Are you an adult with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger's? Are you struggling emotionally, socially, spiritually or otherwise?
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Communication Problems: Help for Aspergers Husbands

To all husbands with Asperger's Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism:

O.K. guys …it’s time to wake-up and get your act together in the communication department. You know what I mean! All relationship problems stem from poor communication skills. You can't communicate while you're checking your email, watching a DVD, or flipping through the evening newspaper.

How to fix communication problems with your neurotypical spouse:

1. Avoid being defensive. Defensiveness occurs when you see yourself as the victim, and then attempt to block off a perceived attack. When you are defensive, you are not open to learning and are also not able to access the vulnerable feelings that may lay beneath your defensiveness. Some typical defensive responses include:

  • cross-complaining
  • disagreeing and then cross-complaining
  • making excuses
  • repeating yourself without paying attention to what the other person is saying
  • start off agreeing - but end up disagreeing
  • whining

2. If you can't communicate without arguing, go to a public place (e.g., library, park, restaurant, etc.) where you would be embarrassed if anyone saw you arguing.

3. Look her in the eyes without glaring while she talks (and none of this “I have to look at her forehead or the bridge of her nose because I hate eye contact” bullshit either). Just freakin' do it!

4. Make an actual “communication-appointment” with each other. Put the cell phones on vibrate, put the kids to bed, and let voice mail pick up your calls.

5. Don’t stonewall. Stonewalling is withdrawing from the relationship as a way of avoiding conflict. You may think you are trying to be “neutral,” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness. Some typical stonewall responses are:

  • changing the subject
  • monosyllabic mutterings
  • removing yourself physically
  • stony silence

6. Nod so your wife knows you're getting the message.

7. Remember that a large part of communication is listening, so be sure your body language reflects that (e.g., don't doodle, look at your iPhone, pick your nose, etc.).

8. Rephrase what your wife is saying (e.g., "What I hear you saying is that you feel as though you have more work to do around the house because I don’t pick up after myself"). If you're right, she can confirm it. If what she really meant was, “you're one sloppy, lazy bastard,” perhaps she'll say so - but in a nicer way.

9. Set up some “communication-rules” (e.g., not interrupting until the other person is through talking, no bringing up the past, banning phrases such as "You always ..." or "You never ...", etc.).

10. Voice your complaint, but don’t be critical. Criticism refers to you attacking or judging your wife’s personality or character in a negative way. This may result in her choosing to withdraw from the conversation or to become emotionally distant from you. Complaint, on the other hand, is directed to specific behavior. The difference between a complaint and a criticism lays in the opening use of “I” or “you”. A criticism usually begins with the word “you” (e.g., “you always bla bla bla,” …or “you never bla bla bla”). In contrast, complaints will usually begin with the word “I” (e.g., “I need to be able to come home from work and relax in front of the TV for a few minutes before starting a conversation about how your day went”).

The bottom line: Communication with your wife is a function of "emotional connection." When spouses feel connected, they communicate fine. When they feel disconnected, they communicate poorly (regardless of their choice of words or communication techniques).

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Building Your Self-Esteem: Tips for Adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

In order to build self-esteem, you will need to change two different core beliefs about self-image. The first core belief to change is the notion that you are not good enough (e.g., how you look, how smart you are, how much money you make, etc.). The second core belief to change is the image of success that you feel you "should" have. Here's how to accomplish these two objectives...

Tips for adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism on building self-esteem:

1. Act the part, and you will become the part. If you act a part long enough, you will eventually not be acting any more.

2. Always remember: some people do not have proper etiquette, and their stares or rudeness can be confused with a personal vendetta against you.

3. Be a person people can count on.

4. Do not be influenced by people who may be trying to lower your self-esteem in order to make themselves feel more powerful. Walk away.

5. Do not feel awkward in silence – sometimes silence is a good thing. It means you are observant, and that presents a strong sense of self-confidence.

6. Do something nice for others.

7. Do something you really want to do, and be pleased with the results.

8. Don't define yourself as someone with low self-esteem. Once you stop believing that you have low self-esteem, you don't anymore. It's that simple.

9. Don't look to others to validate you, your choices, your value, your moral, your personality, your ideas, or your path.

10. Don't take anything personally. Nothing people do is because of you. What people say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.

11. Find something you do well, and do it repeatedly.

12. If someone tries to deflate your self-esteem, know that they are doing this because they have none themselves and can't bear to see you having any.

