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Cassandra Syndrome and Marriage to an Asperger’s Spouse

“I’m married to a man with AS (17 years), and I think that I may be suffering from Cassandra Syndrome. Have you heard of this? Is this common for NT wives who are married to an emotionally unavailable (abusive) husband with AS?”


Cassandra Syndrome (CS) is basically the neurotypical (NT) spouse’s experience of emotional suffering that results from distressing interpersonal relations with a spouse who does not understand, empathize with, or validate the NT’s pain and sorrow. Many NT partners are negatively affected by a number of Asperger’s traits (e.g., lack of empathy, mind-blindness, alexithymia, etc.). 

Over time, the NT spouse may begin to feel isolated, invalidated, and even ‘held hostages’ in their own home. A common phrase expressed by many NTs is, “I’m simply not important to my spouse.”

The emotional distress felt by the NT usually occurs when the Asperger’s partner:
  • exhibits communication problems
  • has an inability to be intimate
  • is emotionally distance
  • prefers to relate to the NT partner from a distance (the Asperger’s partner fails to realize that he/she must be intimate, vulnerable, and empathic in order to truly “know” - and cooperate with - the NT partner)

The NT wants a deeper, more personal and satisfying relationship (of course), and therefore “pushes” the Asperger’s partner to “step up” and participate more fully in the marriage. However, this pushing and pleading results in further difficulties, because the Asperger’s spouse now views the NT as being increasingly bitchy, irrational or hysterical. Thus, the Asperger’s spouse distances himself/herself even further for anxiety-reduction purposes.

Symptoms of CS may include any of the following:
  • avoidance of going places (e.g., social events) with the AS spouse because it “always ends badly”
  • being easily irritated and angered
  • difficulty sleeping and concentrating
  • emotional numbness
  • feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • intrusive distressing recollections of past encounters with the AS spouse that were perceived as him/her being selfish, uncaring, and insensitive
  • markedly diminished interest or participation in previously-enjoyed activities
  • persistent and distorted blame of self
  • persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself
  • persistent anxiety, anger, guilt, or shame
  • persistent inability to experience positive emotions
  • depression
  • suicidal ideation
  • severe resentment

As one NT wife stated: “I've grown to utterly despise him, and then, of course, hate myself for despising him because he ‘can't help it’. Living with an AS spouse is living with an abusive spouse. Period.”

It’s usually both a blessing and a relief when an NT partner learns about Asperger’s and realizes that there is an explanation for the Asperger’s spouse’s “hurtful” behaviors. In this way, the NT realizes she is NOT crazy, and that she may have taken a lot of things personally that were in fact part of the disorder. If you’re an NT spouse experiencing such difficulties, know that you’re not alone – and that this plight is indeed recognized in the literature (i.e., CS).

In a nutshell, a relationship that results in CS is one that lacks “emotional reciprocity.” Emotional reciprocity exists when partners provide empathetic support to each other. It's a mutually beneficial relationship with balanced levels of “give and take.” With CS, one partner does most of the “give” with very little “take” in return.

Note: It’s not uncommon for the NT spouse to feel lonely, anxious, and depressed because he/she has tried to tell others (e.g., family members, friends, coworkers) about the Asperger’s-related marriage difficulties, but receive little-to-no validation or empathy from others – or be viewed as melodramatic and whiny. This is due to the fact that the Asperger’s partner often presents himself in quite a different light in the public eye (i.e., appears “normal,” kind, composed). But he/she is a very different person at home behind closed doors.


==> Skype Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA

==> Relationship Skills for Couples Affected by Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism  

The Main Reasons People with Asperger's Are So Anxious

"Mark, you say in many of your YT videos that people with Asperger’s usually suffer from anxiety. Why is this?"

Individuals with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism are especially vulnerable to anxiety for several important reasons. The affected individual experiences this intrinsic feature of the disorder due to any – or all – of the following:
  • a breakdown in circuitry related to extinguishing fear responses
  • specific neurotransmitter system defects
  • an inability to make accurate “social judgments” 
  • past trauma that results from being victimized, rejected and teased by their peers – without possessing the ability to mount effective socially adaptive responses
  • an insufficient grasp of situations to recognize that others “get it” when he/she does not 
  • social challenges that make it difficult for the person with AS to develop coping strategies for self-soothing and/or controlling difficult emotions
  • limited skills for autonomous social problem-solving  
  • limitations in the ability to grasp social cues
  • a highly rigid personality style that craves routine and structure (i.e., strong dislike for change)
  • repeated “social errors” 
  • limitations in generalizing from one situation to another

Other issues that can significantly raise anxiety levels involve:




==> Skype Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA

==> Relationship Skills for Couples Affected by Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism  

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