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Denying the Diagnosis of Asperger's

"My husband has an Aspergers diagnosis, but he still denies he has the disorder. The diagnosis came a year after we separated - following my son’s diagnosis. My husband no longer wants to work on our marriage and has given up. The divorce paperwork has been initiated. Is it common for a person with Aspergers to refuse to accept the diagnosis and its impact in the relationship?"

No one wants to accept the idea of a lifelong disorder that makes him or her "different." When a spouse (or girlfriend) suggests to her partner that he "may" have Asperger's, it is not uncommon for the man to deny the possibility - and to refuse to seek a formal diagnosis. Instead, he may blame his partner for the problems in the relationship.

Some men go through divorce, job loss, and years of anxiety and depression before they accept the possibility that there may be an underlying issue which explains why their life has taken the odd twists and turns it has. Then - and only then - will these "on the fence" individuals consider seeking a diagnosis. And even then, they may refuse treatment (e.g., counseling), assuming they can "wing it" on their own without any outside assistance.

The "Aspie" can have several reactions to the diagnosis:
  • He may react by minimizing it. In this case, he doesn't view Asperger's as something to be taken very seriously, and views himself as someone who  simply "thinks differently." 
  • He may react by emphasizing the diagnosis. Now, his disorder defines him as a person and becomes an uncontrollable force that dominates his entire life. He may even come to believe that his spouse or girlfriend must become his caretaker since he has a "disability." Rather than recognizing the many "positives" associated with the disorder, he instead focuses on the worst aspects.
  • He may respond positively, identifying the many constructive features of the disorder. Here, the individual embraces the diagnosis, is happy to finally find an explanation for the troubles he has endured, and attempts to take control of the challenges that arise along the way. Now that he has identified "the problem," he can work on his deficits AND capitalize on his strengths.

Many newly diagnosed individuals go through a wide range of emotions (e.g., disappointment, anger, fear, etc.). Some feel isolated, as if they are the only ones with the disorder. Still others are outraged that they have been singled out from the rest of the population.

The most common reaction to the diagnosis for the "neurotypical" partner is relief, because she finally and gratefully understands that she is not to blame for the relationship problems that have occurred. Also, she now has an explanation (not an excuse) for why her partner has said and done so many "hurtful" things in the past. She is grateful that it's "just" Asperger's, because she had come to believe that she was insane.

In any event, you really only have three choices: (1) continue to try to change your husband (good luck with that one), (2) take on more responsibility for the relationship than he does (not recommended), or (3) take care of your sanity in any way that seems appropriate to you.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

The Easily Frustrated Aspie

Is it common for people with Asperger's to become frequently overwhelmed and frustrated over seemingly insignificant matters -- that is, things that typically would not bother anyone else?

People with Asperger's are indeed easily frustrated by certain circumstances. They may become overwhelmed by minimal change and very reactive to unwanted environmental stimuli. They typically like everything to stay the same.

In addition, they tend to get anxious and worry obsessively when they don't know what to expect. Tension, exhaustion and sensory-overload often throw them off balance. Thus, they may seem to be disturbed about a lot of things

Some "Aspies" find work very stressful, but they tend to keep their emotions bottled-up until they get home. Most of these individuals don't display the body language and facial expressions you would expect to see when one is feeling anxious or upset. While they may appear relatively calm at work, they are often experiencing very different emotions under the surface – and may release those pent-up emotions in the safety of their home.

Due to difficulties with empathizing, many adults on the spectrum don't recognize the suffering of others. So, when they attack another person, they may not be able to fully comprehend the damage they inflict.

Low-frustration tolerance may occur due to any of the following:

Sensory integration dysfunctions
Rigid or inflexible thinking
Resistance to change
Hypersensitivity to sensory input
Executive functioning disruption 
Difficulty with social comprehension
Difficulty understanding cause and effect 
Difficulty identifying and controlling emotions 

Some of the traits associated with the disorder (e.g., mind-blindness, sensory sensitivities, literal thinking, social skills deficits, etc.) may result in the Aspie viewing the world as a cold and hostile place. They may develop a habit of attributing hostile intentions to others. More on this topic here ==> https://youtu.be/P1izup2uX3U

Those Aspies who have had some luck controlling their tendencies toward becoming easily frustrated have usually learned to do some of the following:
  • recognize angry feelings in themselves and others
  • self-calming techniques
  • how to remove themselves from a frustrating situation 
  • how to problem solve
  • how to control angry impulses
  • how to avoid being a victim of someone else's angry actions
  • express anger nonviolently
  • communicate angry feelings in a positive way