13. If you are being bullied by another person, but feel deep inside that you are doing the right thing, then trust yourself. Though it is very hard, and that person will try every tactic to make you doubt yourself (e.g., with guilt trips, emotional blackmail, sarcasm, etc.), remember that anyone who uses those tactics must not be self-assured themselves.

14. If you are in an intimate relationship, do not emotionally blackmail your partner, making him or her feel badly for telling the truth, or just being themselves.

15. If you find yourself listening to what people say about you, and taking it into account, it shows that you are an open-minded, compassionate person because you don't want to hurt anyone. If there is truth in what people say about you, then that is up to you to decipher. Being honest with yourself is paramount.

16. Keep your word.

17. Lose yourself in a hobby.

18. Meet other people through social media or online dating.

19. Most people can keep from feeling negatively about themselves no matter what others say, but if you were exposed to verbal, physical, mental and/or emotional abuse, it may be more difficult to change the perception of yourself. In this case, surrounding yourself with positive people who will support you is vital. Get rid of the negative people in your world.

20. Trust your instincts and judgments from a morally sound point of view.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

The Male Aspie Brain vs. The Female NT Brain

The differences between Aspergers (high functioning autism) men and neurotypical (NT) women (i.e., women without Aspergers) are not only well-documented, but frequently at the heart of troubled relationships. Experts have discovered that there are major differences in the way Aspergers men’s brains and NT women’s brains are structured and in the way they react to events and stimuli. Below are the big differences between “male Aspie” and “female NT” brains. Some of these differences have more to do with male vs. female traits, while others have more to do with Aspergers vs. neurotypical traits.

1. Typically, Aspergers men’s brains are about 12% bigger than NT women’s brains. This size difference has nothing to do with IQ, but is explained by the difference in physical size between Aspergers men and NT women. Aspergers men need more neurons to control their greater muscle mass and larger body size, thus generally have a larger brain.

2. NT women typically have a larger deep limbic system than Aspergers men, which allows them to be more in touch with their feelings and better able to express them, which promotes bonding with others. Because of this ability to connect, more NT women serve as caregivers. In fact, often times the NT wife "takes care" of her Aspergers husband in the same way she does her children. The down side to this larger deep limbic system is that it also opens NT women up to depression, especially during times of hormonal shifts (e.g., after childbirth, during a menstrual cycle, etc.).

3. NT women tend to: (a) utilize non-verbal cues (e.g., tone, emotion, empathy, etc.), (b) talk through relationship issues, (c) intuit emotions and emotional cues, (d) focus on how to create a solution that works for the couple, and (e) communicate more effectively than Aspergers men. On the other hand, Aspergers men tend to: (a) be less talkative, (b) be more isolated, (c) be more task-oriented, and (d) have a more difficult time understanding emotions that are not explicitly verbalized. These differences explain why Aspergers men and NT women often times have difficulty communicating.

4. Two sections of the brain responsible for language are larger in NT women than in Aspergers men, indicating one reason why neurotypicals usually excel in language-based subjects and in language-associated thinking. In addition, Aspergers men typically only process language in their dominant hemisphere, whereas NT women process language in both hemispheres.

5. Aspergers men tend to process better in the left hemisphere of the brain, whereas NT women tend to process equally well between the two hemispheres. This difference explains why Aspergers men are generally stronger with left-brain activities and approach problem-solving from a task-oriented perspective, whereas NT women typically solve problems more creatively and are more aware of feelings while communicating.

6. Researchers hypothesize that Aspergers is associated with abnormalities in fronto‐striatal pathways resulting in defective sensorimotor gating, and consequently characteristic difficulties inhibiting repetitive thoughts, speech and actions. Neurotypicals tend not to experience such abnormalities. This might explain why Aspergers men tend to be more obsessive-compulsive than their NT counterparts.

7. An area of the brain called the inferior-parietal lobule (IPL) is typically larger in Aspergers men (especially on the left side) than in NT women. This section of the brain controls mental mathematical ability, and may explain why Aspergers men frequently perform higher in mathematical tasks than NT women.

8. Aspergers men tend to have a "fight or flight" response to stressful situations, whereas NT women seem to approach times of stress by taking care of themselves and their children and by forming strong group bonds. The reason for these different reactions to stress is rooted in hormones. The hormone oxytocin is released during stress in both males and females; however, estrogen tends to enhance oxytocin resulting in calming and nurturing feelings, whereas testosterone (which men produce in high levels during stress) reduces the effects of oxytocin.

