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Relating to Someone with High-Functioning Autism: 20 Tips for Partners

You have a friend or love with High Functioning Autism (Asperger's), and you don't understand him or her, so it's making you crazy? It doesn't have to be that way. Remembering a few things will enable you both to have a very rewarding relationship:

1. Accept that people with HFA are intelligent, and may have extraordinary skills that you may or may not understand, but very possibly lack what will seem to you to be common sense. The best way this was described to me one day was this way: “HFA is one of the 'unkind' disorders. Most individuals can't understand how an HFA adult can solve very complex problems, but doesn't know to get out of the rain.” What this means in your relationship is that the partner you care for is intelligent enough to come up with solutions, even complex ones. Making things simple is the harder part. Accept that if he/she says ''I need help with ___'', that is what he/she needs help with, even if it doesn't seem possible. The other side of the coin is if your partner says ''I am capable of ___'', it is a good idea to trust that. A diagnostic measure of HFA is that these individuals must be of at LEAST average intelligence. As such, the man or women you care about is more likely to know his or her limitations.

2. Accept that HFA people need love and understanding. Individuals with HFA (despite what has been widely written) do have emotions. In fact, more often they are rich with emotion, not devoid of it. More modern literature is starting to reflect this more accurate position. The difference is that the response is different in them. Individuals with HFA are often very lonely and can become depressed as a result of feeling out of place in the world.

3. Accept that you and your partner don't think alike. This means that you are likely to misunderstand each other. Knowing this will enable you to do three things:
  • When he/she says or does something that seems hurtful, you can trust that it may not have been intended the way you thought, even if it seems very clear to you.
  • When you say/do something that your partner takes offense at, you can trust that he/she is misunderstanding you honestly and not trying to be critical.
  • When family members, co-workers or friends seem to be having a ''group opinion'' in the negative about your partner, you have the insight to be able to say, ''It may appear to be that way, but I think it's a big misunderstanding''.

4. Accept that you don't experience life the same way as your HFA partner, so his/her obstacles, interests, complaints, frustrations are likely to seem illogical to you and those around you. There are many issues which contribute to the way HFA people view the world around them. There are communication issues, stigma, sensory, stereotypical interests, unique responses to social issues and stressors ...many more things than you may be able to imagine. If you look at it as if they are dodging paintballs all day long every day (paintballs which are invisible to you), it may make a little more sense that they move the way they do, talk the way they do, and make the decisions they do.

5. Adjust your non-verbal messages. If your HFA partner seems to be misunderstanding things (e.g., your tone of voice, body language, pauses, breaks in communication, expressions, etc.), you can educate him/her to understand your messages in a non-threatening way. 

With regard to body language, be sure to make an exaggerated connection between the motion and the emotion. If for you, crossed arms mean you are thinking and not angry, you could nod thoughtfully (with arms crossed) and say, "Hmmm.... Yes, I'm thinking about that." The same goes with leaning in, turning away, etc. Make the connection clear. The good news is that with this type of "lesson," your partner is likely to learn your messages fairly quickly. 

Communicating tone, pitch, volume, etc., is a little more overt. If you are cognizant of the misinterpretations, simply say how you are feeling or thinking at the time. The way this is different from the above is that it's direct information instead of strongly implied. If your tone of voice seems to frighten your HFA partner, simply say, "I know my tone may sound firm to you, but that is because I am very worried about this situation" ...or, "I'm pausing for a minute here to think." With this type of information, your communication is likely to need to continue, as tone of voice, etc., is a very subtle change and has more room for frequent misinterpretation. Body language is a little more consistent.

6. Adjust your words. Once you know whether your HFA partner is relying more on words or non-verbal messages, take an extra step to be clear in that area. Use specific words, think about how you want to explain what you want to say, communicate in email if practical, so the words can be read and re-read if necessary. If you believe you are being misunderstood, ask! Check for clarity. Phrases like "If I understand you correctly, it sounds like you are saying..." and "Help me understand what you mean by..." On the other side, you could also say, "Does that make sense?" ...or, "I'm not sure if I'm getting my message across." This opens the door for your HFA partner to say, "Actually, could you explain further?"

7. Agitation, or a sense of nervousness, being hyper, etc., is often a result of stress in the individual with HFA. If you see increased activity, you can actively participate in dialing down the intensity by saying things which might be relaxing (e.g., "Ok, let's take a step back here").

8. Be aware of your HFA partner's personal space. She or he may have a space defined differently, spatially. If you see that your partner seems agitated or diverts gaze when you are within a certain distance, you can trust that you are within her or his personal space.

