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Dealing with a Complaining Partner: Tips for Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA

As couples get down to the business of life after a few years of living together, they often realize that two people may not see eye-to-eye on how things are to be done around the house or in the relationship – especially when one partner has Asperger’s (high functioning autism), and the other does not. Very often, one partner (usually the “Aspie”) draws back while the other (usually the neurotypical spouse) goes overboard.

In any event, if you find yourself in a relationship with a chronic complainer, use the following tips and learn how to deal with her or him:

1. Always create a space for yourself (e.g., a shed, a study room, etc.) …somewhere to retreat from the complaining when it erupts. Your best hobby is done in this safe haven from the chronic complainer. Everybody should have a hobby to counteract the grumbling of a partner.

2. Be patient with your complaining partner. Most people have a good reason for blowing their top. They can only be pushed so far before they explode. Sometimes a good dinner and a good night’s sleep makes things much better the next day.

3. If your partner frequently complains about how you don’t contribute to the household daily tasks – and you really DO help out as much as possible – explain how you prioritize your time and defend your reasoning. Jot down what you do in an average day (on work days and on non-work days). Post these two lists (including time frames) on the refrigerator door, but do not point them out to your partner in a condescending way. When your partner wants to talk to you about how she or he does all the work around the house, stop her or him and redirect the attention to your lists. If your partner criticizes your lists, point out that while she/he may feel her/his demands are more worthy, you will decide how you prioritize tasks and periods of rest in your day based on your own good judgment.

4. Include periods of relaxation and entertainment – and defend them. Just because your partner may feel overwhelmed by all the things she or he noticed needing attention doesn't mean it would be wise of you to indulge your partner the misconception that her or his priorities are reasonable and shared by you.

5. Listen to what your partner has to say. People like to express themselves when they’re feeling hurt. If you don't understand what your partner is talking about, tell her or him to calm down, take a deep breath, and explain what she or he is really trying to convey.

6. Make your partner feel special (e.g., buy your lady some flowers, order pizza delivery and watch a ballgame with your man). Let your partner know that she or he is still important to you.

7. Support your partner. People who complain a lot are usually in a state of discouragement. They need the support and love of their spouse or partner – even when they don't agree with her or him. A hug or a kiss can go a long way.

8. If your partner is being insulting and hostile, call her or him out. There’s no good excuse for one partner to speak scornfully to the other. You are both grown-ups and should always treat each other with respect. If your partner shows contempt for you and treats you rudely, speak up and let your partner know what impact her or his behavior is having on you. A simple, "Well that was hurtful" in response to a demand made in a nasty tone should be adequate. If it's not, take a moment and tell your partner that she or he is hurting you and the relationship, and ask your partner to find another way to deal with personal frustrations.

9. When you feel that a complaint is about to happen, just go for a walk. The key here is to be consistent so that every time a complaint is about to occur, you just get out of the way. This saves wasted energy all around. And if you are out of the way, then you will not hear it.

10. Be patient with your partner as she or he adjusts to your new way of responding (not reacting) to frequent complaints.

Living With Aspergers and HFA: Help for Couples

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