“I am married to a man with
Aspergers. I must say this has been the biggest challenge in my entire life.
Although I do love my husband dearly, I am finding myself slipping into
feelings of resentment quite often. What advice would you have for a couple
that is experiencing marital problems due to the fact that one partner’s brain
is wired differently?”
Here are some facts about adults with Aspergers and
High-Functioning Autism that neurotypical (non-Aspergers) spouses need to
A person with Aspergers has
challenges understanding or predicting the consequences of his/her
behavior on others. Therefore, the Aspergers spouse may see the
neurotypical spouse as irrational or illogical.
Aspergers adults, because they
have a hard time separating boundaries at times, may hear criticism of a
family member (e.g., father, mother, sibling) as a criticism of them, and they likely will not be
willing to tolerate it.
Aspergers men in particular may
find conflict almost intolerable. They may hear a difference of opinion
or an attempt to explain a different perspective about a situation as
conflict or a criticism of who they are.
Neurotypical women especially tend
to want their spouse to understand them and their feelings. However,
they need to realize that this is something they may not be able to get
from their Aspergers spouse. Some change may be possible, but the
neurotypical spouse may need to adjust his/her expectation, and find other
places for support without being unrealistic about what they expect from their
The most basic elements of
speaking and hearing are the most important issues that the
Aspergers-Neurotypical couples may have. Aspies often have a very
difficult time hearing negative emotions expressed by their spouse.
They may refuse to communicate, but then end up lashing-out in a very
hurtful way later on.
So what can Aspergers-Neurotypical partners do to
maintain their relationship. Here are some important tips:
Both spouses must make a serious commitment to making
the relationship work. However, the
neurotypical partner is going to have to understand that it will
feel to them that they are the party making more
accommodations. Even if the Aspie accepts and understands their
diagnosis, the truth is that your brains are wired differently. As a
neurotypical partner, you will need to shift from "what is
wrong" about your spouse and the relationship, to "what is
right." You will need to build on the strengths, and value the
differences, versus seeing your spouse as insensitive and uncaring.
spouses need to have an in-depth understanding of Aspergers and how
marital relationships are affected.
is normal, even healthy. Differences between you mean that there are
things you can learn from each other. Often conflict shows us where we can
or need to grow.
often derail a resolution when they try to acknowledge the other spouse's
position, but then add a "but" in their next breath and reaffirm
their position (e.g., “I can understand why you didn't pick up the dishes
in the family room, but why do you think I'm the maid?”).
yourself, whether by vehemently protesting your innocence or rightness or
by turning the tables and attacking, escalates the fight. Instead of
upping the ante, ask for more information, details, and examples. There is
usually some basis for the other person’s complaint. When you meet a
complaint with curiosity, you make room for understanding.
the self-discipline to set limits on your anger and your behavior. If
either of you resort to physical force and violence in your relationship,
seek professional help. Acting out your anger in aggressive ways violates
the other person’s boundaries and sense of safety. Each of us has a right
to be safe and free of abuse or physical danger in our
ends when cooperation begins. Asking politely for suggestions or
alternatives invites collaboration. Careful consideration of options shows
respect. Offering alternatives of your own shows that you also are willing
to try something new.
both “neurotypicals” and “Aspies”: Become students of each other's
culture. Pretend that you are learning a new language from a new
country. If you are an Aspie, remember that, in many ways, your
spouse is from another planet, the neurotypical planet. And if you
are a neurotypical, remember that your Aspergers spouse is from the
Aspergers planet. Celebrate the diversity and the differences.
the Aspergers partner, reconsider your perception of your spouse and of
yourself. Consider that, because of the differences in the way
your brain works, a lot of what your spouse is telling you
about your role in problems is probably right.
the neurotypical partner, shift your focus from what you
are not getting from your Aspergers spouse to see and value the
strengths he or she brings to the relationship.
that adage about always resolving anger before going to bed -- and let
someone sleep on the couch. Going to bed angry is often the
best choice. It allows spouses to clear their thoughts, get some sleep,
and make a date to resume the fight (which might seem less important in
the light of day).
fighting sticks with the issue. Neither party resorts to name calling or
character assassination. It’s enough to deal with the problem without
adding the new problem of hurting each other’s feelings.
statements that include the words “always” and “never” almost always get
you nowhere and never are true. When your spouse has complaints, ask to
move from global comments of exasperation to specific examples so you can
understand exactly what he/she is talking about. When you have complaints,
do your best to give your spouse examples to work with.
the heat of an argument, threatening to leave the relationship is
manipulative and hurtful. It creates anxiety about being abandoned and
undermines your ability to resolve your issues. It quickly erodes your
spouse’s confidence in your commitment to the relationship. Trust is not
easily restored once it is broken in this way. It makes the problems in
your relationship seem much bigger than they need to be.
is best if the diagnosis of Aspergers is made and accepted by the
Aspergers spouse. One of the best things that can happen is for the couple
to seek help from a therapist or marriage coach who understands the unique
differences between Aspies and neurotypicals. If the therapist does
not understand the unique differences, all that will happen is the couple
going back and forth, arguing for their own view of the situation.
And the Aspie will have a hard time understanding his/her impact on the
pointless to blame each other. Blaming your partner distracts you from
solving the problem at hand. It invites your partner to be defensive, and
it escalates the argument.
your spouse down or criticizing your spouse’s character shows disrespect
for his/her dignity. In sports there are many rules that prevent one
player from intentionally injuring another. In marriage and relationships,
similar rules must apply. When you intentionally injure your spouse, it’s
like saying, “You are not safe with me. I will do whatever it takes to
protect myself or to win.”
concessions can turn the situation around. If you give a little, it makes
room for the other person to make concessions too. Small concessions lead
to larger compromises. Compromise doesn’t have to mean that you’re meeting
each other exactly 50-50. Sometimes it’s a 60-40 or even 80-20 agreement.
This isn’t about score-keeping. It’s about finding a solution that is workable
for both of you.
in the present and resist the temptation to use the situation as an
occasion to bring up other issues from the past. It’s discouraging to keep
bringing up the past. You can’t change the past. You can only change
today. You can look forward to a better future. Try to keep your focus on
what can be done today to resolve the issue at hand and go forward from
there. If you get off-topic, on to other issues, stop yourselves and agree
to get back on track. You can always come back to other issues later.
a 1-minute break can help a couple push the reset button on a fight. Stop,
step out of the room, and reconnect when everyone's a little calmer.
louder someone yells, the less likely they are to be heard. Even if your
spouse yells, there’s no need to yell back. Taking the volume down makes
it possible for people to start focusing on the issues instead of reacting
to the noise.
almost always are parts of a conflict that can be points of agreement.
