Cassandra Syndrome: New Hope For The Neurotypical Partner

Cassandra Syndrome describes a woman who tries to tell others about her life with an autistic partner and is not believed. Her family members don't understand what she's troubled by. While it was named after a mythical woman, it is not restricted to wives in neurodiverse marriages but can happen with either gender.

The wife's friends wonder what about him causes her to be so distressed. She's in an ongoing traumatic relationship syndrome. Like the mythological character, she knows what's happening to her, but she's not believed.

Cassandra Syndrome is not an accepted psychiatric diagnosis. Rather, it is a description of a historic pattern of women not being believed. The medical establishment has often accused women of being melodramatic and exaggerating their physical symptoms. And their history with the mental health establishment and being labeled with inappropriate mental disorders are well documented.

So it is no surprise that when a wife describes how she suffers from emotional deprivation in her marriage, she is doubted. Her husband often successfully masks in front of family and friends. He may be a wealthy and successful husband, calm, rational, and articulate. The wife is simply not believed.

The label "Asperger's Syndrome" began to be used in 1997 in the USA. Many times, if he is an older man who has mild autism spectrum disorder, he might never have been diagnosed as having autism as a child.

In Greek mythology, the god Apollo gave Cassandra the supernatural gift of prophecy as a way of trying to win her affection. When she rejected him, he let her keep her prophetic powers. However, he cursed her with the consequence of no one ever believing her. Despite her accurate predictions, Cassandra was ridiculed and disregarded, seen as insane and irrational.

The Cassandra Syndrome was coined to describe the difficulty NT partners experience when trying to get acceptance and understanding from their neurodivergent partners, relatives, and therapists.

Typically, only when their children are diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum do those around her begin also to suspect that her husband may be likewise neuroatypical.

Emotional Deprivation Disorder

Emotional Deprivation Disorder is yet another term. It's used to describe the cluster of symptoms that result from a lack of emotional connection with a partner on the autism spectrum.

Given the confusion with another similarly named disorder, Affective Deprivation Disorder (AfDD), was proposed by Maxine Aston.

Affective Deprivation Disorder

Maxine Aston describes her conception of AfDD as follows:

AfDD is not mental disorder caused by childhood trauma, emotional pain, or a congenital disability. It is a condition that is rooted in the dynamics of the relationship. It is caused by low emotional intelligence or an inability to recognize emotions (alexithymia) in either or both partners.

It's also something that can change if you can find a good couples therapist who understands and knows how to work with neurodiverse relationships. Even believing the woman and diagnosing the man as "neurodiverse" can be healing. Teach the couple how to relate to one another and enhancing their bond, and the symptoms recede.

Support groups that help to educate the spouse about an asd husband can normalize and provide helpful strategies that the couple can adopt.

One of the critical misconceptions about neurodiversity is that neuroatypicals lack "empathy." It is a damaging accusation. It is often a relief for spouses to discover that this is not only a myth but that those on the spectrum can have cognitive empathy in abundance once they understand their partner's particular personal experience.

They may rely on their partner to articulate this experience, but this is quite different than saying they don't have this fundamental human trait. With understanding comes a greater empathetic response. TI caution them that each individual may believe they are doing the bulk of the work, but once a spouse of an NA member acknowledges the tasks at hand, they often feel greatly relieved and optimistic about their marriage's well-being and progress towards a healthier and happier life. This work teaches each partner to learn how to recognize and show emotions and connections in ways that work for both of them.

Fortunately, more couples therapists are getting trained in identifying neuro-atypicality and learning how to work effectively with neurodiverse couples.

This post will focus on the more user-friendly term Cassandra Syndrome. 

Symptoms of Being Disbelieved

When a couple arrives at couples counseling, the NT partner may be feeling overwhelmed and distressed by the relationship. They may be frustrated, claiming that their partner refuses to talk about emotions, is overly controlling, is 'narcissistic,' or blames them when things go wrong.

The NT partner may feel like they are losing their mind. In contrast, there sits the asd partner, calm, rational, often intelligent, and successful in their career. In an unlabeled high-functioning Asperger's marriage, Cassandra Syndrome can be invisible. The untrained therapist asking her to describe the problem might have trouble understanding what the problem actually is. It's a task that can be puzzling without a neurodiverse lens.

Living with a neurodivergent (or autistic person) without support creates intense internal conflict. Long-term, the spouse can suffer poor self-esteem, increased frustration, or even rage, anxiety, or depression. These and other symptoms of the Cassandra Phenomenon or Casandra Syndrome were described two decades years ago.

Receiving the Diagnosis

In my practice, I have learned that with proper context, the diagnosis (or even the descriptor of "neuroatypical") brings both relief and despair. After all, if the husband was character disordered, he might get proper help and change.

What my clients learn is that this difference in how their brains function is wired from birth. The improvement in their marriages will come only from each person changing.

And, as I warn them, "Each of you will believe that you are doing most of the work."

Once a woman or man married to a person who is NA recognizes the work to be done, I have found them to be deeply relieved to be on a positive track to a healthier and happier marriage. The families of adults affected by Cassandra Syndrome can also improve, and they will be able to parent in an easier way.

Ready for a change in your relationship?

It starts with a no-obligation 15 minute phone call with our client services team.

Dr. K

Dr. Kathy McMahon (Dr. K) is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. She is also the founder and president of Couples Therapy Inc. Dr. K feels passionate about couples therapy and sex therapy and holds a deep respect towards those who invest in making their relationship better. She is currently conducting online and in person private couples retreats.

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  1. Hi, this article really resonated for my wife of 20 years and she shared it with me to help me to understand her experience with me. Thank you for writing it.

    I have a specific question about this, since I haven’t been identified as being on the spectrum, nor do I score in self-assessment tests as being within range, but nevertheless, she states that the experience she has with me is a match to this syndrome.