9. Aspergers men typically have stronger spatial abilities (i.e., being able to mentally represent a shape and its dynamics), whereas NT women typically struggle in this area. Medical experts have discovered that females have a thicker parietal region of the brain, which hinders the ability to mentally rotate objects (an aspect of spatial ability).

10. Because of the way Aspergers men and NT women use the two hemispheres of the brain differently, there are some disorders that Aspergers men and NT women are susceptible to in different ways. Aspergers men are more apt to have dyslexia or other language problems, ADHD, and Tourette’s. NT women, on the other hand, are more susceptible to mood disorders (e.g., depression and anxiety).

Given these differences, it is easy to understand why Aspie male-NT female relationships take so many odd twists and turns, and why the divorce rate amongst these couples is disproportionately high.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


Anonymous said... As most parents have at this point, I've seen Frozen roughly 1.4 million times. There is one song, "Fixer Upper" that has a line that really annoyed me for a while. "You can't really change him, because people don't really change." As a person who is working at managing my Asperger's and trying to improve my life, that really ticked me off for a while. If people don't really change, than why am I bothering? But in some ways, it is true. Who we are at our core doesn't really ever change. If we are kind, we aren't suddenly going to become cruel. If we are wise (different from smart), we aren't suddenly going to become foolish. At our core, our soul, or whatever you believe, we don't change. It is what we do, our actions based on our core that can change. Really, we all change little by little as we go through life, our experiences causing us to become more and more mature. I have come to believe that what can change is our strength, and that is what allows our behavior to change. Aspies tend to become trapped in familiar patterns and circular thinking. Breaking out of those patterns and thoughts is extremely difficult, and choosing to do so is a harder choice than NTs probably realize. It takes a great deal of strength and commitment to choose to change our aspie behaviors in such a way to improve our lives. I know from my experience, a lot of times it is easier and less anxiety ridden to stay with negative behaviors than to try to make something better, because my aspie brain doesn't like change. But if you can find something to be strong for, some reason to make your life better, you can also find the strength to make those changes. Trust in your self-worth, believe in yourself, know who you are, and you may be surprised at how much strength you really have.

Misunderstanding Adults with Aspergers

Aspergers awareness is on the rise. However, there is still a lot of ignorance regarding the abilities and mental status of grown-ups with Aspergers (high-functioning autism)...

Misunderstanding #1: Adults with Aspergers Are Unemotional

Adults with Aspergers DO experience emotions. However, the emotions felt by some Aspies may be less complex than the emotions of typical people. Also, those Aspies who have difficulty with language and social skills may have difficulty expressing emotions in the typical or socially acceptable way. But, this doesn’t mean they don’t have emotions.

Misunderstanding #2: Adults with Aspergers Hate To Be Touched

While it is true that some adults with Aspergers may not enjoy physical contact at times, the issue here is not social, but sensory. Many Aspies have sensory integration issues (i.e., their interpretation of sensory input is abnormal). Some are hyper-sensitive (e.g., bright florescent lights, high-pitched noises, and certain textures against the skin are intolerable).  And some are hypo-sensitive (i.e., it takes a high level of sensory input for them to notice or react). But this doesn’t mean they never want to be touched by anybody – anywhere – at anytime.

Misunderstanding #3: Aspergers Is a Disease

While some adults with Aspergers may have a co-morbid mental health disorder, (e.g., depression or anxiety,) Aspergers itself is not a disease or a mental illness. While the symptoms of Aspergers can often be reduced through cognitive and behavioral therapy, it is a neurobiological disorder for which there is no spontaneous remission or cure. However, many Aspies who were diagnosed as children have lost many of their symptoms as adults.

Misunderstanding #4: If Someone Has Aspergers, He Must Be a Genius

This misunderstanding was popularized by the movie Rain Man, in which the main character had Aspergers and an extraordinary memory. He could memorize a jukebox play list at a glance and greatly enhance his odds at blackjack by counting cards. Someone with Savant Syndrome has ability in one of a range of skills, from an impressive memory in a very specific area to genius-level artistic, musical, or mathematical abilities (despite having profound deficits in other areas). About 50% of people with Savant Syndrome also have Aspergers. However, of everyone diagnosed with Aspergers, it is estimated that only 10% have a savant skill.

While these misunderstandings may be true to some degree, the truth is that Aspergers is such a variable disorder that there are very few assumptions that can be made about any individual just from the diagnosis.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples