentines Day dinner ends up him bragging about how much he adored his ex, etc.
I suppose in normal circumstances, one would wonder why would anyone out herself in this situation.
But knowing he can’t tell the difference between what makes me feel shitty and what doesn’t – puts me in an awkward position where I feel obliged to look after him.
So far we’ve laid out the obvious rules – no cheating physically, no financial cheating, try to make an effort not to hurt me. But he end result is I am wishi my life away a every minute I am in this relationship. There’s nothing to look forward to, he doesn’t even remember the simplest things about me like what color I like, or my favorite food.
I am afraid if we have kids, and out kids are like him I would be absolutely devastated.
He has a father who is a unempathetic AS, his sisters are AS, and a NT mother who is still suffering after being married to her AS husband for 60 years….
I am terrific to repeat her storyline….
The laying out of rules is just great! It just needs to go farther. He needs to make up an MJ book of things like your favorite colors, foods, or the places you want to go to on vacation. In other words, he needs to document the important facts about you that should catalog to remember. A chapter should be on what you don’t like him doing, like bragging about his ex. A simple programming of his phone will remind him that it is Valentine’s Day and what flowers or chocolates you like. In the book, a list of presence you like to receive.
Speaking up and being clear about your limits is that great opportunity every NT has with an AS. Mindblindness is a neurological fact, not something an AS does to upset.
The child issue is really important to pay attention to: AS is often seen as running in families and perhaps volunteering to help with AS kids would help you decide if this is the relationship for you. If you want children, but can’t bear the idea of a child with AS, that’s a serious consideration. Any wife or mother should feel lucky in love, and with her children, not resentful or petrified.
Kissing, sex, that should be in there too, and if you are the high desire sexual partner, it is your job to set the place and time…but give him a heads up to get his mind around it.
Thanks for writing. I’m sure our readers can identify with many of the fears you are expressing…
Hello. after reading this i feel like although this is a generlised idea of how aspies behave i believe some of this is not correct for me personally. My only disability is mild Aspergers and i do have empathy. In fact i believe what most aspies want is someone they can care for, to go to for support, to be themselves and to be able to hold when overwhelmed. That is what i want and because i have no one special in my life I cannot focus on important/challenging tasks and feel like an outcast. But I can fake most facial expressions, can be involved in social situations and can keep going for hours as long someone else in the conversation is able to keep it going for that long (I struggle to find a suatible subject to talk about most of the time). I only need time to myself when feeling upset but again if i had a partner I won’t need to be alone as being near a partner will keep me feeling safe. All i want is a good purpose in life and someone who cares about me. I have no interest in sex but i believe when i do finally have sex i can be arousing because of how gentle aspies generally are. This is just my personal opinion ut coming from someone with just mild Aspergers i believe it’s quite a accurate description of how a aspie is like.
Hi David. Exactly. I think you’ve put how most of us feel. We want someone we can feel safe with. Someone who will accept our vulnerabilities, and flaws, because we all have them. Some who can love us fully, and feel lucky to have us in their lives. I’ve tried to point out in this post that people with Aspergers have perceptual difficulties and “mind-blindness,” but this isn’t the same as “lacking empathy.” They can’t read faces well, and have trouble identifying internal emotional states often (“alexithymia”). But beyond these stereotypes, we have real human beings who have to learn to adapt to, especially in childhood, a hostile world. One that picks on and harasses the kid that’s “different,” or “geeky,” or “odd.” And being a social outcast has consequences to the human soul. It can make people mean or incredibly empathetic. And when that social outcast finds someone in adulthood that embraces them, accepts them, cherishes them, for the unique contribution they offer in just being alive…well, that’s beautiful. It doesn’t mean there aren’t fights, or misunderstandings. It doesn’t mean that an AS/NT couple don’t need to figure out a common set of behaviors and communications to get along. It means, however, on a basic level, we’re accepted. And appreciated. And loved.
Man, I love your comment, because it points out some of the traits I find most attractive in people with Aspergers. You say “I can fake most facial expressions” and “I struggle to find suitable topics…” These are honest admissions. These are social adaptations you’ve learned to made, to make people around you more comfortable (and, of course, when they are more comfortable, you have greater acceptance by them, and can be more comfortable…)
Rock on, David. That person is out there for you. You have to just keep looking, be involved, be active in what makes you happy in social situations. You’ll find them.
Hi Im An AS female having an awesome experience with An AS male.
I was diagnosed 2 years ago and he was diagnosed as a child.
I dont think I have been with an AS guy before because Being wiv Ali feels likelots more and lots easier than I have ever experienced with NTs.
We are both Hypersensitive and Love the experience of exploring it through play.
Who wants sex when You’re having extra sensory sensual fun. Most NT guys are all about the end score but this AS lover is about the whole entirety of sensuality in hypersensative exploration. GREAT FUN I type wiv a BIG cheesy GRIN ; D
Im finally able to be honest and not have to worry about the overreactions I get from NTs who never quite seemed to get me.
I Love Ali’s Honesty and openness.
Im wondering if its possible to vote Ali in as next Prime Minister. He has great plans for Spite Tax.
We want to tax only Spiteful Nasty or Greedy people to make life better for nice people?
But back to the subject
NTs just need to learn not to
overdramatise in their thought patterns when an AS is being Honest or just wants Time Out. I have seen NT guys get very much like a sulking child or Angry dog over
the silliest of things.
Its great not to be in that position anymore
where when I dont contact him for a while
he calls cruel words at me or threatens to be with someone else.
Thank God Im as AS as my AS lover
Up all day and night in fits of giggles wiv similar interests total openness total honesty entirely thrilling experience.
If you havent tried AS and You hav AS giv it a go its AWESOME. But for NTs just remember the phraseRelax and Keep Calm at all times. Even if it looks like your AS may be acting odd duznt mean S/He is intentionally acting odd. Maybe its the stress of trying as an AS to try n be so NT. If Your AS be Yourself trying to be anyone your not is fake and NTs see it as being desperate or needy so drop it n be you
Hope this Helps
P.s. Vote in Ali MacLeod for next Prime Minister and rid UK of Spite 😉
I am a recently diagnosed (i.e. 1-2 months ago) AS man who has been in a relationship with a NT woman for circa 2 years.
I agree with both the intent (i.e. pointing out that like anything AS has both positives and negatives, but the positives aren’t often talked about) and the generalizations you’ve made are right IMO. What I have found in my current relationship (which is likely to lead to marriage and it was she who realized I probably had AS and convinced me to analyze myself and seek a professional diagnosis) is that (what she describes as) counter-intuitive behaviours for her (e.g. being absolutely blunt/honest as opposed to circumspect/implying things and not to be worried about how I will take it [Facts are facts; why get emotional about them?]) are actually good relationship skills to have.
They allow you to get things into the open, but if you combine it with a blunt request to change after talking about it and explaining it is causing an issue then the AS (or at least I do) will change that behaviour if they can see the logic and they are motivated to do so by their personal feelings (a bit like taking on another project). I think both seeing the logic and having a specific task-like motivating factor are key, because without that I just wouldn’t do it, because it is illogical and it serves no other purpose etc.
I would suggest (along the lines you suggested) that NTs who need to mother/really care for their partners are good potential matches for people with AS, because AS frequently have been badly hurt/rejected by NTs (I was intensely bullied in school and didn’t engage in much socializing at university and still don’t at work [I like the IDEA of it, but after an hour or so I get overstimulated, horribly bored and totally exhausted]) and as such need the care and understanding they can provide. Conversely an AS with a good emotional checklist [i.e. emotional mimicry/learned responses] (which is literally what I use with my girlfriend when she is upset) can be a very good match for a NT with issues of their own, because AS’ can mimic all the necessary responses and can just sit there and listen to problems (or at least I am happy doing it).
My girlfriend has pointed out that quite a few of her friends have married what she believes to be diagnosed AS (display all the classic symptoms etc) and that it very much conforms to personality and upbringing types. I don’t know how general that is, but it superficially suggests that AS are almost like a personality sub-group that can mesh well with a few other groups, but has massive issues doing so with most.
As to lying, which seems to be quite the controversial area. I was a serial liar for quite a portion of my life and the origin (when my girlfriend challenged me on it several times and explained what the big deal about it was [I didn’t comprehend the problem]) of it when I reflected on it and when I used it was as a defensive mechanism. I had NTs wanting information and refusing to back off from wanting it so instead of getting angry (which caused more problems) I just made something up to satisfy them and get them to GO AWAY (as I don’t want to interact).
I don’t think AS are usually capable of malicious lying (the emotive understanding is lacking), but rather it is a goal based behaviour designed to get people to do something in regard to the AS. I’d suggest it is usually a ‘Go Away’ signal that has been learned as mine was. When it was explained to me I simply stopped doing it, because now I see the logic and how it was not the correct signal to use. The fundamental confusion I guess is how NT and AS people think: AS seem heavily task-based and rely on logic to navigate the world (however since we don’t know nearly enough about it we usually fall flat on our faces) where-as NTs are far more nuanced in that they rely on logic, emotion and non-verbal indicators etc.
I’d also say your point about psychopath/sociopath-esque people presenting as AS to get at a goal is a good one, because superficially it is easy to pretend to have AS qualities. It isn’t until you know the common indicators that are difficult to mimic (i.e. the lack of eye contact, the odd body movements/clumsiness, the habit of lecturing, atonality etc) and what to look for that that would be discovered.
Great article though!
Hi Dr. Chris,
I really liked how you described the motivations for lying, and you put it extremely well. I do think it is often a “Go Away” behavior that has been learned to be effective. I suppose most passive-aggressive behavior can fit the same bill.
Anyway, I do appreciate your thoughtful post. It was informative to me, and hopefully to my readers, as well.
Not sure if I will get a response from this thread or not since its been 19 days since the last reply but whatever. I am an Asperger female who was diagnosed 2 years ago who has managed to relate and emphasize with both N.T’s Aspies and everything in between.When I went through these replies one by one I felt like there is a general misunderstanding by all parties on what characteristics do and don’t defy on aspie.Yes I am aware that the following are generalizations and will not apply to everyone with A.S however I feel like certain personality traits mentioned are being incorrectly attributed to our mindset(make note I am not using disorder because if you look through history people who have been considered “normal” with supposedly no problems in functioning have started wars over religion committed mass genocide against entire population’s and continue to deny gay/lesbian etc the right to marry or even are killed for being in a harmless relationship)the point is N.T’s minds have flaws just like the A.S mind and both sides need to understand this.Now to return to my point I will try to explain to the best of my ability what an A.S mindset actually is.Having an A.S mind does not necessary mean we will be automatically loyal to you and only you if you decide to pursue one of us.loyalty is a personality trait that some aspies may have while others may not.It is also a personality trait some N.T’s have and others don’t.This does not mean we can generalize the entire aspie population because you meet someone with aspergers who was a jerk.If someone does not treat you right and continues to insult, hurt you and manipulate you whenever they please whenever they have A.S or is an N.T you do not have to tolerate there behavior.Abuse is Abuse whenever that person has Aspergers or not.All having aspergers really means is we may have a hard time reading social cues,find socializing with others more difficult,may have sensitivity issues or even the opposite may not feel pain or pleasure in certain parts of our bodys,(for me its a mix I don’t like to be grabbed around the waist cause I feel vunerable,I have no problem with hugging people and like to hug a lot as long as they don’t touch anything below the middle of my back also if I got hit in the head with a basketball I wouldn’t feel that much if anything.btw please don’t throw a basketball at my head just because I can’t always feel the pain doesn’t mean there isn’t internal damage being done without my knowledge. thank you!) Also we may struggle with eye contact,Tend to have an obsession with an interest or several sub interests,( for example I enjoy reading about several different interests such as abnormal psychology,lgbt related issues,religions,gaming,and even history and many more topics.)not necessary lack empathy but process it in a different way.for instance when one of my friends vents about their life I can understand and even feel there pain because I can see how that would upset them espicailly when I’ve went through a similar thing myself. However my first reaction would not always be affection,instead I would retreat into my head and search my database of knowledge in order to find the information necessary to treat there ailment. Once I feel like I have the solution to their problem I would tell them what they could do in order to help them feel better.While I cannot speak for every aspie out there on how their mind works I can freely speak for myself that this is how my mind works.At least for the first of two different ways I process things. The other way I process things would be described more like an N.T.When I feel really close to them and care for them I have this other reaction to want to hold them in my arms and just comfort them.(yes I know that sounds nothing like an aspie reaction but keep in mind my aspergers on the spectrum is in reality very minor I am only being technical here because I am trying to share how the typical aspie mind may look.)I could say this in a basic N.T way however you would really miss out on how our minds actually work which is knowledge you will need if you are to pursue a friendship/romantic relationship with an aspie.My final thoughts are if you interested in pursing any type of relationship with someone who is an aspie N.T or someone in between, do not go in with any preconceived notions about what qualities this person should have when you meet them.It doesn’t matter what you may hear from other people about his/her/other personality or good/bad traits because everyone’s view points on someones actions and behaviors are different then your own,plus how they present themselves to other people may not be how they present themselves to you(keep in mind this could be a good or bad thing depending on your situation and no I am not going to elaborate this because this reply is getting very long and I am certain you will be able to see the possible situations a lot better then ourselves.).Unless you are being warned by people this person is involved in dangerous criminal activity or risky behavior that could lead to the physical/emotional harm of yourself or others, you should go meet this person and get to know them yourself.At the end of the day Aspies and N.T’s are both human and when both groups take a deep look inside themselves you will find we are not that different at all.When you go out and meet people in the world you will find people who lack empathy and are brutally honest who do not have A.S.At the same time you may meet someone with A.S who is a pathlogical liar and may have hidden intentions.I have seen all sides of this spectrum and I don’t mean the Autism spectrum I mean the spectrum of humanity.The spectrum that tells you what type of person you are based on your morals,who you are,and who we want to be.all of these and many more factors are calculated into this spectrum which allows other people to judge whenever we are good bad neutral etc based on there own place in the spectrum as well.there judgment though doesn’t mean you fit into the label they give you.Keep in mind good/evil does not exist and we usually perceive people as good or evil depending on our own certain beliefs on issues, plus we also do believe people are good or evil based on whenever we view someone’s actions as detrimental to a person or society’s physical emotional mental well being etc.There are other factors to this as well however I’m kind of going off topic again so I’m going to end this here before I begin to write and in depth essay on my view of the universe.Main point is people are people A.S or not and there are good bad and neutral apples on all sides.when you meet someone don’t obsess if they have A.S believe it or not you would not be able to tell if you met me.Focus on who they are as people and their actions that matters a lot more then whenever they have autism or another way of thinking besides your own.Peace everyone(I apologize for this long reply,my terrible grammar,and going off topic abit sometimes and this incoherent mess I left behind trying to explain this and who knows how many things I did that may not have been socially acceptable..)
Hi Lost Oak,
You’ve raised a number of good points that deserve emphasis. HFA is an information-processing issue.The information that’s not processed well is social knowing…social cognition.There is an idiosyncratic way of processing social and nonsocial information present since birth or early childhood.
This issue shows up in a number of ways:
The process of attending to, and making use of, the nonverbal communication of other people.
People with AS often miss important information that others convey non-verbally, such facial expressions, tone, etc, which neurotypicals (NT’s) use to make sense of the behavior of others. As a result, they can misattribute the behavior of others in idiosyncratic ways.
People with AS have difficulty with perspective-taking, meaning that they have trouble imagining what another person might be thinking or feeling.
They often do not attribute meaning correctly, as a result of these difficulties.
Because of these social cognitive deficits, they have trouble forming satisfying relationships. But contrary to the popular belief, that people with ASDs are aloof and disinterested in others, many are desperate to have friends and lovers. They often complain about social isolation/loneliness and depression.
Given this social cognitive deficit, people often believe those with HFA lack empathy, are selfish, lack common sense, or are being rejecting, even when they are not.
They can lack social understanding when it isn’t acquired in concrete ways. They miss cues, make inappropriate or make miss-timed comments, cross spacial or interpersonal boundaries that lead others to see them as rude, bizarre, or threatening. While being bright and articulate, they may, nonetheless, not realize it would be inappropriate to insult the food when a dinner guest, or comment on someone’s bad breathe.
Affective Regulation and Alexithymia
Affectively, they can become highly volatile and reactive because they have difficulty identifying and regulating internal stimuli and often have alexithymia.
Alexithymia is defined as an inability to identify and describe emotions in the self. They can experience “meltdowns” emotionally, when unable to tolerate internal or external frustration.
They can have sensory problems. These include
tactile sensitivities– to touch, clothing, or crowds:
auditory sensitivity– to sounds,
visual sensitivities to color or light;
olfactory sensitivities- to smells; or
vestibular distortions- impacting balance or coordination.
They can suffer executive functioning difficulties that make planning and organizing difficult.
Tasks of daily living or medical needs can be neglected, because of these difficulties.
They can have cognitive rigidity, and problems changing mind-set, that makes transitions between activities, or life transitions such as moving from home to home difficult, and adjusting to change, problematic.
This is why routines are often highly valued, for those with HFA, as they create comforting repetitive daily patterns in life that are soothing.
Given these difficulties, the early history of people with AS can be filled with trauma and sadness. Commonly, one parent also has HFA, and therefore have these same social cognitive deficits. As children, HFA clients are often bullied and beaten as children. They often do not find the world a safe, predictable place.
While attaining language quickly and precociously in many cases (“The Little Professor,”) these language skills are not well-rounded. They may have exceptional vocabulary. Vocabulary, however, isn’t enough to get by socially. Language has to be contextualized and used flexibly to be understood, in order to meet social expectations. Social communication is full of nuanced speech, sarcasm, metaphor or irony. A quick facial expression can give the message “I’m just kidding,” in “dry humor.” If someone relies too heavily on the literal meaning of a word, they can miss how changing the pace, tone, pausing in a spot, or melodics can change the meaning.
Think of the many ways one can say “She’s a nice girl.” It can have a dozen meanings just by how the speaker is using these elements.
This can cause those with AS to be viewed as “weird”, and be rejected by their peers by the time they hit adolescence.
So you are right, Lost Oak, these characteristics don’t automatically make someone “loyal.” It may make it hard, however, for the person with AS to have a wide variety of people who “get them.” They may have fewer “partner choices.” As a result, there may be some relief at having found someone who loves them, and they may have a higher probability that they will want to stay with this person, rather than pursue multiple relationships.
But as an earlier reader aptly pointed out, in a world of cybersex hook-ups, AS partners can, in fact, have extra-relational sex, should they so desire it. Maybe.
So you are right, not every Aspie will demonstrate “loyalty” in relationships. But I do think that it is a tendency, a likelihood, if only because of their problems with social cognition.
And while it is true that it may indeed hurt the partner to discover that their Aspie partner is having anonymous sex with people they met online, the motivations and intentions are likely to be very different than, say, someone who has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. And when caught by their partner, the explanations will likely be quite different, too. As will the likelihood of the fling turning into a long-term relationship.
What I think you are trying to get at, Lost Oak, is what Gaus calls “Likeable Weird vs. Unlikeable Normal.” I’ve met person with AS that are extremely likeable. They have caused their partner enormous pain, and they are in my office because of that, but basically the issue is not “He’s a jerk.” The issue is, he’s an Aspie who hasn’t learned some of the “hidden life lessons” that NT people simple “know.” You wrote: “you do not have to tolerate there behavior. Abuse is Abuse whenever that person has Aspergers or not” and you are 100% right.
The problem I run into, as a couples therapist, is that sometimes what is experienced as “abuse” by the NT isn’t intended that way by their Aspie partner.
But here’s the rub:
When you tell an “Aspie Jerk:” “That hurt my feelings. Even if it is true, don’t say that to me anymore,” the AS Jerk replies: “You can’t control what I say. If you can’t handle the truth, it’s your problem.” That’s a “jerk,” regardless of their neurology.
The AS Non-Jerk says “Okay. I didn’t realize those words hurt your feelings. I don’t want to hurt your feelings. I’ll write that down to remember it.” And they may be curious about what made them “hurtful words.”
What I find in my practice, is that the NT assumes they have a “Jerk” and not an AS. They assume that because no one had ever told them their partner was an Aspie.
Many adults with HFA will present in a therapist’s office without a diagnoses, as they were adults by the time the diagnosis was first introduced into the USA in 1994. And it is still not well recognized.
Also, a person’s history and experience impacts the AS adaptation. You say some “struggle with eye contact,” and of course that’s true. However, for some of my clients, their parents taught them early on to “look me in the eyes when I talk to you,” and they took that lesson to heart. I can tell by the long eye gaze, and the lack of emotional “challenge” in it, that I may be dealing with an Aspie.
You write: “Once I feel like I have the solution to their problem I would tell them what they could do in order to help them feel better,” but for many of my spouses, this is exactly the problem: They don’t WANT solutions to their problem. They want the kind of emotional support that is hard for many Aspies to wrap their heads around. And even if the Aspie partner wants to give sympathy, or empathy, they have a hard time applying this knowledge to the dozens or even hundreds of situations where one response would be perfectly received, while in another situation, that same empathetic response would be odd. And the Aspie might not recognize one from the other. There is a lot of complicated information exchanged in a simple hug. It is actually a very complicated social exchange, even between friends. It depends on dozens of social variables that NT’s might have trouble articulating, but we know when they are violated. And it makes us feel uncomfortable.
Now what is wonderful about having a great spouse, is that an NT spouse can say things to their Aspie to cue them in, when in a social situation. They can whisper: “step back from George when you talk to him, because men don’t stand that close in the type of relationship that you have with George.” Or “When a new acquaintance hugs you, count to “Three Mississippi…No, no, no, to yourself, not out loud.” Or “You can’t tell the host that you hate broccoli at a dinner party. Just don’t eat it, if you don’t like it.”
The Aspie might ask “Why?” to all of these rules, but a polite Aspie will take the NT’s word for it, and the Jerk will not. The Jerk will fight with their spouses. They’ll demand that the world adapt to their idiosyncratic rules. And that will often leave their spouse feeling increasingly socially isolated and will increase the strain in the marriage.
NT’s have remarkably little tolerance for “weird” but even less tolerant for “weird jerks.”
Finally, let me say this:
Aspies can be “bad liars” but not “pathological liars.”
Pathological liars utter untruths constantly and for no clear reason. There is no apparent benefit or gain for the liar.
In general, those with AS tend to have a “lying handicap.” “People with Asperger’s have a tendency to be very blunt and direct — they can be honest to a fault,” according to Tony Attwood, professor of psychology at Minds & Hearts, an Asperger’s and autism clinic in Brisbane, Australia. Ordinary lies to avoid blame, this we can see, but pathological lying, this is essentially impossible for people with Asperger’s. Attwood is quoted as saying AS have an “allegiance to the truth, rather than people’s feelings.”
I may be delayed in answering this post, but I eventually get around to it. Thanks for your long and thoughtful comment.
To OAK: your post was very helpful. Thank you. 🙂
Thank you so much for this article, discussion and willingness to be open and understanding to people with AS. I have been dating an AS man for a year now and what started out as just having fun has become a little more serious. Luckily my partner knows he is on the spectrum (very high functioning as far as I can tell) and I have been trying to gather information to, like you state, put the puzzle pieces together. It’s been a steep learning curve, but not only have gotten to know this individual intimately, I now have a greater understand of AS in general and can be an advocate. I am grateful for that!
I looked at a couple of online forums for AS partners and it has been shocking and a bit depressing at the response I’ve gotten about my interest in deepening the relationship. I have been told without hesitation to get out of the relationship right away.
Now, I get what they are saying, there ARE difficulties, but I am also older and have a good sense of myself. I am pretty sure this is just a short term relationship based on his past (serial monogamist it appears) and that’s fine for where I am in my life. I am with this man willingly and will leave if I feel I am not getting my needs met. In the meantime, I honestly have never met someone so interesting, passionate about similar things and fun as him!
So, again, thank you for this, I was becoming very disheartened. I’m not ready to give up the intensity of my time with my partner, the endlessly fascinating (long) conversations, seeing the world through his eyes (he’s deeply connected to nature), and loving someone for exactly who he is (which I don’t think he’s had a lot of).
Yes, it is easy for people to give advice, and harder to tease out people as complex creatures with an even more complicated neurology with Aspergers.
I appreciated you chiming in here.
Keep us updated as to how the relationship is progressing.
I am so sorry but this article is NOT the truth. Maybe for some aspies. Actually only point 5 is more or less true.
1. Aspies CAN lie. Some will be honest but some are flat out liars. Especially when they can’t do what is expected from them, they can lie to get out of trouble. You only have to read some of the AS wives groups on Facebook and you will see a lot of stories where aspies lied and cheated and this is just as common as with NT men. But just like with NT men, you’ve got the nice guys and the assholes. Being Aspie doesn’t make you honest. Maybe it makes you a bad liar because they don’t think it through, but they DO lie. Sadly this is the biggest misconception about aspies.
2. See point 1. Yes they do. A lot of them have a secret online life or a porn addiction. Like I said, nice guys and assholes also in aspieland. And what is with the “If you are kind…” My goodness are we blaming the wives for the men cheating??!! How damaging!
3. See 1 and 2. Yes there are!! There is no passive agression? O yes there is! Aspies can become very vindictive and secretive. Again: nice guys and assholes, they do exist in the aspie world too.
4. No, they won’t understand your need to be alone. They can’t see things from other peoples’ perspectives. If they have a need that you need to fulfill but your need is to be alone, they will put their need first and won’t understand why you need to be alone. Many examples of overwhelmed moms that can’t be alone because ASH needs her constantly. For some situations they don’t CARE that you leave them alone and take some time alone. That is something different. They don’t need you around all the time maybe. It is not understanding, it is indifference.
5. Maybe yes. But some don’t want to share. Some do.
So it comes down again to what we already noticed. They are all different! Some are nice guys that won’t lie, some are cheating bastards. And where are the downsides? Why only wrtie about what’s good? I feel sad these kind of articles are written to convince the world that living with an Aspie is a good and fun thing. It CAN be for some maybe. But for a lot of partners it is a big struggle that is NOT being acknowledged. I can see family members or co-workers waving this article and denieng the hardship of an aspergated wive. Very sad.
Some words of wisdom, thank you Lydia. Being an NT in a relationship with a man with AS is probably the hardest, most gut-wrenching, lonely place I’ve ever been in my life. They can and do lie, this has almost destroyed our relationship! Also the sudden realisation, when the AS has just been discovered, that all the shit that you took some of the blame for, because you’re a nice person, was actually 99% caused by the AS person lying to protect themselves
that all the shit that you tried not to blame on your partner
The title of the article was “Five Good Reasons…” and it starts out warning the reader about generalizations. I don’t want to minimize the difficulties of the NT/AS relationships. For most of the couples I see, they often come into my practice without any idea that their spouses have autism. My diagnosis is the first time that they’ve received a different view, and they come in because they are in real pain.
But your comment doesn’t do justice to the real differences in cognitive functioning, and the way that both partners can learn to go slowly to try to understand these differences and work together. And I agree that through experience many of us learn to lie to protect ourselves. Aspies often can’t figure out what to lie about and what not to, just as NT’s have trouble accepting truths that don’t conform to social norms. A “flat out liar” implies the capacity to figure out what the other person won’t want to hear, and crafting reality around that. Same with “secretive.” The most “flat out liars” and “secretive” people I work with are often trauma survivors. And in that way, I do think you will see AS with a lot of reluctance to open up and share what they’re thinking and feeling, and trying to “dream up” what the NT might want to hear to prevent themselves from hostility.
But it’s different. It isn’t the “same” as the lies of the NT. AS aren’t angels because they are AS’s. I’m not trying to say that. But I’m trying to convey a mindset, a difference in cognitive ways of processing information, and I do believe that while NT’s are pretty familiar with how an NT thinks, it takes effort to figure out how the AS thinks. And it’s in many ways quite different, especially in the realm of intimate and sexual relationships.
One myth you hear a lot is that Aspies have no empathy. But the devil is in the details. They don’t read expressions on the upper part of the face, and often tend to look at the mouth, but should you explain what you are feeling, they may indeed response to that knowledge. They won’t pick it up automatically, but they are quite capable of understanding that their partners feel a particular set of feelings.
I do see a use for greater kindness on the part of the NT’s, and this is in no way an effort to blame. But I’ve seen an NT wife will feel hurt and angry because their spouses did something “thoughtless” or “passive-aggressive,” when in fact it was neither. And I’ve seen the NT wife actually shocked when spell out what was painful, or what made them angry, and their husbands can actually “get it.”
Of course their are Aspies that have had a series of life experiences where they have learned how not to tell the truth to avoid an angry reaction. Especially about sex. But “vindictive” implies an NT mindset. You have to put yourself in your partner’s shoes to figure out what would be “vindictive” and engage in that for spite.
My article is not to convince people of the joys of being married to an Aspie. But the people I see ARE married to Aspies. Is there any benefits? Of course with every human variation, there are benefits, but you are right, not across the board. The NT spouses I see are often overwhelmed by the news of their partner’s condition. They see temper outbursts, and “insulting” statements that if they came from an NT spouse, would be abusive. And yes, the spouses do feel the pain of those statements, and both have to work together to figure out how to talk to each other differently.
Often the NT spouses are terrified that they face situations (which brought them into couples therapy) that are unlikely to change dramatically without a lot of patience and kindness. In my offices, they also learn that their children may also have autism. It is a lot to take in. And my goal in writing this article is to point out that we NT’s might not really know as much as we claim to know, or what is obvious to us at first glance.
Every AS/NT pair I’ve worked with are unique as individuals. But the problems that they face and the misunderstandings that they live with have common themes. And these are generalizations. And many hit the mark, and for others, not so much.
Dr. K is on the spectrum obviously, people. She rationalizes like them and gets defensive like them. And if she is in control of this comment section, we’ll… I’m writing to myself.
I’m putting this comment up because you’ve posted it twice under two different names and email addresses. You obviously want to be heard.
I am in control of the comment section, because there are a devoted group of people in the world who actually are out to spread hatred and lies about people on the spectrum. I’m not on the spectrum, but if I were I’d talk about it, because it would give me unique advantages and limitations. There is no point arguing with you about whether I am or am not on the spectrum. You’ve already decided. Clearly anyone who disagrees with your perspective is one of “them.” I hear you don’t like reading about the literature on Aspergers nor my clinical experience as a psychologist and couples therapist. Fortunately for all of us, rational, logical, objective comments, devote of stereotypical characterizations, can be made by anyone, not just those on the spectrum.
I invite you to try it.
I am an NT woman with an AS husband (and daughter). My husband and I have been together for 13 years and have a very respectful, loving and wonderful relationship. He is a good man – who also happens to have AS, and I am his biggest fan, and his most devoted ally.
Sometimes he does lie, but it is always to avoid conflict and aggression and never to gain advantage or be malicious. It’s a learned defense mechanism.
I spend a lot of time talking (online) with NT women in relationships with aspies and there is a lot of (often misguided I believe) hurt and anger flying around. So It’s wonderfully refreshing to see an article talking about the positives, because having. The love of a good aspie man (or woman for that matter) truly is a gift!
“Sometimes he does lie, but it is always to avoid conflict and aggression and never to gain advantage or be malicious. It’s a learned defense mechanism.”
I believe this is, by and large, an accurate statement, Njg. I also think there is a lot of misunderstanding out there, that leads to honest hurt feelings and anger. Reading the research paints a complicated picture, but one that can really help couples attain the sort of respectful relationship you have with your husband.
Thanks for your comment.
On my maternal family’s side I have one cousin with autism and one second cousin with Asperger’s. We suspect the father of the Aspie to have Asperger’s also. On my paternal family’s side, I believe my grandfather and my father are undiagnosed Aspies. I also believe one of my sisters is undiagnosed Aspie.
My grandfather and my father were high school football players. My dad was the captain and played all but maybe 5 minutes his senior year because he was both offense and defense. He remembers that his father came to every game, but never said a single word on the way home-neither good nor bad nor indifferent. When we went to my uncle’s funeral, my cousin said their father was super involved in their lives because he couldn’t remember having a single conversation with his father (my grandfather).
I wish I knew more about my grandfather, but my father rarely talks about him. My father said he didn’t feel any loss when his father died. My father rarely expresses emotion for either of his parents, and when he does, it is always negative. He can’t seem to understand their perspective. He was distant from us, except when he was angry. He played with us when we were little, but he also beat us. When my older siblings became teens, he no longer played with us. He spent a lot of time in his bedroom, only emerging to share is passions-either love for the scriptures, or anger at us for disturbing or disrespecting in some way. I have never known him to tell a lie. My mother lies quite often and she takes advantage of my father because he has no idea that she has been dishonest. He would never even think of it. She criticizes him frequently, and he just believes her. One time she bought so much stuff at the club warehouse that there was no room for my father in the car and he just accepted that he would take the bus home (my sister was driving). He did. He tires readily after social situations. The only social situations he felt comfortable with were related to church. Sometimes he goes to bed in the middle of a family gathering. He didn’t understand the need to teach us to give to and to help each other. We were not allowed to disrespect our mother, but he didn’t know how to teach us to show our love and respect to her either. When I was 16 I noticed that my mother didn’t have presents under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. I gathered all the change I could get from my room and from my siblings and I quickly went to the drug store to purchase some gifts for her. She was so happy and delighted that Christmas! She still has the jewelry box she received. This was the first time I remember thinking about my parents at Christmas and caring about whether they had gifts. When we would express our frustrations as teenagers, my mother would say that my father doesn’t know how to love people. Both of his brothers were active with their children and their children’s activities, but we bothered our father. When the men and boys from our church went on over-night camp-outs, my father was only happy if he could have an intelligent conversation with another adult. He didn’t value the time with my brothers. His needs always came first and our needs were rarely taken into consideration. He was abusive.
One of my siblings who was abused quite frequently and severely by him and my siblings also has Asperger’s, I believe. I didn’t know she was special. No one explained this to me as a child, so I remember being frustrated by her behavior, but I never abused her like my father and other siblings did. They were always angry with her. She would write and draw all over other people’s things. She was frank. She only did what would benefit her and if a chore didn’t seem to benefit her, she wouldn’t do it. She rarely does chores. She didn’t talk until she was four. After that, she would whisper to my mother at the dinner table and my father would get so angry at her for whispering instead of talking to the whole family. She didn’t always participate in our childhood games-she would watch us, but not join in. When she was two (she’s the 5th of 7 and the youngest wasn’t born yet), we were all playing dog pile. She just watched us. I was six and I thought it was odd that a two year old wouldn’t join in the fun. When she was 13 and I was 17 we were all tumbling in the family room but she was in her bedroom with the cat. I went in to tell her to join us and she said, “But, I don’t know what to do.” I told her that we’re family, it doesn’t matter what you do, you can just be yourself. She came out and joined us. She was tested for special needs in kindergarten, and they wanted to hold her back, but she remained silent during the testing-no verbal responses, so they could not give her a diagnosis and they passed her to first grade because she was so big (tall and big boned). She is a good reader. When she was a teenager she shaved her head just because she wanted to know what it would look like bald. She graduated at 22 from the adult school. She didn’t have friends because she didn’t understand friendship. When she was a child and our neighbor had to go home, she punched the neighbor. Another time she hit the neighbor on the head with a rake for a similar reason. When she was about 22, she worked at a thrift shop in another town. She took a break in the yard, where items were dropped off and the trucks pulled up to the loading/unloading dock. The shop started to close down. The big metals doors were closed. Doors were locked. There was a telephone, but she didn’t use it. She could hear people over the wall, but she didn’t call to them. She sat on a couch reading a magazine until it got dark. When it got dark she covered herself with a donated sweater and slept on the couch. Her roommate called me at 1:30 am saying that she had not come home. I called my siblings. We came together from three different counties in Southern California. We looked everywhere for her, in alleys, in trash bins, up and down all the roads she would take to and from the bus stops. I called her manager. I called the police. Shortly after 8:00 am her manager called me and said, guess who we found. He watched the video surveillance cameras and told me how she spent her night. She didn’t make any effort to be let out of the yard. She just accepted that it was closing and that she would have to stay the night. She is 42 now. She doesn’t work. She lives with a boyfriend who locks her in all day. Once, he needed his personal space and he put her up in a motel for the night. I can’t allow her to live with me because she is also abusive. She disrespected my parents (who live with me) and my children. When she lived with my older sister years back, she hurt my very young nephew. She is big and strong and when she becomes angry she is capable of hurting others just as she was hurt growing up. She is also sweet and kind and innocent and she doesn’t understand why people call her names, are mean to her, un-friend her on FB etc… She is lonely and longs for her family’s love (yes, we can be loving at times), but some of my siblings have turned against her. I want to help her, but I don’t know how to communicate with her. Our conversations usually end up in arguments. She is not allowed to live with me because she doesn’t do chores and she can be disrespectful. I keep trying to talk my parents into moving out so she can live with them, get paid to be their home health aide and drive them around, but they don’t want to. I spoke to her last Thanksgiving about getting a diagnosis. My mother had never told her that she was tested for special needs, that she was special, and that she needed help. If she had a diagnosis maybe she could have therapy and join a program that would assist her with living and work skills so she could be independent. She was married, but he passed away. When he was alive she frequently called me to pick her up after a fight, but she always went back. She used to go with him when he would sell drugs, but she didn’t realize that she could be arrested as an accessory. I told her that with her current boyfriend, she wouldn’t qualify for any of his benefits once he passed-no retirement, no anything. I don’t know how to help her. I know she’s drowning in loneliness because she posts her dreams.
Thank you so much for this, ASPIEFAMILY. Dr. McMahon
Aspies can be arseholes you know, my dad is low on empathy and an aspie. It’s a separate thing. I am higher on empathy and as aspie. We do the same things as NTs, it is just our processing is slower and it takes us longer to learn social skills.
I have loved an aspie male for over a year now and my advise to any Female who loves an aspie…Always be honest, he needs you to tell him what you need and he will give it to you if he sees a rational, logical reason to do so.
Loving an aspie is very complicated, interesting, and fulling.
I have Aspergers, and empathy is a huge issue for me. I find myself unable to process deep emotional thought, and when any sort of conflict/drama pops up where people get upset… I run.
That’s not uncommon. Of the three types of empathy, you’ve basically just described the one that Aspies are the worst at. When you have time look up Empathic, Affective empathy and Cognitive empathy in relation to Aspergers and you’ll have all the answers you need. It basically comes down to Aspies can’t tell when you’re upset so we can’t respond to it. Tell us you’re upset and you’ve got the most empathetic person in the room.
I have been with my aspie bf for 19 months. Well, I think he has aspergers. He can’t make eye contact his temper is horrendous and he had no empathy. He hates social activities and will avoid them if he can. From the very beginning of our relationship he has talked other women on dating sites or Facebook. I challenge him with this and he denies it and had a melt down resulting in me getting hurt! He believes I deserve that treatment as I’ve ‘upset’ him. I believe he loves me and he tells me 50 times a day and expects me to say it back. I’m not the sort of person to condone his actions so I do challenge him and it ends up in a fight. He has an addiction of talking to other women. I’m 12 years older than him and believes he’s with me as he likes the mother figure. Someone his age wouldn’t put up with his behaviour. I am constantly worried who he’s talking to and if he’s cheating on me. We have split up many times and he always comes back. At the beginning of our relationship he was obsessed with sex, always wanted it. Now it’s non existent. He’d rather entertain himself with makes me feel crap! I love him but can’t relax in this relationship. I really am stuck on what to do. I have researched aspergers and understand most of his actions and can handle the melt downs but it’s the talking to other women and lack of sex that I find difficult. He volt has his melt downs if I challenge him about something I believe he’s doing or I go quiet as I am upset. He can’t handle confrontation or me being distant. It’s a vicious circle! He talks to other women, I get upset, I go cold on him, he asks me why, I tell him, he flips out! I can’t win! I need guidance on what to do
First of all, your boyfriend sounds like an asshole, not an aspie. Second, questions:
Does he know talking to other women hurts you? Like have you actually sat him down and told him that in the simplest words possible? I know you said “I get upset, I go cold on him, he asks me why, I tell him, he flips out” but has he correlated talking to other women with you being upset?
Is he aware that there is no excuse, meltdown or otherwise, to physically hurt another human being?
Is he aware of why you’re not returning affection? Have you said something along the lines of, “I don’t want to tell you I love you because you hurt me earlier and I’m still upset about it?”
I’m not saying or trying to imply that anything is your fault but when dealing, emotionally, with an Aspie, use words. Use an ungodly amount of words; never assume that because they’ve reached a certain age or emotional state that they’ll understand the finer twists and turns of human emotions and psyche. If you’re not sure, use words. If he responds well to texts or emails, send texts or emails.
I love the fact that you can’t accept that people with Asperger’s syndrome can be assholes. The whole article is absurd because it paints this picture of people with Asperger’s as only being angelic, pure creatures without any negative intents. Is this any
I’m not saying he isn’t an arsehole because he is! He has lots of issues about his past as he was over weight as a child and was called fat and ugly. He had grown up to be a gorgeous young man and he now makes the most of his looks but I believe he has no confidence. I think going on dating sites and talking to other women give him confidence. I have spoken to these women he talks to and they say he ‘bored’ them. He wasn’t crude and just spoke of day to day things. I have tried explaining to him that what he has done hurts me but he flares up and goes mad and threatens to leave. He doesn’t want to hear and wants me to forget it all and move on. My heads a mess and I am desperately trying to be strong enough to let him go.
Hi Rachael, and “affect management” is a huge problem under stress (“flares up”). I use biofeedback equipment when starting these conversations, so the partner can monitor how calm he/she is, and it helps them be better able to listen. I also wish I had a nickel for every NT husband who told his wife “Forget about it. Don’t get stuck in the past. Let’s move on.” I don’t talk to AS in the same way as I do NT’s around these sorts of issues. I first have to convince them that the emotions of their wives “counts,” and should be listened to. Most women in your situation recognize that on some basic level, their husbands still just don’t “get it.” And that makes it hard to leave. It is one thing if someone is intentionally trying to hurt you. Another when they don’t understand what the big deal is all about…and they truly mean it…they don’t “understand.”
Ffffff, I can accept that those with AS can be extremely trying to deal with: argumentative, quick to become emotionally explosive, highly sensitive, etc. My article was about the positive qualities, that are also there. Generalizations, yes, but also there.
Absolutely right. Idk if your BF is an Aspie, but he is an @$$hole. And I’m concerned about you too, for allowing him to treat you this way, and for continuing to take him back time and time again. But, I don’t think he is an Aspie because an Aspie wouldn’t require that kind of attention. His behavior is more socio-pathological that Aspie. Aspies don’t require a mother figure. They don’t require being told they’re loved 50x a day. An Aspie would rather have an upset person be distant than not. While Aspies can have addictions, even to sex-it wouldn’t be common. Also, an Aspie would detest talking to other women so often-unless they were also train fanatics (or whatever the Aspie’s obsession is). I think you have this all wrong. Get rid of the psycho and don’t let him back in. Go to a therapist to find out why you think it’s OK to be abused, then go through treatment so you can be in a healthy relationship. Birds of a feather flock together-If you want a healthy relationship, you need to become healthy yourself.
In my clinical experience, I have seen sociopathic people who presented in an ASPIE-esk way in my office, in order to continue to use their spouse materially. It happens. And it causes a lot of bad press about how AS spouses “are.”
So as a relative newbie to the understanding that I’m not a broken NT but a successful Aspie things are starting to make a lot more sense. I have huge struggles with sex not least because I have survived childhood abuse of every category. I have tried to explain to my partner asking me what I WANT sexually is like hitting the OFF switch to my arousal. It means that I have to withdraw my attention and focus from the physical sensations and what made them pleasant to analyse my options and compare them with what I’ve liked before. Then I can tell he’s not happy that I can’t respond mean while I’ve lost my sense of ‘connection’ to the sexual act because I’ve had to go away in my head to figure this out. It leaves me feeling frustrated and really aggravated to the point where I’m almost inclined to say ‘I love you and perhaps my physical satisfaction shouldn’t be part of this equation – just do what you want so its done then I can masturbate to get release.’
I don’t know if this is the way other AS people feel but I makes me mad and sad and just plain pissy to have to act out this process. Why do I have to keep saying don’t do that it doesn’t work for me?! I even understand from his perspective he is trying to ensure my comfort but it is having exactly the opposite effect. I don’t know how to tell him this because I understand that it would hurt him because people are sensitive about their sexuality. That leaves me in an unsatisfactory cycle of having to intellectually justifying his actions so that I can relax enough to be affectionate when all I want to do is yell ‘JUST STOP DOING THAT.’
Yana, you’ve done a great job explaining this struggle sexually. Of course, NT people have it too. Why is it that when it comes to how you like your coffee, your spouse can remember, (maybe) but when it comes to not liking a particular sexual behavior, they can “keep forgetting”? What IS particularly AS is how well you are able to describe the shift in attention that such a question requires of you. If you were working with me, I might suggest you draw up a list of “Things I like Sexually” and have him go through the list until he gets the response he’s looking for.
Great comment. Thank you for it.
ok I don’t know why sign up had to be caps but whatever. I am recently diagnosed with AS. Have always found it impossible to maintain a relationship and kinda gave up on the whole idea on a intellectual level. I have endless feelings and really want to dispel the myth that aspies are cold and unfeeling. I am actually perhaps the most sensitive person I have ever met, no exaggeration, not only to the senses (light and noise and taste is a big problem sometimes) but also tactile, and straight up emotional. This makes sex and intimacy complicated. I just want all you NT’s to never question if we love you or feel anything or whatever. The problem is that we often feel too much, many things, at once…and that can be confusing.
I agree that the “cold and unfeeling” label doesn’t fit. Processing may be different, but that doesn’t mean non-existent.
Not sure what you mean by “sign ups have to be caps” but that might be the program.
oh and of course the more insistent NT’s get, the more frazzled we can get, and it can snowball into an anxiety attack…so there’s that…
I am an NT woman married to an AS man. I’m sorry to say it, but your list is misleading.
My husband can tell the truth (“you could lose some weight”), and he can lie.
“Kids with AS are breathtakingly honest at first, but can learn how to lie and use it to their advantage. It is not uncommon for an Aspie to live almost a double life.” (an expert on Aspergers told me this to my face- I do mean expert; his name appears in the top 2 hits on a google search for “aspergers”, and his work is referenced on the Wikipedia page about Aspergers).
My husband was using dating sites and meeting up with women for around a year. He lied to me about this, and was dishonest for months. He is not a great liar, but the more he did it, the better he became. By the way, he started dating during a rough period, but continued for months even though our relationship stabilized and we were treating each other kindly. Actually, I can say that the relationship was really great. I know dozens of women who are/were in relationships with AS men, and many of them report that their partners have lied and/or cheated.
“To truly love an Aspie, you must truly understand an Aspie, and understand their history of abuse. And not add to it.” You have a point here. An AS-NT relationship will flounder if both parties do not endeavour to better understand each other. However, unless you are also encouraging both partners to make equal effort, then I believe you are guiding the relationship into a codependent zone, where the NT partner will be doing the majority of the work/emotional caretaking.
In my opinion, Aspergers is not a deficiency that needs fixing or eliminating. However, when we consider relationships that bring together AS and NT, we need to be realistic about the fact that each party has very, very different expectations and needs. An NT woman can be ‘kind’ to her AS partner, but sooner or later her needs, or his lack of needs, will cause friction in the relationship. At that point, the woman is not being unkind, but probably acting out of frustration, disappointment, and confusion.
May I suggest that you look further into AS- it is quite complex. NT-AS relationship dyads are even more complex, and can hardly be summed up in a brief five point list. There are positives that arise from being in a relationship with a man who falls on the AS spectrum, but it is your responsibility as a therapist to give a balanced perspective.
Any article this short is bound to be filled with misleading information. That’s why I started it out saying that:
[A]ny “Reason to Love an Aspie” are generalizations and these aren’t true of everybody with Aspergers Syndrome. They say, (and with good reason,) “If you’ve met one person with Aspergers, you’ve met one person with Aspergers.” But there are generalizations you can make about why to love an Aspie, and like all generalizations, of course they won’t hold true for everybody.”
Still, I’m just amazed that your husband enjoyed dating other women while he was married to you. The diversity of human beings astounds me, and clearly this includes AS as well as NT.
Still, I stand by what I said: If there were some study on this (and I do not know that there is) my money would ride on the AS in an AS/NT marriage having far fewer extramarital affairs than NT/NT matches. I’m sure dating chat rooms have made it easier. You can eliminate a lot of folks who won’t date you, and still find someone who is willing to meet you. And if you are an AS who has no trouble having sex, well, there you go. But it is the motivation I find so curious. What was your husband “looking for” by dating these women? What did he find in these other women that was worth the time away from the other things he enjoyed?
To your other point, if I were to write an article about the challenges an NT faces in being married to an AS, I would assure you that it would be quite a different article. As I mentioned, the heart-ache is enormous, particularly when the AS is quite successful and not diagnosed. The diagnosis alone is often very useful for the NT, because it gives them a starting point to understand what they “thought” they understood before.
Thanks for your comment.
omg you’re soooo right! The HEART-ACHE is huge! Especially when he’s not diagnosesd! It makes you feel so alone and like you’re a horrible person. I believe the reason the above ladies husband cheated on her was because one night stands are MUCH easier for the AS MAN, as he doesn’t have to worry about feelings and emotions. A one night stand is strictly sex- robotic sex- no words needed! I have been married to an undiagnosed AT for almost 10 yrs. we were friends for 15 yrs before we dated and we dated for about 5 yrs before getting married. Basically I got pregnant and after having the baby I said were getting married. We went to court house and were married. No proposal no wedding no honeymoon. A very lonely existence. I totally wish I never had a child w him although I love my autistic son. This is definitely not what I signed up for. I totally need intimacy and emotional connection and I will most likely need to find a man in the side for that, as he is TOTALLY INCAPABLE of such a thing. And now that I know what the problem is I can stop blaming myself and have a little hope that someday I will be able to find a normal loving man
Yes, ANgela, I do believe that there are quite a few couples out there that married before there was an official diagnosis. And you are right, if sex is a goal, or to be free of the complications of a relationship that is filled with emotions you just don’t “get,” affairs can look like a solution.
I believe that you can have that intimacy and emotional connection, but it will be unconventional. It will require more from you than if you were married to an NT. But you were friends for 15 YEARS. That means something. And with help, and willingness on both sides, I believe many couples can find what you are looking for. It just might be hard to explain it quickly to someone in a blogpost.
totally agree with this comment. I too am an NT women married to an AS man. I have been married to an AS man for 18 years, and he lies continually. He will tell me or others the truth regardless of THEIR feelings, HOWEVER if he needs to protect HIMSELF he has no problem with lying. I am sick of reading on forums etc how an AS cannot lie!
You make an important distinction here, and yes, I’ve seen this. Perhaps it is best to say that being unable to accurately read facial expressions easily, and being “mind-blinded,” it can be tougher to figure out what “lie” is “appropriate” to tell. However, if a person has “been to this rodeo” before, they can anticipate displeasure, and will aim to dodge the anxiety by denying the truth. It might be better to say that they might not be automatically able to determine under which situation to lie, until they have had some prior experience with another’s displeasure at learning the truth…
Not to get all evil, but she’s right. Many of us are perfectly calculating liars, fully aware of how others think; lies often revolve around how deeply an issue is rationalized – analytics is something many of us can effortlessly handle (perceptual issues included). Sorry to be the bearer of news – we know what you’re thinking! lol
What you are describing does not fit my clinical understanding of Aspergers, Mike. You are describing sociopathy. Perhaps co-morbidity… Dr. K
If you are kind, they won’t cheat on you with someone else.
I’m quite curious about this statement. If you’re kind to them the will not cheat. Does it mean that if they cheat it must have been that you were not kind? What exactly does “not kind” mean in an AS/NT relationship? Does it mean you were not kind because you yourself cheated? Does it mean you were not kind because you expect them to help pay bills?
Aww Sarah, I think you are over-thinking this. People “cheat” for all sorts of reasons, and if you have an AS that has cheated on you, I’m sure they will provide a whole host of them. And, yes, an AS can very well assume that you are not a “fair” or “kind” person because you expect them to pay their share of the bills. And I’m sure they can write you many long, detailed pages outlining why this is an “unkind” request.
My point was, that relationships are often something that an AS is happy to secure with a kind person who they like and get along with. And that *in general* they are not as likely as the NT to keep looking for “greener pastures” just for kicks. It is not to blame anyone.
If you are kind they are happy to have you and wouldnt dream of cheating on you because you completely fulfill them. After a big bowl of delicious spaghetti do you still want lazagna? Thats how we feel
I have AS and am almost in tears. This confirms that I might not die alone. The mere fact that I express this, especially on a public forum, demonstrates my need for love and intimacy just like any NT. It is very difficult for me to connect emotionally…it always has been, but deep inside somewhere, under a sea of intellectual shenanigans and gobbledygook, all i want is someone to share my life with. And here come the tears.
No, Robert, if you decide that you want a partner, and focus on it, you will not die alone. There are many good people who will consider you a wonderful person to love, even with your “sea of intellectual shenanigans and gobbledygook” (I love that phrase…). That’s my point: There are many good reasons to love an Aspie. Yes, they are generalizations, and they do not hold for every Aspie. But let’s start sharing that there ARE good reasons, even if they don’t always hold true for EVERY SINGLE PERSON who carries that label. I adore my clients with Aspergers, and respect them a great deal. They are in my office, so they are having relationship problems. But it is not hopeless, and with an NT partner that really loves the guy or gal, there is plenty of translations that can be done.
I asked in aspie forums, and most aspies said they’re married or in a relationship. You can try one of those aspie meetups.
Any neurotypical would be luck to have an aspie partner, I think. We’re loyal and aren’t as likely to cheat because we want very few and very close people in our lives. We prefer a small but tight circle of friends rather than a large circle where no one really knows the other person.
If you hang around the right people, you’ll find someone who has enough common sense to know a good thing upon seeing it. Sensitive and intellectual people would love an aspie. From my limited experience with bi polar people, I think they’ll understand an aspie better. Manic depressive people tend to be intelligent and sensitive. They understand someone who’s different. Those who can’t accept you aren’t worth your time and trouble anyway.
I like this list and that last comment about understanding someone who is “different”. After three years of my perceived struggle trying to “figure out” my aspie boyfriend; I shifted my perspective at the last minute and we are doing better than ever. We knew we loved each other; but I have manic-depressive tendencies and could not see how much my aspie bf had done for me because I was blaming him for things he could not fix. He would tell me that I was being emotionally abusive, but I could not figure out then why he wouldn’t change the things I asked him to (namely regarding his lack of sex drive and his obsessively texting his old gf like a robot – he can’t help but be nice). Now that I have accepted his quirks, I really see that he is so genuine in all his motives. He really says what he thinks; while I, in contrast, can manipulate the truth in so many ways. He has put up with so much from me. Now, that I can see the beauty in him, he makes me laugh all the time. I take what he says as genuine and know that he is loyal to me. The verbal puns and his knowledge about so many things, makes me feel blessed to know him. I hope we stay together forever. My advice to any NT dating an Aspie, is to read as much as you can about them from a positive source and to truly relish their beautiful minds. They may do things you think are awkward and very very difficult; and yes, you may perceive yourself as being “lonely”; but life is lonely and aspies get it. You may just find yourself in the best company as I have found! After over three years, I am finally getting it. 🙂
I`m reading this nearly 2 years later Robert…you will probably never read this..but I do so hope that you found someone you can love who loves you back!!…and here come the tears xx
Me too, Jackie!
I have AS and have NT wife — our relationship is quite beautiful. I would say we DO have empathy , but it is more of an intellectual/logic based empathy than an emotion based empathy. i dont know if that makes any sense.
I have to say , however, that I DID read several books on how to be a good spouse and how to be a good dad. I think all aspies should read about those things when deciding to date an NT …. they (the books)are like a map of unknown territory or a manual of sorts.
Hi JB. Can you let me know what books you read? Also, do you know if there’s a book for children on how to be good children? I’m a parent of an Aspie and thing have been a challenge to say the least as the love is all one direction…about what age/how did you figure out your version of empathy?
My husband is on the Asperger’s spectrum. He recently read (and enjoyed) “Look Me in the Eye” by John Elder Robison. The same author has written “Raising Cubby”, which details his role as a husband/parent.
For both NT and AS partners, I highly recommend “Journal of Best Practices” by David Finch. It discusses the action that he took to repair and improve his marriage. He is also a father.
Good luck 🙂
Yes, I’ve seen a “David Finch” type husband in my practice that is just remarkable.
I also enjoyed “Look Me in the Eye.”
I found “Asperger Syndrome and Long-Term Relationships” by Ashley Stanford a very helpful book to wives who are trying to figure out their NT husbands, as well.
Kurt– That was back in the late 1980s and 1990s. I got them at a second hand bookstore. I cant remember the names , but they were kinda old. They kinda reflected the traditional views of around 1950s /1960s for dads . and dating and being a good spouse. I liked them because they had roles that were not too vague… more rule based for me. As for my empathy , i know things that should be done if my wife is sad — when her dad died and she burst into tears , I felt uncomfortable with the emotions, but in those books , i read that when females are really sad they should be hugged gently , and gently patted on the back etc. , and to say ‘ i am sorry for your sadness’ or some other known phrase. Every time she began crying , i gave her gentle hugs..(because that is what the books said) and said ” i am so sorry for what you are going through”.. i say our empathy is logic based , because when i feel empathy for someone , in my mind my instinct is to think of some logical way to help that person ( not give hugs) . I tell her I love her at least every other day , and 4 times a year i will buy her flowers for no reason….because i read that spouses like that and need to be reminded that you love them often.
There is a recent book out that i got from Amazon the recommendation of my brother— it is good as well, — i will have to find the name though as it fails me at the moment. —I dont know if all this helps or not —i hope it helps some.