    I’m wondering if this syndrome is caused less by the specific combination of NT and NA partners, and more by two partners with a large difference in neuroticism scores. I score extremely low in neuroticism while she scores at the upper extremes in neuroticism. Along the same lines, her emotional sensitivity and disregulation is very high and I have extreme difficulties understanding her emotional reactions to what I understand are normal daily situations (e.g. turning down a burner when a pot is about to boil over on the stove while she’s cooking will throw her into a rage for not trusting that she is capable of doing that herself), so I often respond with surprise, defensiveness, and explanations when her anger is directed towards me. From what I’ve read, I believe she has undiagnosed BPD since she meets most of the criteria.

    Do you believe our situation, and the suffering my wife experiences living with me, can be framed as Cassandra syndrome, even if our profiles may be different?

    Thanks so much!

    1. I would suggest that both of you attempt to give up the labels and focus on the behaviors instead. People can be neuroatypical and not fit enough diagnostic criteria to qualify for a diagnosis, because their symptoms aren’t severe. Some people are just highly intelligent. Others have ADHD. Same with people who are reactive emotionally. A variety of situations makes women highly emotional and reactive, not just BPD.

      Ask her to describe to you exactly what she’d like you to do differently, and write it down. Commit it to memory. Tell her what you’d like her to do differently and ask her to write it down (but you go first…) If she asks you to stop touching the burners of the stove when she’s cooking, stop touching the burners. If it boils over, that’s her mess to clean up.

      If she raises her voice when you do something she doesn’t like, ask her to speak to you at a lower volume. If she wants you to talk about your emotions, not “facts,” see if that’s something you can do. Many people find it challenging, but those without alexatxymia can learn how to both identify feelings, demonstrate feelings with appropriate facial expressions, and talk about them. Check out Paul Ekman’s work, if you are curious.

      And consider getting some old fashioned help with a therapist who understands neuroatypical and BPD symptoms well enough to put those labels to bed. Most people would rather be happy than be right about their partners anyway, and nobody likes to be labeled.

  2. Apologies! Indeed I am the NT married for 30+ years to an asexual ND. For many years, I thought he was insensitive, emotionally-devoid, and mean. But it took the insight of a friend who has an autistic child to help me see this for what it is. It has helped me be more understanding and forgiving. However, he refuses professional counseling, both individual or marital so unfortunately, we are separated. It is damaging and such a lonely existence. Robin Williams has some epic quotes but this one hits differently: "I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It's not. The worst thing in life is end up with people that make you feel all alone."

  3. my problem is we are now retired and in an community of same age people. My partner is definitely on the asd spectrum as our son was diagnosed at 25 with asperger syndrome. Husband acknowledges he has communication issues but when I try to negotiate or pull him up on an issue he does not see an issue. I just try to live my life but eyesight issues means I cannot drive anymore so am a bit reliant on him for transport. He offers to do technology jobs as that was his career but it is a solitary job and so I am left alone often with no explanation. we live in australia so doing therapy is problematic. Daphne d
    D D

  4. Hello…. My husband and I have been married for 33 years….during the 12 year I read an article about Asperger Syndrome….now neurodivergent personality on the Autism spectrum. That article saved our marriage as my husband is a very good person….non violent and never intentionally verbally abusive. I realize after years of studying and counselling that I want to be fair to myself as well as my husband that, for the most part, we share a no fault relationship. I am 79 and He is 86 and undiagnosed…..memory files required for imagination and imagination required for empathy are not available to him in a way that I understand ….as well, assimilation of information is very limited…I answer questions to exhaustion.
    Reading a comment posted in your files…my biggest concern is that I am still trying to change us…I am in denial that we can’t fix this and keep trying….now concerned that I am stressing him by asking him to try to understand something that doesn’t exit in his world in the first place. I desperately need validation as the well is dry and doubts have set in….doubting my self and others. I was thinking an Do you thinking an audible affirmation cd would help…do you have audible affirmations for Cassandra Syndrome

    Thank you
    Donna Wright

    1. Hi Donna, I think if your husband could understand that you need some words of affirmation, or you need him to listen and try to feed back to you what you are saying, I think that is quite possible. Cognitive understanding is a real thing. If you want him to know (mindread) what you want him to say, that will set you up for disappointment! -Dr. K

  5. Dr. K,

    You obviously struck a nerve with some NTs on here. Their reaction to your post completely reinforced many of the points you made. Thank you for not caving to the unfair criticism. I am exhausted and drained after decades of living with an NT. Living on eggshells, over dramatized reactions to things, days of being ignored, not being able to discuss anything but weather and news … It's not a life. It's an existence. I feel like the victim of a catfish … it was a bait and switch … Kung Fu Panda turned Tai Lung. Why? What makes them turn? How do they hide the real them?

    1. I think YOU are a neurotypical (NT) married to a neuroatypical (NA) am I right? They don’t “switch.” Like all of us, they put their best foot forward and you were their “special interest.” Also, I wasn’t kidding when I say there is hope. The NA needs to understand you better, just as you need to understand the NA better. Deeper intimacy is possible. Check out for resources.

  6. I'm on the spectrum. I told my wife (of three years) before we got married that i have ASD and ADHD. In fact, I did that not long after we started dating. I made it as clear as I could that these were biological and that I've come as far as I could in terms of "changing". And not for lack of effort. It was fking difficult. It still is.

    For the past year, it's been really clear my wife has every symptom of cassandra syndrome save the defining one. Everybody believes her, because I make it clear to everybody that I'm the atypical one.

    So disbelief from others is not the root of the unhappiness in her case. It's the unwillingness to accept and love me for who I am. That's even after two therapists have told her that she either has to accept it (and change how she deals with marital problems) or divorce me and move on.

    I don't think external disbelief is the real issue in such cases. The real issue is probably internal denial.

    1. It’s pretty complicated, Zk. Few marital therapists understand how to work with neurodiverse couples. It is a specialty inside a specialty (couples therapy). I think it is poor advise to give to a person to “accept” whatever issues the two of you have. Both people can change very concrete aspects of how they relate. It isn’t up to one or the other of you to change how you relate to each other. However, magic cannot and does not happen. Check out for a therapist in your area who has completed their couples therapy training. It could really help. -Dr. K

  7. Dr K,

    I am so very grateful for your post. What you describe has been my experience. My husband is at the heart so very good, loving and kind but I have been so painfully confused by the incongruency between his heart and his behavior all these years.

    Correct me if I am wrong but I believe there is a significant typo in this paragraph:

    "One of the critical misconceptions about neurodiversity is that neurotypicals lack 'empathy.' It is a damaging accusation. It is often a relief for spouses to discover that this is not only a myth but that those on the spectrum can have cognitive empathy in abundance once they understand their partner's particular personal experience."

    I think you meant to type "One of the critical misconceptions about neurodiversity is that neuroAtypicals lack 'empathy.'" *Neuroatypicals not *neurotypicals.

    I am discerning my/our options for healing and help. How would I contact you directly to learn of process, availability and fees?

    Thank you and God bless.

  8. Its very sad that in most cases we are unaware that he has ASD.

    My „relationship” started like a fairytale and ended after 1 year (half of this was a totally horror which caused my depression, mental breakdown, loss of hair, anxiety, and 1 year later Im still dammaged/ he didnt hurted at all…)

    He is programming engineer (44yo) and Im a lawyer (37) We were totally in love, many plans for future, he was loving, gentle and caring and suddenly after ca. 5 months he started to show really weird and hurtfull behaviours. He blamed me and punished me for really everything, small things were problematic like mountains.

    He was very judgemental but he reacted almost HISTERICAL for even small innocent critique. Once I stated that he’s shoes are dirty (even cleaned them for him) he took it as big insult (!) remembered it and was vindictive about it many times.

    But he had No problem to insult me with HORRIFIC bad words (w@ore, stupid idiot, „disgusting fraud, etc) for really small disagreements. His behaviours turned suddenly and quickly in to heavy emotional abuse.

    Examples: he SPITTED on me !!!! Just because I was bit sulky and offended after some disagreement we had and we went to his friends for a party, I scrolled most of the time on my phone and was sad and sulky (he ignored me) his friend took it as Im negative, after party he said that I showed big disrespect for him and his friends (…) and spitted at me in big rage.

    He often ran away and left me alone crying after he done or said something hurtfull. Ev. he just stared at me and waited for me to just stop crying. No emotions, NO PROPER REACTION, nothing. When I started calling him out, why he is so cruel while im crying, he stated that „the fact that I stopped crying and calling him out on his behaviour is an evidence that I faked crying just to manipulate him” (…)

    He is very succesful programmist but in emotional& life area behaved like someone who starts learning basics (he is 44 yo!). Often he searched in Google for „knowledge” about daily situations or „rules” and showed me that something is right even if that was a quote and I could easilly find similar quotes for opposite opinion (…) delusional

    Despite of the fact that Ive done everything in his house (cooking, cleaning, decorating) he refused to help me by Putting heavy vacuum cleaner in the closet as I wanted to dry my hair (!!!) He said he will not do such things and leaved my house, I cried… DEMAND AVOIDANCE? In this time I was shocked to the core, that man can refuse such basic minimal help for a woman who did everything in his house.

    He GASLIGHTED me and reinterpreted facts in crazy ways. He was always right even after insulting me, he still saw himself as authority in area of good behaviour and mannerism, just because he was extreme nice to other people (that was evidence that he is respected and right). He leaved me in really hurtfull situations (looked like abandoning or even breaking up) and then came after 1 day without any remorse expecting that I will „not talk about the past” and „be positive” ( he was positive and calm…)

    My first idea was Asperger but I excluded it because of his high competence to gain friends and contacts, so I „diagnosed” heavy NPD. All traits from Narcisstic disorder matched ….. I refused his 4months„hoover” thinking that he is a narcisst.

    He claimed that he loves me all the time, milion words about love and told me that we should reingage to sory things out but he didnt changed his behaviours. at all. He stalked me and send many hurtfull vindictive mails , even throwed my belongings in front of my door (I cried till getting fever). As I was devastated for many months he started to partying and „recruited” new girlfriend in a 1 month (….) without any remorse, nothing.

    Im still trying to recover since 9 months and still feel depressed after all the hurt he caused. My therapist suspects it was 99% ASD because of his weird blindfull behaviours. I regret that I didnt stayed by my first „diagnosis” and thought he is a narcissist.

    His behaviours were often weird inadequate and really cruel and it looked really intentional, sometimes it looked like he doesnt know What he is doing. I loved him so much and now Im killing myself with thoughts that it could work out if I would react differently (I was hyperemotional cried loudly etc).

    The thought, that he will not hurt the next partner (that I was some kind of „training girl” for him and now he will behave properly with next one is killing me inside.
    I feel used and abused.

  9. Thank you Dr. K for this article. After reading your article, I realize that neurotypical partners often unknowingly engage in gaslighting behaviors towards neurodivergent partners. For other awareness, gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse in which the abuser manipulates the victim into doubting their own perception of reality. It is interesting to know that neurodivergent individuals, such as those on the autism spectrum, may have different ways of processing information and perceiving the world around them. When a neurotypical partner dismisses or invalidates their experiences, it can lead to feelings of confusion, self-doubt, and anxiety. It's vital for neurotypical partners to be aware of these differences and actively work towards understanding and validating their partner's experiences. Doing so can create a healthier and more supportive relationship for both partners.

  10. Dear Dr McMahon,

    I have read with great concern an article that you have written on a website named Couples Therapy Inc, entitled "Cassandra Syndrome…New Hope for Neurotypical Partner."

    This is an appalling, unhelpful stereotype of autistic people, and as an autistic woman who has been NOT the perpetrator but the victim of domestic abuse in multiple relationships at the hands of men, I would be grateful if you could answer some questions.

    It isn't only Neurotypicals who don't receive understanding or belief about harm being caused to them by a partner with a different neuro type. Autistic people are statistically far more likely to be the victims of abuse than the perpetrators.

    Now please combine these findings with those regarding the disproportionate number of women who are abused in relationships, rather than being the abuser, and consider the harm caused by this article to vulnerable autistic women in relationships with abusive NT men.

    Autistic people aren't the only ones who mask, and we are far less able to do it consistently and convincingly than Neurotypical people, including NT men who abuse their partners.

    I've been in several relationships with NT men who were able to convince everyone around them that they're decent, caring and non-abusive. This behaviour isn't prevalent amongst Autistics, it's prevalent amongst abusive men.

    You have all but erased Autistic women in your article. In our relationships with men it's we who have overwhelmingly been the partner receiving emotional abuse and neglect, and we who are not believed.

    Autistics can only mask for a short time and whilst we can appear neurotypical, we are still judged as rude NTs, or ingenuine NTs, or arrogant NTs. NTs with "something off" about us. The "something off" is actually our desperate attempts to give NT people what they demand, and to fit into their expectation of how one person should interact with another.

    This is what ND people experience from a NT partner:

    A lack of acceptance and understanding with regards to overstimulating situations and environments.

    "Gaslighting:" We often forget things, and this can be weaponized by NT partners to try to convince us that we've just forgotten something that in truth wasn't done or said.

    We're constantly told "what we meant" in arguments, despite the fact that saying one thing to actually mean another is a classic neurotypical trait, and a potentially unpleasant and abusive one at that. We autistics choose our words very carefully, and it's incredibly distressing to be told that another person knows our intent and emotions better than ourselves, especially when they're wrong. On top of that, we are then punished for intent that wasn't there.

    We're accused of being both too emotional and lacking in emotion because we respond to things differently than NT people. Not wrongly, just differently…although NT society will refuse to allow that.

    Ironically, we are constantly described as lacking in empathy. In your article you state:

    "Those on the spectrum can have cognitive empathy in abundance once they understand their partner's particular personal experience."
    I and many other autistic women have no difficulty in understanding another person's "particular personal experience." However, most well-meaning people respond to another's distress in the same way in which they would like to be responded, if they were experiencing that distress.

    It might be different, but how often do neurotypical people try to respond to an autistic person's distress in the way that's best for them? Many Autistic people in distress are also overstimulated and need to be left alone so that they can regulate themselves. Instead, we are harangued, the stimulation increases, voices are raised and demands are issued that we simply cannot meet at that moment. We are always expected to apologise for being unable to respond in a neurotypical manner. We are then forced to engage in an extremely frightening and degrading game of "guess the exact problem and respond to it in a way that is unnatural and harmful to you."

    So with that in mind, please consider these questions:

    Where is the empathy in your article? Where is YOUR understanding of the damage that can be caused to ND people who are in relationships with NTs? Are you aware of the incredibly offensive and often wrong assertions about Autistics that you are happy not only to print, but to teach to others? How many autistic women who are/have been in relationships with neurotypical men have you studied and helped? How thoroughly have you educated yourself on the many marked differences between autistic men and autistic women?

    That last two questions are the most import, because if I had attended one of your "couples counselling sessions" with one my abusive male exes, and you applied your "user-friendly 'Cassandra Syndrome' " hypotheses to our situation, you would be enabling, excusing and encouraging a man who gaslights, emotionally and physically dismisses and abuses, manipulates and lies to his partner-a woman who is already vulnerable due to her inability to recognise guile- and you are actively teaching others to do the same.

    You state that "Cassandra Syndrome "describes a woman who tries to tell others about her life with an autistic partner and is not believed. Her family members don't understand what she's troubled by. While it was named after a mythical woman, it is not restricted to wives in neurodiverse marriages, but can happen with either gender."

    Your blanket assertion throws vulnerable autistic women who are in abusive relationships with men to the lions.

    You are doing to us exactly what you are accusing us of doing to men, including the abusive ones, and you are the one who will be believed because of the power and privilege you carry by being neurotypical and holding a Doctorate.

    What's the name of the syndrome that, to partly quote your article, "describes [an autistic] woman who tries to tell others about her life with an abusive neurotypical partner and is not believed. Her family members don't understand what she's troubled by. [Doctors assume that the woman, just because she's autistic, is the person responsible for the problems in the relationship, and that the abusive man is actually the one who needs to be believed, supported and validated]

    If in your session with my abuser and I you informed us about "Cassandra Syndrome" and consequently I, as a victim of mental, emotional and physical abuse, then became (again to quote your article) "overwhelmed and distressed" whilst my controlling, narcissistic, manipulative partner is appearing "calm, rational, often intelligent, and successful in their career" who will you support?

    Of course, that scenario wouldn't have happened because those partners would never have gone to therapy with me, as they knew exactly what they were doing and it benefited them hugely. But they would have printed out your article and sent it to anyone who might have believed that he was abusing me, and he would have quoted it to me at every possible occasion.

    What remains for me to ask is what you will do now, having read this?

    Research shows that nine out of ten Autistic women have been victims of sexual violence., but with your "Cassandra Syndrome" in mind, will you believe me? Or will you dismiss me just as I and thousands of other abused women have been, and continue to be, dismissed- simply because I am autistic?

    After reading my response, will you share it? Will you edit your article and apologise to the multitudes of autistic women to whom it causes harm? Will you recognise that you should work with and study autistic women before you use and promote harmful practices?

    Or will you, a neurotypical person with the privilege and advantage of belonging to a loud and powerful neurotypical-led society, continue to teach harmful stereotypes that encompass all autistic people, and dismiss us, just as our loud and powerful patriarchal society dismisses women who experience abuse at the hands of men?

    I would be interested to hear your response and happy to provide guidance and answers to any questions you might have about autistic women. I will also share your reply with the support group for Autistic Women who first brought your article to my attention, many of whom are also willing to be a source of education.

    Karen Gormley

    1. As you outline, Karen, it is important to get help if you are in an abusive relationship. This article focuses on the NT partner, and therefore doesn’t cover the issues you’ve raised. And focusing on one partner doesn’t negate the valid issues of the other one. You’ve made many incorrect assumptions about how I might work with you, if you were to come in reporting that you were in an abusive relationship. Also, the points you raise about the lack of understanding of the NT partner toward their ND partner are valid. They just aren’t the focus of this article. Thanks for your comment. -Dr. K

      1. I would like to also hear your answers to Karen's questions you've completely dismissed.

        Further more, I think you've misunderstood the Jungian concept of Cassandra, but even more odd still, the myth is the story of every Autistic and many ADHD women who are marginalised, have difficulty with language / communication, mature completely different due to not creating defence mechanisms (Lacan), yet think laterally by default and see seemingly invisible systems/ connexions. We were the ones being burned at the stake in another time.

        Meanwhile, the disregard, contempt, bullying and cruelties the NT world will weaponise against Autistics in some form or another all while feigning some kind of ambiguous moral superiority is incredible. In a world designed to suit the Lacanian Neurotic, all I hear outlined is someone throwing a tantrum because they're so used to the world being catered to and homogenised toward how they communicate.

        The main problem between neurotypes, besides a lack of proper maturity is a complete loss in translation. And I've yet to meet an Autistic individual who isn't invested in reasoning through, changing their perspective – open to growth. But it's impossible with Neurotics who are so easily offended, stuck in their objectifications and riddled with this debt-guilt complex: why not focus on this instead??

        Laurie Layton Schapira, Jungian analyst, The Cassandra Complex: Living with Disbelief – Cassandra is not something I'd want to identify with. It seems a bit strange to promote this when a little ethics and interrogating one's bias go much further.

        1. This post discusses the experience NT women have had prior to learning that their husbands are neurodivergent. There is no attempt to demonize either NT’s or ND. “Not knowing” is the central issue.

          I am fully aware that there are those on the blogosphere who write horrible and mean spirited things about ND. I answered those types of comments on a previous post, and then stopped posting them altogether.

          This post is not about the (very real) hardships being ND in this culture or surviving in a neurodiverse relationship as an ND person. I see and work with that in my practice and I know how challenging it is for both people.

          I did not create the term, but I do see the very real impact and harm it does when an NT women has no idea she is involved with an ND man, and to try to make sense of it, misattributes behaviors to something much more intentional, pathological, and problematic.

          I see that go away when this type of couple gets help from someone trained in both couples therapy and helping neurodivergence couples.

          Thanks for your comment. -Dr. K

  11. Hi Dr. K.,

    I think my NA husband finally saw me today after 30 years of marriage. We need help tho figuring out everything g because I am desperate. It’s either divorce, suicide or separation. I need to find myself again. I have lost myself over these 30 years. He is willing to get help. Can you tell me what you could do for us?

    1. I would do nothing without an extensive assessment, Suzanne. If you are interested in working with our team, please reach out through the contact page. -Dr.K

  12. So what is the best name for a female in a relationship experiencing lower life/safe/health risks of being an NT in relationship with AD spouse. (with no presumption of physical abuse, the missing piece is the betrayal of the NT victim by not getting support that someone with physical abuse, for example, would potentially get and have a somewhat better hope of resolution & support)?

    I like the proposed names, but it’s important that somethings developed under a specific CPT/ICD with subtypes, etc. it looks like they did a pretty good job with autism by using the qualifiers, rather than trying to create a separate name for every major differentiator.

  13. A very helpful insights and tips on how couples can avoid the Cassandra Syndrome and communicate effectively with each other. It's a valuable read for anyone looking to improve their relationship communication.Thank you so much for this!

  14. Being confronted with the censorship of objective feedback and commentary, I felt compelled to seek out other parties to address the issue at hand.

    It is deeply concerning that vulnerable and desperate women are being taught to give armchair diagnoses of autism to their male partners and placing all the blame for any dysfunction solely on the male, while promoting reading materials and therapies that address issues that have been fabricated.

    This practice is nothing short of racketeering and is profoundly malicious. These women are not grappling with a partner who has autism, but rather struggling with common relationship issues or worse, being manipulated and abused by a narcissist.

    By deliberately misleading these women, the individuals promoting this agenda are not only acting unethically, but also causing significant harm to the affected women, their families, and in some cases, innocent men who are being unjustly blamed for relationship difficulties.

    It is alarming that those who push this agenda refuse to engage in meaningful dialogue with objective individuals in order to control the narrative. This is truly mind-boggling.

    1. It was my sickness, not censorship, R.D., that caused my delay in responding to you until now.

      I don’t suggest that anyone diagnose anyone else, although that is, unfortunately, what happens not only with the wives but with the therapists these couples seek out. In fact, I often find it unhelpful to offer any official “diagnosis” to the spouses I work with other than to tell them that I think one is neurodiverse.

      I also have said specifically here that both spouses must change and most of them feel like they have most of the responsibility TO change. They believe that their partner gets off with a much less onerous task. Both believe that.

      While I agree with you that many couples in neurodiverse relationships, of course, have typical types of problems that all couples cope with, that’s not the entire story.

      In my clinical experience, these unions face a unique set of issues. If the neurodiverse relationship isn’t recognized, and both partners don’t get on the same page to try to relate differently to one another, they aren’t likely to make as much progress as they otherwise would.

      Most of the couples I work with have seen one or more therapists who lack training in neurodiversity, particularly combined with science-based couples therapy training. They were left more hopeless and helpless and blaming, and mutual accusations escalated.

      My goal in writing this and related posts is to share with my readers that there is hope. There are real changes that can occur once couples have better ways to understand, communicate, and gain greater empathy. There are specific interventions that ease the stress and enhance the bond.

      I would suggest if you have any interest, you seek out the training offered to the public and neurodiverse couples at

      And again, I wasn’t censoring you. I am better now and am addressing all of the comments I’ve received.

      Thank you for your comment.

  15. Hello Dr. K, I think there's a typo in the article that can produce confusion (it did for me at first!). The line reads, "Typically, only when their children are diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum do those around her begin to question whether her husband may be likewise neurotypical." I think you mean "…her husband may be likewise neuroatypical." Thanks for looking into this!

  16. Maxine Aston's Cassandra cult blames any relationship issues on allegedly undiagnosed autistic males.

    Another woman running an Aspergers "partners support group", toting Maxine Aston's bizarre doctrine and connections to hate groups like the late "Heartless Aspergers" website, convinces women their husbands have undiagnosed Aspergers and are the root of all problems.

    This unethical behavior has caused families immense pain and devastation. Support groups should not encourage demonizing male partners based on their gender. Exploiting vulnerable women in this way is a foul act with potentially dangerous consequences.

    1. R.D., I agree with you that there is a lot of NA bashing in the world. This term continues to be used in both professional circles (Margot Alexis recently presented “Healing from Cassandra Syndrome” at the Neurodiverse Love Conference in March 2023…). I have watched a lot of hostile comments to my post: Neurodivergents and Love: Five Good Reasons to Embrace Neurodiversity. This hatred won’t evaporate, but it can be answered by factual information that addresses the phenomenon more correctly.

      I can’t comment on hate groups because I have no affiliation with them, nor do I approve of any group that espouses hate.

      My clinical opinion is that tensions go down between wives and husbands when the woman understands that the destructive labels that she’s defaulted to, about her husband, aren’t accurate. Women are relieved, and it reduces the demonization, it doesn’t increase it.

      That’s my clinical opinion and that’s what I’ve written here.

    1. Thank you for reaching out, someone will be in touch over email with some information that you can share with your daughter.

  17. I really don’t understand this idea that women can’t be autistic.

    Also, most autistic people I know spend every day trying to make sure their actions don’t come off as rude or offensive. The communication gap between autistic and allistic people isn’t anyone’s fault, so stop trying to put the blame on autistic people.

    1. Hey Nora! Of course women can be autistic. This article speaks to neurotypical women however.

      I know from my autistic clients how exhausting it is to mask and try to fit in without being rude or offensive. And clearly there is not a person “at fault” here, only unintended consequences and lack of understanding.

      Thank you so much for your comment.

  18. Hi Doc, can I just say, as a man who has lived with a Neuro-diverse woman for 32 years, it does happen that a man can find himself cast in the role of Cassandra. It's been hell and your site is a big help, so thankyou.


  19. I NEED HELP!!! I need the best doctor at dealing with neurodeverse relationships involving autism/alexithymia and cassandra syndrome…as near to Memphis as possible. I am willing to travel…but i need the best!!!

  20. So, I divorced after 33 years and 6 children. I did everything I could to save this marriage; counseling, pastors, psychologists, prayer and a very strong religious/ moral orientation. The description of the neurodivergent marriage finally hits the nail on the head. Not once in 33 years did I ever hear my spouse say, ‘how are you, or how was your day?’ There were religious rules about everything and especially about money. We had 6 kids in 10 years when I wanted 3. I finally went and got my tubes tied after seeing what kind of father he was; I left him with my very young kids one Saturday morning to shop and came home to find him sleeping on the couch with his back turned to the kids. I finally went and had my tubes tied and this, against my faith and what I believed about male leadership. I had crippling arthritis and all sorts of health challenges during this time. Additionally this caused me to question my sanity. None of our friends who I talked to, and including our grown kids would believe me except for a couple of counselors who understood.My husband worked at the United Nations in Vienna, Austria, was highly gifted musically and an upstanding member of the church. So, I looked nuts to everyone I spoke to. Just call me Cassandra!

    1. A woman of strength and conviction, Shelly. Good for you for recognizing and believing in yourself, rather than the world around you. -Dr. K

  21. Grateful for the even-handed public education. I thought the zero empathy theory was generated by Sir Baron-Cohen from the Autism Research Centre in his books, Mindblindness, then A Question of Evil (Zero Degrees of Empathy). Dr. Kathy Mashack and Mark Hutten are two other fairly prominent professionals who counsel us partners to release all expectations that our ASD men will demonstrate empathy –indeed, this wild, unrealistic hope is what keeps tripping us up. I'm just saying, police your own community. Then why not all join hands and make empathy deficits okay and focus on other skills to guide behavior, like a solid moral compass, compassion, agreeableness and emotional self-regulation. Maybe I'm just tired of hearing about empathy, does he or doesn't he? Who cares, there's more than one way to skin a cat.

    1. Ya, intellectual empathy is hard to grasp or for many to consider “real” empathy. But empathy is important in every relationship. I may not realize how something is impacting you, but if you talk about it, I may be able to recognize how it impacts you. When I love you, I will want to understand how it impacts you. I may not just “know” without you telling me, but I certainly can know if you do. -Dr. K

  22. How do I find a therapist that will work through my trauma with me, from this relationship (25 years)? I really need to work through the issues that coincide with Cassandra Syndrome in order to move forward in my life

  23. “Neurotypical (NT) have tossed out the damaging accusations that neuro-atypicals (NA) have no empathy.”

    Kathy- the “accusation” as you put it, is because we have been obliterated by abuse 24/7, 365 days. NT’s are the victim, especially if we were not told of this neurodivergence before marriage. It may take decades to even understand what kind of mess you’ve gotten yourself into after being emotionally beaten down for so long. Do better with the victim blaming. It’s really inexcusable.

    1. To claim that any group of people has no empathy is a damaging accusation. This is unrelated to the painful details you’ve otherwise stated. I work with women who have been married to NA for decades. It is heartbreaking, and it does take decades to understand. However, these are two separate issues, and both are true. -Dr. K

  24. Little by little, since I started my job. I have a deeper understanding of the difference between neurodivergent. My work is not related to the psychological field however since my task is more to this expertise I'm beginning to understand more about mental state. And I'm also thankful that I was introduced to this job role wherein I not only benefited from my work but also I'm learning in most cases the articles I read are having a significant impact on my personality as well as my understanding of people around me suffering this type of issues. Setting an appointment for therapy or consultation helps a lot because they are the one who connects the link making sure it is bonded tight, citing an example from Cassandra is a big help and I have a deeper understanding of this type of situation.

