15 tips for NT spouses

This article is based on reported firsthand experiences from thousands of neurotypical spouses in Europe, North America, Australia. A reference is also autism-help.org

A long-term relationship with an adult, who has Asperger’s Syndrome or high functioning autism, can be extremely stressful for the neurologically normal (neurotypical, NT) partner. Health injuries, similar to those seen by traumatic stress disorder, are common in the neurotypical partner. Here are 15 tips for you, who are an NT-spouse of a person with autism spectrum disorder (ASD):

  1. Liability

Most neurotypicals married to an adult with Asperger Syndrome /ASD feel great responsibility for their AS-partner. It is important that it is clear you have a choice. No one forces you to take responsibility for your AS-partner’s social behavior, tantrums or lack of oversight. Your spouse´s developmental disorder is not your fault. You are not responsible for your partner. You are however, responsible for yourself and your children. Nevertheless, if you assume a responsibility for your AS-partner, then make a careful decision as to what, how much and when. It is you, who must set the distinct boundaries. Never expect your AS-partner to do it. A relationship between an NT spouse and an AS partner will always have the essence of an adult-child relationship.

 

  1. Take care of yourself

Spouses of those with Aspergers often use so much time taking care of others, that their own needs are ignored – both by themselves and others. Decide what you need for yourself and how you can achieve it. For example: Where can you find support, validation and understanding? Who can you talk to? It is vital that you are often together with emotionally normal (NT) acting friends who can provide that emotional and intellectual feedback, you can´t get from your AS-partner. Tell people close to you about your spouse’s autism disorder. It is OK to tell the truth, and it is in the interest of all parties, including yourself. Would you not tell the truth, if your partner had been blind instead of having AS/ASD?

 

  1. Be clear in your statements

Leave no ambiguity in your statements to your AS-spouse. Do not expect that your wishes, feelings and arguments are understood, taken seriously or remembered the next day. Drop any hope of reaching a common understanding from conversation and discussion. Common understanding requires that both parties can listen interpretively to others and put themselves in the other’s place. This ability is limited when it comes to people with AS/ASD.

 

  1. Realize: It does not get better

It is helpful to realize that your AS- spouse’s developmental disorder never gets better. But the realization is also painful. Certain types of behavior may be modified so that cohabitation is less stressful for both of you. For instance, it can sometimes help by writing down agreed times and duties.

When you recognize the incurable condition of AS/ASD, you can experience great sadness and despair in addition to disappointment, anger and loss. It may be helpful to talk to a skilled therapist who supports you in understanding your feelings and choices. But be careful with the choice of therapist. If the therapist is not a specialist in NT-AS relationships and in Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome (OTRS), the therapist can make things worse. Several NT-spouses recount sadly that their therapist advised them to take even more responsibility for the AS-partner’s behavior and comprehension. That advice leads with certainty to even greater health damage to you as the NT-spouse.

 

  1. You are not alone

You are not alone, even though it feels that way. There are a lot of other normally functioning (NT) spouses in the same situation as you. Embrace all the support you can get from support groups and others in the same situation. Tell your doctor, lawyer, priest and other relevant people about your spouse’s developmental disorder. Give them a print of the table “Impacts and Deficits in NT-ASD relationships”. Give them also a print of the article “OTRS, the burden on spouses and partners” (see Documentation on this site). These articles summarize significant facts. You cannot assume that professionals have insight into what it means to be a partner of a person with Asperger/ASD, although there will be some who do.

 

  1. What about therapy for couples?

Forget all about therapy for couples, if your spouse has AS/ASD. Couples therapy does not work when one spouse has AS/ASD. Asperger´s syndrome is a severe developmental disorder without the ability of insight into their own and others’ thoughts and feelings. Insight-based therapy, as used in normal couple therapy, is therefore useless when one spouse has AS/ASD. Your AS-spouse might immediately think that spouse therapy sounds like a good idea. Then he/she has shown “good will” and so can afterwards be left alone! But you will be left with even greater despair and frustration, when the nice words that were said and promised at the psychologist, are gone with the wind next day: along with the money for counseling.

If you need psychological counseling, find your own therapist.

If your AS/ASD partner is able to recognize his/her disability, he/she may benefit from consulting a specialist with knowledge of Asperger Syndrome. But it must be another professional other than your own therapist. The spouse who has AS/ASD can at best learn some practical ways to handle social situations. But do not expect that your AS-spouse will initiate a consultation. You will have to insist on this point. Otherwise, nothing happens.

 

  1. Write down

Your AS-spouse has difficulty capturing and understanding your need for emotional response and mutual communication. He/she can exhibit irritation and tantrums when you show emotions, including anger, no matter how justified it is. Instead, you can benefit from communicating your needs in writing. You cannot expect your AS-spouse to keep a promise or agreement, if his/her impulse the next day is going in a different direction. Agreements between you that are essential for you can usefully be written down.

 

  1. Have your own economy

Adults with AS/ASD may act irresponsibly in money matters to the detriment of the whole family. Some people with AS/ASD can spend the whole household finances on their particular and obsessive interests. Some may be treated for gambling addiction (ludomania). Money problems are well known in families where one adult has AS/ASD. It is linked to Asperger´s reduced ability for impulse control, extreme preoccupation with their own needs, limited oversight and weak executive function.

Be sure to have your own finances. Make sure that your AS- spouse is forced to contribute financially to the family’s common costs. Tell the truth to the bank. Some NT-spouses report that they have to have a security system in the household to prevent their Asperger-spouse from consuming resources that should go to the children, rent, heat, food and other fundamental costs.

 

  1. Avoid discussions

NT-spouses worldwide report, that they are being frustrated in conversational attempts with their AS-spouse. An Asperger’s person might be an encyclopedia when asked ​​factual questions of “who” or “what”. However, mutual problem-solving talks and discussions include the analytical word “why” or “how”. Here, the Asperger can’t interpret the point. Therefore, the conversation derails and leads nowhere, no matter how carefully you explain. A person with AS/ASD is limited in the ability to understand causal relationships, finds it difficult to learn from experience and can not interpret your motives and intentions.  He/she can not understand the nonverbal part of communication and therefore misinterprets.