9. Consider your verbal vs. non-verbal communication. Most HFA people will fall into one of two categories with this regard. They may either rely more heavily on your words and less on body-language, or they may rely on body-language, but result in higher frequency of misinterpretation. Find out which your HFA partner does. How? Listen. If you find that he/she is frequently misunderstanding you without stopping to consider that he/she is completely off base, he/she may be misinterpreting your body-language and otherwise non-verbal messages (e.g., expressions, tone of voice, conversational pauses, etc.). On the other hand, if your HFA partner repeatedly asks questions about what you are saying, he or she is relying more heavily on your word usage.

10. Don't be afraid to ask questions. When a remark sounds ambiguous, it's perfectly fine to say, "What do you mean, exactly?" People with HFA know that "neurotypicals" (i.e., people without autism)) have a hard time understanding what they say. You are likely to raise more flags if you don't ask questions about their meaning than if you do.

11. If the HFA individual you are communicating with is not very close to you, it may be helpful to maintain a more formal tone in your communication. Not that it is necessary, but the type of communication used in more formal verbal communication can be very comfortable to adults on the autism spectrum.

12. Intellectual icebreakers can put individuals with HFA at ease. Discussing something you learned or read about can reduce the stress in this person and very likely improve the success of the conversation.

13. Keep your eyes and ears open for signs that your HFA partner is trying to understand. Communicating is not a one-way street, and the responsibility of connecting with information should not rest solely on your shoulders. Although it may seem like it sometimes, you might not be aware of what your HFA partner is doing to try to understand. You process information differently, so the things you would do to try to understand him or her may not be the same things he or she would do. Watch for things like concentrating intently in a conversation, questions about what you are saying, and repeating back to you what you just said. 

Using "big" words is another way that adults with HFA try to be very clear. They are intelligent and don't always realize that their neurotypial partner may not understand the difference between close synonyms. 

Another trait which might be frustrating to some neurotypical partners is when HFA people over-explain. If you can see this as an attempt to be clear, you can re-frame your perspective and possibly feel more comfortable in saying, "Ok, yeah, I gotcha." You may be surprised to find your dear HFA man or women a little bit relieved that you get what he or she is saying!

14. Individuals with HFA don't respond to criticisms, threats and manipulation the way typical people do. Even if you don't think you are, if your interaction is perceived this way (even falsely), you are likely to get an unexpected response. Diffuse the situation by saying something caring or suggesting a break.

15. Put aside what you "think" you know. Communicating with someone who has HFA (while holding on to what you think you know about how people communicate and what certain things mean) can create unnecessary stress. The individual on the other side of your message is also an individual -- a person who thinks about things in a different way than you do.

16. Reaching out to someone who has HFA may open more questions for you than provide answers, but a greater effort is likely to yield a greater reward in the long run.

17. Stress increases behaviors you may find frustrating. Decrease the stressors, however small, and you will decrease behaviors which you both find frustrating.

18. The more comfortable an HFA person is, the more likely he/she is to be relaxed in conversation and easier to communicate with, understand, and be understanding. Trust the individual with HFA who demonstrates a wish to do something relaxing in the face of important issues. Reduction of stress can be critical in important situations, and might not be considered as a lack of understanding about the urgency of the situation.

19. Think about your words. Many people with HFA listen to each word which is spoken, and they interpret your meaning based on their understanding of the definition of the words you use. Most neurotypicals are able to generalize a little better when someone says, "Put a pile of mashed potatoes on my plate ...I'm starving." Say this to a person with HFA and you might get a blank look. When the message is in words (rather than body language), it pays to be as specific as possible. Doing so can save time in the long run, preventing repeat requests or lengthy explanations, when a more precise word or phrase is all that is really needed for the HFA partner to get your meaning.

20. When an HFA person looks away during communication, see it for what it is: reducing visual stimulus to be able to better process what is being heard, or to more clearly determine what he or she wants to say. Shifty eyes do not necessarily mean deceit!

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


COMMENTS:

