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