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Husband Refuses to Seek Asperger's Diagnosis

"My husband has many, if not most, of the traits of Asperger’s Syndrome. But he refuses to talk about it or go for a diagnosis. Instead, he says I’m just blaming him for our marriage problems. I’m about to the end of my rope. Any suggestions?"

If your husband’s Asperger’s symptoms are threatening your marriage, and he chooses to “protect” those symptoms rather than control them, his priorities may not be conducive to a long-term relationship. If his priorities remain the same, you need to decide whether or not this is the right relationship for you. Even if he does decide to get a diagnosis, you still need a strategy to resolve disagreements. Research suggests that successful conflict resolution is crucial to an enduring marriage. You and your husband can disagree about issues, but make sure you are consistently able to settle conflicts before you go to bed at night.

I receive dozens of emails every week from wives who assert that their husbands are simply in denial.  The bottom line is this: Your husband has to make a choice about what he values most – (1) his marriage, or (2) refusing to seek a diagnosis.  If he values his relationship with you more than staying in refusal-mode, then he will go and see if he has this disorder. If he values staying in refusal-mode more than his marriage, then YOU will need to do some serious soul-searching to decide whether you’re going to stay in this relationship or not.

It is never too late for your husband to increase self-awareness in order to capitalize on strengths and work around areas of challenge. Knowing about Asperger’s can give him an explanation, not an excuse, for why his life has taken the twists and turns that it has. What he does with this information is his business, but it is still very important information to have.

If your husband has Asperger’s but doesn’t know, it affects him anyway. If he does know, he can minimize the negative impact and leverage the positive. Without the knowledge that he has Asperger’s, he may fill that void with other, more damaging explanations (e.g., failure, weird, disappointment, not living up to his potential, etc.).

Note: As you try to talk with your husband about this, be sure to discuss his strengths rather than just focusing on his weaknesses. Most adults with Asperger’s have significant areas of strength. If you include a lot of the positive things you see in him (that may also be related to Asperger’s), he may not feel “attacked,” thus rendering him a bit more open to the possibility of facing his fears by going for a diagnosis.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… Counseling does not work for Aspies. It is a difference in neurological wiring, not psychological / behavioral problem. The sooner that people come to understand that factor, the better the chance of success for both parties in the long term. Aspies are not damaged, just misunderstood.
•    Anonymous said… Diagnosis isn't going to change who he is.
•    Anonymous said… I believe Aspergers Syndrome an be very difficult for an average person to understand without some education and support. I worked in support classes for Aspies in an elementary and junior high school setting and found the many natural variations in behavior from one student to another confusing at first. My Father was undiagnosed most of his entire life and my Mom suffered from lack of support in her marriage with him, especially when they were on their own as elders. It is so important, in my opinion, for partners and spouses of individuals with Aspergers to get a good support system to meet the many needs that will never be satisfied by their partners. And as others have said here, education about Aspergers can make everyday life smoother. It isn't really about blaming one partner or another, IMHO, but being realistic about what each person wants and needs from the reationship and if those wants and needs are realisic or likely to be met. If not, can each person live with the compromises? I'm married to an Aspie and as I'm ageing I'm finding myself rethinking my future in terms of my quality of life, for example. The need for peace becomes more important later on.
•    Anonymous said… I'm sensing defensiveness in some of these posts. Why are you automatically taking the husband's side? She said HE blames her for blaming him....she didn't say SHE blames him. Is that not one of the main traits .... he's being defensive towards her I think is what she is saying. Give her some credit. Living with let alone being married to someone who is automatically always on the defense and takes everything personal is not the easiest thing to do. I've lived with two for 16 and 23 years, so yes, I am speaking from experience.
•    Anonymous said… Lol. Do what I did. Leave. He will soon realise how much he actually depends on you.
•    Anonymous said… Most UNDIAGNOSED men with Aspergers can't see it. Their brains won't process it. The more you push, the less likely they'll see the truth.
•    Anonymous said… My partner has aspergers and has recently been diagnosed and I have realised that I can't and he can't change who he is but I can change the way that I deal with situations and how I think about things. I've also realised that I wasn't as patient and understanding with him as I was with my son who also has aspergers and that I needed to find strategies that worked for him just like I did for my son but different ones, as I don't think he would have appreciated me treating him like a child. I also learned to think about what I said before I said it because Aspies as they are known take everything very literally and personally and like everything is aimed at and is a personal attack on them. Hope this helps x
•    Anonymous said… Mybee explainin thet he would love and apritiate more him self and better understand NT's
•    Anonymous said… that reaction from your partner probably stems from continual criticism from parents, (siblings), and peers while growing up. You tell someone that they are damaged goods enough times, then they are going to eventually believe it, and treat all incoming feedback, whether positive or negative, as an attack on them. Acceptance and compassion are key in breaking down barriers, and listening to what an Aspie has to say is equally important as they are human and do have feelings, too, but have difficulty in conveying them.
•    Anonymous said… The problem for many of us, Aspies, is that our neurodivergence is pathologised into a condition/disorder, hence the use of words such as 'diagnosis' or 'treatment' which can be extremely painful and humiliating. How would NTs react if they were constantly told they have to be diagnosed and treated to change them? After hearing that kind of discourse for the umpteenth time, you become absolutely sick of it and tend to either have aggressive reactions to it or walk away from the person using it. It's only when there is mutual respect and no intention of pathologising/changing the other that a real dialogue is possible. Why not try to discuss with your husband without placing the discussion within the framework of an opposition between Aspergers/NT, but simply as two persons with different perceptions and needs? After all, whatever our neurological organisation, we are all different and on a vast spectrum of nuances.
•    Anonymous said… Well if you are trying to blame him for all your marriage problems, I can see why he wouldn't be receptive. Just because he has Asperger's doesn't mean everything is his fault. NT people are plenty good at causing problems in their relationships.
•    Anonymous said… Yes one of the issues with Aspergus is that they usually think it is not them, but the other people in their lives who have the problem.
•    Anonymous said… you can bring a horse to water but cant make them drink it , my advise is to ask your husband to come to marriage counciling as nothing is what it first seems intill you both go get councilling together ,if he refusses ? i would do some serious thinking about your life and your happiness , please put the aspergers thing to one side and just ask him to come to counciling ,if he want to save the relationship he will go , but please stop mentioning asergers in the meantime ,the problem may not be anything to do if he as aspergers or not ? If he refuses to come to marriage counciling ,leave it there and find a theripist for you ,I promiss you I know what I'm talking about .

