Stress Free Decision Making for Aspergers Relationships

aspergers relationshipsMaking decisions and solving problems can hijack Aspergers relationships.

Because of differences between the autism spectrum and neurotypical people, making decisions as a team to support each other’s goals, the goals of your household, dealing with your children, or deciding where to go on vacation can be difficult.

But not impossible!

Dr. Cindy N. Ariel, author of Loving Someone With Asperger’s Syndrome, provides the following fictional example of an As NT couple.

Jim, the AS partner, is spending more and more time with Jennifer, a co-worker.

Jill, Jim’s NT partner, feels threatened by Jim and Jennifer’s relationship. Jim, however, insists there is nothing illicit going on between him and Jennifer. He doesn’t understand why Jill’s so uptight.

Dr. Ariel worked with this couple and helped Jim eventually see Jill’s point of view. But it took a while.

Here’s an example of a problem-solving/decision-making model Dr. Ariel used to address Jim and Jennifer’s concerns.

State the problem or decision to be made.

In this example, Jill felt that Jim was spending too much time with his co-worker, Jennifer.

Have a solutions brainstorming session.

Sometimes you just need to decide whether to make a decision.
Other times you may need to come up with a number of ideas without passing judgment.
In Jim’s situation, he could decide:
-Jim could completely stop spending time with his co-worker, Jennifer
-Jim could continue spending lots of time with Jennifer
-Jim could continue to spend time with his co-worker, Jennifer, but less of it.

Evaluate Your Solutions.

Discuss the pros and cons of the decision. It’s best if there’s input from both you and your partner when discussing all sides of the decision.
In this case, Jim first insisted that nothing needed to change. Jill insisted that Jim spend much less time with Jennfier, his co-worker.

Make A Decision.

Both partners decided that Jim would only eat lunch once a week with Jennifer, unless the whole group of coworkers at lunch together.

Follow through and then follow through to make sure this decision works.

If not, start with another solution. Three months after making the above decision, Jim and Jill felt good about their decision. Jim made more friends at work, and Jill no longer felt threatened. If, however, the decision was unsatsifactory to either of them for any reason, they would redo the entire process to find out where they could reach agreement.

Additional Points:

Visual Aids can help the decision-making process.

Be careful not to make the flowcharts too detailed or extensive, or this will hinder the decision-making process. Simple is better.

If you or your partner struggle with resisting making a decision, make a list of the consequences of refusing to make a decision.

Many times, a person with Aspergers may feel too anxious to make a decision. In this case, the NT partner may decide to unilaterally make a decision. This isn’t ideal, but may be the reality in some cases.

As an NT partner, following an organizational or problem solving system may seem like more work up front, but in the long run it allows your partner to participate in thinking about solutions.

Below are a couple of sample flowcharts/visual aids for a) making decisions and b) an example of a flowchart used to make a decision about buying a new car.  You can create your own free flowcharts online at .

Sample Flowchart

Sample Decision Making Flowchart


If we do x, …

This may happen
or this may happen
If we do not do this
This is what will happen
Buying A New Car: Example of  a Flowchart for a Specific Decision


Should we buy a new car?

We will have a monthly payment
We will have a more reliable car
No, we should wait
We will drive our old car, which needs repairs

Resources to Consider

loving someone with asperger’s syndrome: Understanding and Connecting with Your Partner, by Dr. Cindy Ariel

Problem Solving resources and articles at MindTools

Decision Making resources and articles at MindTools

photo: Image credit: michaeldb / 123RF Stock Photo

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  1. donnamerrilltribe says

    Hi Steve,
    I love that chart!  Decisions are difficult to make with partners, and ourselves too.  This chart is similar to what I do when a decision has to be made and I get emotional about it.  (As you well know the effects of emotions on making decisions can turn out to be the wrong direction)  
    I do something similar like this to rid the emotional factor and do the yes go with it vs the not to go with it decision.  This flow chart is a fine example of how to make our decisions for the best good of ourselves.
    Thanks for showing us that.  I find that writing things down always helps me.  It is like taking the problem off your mind, putting it on paper, and thereby making a “rational” decision.
    - Donna

  2. SteveBorgman says

    donnamerrilltribe Thanks for the feedback.  Whether we are on the autism spectrum or not, I do think a chart like this can help any couple.  Some of the most profound relationship solutions are also the simplest!  Thanks again for stopping by, Donna :)

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