4 Valuable Ways To Better Understand Your Neurotypical Partner

What Aspergians Need To Know About Neurotypicals

Aspergers author Liane Holliday Willey describes just one aspect of communication with her neurotypical (NT) husband that befuddled her early on in their marriage relationship.


Marriage Help for Aspergians and Autistics

I convinced myself every woman felt like each word from their husband’s mouth ran backwards, slipped through thresholds and hid under the surface never intending to be found.”  Liane Holliday Willey, Pretending To Be Normal.

I wrote an article a few years ago, called, What Everybody Ought To Know About Aspergers And Marriage.”

Aspergians rightly pointed out that most of the articles and books written about Aspergers and Marriage are written for the neurotypical in the relationship.  So here’s an article dedicated to Aspergians for marriage help pertaining to better understanding neurotypicals.

Every autistic/Aspergian can have a better marriage with these four facts about neurotypicals.

Understanding breeds compassion.  When we understand why others do what they do, we can let go of some of our frustrations with their habits.

Understanding neurotypicals may also help you make sense of some of their annoying habits.

I credit Ian Ford, author of A Field Guide To Earthlings: An autistic/Asperger view of neurotypical behavior, for the following four facts about neurotypicals.

Marriage Help: Four Neurotypical Patterns of Perception


Have you ever noticed how sensitive babies are?
Come to think of it, so are my cats!
Loud noises and bright lights overstimulate them, and they can become jumpy and skittish.

In the same way, autistic/Asperger brains and neurotypical brains are equally sensitive at birth. But, over time, neurotypical brains learn to filter out a lot of noises and environmental inputs to prevent overwhelm. On the flip side, they don’t experience life as richly as many autistics do.

Application – This fact may explain why your neurotypical partner doesn’t care as much about making certain noises, or letting a certain amount of light into the house, or can be in a noisy setting without any difficulty.

Understand that your neurotypical partner isn’t trying to make you suffer when s/he exposes you to these things, but kindly point out to him/her that you’re different. You may have sensory processing traits that are different than his/hers.

Symbolic Filtering

Neurotypical brains categorize and direct incoming signals. An NT brain deadens and filters the signal by projecting out an internal symbolic stencil of the real world stimuli. Ian Ford uses the example of a beaver.

In real life, a beaver is a complex creature. A stencil drawing of a beaver reduces the beaver to its minimal symbolic essence, the unique flat tail and upper teeth.

Neurotypicals have “stencils” for all stimuli that come into their brain, so that they are able to attribute emotion and meaning to these stimuli, making sense of them, and communicating among themselves.

Whereas NT brains are able to filter these signals, Aspegers/autism brains struggle to reduce all incoming stimuli in the same way, so that sensory overload can easily ensue. This struggle also can make AS/NT communication more difficult.

Application – Here’s a suggestion when communication becomes difficult.

Ask yourself, “How much of this is because of our AS/NT differences?”

If you think it is, say directly to your partner, “I think our AS/NT differences are getting in the way. Please start over again and tell me again what you are trying to tell me.”


In a majority NT society, neurotypicals are very efficient at taking in and synthesizing environmental data.

“During a conversation, an NT can simultaneously hear and process the meaning of words, feel the intent and other unspoken messages in the words, read the facial expressions and gestures, and notice other things that may be happening.”   Ian Ford, A Field Guide To Earthlings: An autistic/Asperger view of neurotypical behavior

Why is this so?

First, desensitization helps neurotypicals focus their attention without becoming overwhelmed by other stimuli.

Second, neurotypicals are able to reduce incoming words via sensory filtering, so that they only focus on the symbols that are most important to convey the essential message.

Application To Marriage –

Realize that, if your neurotypical partner doesn’t understand your autistic neurology, s/he may judge you for being different.

It’s not that your partner is trying to be cruel, it’s just that s/he may not understand.

Work to educate your partner about differences in neurology.

Your partner needs to understand how challenging it can be to be a neurodiverse minority in a neurotypical majority.

Also, realize that you and your partner will have to be committed to learn each others’ communication style and construct your own way of understanding each other.

Sensory Integration

Most neurotypicals’ senses all work together: senses, muscles, and associated thoughts.

Thus, they are able to see all of something complex, such as a face, take in all the parts of the face, and convert expressions and characteristics into symbols that are then stored, so that they can recognize faces in the future, and get the big picture very quickly.

By contrast, autistics and Aspergians with weaker sensory integration may gravitate more toward noticing a myriad of details, but take more time piecing meaning together. Or they may become overwhelmed by one form of sensory input at the expense of being able to take in the “big picture.”

Application to marriage:

It may frustrate you when your NT partner “assumes” that you know what s/he is talking about.

Or you may fight over your sensory differences.

Share this information with your NT partner so that s/he can better understand you, just as you now better understand him/her.

Marriage Help Suggestion: Study To Understand

I tell neurotypicals that they need to learn as much as they can about Aspergers to better understand their husbands, wives, and/or children.

Preferably, they will read blogs and books written by autistics and Aspergians.

If you’re autistic or Aspergian, I encourage you to read about and understand neurotypicals, especially if you’re married to one.

Ian Ford’s book, A Field Guide To Earthlings: An autistic/Asperger view of neurotypical behavior, systematically explains, from an autistic’s point of view, 62 neurotypical patterns of perception, beliefs and learning, communication, feelings and display, relationships and power, and various phenomena.

My hope for you is that you’ll learn what he did about neurotypicals:

I’ve spent the last 42 years living among and studying these curiouscreatures (neurotypicals)…my hope is that you will be able to (read the book) and get the patterns fixed in your mind.  Then as you go about your life, you will recognize the patterns in the people around you.

In the past I have seen NTs negatively as just a weak-minded herd of clones who waster all their time pointlessly talking about nothing, but I’ve begun to see them more positively as a result of understanding their “wiring.”

This book might help you see what they are doing in a more forgiving and deeper way, and help you understand why the time they spend doing those NT things is not actually a waste….

Copyright: nexusplexus / 123RF Stock Photo

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 I'm Steve Borgman.  I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

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  • Full Spectrum Mama

    Great tips…and I am going to get that book for my son and me!

  • Thanks, Full Spectrum Mama … I can’t remember who recommended, but it was one of my Aspergian colleagues, I think, and I’m glad s/he did (can’t remember if it was she or he 🙂

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