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Should You Disclose Your Diagnosis to Others?

When you have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, you walk a fine line. Often times under certain circumstances, you are perfectly capable of behaving "typically." Other times, not so much. And it's not easy to predict when things will suddenly become stressful.

If you say something such as "I have a disorder called Asperger syndrome" to a co-worker or a neighbor, you may set yourself up to be treated differently (and perhaps unfairly). But if you don't tell, there's the possibility that a sensory issue or misunderstanding could lead to some real issues (e.g., being viewed as volatile of rude).

So, should you disclose to others that you have Asperger's (high-functioning autism)? If so, who should you tell, and how much information should you provide?

The answer is threefold:  
  1. There will be occasions when you should not disclose at all.
  2. There are other times when partial disclosure will suffice.
  3. There are times when full disclosure is needed.

Let's look at each of these in turn...

1. No disclosure: In cases where the information could be used against you (e.g., telling a co-worker), no disclosure is advised. Sometimes, the workplace can be cruel, and an employee on the autism spectrum is often a sitting duck for the office bullies. So, with the possible exception of the boss and/or supervisor, your co-workers are best left in the dark about your disorder (unless you have one that you can really trust).

Here's one exception to #1: In some cases, it may be appropriate to educate your fellow employees about autism spectrum disorders. If you decide to disclose to a group of people, be sure to do some planning and preparation. You may choose to make the presentation yourself, or if making a presentation like this is not a strong point for you, you may be able to get a therapist or an outside professional to talk to the group. In any event, it may be in your best interest if some of the people at your place of employment learned a few things about autism spectrum disorders.

2. Partial disclosure: In those cases where someone will be working with you in a group context rather than one-on-one (e.g., a karate coach), or the relationship will be temporary (e.g., 3-day training seminar), partial disclosure will usually suffice. For example, if you're taking karate lessons, you may do well most of the time. So, a partial disclosure could be: "I'm the type of person who really needs structure, so if you're going to make a change, it would help if you tell me before class. When things are unpredictable, I get anxious and may have an issue." In this way, you are giving the coach a "heads-up" about a potential problem without divulging your actual diagnosis.

3. Full disclosure: In those cases where someone will be working closely - and frequently - with you (e.g., professor, therapist), full disclosure would be necessary. Also, for those who will be having an ongoing relationship with you over the years (e.g., wife, in-laws), full disclosure is needed. In both of these scenarios, certain people will be having a lot of contact with you, so it is vital that they know as much as possible about the disorder and how it affects you particularly. In this way, they will know what to expect, and possibly how to help prevent issues before they arise.

Having said all of the above, the bottom line is this: The disclosure decision is up to you.  What's right for one person on the spectrum may not be right for another.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


•    Anonymous said… After being on crutches once I decided that I prefer an invisible difference. I try to avoid places and people where my sensetivities may be triggered - mostly sound. Being retired helps. I have some physical limitations that I don't mind sharing - limited use of my hands due to nerve damage. That one keeps people from thinking ill of my when I don't volunteer/help out in some situations.
•    Anonymous said… definitely caught between a rock and a hard place kinda choice ... and yes, even people who knew you, like forever, look at you differently .... I really think the medical profession needs to stop looking at the autistic spectrum as a disorder. What if its the so-called neuro-typical people that have a "disorder"? To me, its like saying being female is a disorder because men have/did have all/most of the defining what is "normal".
•    Anonymous said… I am in autism educator in a high school and I didn't tell anybody especially my employers until I was three years into the job. Because yes, it is natural to treat someone with a behavior disorder very differently then someone without.
•    Anonymous said… I am very self-conscious about my diagnosis, so I only tell people on a need-to-know basis. When it comes to dating, I wouldn`t disclose my condition on a first date, because I am afraid that it would scare him away, or he would make assumptions about me. I would wait a little while until he gets to know who I am as a person, then I would disclose if it is obvious to me that we have a future together and/or my condition is or could become an issue in our relationship.
•    Anonymous said… I told my co workers I have Aspergers and it helped them understand me better. It's helped so much. They now give me plenty of warning if things are going to be changed or if there's a disruption to the normal functioning of the office. They overlook it when I'm being awkward. I'm really pleased I told them. It doesn't embarrass me; it just helps others understand me.
•    Anonymous said… I was only diagnosed last year so I haven't been in too many situations where I've had to make this decision. I actually did disclose to a group of co workers because , at the time, I felt it was the best thing. I had taken something literally and people were kind of.. perplexed so I said that sometimes I take things literally or will answer rhetorical questions. And someone (who would later briefly be my supervisor) said "oh then it will be easy to play pranks on you!" and at that point I said " I have Asperger's and the way my brain is wired I take things literally". Honestly, I said it because I wanted to make them feel like a jerk (because she was being a jerk) but I also wanted other people to know and think twice in case anyone was thinking it but not saying it. I never disclosed to the managers I worked with and I'm thiking maybe I should have. I don't know. I was previously misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder and I have disclosed that to co workers and also to bosses on an individual basis with mixed results
•    Anonymous said… I'm afraid to tell others just because I'll be viewed as different. Honestly it doesn't make sense cuz I'm definitely already different with my short hair, Wing agender, my being antisocial. I guess I don't want to be viewed as stupid by closed minded nt's.
•    Anonymous said… People have such a misunderstanding of Asperger's and the autism spectrum, that I prefer to stay in the closet so to speak.
•    Anonymous said… Very good article

Post your comment below…

Does Your Man Have Asperger’s?

“I’ve been reading about asperger syndrome recently. I think my boyfriend may have a mild form of it. I’ve looked at all the diagnostic criteria, and I’m not sure he fits in perfectly. But that is hard to diagnose since I’m not a professional. I was hoping someone might point me in the right direction. I’m not sure if this is just some personality issue, or something bigger. But I swear he has some social problems whether it is asperger or not. How can I know for sure what I’m dealing with?”

So, you think your boyfriend may have Asperger’s (high-functioning autism)? Well, here is an informal quiz that may shed some light on the subject:

Does your boyfriend have:
  • a discriminatory sense of smell and taste
  • a preference for following instructions and abiding by rules
  • a tendency to be very literal in his understanding
  • an ability to see in detail, or an inability to see the whole because of too much detail
  • an apparent lack of empathy
  • an extreme sensitivity to touch, textures and pressures, or a need for stronger textures and increased pressure
  • either an acute sense of hearing or the inability to hear clearly
  • extensive knowledge about a single topic
  • inflexible routines
  • the tendency to care way too much about organizing stuff
  • the tendency to need other people to provide clear schedules and expectations
  • trouble describing basic emotions
  • trouble displaying emotion
  • trouble figuring what is appropriate in social situations
  • trouble understanding other people’s emotions

Does your boyfriend find it difficult to:
  • engage in or understand small talk
  • maintain eye contact
  • show empathy and understand of others
  • speak untruths in order not to offend
  • understand body language and facial expressions
  • understand personal space
  • understand sarcasm, jokes, irony 
  • understand social rules which are not based on logic
  • understand the complexities of interpersonal relationships
  • understand verbal communication without corresponding verbal cues (e.g., notes, diagrams)

Is your boyfriend:
  • anxious by change, spontaneity and unplanned events
  • experiencing difficulties in comprehending abstract concepts (e.g., formality, spontaneity, fun, anxiety)
  • experiencing difficulties in coping with the unknown (e.g., new people, new places, new situations)
  • experiencing difficulties in remembering sequences without prompts (e.g., diary, personal planner, alarm)
  • obsessed with a special interest, place or person
  • reluctant to use his own initiative

Are there times when your boyfriend can seem:
  • thoughtless
  • self-centered
  • rude
  • lost in his own world
  • eccentric
  • depressed
  • disorganized
  • anxious
  • aggressive
  • absent-minded
  • abrupt

But there are positives involved as well. For example, many people with Asperger’s possess the following traits:
  • direct, open and honest
  • excellent memory
  • high level of vocabulary
  • mathematical and technical skills
  • precision and attention to detail

If any of the above sounds familiar, then you may be dealing with a boyfriend on the autism spectrum. Of course, the only way to know for sure is for him to seek a formal diagnosis.

Unfortunately, another fairly common trait of (un-diagnosed) men with Asperger’s is “denial” that they may have the disorder. So, don’t expect him to run to their nearest diagnostician any time soon. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if he became offended that you “think” he may have Asperger’s. If this turns out to be the case, be prepared for him to get defensive – and possibly blame YOU for any relationship problems the two of you may be facing.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

What To Do When Your "Neurotypical" Wife Resents You

“I’m a 28 y.o. man who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at the age of 9. My wife and I have been together for almost 5 years married, but almost 6 knowing each other. We have gotten into disputes about every other day where it always comes down to her saying she resents me for being so ‘distant’ and ‘selfish’. She always says it seems like I just don't care about things like she does. I do care and I do worry about things like she does, I just don't show it the same way. She has said to me several times now that she wished she had taken more time when she met me to get to know me more before getting married. She says it’s not because she wishes she wasn't with me, it’s because she could have made a more informed choice. I am a very laid back person, and I guess that can seem a bit like I don't care, but I am not sure I know how to be any other way. My wife and I grew up in different life styles. I didn't have many friends and I wasn't good in school. She was very good in school, had a lot of friends, and she was forced into an early adulthood because she had to take care of her father growing up. She is a very responsible person. She is my rock and the rock of her whole family. But, she says she is “tired of being everyone's rock,” but feels she has to be because she can’t count on anyone to get things done like she does. Any help in how I should handle this situation would be greatly appreciated.”

Most of the time, a wife’s resentment will show up as something like “you don’t treat me special like you used to” …or “you don’t spend enough time with me” …or “we never have sex anymore” …and so on. If a husband is not spending enough time with his spouse or neglects her (intentionally or unintentionally), then there is some validity to her complaints. Most women become resentful because they realize that their husbands have ceased to be the men in their life that they need.

Routine is the biggest enemy of many marriages. After several years together, the couple gets used to one another and their feelings change. But, it’s the wife (more often than the husband) who can’t accept this change and feels unhappy. Some wives adjust themselves to what is now the “new normal” (e.g., less sex, less affection, spending less time together, etc.). But, even though the couple in this situation may enjoy a fairly stable, affection-less relationship, the marriage may be slowly falling apart without anyone noticing it.

How can you tell if your wife is actually discontented in the marriage? Here are just a few of the symptoms:
  • She often appears sad or irritated.
  • She keeps finding reasons to spend time away from her husband. 
  • It seems as though she initiates arguments over the most petty of issues.
  • She, too, has lost interest in sex.
  • It appears that she is looking for reasons to lash out at her husband, even if he hasn’t done anything seriously wrong?

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the wife doesn’t love her man. More likely, she is tired of the routine, the responsibilities, and the never-changing everyday chores and tasks. It sounds like your wife has taken on WAY too much responsibility for things, and is in “burn-out” mode as a result, which isn’t entirely your fault. This was a choice she has made. You said that she had to be a caretaker as a child. It’s very likely that she brought that trait into your marriage. Thus, my best guess is that she feels more like your mother than your wife.

The truth is that men with an autism spectrum disorder, by virtue of “mind-blindness” (more on that here), have difficulty empathizing and imaging how another person may feel. As a husband, if you have the ability to put yourself in your wife’s shoes (so to speak), you can come up with a pretty good idea regarding what she needs and what may help mend the broken relationship. Thus, as hard as it may be for you as a man with Asperger’s, try to put yourself in your spouse’s position. If you were your wife, what changes would you like to see? What would you want to work on in the relationship? What would you like to talk about? What issues would you need to address? And so on…

Resist the temptation to continually ask your wife “what’s wrong.”  Instead, propose to talk about it. And when you do, talk in an apologizing, caring tone. Your attitude and behavior have an influence, even if your wife is not aware of it – and it better be a calm and reassuring one. Express your support and understanding. You may not feel like it at all, believing that you are the one who should be comforted. But, your wife is obviously bothered with her emotional state as much as you are. So, even though it’s normal to feel insulted and upset, try to find the inner strength to feel compassion for her.

Keep an eye on your wife. If you don’t see a positive change in her emotional state, consider asking her to go to counseling with you. Most importantly, listen to her with an open mind and heart. And give her time and space to deal with her frustration.

Lastly, maybe you could get your wife to read this piece on resentment

Best of luck!

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples


•    Anonymous said… "You Just Don't Understand," by Deborah Tannen; "The New Passages," by Gail Sheehy. Try to not refer to Aspie vs. NT norms. You sound like a normal married couple with normal life circumstances who needs to work things out. Doing so is very much worth it.
•    Anonymous said… I am both you and your wife, lol. I'm on the spectrum and a natural worry-ninja. My very first instinct is that you both need do some work to compromise. (Like we've never heard that before about relationships, lol) You obviously already see her point, which is wonderful. I'm sure there are some great self-help books on how to outwardly appear to care more, probably even for people on the spectrum. Also, I would ask your wife some specific things you could do for her or with her to show you care and want to take some of her stress load. However, as a natural stress-case, I'm taking an experienced guess that your wife is one too. The child that cares for a parent often grows into an adult x10. It's likely she can't stop worrying and stressing and being "the responsible one". I'm sure somewhere inside, she knows that. She'll need to come to terms with that herself, though. And in the meantime, making an effort on your part will help her feel supported and probably help her come to see her own stress-ninja persona. Hope my tiny bit of insight helps.
•    Anonymous said… i can relate... been married almost 49 years... didn't know about Aspergers ( husband ) until about 6 years ago...
•    Anonymous said… I was poured into the same mould as your wife. I also feel a lot like her being married to someone I now know has aspergers. The book Journal of Best Practices was written by a man on the spectrum ( David Finch) and is the best reference I can think of since it is specifically focused on his marriage. My suggestion would be to specify her needs and then strive to meet them- that is a simple as marriage gets. Learn her love language and then begin to speak it to her, but that takes her being able to identify and communicate them to you. There are lots of books on love languages, too  😊. We really do speak different languages and just your efforts to learn hers will help her begin to feel cared about. Those of us who have cared for others really need to feel cared about in return. Best to you both.
•    Anonymous said… I'm in the same boat, I fear that my family feels like I don't care about anything I have a very difficult time expressing my emotions. I'm very laid back but I can't handle chaos. I have been told buy my husband that I'm "cold" and "heartless" of course that's far from accurate. I've been seeking mental guidance and my husband has been trying hard to understand me so far things seem okay
•    Anonymous said… Keep up the good work. My hubby now knows me better than I know (or understand) myself! Sometimes we need to forget our dx and simply share how we see and feel. Works for us. I'm Aspie by the way.
•    Anonymous said… lol I see a psychiatrist regularly it's helped a lot. I've been trying to get my husband to go with me, but he won't.
•    Anonymous said… Mental guidance sounds ominous and a bit spooky - hope you are not camouflaging ?
•    Anonymous said… Seriously, have your wife read this book. My wife and I were having serious communication problems in our marriage and she read this book and actually highlighted portions that were important to her, then I read it again, paying particular attention to the highlighted portions. It made a huge difference in our communication issues and our marriage. Rudy Simone - 22 Things a Woman Must Know If She Loves a Man with Asperger's Syndrome
•    Anonymous said… sometimes I have noticed when people try to put their methods on me, I respond with opposition. I feel that a shared task or a delegated one should allow for autonomy. some people have higher levels of perfectionism. I sometimes get ocd about stuff needing to be done a certain way. I also have ocpd, which takes a long time to do anything. so for me, that can mean that I do can decide to avoid something if I know it will take more time than I have to accomplish it. which is bad. clutter piles up. I am hiring a professional organizer to help me figure out how to solve this so it doesn't haunt me forever. I have also noticed that when I am focused on something, my awareness of time goes right out the window. hours can pass by and it feels like short bursts of time. I have rarely ever seen things the way others around me do -but I greatly appreciate understanding how others see things. when people will communicate in detail, often I can adapt closer to a compromise. when people expect me to read their mind -failure is maximized. I was required to raise my 6 younger siblings. my mom had 3 jobs, my father lost his job became depressed and shut out responsible things. you only get to be a kid once. there are no redos. maybe ask how she thinks you are when she knows you care about things. everyone always has things to learn about other people. life is not supposed to be without need to expand thinking. I have learned I cannot see things how other people do -so I cannot settle for taking things "how they are" because I might not see them from big picture
•    Anonymous said… Sounds like she doesn't understand what is required of her to be the wife of someone on the spectrum. It sounds like she's saying she regrets getting married. Time to kick her to the curb for both your sake.
•    Anonymous said… Sounds like she is a nurturer who has takes care of everyone else at the expense of her own needs. She needs to find ways to meet the needs she feels arent being met. Find friends , support groups, hobbies , church , get out and enjoy nature, go to a spa . Things that will nourish her soul and help meet whatever she feels is lacking. One person can never fill all of someone else needs and shouldnt be expected to. Right now she may be hyperfocusing on you to meet her needs and once some of that pressure is off it will be easier as a couple to work on some things to develope better communication and closeness.
•    Anonymous said… sounds like wife needs some emotional support and care / self-care
•    Anonymous said… Sounds like she's the one with the problem to me??
•    Anonymous said… Try asking her some questions about her day. Ask her what she would like to do on the weekend. If she feels she's doing everything and your going off into your own world etc maybe she's wanting som focus on her and her interests.?? Help her with dinner, get in and do things together. It's very easy for people on the ASD not to notice things going on around them, and they tend to be focused on their interests. It's not being selfish, it's just how they are. So many make her your interest? Hope that helps?