Many adults on the spectrum have been known to experience meltdowns. Think of a meltdown as an “escape mechanism.” If the Aspie has the means to get himself out of a highly frustrating situation before it becomes overwhelming, the cognitive and emotional pressure lessens. But, without these means of escape, the anxiety will escalate, and his body will begin to panic, propelling him toward a meltdown.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

How to Stay Out of the Doghouse with Your Neurotypical Wife

As married men with Asperger’s, we are often in the dog house with our wives. You’ve heard it all before – right?! We’re selfish, uncaring and insensitive… We don’t show enough affection… We’re self-absorbed and aloof… and the list goes on and on.

Even when our wives educate themselves about the disorder and why we do some of the things we do – we are still on the hook. We “should” be able to do better. We “should” try harder. We “should” be able to manage some of these pesky Asperger’s traits.

In any event, there are some things we can do to at least give the semblance of “normalcy.” I’m of the opinion that if you don’t “get it” (a popular term used by angry neurotypical wives), you can, in many cases, “act as if” you DO get it.

Through many years of trial and error, I’ve discovered a few tricks that tend to keep me out of the dog house (most of the time anyway). So, pay attention. Below are 7 simple things I do that help my wife extend a measure of grace and mercy such that I’m not perpetually in trouble with her. Take notes. You’re welcome.

1. I try to spend as much time with family as possible (although it still is not enough to totally satisfy her). The key though is to spend quality time (quantity doesn’t seem to matter as much). For example, my wife would rather have 20 minutes with me where I have my cell phone turned off than have me around for 2 hours while I’m distracted by something else. She says this makes her feel appreciated – and helps our kids feel special, too.

2. I’m not big on affection, but I know it’s very VERY important to my wife. So, I MAKE SURE to give her at least one hug and/or kiss each day. I will also make a point to hold her hand when we are shopping… put my arm around her while we’re watching TV… rub her shoulders while she is doing the dishes… and other things that involve physical touch.

3. I try to remember special occasions (they are entered into an app on my cell phone). Remembering her birthday, our anniversary, and other special dates has saved me a lot of heartache. I’ve missed a few of these important dates back in the day, and it resulted in holy hell.

4. Having fun and playing with the kids is a big marriage-saver. When my wife sees me playing with our kids, it is a big “turn on” for some reason. She is very conscience of the fact that our kids need attention from both parents for important emotional development.

5. Periodically, I will give my wife a small gift for no reason (other than for a random act of kindness). So, when I can afford a nice little gift here and there, I do it. This may sound like an odd gift, but she loves those huge garlic pickles that you can get at the state fair. You know -  those quarter-pounders?! So, I surprised her with a couple of those a few weeks ago (and definitely got some bonus points on her score card – LOL).

6. I make an effort to compliment her a few times a week. For example, she already knows that I think she is still beautiful, but she can never hear it enough.

7. Finally, I clean anything that needs to be cleaned. When I do any single chore that she doesn't have to do, she is less bogged down. Her “to do” lists are never ending. But when I help out with a couple of those items, she feels less stressed. Happy wife – happy life!

Making my wife happy has a lot more to do with performing in everyday life and less about performing in the bedroom. Showing her that I love her every day by touching her, relieving her of some of her duties, and spending some time with the kids has real dividends. Try it.

Mitch G. ~ York, Pennsylvania


Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Discouraged "Neurotypical" Wife Speaks Out

My husband has Asperger’s. It's stressful and I'm exhausted. The 'support' groups I’ve joined basically say the same thing: 'It's not his fault, accept him for who he is.' He’s selfish, rude, and throws tantrums like a 3 year old to get his way. I feel like I’m raising a second child that will never grow up. I am worn out, sad, and lonely. 

I feel I’m losing my 'self' through all of this and I just don’t have any strength left to fight. I'm the one that has to handle everything, and there is never someone there to help me. I have pushed aside my friends when it comes to social gatherings because my husband always seems so disengaged at these events. He denies that anything is wrong and won’t seek help. 

An outsider looking in would see a man who is very smart, but emotionally flat. The outsider would probably feel sorry for him for having a fat, angry and horrified wife -- and have no idea that when she married him, she was pretty, healthy, funny and cheerful. He took all of these things from me. 

