The burden on NT spouses and children, OTRS

Neurotypical spouses and children of adults with Asperger syndrome (AS) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) risk being affected by Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome (OTRS).

What is OTRS?

OTRS is a trauma-based syndrome, which can affect people over a long period when they are subjected to repeated psychological traumatic impacts within a close relationship.

OTRS is a normal response in neurotypical (NT) people as a result of prolonged traumatic stress in an intimate relationship. Symptoms are similar to those seen in people who continuously, for a long time, are exposed to emotional and psychological torture, both mental and physical. The impact is more serious because the traumatic stress, OTRS, is suffered at home in an intimate relationship, and because the surrounding persons typically deny the reality of what is taking place.

The damage to the NT spouse and children occurs insidiously and can continue for decades.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of OTRS are stress-related health problems. They occur over a prolonged period as a result of violations and disregard of the spouse / partner who has Asperger’s syndrome / ASD. Symptoms may be physical illnesses, stress-related health problems, depression, fear, loss of self-esteem, doubt of own reality, loneliness, fatigue, involuntary social isolation, etc. Some of the symptoms are the same as those affecting spouses of sociopaths.

What is the cause of OTRS?

OTRS is due to the psychological trauma, the normal (NT) partner suffers from when living in relationships / family life with a person who has serious limitations in their ability to engage in reciprocal relationships in which they:

  • do not exhibit reciprocity;
  • do not show empathy or compassion,
  • cannot put themselves in the place of others,
  • have difficulty with mutual communication;
  • do not recognize the NT partner’s reality and attitudes,
  • cannot read others’ intentions and emotions
  • find it difficult to learn from experience
  • cannot assess complex situations,
  • cannot nurture a relationship,
  • cannot see his responsibility for own actions,
  • cannot negotiate, seek compromises or resolve conflicts;
  • is extremely busy solely for their own needs,
  • have inadequate capacity for adult impulse control

There is a secondary addition which aggravates OTRS when the surroundings – including professionals such as therapists and doctors – do not know about or do not take the bizarre reality of the NT partner seriously. The NT spouse will typically wait very long to initiate others in what is going on at home, because it is taboo to talk to someone about these things. It feels awkward and is not infrequently also associated with violence within the four walls.

What is Cassandra phenomenon?

If you, as a spouse of someone with Asperger’s syndrome try to tell others about it, you will typically experience no one believing you. “He (she)’s so nice!” Is the usual reaction, the normal partner typically runs into. It is not because the surroundings are superficial or indifferent. It has to do with the fact that Asperger’s are good at copying other people’s behavior so they do not “reveal” themselves, unless they are in unfamiliar situations. This worsens the load on the normal (NT) spouse when you are not believed and do not get support and help.

OTRS has the additional name Cassandra phenomenon. Cassandra was a woman in Greek mythology. She had prophetic abilities, who always spoke the truth and had the gift of foresight. But the god, Apollo, acting in anger when she spurned his advances put a curse on her so that no one would ever believe her.

From the frying pan into the fire

Asperger syndrome is a diagnosis that has first been recognized – and known – in the last 20 years. From the professional side the focus is on the person who has AD / ASD. This usually describes children and young people who are helped to compensate for the problems their developmental disorder causes.

There is limited professional focus on the situation of normal (NT) partners of adults with Asperger’s syndrome. Not many professionals have the training and the knowledge that is needed for providing proper support for NT / AS relationship. Some NT partners for adults Asperger’s tells us that therapists have advised them to adapt Asperger’s bizarre behavior and eccentricity even more.

This is directly harmful. The neuro-typical spouse often walk on egg shells in stress and fear of the Asperger’s eruptions and reactions. The Asperger’s lack of impulse control can get the whole family to live in constant fear. The family can be isolated because they are afraid of guests that disrupt the Asperger’s routines and egocentricity. The whole atmosphere in the home can be fraught with anxiety. There is no room for pleasure and spontaneity. This is part of the Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome.

Need for information and advice

Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome, OTRS was first described by Karen Rodman, the founder and director of FAAAS Inc, established in 1997. FAAAS stands for Families of Adults Affected by Asperger’s Syndrome and is a non-profit organization with contact to people in many countries. FAAAS supports and advises families of adults with ASD and works for education and knowledge of AS of the influence on NT spouses and family members. See

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Also read

Mental and Emotional Abuse of Children 

Intimacy and Romance in NT-AS relations

Help for NT spouses whose partner has Asperger’ Autism


7 comments for “The burden on NT spouses and children, OTRS

  1. jennifer
    9. maj 2015 at 00:56

    very Interesting and Helpfull

  2. Randy
    29. juni 2015 at 21:23

    Having a date set up with an Aspie and having them continue to have excuses for not showing up, always something else in the family, someone else, or the 3 children, or the ex husband and his family, or the ex boyfriend she had a child with too, or the doctor, or the therapist, or the attorney, or the aunt, or the mom, or grandma… it’s always an excuse. My observation is no never get into a friendship or a relationship with a female Aspie, their behavior will make you go crazy. You will suffer from some sort of stress disorder, sooner or later, because Aspies make a lot of mistakes, and they never learn from them, so they let you down, again, and again, and again, and again.

  3. Randy
    29. juni 2015 at 21:33

    In the beginning, an Asperger patient, or Aspie, will fool you… they know how to act in most circumstances. But sooner or later, you catch them doing something they don’t normally do, and they don’t have a means to get out of the situation, and they will do something that will make you know that it’s not just quirky, it is something genuinely wrong or missing in their brain capacity.

    They are just like a chameleon. Every one else sees the color the Aspie wants them to see, to be perceived as normal.

    Nothing could be further from the truth if you are friends with them, emotionally involved with them, care for them, love them, have sex with them, or marry them. Only then will you see the true colors of failure of a person with Aspergers. It will be hidden from all others.

    Believe what the partner or significant other has to say about their Aspie partner and do NOT dismiss it based on your own observations alone. The Aspie Partners input needs to weighed heavily when seeking a doctors assistance, help or therapy from a therapist.

  4. Forest
    7. november 2015 at 07:17

    The silence, the emptiness, the lack of spontaneity , its just killing me. ADD as well. I’m only surviving for the kids, both of whom are also affected , one slightly , one a lot more. I feel manipulated, used. Its incredibly distressing and its changing me, losing confidence, lack of social contact .She never apologises, never takes responsibility ,never takes a step back , always someone elses fault, or mine, always managing me. I was susceptible because of my past early history, its almost like I dont know who I am anymore. Its hard to believe there is any future.

  5. Jackie
    25. februar 2016 at 18:05

    I’ve been married to the love of my life for 34 years and he has Aspergers. He is a workaholic and when he’s not working 60 to 70 hours a week he is constantly in task mode,he never wants to stop and just be with me and his sex drive is virtually zero.if I try to discuss my feelings on this he shuts down completely and acts wounded and wronged. But I love him. He’s clever,funny and kind. It’s only when I share my loneliness or sadness at his workaholic behaviour that it all goes horrible wrong. It’s hell. Most of my friends don’t believe me or think I’m exaggerating and he is in complete denial.

  6. Misstiss
    23. december 2016 at 18:06

    My husband of 16 years of marriage was recently diagnosed with AS. At first I felt relieved that I wasn’t going crazy noticing a lot of things we couldn’t connect on or feeling like a mom more than a wife. In our 20’s I dismissed it as males not maturing sometimes till later and thought he was a late bloomer. I am also 3 years older. I noticed he forgets important stuff like birth dates, appts and wasn’t engaged with our kids as much as I was.

    A couple of times I left to run errands and he forgot to feed them but feed himself. I know he can’t make doctor appts or remember to take them for checkups. We have 4 kids, 2 are from my previous marriage. Now one of them is an adult and moved out. This has caused strain on me because I feel like I was the mom
    of 5 but never understood why.
    My family has always thought he wasn’t friendly. He doesn’t talk to people and has very few friends (no close ones)and told me he struggles socially but said it was because he grew up in a small town and never had to meet new people.

    He had weird habits but him being an artists I wrote it off as him being eccentric. A lot of artists are which leads me to think some are struggling with other issues as well.

    Every time I would question it to myself I would remind myself that he graduated, got an associates and is an exceptional artist. He had a hard time keeping jobs and would get laid off once he had been somewhere around 2 yrs. I noticed it was a pattern. He was totally oblivious to it even though his coworkers never did.
    Art was always his strong point so he learned tattooing. He makes a really decent salary because his Art has always been amazing. It is the one thing he obsesses about.

    I’m so glad to find support and encouragement.

  7. A
    8. juni 2017 at 18:30

    This was the first website that gave me answers. Thank you so much!

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