Counseling for Adults on the Autism Spectrum: Live Q & A for Members of "Life-Coaching Online" with Mark Hutten, M.A.
Temper gets a particular hold on men with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism, because of the tendency for emotional flooding to occur. Here are a few ideas for you to try with your husband (in no particular order):
- When Robby is “going-off,” you can calmly say something like, “I’m going to read for a while” …or “I’m going to the store to pick up some milk.” Tell him you’ll be back in a little while.
- Never try to deal with a temper when it is active. When all is calm, try to help Robby identify the feeling underlying the anger (e.g., fear, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness, etc.). Help him find the words to express that feeling (e.g., “I feel helpless in this situation” …or “I felt frustrated by your comment” …or “I feel put down by you”). Allow him to be brutally honest here. It may be hard at first, but pays off once he has learned to do it. He can start by making the statements to himself if it’s too difficult to do so with you initially. Know, however, that Robby needs to take responsibility for his display of temper in the end. It’s his job – not yours.
- Most men with hot tempers will display just as much temper as they can get away with. So, if you don’t like the temper outbursts, tell Robby you are simply unwilling to put up with them. Tell him what will happen when he allows his temper to get out of control (e.g., “When you scream at me, I’m going to leave the house. I’ll come back home when you can speak to me in a normal voice.”). Then you must be willing to follow through.
- Do not reinforce Robby’s temper. When he blasts off, do not argue. The most you want to say is, “I’ll talk with you when you’ve calmed down.” (Note: You may need to wait until he is calm to say this.)
- Be patient with Robby as he tries to figure out what to do with your new plan. Since you are going to be "responding" to his temper using the ideas above (rather than reacting to – or participating in – the tantrum), he will be forced to come up with a different coping strategy, one that doesn’t involve you being on the receiving end of his rant-and-rave technique.
You may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you can break Robby’s temper cycle by following these steps. It doesn’t have to be a long, trying process. Once Robby (a) learns that you will not take part in his tantrums (since you are going to make yourself absent during that time) and (b) sees that you are taking an active role in helping him to uncover the “real” feelings that are going on underneath the façade of anger, he may decide that his temper is his temper. In other words, he's the one choosing to have a temper ...he's doing it to himself rather than someone else doing it to him ...he's in charge rather than being a victim of uncontrollable external circumstances.
Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples