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Asperger's Men and Midlife Crisis

“All of a sudden my husband (who has Asperger syndrome) is telling me he is happier being alone. He is trying to find "HIMSELF" and says he loves me and is physically attracted to me but doesn't love me the way i love him. He says he needs space. He is very stressed about his current job and is looking for a new one. His father who he was extremely close to died a little over a yr ago, and he did tell me since his dad died his life has fell apart. He said he has lost enjoyment in things he used to do. We used to hang out and go everywhere together and had fun, but that hasn't happened for a quite a while and now says he needs to keep his distance from me to figure out what he wants. He suffers depression and anxiety. He is 42 yrs old and we have been married almost 23 yrs. Can you please help me …give me some insight …tell me how i should and should not approach this? Does this sound like a midlife crisis?”

Many men – with Asperger’s or not – go through a phase when they take a hard look at the life they're living. They think they could be happier, and if they need to make a big change, they feel the urge to do it soon. These thoughts can trigger a midlife crisis.

Below are some of the symptoms of the “man-version” of a midlife crisis:
  • has little interest in spending time (or having sex) with his wife
  • displays the classic signs of depression (e.g., sleeping more, loss of appetite) 
  • drinks too much or abuses other substances
  • is overly nostalgic and constantly reminiscing about his youth or his first love
  • suddenly makes hasty decisions about money and/or his career
  • thinks about having an affair (or already has)
  • makes a dramatic change in his personal appearance
  • says life has become boring

If you believe your Asperger’s husband is indeed going through a midlife crisis, here are 20 crucial tips for helping him through it (however, keep in mind that it will probably get worse before it gets better):

1. Find support for yourself (e.g., through a trusted friend or colleague, therapist, clergy, support group, etc.). Taking care of yourself through these times will help you to stay physically and mentally healthy. Only then can you truly help your husband. Take care of you FIRST!

2. A physical checkup may be in order. For both men and women, the physical changes which occur in mid-life have a definite effect on behavior.

3. Don't start off with questions when trying to engage your husband in a conversation. Instead, share with him what you are seeing, that you understand he must be struggling, and that you want to support him.

4. Play some upbeat music that encourages your husband to dance, sing and laugh. Choose anything that reminds him of being young again.

5. Seek counseling if necessary, and be sure that your husband isn't turning to drugs or alcohol to deal with his problems.

6. Even if you think your husband is crazy, muster the desire to offer reassurance and validation.

7. Focus on conveying that you are not demanding answers from your husband, but that you want to understand what he is experiencing. Join him in being mystified and even curious about his dilemma.

8. It will always be helpful to stay positive and compliment your husband when possible. This may bolster his self-confidence and let him know that he is loved despite what he is going through.

9. Don't ask the "why" questions (e.g., “Why do you need so much time alone these days?” …or “What has happened between the two of us?”). These questions demand explanations and accountings. Your husband probably doesn't know the answers anyway. Probing questions only add fear and angst to the existing issue.

10. Be open to learning more about yourself, your husband – and how Asperger’s affects relationships. This information will improve your relationship after the crisis has passed (yes, it will pass).

11. In those rare moments when your husband wants to “open up,” listen – not just for what he is saying – but for what he is NOT saying. Listen to what is underneath what he is saying (e.g., feelings, values, fears, etc.).

12. Pay close attention to your husband's mood and behavior. Make sure he is not overloading himself with work or other things. Make sure he is taking breaks so he doesn’t feel stressed-out. Stress exacerbates a midlife crisis.

13. Sometimes a midlife crisis makes men very self-conscious of their bodies. Depending on the physical health of the both of you, you and your husband should consider adopting an exercise or health regimen. This will allow you to participate in activities together while giving your husband a boost of confidence.

14. Your husband might be feeling self-conscious or worried about growing old without having accomplished important goals. If you make an effort to understand these feelings, you can both go through this together.

15. While there are many positive features associated with a midlife crisis, your husband is most likely experiencing the negative features more strongly. Mood swings are common and may range from mild to severe. Watch for signs of depression, rage, resentment or despondency in your husband, and try to talk about it if you feel that things are going too far.

16. Spend time with others who look at the lighter side of life. Look for every opportunity to laugh with them and embrace it.

17. Men in a midlife crisis feel the need to be young again and may develop new interests. Support your husband as best as you can in his new interests – and if possible, participate. Even if you don't have an interest, you should know that new activities will bring the two of you closer together.

18. When your husband initiates conversations with you, be sure to listen without passing judgment. He is probably experiencing doubt and confusion about what he is going through. Giving an opinion or judging how he is feeling or thinking should be kept to yourself.  Yes, your husband may say things that you feel are crazy, and a conversation with him may leave you dizzy in the head. Nonetheless, don't try to explain the error of his thinking no matter how irrational. Don't try to get him to see it from your perspective. He will have to figure it out on his own.

19. Your husband wants to feel validated in his efforts to recapture his youth, so focus on the positive parts of a midlife crisis (e.g., an increased fervor for life). If your husband wants to start going to the gym six times a week, look at it as a healthy endeavor rather than an attempt to stay away from family.

20. Lastly, know that as your Asperger's husband goes through this period of change in his life, you can count on him doing things that will make you pissed as hell. Lashing out at your husband may help you feel better for the moment, but it won't change his thinking or behavior and will only lead to more conflict in the relationship. Get rid of your anger and avoid engaging in conflict. No amount of “reasoning with,” yelling, cursing or crying is going to make any difference if your husband is truly going through a midlife crisis. This thing will simply have to run its course. So, “go with the flow” rather than trying to stop it.

 
 
COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Sounds like he needs anti depressants.
•    Anonymous said... Ok...might not be what you want to hear but this sounds very familiar to me as my ex husband said the same...then went in to blame me for everything wrong in his life from getting migraines to losing his job due to his aspergers...we tried mediation, it was a nightmare, he went to see a counsellor whom he refused to talk to....he needed time to think, etc etc. Turned out he had met an old friend thru facebook and obviously it was far easier to talk to her online than to me face to face! Advice...try and be completely unemotional when talking to him, remember the world is black and white for him, try communicating thru email if he has left the house as he will find this easier as more distanced but be very very careful what and how you write things, applys to talking too! Try talking whilst going for a walk. Be careful how u give him space, expect everything u have said that he has taken badly but not shared to be regurgiated now... long memories! And good luck...deep breath. You will survive what ever happens by the way....you will find u have far more strength than u ever felt possible. Feel free to pm me...
•    Anonymous said... Don't be afraid to get him the help he needs. It sounds like the time to be alone more is a coping strategy of his. To some extent, it's definitely OK. But to some extent, that's a quality of life issue if he is in solitude so much. In my opinion, start exploring the possibility of psychologists, occupational therapist, or even an autism life coach. Psychologist is probably the best bet in terms of the type of person he should be talking to. OT is not so far behind, and in some cases better, if he/she specializes in mental health (I know it because I studied it.). Autism life coach can be hit or miss. You want to check the coach's educational background to see if he/she is equipped for the task.
•    Anonymous said... Be patient. Give him space. Be understanding. Listen when he talks (no need to try and "fix" anything....because you are already helping just by listening!). Know that his confusion right now is nothing to do with you. He needs to figure stuff out. He will respect you for allowing him to do these things....affairs NOT INCLUDED!!!! I highly recommend having him talk to a psychologist ....scary title ...for someone with great listening skills and therapeutic advice!! The brain is such a complex organ and needs to be taken care of when in turmoil. Talking to anyone (but preferably a medical person) is the best medicine. Good luck to both of you.

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1 comment:

  1. Too late for me.... my now ex-wife knew I have Aspergers and did everything she could to trigger my meltdowns and forced me into situations with lots of new people until I isolated myself for my own peace of mind.

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