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The Emotionally-Guarded Aspie

Anytime a person guards something, it’s because he or she wants to protect it.  Emotionally-guarded individuals are protecting themselves from getting hurt. But relationships of depth require vulnerability – and vulnerability signifies the risk of getting hurt.  Emotionally-guarded people raise their shields to protect against exposing their vulnerabilities.  They are afraid that by dropping their shield, they will be humiliated.  They are guarding against emotional intimacy, but a relationship can’t be sustained without emotional intimacy. This is a true dilemma for many adults with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA).

Intimacy requires feeling one’s insecurities and the painful emotions they produce.  All painful emotions are based in fear.  The fear of getting hurt or disgraced can sometimes take control of your life. So what can be done to avoid the risk of being hurt in a relationship? The answer: You can’t avoid the risk! To avoid risk is to avoid relationship! If you protect yourself by being emotionally-guarded, you’re never going to find a satisfying relationship. Connecting with someone, deepening the relationship, bonding and falling in love is not a safe process, and it undeniably requires you to risk getting hurt.

Securing a relationship requires surrender. As intimidating as that sounds, surrender is also what makes the experience magical – and even life-transforming. Adults on the spectrum grow by challenging their fears – not by staying safe. You grow by taking risks, not by raising a shield. Two individuals get close to each other by virtue of risking themselves. So if you’re going to find a love relationship, you must risk your heart all over again.

But here’s an issue with many AS and HFA adults: They don’t feel good about themselves, so they never actually let anyone else in. They avoid confiding in another person. Thus, they never fully bond …never let anyone else really get to know them …and never deeply love. So the real issue here has more to do with “low self-esteem” than some kind of “social inability” to deeply connect with another person.

If you fear love relationships because you fear getting injured, you’ll approach relationships with a guarded heart. But you won’t be able to love, either. The only solution is to stop hiding and to allow someone else in. Work on having a more open heart. But you don’t have to do this alone – it takes two people doing it together …two people opening up, revealing themselves, connecting and bonding …two people risking their hearts. In the end, relationships are about risking and bonding – not safety and protection. This doesn’t happen every day, but when it does – it’s powerful!

