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What To Do When Your "Aspie" Man Fails To Empathize

“My boyfriend with aspergers seems to have no empathy for others and can be so callous at times. It's very hard to have a conversation with him if it's not something he agrees with. If I have a different view on the matter, it always turns into an argument. Don't get me wrong ... I'm happy to compromise, but it works both ways -- and I do admit when I'm wrong. When he is clearly in the wrong (because there are times when I produce evidence to prove it), I get no apology from him for being rude to me, or even an admission that I was right. What do you do with an Aspie man who simply fails to empathize on any level?"

The lack of displayed empathy is perhaps the most problematic characteristic of Asperger's. I use the term “displayed empathy” because it’s not that Aspergers men have no empathy. Instead, they often “give the impression” that they do not care about their partner/wife. This is partially due to “mind-blindness” (more on this topic can be found here) than with their inability or unwillingness to show compassion for others. Having said that, this trait does not give them license to be rude and unapologetic. Partners/wives need to stand up for themselves and call their man out whenever he is being unfair or disrespectful!

People with Asperger's experience difficulties in the basics of social interaction, which includes: difficulty developing close friendships, failure to seek shared enjoyments or achievements with others, impaired nonverbal behaviors (e.g., eye contact, facial expression, posture, gesture, etc.), and lack of social or emotional reciprocity (i.e., the give-and-take of interpersonal relationships).

The cognitive ability of people with Asperger's allows them to articulate social norms in a "laboratory" context (i.e., they may be able to show a theoretical understanding of other’s emotions). But, they typically have problems acting on this knowledge in fluctuating, real-life situations.

It's not uncommon for men on the autism spectrum to over-analyze and distill their observation of social interaction into rigid behavioral guidelines, and apply these rules in odd ways, which often results in a demeanor that seems rigid and socially inept.

Regarding your question, "What do you do with an Aspie man who simply fails to empathize on any level?"

Bear in mind that (a) your boyfriend does empathize, just not in a clearly observable manner, and (b) this fact does NOT get him off the hook. That is, I'm not saying, "Boys will be boys, so just get used to it." As stated earlier, whenever he is "callous" or "rude," mindblindness is no excuse. Mindblindness is NOT his choice, but being disrespectful IS his choice -- and needs to be confronted in an assertive way by you. Having said that, there are ways to "fight fair" (so to speak).

More on this topic here ==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… *YUP* Very frustrating (and feeling of alone) to be on that side for years on end.
•    Anonymous said… Being the ASD partner, I may be that way, but it isn't malicious or intentional. I wish someone could explain that to my NT partner and him believe it. I may not express emotions very well, but I still feel them.  👽
•    Anonymous said… Every time I tried to have a conversation with my partner about anything, he turned into an argument. I felt like nothing I could say or do was good enough to him 
•    Anonymous said… exactly me also i said to her will take a bit of break to deal with things and she went and got married to someone else in april this year, so not only am i scared but the emotional pain and the distress is unbelievalbel
•    Anonymous said… i feel for you have a husband and a grandson like that
•    Anonymous said… I just let things like this go over my head, you can either let it stress you or decide life's too short and you know what no one is perfect. My aspie man is very untidy, argumentative and not demonstrative but he has the kindest heart I've ever known, would do anything for me and the kids and he puts up with me!!
•    Anonymous said… I know about "presenting evidence," too. My husband will state a "fact" that I know is untrue, but he won't believe me, so I love when there is something specific I can look up to "show" him I was right! Like the time he INSISTED that tea had more caffeine than regular coffee. If course, he didn't apologize, he just stopped arguing.
•    Anonymous said… Maybe try finding another man if you can't handle an Aspie.
•    Anonymous said… Most Aspies can't empathize. CAN'T. Their brain connections just don't work that way. The more you understand about how they think and feel the easier it is to accept their perceived shortcomings. I equate Aspi to logical Spock from Star Trek, there is little room for emotion is their lives. Once you can accept an Aspi for who they are and how their brain works, and they accept that you think and feel different, you will have an amazing, loyal partner.
•    Anonymous said… My daughter is 21 and has Asperger's. She's very empathetic.
•    Anonymous said… My situation was different, mine was a aspergus female and it breaks my heart there was always imaginery issues that she dreamt up all the time, in the long term i had a emotinal breakdown, it was so sad cause it was only her view and nobody elses view
•    Anonymous said… My son is 28 and always argues with me. I often put the phone down telling him to sod off. In a few days he will apologise and come round to my way of thinking. He needs that time away from me to process. He thinks completely round and through a subject. His partner is very easy going and that is where the success lies. It's no good if the irresistible force meets the immovable object. On the other hand like Sheldon, he is most often right.
•    Anonymous said… NO matter how much I tell mine to be more affectionate ..he can't seem to get romantic or affectionate.
•    Anonymous said… Not empathetic? I find that there is empathy....just not expressed the way neurotypicals expect. Run you over with conversation....yes....short terms memory requires that the aspie get it all out before he forgets his/her train of thought. None of this is easy for mom, dad, friend, partner to navigate. It's a challenge that can wear you done if you let it. Yet, I always find validity is his/her thinking if I stop and truly listen.
•    Anonymous said… you just have to learn to deal with it or leave... you can't change him! i've lived with one like that for almost 49 years but didn't know what the problem was until about 7 years ago... it's not easy!
•    Anonymous said… You poor thing. I went through the same with my aspie man. I am going through an emotional breakdown now because he left leaving me feel like everything was my bad though everything had to be his way  :-(
•    Anonymous said… You really touched my heart when you mentioned "presenting evidence" to prove your point in a disagreement. That is so very typical of our lives. Frankly, when I have situations in which he is immovable concerning something important (and I know it doesn't involve huge anxiety or sensory issues that are severe), I often come back with refusing to do something he likes and clearly state that I won't "Move" until he does. It ususally works.
•    Anonymous said…..and sometimes a jerk is just a jerk, Aspie or not..

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The Hidden Curriculum: Tips for Dummies


People with Asperger’s (high-functioning autism) have difficulty understanding the “hidden curriculum” (i.e., the set of routines, social rules, tasks, or actions that “neurotypical" people readily understand and use). Usually considered to be a matter of common sense, the hidden curriculum is rarely directly taught. Even so, it is an important facet of everyday life.

The hidden curriculum covers many areas. Thus, it is impossible to create a comprehensive list that applies to all "Aspies" in all situations. The following is a brief list of hidden curriculum examples:

1. When your boss is chastising another employee for some reason, it's not the best time to ask him for a raise.

2. What is acceptable at your house may not be acceptable at someone else's house (e.g., although you may put your feet up on the table at your home, your friend may be upset if you do that in his or her home).

3. College professors don't all have the same rules. One professor may allow snacks to be eaten in the classroom, while another may have a problem with that.

4. Speak to police officers in a pleasant tone of voice, because they will respond to you in a more positive manner. Also, never  argue with a cop – even if you are right.

5. People don't always want to know the honest truth when they ask you a question (e.g., your girlfriend does not want to hear that she looks fat in a new dress she just bought)

6. People are not always supposed to be saying what they are thinking.

7. It is rude to interrupt someone when he or she is talking. Wait until they finish before you chime-in with your comments.

8. Don't touch someone while you are talking to them (e.g., tap them on the arm).

9. Don't tell someone that their house is dirtier than it should be.

10. Don't tell someone that they have bad breath.

11. Don't sit in a chair that someone else was sitting in just a minute ago.

12. Don't correct someone's grammar when they are angry.

13. Don't ask to be invited to someone's party.

14. Acceptable slang that may be used with your friends may not be acceptable when interacting with a different group of people.

Due to the fact that the hidden curriculum is not understood instinctively in the mind of a person with Asperger's, partners and/or spouses of these individuals may need to provide direct instruction to facilitate skill acquisition. 

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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