Remember: That is not your fault. It is caused by the Asperger´s developmental disorder.

Drop the hope of achieving a ping-pong conversation with your AS-spouse. Drop the hope of reaching reciprocity and a common understanding. Instead, communicate your conclusions about what is important to you. Do not involve yourself in discussions, if you want to protect yourself against being misinterpreted.

 

  1. Talk to others who understand

Asperger’s syndrome is a complex developmental disorder in which the normal (NT) spouse’s situation is difficult to grasp for others. Persons with AS/ASD are good at masking their disability by role playing and copying other’s behavior. It is one of the most humiliating responses for NT-spouses, when they are not taken seriously by others. In some countries there are support groups where AS-partners support and validate each other. The value of being in contact with someone who understands cannot be overstated. Also, allow yourself to use humor! Seen through NT-eyes there is a good basis for humor in confident contact with other NT-partners, who are also familiar with the bizarre reality of a close relationship with an Asperger.

 

  1. Children and daily routines

Review the daily routines at home and consider how it might work best. It may, for example, relate to meal times and responsibility for certain practical things being done – and exactly at what time! Be consistent. If your AS-partner fails to comply with a time agreement, do not save him/her or cover for him/her. If there are children in the family, it must be clear that you – as the neuro-typically developed parent – has primary responsibility. You may have to bear all the responsibility alone for the sake of the children. Be extremely aware of the limited responsibilities, your AS-spouse can deal with alone.  Read more in the article “Children of a parent with Asperger’s syndrome “.

 

  1. Be wary of false guilt

NT spouses typically suffer from feeling guilty. Your partner´s developmental disorder implies that their lack of insight and immaturity means he/she will often blame you for their own problems and mistakes. You may also experience being unfairly blamed for negative intentions, you never had. If you have lived with an Asperger partner for many years, you can mistakenly come to believe that it must be “your fault”, if your partner gets tantrums or seethes with irritability. You may come to believe, that you should have been even more quiet/considerate/self-effacing! Or that you could have taken even more duties and responsibilities on behalf of your spouse upon yourself.

Drop feeling guilty. Your AS-spouse’s thoughts, tantrums, irritability, silence etc. is not your fault. You cannot make any difference. Get any idea of ​​guilt out of your mind. Protect your own perception of reality. Remember, that people with AS/ASD are not flawless supernatural beings. Persons with AS/ASD have good and less good character traits – just like everyone else. They can also lie and manipulate. “Passive aggression” is a way of manipulation that many Asperger´s people in particular master. When a person with AS/ASD has a tantrum (as opposed to “meltdown “), he/she also manipulates. During a tantrum the person with AS is able to regain control of himself – if he/she wants.

Share experiences with other NT spouses. It can help you to maintain a healthy perception of reality and navigate free of unwarranted guilt.

 

  1. Get knowledge

Read and get knowledge of Asperger’s syndrome. There is plenty of information available in the literature. However, almost all available information on Asperger´s Syndrome focuses on the person having the disorder, especially children and young people. There is extremely sparse academic and medical focus on NT-spouses and NT-children of adults with AS/ASD.

The greatest expertise in the affect of Asperger´s Syndrome in an adult relationships, is naturally found in the NT-spouses. This expertise and insight deserves to be recognized, validated and taken seriously.

 

  1. Take care of yourself

This advice is so important that it is mentioned twice. Trust your intuition and your own perception of reality. It will come under pressure in a co-habitation with a person having AS/ASD, who experiences the world quite differently than others.  Be true to your own reality. Do not be ruled by fear. Hold zero tolerance for physical violence and psychological violence.

 

  1. To end the relationship

All these tips can appear exhausting. And they are. There is no way to escape excessive burdens if you are the NT-spouse/partner of an adult with AS/ASD.

To end the relationship is always a possibility.

05.11.2013

© Copyright www.aspergerpartner.com

Also read:

The burden of NT spouses and children

Couple therapy doesn’t work when one partner has autism disorder

Help for NT spouses whose partner has Asperger’s / high functioning autism

The Impossible Conversation with an Adult with Asperger’s / High functioning Autism

 

 

 

 

 

31 comments for “15 tips for NT spouses

  1. Anonymous
    30. april 2016 at 18:09

    Thank you. Thank you so very much for this.

  2. Anonymous NT
    12. juni 2016 at 23:56

    Thank you. The burden after 30 years is too great. I am giving up. ‘The impossible conversation’ was especially true. I hope other partners realise what is wrong sooner than I did.

  3. Hunter
    25. november 2016 at 14:00

    This article helped me to get out of a new relationship that was becoming increasingly stressful, due to the highly intelligent partner’s “adolescent” unwillingness to respect boundaries (and my difficulty in setting boundaries). I realize now that my ex-husband probably had Aspergers. It was a terrible marriage that ended 40 years ago; I never remarried.

  4. Ruby2
    17. december 2016 at 12:19

    I’m so grateful for this article, it has been my awakening and I wept with the realisation of what has happened to me. I was married at age 17, it will be the 50 years anniversary next month and it’s taken me this long to finally realise why my husband treats me the way he does – the passive aggressive behaviour has nearly destroyed me.
    I feel like a prisoner who has finally got a release date after years and years of deep sadness and despair. I don’t have to be responsible for this person who has sucked the life and joy out of me and have realised that the emotional coldness and long, long days of silence are not my fault. Thankyou.

  5. Shauna
    1. januar 2017 at 05:12

    I am a family physician and it has taken me 12 years to diagnose my partner. At first I thought it was early dementia. When I first tried to communicate my concerns to our now none existent mutual friends my concerns were treated as an exaggeration and a joke. I believe the important point in this article it that the partner must look after themselves. Like other partners with ASD I have thought that the problems were mine and like others have at times taken solace in alcohol. It is exhausting to be in a relationship where you sometimes feel that you have both the problems of living with someone and the problems of living alone. So to anyone reading this – look after yourself. If you are reading this then you have found an informative and helpful site. Don’t expect many people to understand, either health professionals, friends or family. Some helpful hints – other than drinking – give them their own room or space that they can clutter and either trawl the internet for hours and hours and hours. So that they’re not just in the same room as you hour after hour after hour. Take a leave of absence. Luckily I don’t have children but I do worry about leaving the animals in my partner’s care. Find something or people who engage with you so that you feel good about yourself. And seriously if that three cord rift that my partner has been playing for the last five hours over and over again continues who knows maybe I’ll watch a movie.

    • Lana
      21. december 2017 at 15:04

      Thank you for sharing this. I am a school psychologist, and it took me at least 15 years to understand what was going on with my spouse. Once I understood, I felt so incompetent…why did i not see this coming? You’re right that others don’t understand, and in some ways I see why that can happen. After all, I didn’t understand either. When I look back on all the years of pain, the only thing that makes me feel a little better is knowing that his behaviors weren’t necessarily deliberate. They were the result of his impairment to some degree.

  6. Ursula
    12. januar 2017 at 18:38

    This article was indeed very helpful.
    I was aware of Asperger, having seen it first in neighborhood teenage children and then in more and more friends and colleagues. All of them are brilliant, have plenty to say and do well in their (quite specialized) professions.
    Last July, four years after the death of my NT(?) husband of 40 years, I fell in love with a friend and neighbor who has Asperger.
    Brainy was always very sexy for me. In addition, it turns out, he is a fellow mind reader and a soul mate of mine. A combination I am unable, as well as unwilling, to resist.
    So, ever since then we have made mad love between the stars. Favored by the fact that we started for our air show from separate continents, therefore could not touch in reality.
    But for a good part of the year we reside in the same town. When I returned there, I naturally tried to introduce the physical aspect of love to the air circus number.
    Well, no such luck! At first I thought that my seduction skills were somewhat rusty after all these years.
    In addition, many fellows over 50 start to mumble about little blue pills and are generally freaked out about relationships, not only the physical part.
    So I gave it plenty of time and space until I realized that the air show was perfectly satisfactory for “my” AS person.
    Not so for me.
    After lots of heavy hinting, he did take in that something is amiss and actually asked about it.
    We have a work date at my place in a couple of days. I was planning to make things clear then.
    Thanks to your article, I shall be talking definite Klartext and explain everything very precisely.
    I am not a very patient or selfless person my-self and shall be cutting Mr AS off the air circus number pretty swiftly, should it turn out that he finds the necessary second half for YabYam either superfluous, icky or whatever!
    Anyway, I do not need to live in his place or share his daily routine. Pretty hard to get through the door there anyway, thanks to the endless, well organised, clutter.
    However, he is kind to his animals, in his own way quite helpful towards family members and friends, of both of whom there are many.
    He has worked hard to have good relationships with his neighbors, including me. Therefore, should it be possible to combine body and soul, I shall work on this
    relationship a bit more because:
    First love is always painful. But last love can be a wretched, painful business too.
    The fear of being too late and seeing happiness appear suddenly on the road in front of you and disappear again before you can catch up to it.
    Thanks to the advise in this article, I shall not take the whole thing to serious, nor invest to much time in it. Under no circumstances will I feel guilty. Should it turn out badly, well, better a horrendous end then a horror without end.
    Wish us luck!
    Ursula

  7. Lyn
    11. februar 2017 at 01:40

    This is the most well written, succinct summation and advise I have read on this topic.
    I have been married for 22 years to an AS, and have brought my partner to counseling and therapy countless times over the years, read everything there is to read on the topic, and keeping the marriage and my family on tack has consumed every bit of my time, attention and emotional and physical energy. Progress has been made, but is has been slow and excruciating. And even still, he doesnt truly see, know, understand or appreciate all that I have done/invested. It is true, it feels like a parent/child relationship. And his tantrums, although less frequent, persist. One moment, sweet and engaged, and the next, yelling and ugly. It is like living with Dr. Jekly/Mr Hyde. The passive aggressive behavior has been a hallmark since the beginning. Boundaries and healthy relationships everywhere else in my life have been my sustenance and saving grace, along with seeing from the beginning, his bizarre behavior had nothing to do with me. He is a good, moral, hardworking person, and so it is nothing short of a tragedy that due to AS, our relationship will never reach its full potential.

  8. Marie
    13. februar 2017 at 02:12

    Lyn, you mirror my life. Counselling never helped, I was the one who was the baddie, Reasoning does not work, empathy is non existent, tantrams were like having a difficult 2 year old toddler, meltdowns worse, friends outside see the angel and I get the devil, the two rarely overlap. Others do not believe, they try to understand, but they see him as different and I come off as being the one with the problems. Forgot to smile, how l many years since I smiled at him, not allowed to laugh, not believed, everything contradicted, rarely speak, but he speaks non stop with others, isolated, don’t often entertain anymore, his lack of manners and social graces, but he is a good man, honest, hardworking, loves our animals. No empathy for me, never asks me what is wrong, why I am vomiting, feeling nauseous, -bad hernia problem – but he does not/cannot feel empathy. In pain, crying with it, sitting next to me, he never looks or comments. Angry, lack of patience, solitude are my life, 32 years of marriage, only six since I learned of aspergers and what a relief that was, as I ticked off the boxes, I found it wasn’t me, it was a medical condition, not mental, but medical, and no cure. Leans on me, but hates it, I tend to now talk to him as if he was a child. No fun, no love, people think I am so hard, but have to survive. But he was given to me for a husband and after death, I believe in life after death, this medical problem will be removed and I will see him as he should have been. That gives me hope. But it is good to hear of others who live with this monster in the marriage.

  9. Anonym
    7. marts 2017 at 16:25

    I’ve been married to a man with Aspergers for 20 years and never knew. My life was so isolated and he wrecked our personal finances. Took on very little to raise our daughter. On top that, there was compulsive lying on every level. Lack of social, financial, and professional boundaries – it was crazy! My family couldn’t relate to my anger and frustration, medical professionals had a difficult time understanding why a spouse of 20 years would do and act in such destructive ways. Two doctors of mine even prescribed anti anxiety / anti depressant medications just two years ago. My spouse’s comment in front of our young daughter when he learned, “Your mother is a drug addict. Let’s see if we can send her to rehab.” I am free now after a USD 20K divorce that had to go through the US family court system. He shares legal custody yet always has an excuse why he can’t see or or spend time with her. The list goes on and on. I am finally free and am making new friends and engaged in my community. Now I have a logical explanation for all of the disruption and negativity in my life.

  10. anon
    13. marts 2017 at 01:28

    Thank you. After four, very difficult years with my AS girlfriend, trying to find info about the NT side of things has been a challenge. I appreciate hearing these realizations in a direct manner. While they make me sad I can begin to process next steps.

  11. Anonymous
    14. marts 2017 at 20:19

    Thank you, I feel so lonely in my marriage and would feel disloyal talking to friends about my husband. I love my husband but I am also very resentful of his continous lack of empathy and interest in me. He wants me around all the time, but just in order to not be alone. He doesn’t really interact with me, other than talking about his favorite topic (monologues as I am not interested in this very specific topic, especially not on a daily basis, year in year out) or asking me to make coffee or about what I have planned for dinner. I’m lonely and would love to sepnd time with friends and family, but then he is upset when I am not around and he has no interest in hanging out with friends or family.
    I do feel bad for him, and I get it that he was born like this, and I truly love him. But there are times I would just like to walk out, and meet someone I can actually have an adult discussion with. To meet someone who will hold me in his arms longer than a few moments, and not squish that hard that it hurts and then just let go abruptly. Just a normal embrace, a normal, relaxed talk over dinner, a man who treats me like a woman and who doesn’t throw tantrums when things don’t work out as he wants them to. And I miss the validation and care, like this I feel like I just exist to serve a purpose, of keeping him happy and balanced. But of course there are happier days but tonight I am just really tired of it all.

  12. Kikki
    6. juni 2017 at 21:32

    Det eneste som nytter er å snakke med noen i samme situasjon.

    Jeg ønsker å det kunne etableres en grupp som møtes 5-4 ganger i år og ellers kan holde kontakt på telefon for de som ønsker det. hva synes du/dere om det

  13. Jojo
    28. juni 2017 at 16:00

    I’m a NT partner to a ASD partner. I sometimes struggle between the thought of ending our relationship, or ending my life. I’m emotionally exhausted, there is no other word to use here other than utterly exhausted. I cannot put one foot in front of the other, and I live in constant fear of what is next. I stay with him for the sake of our daughter.

    I usually find myself making excuses on his behalf and covering up after him, but on occasion when I tell others, he jumps right in and changes their perception … he is a master of changing depending on circumstance. My support network has gone, everyone instead saying I need to do more. My life force has left me. The ritualistic, oppressive nature of our home is only shown to me. I keep going for my daughter. I even feel guilty reading this website, I’m consumed with guilt.

    When my daughter is grown up enough, I constantly think of suicide. This relationship has taken all of me. I fear leaving him as I fear he will woo the courts and have full custody of my child, which he threatens regularly. The idea of my daughter under his sole care is horrifying. A mothers love defies all.

    I don’t know what to do.

  14. Soul
    20. august 2017 at 18:21

    Very insightful and helpful article. This information has given me so much clarity, I feel a sense of relief. However this relief is quickly replaced with resentment as I was just told this week by my HFA wife that she was diagnosed years ago and suspected even longer that she suffered from this.

    I also feel a bit foolish for not having recognized it earlier. She came into our relationship with a son and has remarked several times over the years that he is on the spectrum but I never thought that he may have inherited this from her. How foolish of me. Another flag was when our son, myself and my wife all took this empathy test online and needless to say my HFA wife scored the lowest, son scored second lowest and I was shown to have adequately developed empathy. Again, I missed the mark and didn’t put two and two together. I vividly recall my HFA wife being upset at her low empathy test score and even our spectrum son was teasing her about it–I did not tease her but was pretty perplexed because she is really good expressing emotions and empathy with our 3 young daughters. Could this just be great acting?

    After a 10 year relationship with my HFA wife and having just been told this week by her, I’m left questioning my own sanity. How could I have been so clueless as to not pick up on this earlier and seek help? Is it possible that I may be on the spectrum as well and be unaware?

    I’m so happy I found this site and I have already reached out to local support groups. It looks as though we are headed for a divorce, as she asked for a divorce 3 months ago, and just last night while I’m asleep comes to my room and asks why haven’t I fought for us since she announced she wanted a divorce. The mentality continues to baffle me.

  15. Deb
    29. august 2017 at 17:29

    Thank you so much for writing this honest list- and for all the responses too from different people dealing with this.

    I am just feeling hopelessly depressed today and i think I just need to vent.

    Being with an aspergers partner has been incredibly isolating, distressing and exhausting. Its as if the life has been taken from me, bit by bit, year by year. I went from a vibrant, creative, passionate woman that had a career, hopes, dreams, positive outlook, spiritual perspective and loved the adventures life offers. No, it was not all roses, but I knew myself and knew what I loved. I knew what I wanted.

    When I met my husband, he was smart, handsome, very successful in software engineering, serious, funny and seemed the type that would never cheat. He expertly hid his overwhelming obsession with star trek and super heroes for about a year, long enough for me to fall in love with who I thought he was- the man he showed me.

    We moved in together and years went by. Something seemed “off.” He did not say I love you back for a very very long time, he would not discuss marriage, kids, or moving. He was exceedingly slow at literally everything. He was a different man at work than at home. He didn’t seem interested in sex, 1-2x a month at 28 years old seemed odd to me. I felt rejected sexually, very frustrated sexually, which fueled arguments. I could not understand why at now 32, 4-5 years together, he would not discuss marriage and kept telling me “later.” I was watching my youth, opportunity to have children and make a family disappear day by day and had no idea what was wrong. I loved him, he said he loved me (finally) so, why the hold up? Why are all my friends starting their lives when my boyfriend would not even discuss his dreams or intentions with me?

    Just when I had enough, I became pregnant despite the doctor telling me how unlikely that would be. She also told me I was sick and my opportunity to have children are “now or never.” Our son was born in 2010. We stayed together and I looked forward to having a family, married or not.

    Meanwhile, I was feeling more and more isolated and alone, even when with my boyfriend. Especially when I was with my boyfriend. He did not have normal conversations with me. He had no friends. His only interests were technology, super heroes and star trek. I had hit my limit of how much star trek I could tolerate. I wanted to discuss vacations, marriage, family. HIS goals and dreams. He never knew what to say, as if he were an empty slate. He was content to say nithing or follow me. I loved him. I was attracted to him and I wanted him and to be a partner with him. Yet, I always felt at arms length. When I got too close, Id be pushed away with harsh words. When we had sex, the following day he would be vaguely distant or even off putting. He had a strange aversion to intimacy and I eventually internalized this as my fault, my failing. The years of rejection for sex, intimacy and connection with the person closest to me started to wear down on my self esteem, bit by bit. I became more negative. I was tired all the time. My friends began to drop off as they only saw the negativity increase ans could not understand why I was not entralled with my well providing, very handsome and very sweet appearing boyfriend. What kind of ungrateful, horrible person did I become?

    I started to even dislike myself. I stopped believing in anything spiritual, as he would disapprove of anything “unscientific.” I decreased my demand for sex to once a week and cried myself to sleep when I couldn’t muster risking yet another rejection. When I cried, he snored. If he heard me cry, he would not know what t do with me anyway. He did not realize I needed connection. I started to realize that maybe something could be different about him, maybe even autistic.

    We went over the checklist and he scored high. He had all the classic benchmarks. Even the patterns in the shower, how he would do these very odd (to me) repetitive movements, the way he could not hold his feet still when sitting, the strange way he slept (like he never stops moving, so much we needed a split bed as he would keep me up all night.) The way he literally took 4-10x longer to do any task. The aversion to intimacy, the obsession of his very particular and narrow interests, the complete avoidance of alcohol, the social interactions gone awry or the fact he had no friends. It all made sense. He could not decifer my emotions, let alone my emotional needs. He was asperbers, all er needed was a therapist to confirm it, so we could understand how to move forward.

    To a therapist we went. And another, and another. My boyfriend was not interested in a diagnosis. He wanted to notpick and avoid any blame for anything. He wanted to continue life as normal- ie; he go to work, then come home and shut down entirely while I do all the work, decisions, cooking and planning. This was all he knew to do, all he wanted to do.

    We finally got married at 12.5 years of being together. The wait was excruciating for me, as my 20’s ans 30’s went by and no commitment was made. I will always harbor anger towards him for making me an anomoly, despite my begging to talk of marriage since 2008. Our marriage was a rushed affair, in a courthouse, no family, no friends, no honeymoon. It was the best I could get. The isolation has become stifling.

    Now we are married, with a 6 year old who has adhd. He may actually just have aspergers. Time will tell. Now i am poised between a child husband that cannot make basic decisions and refuses to acknowledge aspergers. Weve dumped thousands into therapy. I cannot trust my husband, with his limitations, to make basic decisions for our son. He will go without feeding him, clothing him, bathing him. He is completely and utterly clueless and lost without my constant supervision and feedback, which he resents. Now he resents me for harping on him and I resent him for being stubborn and incompetent. I have had to take on way too much responsibility and have absolutely no one in the world that will understand. My son is a handfull. He needs a 1/1 aid at school. He is described as “5 children” by experienced daycare providers. We have no family around. It all falls on me. There is no break. No wknd vacations. No date nights. Just unrelenting days of household chores and being mommy to two boys. The sex is 2x a month at best and i have adjusted to just sucking it up. Im depressed, overweight shadow of my former self, on disability and trapped.

    The stress has taken a serious toll on my health as well. Im genuinely ill and it changes nothing. I need more and get less. The only things I can say that are positive- he makes great money and he does not cheat. He is home every night. Though, i feel a cleae change when he doea come home. I am deeply angry at him and myself and i am trapped. Though we are finally married, i have no idea what the future holds as he wont discuss anything of any significance with me. Even vacations are not discussed and he ruins them by complaining the whole time after I do 100% of the work in planning and so forth- i even do the driving. I have to, he is not a competent driver.

    I don’t know what to do. Having more kids is out. Ill be 40 soon, my kid is near 7. Buying a house, a car- vacations, all seem impossible with my husbands input. He merely dismisses everything and would rather ignore the world. I am utterly alone. My only hope is to leave in 9 years and have the alimony. I don’t even care about marrying again. I just want to be myself again. I don’t cheat and I give him my all, everyday. He has taken it all gladly and would not fight me if I walked out the door. He just doesn’t care enough about anything to do anything for anyone. This is the most painful part- that for all my suffering in silence, in the end- no one knows and no one cares.

  16. CJH
    19. december 2017 at 23:51

    NT with an AS wife Married 41 years 3 kids I have lost all the joy in my life. Battle after battle. I ve known for about 5 years She is in total denial..Your article was truly a
    checklist of my life. All of NT,s need lots of help.

  17. Misty
    22. december 2017 at 05:38

    I have been married to an aspergers husband for 12 years (although he wasn’t diagnosed until 7 years into it). It is a second marriage for both of us. He’s 67 and I’m 60, now. It definitely gets more difficult when your finances become entwined. And approaching older age with someone that refuses to make out a will or do any sort of retirement or estate planning is incredibly stressful. He’s just “too busy.” The idea of considering his – or my – future well-being is met with a vacant stare – seriously. He doesn’t want to do anything – so he does nothing. Estate planning seems like a conversation/plan that you have together. I am finally figuring out that it really isn’t going to happen. So, I have been wondering how bad I will look when I go to an attorney to ask how it works when only one spouse in a marriage has a will and does some estate planning? Can you even do that? I am sure they will wonder what sort of cold-hearted wife would even ask?! But, I have two children from my first marriage that I would like to leave an inheritance, and also have some sort of plan so that I wouldn’t become a burden to them. To that end, I have maintained some investments of my own and my husband uses every opportunity to point out that I “withhold” support from our partnership. The truth is that I know he will never plan anything for me – and certainly not my children! And any “extra” money that he gets his hands on is spent on his whims – which are not irresponsible – but it isn’t any sort of joint decision and there is no regard at all, for any sort of future. I guess the message that I want to add to this thread is that the AS behavior does not change with age – just the topics of the decisions you are trying to make while feeling incredibly isolated and misunderstood by outsiders.

    • Truth
      25. juni 2018 at 05:58

      I am 60, and I feel for you, truly. My 91 year old dad who is fighting for his life after a recent stroke told me pre-stroke that I have a lot of years ahead of me. So, I am passing his words on to you, because I have thought of this; if what happened to my dad happened to me, would I want my AS husband making decisions for my care or my estate? Hell, no! I am a retired RN, and I can tell you that is the worst thing you could have, is someone who has no clue of how you feel dictating your life when you cannot fend for yourself! Forget the one sided estate planning….Get the divorce first.

  18. Mary
    7. januar 2018 at 05:00

    PLEASS HELP! I just started dating someone who I believe may have AS. Right now it’s a long distance relationship. The longest I’ve been with him is 4 days and here are a few things I’ve noticed. He talks about how he likes to be alone and the 4 days in a hotel together was hard for him, he talks about how he’s not an empathetic person, I see a lot of sensory issues especially when it comes to intimacy, intamacy was awkward- we didn’t have sex but the talk of other things was mentioned- he wanted me to do things and just bluntly said it without any touching, kissing, or forplay, he hates crowds (dreaded the holidays and when we went to a bar he had to step outside), photographic memory, forgetful, moves a lot in his sleep – he was previously married and has 2 kids. His one son has autism. I am a special education teacher and have some experience with children with AS. I’m attracted to him, I think he’s a great guy but now reading all these comments I’m scared that some of how he’s acting now is fake. I’m also unsure if he’s diagnosed. Am I able to ask him or suggest to him that he may be on the spectrum? It wouldn’t make me ends things with him, it would help me better understand him. I would have to make the choice if I would be able to live with the lack of emotion because I’m such an empathic person myself. If so what’s the best way to have that conversation? Does anyone have any successful stories about being with someone with AS?

    • Gu
      27. maj 2018 at 11:37

      What you see now, is ” the best” he is able to present from himself. If he now has problems with be with you for 4 days, it will never improve. I have over 20 years experience with my husband, and I will not recommend it. You will feel alone ( even when you are together) or he leaves you for the weekend, because he needs his time alone ( to cope) . You will be both mother and father for your kids. He may not be able to see risks, and you will not feel safe to leave your kids with him. And your life will be HIS routine, which can not be changed ( not even when you are ill, and need help).
      And remember, AS long you are his special interest, he will behave, but as soon you are a couple/married, this will change, and you will see the tantrums. Mine had a major one the week after the wedding invitations were sent. After er were married, he got a job a 7 hour drive away from where we lived, and he was so happy.
      And I was so alone, he just left, and didn’t come back before a year was gone, and we had a baby… So consider what you are going to do, there are still a lot of wonderful and caring men out there!

    • Truth
      25. juni 2018 at 06:00

      Mary,

      Do yourself the biggest favor and get out, now. Don’t even think about it, anymore. If you are feeling this way now, it will only intensify; this is supposed to be the best part of your relationship, and you’re already asking for help…Well, here it is…Run!

  19. Vig
    9. januar 2018 at 17:36

    Please don’t engage in this man. If you don’t want to be lonely, scared, overwelmed and frustrated the rest of your life. My 18 years with a husband with AS has destroyed me. Even though he say he is a peaseloving man.. He is totally against talking about things, if and when I discuss every days issues it will be a terrible meltdown. And remember, when they are falling in love with you, you become a target for an unhealthy interest….and then you will be like and old habit, not interesting at all. I know you wanted a positive story, I am very sorry to just say: Get out!

  20. Robyn
    11. januar 2018 at 12:15

    Hi Mary
    I wonder whether anyone who is reading this is in a successful relationship with an AS person…
    My aspie partner of 3 years is passive and lacks initiative, but he is also loving, caring, affectionate and genuinely cares about the welfare of others and of animals. I think one of the reasons we have endured is because our sex life has been reasonably good, we don’t live together, haven’t combined our finances and have no children. We also have some important interests in common that sees us enjoying shared activities frequently.
    I worked out he was aspie as we were still getting to know each other. I asked him straight out, and he said yes, I’ve been diagnosed. I went into grief, then denial because of the attraction, but there were too many little things that went wrong in our courtship for me to retain in-love denial for more than about a week. He has insight into his diagnosis – went and sought diagnosis himself in his 30s. But he still lacks insight into certain deficits such as mental inflexibility and lack of initiative within the relationship. I am an extremely verbal person and he had language delay as a child and is not comfortable with deep and meaningful conversations. But his is willing to try. I simply have to realize that he cannot change certain things about himself, and that the things that were not meeting my needs at the start will probably never change because he simply has pieces of his jigsaw missing.
    I am lucky that he is fine with me having friendships that don’t include him, and I get some of my needs met in those relationships. My main issue in our relationship recently was his passivity and lack of initiative, (plus random events of mental inflexibility that leave me frothing at the mouth) that were resulting in controlling behaviours from me. I don’t like this in me, but when I talk to him about it, he can’t see how to change himself to make things better – because literally he can’t see/comprehend this stuff. It’s moments like that that my mind tells me he is dumb and beneath my mental agility.
    ATM I choose to stay in the relationship, but I do have questions about my motives. Am I staying just to avoid aloneness or to get hugs?
    I feel my relationship is so much better than most of these written about in the comments, mainly because I am not tied down with marriage, children and shared finances. And because he genuinely wants to connect and wants me to be happy. Tonight I had a nice phone call with him, including talking about this article a bit, and this weekend we have plans, initiated by me without resentment (touch wood).
    Overall Mary, I would caution you in a major way. An ASD man with no insight is a diabolical thing for the intimate partner. An ASD man who knows and accepts his disability will still lack insight into various deficits in executive functioning he may have, and will struggle with self-awareness, empathy and emotional recognition.
    Be very clear about your motivations. Don’t kid yourself with romatic ideas of him learning or changing and becoming the man you have projected onto him because of his attractive looks or intellect. Treat the relationship as a chance to learn about relationships and yourself, and be very clear that if it doesn’t work for you that you should not feel obliged to stay because he is disabled and needs you.
    Regarding your question about diagnosis and whether he knows – if the relationship has any hope, you should be able to gently broach the subject, perhaps with one of the online questionnaires that show if you are on the spectrum or not. If he becomes defensive or even hostile, you have probably shown yourself what is possible at this time – and can walk away knowing that your need for honesty and openmindedness in the relationship was not able to be met by him. ASD people find conversations about feelings, values and other personal stuff that caring women thrive on, very difficult. But I think if you are to have any hope of a happy relationship, you need to assume that that kind of conversation can be entered into, and give it a go. You have your future sanity to lose if you don’t go in with an open, honest, intimacy-building attitude, and should be able to expect the same from him.
    Good luck.
    Robyn

  21. Iris
    13. januar 2018 at 15:40

    Dear Mary.
    You´re lucky he´s already warned you about his lack of empathy and you already have experienced his odd way of behavior when it comes to intimacy. Many NT partners never got these warnings.

    I talked sometimes with my ex about my thoughts about him having AS. Nobody had as far as I know mentioned it before.
    My ex thought Asberger was a nice word – he liked the word – and it was okay to talk about it – it made him feel special I think.

    – But bottom line – talk or diagnose changes nothing.- you have to cope with the AS way of being – or leave your beloved.

    AS men are easy to fall in love with but hard to live with. -They do what pleases them, they lie if it’s the easiest way for them, they forget, what they find unpleasant to remember – small things as well as big things – they’ll never think of others needs unless it benefits their own interests – their image, their plans, etc.
    It’s not because they are mean – not at all! – they simply just forget because it’s not important to them – they are not able to understand others perspective.

    Once I asked my ex, if he couldn’t understand, why I was hurt when he suddenly without telling me left for a week at Xmas to bike in Gran Canaria and I didn’t know where he was until he came back? – his answer was; “it wasn’t a part of the plan that you should be hurt!” – he just didn’t think it would matter to me at all. (we didn’t live together) It didn’t occur to him that he could do me a favor simply by telling me he was leaving, where he was going and when he would be back. – He just saw a cheap last minute trip on the internet and went for it in a hurry. He doesn’t like Xmas – (I love Xmas) – so why shouldn’t he just leave???

    You say it won’t make you end things with your boyfriend if he gets diagnosed – but you will be able to understand him better. – ???
    You’re already aware of his difficulties, you already talk him into an AS context – you have knowledge from your work – you’ve read these pages – why do you need a diagnose?-

    The important question is: Can your emotions be prepared for all the disappointments and the loneliness from never being seen or understood?

    – this question will be my contribute to your “Please Help”.- You have to find the answer inside of you and not in a diagnose I think. It seems you already know what you need to know about AS. –

    All my best wishes and good luck to you, whatever you chose to do.

  22. Who cares
    21. januar 2018 at 17:46

    You just described my relationship to my As partner. Thank you. It took me 15 years to solve his issues. He will never admit to any symptoms, violence , abuse and he is a professional. But so am I. And I will do what I have to protect my As and Nt children, 4 of them.
    I hope they invent a wonder drug for people like him who get away with spousal abuse and pass off as an NT in court of law.

  23. Clara
    27. april 2018 at 08:27

    Reading all this is like an epiphany – I have struggled for nearly 30 years with a man I love very much who is intelligent, caring and a loving father who tries so very hard to get it right – but our life revolves around his issues and he ‘piggybacks’ constantly – if I do or say something then it’s safe for him to like that – I am so tired of the phrase ‘What do you want to do’ about everything because I am responsible for everything and make all the decisions and take all the initiatives. He is so busy worrying about ‘getting it right’ that he is paralysed into inaction. It’s the total lack of spontaneity and the fact that I have been effectively a single mother for him and my 2 now adult children for all our marriage. For many years he had terrible tantrums and meltdowns (over the smallest of things) that were always because I said or did something – I am a strong woman and able to stand up for myself but these floored me especially when the children were young and as I come from a small and dysfunctional family with abusive parents I believed that it was my fault for so long. During a meltdown after 2 or 3 days of stand off he would usually break down and recognise how unfair his behaviour had been etc etc – but it did not stop it happening the next time as he seemed to have no insight into what was happening. Holidays (which I always had to arrange and take responsibility for) always involved a mega meltdown at some point which was the hardest to take as it was suppose to be a break – a happy family time. So much energy and time spent protecting my children and myself from this emotional chaos. Things have got better because both my children will confront him and challenge his behaviour when it is unacceptable – they are supportive of me and understand that he has mental issues. I also now refuse to engage in certain behaviours and have given up trying to ‘fix’ everything for him in the hope that it would make things better. It doesn’t – it’s just replaced by another thing that stresses him. I ignore the meltdowns and tantrums and just walk away – grown up family gives me the freedom to do this – he is aware that there is something wrong and admits it at times – he is seeing a therapist (I suggested that if he didn’t our marriage would be over) which has helped him with some childhood issues and relieved some of the burdens from that he was carrying. We do have lots of good things and he desperately wants to be different but of course he can’t be and that is the problem. Discussions and casual conversations often end up in arguments because he can’t do non literal – he covers his back by constantly making jokes or babbling about nonsense which can be endearing but not all the time after 30 years. This is the first time I’ve even admitted a lot of this to myself let alone posted it online – just so relieved that I am not alone in feeling this – it’s not an easy thing to share with friends who don’t see that side of him. But I am lucky in that he is aware of himself even if he can’t change how he is and I am aware of that and able to protect myself now and make informed choices thanks to articles like this and the posts of other NTs sharing their experiences. My thanks to everyone who posts because it helps so much. We need to stay strong.

  24. Jenny
    14. juni 2018 at 00:05

    I have been married to an AS partner for over 30 years.
    I didnt know how badly affected his social, emotional and cognitive ability is impaired until the last 18 months.
    The behaviour is cruel relentless and soul destroying.
    I too feel drained and worthless. My husband continues his robotic lifestyle. Happy to accept he is fine and suggests that im the problem……you have bipolar or something. His childlike arguments leave me speechless and my life is a nightmare.
    My son is on the spectrum and has been manipulated by him, yes he thinks its all my fault. He tells me im controlling….because thats what dad says.
    Im broken and exhausted clinging on to what I have left of enthusiasm for life.
    I feel like ive wasted my life and energy for nothing in return.
    Thank goodness for these 15 tips they at least validate my experience. 😢

    • Nora New
      30. juni 2018 at 02:26

      OMG, thank you for sharing at a critical time in my life.
      So many of you just echoed my very life!

      My husband has not been formally diagnosed but what you wrote resonates with me 100%. I have done extensive research on adults on the spectrum and am convinced that he is. Intimacy is impossible, and so is having a normal to-and-fro conversation on ANY given topic. He also plays riffs for hours and hours. However, he now takes his guitar to a park to play. I have been living, no, surviving in this “relationship” for 30 years. I have two sons, one moved out and the other, 21, is still at home with severe anxiety and depression, I’m afraid with similar behavioural patterns.

      My husband is very manipulative and plays the victim with his helplessness. I say plays because no matter how rational I am in trying to discuss how his behaviour affects us, it is also always my fault and problem. We have gone separately and together to counceling. But it the pattern is the same : one way street, and no assessment or diagnosis to validate his behaviour.

      I was initially attracted to his child-like humour and good nature. I thought he was immature but easy-going, until children came along. I continued to think “oh,well, most men go through some crisis or other when becoming dads”. But when I realised he was unable to differentiate between normal child behaviour from his own, we were in trouble.

      I am now learning to let go and not be enmeshed in his, or my son’s life. I am starting to look after myself at the age of 56. Better late than never they say. I have a long way to go, but am looking at moving out of our family home as I am no longer prepared to up with the manipulation, which is increasing. I don’t know when, but this is a loaded decision which carries many other implications. I am going through counceling at the moment (again) I have accepted this label only to learn that I’m partaking in an abusive cycle of triangulation.

      I have said to my husband that there is no excuse for abuse/manipulation no matter what the mental diagnosis is.
      Thank you for sharing such a clear article and I hope each and everyone of us here learn to climb out of this pit with forgiveness and acceptance.

    • Robot
      23. august 2018 at 06:09

      I don’t know where to start because the more I read about Asperger, the more I think I have married one. My husband fits 80-90% of the Asperger description. He is generally nice and quiet; I used to be fun & outgoing. I know he tries his best to provide for the family of 5 (3 kids), but I am emotionally & physically exhausted after 15 years. Sometimes, I don’t know if this is going to be the rest of my life, so uninteresting, so boring, nothing excited. I used to fun and adventurous, but now I am just someone who keep our household running smoothly.

      At the beginning of our courtship, everything was great but as years go by every day life just chips the love away, gradually and slowly. Now, I become resentful and disengaged. He knows I am a little different lately (take off my ring, sleep in another room) but he doesn’t want to talk about it. If it’s related to feelings/problems, he avoids it at all cost. If our routine is the same, everything is fine…go to work, come home, grocery on weekends. This can probably go on for a 100 years. However, my brain needs stimulation. Whatever the first time for him is trouble because he just doesn’t know what to do. He learns everything new at my expense. I am just so tired.

      At home, he doesn’t fix anything that’s broken (bathroom lights have been out for 3 years, still out!). He insists doing the finance but he doesn’t have any budgeting for a repairman. He is sweet to the kids but nothing else. I have to be responsible for running every single detail of our lives. He doesn’t know how to parent. He doesn’t teach the kids any sports. I end up teaching each of them how to ride a bike, how to swim, go ice skate with them, play tennis with them, etc. I don’t know baseball so I asked him to teach the kids when they were young, he would make excuses of either too hot or too cold.

      Besides the Asperger, he is also a super picky eater. He eats less than 20 food items and likes unhealthy food. It frustrates me a great deal because I want to teach the kids to eat healthy but it’s hard to do so with him being there.

      During the week, he fixes his same plain food & I cook for the kids and myself at home. On the weekend, we eat out twice. If I want the whole family eats together, we can only go to one of a few restaurants. If I want to eat something I like, I have to eat alone while they go to somewhere else. My oldest kid is picky as well (allergy too) so it’s extremely frustrating to eat with them. Very rare that we go to a new restaurant and my husband can’t find something to eat, he would have “dark” face. Most of the restaurants he likes are not very good (and usually go out of business shortly). Eating and trying new food used to be enjoyable for me, but not anymore!

      Parenting is another problem. He doesn’t seem to understand that different ages require different parenting techniques. Even the kids are older, he still treats them like 2. Knowing my husband won’t initialize any outdoor activity, I signed my kids up for scouting but he doesn’t get involved like other dads do. After several years of me being the volunteer there, he finally went camping with the boy(s). When he does it, he expects a nobel prize.

      Sometimes, I question myself if I want to live like that for the rest of my life, so boring, so lifeless, no unexciting, so uneventful. I feel like I am dying inside me. Last year, I had a chance of traveling with my oldest kid for a month. It’s so refreshing and I felt like a different person, a lively one again. After we got back within a month, back to normal, back to routine, back to my robotic life.

      • Mette
        15. september 2018 at 02:01

        Thank-you SO SO SO MUCH for your post! You see, I’m in love with a man who has High Functioning Autism. But WOAH, your post told me for certain to be much more careful and slow in terms of possibly getting involved with this young man. I am so sorry that you are having such a hard time!!! I wish there was something I could do to help.you. May God bless you and keep you always.

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