Your first course of action is to improve your self-esteem. AS and HFA adults with low self-esteem fear that as soon as someone really gets to know them, they won’t be liked, loved or wanted anymore. Now here’s the catch: The best way to improve self-esteem is through experiencing success. But the only way to experience success in relationships is to take a risk. So as you can see, you will likely choose only one of two options here: You will either (1) continue to risk your heart until you find a satisfying relationship, thus improving your self-esteem, or (2) continue to hide your heart to avoid getting hurt, thus settling for low self-esteem and superficial relationships (which aren’t very satisfying).

You’ve heard the phrase, “no pain, no gain.” Similarly, it can be said, “no risk, no relationship.” So, risk …risk …and then risk some more. Take a step of faith. It’s well worth the effort in the long run.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

The Pessimistic Aspie: How to Change a Bad Attitude

Is your glass half-empty or half-full? How you answer this age-old question may reflect your outlook on life, your attitude toward yourself, and whether you're optimistic or pessimistic. 

Unfortunately, too many adults on the autism spectrum are perennial pessimists with a negative attitude (e.g., “nobody understands me” … "good things don't last" … "my future looks rather depressing"). These individuals often feel unappreciated, underpaid, cheated, mistreated and misunderstood. They may chronically complain and criticize, and they may blame their failures and defeats on others, posing as victims of a heartless “neurotypical” world.

If this sounds like you – and you would like to break-out of this destructive way of thinking and viewing the world – then consider the tips below:

1. Be open to humor. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Seek humor in everyday happenings. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.

2. Check yourself. Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you're thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.

3. Follow a healthy lifestyle. Exercise at least three times a week to positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. And learn to manage stress.

4. Identify areas to change. If you want to become more optimistic and engage in more positive thinking, first identify areas of your life that you typically think negatively about, whether it's work, your daily commute or a relationship, for example. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.

5. Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you.

6. Surround yourself with positive people. Make sure those in your life are positive, supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.

7. Positive thinking doesn't mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life's less pleasant situations – it simply means that you approach the unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. You think the best is going to happen, not the worst.

8. Positive thinking often starts with self-talk. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head every day. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Some of your self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions that you create because of lack of information. If the thoughts that run through your head are mostly negative, your outlook on life is more likely pessimistic. Here are some examples of negative self-talk and how you can apply a positive spin to them:
  • TURN:  I've never done it before … INTO: It's an opportunity to learn something new.
  • TURN: I don't have the resources … INTO: Necessity is the mother of invention.
  • TURN: I'm not going to get any better at this … INTO: I'll give it another try.
  • TURN: I'm too uninspired to get this done … INTO: I wasn't able to fit it into my schedule but can re-examine some priorities.
  • TURN: It's too complicated … INTO: I'll tackle it from a different angle.
  • TURN: It's too radical a change … INTO: Let's take a chance.
  • TURN: I've never done it before … INTO: It's an opportunity to learn something new.
  • TURN: No one bothers to communicate with me … INTO: I'll see if I can open the channels of communication.
  • TURN: There's no way it will work … INTO: I can try to make it work.

9. Identify negative thinking. Not sure if your self-talk is positive or negative? Here are some common forms of negative self-talk: 
  • Catastrophizing: You automatically anticipate the worst. The drive-through coffee shop gets your order wrong and you automatically think that the rest of your day will be a disaster.
  • Filtering: You magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter-out all of the positive ones. For example, say you had a great day at work. You completed your tasks ahead of time and were complimented for doing a speedy and thorough job. But you forgot one minor step. That evening, you focus only on your oversight and forget about the compliments you received.
  • Personalizing: When something bad occurs, you automatically blame yourself. For example, you hear that an evening out with friends is canceled, and you assume that the change in plans is because no one wanted to be around you.
  • Polarizing: You see things only as either good or bad, black or white. There is no middle ground. You feel that you have to be perfect or that you're a total failure.

10. Know that there will be great health benefits from changing your attitude. Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Increased life span
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease

If you tend to have a negative outlook, don't expect to become an optimist overnight. But with practice, eventually your self-talk will contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Quiz for Partners: Do You Have Asperger’s?

So your spouse has told you she thinks you have Asperger’s (High-Functioning Autism). But you think she’s as wrong as a 3-dollar bill. Take the quiz below to see if she’s right. If you answer ‘yes’ to most of these statements, then let’s be honest here: she knows you inside and out, and she has probably done her research, so she’s probably right. Go get a formal diagnosis if you want to be sure.

  1. I am fascinated by dates and/or numbers.
  2. I am often the last to understand the point of a joke.
  3. I don't particularly enjoy reading fiction.
  4. I find it difficult to do more than one thing at a time.
  5. I find it difficult to work out what someone is thinking or feeling just by looking at their face.
  6. I find it hard to make new friends.
  7. I find myself drawn more strongly to things than to people.
  8. I find social situations somewhat difficult.
  9. I frequently find that I don't know how to keep a conversation going.
  10. I frequently get so strongly absorbed in one thing that I lose sight of other things.
  11. I hate social chitchat.
  12. I like to collect information about categories of things (e.g., types of cars, birds, trains, plants).
  13. I may become upset if my daily routine is disturbed.
  14. I notice patterns in things most of the time.
  15. I often notice small sounds when others do not.
  16. I prefer to do things on my own rather than with others.
  17. I prefer to do things the same way over and over again.
  18. I tend to have very strong interests, which I get upset about if I can't pursue.
  19. I tend to notice details that others do not.
  20. I usually don’t know how to tell if someone listening to me is getting bored.
  21. I usually notice car number plates or similar strings of information.
  22. I usually notice small changes in a situation or a person's appearance.
  23. I would rather go to a museum than to a party.
  24. I would rather watch a documentary than a comedy show.
  25. It is difficult for me to keep track of several different conversations going on at the same time.
  26. New situations make me anxious.
  27. Other people frequently tell me that what I've said is impolite, even though I think it is polite.
  28. When I talk, it isn't always easy for others to get a word in edgewise.
  29. When I'm watching a movie, I find it difficult to work out the characters' intentions.
  30. When I'm reading a story, it is difficult for me to imagine what the characters might look like. 

 Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

How to De-Stress: Tips for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

For many adults on the autism spectrum, de-stressing means zoning out in front of the TV at the end of a hectic day. But this does little to reduce the damaging effects of nervous tension. To effectively combat nervous tension, you need to activate the body's natural relaxation response. You can do this by practicing de-stressing strategies (e.g., deep breathing, meditation, rhythmic exercise, yoga, etc.). Fitting these activities into your life can help reduce everyday nervous tension and boost your mood.

Chronic nervous tension is harmful because it becomes overwhelming and interrupts the healthy state of equilibrium that your nervous system needs to remain in balance. Unfortunately, chronic nervous tension has become an increasingly common characteristic of contemporary life. When anxiety throws your nervous system out of balance, de-stressing strategies can bring it back into a balanced state by producing the relaxation response, a state of deep calmness that is the polar opposite of nervous tension.

When tension overwhelms your nervous system, your body is flooded with chemicals that prepare you for “fight or flight.” While the tension-response can be lifesaving in emergency situations where you need to act quickly, it wears your body down when constantly activated by the worries of everyday life. The relaxation response puts the brakes on this heightened state of alert and brings your mind back into a state of equilibrium.

A variety of de-stressing strategies can help you bring your nervous system back into balance by producing the relaxation response. The relaxation response is not lying on the couch or sleeping, but a mentally active process that leaves the body relaxed, calm, and focused.

Learning the basics of de-stressing strategies isn’t difficult, but it does take practice. Most experts recommend setting aside at least 10 to 20 minutes a day to practice such strategies. If you would like to get even more relief, aim for 30 minutes to an hour. If that sounds like a daunting commitment, remember that many of these strategies can be incorporated into your existing daily schedule (e.g., at your desk over lunch, on the bus during your morning commute).

There is no single de-stressing technique that is best for everyone. When choosing a technique, consider your specific needs, preferences, fitness level, and the way you tend to react to nervous tension. The right de-stressing technique is the one that resonates with you, fits your lifestyle, and is able to focus your mind and interrupt your everyday thoughts in order to elicit the relaxation response. In many cases, you may find that alternating or combining different strategies will keep you motivated and provide you with the best results.

How you react to nervous tension may influence the technique that works best for you. For example:
  • Do you tend to freeze-up internally, while slowing down externally? Your challenge is to identify de-stressing strategies that provide both safety and stimulation to help you “reboot” your system. Strategies such as mindfulness, walking, or power yoga might work well for you.
  • Do you tend to become depressed, withdrawn, or spaced out? You may respond best to strategies that are stimulating and that energize your nervous system (e.g., rhythmic exercise).
  • Do you tend to become angry, agitated, or keyed up? You may respond best to strategies that quiet you down (e.g., meditation, deep breathing, guided imagery, etc.).
  • Do you need social stimulation? If you crave social interaction, a class setting will give you the stimulation and support you’re looking for. Practicing with others may also help you stay motivated.
  • Do you need alone time? If you crave solitude, solo strategies such as meditation or progressive muscle relaxation will give you the space to quiet your mind and recharge your batteries. 

Here are 10 strategies to reduce the tension in your life:

1. Deep breathing: Feeling nervous tension evokes shallow breathing, while calm is associated with relaxed breathing. So, to turn tension into relaxation, change the way you breathe. Let out a big sigh, dropping your chest, and exhaling through gently pursed lips. Now imagine your low belly, or center, as a deep, powerful place. Feel your breath coming and going as your mind stays focused there. Inhale, feeling your entire belly, sides and lower back expand. Exhale, sighing again as you drop your chest (feel your belly, back and sides contract). Repeat 10 times, relaxing more fully each time.

2. Hot tea: If you're a coffee drinker, consider going green. Coffee raises levels of the hormone, cortisol, while green tea offers health and beauty. Chamomile tea is a traditional favorite for calming the mind and reducing nervous tension. Black tea may be a good tension-fighter, too. In one study, participants who drank regular black tea displayed lower levels of cortisol, and reported feeling calmer than those who drank a placebo with the same amount of caffeine.

3. Be here - now: “Mindfulness” is the here-and-now approach to living that makes daily life richer and more meaningful. It's approaching life like a youngster, without passing judgment on what occurs. Mindfulness means focusing on one activity at a time. Staying in the present-tense can help promote relaxation and provide a buffer against tension and depression. Practice it by focusing on your immediate surroundings. If you're outdoors, enjoy the shape and colors of flowers, hear a bird's call, or consider a tree. In shopping mall, examine a piece of jewelry and focus on how it's made, or window-shop for furniture, checking out every detail of pattern and style. As long as you can keep your mind focused on something in the present, nervous tension will take a back seat.

4. Try meditation: Any repetitive action can be a source of meditation (e.g., walking, swimming, painting, knitting, etc.). Any activity that helps keep your attention calmly in the present moment qualifies as meditation.  When you catch yourself thinking about your job, your marriage, or your long “to-do” list, simply let the thought escape, and bring your mind back the repetition of the activity. Try it for just 5 to 10 minutes a day and watch nervous tension levels drop.

5. Use visualization: Is your mind too talkative to meditate? Try creating a peaceful visualization. To start, simply visualize anything that keeps your thoughts away from current anxieties. It could be a favorite vacation spot, a fantasy island, or that penthouse in New York City. It could be something "touchable," (e.g., the feel of your favorite silk robe or cozy sweater). The idea is to take your mind off your tension, and replace it with an image that evokes a sense of tranquility. The more realistic your visualization (e.g., in terms of colors, sights, sounds, touch and feel), the more relaxation you'll experience.

6. Express affection: Induce the relaxation response by cuddling your dog, giving an unexpected hug to a family member, snuggling with your wife, or talking with an old friend about the good things in your lives. When you do, you'll be reducing your tension levels, because social interaction helps your brain think better, encouraging you to see new solutions to situations that once seemed impossible. Also, physical contact (e.g., hugging a friend, petting your cat, etc.) helps lower blood pressure and decreases tension hormones.

7. Time-outs: Grown-ups need time-outs, too. So when you sense your anger is about to erupt, find a quiet place to sit or lie down, and put the tense situation on hold. Take a few deep breaths and concentrate on releasing tension and slowing your heartbeat. Remember: time is always on your side, so relax …nervous tension can wait.

8. Change your attitude: Sixty seconds is enough time to shift your heart's rhythm from tension to relaxation. The way to do that is to engage your heart and your mind in positive thinking. Start by envisioning anything that triggers a positive feeling (e.g., a vision of your daughter, the image of your pet, that great piece of jewelry you're saving up to buy, a memento from a vacation, etc.). Whatever it is, conjuring up the thought will help slow breathing, relax tense muscles, and put a smile back on your face. 

9. Listen to music: Music can calm the heartbeat and soothe the spirit. So, when the going gets rough, take a musical detour by aligning your heartbeat with the slow tempo of a relaxing tune (you may want to make that a classical song, because research shows that listening to 30 minutes of classical music produces calming effects equivalent to taking 10 mg of Valium).

10. Employ self-massage: When your muscles are tense and you don’t have time to visit a massage therapist, try this simple self-massage technique: Place both hands on your shoulders and neck. Squeeze with your fingers and palms. Rub vigorously, keeping shoulders relaxed. Wrap one hand around the other forearm. Squeeze the muscles with thumb and fingers. Move up and down from your elbow to fingertips and back again. Repeat with other arm.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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