Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh!” he whispered. “Yes, Piglet?” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.” ~A.A. Milne
If only marriage and long-term relationships were so easy. I grew up in Brazil, South America. I recall an American pilot who came to work in our small town. He fell in love with a Brazilian citizen. He spoke no Portuguese. She spoke no English. Yet their love spoke volumes. He learned Portuguese. She learned English. And their romance grew. In time, they were married. I don’t know if they stayed married, but they had been married a few years by the time I came to the United States.
Aspergers marriages and long term relationships are a lot like a cross-cultural marriage. However, can you imagine what it would be like if a Kenyan man and a Chinese woman got together, both with a case of amnesia, not realizing that they were from totally different countries and cultures? My example may be a bit extreme, but it’s something like that when an Aspergers person gets together with an NT (neurotypical) person, especially if the Aspie is undiagnosed. Fortunately, with increased awareness of the autism spectrum, more and more couples are coming to realize that one or both have Aspergers. The question becomes, “What now?”
Here are some Aspergers Relationship tips I’ve found.
Three Aspergers Relationship tips to improve your marriage/long term relationship
Aspergers Relationship Tip #1: Watch
I urge both partners to watch the following movies that depict NT/Aspie relationships.
My Name Is Khan
In this movie, Khan, an Indian man with Aspergers, moves to San Fransisco and meets an outgoing single mother named Mandira. They fall in love. However, after 9/11, fate and tragedy strongly test this marriage.
Mozart and the Whale
This is a true story of two people on the autism spectrum and their marriage love story. It’s a very real account of the struggles that two Aspies went through in their own marriage. Watching this movie (or reading the book) will help Aspies better understand their own condition, and will help an NT better understand the differences and strengths of Aspies.
I haven’t seen this movie,either, but it’s on my “To See” list. This film is a romantic comedy, but with serious moments. After his father dies, a young man with Aspergers syndrome (Adam) is left living alone in the apartment they shared. Beth, a friendly young woman, moves into the building. Adam, who lacks normal social skills, is attracted to her, but not sure how to reach out to her. He invites her to his apartment to see his hoemade planetarium, and takes her to the park in the middle of the night to look at raccoons. At first, Beth is not sure quite what to think or how to feel about Adam. But once she learns about his condition (Asperger’s syndrome), she starts to appreciate his honesty and lack of pretences. The film treats Asperger’s as a unique condition, without making it seem like a handicap. And it also depicts some of the honest challenges of a relationship between an NT and an Aspie.
Aspergers Relationship Tip #2: Read
Once you’ve watched the movies, it’s time to dig a bit deeper and do some reading. Here are some helpful Aspergers relationship books.
by Katrin Bentley and Tony Attwood.
Think about it: marriage and long-term relationships require both partners to communicate effectively and consistently. And yet, communication is one of the biggest challenges for Asperger’s Syndrome indviduals! This bookwill answer some of the following questions:
- What behaviors indicate that my spouse may have AS (Asperger’s Sydnrome)
- Is it worth it to get a diagnosis?
- Is there hope for improvement?
Ms. Bentley, the author, has been married to her husband for 18 years. Since her husband was diagnosed with AS, the marriage improved substantially. Here is the key, however: they learned to a) accept each other’s different approaches to life and b) found ways to overcome their problems and misunderstandings. Today, they are happily married and able to communicate effectively. “Alone Together” shares the struggle of one couple to rescue their marriage. It is uplifting and humorous, and includes plenty of tips to making an Asperger marriage succeed. This book offers couples hope, encouragement and strategies for their own marriages
by Ashley Stanford.
Ms. Stanford is also married to a man with Asperger Syndrome. She outlines some of the typical behaviors that go along with Aspergers, so that the NT partner can adjust to the behaviors and also tolerate them better. From the Amazon.Com review:
Stanford provides a wealth of strategies for living successfully with the more uncompromising aspects of AS, pointing out that AS also brings enormous strengths to a relationship, and emphasizes the value of understanding. Including many quotes from people in long-term AS relationships, the book describes many positive solutions that have worked for other couples.
The Other Half of Asperger Syndrome: A Guide to an Intimate Relationship with a Partner who has Asperger Syndrome
by Maxine Aston Dr. Tony Attwood said, regarding this book.
(Aston’s) insight is extraordinary and her positive attitude and strategies for successful relationships make this an essential guide for couples. Her insight is extraordinary and her positive attitude and strategies make this an essential guide.
Maxine Aston is unique, in that she is a counselor specializing in working with autism spectrum people/couples/families, but also has personal relationship experience she draws from. She covers topics such as living and coping with AS, anger and AS, getting the message across, sex and AS, parenting, staying together, and not blaming AS for everything.
Aspergers Relationship Tip #3: Reach Out, and Practice the Skills
I have written about support groups
I also urge you to check out ASPIRE, a site dedicated to empowering and supporting marriages between Aspies and NT’s. You can sign up for the listserv and receive ongoing support from others who are walking the same path.
You may want to consider marriage and/or relationship coaching.
Seek out a therapist who understands the unique characteristics of Asperger’s. I recommend working with Brian King. He is himself diagnosed with Aspergers, and he is a licensed clinical social worker with many years of experience.
Or you may want to find a psychotherapist who specializes in working with individuals on the autism spectrum. Look at your healthcare insurance card, flip it over on the back, and call the mental health number. Let that person know that you want to speak with a therapist who specialized in autism spectrum conditions and work.
You may also want to check out these specific resources to understand the nuts and bolts of getting to work on your relationship.
Counseling for Asperger Couples, by Barrie Thompson.
Barrie Thompson is a UK author with specialized training in marriage counseling. He has specialized in counseling with couples with either partner having Asperger Syndrome or who experience challenges due to a child or young person having AS (Asperger Syndrome). This book is written specifically for counselors who want to learn more about how to counsel an Aspie NT couple. This counseling model has seven stages for helping the couple. There are plenty of case study and anecdotal examples to illustrate each step of the process. Mr. Thompson covers such topics as communication, cooperation, visual aids, and other strategies to improve the relationship.
The Asperger Couple’s Workbook: Practical Advice and Activities for Couples and Counsellors, by Maxine Ashton.
I love workbooks, because they give you immediate activities, tools, and strategies to make things better in your relationship. Here is a quote from the Amazon.com review:
‘This book is a positive addition to Asperger Syndrome (AS)/Neurotypical (NT) relationship literature providing not only information, but also useful tools and strategies to deal with typical AS/NT issues. Maxine has included excellent definitions and explanations of the differences between the AS and NT partner and places strong emphasis on the fact that being different doesn’t mean being wrong. We would recommend this workbook to AS/NT couples seeking practical solutions to many of the day-to-day issues that this type of relationship brings. This book will really make a difference to those who want to live more harmoniously together.’ —Sarah Hendrickx and Keith Newton, authors of Asperger Syndrome – A Love Story
This workbook provides a range of ideas based on years of research and counseling experience and covers crucial areas such as verbal and non-verbal communication, sexual issues, parenting and home life. This practical book is designed for use by couples and families affected by AS, either on their own or in conjunction with a counselor.
photo credit: Mahin