When at home, he is a 'cold fish' and seems resentful if family needs his help. As he has gotten older, he is more controlling. He rarely shows compassion for us, while claiming we are the center of his world.  I didn't realize what was happening to me because I loved him. It was like a slow leak that you don’t recognize until it is too late. 

I have blamed myself for everything – every blow up, every sigh he generates, every look of disgust, the fact we are not sexual or even affectionate. The fact he doesn’t 'get it' makes it all the more head-banging frustrating. I just started taking anxiety medication. I am literally going crazy. 

I'm so sick of hearing, ‘He can’t help it. He's unaware of it. He's wired different. Have more understanding. Imagine what it is like to be him.' I guess I'm a terrible wife for not being more understanding. 

I get tired of all those people saying how interesting, talented, and special people with Asperger's are. I’m sure they are in some situations. But, it simply does not work if you want an intimate and warm relationship. ~ The End




==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Why I Am Glad I Got Diagnosed

Hey guys, my name is Matt and I have been diagnosed with AS. When I first started dating my current girlfriend, she suggested that I may have AS. She had pointed to certain behaviors of mine that drove her crazy, and said she would like me to get a professional opinion and, ideally, some help. 

I wondered, "Could she be right?" So I got online and did a bit of my own research. Almost immediately, I had the thought, "Hmm, I think I could have it – I've got a lot of those damn traits." So I set up an appointment for an assessment, and sure enough, I met enough of the criteria to receive the diagnosis.

Getting a diagnosis removed the mystery and diminished the shame I carried around for being "a bit weird.” I have begun the process of learning to live more adaptively with an AS brain. I have felt "different" my whole life. Now, I'm hoping to find a community of individuals who get who I am, how I think, and even how I feel. A diagnosis of AS has given me the push I needed to get in touch with support groups and connect with that community.

I've been called "obsessive," but I felt I was just very interested in one incredibly remarkable subject -- automation engineering. I wanted to figure out whether I was right or wrong, and make a good decision about whether to try to expand my interests. 

Now that I know I have AS, I don't feel the need to have a wide range of interests just to please other people. I've learned that people with AS typically only have one or two special interests. So, now I understand why I put so much attention on automation engineering.

I figure that if I didn't get the "AS" label, then I would be leaving it to everyone in the community to give me the label of their choice (e.g., odd, self-absorbed, rude, and so on). A diagnosis helps others in my life to understand me and respond differently to my “odd” behavior. It also has provided a framework for labeling, understanding and learning about behavioral and emotional challenges that have been baffling to me up to this point.

It’s never too late to increase self-awareness in order to capitalize on strengths and work around areas of challenge. Knowing about AS gives me an explanation, not an excuse, for why my life has taken the twists and turns that it has.

The bottom line for me is that I am tired of suffering the consequences of being constantly misunderstood. When the people close to me are able to understand that there is a reason for my quirks and difficulties, it's much easier for them to empathize with my situation.

I've pretty much done a life review. I've disclosed to a few family members, friends and co-workers that I have the disorder. Now I understand why certain careers and relationships have - and have not - been successful for me in the past. And I have tried to repair a few relationships that have been negatively affected by my disorder.

If you have AS and don’t know, it affects you anyway. But, if you do know, you can minimize the negative impact and leverage the positive. That's my current mission.

Matt

Living With An Aspergers Partner: eBook, Audio Instruction, and Couples Counseling

What I’ve Learned About Me: Self-Confessions of an Aspie

I’ve often been accused of being “unsociable.” I don’t mean in the sense that I’m “criminal-minded” or out to get people or do them harm. I mean I tend to feel awkward in social situations, and as a result, I try to avoid some interpersonal encounters.

I’ve discovered that my tendency to be unsociable is a form of extreme self-focus – a preoccupation with my thoughts, feelings and physical reactions. When I talk about being unsociable, I’m referring to three traits that involve a sense of self: self-consciousness, self-preoccupation, and self-evaluation.

I do indeed have difficulty meeting people, initiating and maintaining conversations, deepening intimacy, interacting in small groups and in authority situations, and with asserting myself. I don't take advantage of social situations, never go out on a date, am less expressive verbally and non-verbally, and have little interest in other people. If this makes me unsociable, then so be it.

Part of me truly wants to be more outgoing and approachable, but I’m slow to warm up in social situations. I may go to an event and stay 10 minutes, then leave. I know this is a mistake because I haven’t given myself enough time to “warm up.” If a party starts at 7 p.m., I’ll go at 8 p.m. But showing up late actually works to my disadvantage. I should show up early (maybe at 6:30 p.m.), get used to the surroundings and greet people one-on-one as they arrive, so that by 7 p.m., I’m comfortable.

I have what I call a “small comfort zone.” I have friends and a social network – but it’s a very small circle. I tend to do the same things with the same people again and again, because I feel at ease in a situation I know. I don’t like to try new situations, and I purposely restrict my contacts. I may be at a social function and see someone new I’d like to talk to, but I won’t step-out of my comfort zone.

One of the negative consequences of being this way is that I’m under-employed – stuck in a job that requires less skill than I truly have. I’ve tried to force myself to be more sociable, but I come off as so awkward that it usually backfires in some way. For example, if I’m at a party or event, I think all I have to do is initiate a conversation. But that’s just the first step. I have trouble taking the next steps (i.e., actively listening to the other person, responding to his or her comments, connecting their experience to mine, and so on).

People tend to think of my lack of sociability as a negative trait, but that’s because they don’t understand it. I talk about becoming “successfully unsociable.” It involves realizing that there’s nothing wrong with me. Most people don’t care about me, they care about themselves. It’s very liberating to realize this.

The fact that I’m not very outgoing doesn’t mean my personal achievements are limited. I’m good at what I do and do have a few close relationships. Staying mostly to oneself is not a disorder. I’m ok with me. If I come across as uncaring, selfish, or cold, it’s not my intent. I’m simply reducing my anxiety level. And as I mentioned, part of me does want to be more outgoing, and I’ll continue to work on that. But, in the meantime, I’ll do what I have to do to take care of me.  ~  Anthony

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Asperger's and Poor Time-Management Skills

"What can be done about an Asperger's partner who does not have any concept of time? He never estimates time correctly. Today he texted to tell me he would call me on my lunch break for our normal afternoon talk "in 10 minutes." That was an 45 minutes ago.  This happens several times a week! He could spend an hour at the grocery when it should only take 20 minutes. And when we have to leave the house to go somewhere, he's never ready when I am, so we end up late to most things."

Here are some tips for the "Aspie" with poor time-management skills:

1. Allow natural consequences to do their magic. For example, if you have two cars, tell your partner what time you plan to leave for whatever you're supposed to be leaving for, and when you're ready to go, gently say, "I'm ready to leave and you are welcome to meet me (wherever it is you're going), but I'm leaving with or without you." Do this in a non-confrontational manner -- just matter of fact and without emotion. Natural consequences often help Aspies learn better time-management.

2. Have clocks visibly placed throughout the house. Sometimes when Aspies are so engrossed in their "special interest" (e.g., surfing the Internet), they lose track of time. In this case, having a huge clock in front of his computer will keep him aware of the time at the moment.

3. Help your partner learn to be "early" to things. If he targets to be "on time," he will either be on time or late. Most of the time, he will be late. However, if he targets to be early, he will most likely be on time. 

4. Put alarms into his cell phone to tell him when to leave for important things (e.g., picking up the kids from school, going to an important meeting, etc.). 

5. Suggest to your partner that he create a daily plan. He can plan his day before it unfolds. He can do this in the morning -- or even better, the night before. The plan will give him a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, he doesn’t get caught off guard. 

6. Aspies with poor time-management skills often have poor organization skills as well. So, here are some important tips to help in this area: Organization Skills for Autistic Adults 
7. Another area of challenge for Aspies that is also related to poor time-management is problems with executive function. Here are some suggestions to help in this area: Asperger's and Problems with Executive Function

Best of luck!

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

How to Improve Relationships with Women: Help for Men with Asperger Syndrome

Hey guys,

My name is Rich. I'm 49 years old and have Asperger's.

Are you a man with Asperger's who would really like to date a member of the opposite sex, but simply cannot get even one lady to go out with you? Or perhaps you have been on a few dates, but they never resulted in a quality boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Maybe you are in a relationship with a lady, but for multiple reasons, it's just not working out the way you had hoped. Or possibly you are a married, but your wife frequently complains about your attitude and behavior (some of which is purely the result of your disorder). Maybe your wife has become so unhappy that she is now considering divorce.

In any event, if you are frustrated with relationships because you can't seem to do anything right (at least according to your partner), then why go another day in this chronic misery. There are a lot of things that can be done to help your situation.