Finding common ground, even if it’s agreeing that there is a problem, is
an important start to finding a common solution.
are two things that derail intense fights: (1) admitting what you did to
get your spouse ticked off, and (2) expressing empathy toward your spouse.
This can be difficult, but typically is extremely successful. Letting down
our defenses in the heat of battle seems counter-intuitive, but is actually
very effective with couples.
comes a point where discussing the matter doesn't help. So couples need to
just hold each other when nothing else seems to be working. Reconnecting
through touch is very important.
words that describe how you feel, and what you want and need, not what
your spouse feels, wants, or believes. It may seem easier to analyze your
spouse than to analyze yourself, but interpreting your spouse’s thoughts,
feelings and motives will distract you from identifying your own underlying
issues, and will likely invite defensiveness from your partner. More
importantly, telling your partner what he/she thinks, believes or wants is
controlling and presumptuous. It is saying that you know your partner’s
inner world better than your partner does. Instead, work on identifying
your own unmet needs, feelings, and ways of thinking and describe these
needs and feelings to your partner.
When one speaks,
the other should be really listening, not just planning their rebuttal.
Take turns speaking and listening so that you both have a chance to say
what you need. Have you ever tried to work through a difficult issue
when your partner was talking over top of you and interrupting you? How
did you feel? Consciously remind yourself about this when you feel an
overwhelming urge to interrupt or speak your mind.
people feel strongly about something, it’s only fair to hear them out.
Respectful listening means acknowledging their feelings, either verbally
or through focused attention. It means never telling someone that he/she
“shouldn’t” feel that way. It means saving your point of view until after
you’ve let the other person know you understand that they feel intensely
about the subject, even if you don’t quite get it.
• Anonymous said... Great article. • Anonymous said... I know EXACTLY how you feel. This is my life in a nutshell. One thing that helps me is to write my thoughts and feelings down, then have him read them. This gives me time to calm down and think about how I want to say something. Also, you need to give logistical reasons for things, at least I do. "I need you to take out the trash because I'm cooking dinner." "It upsets me when you ignore me for video games because it makes me feel like you'd rather play games than be married to me. I'm asking for help because I can't do everything myself." "You cook, I clean. This is our agreement." "You can't be around chemicals, so you have to sweep, vacuum, and do the laundry." Getting emotional usually frustrates and/or shuts my husband down. Once I learned to take a step back, breathe, and think of a reasonable argument in a calm, low tone, things got SO much better. I'm a hot-tempered Texan, so it's not 100%. Ask him what he needs. That really changed my relationship. Also, try reading "Five Love Languages". There's a quiz you can both take that will tell you your love language, which was crazy eye-opening for me and my husband. • Anonymous said... Just try to hang in there. • Anonymous said... Read everything about it, have someone to talk to, have your OWN free time and try to be as rational as you can when you talk to him which you have to do when you know he is in the "listening mode". I'm married to adhd and asperger for 13 years Not easy but very possible! * Anonymous said... My husband says I am his dream girl and he wouldnt change a thing about me. Sure we didnt know I had as when we got married or for years but it sure helps to know and learn how to communicate better. * Anonymous said... I'll talk from your hubsnd's perspective, if you'll permit. Although a person with AS can tell they've angered or disappointed you, they rarely understand why. I'll assume that your husband has the normal high IQ common amongst folks with AS, and if so you can use that to your benefit to help him learn how to relate to you and "behave" in a more neuro-typical way. No one with AS wants conflict or strife, as it only serves to worsen the anxiety and depression that is so common in this disorder. Take the time to explain how his behavior made you feel, and most importantly tell him EXACTLY what you want him to do differently. Try to do so calmly, and at a time that both of you agree is appropriate to discuss the concern. Right when he gets home from work, or just before bed, would not be ideal. • Anonymous said… "am finding myself slipping into feelings of resentment quite often" if you love him.. This comment wouldn't bother you or even spew out your mouth or even come as a thought in your head... that's what true love is. • Anonymous said… Everyone's wired differently and marriage is a journey, a struggle and hard work but also a fantastic experience. The key is two people who want to keep trying. • Anonymous said… Find a support group. It's easy for people to say "everyone is wired differently" but let's be honest - that puts the burden on the non-aspie partner to figure out how to deal because the aspie really cannot contribute to resolving the language barrier that happens in this situation. And there is a significant amount that is lost in translation leaving the non- aspire partner feeling not understood, not cared for and even unloved. My support group was the best thing that ever happened to me. Women who understand what it's like to be married to someone with Aspergers - no one else can even begin to understand the challenge. Many of the people at the adult Asperger's support groups I go to comment that their diagnosis made their marriages to their NT partner much happier. I think the linked article is pretty balanced. It points out that both people in the relationship need to work at understanding the other. The challenges are not because ONE partner "is wired differently", it's because TWO people have brains wired differently to each other. BOTH people in the relationship need to be willing to understand and adapt to each other's outlook. • Anonymous said… I completely understand the feelings. She is asking for advice. She didnt just up and leave. This is an example of true love. She is trying to understand and reach out for help. I agree with David Iverson. • Anonymous said… In my case my wife died before I got my diagnosis. We managed OK for 16 years but a lot of things fell into place in hindsight once I had the diagnosis. There were some arguments that I now understand were down to mutual misunderstanding from our brains being "wired differently" . Or times when we both felt a little unloved or uncared for because we didn't recognise the way the other was expressing their love. I can collate some of those things and ask the guys at the support group for their experiences to get something together. • Anonymous said… It also means being willings to understand what each person needs. That should be made very clear at the outset. This is not about right or wrong....just differences ....and what you can live with and what you can't. • Anonymous said… My partner has aspergers and honestly its not much of a relationship. Its a struggle & he doesn't care. Post your comment below…
My wife suspects that I have Asperger Syndrome. I often wonder the same thing. She's been pushing me to seek a diagnosis. How exactly do they diagnose an adult who may (or may not) have this disorder? And is it ever too late to seek a diagnosis (I’m 32-years-old!)?
It is never too late for you to increase self-awareness in order to capitalize on strengths and work around areas of challenge. Knowing about Aspergers gives you an explanation, not an excuse, for why your life has taken the twists and turns that it has. What you do with this information at the age of 32 is a personal decision, but it is still very important information to have.
When adults come in for a diagnosis, the therapist usually begins the exam with an IQ test. Since Aspergers adults have normal or above normal IQs, this is a good place to start. The therapist also administers an assessment of adaptive skills which tests the client’s ability to manage complex social situations.
