Are You Fighting For Your Aspergers Marriage?

fighting for aspergers marriage Are you fighting in your Aspergers marriage? Here are some new discoveries that can make your plain Aspergers marriage beautiful. But you’ll have to fight for your marriage instead of continuing to fight fruitlessly in your Aspergers relationship.

I wrote an article called What Everyone Should Know About Aspergers and Marriage a while ago.  Here is what one of the commentors said:

My husband and I went to therapy after our 1st year of marriage(it was either that or I was going to leave him or kill him and I loved him too much for that… but he was driving me nuts…any way…we are almost at 8 years together and very happy now… our psychologist saw what we brought to the table and recognized AS in my Billy…some days are tough but he is so special…and I am one of the very few people he lets into his strange yet beautiful world…that goes a long way for me….

On the other hand, not everyone makes it through an NT Aspie marriage:

I too was in one of these relationships. I didn’t find out about the AS until after the divorce had begun and by then it was much too late. I spent 5 years being critized because I was “over emotional” or I was hurt by things that didn’t bother him, both physical and emotional. He’d up and leave me alone for hours regularly because he “couldn’t handle being around [me]” unless I was perfectly still and quite. I was constantly stressed and because depressed because I had no support from anyone (including counselors). No real help was ever given or offered. I stayed that long b/c I was told it was all in my mind or it really wasn’t that bad and all men are like that. I was told I needed to try harder and then things would be fine.

Dr. Cindy Ariel, author of Loving Someone With Aspergers Syndrome, says

Perhaps disappointment now colors your relationship, and you struggle to see the good points.  Maybe you experience some of the following issues:

  • You cannot rely on your partner to get chores done around the house.
  • Your partner forgets to pay bills on time.
  • Your partner cannot seem to get the children where they need to go.
  • You cannot depend on your partner to be there for you when you feel sick.
  • Your partner won’t act even mildy appreciative toward your parents for lending you money.
  • Your partner is between jobs again.

Over time, disappointment, hurt, and misunderstanding result from the differing thinking styles and expectations of a neurotypical person married to an individual with Aspergers.   I have read several comments from NT partners who speak about suffering from the Cassandra complex.  According to Wikipedia, the Cassandra complex is “a psychological phenomenon in which an individual’s accurate prediction of a crisis is ignored or dismissed.”

I can’t pretend to understand every particular person’s situation.  I’m an NT married to an NT.  But I do offer some hope and solutions from a couple of relationship experts.

Cindy Ariel, PhD, is a psychologist in Philadelphia, PA, with over twenty years of experience working with people working with Asperger’s syndrome.  She recently published Loving Someone With Asperger’s Syndrome: Understanding And Connecting With Your Partner.  I’m taking most of the tips in this article from her book.

Michelle Weiner-Davis has written several books.  You can read more about her at Divorce Busting.  Here are two books to equip you with some powerful solutions: Change Your Life And Everyone In It: How To, and Divorce Busting: A Step By Step Approach To Making Your Marriage Loving Again.

Work Together

This is obviously the most ideal situation.  If both you and your partner are willing to work together to make your marriage better, the chances of success will increase.

Here are some suggestions I thought of to help you approach your Asperger’s partner, especially if s/he has not yet been diagnosed with the condition.

Provide Information

You may want to suggest that s/he take some of the Asperger’s online tests.  These tests are by no means definitive, but may help your Aspie partner be willing to seek a more comprehensive diagnosis.

Provide Positive Examples

I’ve written several posts about famous people with Aspergers, including James Durbin, Clay Marzo, Travis Meeks, Satoshi Tajiri, and Heather Kuzmich.

You may want to review these yourself to understand the inspirational qualities of these people, so that you can appreciate the positive qualities of the autism spectrum and share those with your partner.

Be Tactful

Sometimes, when we want our partner to see things our way, we make the mistake of lecturing more, yelling more, or resenting more.  And that comes across in our body language and tone of voice.  When we come to our partner seeking to help versus seeking to change him/her, we stand a better chance of being listened to.

Catch Your Partner At a Good Time

In other words, don’t wait until you’re in a full blown fight to bring up your ideas about the autism spectrum.  If you can discuss this topic when both of you are calm and relaxed, your partner will probably be a bit more open to hearing what you have to say.

Working Alone

What if your partner doesn’t want to hear anything you have to say, especially on the topic of Aspergers?

We must be the change we wish to see in the world

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

The above quote is so powerful because one man, Gandhi, effected the change that ended years of British colonial rule and issued in Indian independence.

We can learn from this powerful quote that the more we work on ourselves, the more powerful change we can effect.

Take Care of Yourself

You may be close to burnout when you read this article.  Please don’t give up.

It’s time to seek some help and understanding from someone who understands.  If you seek individual counseling, I encourage you to seek out a therapist who understands the nuances of the autism spectrum as well.

Whether you seek support through individual therapy, coaching, or a support group (online or offline), it will be helpful to write your thoughts down in black and white.

Here’s a relationship exercise for your.  Get your journal, set aside 10-15 minutes, and complete the following sentences:

  • The best thing about my partner is ____________________.
  • I cannot stand when my partner  _____________________.
  • My hope for our relationship is _______________________.