Anonymous said... I have been married to an Aspie for 5 years this June. Although not officially diagnosed, we have known for at least three years if not more. We have two children, one is three years old and the other is three months. In short, last week our relationship hit a low after I struck a nerve saying, "I feel like we are just roommates." That statement initiated a conversation that questioned the sustainability of our continued marriage. He isn't happy, and knows he "won't change to be the kind of man [I] deserve." We both admit to faults in the marriage, and agreed to both try over the next three months to see if we can make it work. I'm pretty sure he's trying out of fear of losing his children; although, I am trying out of fearful of losing him. That disconnect in reasoning hurts. I love him for who he is; his Aspie traits were what I fell in love with in the first place, and I don't want him to be someone else. I also hope we can learn to be a couple around both of our strengths. All this being said, it's been one week of trying and I am tried. To really complicate things, he lost a fellow firefighter in the line of duty this past Thursday. It's hitting him hard, and it's clearly difficult for him to process the emotions. I give him his time to be alone, I try to be there if he wants to talk about it, we even had sex in hopes of some release. (Which btw was the most distant I have EVER felt him  :-/ ) He's trying, I'm trying, but I feel so alone at times. Since he doesn't share his feelings and he's good at continuing everyday life as if nothing is wrong, I am fearful. I am fearful I will go through this roller coaster of emotions every day, think everything is fine, but in three months find out his feelings haven't changed. I guess I'm looking for support and encouragement here. Although, I ultimately want to stay together, I do realize that separation in three months is possible. But, I won't accept it if I haven't tried my all, and continuing to try my all might be easier with encouragement. My friends and family try, but they don't fully understand Asperger's. Those with Asperger's, I would love your input/perspective on things too if you are willing to share. Those married to on individual with Asperger's, share your experiences and encouragement with me? Thank you.

Anonymous said... I just finished reading "Everyone Marries the Wrong Person" it helped me to put some things into perspective. When communicating I have to work to get him to understand other perspectives instead of his own. He expresses love by making me a sandwich, I need to tell him I appreciate it, but also that I express love differently. Often when I feel like we are just roommates, it's because I'm not communicating correctly and it's something I need to change either in my thinking or my actions.

Anonymous said... I'm finding I need to rely omg friends and family for to meet some of my needs, and definitely trying to solve the physical needs problem.  😅

Anonymous said... It's comforting to hear similar experiences. I used to joke that my husband only has two emotions. Now I'm learning that it's not a lack of emotions, but lacking the ability to process them. 
I also used to tell him "it's not easy being married to an Aspie," but found out it was hurting him.  😔 I'm sure it's not easy being an Aspie married to a NT.  😅In regards to you sleeping in separate rooms... I started to realize with our work schedules and me encouraging his down time, we spend almost no time together. BUT, I'm trying to make our time quality time together... maybe less is more. Idk, I'll find out. Anywho, THANK YOU again for sharing!

Anonymous said... I've been with an Aspie for 10 years and boy do I know how you feel. We've broken up twice and I felt the exact same way you do. It took us probably around this last year for us to really communicate and a lot of that is because I had to learn how to really talk to him. I tell him being married to him isn't for that faint of heart. I used to think he didn't care and that I deserved a man who would truly love me not just want to be with me so he wouldn't be alone. I learned I have to be very clear about what I am feeling. Pretty much whatever my husband is thinking flies out of his mouth and sometimes it can be hurtful, especially when he is getting ready to have what I call a melt down from being over stimulated from everything and not having a chance to just decompress. I wait for a bit because I know if I get angry during that time he's going to get more frustrated. I wait about ten minutes because then it's like nothing ever happened which I used to think meant he didn't care. I calmly tell him "when you say (be specific) it hurts me." I learned (this may not go for all aspies) that picking up on cues of what my feelings are isn't something that is easy for him. When I tell him he understands and is remorseful. Again, this may just be my husband but when describing my emotions to him I have to use the raw description first such as angry then followed by frustrated. It really helps that we sleep in different rooms. I know that sounds weird but it gives him a chance to decompressed and have his alone time and then when we spend time together it's real quality time. When he comes home he goes off for about an hour or so before we greet each other with the kisses and hugs and the "I missed yous". It's been HARD, I'm not going to lie. I had to learn to speak his love language. There are still times I want to rip my hair out or we have a fight because I just can't stay calm or I just wish he'd pick up that I needed help or that I needed him to be selfless because I feel like he is being selfish on purpose or that when I ask him to do something it's not an order which he'll fight against. Lol It took me looking up article after article and hours of research to even get me to this point but honestly and this isn't meant to be disrespectful to anyone but with us I have to put in what feels like more of the work. BUT he's been really really trying and that's changed our relationship so much! Now, that I tell him how I feel it's easier for him to react to it and comfort me (sometimes I have to tell him I had a hard day and need to be cuddled and loved on. Lol) He's trying so hard and that makes all the difference. Anyone who meets my husband knows he is, what they say "different ". I honestly don't know if any of this applies to anyone else's hubby or wife. But I love my amazing husband. He may be what others call different but to me he's better than any man I've ever known. I hope this helps. I feel like it's more of a communication thing and teaching him your love language too because people think my husband is a cold and unfeeling man (He may have a worse case) but he's anything but. It just isn't easy for him to process his emotions right away and harder to express them.

Anonymous said... The question is... how do you figure out how to communicate "correctly?"