Post your comment below…

Asperger's Men Who Won't "Work" On Their Relationships

“I have a boyfriend with aspergers syndrome that I love dearly. However, there are some issues that I would like to address that are getting in the way of this going to the next level. Problem is he won’t talk about issues, or consider going to a counselor that could help us. If I tell him how I feel, he gets overwhelmed and leaves. How can you work on problems in a relationship when the other person won’t talk about it? I really do love him and want to make this work, but I’m stuck at a dead end road currently.”

One of the toughest things in a relationship is when one partner wants to work on the existing problems, but the other doesn’t even think there is a problem – or worse, doesn’t care. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for some men with Asperger’s (high functioning autism) to flat-out refuse to go to couples counseling, or they do so reluctantly. Many of these guys won’t read a book about relationships, and don’t seem interested in talking about the problems.

It can be incredibly frustrating for the “neurotypical” (i.e., non-autistic) girlfriend who knows her relationship isn’t what it could be. After all, if he won’t work on the issues, isn’t it hopeless that he will ever change? And isn’t it reasonable to assume marriage is out of the question?

The question then becomes, given the situation here, what can be done on a day-to-day basis to improve the relationship before it implodes? Here are some ideas that may help:

Message to the boyfriend:

Men with Asperger’s who are unwilling to go to counseling are usually afraid that the counselor will berate them. They worry that the counselor will take the side of their partner. But, they need to understand that couples counseling is not solely for people on the brink of a break-up.  It is for any couple who cares about their relationship being healthy. To use an analogy, you may not need surgery, but you should still see your doctor periodically for check-ups.  It’s no different with a love relationship that could use a check-up. Lose the stigma you have about counseling – and go.  A counselor is simply an anonymous friend who can help you get your relationship on a good track. Also, a good counselor is not going to chastise you or side with your girlfriend.

Also, remember this rule: “Whoever is hurt is the one who is suffering.” Stop focusing on who is right and wrong, and focus on the fact that your girlfriend is hurt.  This is your partner, not your sister. Your girlfriend wants to be with you. She cares about you. If she didn’t, then she wouldn’t be working so hard to keep the relationship going.

Message to the girlfriend:

If your boyfriend has refused to work on the relationship, show him that YOU are trying to work on it.  Read relationship books or E-books (look on Amazon) in the presence of your man (in 15-minute chunks, max).  This is a tactful and subtle hint without being a “bitch.”  Most men are open to being read to, because it doesn’t feel like a personal attack. This strategy may spark your boyfriend’s interest to engage in conversation about what you’re reading and inspire him to want to read along, or at least read a chapter or section. Try it! You've got nothing to lose here.

In addition, understand that you have already tried talking about the relationship problems many times now – and have been ignored. Thus, bringing it up in the same context isn’t going to help.  Your first temptation may be to do so louder or with a drastic ultimatum.  Don’t do either.  The problem may be something your boyfriend will never change – and maybe can’t change even if he wanted to. Who knows?  It’s important to realize that potential reality and not feel “entitled” to him changing. If the two of you are meant to be together, then it will happen regardless of your efforts to “fix” the relationship.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Signs That Your Neurotypical Wife Is Becoming Bitter: Tips For Asperger’s Husbands

If you are a husband with Asperger’s (high functioning autism) who is married to a neurotypical (i.e., non-autistic) wife, you know that marriage is not always a walk in the park. When the honeymoon phase disappears, and your wife starts to get frustrated with some of the symptoms you have that are associated with the disorder, there are bound to be disagreements. But, when disputes and friction start to overshadow the positive aspects of the marriage, there is a bigger problem looming: BITTERNESS.

How can you differentiate between (a) day-to-day, normal instances of irritation and (b) signs that your wife is becoming bitter?

Bitterness builds up over time. Similar to rust, it silently eats away at the marriage. Once bitterness enters the picture, a fair amount of damage has already been done. Due to the damaging effects bitterness can have on the marriage, it’s important to recognize the signs that your wife is becoming bitter.

There are so many Asperger’s traits that can become sources of bitterness (e.g., perceived lack of intimacy, lack of empathy, problems with equal distribution of chores, lack of desire for sex, issues with friends or other family members, differences in social preferences, etc.) that it can be nearly impossible to go back and “fix” the problem(s) once bitterness has taken root. In any event, it's up to you and your wife to pinpoint the source and work on it together through open, honest communication.

Here are some signs that your neurotypical wife is feeling bitter about something:

1. An Increase in Heated Arguments— It's one thing to have day-to-day disagreements that naturally crop up in a marriage. But, when arguments become more frequent and intense, you should take time to evaluate whether something deeper is at play. If the arguments are now becoming a way for both parties to seek revenge, and things are said that are doing real damage, then the problems are clearly worsening – and even more bitterness is likely bubbling over. “Mean-spirited” arguments are a sign that the two of you are no longer engaging in communication, but have built up walls to shut the other person out.

2. Depression— All marriages have moments of sadness (e.g., dealing with job loss or the death of a loved one). But, full-blown depression is a different animal, and can mean any number of things. If your wife is feeling depressed as a direct result of her bitterness — and the hurts have piled up over time — that is a sure sign that you on well on your way to a divorce (unless you become proactive).

3. More Time Spent Apart— Withdrawal is a natural response to feeling bitter. If your wife is spending more and more time away from home, or is now sleeping in the other bedroom, then you can rest assure that bitterness is taking root.

4. No Affection— If you and your wife used to show affection, but you notice that the hugs and kisses are scarce nowadays, this is a “red flag.” It is a sure sign that the level of bitterness has escalated to the point where one or both of you has simply left the relationship in an emotion sense (even though the two of you may still be living in the same house).

5. No Anniversary Celebration— Spouses are supposed to support one another, so it can be a big slap in the face if the two of you don't show enthusiasm about celebrating your wedding anniversary anymore. It‘s extremely heartbreaking when one of the spouses “forgets” the anniversary – or even worse, when he or she consciously knows it's the anniversary, but purposely will not celebrate it. Events that were once important to both of you – but are now met with a lack of enthusiasm – it is a sign of bitterness and resentment.

6. No Hope— Your wife may have temporarily felt helpless back in the day, yet believed that there was a way to salvage things. However, now she has moved from helplessness to hopelessness. Hopelessness has much more of a feeling of gloom, because the wife becomes convinced that things will NEVER ever get better. If the two of you can't look ahead to the future with a sense of excitement for what's to come, it's a sign that there is some major bitterness revealing itself.

7. No Sex— Withholding sex is a form of revenge for a series of perceived slights. Refusing to be intimate as a result of bitterness widens the gap between each of you and is a sure sign that the end may be in sight (unless there is an intervention of some kind).

If you've noticed any of these indicators in your marriage, then seeking professional help is greatly needed. The deeper the bitterness – and the longer your wife has experienced it – the less likely counseling will “save” the marriage. Seek the assistance of a professional counselor who is experienced and trained to help couples affected by autism spectrum disorders. The sooner you get assistance, the sooner you can limit further damage and begin to see what can be salvaged.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Making Sense of “Odd” Asperger’s Behavior

Adults with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often display advanced abilities in language, reading, mathematics, spatial skills, and music (just to name a few) – sometimes into the "gifted" range. But, this is often offset by significant problems in other areas – especially in the social realm. This combination of strengths and weaknesses can lead to problems with spouses, and even employees. “Aspies” appear perfectly “normal” (for the lack of a better term); however, on closer inspection, several problematic issues related to the traits associated with disorder reveal themselves. 

Here are a few of the misunderstandings associated with AS and HFA:

Misunderstanding #1—

The AS or HFA employee may be regarded by employers as a "poor performer." The employee’s low tolerance for what he perceives to be boring and mundane tasks can easily become frustrating for him, resulting in his refusal to complete certain tasks (or do them slowly). Consequently, employers may well consider the Aspie to be lazy, arrogant and/or insubordinate. This “misunderstanding” often results in a “power-struggle” between the Aspie and his boss, and in combination with the Aspie’s anxieties, can result in problematic behaviors (e.g., angry outbursts, withdrawal, absenteeism, walking out on the job, etc.).

Misunderstanding #2—

Two traits often found in adults on the spectrum are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the person’s ability to empathize with others. As a result, he may be perceived by partners/spouses and fellow employees as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Misunderstanding #3—

An issue related to alexithymia involves the inability to identify and control strong emotions (e.g., sadness, anger, etc.). This leaves the individual prone to sudden emotional outbursts (e.g., meltdowns), or bouts of withdrawal (e.g., shutdowns). The inability to express feelings using words may also predispose the Aspie to use physical acts (e.g., destruction of property) to articulate his mood and release “emotional energy.” All of these traits may give others the impression that the Aspie is emotionally unstable, rude, self-centered, or simply unwilling to work on relationship problems in a respectful and rational manner.

Misunderstanding #4—

People on the autism spectrum often report a feeling of being “unwillingly detached” from the environment (e.g., at home, work, school, etc.). They often have difficulty making friends due to poor social skills. The complexity and inconsistency of the social world can pose an extreme challenge for these individuals. Accordingly, feeling incapable of winning and keeping friends, they prefer to engage in solitary activities. As a result, partners/spouses and fellow employees often view the Aspie as “self-absorbed” and “narcissistic.”

Misunderstanding #5—

Aspies may be overly literal and may have difficulty interpreting and responding to sarcasm, banter, or metaphorical speech. Difficulties with social interaction may also be manifest in a lack of small talk and humor. These problems can be severe or mild depending on the person. Due to their idiosyncratic behavior, precise language, unusual interests, and impaired ability to perceive and respond in socially expected ways to nonverbal cues – particularly in interpersonal conflict – Aspies are often the target of bullying in the workplace and branded as "odd.”

Making sense of “odd” behavior:

The obsessive-compulsive approach to life results in the narrow range of interests and insistence on set routines typical of adults on the spectrum. However, it usually starts as a cognitive (i.e., thinking) issue before it becomes a behavioral one. Cognitive issues, such as the inability to take someone else's perspective (i.e., mindblindness) and the lack of cognitive flexibility (e.g., black-and-white thinking) can cause many of the behaviors we see in these individuals. We know there is a cognitive element by looking at the Aspie’s behaviors. There is always some distress, anxiety, or obsession manifested in every “inappropriate” behavior.

The Aspie’s cognitive difficulties may lead to inaccurate interpretations and understanding of the world. How someone interprets a situation determines how he will respond to it. Many times the interpretation of an event is either not an accurate one, or not one that leads to positive or prosocial actions. If the event can be reinterpreted for the Aspie, it can lead to a more productive outcome. In doing this, partners/spouses and employees must first try to understand how the Aspie interprets a situation. All of his behaviors are filtered through his perception of the way the world works.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Tips for Discouraged Neurotypical Spouses: Are You Really Married or Simply Cohabitating?

In a true marriage, there exists an "us" or a "we" factor. In other words, your spouse (a) is your spiritual partner or soulmate, (b) is mostly on the same page with you on the issues of values, beliefs, parenting, etc., (c) is in tune with how you feel (e.g., knows when something is bothering you and inquiries about it), (d) shares some of the same friends that you do, (e) is a helpmate (e.g., helps around the house and/or helps pay bills, provides reassurance and comfort in your times of need, etc.). This is in no way an exhaustive list; many other factors are equally as important.

Unfortunately, in working with couples where one spouse is affected by an autism spectrum disorder (i.e., Asperger's of high-functioning autism), I have learned that some NT (i.e, non-autistic) spouses who are considering a divorce feel that they have never had a marriage that was anything more than two people living together and meeting their individual needs. Many of these couples have shared a home and raised kids, but they participated in those activities from an independent rather than united position (e.g., they are in close proximity to one another since they live in the same house, but are emotionally distant).

One NT partner stated that she had a difficult time admitting that her marriage of 18 years was in fact in name only, even though they had raised a child and lived under the label of wife and husband. Their son, who went off to college at age 19, seemed to be the only factor that held the relationship together. When their son “flew the coop,” a huge void became evident. This resulted in the two of them threatening to divorce every few weeks, and they seemed to have a daily ritual of arguing. This pattern remained despite the fact that they had attended numerous “couple’s therapy” sessions. Eventually, the wife was able to admit to herself that she was neither married nor single. She stated, “I felt like I was nowhere.” This was the point at which she started the real divorce process.

If you are contemplating separation or divorce, you would do well to ask yourself the following questions:
  • Am I ready for divorce, or am I just threatening to do it?
  • Am I willing to take control of my life in a responsible fashion?
  • Can I handle the unpleasant consequences of divorce?
  • Do I still have feelings for my spouse?
  • Am I simply being emotionally reactive, or is this a genuine decision based on some serious soul-searching?
  • What is my true motivation for wanting a divorce?

After answering the questions above, if you still believe that you are in a marriage that has no genuine "us" factor, then this may be a good time to either commit to learning how to do that, or admit that you never really had a marriage – and move on. Life is simply too short to just “go through the motions” of having a mutually loving, caring relationship.  

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
Comment from a frustrated wife: 

I am wondering why I continue to research solutions when my partner is not open to actually resolving anything. Our situation is complex as I am sure all of your clients situations must be. I am tired and definitely resentful to the point where I am contemplating leaving but consider the children and the the finances as being the main reasons to continue to endure. At this point you probably can guess that I am the neurotypical female, also highly empathetic, with an undiagnosed aspergers partner. Except that he is not really a partner even after 4.5 years. We have a 2 yr old daughter and two children from prior relationships who are both 8.5 yrs old. We are in a domestic partnership and have been engaged for four years. I have not married him because of many emotional, physical, and social problems. We are a specially blended family with the added complication of a diagnosed aspergers, ocd, and gad son. His son is a huge issue because the dynamics of co- parenting have never reached a compromised equilibrium.

This is a huge disconnect with the children and my partner has been physically abusive to me, yet he refuses to admit he has a problem and even blames me for his sons meltdowns, which often trigger verbal or physical abuse towards me. I am an educated person in a cycle of domestic abuse. Any communication that occurs between us results in his stonewalling, verbal abuse, and circular gaslighting blame. His projection issues have taken a toll on my mental well being, soul, and ability to be the mother I want to be. I guess I just really needed to write this out because I know that the time we have left is calculated and will result in an eventual division. I often wonder if maybe he is actually a narcissist and does not have aspergers at all. However, I have done extensive research which has helped me understand the children that I teach as an educator, but his inability to accept his own deficits, and my attempts at communicating them have resulted in additional mental anguish and trauma for me and the children.

I suppose what I have read in your book has really been a review of the various years of research that I have done alone. And I have come to the frightening conclusion (Johann Wolfgang von goethe) that I cannot mend the relationship for both people because he is unwilling to accept any responsibility and blames or insults me when I try to communicate. I believe the verbal abuse hurts the most because it has become part of my internal dialogue and it is invisible, much like the plague of social complications that people with aspergers deal with each day. I am mentally exhausted and I suppose I know that there is no hope for our relationship because I value it as a priority, while he uses me as a crutch for life.

Overall I do believe he is very controlling and micromanaging in an obsessive manner and he projects this issue onto me. He is a passive parent and only thinks of his son with aspergers, refusing to look at the well being of the entire family. Yet I am blamed for his meltdowns and his sons. No matter how passive I am or how much I "shut my mouth" No credit is received for any attempt at adopting his laissez-faire parenting style. So I retreat and try very hard to maintain some sort of normalcy in a world crumbling into the hell that we call a home.

Your ebook would have been far more helpful to our relationship 3 years ago, but hindsight is of course 20/20. I guess I gathered the research and facts and accepted them for some time, but I suppose if a man has self-medicating issues and refuses to seek true help, there is no solution only heartache. Your book was a review, and for that I am thankful because I have seen this through to "inevitable catastrophe" Andrew Boyd...

I do want you to know that in my experience aspergers men who are single children have an inflated sense of entitlement and extreme insecurity. His rigid logic also employs chauvinism and belittling of women, including female children. He often confuses and projects his past marriage issues onto me. Yet he will pretend to be all for equality between genders publicly, while imposing  double standards and oppressive behavior privately. I believe this was learned environmentally from his doting and overly involved parents. I would love for him to employ your strategies and even sent him a copy of the ebook, but he only reads science fiction and scans every other piece of text in brevity to appease my nagging desperation.

Thank you for the review. I am sure I will reread it as needed in the future as he will always be in my life because we have a young daughter together. I hope he will read your book and seek help to understand his condition and to become a better father in the future.

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