I’ve looked for sites designed for NT’s in relationship with.  And I found Aspires: Climbing the Mountain Together.

Here’s a quote from the site:

ASPIRES is an on-line resource for spouses and family members of adults diagnosed or suspected to be on the autistic spectrum. Our approach to one another and towards our “significant others” is directed towards solving problems in our relationship with a spectrum-sitting spouse.

ASPIRES is an e-mail subscription list for individuals with AS, and those who have a parent, spouse, or child with AS. We share our family and relational experiences, resources and survival tips as well as offer encouragement and hope. Through sharing, we hope to lighten one another’s burdens and find positive solutions to many of the troubling challenges that characterize our relationships and bridge the communication gap that exists in everyday life.

Develop A New Mindset

Ying and Yang

An Aspie partner may be a genius at fixing plumbing leaks and other household construction problems, but have no clue when it comes to social relationships.

The NT partner may be clueless about fixing plumbing leaks and household items, but may find it easy to navigate social relationships.

Every partner has his/her strengths and weaknesses.

In the same way, as an NT, you must realize that Aspies have neurological differences in thinking that include both strengths and weaknesses.

Brian King from Spectrum Mentor, wrote a tremendous article called, Why The Universe Created Asperger’s,  that will help you better understand how Aspies help the world go round.

Study Aspergers

I grew up outside of the United States.  Unfortunately, many countries perceive Americans as arrogant and insensitive.

Why?

Because Americans often assume that their way of thinking, valuing, and behaving is the only right way.  Americans will often travel overseas without taking any time to study and learn the culture they will be visiting or living in.

In the same way, NT partners must be proactive in their relationship by taking the time to study and learn about both the strengths and challenges of the autism spectrum.  Immersing yourself in Aspergers’ points of view, thoughts, feelings, and culture will help you develop trust, empathy, and understanding.

I remember when I first joined the WrongPlanet online community.  A lot of Aspies treated me with suspicion and skepticism.  Was I there to promote some product?  Would I really seek to understand?  A few years later, I think I’ve earned the right to be heard on the forums.  But it took time, listening, and sensitivity on my part.

Work to Appreciate Your Partner’s Aspergers Advantage

Here’s a general list of some of the Asperger’s advantages (from Cindy Ariel’s book, Loving Someone With Asperger’s Syndrome):

  • High or superior IQ
  • Excellent memory for certain facts and details
  • Intense focus and attentiveness
  • Steadfast loyalty
  • Strong sense of justice
  • Noncomformist attitudes
  • Clear moral beliefs
  • Kind and gentle behavior
  • Extensive vocabulary
  • Creative talents

Here’s an Asperger’s relationship exercise from Dr. Ariel’s book, called AS Advantages in Your Relationship.

Your partner brings many positive traits to the table.  Improving your relationship involves highlighting these traits and using them to make needed changes. This exercise focuses on the positive characteristics of Asperger’ s in your relationship.

  1. List at least three positive attributes your partner offers in your relationship.  Resist the urge to add how many of them may also have become a negative trait.  For now, just give your partner credit for positive characteristics.
  2. Write a sentence of two next to each item in the list to explain how this trait positively affects your relationship.
  3. Keep this list handy to refer to later.  Your partner’s positive traits may be useful in strengthening weaker areas of relating.  Rereading the list at times can also remind you of the positive characteristics that help to make you relationship worth your continued love and energy.

Here’s how the above exercise might look:

My Partner’s AS Advantages:

  • Intensely Focused: Persistent until he fixes what breaks around the house.  Can learn to fix almost anything.
  • Honest: I can trust that whatever he tells me is truthful.
  • Calm: Does not become easily upset or stressed by things not working around the house; he just goes about fixing them.
  • Predictable: I can rely on him to do exactly what he says he will do, when he says he will do it.

Change Can Happen!

There are cases in which a marriage or committed relationship can become abusive.  In those cases, take the steps necessary to protect yourself.

Remember, however, that many marriages and committed relationships end because one or the other of the partners does not see any hope: just burnout and frustration.  Be willing to reach out for the help you need; be willing to change your mind; take action, and see what happens.  There are coaches available at Divorce Busting, and you may also want to consult with Brian King from Spectrum Mentor.  Or you may want to find a therapist who understands the unique set of strengths and challenges of being married or in a committed relationship with an Aspie.

I hope you found this article helpful.
Please leave your feedback below!

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Steve,
    I loved your very positive suggestions here, it is so good to read some helpful stuff. I have noticed there is a lot of ‘doom and gloom’ around AS/NT marriages, and lots of focus given to how difficult it can be, I also write a (very new!) blog dedicated to women in relationships with AS men, with the focus on self care and support to make positive changes in the relationship. You are so right, it is important to be the change we wish to see in others.’
    Thanks Julie Rowlands
    http://www.thefastforwardcoach.com

  2. says

    @thefastforwardcoach Julie, I”m so excited to have you stop by.  I’d love for you to contribute a guest post on this topic sometime, if you’d like to!

  3. says

    @SteveBorgman Steve, would be delighted to write a guest blog, and hope you may consider doing the same?

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