Anonymous said... I feel like you pretty much described my life! I've been with my husband for 6 years but we've only been married for a month. It took the first four years to learn how to communicate and we broke up a couple times because of the communication issues. The biggest thing that helped us was lots of research on my part and finding out each others love languages. His melt downs are the hardest times for us and especially because I can be very emotional. However my husband is different from other Aspies in the sense of he almost always wants to cuddle and hug me especially if he's having a rough day. Most people see my husband and cold and distant as well but he seriously has this amazing heart his emotions just don't come out the way it does for others.

Anonymous said... I think you should join this page it may help you with our relationship. or at least to understand my aspie mind a bit better.

Anonymous said... I've made that statement several times to my Aspie fiance. We've been together for 5 years. Most days I'm okay with it as I seek my emotional needs from friends. Physical needs .... That's another story.

Anonymous said... To be honest I tell my husband being married to me isn't for the faint of heart either because I am bipolar. A bipolar and an aspie make a pretty interesting match. Haha He's been pretty darn patient with me before I knew what I had.

Anonymous said... for us it means me being direct with what I need. For instance, if it's more physical contact, then I tell him and initiate it.

Post your comment below...

Adults Living with High-Functioning Autism & Asperger's

High-Functioning Autism (HFA) - also called Asperger's - is a condition on the spectrum of autism disorders that most individuals associate with kids and adolescents, but I have a lot of clients who are (a) grown-ups with HFA, (b) spouses with an HFA partner, and (c) grown kids who have an HFA parent.

I believe the disorder is widely undiagnosed. In many cases, it doesn't come to light until a spouse or young adult seeks therapy for depression or poor self-esteem that results from the coldness and egocentricity HFA grown-ups demonstrate in relationships.

The criteria for HFA are "qualitative impairments in social interaction," which may include poor eye-to-eye gaze, failure to develop relationships and lack of "emotional reciprocity." The disorder also is marked by "restricted repetitive and stereotyped" behavior, such as inflexible adherence to routine, hand flapping or twisting and an abnormal preoccupation with certain interests.

Like other conditions on the autism spectrum, HFA is believed to be caused primarily by errant genes, and it is not typically associated with low IQ. Although there's no consensus on prevalence, a study in Journal of the American Academy of Youngster and Adolescent Psychiatry pins it at 1 in 400 among 8-year-olds, more often in boys than girls.

Though professionals use the same diagnostic criteria, interpretations make for wide disparities in diagnosis. Some individuals may have family members with autism spectrum disorders and exhibit features of HFA, such as "social deficits and a great deal of rigidities," but these traits are not tantamount to the diagnosable condition.

Experts who say HFA grown-ups don't marry or have kids either have their heads stuck in the sand or do not believe many of these individuals have learned to compensate for their deficits. Most HFA adults can – and do – learn how to compensate for their “problematic” symptoms/traits/behaviors. They are living with HFA and doing just fine.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Understanding Your Aspergers Husband

Life is like a complex puzzle for men with Aspergers (high functioning autism). If you know that your partner is suffering from this disorder, be patient with him. With time, you will be able to see why his behavior (that seems inappropriate to you) is the only right way for him to react.

Once married, the true characteristics of Aspergers become more noticeable. Maybe your partner’s constant need to be reminded of things, or the way he lost track of time was cute when dating, but not now that you're married! You may become angry as you wonder why - after so many years of being together - that your spouse still can't understand what you are saying or understand your feelings.

At times, the partner with Aspergers may appear egotistical, selfish, or uncaring, when in fact this is not the case. Aspergers is a neurological condition in which a person is often unable to understand the emotions of others. Those with the disorder are not intentionally being mean or uncaring, they just can't interpret other people's feelings adequately or figure out the sarcasm in their speech. Usually they are surprised and embarrassed when finding out their actions were rude or hurtful.

While it was nice to have your partner's unwavering attention when dating, a married couple needs the socialization of others. Many women are surprised how unsociable their spouse with Aspergers may be, or how inappropriate his comments may be.

Some women may not even know their partner is affected by Aspergers. They may believe he just doesn't care enough to change or make a big enough effort to save the relationship. For those who do discover the possibility of Aspergers, or for those who have already been diagnosed, they have a better chance at making the relationship work.

Part of understanding Aspergers is to know that people with the condition are not intentionally trying to frustrate their partner. They are not trying to ignore their spouse when they get so wrapped up in a particular hobby or interest. They don't mean to be rude when the wrong things come out of their mouth at the wrong time.

Adults with Aspergers may have certain rituals or routines. They may hate surprises or not be able to handle changes. They may not be able to remember the little things, and they may be easily distracted. All of these characteristics are not meant to hurt anyone.