  25. I read this last night after the anniversary of my separation from my spouse of 16 years, and all the lightbulbs went on. Freakier still is that, several years ago, without yet suspecting my husband was on the spectrum (despite the fact that his father was textbook, and not very high functioning [ended up homeless and then in assisted living for nearly three decades], and every sibling also displays strong traits), and without ever having heard of this phenomenon, I voiced several times that I "felt like Cassandra from the Oresteia." It explains why ordinary couples therapy has been disastrous. It explains my crushing loneliness and pain and his bafflement and frustration. I said again and again that I felt I mattered least to him, like the "last chair in his orchestra," although when we were dating he behaved like a stereotypical star-struck lover. The only person he seems able to be attached to and feel empathy for is his (enabling) mother. His world is black and white, except when it comes to his own behavior. Following and understanding simple conversation has become almost impossible for him. He does not want anything to change, ever. Strange fixations about how the house should be arranged – all the furniture lined up against one wall, or all the appliances in the kitchen crammed onto one counter, because it "looks better that way". Sudden and terrifying explosions of rage. Because my husband is very quiet and appears affable and friendly in public (does not talk for three hours straight on a favorite topic like his father, and this is not an exaggeration), I didn't suspect ASD for a very long time. Now I'm positive. I want to save the marriage if at all possible at this point only because of our children, but I have no idea how. He refuses to consider that he might need an evaluation.

  26. My divorce from my ASD ex-husband is about to come through. I definitely experienced this and it did validate everything that I was feeling so thank you. Yes he is loyal and hard-working. He means well and is a good-man. He has never been in trouble with the law, is reliable and honest. He is on the whole a good Father. However, I am still pretty traumatised by the marriage that had come to be. There was no marriage. no partnership, no communication, no affection, no love at all. Not how I wanted or needed it to be as a neurotypical person. Maybe this will suit another ASD spouse, but not me. The lack of partnership; easy communication and calm discussion was impossible. He had no awareness of mine or our childrens feelings, how our feelings may impact an event or situation and it became despairing. I cried a lot in private. When he was anxious hed go into overdrive cleaning and re-organising the house and expect everyone to stop whatever they were doing and help. there was never any asking or awareness that we may be doing something else. If we didnt, hed get angry. In fact, he was angry most of the time. Often shouting as a reaction to something he didnt understand. He still does. Its his default when he feels out of control. Even if I, or the children, were upset there would be no simple hug and concern, he would be annoyed and confused as to why we were upset, especially if we should be doing something else. Well, he would understand if I was upset because someone died, but not because I felt low. Hed just say I needed to see a Doctor. End of. You try having post-natal depression with an ASD husband!! He never understood. Sex was awful, he had issues but refused to discuss them, was awkward with intimacy and would never offer affection unless you specifically asked for it. Nothing was ever spontaneous. He refused to get help, refused to acknowledge he may be ASD and have OCD (despite our son being diagnosed with ASD) and refused to talk about anything – I was just accused of critisising him. He couldnt, and still cant, see anything from our point of view unless we have specific, hard evidence. A simple feeling or intuition isnt enough and is not understood as being valid;. He cant cope with any plans being changed, has to organise and control everything and no statement or question can be made without there being the Spanish inquisition into it. Its exhausting. Never once has the phrase 'oh. well it doesnt matter; been uttered. Everything matters…..everything is dissected and analysed. No one can do a simple task without it being critiqued, commented on and often shouted at. The boys still cant eat a meal without comments being made about the way theyre eating. If he feels it is wrong, then it is wrong. There is no awareness of how this constant nagging, critisising and commentary makes a person feel inside. Now when the children come back from his they are mentally exhausted and are starting to push back at him now theyre older. They keep asking me why does he always have to control everything, why does he always tell us off and order us to do things without ever listening to what we really want. It remains very, very difficult.

  27. Iam a mother of four daughters on the spectrum. My oldest is 40 today! The bomb. 4th of July. She started my career of raising girls with the spectrum disorder. I been through it all. Now I have a term to describe my experience. That's helpful to my mental state.
    I lived the most wonderfully hurtful life possible being the mother. But knowing these people as I have makes me know admiration and distain on levels most would never ever choose.

  28. Help! I have been married to a man that has the symptoms of Asperger’s for 16 years. He was never diagnosed, but after learning more I am realizing that he must have it. I come from a very supportive family and work as a recreational therapist in an inpatient unit at our local hospital. I am committed to him, but in order to stay I must find help.

  29. Kathy Marshack has several books for Neurotypicals in Neurodiverse relationships. She is a Psychologist who had a Asperger's parent. She was married to an Asperger's man. I discovered her after reading her books about the relationships between Aspie and NT's and how the NT suffers. Very validating!

  30. I had no idea what I was getting into either. When I would complain, everyone would tell me how lucky I was. He's so calm, loving, always home with you, doesn't beat you, doesn't drink or cheat on you etc…

    So I married him.


  31. Hi

    I have finally found what I was looking for. I have been with my husband for 13 years, married 9 years. It has taken me this long to realize my husband is "on the spectrum". A couple of years ago I confided in my sister in law and she suggested my husband might have Asperger because she self diagnosed and feels her dad and older brother also have it.

    I let it go at that time and decided to seek therapy for myself since my husband kept telling me I was always complaining, sad, depressed, delusional, critical, judgemental, condescending, needy etc..

    Even though I'm the one who takes care of our home, work full time (earn twice his income), provide for myself, puts food on the table, he's still critical. I was wondering why even though he is highly intelligent (Yale MBA) he does not seek professional work. He does not have any friends but, you would not think that by looking at his FB page. In public he is social and very talkative but cannot carry a conversation without taking it over. His mom is his only friend, confidant and enabler. I'm pretty much just a roommate. The intimacy between us is getting worse almost non existent.

    I'm desperate and can't find a therapist with experience in this situation. I need help, I feel my health is detiorating….

  32. Thanks so much for this article. I've found many online articles about how to help an ASD partner deal with his meltdowns, but this is the first one that significantly acknowledges the impact on NT partners and offers greater understanding. This article rings true. It was an especial relief to read this quote from Maxine Aston (I'll look into getting her book):

    "She will be saying things like [‘…]He treats me like an object he is obsessed with routine. He constantly accuses me of criticizing him.’ Aaaaaaaaargh!

    My experience is that my ASD partner having a meltdown is exhausting, even if I retreat to another room for both our sakes. I am looking for ways to minimize the impact of being around sudden storms of swearing that I cannot tell are coming (I don't know the "rumble" signs; I will ask him to look out for them and help me understand how they manifest, once he knows). I am not ASD but I am sensitive to bursts of anger, which make me feel ill afterwards–physically ill, worn out. I can use all kinds of self-soothing, EFT, meditation, etc. but being around this behavior is physically detrimental…I am still working on strengthening my immune system after cancer recovery.

    The REASON for an ASD meltdown is different than the reason for a tantrum, yes… And. The impact on being around one is actually worse. When my stepchildren had tantrums, there were ways to deal with them (tactically and with my own emotional regulation) and predictable courses those tantrums would run. There was also an obvious cause that they and I knew about. I did feel exhausted afterwards, but not as shaken and "wrung-out" as when a grown man starts swearing and saying all kinds of things with no warning. It is well and good to practice responses and being prepared, but if I am just sitting with him at breakfast and suddenly, his inability to read a timetable so he can figure out whether he's going somewhere tomorrow triggers a meltdown, it's 0 to 60 in less than a minute, without warning.

    There are good things about him/us, but it's exhausting to do such a large proportion of the emotional labor. He does not have trouble figuring out his feelings, and he's very good at researching whatever he wants to learn about. I think that in this situation, his willingness to work on the problem (which he does experience as a problem, here and elsewhere) is just not developed yet. He thinks that if he learns about Catholicism or the system of roads, that will solve the problem (I am not being sarcastic). The only thing that helps is when he realizes that his ex-wife said many of the same things I mention. My question is: how can I appropriately encourage him to engage in learning things that will help our relationship.

    *Also*–in this regard, it is hard to separate strands of ASD from strands of regular human resistance to growing closer; for instance, my partner had early experiences that impacted his attachment style. My friend and landlady who is Aspie says, "When you've met one ASD person, you've met one ASD person. Everyone's different." That is VERY important.

    Not that ASD is like polio, but as an example of how different situations can bring about different attitudes:
    My grandmother had polio, lost the use of one leg, was kept in bed in a leg cast for a year because that was the prevailing medical advice in the rural Midwest, was fortunate and went to college (govt. supported polio victims education) and taught, helping people, her whole life. My friend Lyman had polio, was from an educated and well-to-do family with high-end doctors, and instead of being told to rest and keep his arm still (his affected limb), was given a course of rigorous PT like therapy that restored most of his movement. Another friend had polio, lost the use of a leg as my grandmother did, and wound up in a wheelchair her whole life, on disability, because that's what they espoused where she was from.

    Shining a little extra light on the fact that it is always important, with every human being, to consider the whole person in addition to noting strands of commonality.

  33. Misappropriating CPTSD (which is the result of prolonged trauma, most frequently during childhood) by claiming that simply dating a neurodiverse person is incredibly demeaning to people who have actually been through traumatic experiences. Claiming that neurodiverse people are as a whole harmful to be in a relationship with is not only untrue, but ableist. I hope you are able to learn from your ignorance and not spread misinformation like this in the future.

    1. I think the real villain is when an NT has no idea they are living and loving someone who is neurodiverse. Real and serious problems emerge when the NT assumes someone is intentionally being this way, instead of developing a greater understanding.

      Even once they are told they are living in a neurodiverse marriage, it takes them a while to re-adjust their mindset.

      There is a lot of true hatred and misinformation that is spread across the internet regarding neurodiverse people. Many of the comments to other posts like “Five Good Reasons to Love an Aspie” are like this.

      This blog, however, isn’t one of them. We both respect and advocate for living and loving in effective neurodiverse relationships and many of us have taken advanced training to be better at doing this.

      Thanks for your comment.

  34. Thank you so much for this. I'm once again on the hopeless end of the spectrum with my neurodiverse relationship–and this piece offered a sliver of hope to me this morning. Going on 4 years with a resistant, undiagnosed man, and doing the best I can to navigate/survive/thrive without any support.

  35. I just welled up reading this. As an NT in a neurodivergent marriage with (an as-yet undiagnosed) Aspie, I'm feeling so incredulous. Up until this point, I didn't even have the vocabulary to describe any of this, and all of that has changed after having read this article. Thank you so much! As an inter-generational PTSD sufferer myself (my mother had her own PTSD on top of NPD/borderline), I thought I understood the world. I then entered into a neurodivergent relationship with both arms open (he's so calm! He doesn't overwhelm me emotionally!) … I literally had no idea what I was getting myself into. This is an excellent article – thank you and I'd appreciate it very much if I could be kept in the loop with further research developments on this topic. Best regards from Switzerland.

    1. Thanks, Maya! I’m glad you found this article helpful! Check out for more information, and especially their course for couples in Neuro-diverse relationships. The couples in it are just great!

  36. CS ” … the psychological and emotional distress experienced by a neurotypical woman married to a neurodiverse man …”
    So no mention then, of similar distress experienced by a neurotypical man married to a neurodiverse woman ?

    1. Sounds sort of flip but Penelope Truck once said that neurodiverse women are more like neurotypical men. In my clinical experience, they also often have greater social skills at “blending.” However, these relationships can also have problems, as you point out.

  37. Are there any good articles or websites for children of parents with asperger’s? As an adult I suspect this is what my mom has.

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