Aspergers doesn't suddenly show up when you're 32, so most young people with true Aspergers showed symptoms throughout their childhood. Thus, if a parent is available, a parent interview called the Autism Diagnostic Interview Revised (ADI) is administered. The therapist will be looking at current functioning and early history to get a sense of the client’s skills in social, communication and behavior domains. If parents aren't available, the therapist may ask the client to recall their childhood, asking such questions like “What hobbies did you have?” … “Did you have a lot of friends?” … Where you bullied as a child?” … “What did you enjoy doing?” …etc.
The therapist may also administer the ADOS Module IV (i.e., the autism diagnostic observation schedule; module four is for high-functioning, verbal adults). Along with the ADI, it allows the therapist to look carefully at social and communication skills and behavior. The tests look at such questions as:
Are you interested in the others people’s thoughts and feelings?
Can you have a reciprocal social conversation?
Do you demonstrate insight into relationships?
Do you have odd or over-focused interests?
Do you use appropriate non-verbal gestures and facial expressions?
The test allows the therapist to attach a grade in each domain to determine whether the client meets the criteria for Aspergers.
It's not unusual for a client to come in expecting the diagnosis of Aspergers and to leave with a different diagnosis. Distinguishing between social phobias or shyness and actual impairment with Aspergers can be very tough for a layperson. Other disorders, such as OCD or social anxiety can sometimes look like Aspergers. If the therapist picks up on these other disorders, he/she can recommend appropriate therapy and/or medication.
A diagnosis is primarily used to drive treatment decisions and to make it easier for clinicians to communicate with each other. But in many cases, it can also be an enormous comfort to the adult and his family. As long as a person with Aspergers feels like he is being blamed or criticized for something he doesn’t even understand, he can only be defensive or bewildered. When the people around him feel offended or disrespected, he can only get exasperated, argue, or write them off. But when the thing that makes a relationship difficult is named and understood, it becomes a problem that can be worked on together. That shift can change everything.
COMMENTS: • Anonymous said... Always knew inside but didn't get diagnosis til 52! Definitely helps explain all the train wrecks of my life, but don't know if it will prevent future ones yet. I'm going forward with hope that "knowledge is power" and wishing for the power to find a way to live happily in the mostly NT world. I would encourage you to get a diagnosis, though for adults it's frustrating trying to find someone to do this unless you live in a progressive area. Good luck! • Anonymous said... I also have trouble making eye contact, but I'm getting better each day as I practice more and more. Whenever I get asked to stare someone in the eye, that's when it gets awkward I find. • Anonymous said... I was diagnosed late at age 48. The diagnosis helped to explain a lot of my inner feelings(shy/withdrawn/living in one's own world/almost obsession with certain 'specific' subjects that did particular appeal to me)/outward behaviors(not given to socializing much/not understanding why I'm so damn awkward in public/avoiding parties like it was the plague...-(due to too much over-stimulation)- like I just cannot 'fit in'?!). it gave me the 'why' I do what I do; whereas before I never really quite understood what made me think/feel/act/behave so 'different'; and, now, I feel it all makes perfect sense, and, finally, I know why. This was/is a great big relief; as I feel we all wish to both know/understand ourselves more...and, why we relate to others like we do. For example, When somebody asks me why I'm NOT inclined to go stare them directly in the eyes; I can now-a-days say it's because I suffer from Asperger's; but, that still doesn't mean I cannot 'try' and look them in the eye; some AS people through doing sufficient practice have been able to overcome this. That's why I say 'labels should never ever limit you; because we as human beings are totally and completely limitless, instead; we constantly develop/change/grow.' The person who I was yesterday; might not be the same person who I am today; and, tomorrow, I might have changed yet again. • Anonymous said... Like any other disability, you can't manage what you don't know you have. Getting diagnosed allows you to start learning how to adapt to this neuro-typical world. You'll definitely gain a better understanding of yourself, and why you see the world so differently than other folks. • Anonymous said... my husband was diagnosed age 60yrs old,never too late,both daughters have it too,best thing ever ,hubby glad he got diagnosed too,we understand each other more now, • Anonymous said... My husband wasn't diagnosed till late 30's and it helped make everything fall into place and things started to make sense in certain areas and ways for him. It saved our marriage ! I said to him you either have Aspergers or you are one self centred prick! It could help you both in numerous ways! Please post your comment below…
Social skills are the skills we have to get along with others. Often times, we take our social skills for granted without realizing all the complicated skills we use when we interact with family, friends, coworkers, and so on.
Some of these skills are very basic (e.g., saying hello, smiling, making eye contact). Others are more complex (e.g., negotiation, conflict resolution, etc.). Some adult Aspies learn social skills easily and quickly, whereas others find social interactions more challenging and may need to work on developing their social skills consciously.
Social skills are important for Aspergers (high functioning autistic) adults for a number of reasons. Aspies with good social skills are naturally more popular than their less socially adept peers, which means they have better supports to call on when experiencing difficulties in their lives. Also, well-liked individuals get more “social reinforcement” (i.e., messages from others that they are appreciated and worthwhile), so they tend to have higher self-esteem, which can also help them through tough times.
Aspergers adults often experience social difficulties, social rejection, and interpersonal relationship problems. Such negative interpersonal outcomes cause emotional pain and suffering. They also appear to contribute to the development of co-morbid mood and anxiety disorders.
Because Aspergers is an "invisible disorder," often unrecognized by those who may be unfamiliar with the disorder, socially inappropriate behaviors that are the result of Aspergers symptoms are often attributed to other causes (i.e., people often perceive these behaviors and the individual who commits them as rude, self-centered, irresponsible, lazy, ill-mannered, and a host of other negative personality attributes). Over time, such negative labels lead to social rejection of the Aspie. Social rejection causes emotional pain in the lives of many adults who have Aspergers and can create havoc and lower self-esteem throughout the life span. In relationships/marriages, the “inappropriate” social behavior may anger the neurotypical partner/spouse, who may eventually "burn out" and give up on the relationship/marriage.
Educating individuals with Aspergers, their significant others and their friends about Aspergers and the ways in which it affects social skills and interpersonal behaviors can help alleviate much of the conflict and blame. At the same time, the individual with Aspergers needs to learn strategies to become as proficient as possible in the area of social skills. With proper assessment, treatment and education, adults with Aspergers can learn to interact with others effectively in a way that enhances their
Social skills are generally acquired through incidental learning: watching people, copying the behavior of others, practicing, and getting feedback. Most people start this process during early childhood. Social skills are practiced and honed by "playing grown-up" and through other childhood activities. The finer points of social interactions are sharpened by observation and peer feedback.
Children with Aspergers often miss these details. They may pick up bits and pieces of what is appropriate but lack an overall view of social expectations. Unfortunately, as adults, they often realize "something" is missing but are never quite sure what that "something" may be.
Social acceptance can be viewed as a spiral going up or down. Individuals who exhibit appropriate social skills are rewarded with more approval from those with whom they interact and are encouraged to develop even better social skills. For those with Aspergers, the spiral often goes downward. Their lack of social skills leads to peer-rejection, which then limits opportunities to learn social skills, which leads to more rejection, and so on. Social punishment includes rejection, avoidance, and other, less subtle means of exhibiting one's disapproval towards another person.
It is important to note that people do not often let the offending individual know the nature of the social violation. Pointing out that a “social skill error” is being committed is often considered socially inappropriate. Thus, Aspies are often left on their own to try to improve their social skills without understanding exactly what areas need improvement.
Specific Social Skills—
• A momentary lapse in attention may result in the adult with Aspergers missing important information in a social interaction. If a simple sentence like "Let's meet at the park at noon," becomes simply "Let's meet at noon," the listener with Aspergers misses the crucial information about the location of the meeting. The speaker may become frustrated or annoyed when the listener asks where the meeting will take place, believing that the listener intentionally wasn't paying attention and didn't value what they had to say. Or even worse, the individual with Aspergers goes to the wrong place, yielding confusion and even anger in the partner. Unfortunately, often neither the speaker nor listener realizes that important information has been missed until it is too late.
• Actions speak louder than words. If someone's words say one thing but their actions reveal another, it would be wise to consider that their actions might be revealing their true feelings.
• Be alert to what others are doing. Look around for clues about proper behavior, dress, seating, parking and the like.
• Be aware of body language, tone of voice, behavior, or the look of someone's eyes to better interpret what they are saying.
• Find a guide to help you with this hidden language. Compare your understanding of reality with their understanding of reality. If there is a discrepancy, you might want to try the other person's interpretation and see what happens, especially if you usually get it wrong.
• Learn to interpret polite behavior. Polite behavior often disguises actual feelings.
• Look at a person's choice of words to better detect the subtext. ("I'd love to go" probably means yes. "If you want to" means probably not, but I'll do it.)
• Look for clues in your environment to help you decipher the subtext. Be mindful of alternative possibilities. Be observant.
A related social skills difficulty for many with Aspergers involves missing the subtle nuances of communication. Those with Aspergers will often have difficulty "reading between the lines" or understanding subtext. It is difficult enough for most to attend to the text of conversations without the additional strain of needing to be aware of the subtext and what the person really means. Unfortunately, what is said is often not what is actually meant.
When the social skill areas in need of strengthening have been identified, obtaining a referral to a therapist or coach who understands how Aspergers affects social skills is recommended. Social skills training usually involves instruction, modeling, role-playing, and feedback in a safe setting such as a social skills group run by a therapist. In addition, arranging the environment to provide reminders has proven essential to using the correct social behavior at the opportune moment. These findings suggest that adults with Aspergers wishing to work on their social skills should consider the following elements when seeking an effective intervention. It is important to note that these treatment strategies are suggestions based on clinical practice, rather than empirical research.
1. Aspergers adults should have a positive attitude and be open to the growth of their social skills. It is also important to be open and appreciative of feedback provided by others.
2. Adults with Aspergers may want to pick and work on one goal at a time, based on a self-assessment and the assessments of others. Tackling the skill areas one at a time allows the Aspie to master each skill before moving on to the next.
3. According to social exchange theory, people maintain relationships based on how well those relationships meet their needs. People are not exactly "social accountants," but on some level, people do weigh the costs and benefits of being in relationships. Adults with Aspergers are considered to be "high maintenance." Therefore, it is helpful to see what they can bring to relationships to help balance the equation. Investigators have found that the following are characteristics of highly likeable people: sincere, honest, understanding, loyal, truthful, trustworthy, intelligent, dependable, thoughtful, considerate, reliable, warm, kind, friendly, happy, unselfish, humorous, responsible, cheerful, and trustful. Developing or improving any of the likeability characteristics should help one's social standing.
4. Oftentimes social skills can be significantly improved when there is an understanding of social skills as well as the areas in need of improvement. Reading books on the subject of social skills training can provide some of that knowledge.
5. Adults with Aspergers can learn a great deal by watching others do what they need to learn to do. They may want to try selecting models both at work and in their personal lives to help them grow in this area. Television may also provide role models.
6. Adults with Aspergers can use prompts to stay focused on particular social skill goals. The prompts can be visual (an index card), verbal (someone telling them to be quiet), physical (a vibrating watch set every 4 minutes reminding them to be quiet), or a gesture (someone rubbing their head) to help remind them to work on their social skills.
7. Practicing the skills they need with others is a good way for individuals with Aspergers to receive feedback and consequently improve their social skills.
8. Those who struggle with missing pieces of information during conversation may benefit from developing a system of checking with others what they heard. "I heard you say that. Did I get it right? Is there more?" Or an individual with Aspergers could ask others to check with them after providing important information. "Please tell me what you heard me say." In this way, social errors due to inattention can be avoided.
9. Visualization can be used to gain additional practice and improve one's ability to apply the skill in other settings. Those who need practice in social skills can decide what they want to do and rehearse it in their minds, imagining actually using the skill in the setting they will be in with the people they will actually be interacting with. They can repeat this as many times as possible to help "over-learn" the skill. In this manner, they can gain experience in the "real" world, which will greatly increase the likelihood of their success.
Social skills are like any other kind of skill – they can be learned. How do you know if you need to improve your social skills?
Do you wish that you had more friends but don't know how to go about making them?
Do you think of yourself as a 'loner'?
Do you feel like there's nobody to turn to when you need support?
Do you often feel uncomfortable around other people?
Do you find it hard to know what to say sometimes?
Do you consider yourself a rather shy person?
If you answered yes to any of these, then you may benefit from working on your social skills. The following is a list of basic social skills. Take note of any areas where you might need improvement. We will be discussing each of these areas in greater detail in subsequent posts.
Here are the simple skills involved in conversing and interacting with people on an everyday basis:
Basic politeness (e.g., saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, saying ‘hello’ and ‘good-bye’, etc.)
Making frequent eye contact
Showing "confident" body language (e.g., an open and direct stance, not fidgeting or twisting, etc.)
Showing interest in others (e.g., asking how their day was, how they thought they did on an exam, etc.)