In living with an Aspergers partner, accepting the differences that come with it is crucial. No relationship is perfect, and neither is one with Aspergers. Husbands and wives both must work to make any relationship work. Having a better understanding of Aspergers is usually the “saving point” in a conflicted marriage.

Together, couples can work out a better understanding of one another and learn how to better communicate and to send clearer messages to each other. For a successful relationship, knowing that their spouse with Aspergers really does care makes all the difference.

Most Asperger men are reliable and responsible people. They work hard and are good providers for their families. In adulthood, Asperger males don't try to meet the obligations society has for men in general. They can be quite happy to help clean and cook. Most of the time when asked, they are more than willing to help out with whatever task is needed …all you have to do is ask.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

How to Deal with an Aspergers Woman

If you are the partner of a lady with Aspergers (high functioning autism), and you become a bit frustrated with her on occasion, then  take the time to utilize a few of the simple, straight forward tips below. They should make a significant improvement in the quality of your relationship. After all, you know she's a special lady with a ton of positive qualities, and you don't want to lose her!

1. Communicate with your Aspergers women precisely and directly. Since Aspergers individuals have trouble reading non-verbal cues, you will need to give full and complete messages. Do not speak ambiguously. Try different forms of communication, such as letters, lists and email.

2. Talk openly about finances. Aspergers individuals sometimes have poor money management skills. An Aspergers partner may want to spend lavishly, yet be critical of normal household expenses. Using a third party, such as a financial planner, may be helpful.

3. Respond instead of reacting. This can be difficult when you're frustrated with your Aspergers woman, but if you force yourself to remain calm, you will have a more positive interaction.

4. Find help for yourself. Get involved with a support group for spouses of people with Aspergers. If you become depressed, don't hesitate to get medical assistance.

5. Be totally up front with your Aspergers woman about emotions. Tell her how you feel, even when you think it's patently obvious, and ask her to do the same. She will love you for it.

6. Remember that above all, people with Aspergers have the same feelings and emotions as everyone else and want the same things in life that every human being wants: to be respected, to be treated with dignity, and to be happy.

7. Try to find some common ground, some activity that both of you enjoy. Agree to get together some time and do it.

Couples affected by Aspergers can have a happy, loving, and successful relationship. It may take a little work and a little extra effort, but it is possible and it is worth it. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, couples that truly love each other can - and will - make their relationship work.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

How to Deal with an Aspergers Man

Are you so frustrated with your Aspergers man that it's making you crazy?  STOP!  Read this first...

Your "Aspie" is not a bad guy who is intentionally trying to be an asshole. Try some of these tips before you poison his lemonade:

1. Understand that some men with Aspergers (high functioning autism) can be brutally honest. When talking about reasons for marriage, a person with Aspergers might say that there is an availability of sex as the main reason, while not including his love of his significant other. Romance can be puzzling to someone with Aspergers, but again, you will probably see improvement after explaining the meaning behind it, why it’s necessary, and that it makes you feel good.

2. Tell your Aspergers partner how you are feeling, especially if you are angry, and why. Your partner may not understand your emotions and why you are reacting a certain way.

3. Learn what his interests are, and try to engage in activities focusing on those interests. Go on a few dates where social interaction isn’t necessarily the focus.

4. If your Aspergers partner talks in a confusing manner (e.g., talks in riddles, uses complex vocabulary, doesn’t answer your questions directly, etc.), ask him for more clarification. Also, remember not to use riddles, jokes or sarcasm in the same way you would with someone who doesn’t have Aspergers. If you do, ask if he understood and then explain what you meant. Otherwise, he might be hurt by what you said or just be confused.

5. If your Aspergers partner has certain quirks (e.g., not wanting to talk on the phone), understand that it may be related to Aspergers. Confront him about the issue if it bothers you, and explain why.

6. Ease him into large social situations (e.g., parties or group outings). Understand if he is overwhelmed or decides not to go with you. He might prefer being alone or with less people.

7. Don’t be alarmed if your Aspergers man is confused by romantic gestures (e.g., hugging or kissing). Stop if needed, but also try explaining what the gestures mean, or suggest going to a relationship counselor together so you can work on your partner’s relationship skills.

8. Don’t assume your Aspergers man is uninterested just because he isn’t telling you he likes you or finds you attractive. Decide what you think of him and let him know. After he is aware of your attraction and isn’t confused about nonverbal gestures and flirtation, it might be easier for him to decide if he feels the same way.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Characteristics Women Find Attractive in Aspergers Men

Men with Aspergers (high functioning autism) have many qualities that can be attractive to a prospective partner:

• A lot of men with Aspergers seem to really see women for who they are, not being drawn into the cultural limitations that women must fit a certain mold.

• An appealing factor for the woman might be the fact that her Aspergers partner is not the “macho type” and doesn’t wish to spend time with other men at sporting events or drinking alcohol.

• I have had many women describe to me how their Aspergers partner resembled their father. Having a parent with the signs of Aspergers may have contributed to their choice of partner as an adult.

• Many women describe their first impressions of their Aspergers partner as being kind, attentive, and socially or emotionally immature (the “silent, handsome stranger”).

• Often the Aspergers partner is more reliable, honest and steady. As a result, there’s usually much less “game playing.”

• Physical characteristics and attentiveness can be important, especially if the woman has doubts regarding her own self-esteem and physical attractiveness.

• The Aspergers partner can be admired for speaking his mind, even if the comments may be perceived as offensive by others, due to his strong sense of social justice and clear moral beliefs.

• The attractiveness of a person with Aspergers in a prospective relationship can be enhanced by intellectual ability, career prospects, and degree of attentiveness during courtship. Sometimes, however, this attentiveness could be perceived by others as almost obsessive, and the words and actions appear to have been learned from watching and rehearsing lines from a romantic movie.

• The intellectual depth of an Aspergers man can be very appealing as well.

• The man’s lack of social and conversational skills can lead to his being perceived as the “silent stranger” whose social naivety can be transformed by a partner who is a natural expert on empathy and socializing.

• The person with Aspergers can be a late-bloomer in terms of relationship experiences, which also can be an attractive feature.

• Lastly, there may be no previous relationship “baggage.”
  
Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Interpersonal Relationship Skills for Aspergers Women

Ladies with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism face a unique set of challenges. They may have a more difficult time with relationships, career, college, and other aspects of their life than their "typical" counterparts. It may also be more difficult for these ladies to get the help and support they need than Aspergers men, because many female "Aspies" were not diagnosed as kids, and the disorder is stereotyped as affecting males more often - and to a greater degree. If you're a woman with Aspergers and find yourself struggling with interpersonal relationships, then read on...

Relationship tips for women on the autism spectrum:

1. Ask questions of your non-Aspergers partner. Gather as much information as you can about the situation you're facing together. Faced with having to operate without an intuitive understanding of how your partner feels and thinks, you may rely on your logic and assumptions. This can be dangerous! Remember, your mind works differently than your partner's. A great strategy can be simply asking questions. For instance, instead of assuming that your partner is ready to end the relationship over a fight, ask for clarification. Good questions can include, "I'm wondering if you feel…" – or - "Can you tell me more about that?"

2. Decide how you would like to pursue and operate in relationships. This takes thought. Do you want to connect with others? Do you experience loneliness? Do you want to increase your ability to talk about your inner world or negotiate problems? Not everyone aspires to these ways of relating. Decide for yourself if you do. If you decide to work to strengthen your connections, you may benefit from learning to monitor your "togetherness tolerance." Aspergers women often are helped by frequent breaks, shorter visits, etc. Your level of need in connecting with others may differ vastly from that of your non-Aspergers partner. This is fine, and may serve as a great balance for your relationship.

3. Don't give in to feelings of hopelessness or futility. Women with Aspergers can at times feel overwhelmed by frustration. There are times they can feel that no amount of effort on their part can ever change their ability to understand how their non-Aspergers partner operates. This is sometimes true. No adult can ever really become an expert on their partner's perceptions, thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The best strategy may be becoming an expert on yourself. This can serve as a foundation for learning new skills, having compassion for yourself and even learning to laugh at how different you and your partner may approach problems and issues.

4. Find help. There is no substitute for consulting an expert, a communication coach, a therapist, or a well-written manual. Remember that though you may have not received the understanding of relationship nuance through osmosis, like most adults, you can learn skills that can close the gap you may feel between your ability to relate and the abilities of others.

5. Hold tight to the truth that your thoughts and emotions matter. Though they may be expressed differently (or not at all!), your feelings and perceptions are valid, and are worth just as much as your partner's feelings and thoughts. This can be a difficult perspective to maintain, especially if your partner is articulate and quick. Remember, working out a problem is not a verbal jousting competition, though it can sometimes feel like one.

6. Don't be too quick to judge yourself harshly. Aspergers women often provide wonderful advantages to their relationships, such as:
  • heightened desire to do the right or moral thing
  • refusal to become violent or aggressive
  • inability to participate in the emotional "games" so many adults struggle with in relationships
  • being grounded
  • being logical and rational

As always, self-acceptance is the best position to take as you navigate the wonderful – and sometimes terrifying – frontiers of intimacy.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

30 Relationship Tips for Aspergers Men

Tired of being in the dog house? Here are some simple, yet crucial interpersonal skills for husbands (partners) with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism:

1. Be thoughtful. Do something thoughtful for your wife or partner every day. Whether it's making her a cup of coffee in the morning, sticking a surprise note in her bag, or leaving her a chocolate "kiss" on her pillow before bedtime, everyone loves a romantic surprise.

2. Create a photo album. Take pictures often; don't save the camera for holidays and special occasions. Create a visual scrapbook of your everyday life together. Better still, set the timer and pose together. You will both appreciate the warmth of the moment when you see these snapshots in an album down the road.

3. Do the unexpected. If you are a homebody who loves to just sit on the couch watching ESPN or if you spend most weekends working out in the garage, surprise your wife by going against your nature and planning a night out with her. Or, on the flip side, if you and your wife spend most weekends going out and partying with friends, plan a romantic night in with just the two of you. The most important part of this is that you actually PLAN the entire night. Don’t simply say you are going out and then hit her with, “So, what do you want to do?”

4. Do what she asks you to do. Little things she asks you do like taking out the trash means so much to her. It’s not hard and it’s the least you can do. If she always has to remind you to do these things it can anger her. You may think these things are not a big thing to her, but they mean so much. It also proves to make her feel appreciated. Doing these things she asks lets her know you really do care. If you know something means a lot to her – then do it.

5. Honor and respect your partner. Be honoring all the time. That means no "my old lady" stories. And it also means a wife shouldn't be flirting with male co-workers or other men. You can have respect without love, but you cannot have love without respect. Respect means not undermining your partner in front of the children. And don't go outside the marriage when you are having a problem. Discuss it with your partner. Respect also means not criticizing your mate in front of others.

6. If your wife has to work late or if you know she will be working through lunch and eating a bland frozen entrée from home, bring her some take-out food. Most women love when their husband remembers small things like that.

7. If your wife loves to cook, book a cooking class that you two can take together. If she is into dancing, commit to learning her favorite dance with her.

8. If you're the wife, lower your expectations a bit – and if you're the husband, step up to the plate.

9. It’s Friday night and you are going to watch a movie. Think of all the times she has sat and watched the latest action-adventure movie with you (even though she didn’t necessarily want to). Watch the movie she wants to, even if it IS the latest tearjerker.

10. Keep up your appearance. Let her see you at your best. It's ironic that we dress up to meet total strangers but let ourselves go around our nearest and dearest. Most women love to see their men clean-shaven, in great clothes and perhaps wearing a hint of her favorite cologne.

11. Lavish her with gifts. Women feel loved when you prove she is worth something to you. There is a reason behind the cliché of flowers and chocolates: It makes women feel special and valued. It is important to lavish your significant other with gifts even when it is not necessary. You should send her flowers because you love her, not because it's Valentine's Day or her birthday. Buy her a piece of jewelry for no other reason than to help her get over a severe case of "the Monday blues."

12. Let her initiate sex sometimes. When she feels loved and respected, she will be the one to initiate sex. She will respond in love as she feels loved. It’s very natural for her to be that way. Just as it is natural for you to be the way you are. Just keep this in mind that she shows her love in responding sexually. So if you make her feel loved, you will not have a problem.

13. Listen to your wife and talk to her. Communication is the first thing to go when a marriage starts to breakdown. Aspergers men need to listen to their wives. Lots of times they just want to talk about anything and for you to listen to them. If she knows your listening this goes a long way. Listening is one of the most important aspects of communication.

14. Make a list. Make a list of the special days on the calendar that you celebrate together, such as the day you met, your yearly anniversary, or even the anniversary of your first kiss. On these days make a point to spend some quality time together. Cook a special meal (or pick one up on the way home from work). Buy her a card or write her a short letter, and let her know that you didn't forget.

15. Maybe you don’t necessarily LIKE to play tennis or ride bikes, but she does. Without complaining, do one of her favorite activities with her.

16. Men may laugh about it and think it’s silly, but, yes, sometimes women really do like to just cuddle. Kiss and cuddle her to her heart’s content.

17. No woman can resist being catered to, so send your wife out for some quality time with her friends while you cook her favorite meal. Make sure you serve her meal and make sure to do the dishes afterward.

18. Reach out and touch her. Use the power of touch to make a lasting impression throughout the day. There is no such thing as not having time for a kiss goodbye in the morning or again upon reuniting at the end of the day. And an inviting warm hug or back rub at the end of a stressful day is always appreciated.

19. Stop trying to control your partner. It’s another one of those easier-said-than done relationship tips, of course. But trying to control each other — using a technique psychologists call "external control" — is the main source of marital unhappiness. In a happy marriage, partners know they cannot control each other. You have practiced this "external control" if you have ever told your partner they need to behave the way you want them to or that you know what is right. Learning not to control a partner can be a long process. Ask yourself: "If I can only control my own behavior, what can I do to help the marriage?" Then think of what you can change to make the problem better.

20. Take care of yourself. Take care of yourself physically and spiritually. That way, your stress will be down and your tolerance will be up. You'll be less likely to get on each others nerves — and to squabble. You're more likely to have a happy marriage.

21. Take note of significant things. Set something aside for her every day. It might be a newspaper article you read during your commute, a link to a website you came across, or even a story you heard by the office water cooler. She will appreciate that you took a moment to think of her during the course of your day.

22. Tell her about your moods. Be honest if you are feeling stressed or under the weather. Your woman will appreciate your honesty and will know not to take it personally when you come home in a bad mood.

23. Never underestimate the “Little Things.” Women notice the little things much more often than men, and it's the "little things" that can lead to arguments and breakups. Be intentional about your actions; don't do things for her simply because she expects it or asks you to. Hold her hand. It sounds simple enough, but many men forget this one, simple action. Even though you might not think it is a big deal, she will notice and be thankful later. Be a gentleman, and open the door for her. On date night, her hands should not touch a door handle. Rush ahead to open the car door and restaurant door. Finally, touch her. Touching can be a very sensual experience for a woman. As you're walking together, wrap your arm around her. As you're standing next to her, rest your hand on the small of her back. These simple gestures will go a long way in making her know she is attractive to you.

24. There are fewer things better than a weekend away from it all. Plan an entire weekend for just you and her. This entails booking hotel or bed and breakfast reservations, deciding on a babysitter for the children and picking out activities for you and her to enjoy.

25. Don't forget those “Three Magic Words.” Say "I love you" every day. It seems simple enough, but men forget to say it. Many men simply assume that women realize how much they are loved because of the gifts, the touching and the gentlemanly acts, but women need to have vocal reinforcement. Say it, and say it often.

26. Toast to her. Toast each other when you sit down to dinner. It doesn't need to be over bubbly or wine, but even a glass of water or iced tea. Tell her something you love about her and then drink to it!

27. Volunteer to help her. Sometimes she would like to hear you say, “I’ll put the kids to bed tonight” … or “I will do the dishes.” It’s the small things that get her attention. If you never help her, she will feel you don't care. She would like to know you are in her corner.

28. Wake up early one weekend morning and make her favorite breakfast to serve her in bed. Pair this with her favorite magazine or book she is reading and give her some time to just relax.

29. When your wife gets out of work and wants to tell you about her day, actually turn away from the television, give her your full attention and really listen to what she has to say. Ask her questions about herself and how her day was. This is not the time to offer manly advice. Rather, act as her sounding board.

30. Wives must feel loved and appreciated. Aspergers men often take for granted the relationship they have with their wives. We sometimes fail to meet their needs. They must feel loved and appreciated. It’s not enough to just show them you love them, nor is it enough to say it. You must do both. Tell your wife that all the things she does is very much appreciated as well as show her. Don't wait for birthdays and Valentine’s Day to show her.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Dating Tips for Aspies

Are you an adult with Aspergers (high functioning autism) who would really enjoy dating, but feel as though you just don't have what it takes to be successful? Then this post is for you!

Here are some simple, yet crucial keys to achieving the date of your dreams:

1. Be Yourself— I think the biggest tip I can give is be yourself – don’t fake being someone else. If you fake being someone else, the relationship will be based on lies and will end up being very unhealthy.

2. Disclose Aspergers— You may not want to disclose your Aspergers right away – but you should rather soon. Aspergers is part of who you are, and if your significant other is aware of it, she can understand the issues you have. If she understands the issues you have, there will be less communication errors, arguing and fighting. If when she finds out, she leaves you, then (to be blunt) she wasn’t for you anyway.

3. Discuss Social Issues— You may not be able to party or hang out with large groups of people on a first date because of the overwhelming social pressure, so you need to talk about that. Make a compromise… hang out with a few friends at a time.

4. Meet the Family— Your going to have to meet your date's friends and family at some point. Do it just a few of them at a time, not all at once. It will be less overwhelming and less awkward.

5. Talk about Sensory Sensitivities— People with Aspergers are affected by sensory sensitivities. You will need to disclose this at some point with your potential new partner. For example, when you cuddle up with that special someone, if she is wearing clothing that has a texture that is uncomfortable to you – tactfully let her know.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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