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Communication Between Asperger's Adults and their Spouses

By HERWriter
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This is an era of transition for adults with Asperger's Syndrome (AS) and their spouses. Until recently, these couples battled unanswered questions and unresolved pain. But because of research and support groups, this can now change.

There is no one personality type for the Asperger's adult. The traits they have in common are neurological in origin, and hamper their ability to read and respond to people around them. But these neurological markers, misunderstood in the past, damage their relationships, particularly if they are married.

For the non-Asperger's, or neurotypical, partner there has been a barrier to emotional intimacy throughout the relationship. This may have caused resentment and grief that their AS mate does not love or value them. The neurotypical spouse (NT) may withdraw, or criticize their Aspie, and unhealthy patterns mushroom over years of misunderstanding.

The Aspie may despair that they will always fail in pleasing their mate, and may become hostile or give up trying. The ripples of rejection grow.

Enter new research into Asperger's Syndrome. For couples starting out, and for couples who have weathered this storm for years and still want to weather it together, there is hope. Is it easy? Probably not. Is it simple? Well, yes, in some ways.

The NT will need to accept the fact that they must learn a new way of communicating. They'll need to understand that their partner does not "catch" nuances and hints and intimations that a neurotypical individual might. These things are invisible to the Aspie. Not because they have chosen this to be so. But simply because it is so. Facial expressions, small sighs, innuendo ... these are wasted and non-productive. A straightforward and verbally precise manner is needed on the part of the NT.

And, if their AS mate values the relationship, and is willing to listen to this direct communication, life can change for the better. The Aspie needs to heed the NT's feelings, even though the Aspie has no sense of this for themselves. If the Asperger's spouse is willing to act on the NT's stated needs, the partnership can work. The partners can find fulfillment together.

Does it mean saying goodbye to romance? Perhaps. Or, perhaps it means changing one's idea of what romance is. Does it mean having to come out and say what you mean and mean what you say? Most definitely. And that isn't a bad thing in any relationship.


Adults with Asperger's Syndrome (from ASpar)

Adults with Asperger's Syndrome often go undiagnosed

Families of Adults Affected by Asperger's Syndrome

Frequently Asked Questions on Asperger Syndrome

Learning Discoveries Psychological Services: What is Asperger's?

Please, Learn About Asperger Syndrome And Give Hope to Non-AS Spouses

Visit Jody's website and blog at http://www.ncubator.ca and http://ncubator.ca/blogger

Add a Comment17 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I have been married for almost 11 years to a man with asp. I can't find any semblance of hope and feel so alone. I don't want to be his roomate/housekeeper/therapist/life manager. Is there any hope for something more. Women break down because there is no one to care for them. You are pulled into all those things for him, then you have children (a good bet at least one will have asp.) and then there isn't anything left for you. When you talk about it people think its you because he is such a nice guy- they don't live with it. I meant my marriage vows, but how can one person navigate a two person operation successfully? When you ask for him to help it seems like he is hearing chinese come from your lips.
So frustrated, I hate broken homes and marriages - I also value my sanity. You can redefine love and romance, but how does that meet the needs of both partners?

January 11, 2011 - 2:04pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hello. I just found this comment and felt the need to let you know I'm in the exact situation as you. It's been awhile since you wrote all this and I was wondering if you have figured anything out. I have 3 children, 2 with him and one has a/s. Married ten years and I have come to despise him. I don't want to leave because our a/s child needs us to be together( and I don't trust him to care for them alone). After her diagnosis we discovered that is what he and his dad have. I have been alone since day 1 and I feel so trapped and discouraged. I always have said I don't agree with divorce for religious reasons, but I don't know how I can live this way!

December 21, 2014 - 9:07pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

so hear and understand,believe me i have so wanted to just leave this
disfunctional marriage so often over the last 45 yrs.
had no money,no where to go.and because my family saw my husband as hardworking,respectable,got no support there.
and of course without diagnosis i was blamed for all problems.
husbans whole family appear to be a/s so to him his behaviour is normal.
and now at 63 i am glad i stayed,security means a lot.and of course i understand him totaly now.have been on every course and read every book.so i now know he does not hate me.he just does not see the world as we do.
yes they are good actors,but cant keep it up.this may sound dreadfull,but i was so pleased when my husband had a full meltdown
in front of my sister,she was so shocked,she thought i was making it up for 40 yrs,she now believes me.
getting back to you.its your choice,now there is more help if you decide to go your own way.
society does judge,i had to sever all contact with our a/s daughter
6 yrs ago.she became so abusive physicaly and mentaly to me and her child.it took a long time to find the courage,so hard to do.i miss her.but could no longer cope with the terrible abuse.
so we have to be strong,thank god my a/s husband has never been physicaly abusive.i would have tuened my back yrs ago.look after yourself.only you can choose,

January 11, 2011 - 3:32pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger (reply to Anonymous)

Anon - Thanks for your comments and welcome to the EmpowHER community. We appreciate your candid comments and hope they help others. It's sad that you were not believed for so many years, and it's easy to understand how helpful it must have been when your husband had his "full meltdown" in front of your sister. I hope you got more support after that incident. You sound like a very strong woman, and a wise one.
Take care,

January 11, 2011 - 5:31pm

Hi Jean,

Yes, people with Aspergers marry. I know quite a few of them. And now that I have become aware of Asperger's Syndrome, I think there are alot of them. And it explains alot of things in relationships that use to puzzle me. Things that use to absolutely stymie me.

Couldn't figure out, what is going on? Now it makes sense. Sort of.

I admire your perseverance. That's a tough lonely situation you've been in. And I know it's hard to say how much it can improve.

But you have tools you didn't have for the first forty years. Things are a bit better. If you can keep studying Aspergers, and keep using your tools ... Speak up, clearly and concisely -- that seems to be the thing I observe most often -- if the non-Aspergers spouse can learn to speak up about things that don't seem like they should need to be put into words, things work better.

That and, try not to take things personally. They're not trying to hurt you, they don't know they're hurting you. Unless you tell them. And many folks with Asperger's once aware that they're hurting another, are eager and conscientious to make it stop.

And then in other relationships what seems to make the difference is to find other interests, other friends to get the relational interaction they need to be able to find satisfaction in life. Then their partner's lack of involvement doesn't have to be so central for them.

Whatever methods are helping, Jean, I'm glad they're helping, even a bit.

This whole Asperger's thing is still so new, not very well known yet. A message like yours may be read by someone struggling and bewildered, and may help bring some light for them.

Thank you for writing.

November 20, 2010 - 9:09am
(reply to Jody Smith)

if i can help the wives and help them survive then i will.thank god most kids are diagnosed now,so new wives will know what they are taking on.then they can decide to marry or not.in the carers group i go to most wives have had breakdown of some sort over the years usualy caused by low self esteem.
when the only time your husband speaks to you is to tell you that you are doing everything wrong,you believe it in the end,its not you they are critising,its PUTTING YOU RIGHT,ITS MY WAY OR ITS WRONG,they genuinly believe this.
yes after years of research and self help and special councilling for a/s wives.i have given up trying to change my a/s husband.
i am more assertive/more direct/non confrontational/realize he will never change.
i mourned for the marriage i hoped i would have one day,i tried 40 yrs to get him to love me.i know now he loves me in his own way,not as much as the dog,but he loves me.
relationship is so different now.i dont feel like a wife and lover,i feel like his friend and housekeeper,i can accept that at 63 ,i could not have accepted that at 18 when i married.i lived in hope we would have normal??? marriage one day.
as my husband grew up with aspergers mother and sibling to him that was a normal life.its still how most of his family live.most are divorced,but still blame their non a/s partner,so sad/

November 20, 2010 - 9:52am

jean low.married for 45 yrs to an aspergers man.the first 40 yrs dreadful.he controles,he argues,he shows little interest in me,very obsessive.workaholic,
since his diagnosis 5 yrs ago,things are a little better.he has not changed, i have.
some one said in previous article a/s people never marry.this is not true.at least 6 close relatives with a/s have all married.only 2 are still married.its such hard ,heart breaking to be in this marriage.but marriage vows mean a lot to us and we share a faith,that helps.

November 20, 2010 - 2:13am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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