Smiling when greeting people and talking
Here are the skills you use when talking to other people:
Knowing when to disclose personal information and when not to
Listening and showing interest in what the other person has to say
Nodding and smiling to indicate that you are following along
Small talk or being able to chat about unimportant things
Taking turns when talking
Here are many skills involved in making and sustaining friendships:
Approach skills (e.g., being able to go up and start talking to someone who you don't know or don't know well)
Sharing decision making (e.g., not always insisting on having one's way but negotiating about what to do, where to go, etc.)
Showing appropriate affection and appreciation
Maintaining contact (e.g., not expecting the other person to "do all the work" of keeping up the friendship)
Being supportive (e.g., showing concern when your friend is having a hard time)
Allowing distance and closeness (people need time apart as well as together)
Thoughtfulness (e.g., "thinking ahead" about what might be a nice thing to do for your friend)
Empathy means being able to put yourself into someone else's shoes and recognizing their feelings. It is not the same as sympathy or "feeling sorry for someone". Empathy is responding in an understanding and caring way to what others are feeling. Empathic skills include:
Being able to recognize what someone else might be feeling in a given situation
Expressing concern at others' distress
Noticing other people's feelings
Showing sensitivity to others' feelings when communicating (e.g., being tactful when making critical comments when criticism is necessary and/or appropriate)
Social interactions do not always run smoothly. Conflict resolution skills include:
Assertiveness (e.g., being able to say what you are feeling without being aggressive or getting personal)
Negotiation skills (e.g., being able to discuss a conflict calmly and rationally and come to an agreement about a solution)
Principles for learning social skills:
Identify the skill you want to learn and specify the actual behavior, the social group, the setting, and the situation.
Social skills need to be learned in small steps (and only one or two at a time).
Social skills are practiced best in role play situations but are learned best in real-life interactions.
As much as possible, get immediate feedback and reinforcement from others.
Learning social skills takes time.
Although Aspergers certainly brings unique challenges to social relationships, information and resources are available to help adults with Aspergers improve their social skills. Most of this information is based upon sound clinical practice and research. There is a great need for more research on social skills and Aspergers in adults. Seek help through reading, counseling, or coaching and, above all, build and maintain social connections.
One of the best ways to connect with others and build quality relationships is through making conversation. Although most "Aspies" can hold a conversation, only a few are smooth and charismatic when they talk. Working as a “life coach” for teens and adults with Aspergers, I have explored and tested many techniques for improving their conversation skills.
I have come up with 15 simple – but effective – ways to be a good conversationalist. Here they are:
1. Ask good questions. A routine question will evoke a routine response. Thus, "How's it going?" will generally get a "Fine, thanks," or perhaps a "I can't complain." If the purpose of the question is only to acknowledge an acquaintance briefly and move on, your purpose is served. This is the social function of language that the anthropologist Malinowski called "phatic communion," which is nothing more than a brief and superficial verbal connection, the smallest of small talk. However, if you'd prefer a more substantial conversation, you'll need to use a different question to evoke a different response. A deeper and more detailed conversation will certainly be less predictable and probably more interesting, and it will likely have the effect of enriching your relationship.
2. Balance the energy. Think of a conversation as an exchange of energy. Whenever such an exchange takes place, balance is always important. You want the energy going one way to match the energy going the other. This balance is often the missing ingredient in conversations between an Aspie and a neurotypical. To get around this, when the other person is talking, you should be listening. Then, when the other person has stopped talking, it’s your turn to respond. Good conversation implies balance. It is through balancing the energy in conversations that you become able to make them fruitful for the both you. The scientific evidence suggests that balancing our conversation so that everyone gets a turn (who wants a turn) is supportive of social relations. In informal conversation, balance requires that speakers monitor themselves so that they do not dominate by talking too much. It is also important for more quiet people to speak up from time to time so that the talkative ones don't think you are giving up any interest in sharing your ideas. Balancing the talk doesn't require a strict 50-50 distribution. The ratio can be 80-20 and still be balanced, as when one person is mainly interviewing the other who of course will do most of the talking. The key here is not so much the actual time each one talks. It is the taking turns that matters. One person may ask a brief question that requires a long, detailed answer.
3. Be patient with yourself as you go through a “trial and error period” in which you have some good conversations some of the time, and maybe some not-so-good ones at other times. Don’t keep score, just keep trying.
4. Conversational skills don’t improve over night. It takes time, practice and the ability to learn from your own experiences. Additionally, these skills have virtually no limit to how far they can be developed. Considering your relationships constitute one of the fundamental components of your life, it is worth mastering your interpersonal abilities.
5. Express your emotions. It’s very rare to meet people who are comfortable talking about their emotions and how certain things make them feel, especially with strangers. But, this way of talking has real quality. Don’t just present the facts – you’re not a newspaper. Express your feelings about those facts. Keep in mind that it is at the emotional level that others connect best.
6. Give unique compliments. Anybody can pay a generic compliment to try and get another person’s approval or appreciation. Charismatic individuals, on the other hand, are able to really pay attention to the people they are in a conversation with, to look beyond the facade and thus, pay unique compliments. Do the same, and besides encouraging others, you may even help them find out things about themselves they didn’t know. Some people have trouble giving compliments. Others have trouble receiving compliments graciously. Most of these troubles are caused by upbringing and culture. All of these old habits can be eliminated and replaced with kinder and more generous behavior that fosters better relations between people.
7. Have fun. Don’t make talking to others a “chore,” rather make it an enjoyable way to spend your time and energy.
8. Hold more eye contact. Most Aspies tend to keep eye contact about 2/3 of the time or less when they talk. Change that temptation to look away from the listener. It’s a very good idea to hold eye contact just a bit more than ½ the time. This will convey confidence and interest in interacting with others.
9. Keep your positive energy up. When we interact with others, we exchange not only words and bodily expressions. We also give off - exchange - our vital energy. If our energy is high and vibrant, we lift the conversation. If it's low and sluggish, we sap energy from the encounter.
10. Notice the details. Individuals with good conversation skills tend to (a) notice details that the average person misses, and (b) pull details into the conversation. They may notice and point out an interesting ring on the other person’s hand, a certain foreign accent, or a certain voice tone they use when saying a name. Thus, such people impress others in a very graceful manner.
11. Offer interesting insights. Anybody can talk about the news or express basic opinions. But good conversationalists can frequently tell you things you didn’t know and that you’ll find fascinating. This is why it’s good to have knowledge in certain fields (e.g., psychology, sociology, etc.), and bring such knowledge out at the right moments in a conversation.
12. Show interest in - and be curious about - those you talk with. In conversation, to be curious is a definite plus. Being curious about another person helps to engage us and to validate that person as interesting. On the other hand, if we seem bored by or indifferent to the person, they feel invalidated, as if we are saying "You hold no interest for me. You are not interesting."
13. Smile. Smiling is a powerful tool, try it right now. Let a big smile stretch across your face. It feels good doesn’t it? A smile makes you look and feel friendly and approachable. It keeps the mood warm and disarms people. Not only that – it is contagious.
14. Talk slowly. Typically, good conversationalists don’t rush into a conversation. They take their time when they reflect on something and when they say it out loud. They act as if they have all the time in the world. This makes them appear centered and collected. Model this way of talking, and you will create the same effect.
15. Use the right words. The ability to be a good talker has a lot to do with choosing the precise words to convey your precise feelings or thoughts. Constantly develop your vocabulary and practice communicating as accurately as possible. It will help you develop a way with words and allow you to express yourself more easily.
One of the more humbling things for therapists is realizing the cases where they missed the diagnosis of Aspergers (or high functioning autism) in working with their clients, and perhaps came up with something else like Narcissistic Personality Disorder because they didn’t have adequate training at the time.
Although named by Hans Asperger in 1946, Aspergers didn’t get codified in the DSM until 1994. For many years thereafter, it was seen as a childhood disorder and not something to consider when working with troubled grown-ups. But more and more, therapists are finding – and diagnosing – Aspergers adults who fell through the cracks as a child (i.e., they would have been diagnosed earlier if we knew then what we know now).
Fortunately, training in the treatment of adult Aspergers is becoming more prevalent in graduate programs and professional in-service opportunities. The diagnosis has now become part of professional discourse and the popular culture. Also, books and materials are emerging to help the experienced therapist (as well as the novice) become familiar with diagnostic issues and treatment options.
While many therapies are appropriate for Aspergers adults, treatment really depends on the person’s response to the diagnosis (and responses can run the gamut from joy to anger and everything in between). Some people are overjoyed, because finally everything makes sense to them (e.g., why they can't hold a job, tolerate noisy children, stay in a relationship, etc.). They have blamed themselves - or others - all their lives. Now they have a framework in which to understand their weaknesses – and their strengths. For a lot of adult “Aspies,” it's a relief!
Of course, there is no obligation to do anything about an Aspergers diagnosis, and some adults simply stop the diagnostic process and walk away. Conversely, for those individuals who are interested in exploring their Aspergers further, the therapist does a debriefing and exploration focused on what the client feels now that he knows about the condition. The therapist (a) does a diagnostic “life mapping,” (b) explores the life map, (c) talks about how all Aspergers adults are different from one another, and (d) creates a treatment plan (e.g., “You came to therapy for a reason. Where would you like to go next?”).
Some of the issues that are explored in treatment include "quality of life" concerns (e.g., leisure interests, social activities, health, employment, family, etc.). The therapist will look at all the different areas that make up quality of life, see how the client is doing, and where the client wants to make some changes.
In addition to working on personal goals, “family work” is often indicated. For example, there are often rifts that have occurred where siblings are no longer talking. The therapist explores questions like, “What do you want to tell your family?” “How would you like to repair relationships?” Sometimes the family members come in to work on issues together.
Beyond cognitive-behavioral therapy, adults with an Aspergers diagnosis have a number of other treatment options. They can request that their therapist write a report that clearly outlines diagnostic issues, IQ, adaptive behaviors, etc. With that report, the Aspie can often qualify for services provided by state and/or federal agencies. Such services range from cognitive therapy to vocational training, job placement, health insurance, and, in some cases, housing.
Some of the therapies that are useful for children are also helpful for adults. For example, sensory integration therapy can be helpful in alleviating hypersensitivity to sound and light, and social skills therapy (often in the form of life-coaching or job-coaching) can improve job situations, friendships, marriages, etc.
Perhaps most important is a "do it yourself" therapy. Aspergers adults have access to books, support groups, conferences and other resources that provide insight, ideas and information on all aspects of life with Aspergers.
Many, if not most, adults with Aspergers (or High Functioning Autism) will experience some significant bouts of depression from time to time. So if that has happened to you – you’re not alone. Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to do what you need to feel better.
But while overcoming bouts of depression isn’t quick or easy, it’s far from impossible. You can’t beat it through sheer willpower, but you do have some control—even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent.
You can make a huge dent in your depression with simple lifestyle changes (e.g., exercising every day, avoiding the urge to isolate, challenging the negative voices in your head, eating healthy food instead of the junk you crave, carving out time for rest and relaxation, etc.). Feeling better takes time, but you can get there if you make positive choices for yourself each day and draw on the support of others.
Recovering from depression requires action. But taking action when you’re depressed is hard. In fact, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better (e.g., going for a walk, spending time with friends, etc.) can be exhausting. It’s the Catch-22 of depression recovery. The things that help the most are the things that are most difficult to do. But there’s a difference between difficult and impossible.
For all you Aspies out there, below are some very important tips for dealing with – and ridding yourself of – depression. Pick one or more (preferably several) of these techniques. Some will work – others won’t. So you can expect a short trial-and-error period until you find the right combination of techniques that work for you.
1. Accompany someone to the movies, a concert, or a small get-together.
2. Aim for 8 hours of sleep. Depression typically involves sleep problems. Whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, your mood suffers. Get on a better sleep schedule by learning healthy sleep habits.
3. Allow yourself to be less than perfect. Many depressed people are perfectionists, holding themselves to impossibly high standards and then beating themselves up when they fail to meet them. Battle this source of self-imposed stress by challenging your negative ways of thinking.
4. Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly.
5. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking: Looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground (“If I fall short of perfection, I’m a total failure.”)
6. Avoid diminishing the positive: Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count (“She said she had a good time on our date, but I think she was just being nice.”)
7. Avoid emotional reasoning: Believing that the way you feel reflects reality (“I feel like such a loser. I really am no good!”)
8. Avoid jumping to conclusions: Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader (“He must think I’m pathetic.”) or a fortune teller (“I’ll be stuck in this dead end job forever.”)
9. Avoid labeling: Labeling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings (“I’m a failure; an idiot; a loser.”)
10. Avoid overgeneralization: Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever (“I can’t do anything right.”)
11. Avoid 'shoulds’ and ‘should-nots’: Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do, and beating yourself up if you don’t live up to your rules.
12. Avoid the mental filter: Ignoring positive events and focusing on the negative. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.
13. Boost your B vitamins. Deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid and B-12 can trigger depression. To get more, take a B-complex vitamin supplement or eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs.
14. Call or email an old friend.
15. Challenge negative thinking. Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself, the situations you encounter, and your expectations for the future. But you can’t break out of this pessimistic mind frame by “just thinking positive.” Happy thoughts or wishful thinking won’t cut it. Rather, the trick is to replace negative thoughts with more balanced thoughts.
16. Confide in a counselor, therapist, or clergy member.
17. Consider taking a chromium supplement. Some depression studies show that chromium picolinate reduces carbohydrate cravings, eases mood swings, and boosts energy. Supplementing with chromium picolinate is especially effective for people who tend to overeat and oversleep when depressed.
18. Cultivate supportive relationships. Getting the support you need plays a big role in lifting the fog of depression and keeping it away. On your own, it can be difficult to maintain perspective and sustain the effort required to beat depression. But the very nature of depression makes it difficult to reach out for help. However, isolation and loneliness make depression even worse, so maintaining your close relationships and social activities are important. The thought of reaching out to even close family members and friends can seem overwhelming. You may feel ashamed, too exhausted to talk, or guilty for neglecting the relationship. Remind yourself that this is the depression talking. You loved ones care about you and want to help.
19. Do something spontaneous.
20. Do things you enjoy (or used to). While you can’t force yourself to have fun or experience pleasure, you can choose to do things that you used to enjoy. Pick up a former hobby or a sport you used to like. Express yourself creatively through music, art, or writing. Go out with friends. Take a day trip to a museum, the mountains, or the ballpark. Push yourself to do things, even when you don’t feel like it. You might be surprised at how much better you feel once you’re out in the world. Even if your depression doesn’t lift immediately, you’ll gradually feel more upbeat and energetic as you make time for fun activities.
21. Don’t skip meals. Going too long between meals can make you feel irritable and tired, so aim to eat something at least every 3-4 hours.
22. Eat a healthy, mood-boosting diet. What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Aim for a balanced diet of protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.
23. Expose yourself to a little sunlight every day. Lack of sunlight can make depression worse. Make sure you’re getting enough. Take a short walk outdoors, have your coffee outside, enjoy an al fresco meal, people-watch on a park bench, or sit out in the garden.
24. Focus on complex carbohydrates. Foods such as baked potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain breads, and bananas can boost serotonin levels without a crash.
25. Get regular exercise. When you’re depressed, exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing. But exercise is a powerful tool for dealing with depression. In fact, studies show that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication at increasing energy levels and decreasing feelings of fatigue. Scientists haven’t figured out exactly why exercise is such a potent antidepressant, but evidence suggests that physical activity triggers new cell growth in the brain, increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and endorphins, reduces stress, and relieves muscle tension—all things that can have a positive effect on depression.
26. Go for a walk with a workout buddy.
27. Have lunch or coffee with a friend.
28. Help someone else by volunteering.
29. Join a support group for depression. Being with others who are dealing with depression can go a long way in reducing your sense of isolation. You can also encourage each other, give and receive advice on how to cope, and share your experiences.
30. Keep a “negative thought log." Whenever you experience a negative thought, jot down the thought and what triggered it in a notebook. Review your log when you’re in a good mood. Consider if the negativity was truly warranted. Ask yourself if there’s another way to view the situation. For example, let’s say your boyfriend was short with you and you automatically assumed that the relationship was in trouble. But maybe he’s just having a bad day.
31. Keep stress in check. Not only does stress prolong and worsen depression, but it can also trigger it. Figure out all the things in your life that are stressing you out. Examples include: work overload, unsupportive relationships, taking on too much, or health problems. Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact.
32. Know when to get additional help. If you find your depression getting worse and worse, seek professional help. Needing additional help doesn’t mean you’re weak. Sometimes the negative thinking in depression can make you feel like you’re a lost cause, but depression can be treated and you can feel better! Don’t forget about these self-help tips, though. Even if you’re receiving professional help, these tips can be part of your treatment plan, speeding your recovery and preventing depression from returning.
33. List what you like about yourself.
34. Listen to music.
35. Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club.
36. Minimize sugar and refined carbs. You may crave sugary snacks, baked goods, or comfort foods such as pasta or french fries. But these “feel-good” foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.
37. Omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in stabilizing mood. Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA can give your mood a big boost. The best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and some cold water fish oil supplements. Canned albacore tuna and lake trout can also be good sources, depending on how the fish were raised and processed.
38. Pets can make you happier and healthier. While nothing can replace the human connection, pets can bring joy and companionship into your life and help you feel less isolated. Caring for a pet can also get you outside of yourself and you a sense of being needed—both powerful antidotes to depression. And the research backs it up. Studies show that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression or get overwhelmed by stress.
39. Practice relaxation techniques. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.
40. Read a good book.
41. Schedule a weekly dinner date with someone special.
42. Socialize with positive people. Notice how people who always look on the bright side deal with challenges, even minor ones, like not being able to find a parking space. Then consider how you would react in the same situation. Even if you have to pretend, try to adopt their optimism and persistence in the face of difficulty.
43. Spend some time in nature.
44. Start small and stay focused. The key to depression recovery is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there. Draw upon whatever resources you have. You may not have much energy, but you probably have enough to take a short walk around the block or pick up the phone to call a loved one. Take things one day at a time and reward yourself for each accomplishment. The steps may seem small, but they’ll quickly add up. And for all the energy you put in to your depression recovery, you’ll get back much more in return.
45. Take a long, hot bath.
46. Take care of a few small tasks.
47. Take care of yourself. In order to overcome depression, you have to take care of yourself. This includes following a healthy lifestyle, learning to manage stress, setting limits on what you’re able to do, adopting healthy habits, and scheduling fun activities into your day.
48. Talk to one person about your feelings.
49. Think outside yourself. Ask yourself if you’d say what you’re thinking about yourself to someone else. If not, stop being so hard on yourself. Think about less harsh statements that offer more realistic descriptions.
50. Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it. When you’re depressed, it feels more comfortable to retreat into your shell. But being around other people will make you feel less depressed.
51. Turn to trusted friends and family members. Share what you’re going through with the people you love and trust. Ask for the help and support you need. You may have retreated from your most treasured relationships, but they can get you through this tough time.
52. Watch a funny movie or TV show.
53. Write in your journal.
54. Pray (if you’re a spiritual person) for guidance, peace, joy and prosperity.
55. Be patient with yourself as you try these “depression-busting” techniques. Experiment. Dump the ones that don't work. Keep the ones that do!
Each person with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) is unique, so interventions need to be individualized. Grown-ups come to this awareness at different ages and stages of their lives, which can influence the approaches they choose.
Be creative in the combination of interventions you use, and simplify your life. Here are some general ideas regarding interventions for adults with AS and HFA:
1. A Cognitive-Behavioral approach to therapy is strongly indicated.
2. A slower-paced environment will likely be more tolerable and allow for a greater sense of comfort and competence.
3. A therapist with an awareness of AS and HFA (or interest in learning about it with you) is essential.
4. A variety of therapies can be helpful to adults with AS and HFA, depending on the individual.
5. Advocate for environmental changes at work or home. If you are more comfortable, the people around you will be as well.
6. Teach others about the "disorder" (actually, I like to think of it as simply "a different way of thinking"). Grown-ups with AS and HFA are pioneers in educating others in their families, workplaces and communities.
7. Attend a group where social skills are explicitly taught.
8. Know your weakness, and seek professional “life coaching” to work on those areas.
9. Communicate with those around you about your need for periodic “down-time” (i.e., time alone to recharge your social battery), but do not use it as an excuse to avoid participation in family or other activities.
10. Contact Career One-Stop Centers (federally funded centers designed to help people learn new, marketable skills, identify jobs and prepare for interviewing).
11. Contact the vocational rehabilitation agency in your state. With an official diagnosis of AS or HFA, you may be entitled to service.
12. Disclose your disorder to others strategically. Only share the information that is required for that time and place, and consult with a trusted person to determine what to disclose if you’re unsure.
13. Heightened sensory sensitivities may make particular environments unpleasant or intolerable. Thus, change lighting, decrease noise, and wear comfortable clothing.
14. Hire people to do the things you’re not good at, which may include, but not limited to: (a) money management, (b) housework, and (c) organization and bookkeeping.
15. Join Social Groups with other AS and HFA adults. This decreases isolation, and with practice, increases comfort with other people -- and may improve social skills.
16. Know what AS and HFA is in general and how it affects you specifically.
17. Know your areas of difficulty.
18. Know your strengths and build on them.
19. Listen to trusted family or friends.
20. Medication can be helpful in decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety that often accompany AS and HFA.
21. Meet others with AS and HFA, listen to and support one another.
22. People with AS and HFA tend to connect most comfortably around shared interests (small talk is less essential in interest-based groups).
23. Physical and emotional comfort are essential to individuals with AS and HFA.
24. Psychodynamic psychotherapy is generally less helpful.
25. Read about AS and HFA from a variety of perspectives.
26. Sensory and social demands of daily life make more down-time essential for adults with AS and HFA.
27. Stop the blame game – blaming yourself or others is common and not helpful.
28. Strengthen your areas of difficulty or minimize their presence.
29. Work with a Life Coach that will assist with (a) concrete skills-building and goal direction, (b) independent living skills, (c) employment-related skills, and (d) social skills.
30. Be patient with yourself as you experiment with different coping strategies.
Frankly, we have been on the verge of divorce since we got married, but we have five kids in the house who have already been through a divorce and neither of us wants to put them through any more trauma. What led us to seek therapy almost immediately after the wedding, was my husband's EXTREME jealous, possessive and controlling behavior throughout the relationship. After we got married it had bordered on emotional abuse. We had been in therapy with various different counselors, (and still are) but no one seems to be an Asperger's expert around here. Getting the diagnosis was both an AH-HA! moment and also devastating, in that this is a permanent and incurable condition.
So much of what I have read online rings true with me, I am horribly lonely and feel like we are roommates but have no "connection" for lack of a better word....but the worst part, that makes me feel it is not safe to drop my guard and allow him into my heart, is the way he just explodes unpredictably. As is typical with AS, he is prone to meltdowns over the smallest things (which always seem to be related to him deciding some action of mine- shaving my legs, getting a text, being five minutes "late", telling my kids they can have a friend over) means that I either "don't prioritize him' or "am trying to attract another man". Neither of which is true, he just can't understand normal behaviors or handle any changes in (his) plans. He will take a normal incident, and go over it and over it in his head until it is just completely twisted into some horrible offense.
I walk on eggshells all the time waiting for him to turn something tiny into something that will dominate his thinking for weeks on end. I am tired of being told not to "push his buttons" and being afraid of what is going to happen, what he will say, what the next fight will be. A chance encounter I have with a male acquaintance can turn into an ongoing interrogation for days or weeks. He asks me if I "ran into anyone" or "talked to anyone" every day, and if I did or do, and fail to tell him EVERY DETAIL of what was said then I am "hiding" things, etc, but if I do tell him, he twists it into something it wasn't, makes accusations, ("why was he SO happy to see you!? why didn't you introduce me/ talk about me, etc") and so forth.... I dread social situations and even school events with my kids because I can't control other people's behaviors. I don't know what someone may say or do that is going to set him off or what he will find to be angry about. I even quit my previous office job that I loved in order to work with him because he was so angry and upset about my job every day. He was bullied pretty severely as a child and always thinks that other men are "playing games", "Bullying him" and are looking to "stir up drama" and that it's therefore his prerogative to respond in an overtly aggressive, nasty manner to these perceived threats, which obviously causes many problems. He also believes that all women are sexually interested in him and that all men are sexually interested in me. (no matter how unlikely or unrealistic that may be)
Some things have gotten better since his diagnosis (he no longer tries to inspect my clothing for any hint of attractiveness/ sexiness, or forbid high heels, for example, and he makes a real effort to buy me gifts, initiate affection, and communicate better.) He now accepts that there are things he simply does not understand; but other things are not. He thinks in marriage it's his right to expect an idealized, fantasy-type sexual relationship where I passionately desire intimacy with him every day; he reads meanings that aren't there into every facial expression or action I take (not standing close enough to him means I "don't love him"; not saying "bless you" when he sneezes is "callous" and so forth); and any desire I express for this slightest bit of privacy means I have something to hide, and therefore he should be suspicious about it.
I am 40 years old. If there is no help for this I would like to at least KNOW, I am exhausted from trying to please my husband and never, ever succeeding. I am absolutely desperate and broken. I can't even tell my husband any of this. I am actually terrified to even send this email and I have been sitting here debating what he would do if he knew I sent it....I am pretty sure if I let him read this email he would just get stuck on the first paragraph, find some example that isn't "strictly what happened"...we would argue over my use of examples, and he would be livid that I "reached out to another MAN", then it would turn into this huge dramatic fight about how much I "hate him" . He would never make it to the big picture at all, see that I am looking for a way to bring us closer, or see how hurt I am. He is not violent so I am not afraid for my safety.