I thought I knew everything there was to know about my disorder. But when I read an e-book on the subject, I realized I only knew a fraction of what was really going on with me. I'm referring to the e-book entitled "Living with an Asperger's Partner." As I read through the material, it was as if the author had been following me around my entire life. There was so much of me described in the content. I finally realized why my life had taken so many odd twists and turns. I also realized why my wife of 15 years was so frustrated with me, to the point of threatening divorce (which was a wake-up call for me to do something about her complaints).

Of course, there are many traits associated with Asperger's that simply cannot be fixed (so to speak). But I learned that there are a lot of traits -- the negative ones that cause so many problems in relationships -- that I can do something about. I'm not a victim of my disorder. But I was one of those individuals that had to learn the needed changes. They never would have come naturally to me.

I was in denial for many years that I even had the disorder. And even when it was revealed that I indeed do have Asperger's, I still blamed my wife for many of the problems we had. This blaming part alone was perhaps the number one obstacle to a quality relationship with my wife. 

She has always been willing to work with me, but only up to a point. I would often cross the line (so to speak) and end up hurting her feelings (unintentionally) and making her feel like she was unloved and unappreciated. This is where some education about my disorder as it relates to relationships came in very handy. Because as you may know, one of the traits associated with Asperger's is "difficulty with empathy." I say "difficulty" not "inability." I've always had empathy, I just didn't show it, nor did I realize how important it was to show it. This is something that I had to learn, and that's okay.

My wife doesn't expect me to be perfect. She knows about the disorder and understands I have my limitations. But she does expect me to work harder than I did originally (on those areas where some improvements can be made). One of my online friends who also has Asperger's once stated, "The big problem for me is that I would have to work twice as hard as everybody else just to be 'average'." My reply: "Then work twice as hard!"

There are a lot of issues that we as men on the autism spectrum have to deal with. But if we do not educate ourselves about these issues, we are doomed to repeatedly make relationship mistakes, and thus experience relationship headaches.

Are you familiar with the "theory of mind" concept and how it affects relationships? Did you know that we, as men with Asperger's, have problems with executive functioning? Have you figured out that our issues with anxiety and depression also play a role in relationship problems? Do you understand "mind blindness" and how it can destroy a marriage? 

You can think of Asperger's as "a disorder that negatively affects relationships." Where do we have most of our problems? It's not with our special areas of interest. We are experts in those areas. It's not with our employment. Most of us are excellent employees and breadwinners. It's not with academics. Many people with Asperger's are the smartest students in the classroom. If we want to be honest with ourselves, the major problems have always been in social functioning. 

Many of us, when we were younger, had great difficulty finding and keeping friends. Some of us were a bit quirky as teenagers and got ostracized from the peer group. We may have been teased, bullied, and emotionally abused. And many of us have carried those scars into adulthood and into adult relationships. It's not fair, it's not right, but unfortunately those were the cards we were dealt. We have the regrettable task of trying to "fit in" and adjust to people who simply do not think the same way we do. 

If everyone on planet earth had Asperger's syndrome, then there wouldn't be much of a problem. Unfortunately, we are a minority. And we can either choose to (a) isolate as much as possible to avoid interaction with neurotypical people, (b) learn ways to interact with them that they view as mostly appropriate, or (c) continue to interact -- but in our own rather odd ways (the latter being the most stressful approach to existence). 

Some men with Asperger's tend to be closed-minded in that they believe they should not have to make any attitudinal or behavioral changes. They say something like: "The rest of the world can learn to deal with me as I am, or they can go f*** themselves." These are the men that are living alone. These are the men that have burned too many bridges. These are the men that struggle maintaining regular employment and quality relationships. Many spend most of their time on the computer (social media, online gaming, etc.)  in an artificial approach to human interaction. That's not the lifestyle I choose for myself.

My purpose here is to reach out to those precious few men with Asperger's who truly are desiring to improve their relationships. Some of you have no interest in doing that, and that is understandable. However, there are a few of us that need to have a "significant other" in our life. And the only way to keep this person in our life is to keep them happy. As the old saying goes, "happy wife, happy life." I have found this to be so true.

So what should our goal be? I believe we need to (a) change the things in ourselves that we can, (b) accept the things that we cannot change, and (c) learn to distinguish between the two. If you can do that, you are well on your way to repairing any damage to relationships. 

If you prefer not to live alone, then you will hopefully take my advice: learn about yourself, change the negative traits when possible, and definitely capitalize on your strengths.

Rich

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples