Individuals with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) see the world from a different point of view. They think that NT or “neurotypical” people (i.e., those without an autism spectrum disorder) speak in riddles (e.g., Why use non-verbal signs like body language instead of just telling something like it is? Why don’t they say what they mean? Why are relationships so messy? How come they are not interested in details like me?).
People on the autism spectrum think their world is more logical then NT’s. They have to adjust to NT’s “strange” way of relating to each other and ways of communication. It’s very hard for them to adjust to something so far off from logic. Most of the time, they are truly unable to do so.
People with AS and HFA usually have three basic impairments: (1) communication (both verbal and non-verbal), (2) social imagination (combined with inflexible thinking and repetitive behavior), and (3) social interaction (e.g., being unable to make and keep friends).
These are the most obvious symptoms of the disorder, and they ALWAYS occur together. There is no random combination possible; one can’t be there without the others. These three impairments have a huge impact on every aspect of life when one is diagnosed with AS or HFA, and they all relate to an overly-logical brain (as opposed to a brain that is more in-tune with emotions and relationships).
The brain is not a single-working organism. It has different parts to it, with each part controlling different parts of the body, thought, and emotions. We have a higher thought plane than other animals due to the development of the “neocortex,” which is responsible for problem solving, conscious thought, and language. Before this area of the brain developed, we were like every other type of animal, acting mostly on instinct instead of logic.
Before the neocortex, there was the mammalian part of your brain, which acted on emotions, feelings, and instinct (i.e., the “emotional brain”). This part of the brain is responsible for attraction to beauty, preparing your body to deal with fears and dangers, etc.
Then there is the social brain. This part of the brain is responsible for the following:
evaluating human voices
assigning the emotional value of different stimuli (e.g., deciding when something is disgusting)
attaching an incoming signal with an emotional value
deciding whether a social signal really matters
deciphering prosody, the additional tones and ways that people add layers of meaning to their spoken words
generating an initial emotional response to social stimuli (e.g., Should someone’s tone really impact me as much as it does? What does someone’s look really mean, and am I overreacting?)
generating reactions in response to different situations
helping control basic visual information
helping us notice where someone else is looking
selecting which of the myriad incoming social signals are the most important
allowing us to observe other human bodies
allowing us to know when incoming social signals are rewarding
helping us to not just listen to what people say, but HOW it is said
observing minute details of facial expression and body language
perceiving important social cues
regulating strong human emotions
In a way, you can say that people with AS and HFA have an overly-developed rational brain, and an under-developed social brain.
People with an overly-logical brain (think of Spock from Star Trek) often have the following traits:
appear to only be concerned with their own needs and wants
experience a delay in the development of the idea that the self is equal in importance to that of others
have difficulty understanding that others have their own mind, point of view, feelings, and priorities
problems attributing mental states to others or to be able to describe what others might be feeling in a given situation (the ability to guess others’ states of mind is related to one’s ability to effectively practice introspection on one’s own)
the inability to guess others’ mental states often results in (a) “social mistakes” (e.g., unintentionally saying something highly offensive), and (b) attributing negative intentions in others that aren’t there
a lack of developed private self-consciousness, which is a predictor of paranoia (the ability to know one’s self in some way relates to the skill in attributing feelings and motivations to others)
will take statements by others in a more concrete and literal fashion
they have to work harder than NTs at theorizing what others are experiencing
are more concerned with facts, figures, and data than relating to people
they need more time than others to understand social subtleties in language (e.g., irony, sarcasm, some forms of humor)
difficulty linking behavior of others to their inner feelings, and as a result, can’t understand or predict someone’s behavior
difficulty linking their own behavior to the feelings of others, thus they are unable to anticipate or predict such a response
The overly-logical brain and the absence of the ability to intuit what others may think or feel, what motivates them, how they’re likely to respond in certain situations, etc. may be the root of most difficulties people with AS and HFA have in communication and social interaction.
When attempting to relate better to people with an AS or HFA brain:
put more weight on words or actions
put less weight on body language, facial expressions, and physical appearances
don’t put them in a position where they have to decipher hints, innuendos, subtext, or passive-aggressive behavior – instead, use plain speech
don’t assume that their lack of normal eye contact means that they are sneaky, lying, or undependable
talk about what you “think” about a particular topic, rather than how to “feel” about it (e.g., “I think a conservative political viewpoint contributes to the individual becoming more self-sufficient and less reliant on government” … instead of, “How do feel about conservatism”).
If you are an NT or “neurotypical” (i.e., non-autistic) partner or spouse of an individual withAsperger’s or High-Functioning Autism (HFA), you may feel as though you are the only one in the world who is experiencing significant and ongoing relationship problems. You may have even asked yourself, “Are these issues my fault somehow?!” You are not alone.
Below are some very common traits of the disorder that may contribute to relationship problems. Some (and I say ‘some’ – not all) of these traits have nothing to do with your Asperger’s or HFA partner being an insensitive jerk, rather they are symptoms of the disorder that the affected person may have little control over:
a common marital problem is unfair distribution of responsibilities (e.g., the partner of a person with Asperger’s or HFA may be used to doing everything in the relationship)
“Aspies” (i.e., people on the autism spectrum) are known for their adherence to routines and schedules, and they can become highly anxious if the expected routine is disrupted
they experience difficulties in empathizing with their NT partner
after accepting that their Asperger’s of HFA partner's disorder won't get better, common emotions include guilt, despair and disappointment
“Aspies” are often mistaken as being ignorant and vain individuals
they are very literal in what they say
have difficulty comprehending complex words, phrases and expressions (e.g., metaphors and jokes)
have difficulty in maintaining friendships
many partners of “Aspies” state that there is a failure to have their own needs met
"Aspies" have difficulty knowing when to start or stop a conversation
do not take very well to a sudden change in their daily time table
fail to interpret change of voice-tone of others
find it difficult to express themselves
follow routines and rituals religiously
are usually more interested in tasks (or objects) than people
frustration, since problems in the relationship don't seem to improve despite great efforts, is a common reaction in NT partners
“Aspies” usually have an intense or obsessive interest or hobby
many NT partners feel overly responsible for their “Aspie”
people on the autism spectrum may be confused at the way other people behave, because they are unable to understand social ways of conduct
may lose interest in people and appear aloof most of the time
partners of the people on the spectrum often feel a sense of isolation, because the challenges of their relationship are different and not easily understood by others
people with Asperger’s and HFA have problems controlling feelings such as anger, depression and anxiety
some NT partners state that they frequently wonder about whether or not to end the relationship
subtle messages that are sent by facial expression, eye contact and body language are often missed by people on the spectrum
they have problems understanding another person's emotions and/or point of view
difficulty managing appropriate social conduct
difficulty with thinking in abstract ways
there is often a lack of emotional support from family members and friends who don't fully understand or appreciate the extra strains placed on a relationship affected by Asperger’s or HFA
“Aspies” have difficulty imagining alternatives to social incidents (i.e., can’t predict a normal course of action according to social norms)
they are usually at a loss in choosing a topic to speak on, unless it’s their special interest
People with Asperger’s and HFA usually experience and mixed bag of successes and tribulations. They may function very well in some arenas - and not well in others. An “Aspie” may do quite well at work because he or she is extremely bright and well-suited to the job, but this same person may not have or know how to create or maintain a satisfying life outside of work.
There are others who don’t function well in a work environment, but can maintain one or a few friendships or acquaintances. And then there are those who can’t maintain employment or sustain friendships, but can create software programs or produce beautiful art, for example. There are numerous combinations, and all could be considered part of the disorder, depending on how you look at it.
We polled 40 “neurotypical” women who are (or where) in a marriage with an Asperger’s husband and asked the following question: “Were you married to man with Asperger’s and are now divorced?”
Their responses fell into 4 general categories: (1) married with no plans for divorce; (2) married, but one or both spouses are making plans for divorce; (3) divorced; and (4) married, but separated.
Here’s the statistical outcome of the survey:
28 women stated: Married with no plans for divorce (70%)
6 women stated: Married, but one or both spouses are making plans for divorce (15%)
4 women stated: Divorced (10%)
2 women stated: Married, but separated (5%)
In this survey, the divorce rate was only 10%.
70% of these women are married (many of which stated they are “hanging in there,” but “dissatisfied” with the marriage).
30% are in some state of marital difficulty, or have already divorced.
We also did a related poll in which we asked both men and women (43 participants total) in which one partner is affected by Asperger's or high-functioning autism the following question:
What is the current status of your relationship with your partner?
Still together and mostly happy with the relationship
Still together but mostly unhappy with the relationship
Still together but considering separation or divorce
Planning for separation or divorce
Already separated or divorced
Here are their answers (anonymously):
Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy in large part due to weekly couples counseling with a therapist who specializes in Adults with Asperger's
Anonymous said…Still together after 29 years but considering therapy to combat loneliness and frustration in the marriage.
Anonymous said… Married 18 years and happy but sometimes lonely.
Anonymous said… Not happy. 20 years. Considering separation.
Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy with the relationship
Anonymous said… Still together as roommates and companions. Serious thought to divorce
Anonymous said… Haven't had a partner for 5 years and very happy with that
Anonymous said… Divorced for many years and very happy with my relationship with him now after many years.
Anonymous said… Been together 1 year and happy 98% of the time
Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy with the relationship. We are engaged and have been dating for 5 1/2 years.
Anonymous said… Married for better or worse 26 years ago. Many rough patches but still together and mostly happy 😊
Anonymous said… Happily together since 1992, married since 2007. For the most part things are good but we have major work/life balance issues. We are DINKS (Dual Income, No Kids)
Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy with the relationship xx
Anonymous said… ` Still together and mostly happy with the relationship
Anonymous said… Celebrated 21 years of marriage two weeks ago. Mostly happy after at least 10+ years of very hard work and two separations, one for 2 months and the second 2 years later for 9 months. There were years I wished desperately I had left.
Anonymous said… Still together - separated, but not legally.
Anonymous said… was married for 16 years and now divorced for almost 10 years.
Anonymous said… Still together 34 years and 75% happy?
Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy with the relationship. I have learned how to deal with all his quirks and when to just let things go. We have been married 23 years. It is just a "different kind of relationship" that works for both of us! I think most NT's would have divorced one another.
Anonymous said… Still together 15 yrs married and 5 knowing him. Mostly happy. Sex isn’t there. But he’s fine with an open relationship. So I have options.
Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy with the relationship. *WITH SHORT BURSTS OF ABSOLUTE HIDEOUSNESS
Anonymous said… Still together. Happy for almost 7 years. The last year has been a roller coaster.
Anonymous said… Still together (married a little over a year), planning to stay together & find a way to be mostly happy, but not quite sure how yet . . .
Anonymous said… Still together but mostly unhappy with the relationship,together 11years with 4 children
Anonymous said… Seperated, after 13yrs of marriage.
Anonymous said… 33 years married and miserable.
Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy with the relationship. 27 years and counting.
Anonymous said… Married 18 years, divorced
Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy we have our struggles but I love is pulling us through where patience fails
Anonymous said… 6 months married and mostly happy 💜
Anonymous said… Still together and very happy
Anonymous said… Still together and been married nearly 31 years. Mostly happy now but certainly had some challenges like all relationships and tend to feel lonely now and again.
Anonymous said… Married 37 years to a wonderful man who tries very hard to be present, loving and considerate.
Anonymous said… 30yrs. Still together and mostly happy with the relationship.
Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy. 16 years and going strong ❤️
Anonymous said… Still together and mostly deliriously happy, sometimes miserable. 😄
Anonymous said… Still together but somewhat unhappy with the relationship, still trying though. I'm neurotypical and he's hfa
Anonymous said… Separated but still in specialized therapy so we can co-habitats and co-parent together. Thank god we have a little guest house out back. I no longer feel like a hostage in my own home. This took 4 years for me to get to. Both of us committed to making this work for the kids. 8 more years to go!!!
Anonymous said… Already divorced but not due to the autism issue - that was diagnosed afterwards for the child
Anonymous said… Still together but mostly unhappy with the relationship.
Anonymous said… Divorced and trying to coparent
Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy with the relationship. (13 years
Is it possible that your partner or spouse who has Asperger's (or high-functioning autism) also has Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)? The answer is: Yes!
As many parents can attest to, ODD is not an uncommon comorbid disorder in children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Most kids with ODD outgrow the disorder by age eight or nine. But, about half of them continue to experience symptoms into adulthood. These people report feeling angry most of the time, and about 40% of them become progressively worse and develop antisocial personality disorder.
Adults with ODD often feel mad at the world, and lose their temper regularly (e.g., verbal abuse, road rage.) Constant opposition to authority figures makes it difficult for them to keep jobs and to maintain relationships and marriages. They are particularly quick to anger, are impatient, and have a low tolerance for frustration. They usually feel misunderstood and disliked, hemmed in, and pushed around. Also, they often defend themselves relentlessly when someone says they’ve said or done something wrong.
Signs of ODD that may be apparent at work include:
Commonly feeling oppressed by office rules
Has meltdowns during meetings or annual reviews after receiving constructive criticism
Near constant arguments with a boss or coworkers
Previously fired for inappropriate behavior toward coworkers in heated moments
Purposely engaging in behaviors that irritate coworkers
Sanctioned by human resources for violating company policies
Signs of ODD that may be apparent at home include:
Leaves his dirty clothes on the floor just because he knows it annoys his partner or spouse
Involved in physical altercations in public
Has a hair-trigger temper (the littlest thing can set him off)
Continues to fight against authority figures and society
Cited for disorderly conduct by police
Always needs to win the argument with a parent or spouse
Are some ODD behaviors more serious or severe than others?
Any behaviors which would cause an adult to move from job to job or have serious difficulty in relationships with others (especially spouses) could have strong, negative consequences.
Are there any other conditions that can be associated with ODD?
Yes there are. Sometimes conditions like diabetes, ADD, serious health conditions or learning disabilities create a “hiding” place for oppositionality and defiance. In these cases, ODD behaviors “hide” behind the primary condition, which provides an “excuse” for noncompliance. (Example: an ODD spouse refuses to work, continually claiming he is being treated unfairly by his boss.)
Can an ODD adult be diagnosed as both ODD and ADHD?
Exactly what is ODD?
Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a diagnosed condition of negativistic, hostile and defiant behavior that includes symptoms of low frustration tolerance, argumentativeness, defiance, noncompliance, oppositionality, provocation, blaming, spitefulness, irritability, resentment, anger or vindictiveness. (Not all of these symptoms need to apply for a diagnosis to be made.)
How is ODD diagnosed?
ODD is diagnosed by an appropriately certified or licensed health service professional that assesses a client and makes the diagnosis as it pertains to established criteria. The most commonly used criteria are found in the most current edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
How much do external events and circumstances play into ODD?
They can easily make the ODD much better or much worse.
I find my husband is defiant toward some people, but not others. Why is this?
ODD behavior is highly reactive to the environmental situations and circumstances. This certainly includes differences in authority figures, how they relate to the ODD adult, and how they "package" their expectations.
My ODD husband went to a counselor and was told after one visit that there was nothing wrong with him. I was totally frustrated about the whole thing. Why would a counselor say this?
The ODD adult, for awhile, can look perfectly fine in every regard. This is why a good therapist or counselor puts more stock in the “hard” facts about the client, not what the client is saying or doing in early visits.
If my ODD husband is depressed, what can be done to help him?
The depression needs to be evaluated and treated. It is common for oppositional and defiant behaviors to lessen as the depression is addressed. Sometimes medication helps.
Is lying a typical behavior of ODD?
It certainly can be. Usually, behaviors like lying differ from one individual to another as they become more severe in their behaviors. Many professionals believe that lying and stealing often go together.
Is ODD inherited?
Although there probably isn't an "ODD gene," characteristics like disposition and temperament can probably be inherited.
Is there any connection between ODD and the use or abuse of drugs and alcohol?
There probably is a connection, but not necessarily a direct one. ODD behaviors can occur in adults who are unhappy. Alcohol and drugs are one kind of "self" medication.
I've heard that many ODD adults are depressed? Is this true?
Yes. About half of them also met the criteria for depression.
My husband walks half a block down the street to help a senior citizen bring in her groceries, but he won't ever take out the trash at OUR house? Why is this?
First of all, he wants to look like a good, kind and caring man. But consider that the job of helping the lady with her groceries is essentially a one-shot deal. Taking out the trash at home could last for years, not to mention the fact that we are much more direct in our behaviors of resistance and refusal with those who already know us well.
Sometimes it seems to me that my husband actually enjoys it when I become upset with him. Why is this?
He has gotten the satisfaction of knowing he has gotten to you. This “trap” is one of the toughest ones for spouses to deal with.
What about "passive-aggressive" behavior? Is that the same as oppositional defiant?
“Passive-aggressive” behavior is a term that was used to describe both children and adults before there ever was a classification of ODD. Specifically, passive-aggressive behavior is but one type of oppositional and defiant behavior. Persistent and problematic passive-aggressive behavior in adults is more properly diagnosed using adult classifications, often falling under the general category of "personality disorders."
What are some of the signs that a child might become Conduct Disordered?
Things like family history, especially parents and siblings having trouble with the law, the activities of a child's "friends," a history of abuse or severe neglect in the home, use of alcohol and drugs, and a youngster's level of regard for others could all be indications.
What happens when ODD children become adults?
They can take their problems with them, causing difficulty in their relationships, marriage and work. The divorce rate, employment difficulties, and the abuse of alcohol or drugs is usually higher in this population of young adults.
What is the difference between an ODD adult and one who is just stubborn?
Stubborn people know when to give it up. They don't continue with their stubbornness to the degree and point that it creates serious hardships for them. Stubbornness can even be an attribute, such as a resolve that can shine through in tough times. Not so with ODD, which, by nature of being a disorder, works against the person's best interest.
What is the difference between ODD and ADD?
ODD is a psychological condition that, favorably or not, is responsive to external situations and circumstances. ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is brain-related, a neurological condition or immaturity that causes a person to have difficulty focusing on tasks. The condition of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) states that the person is additionally hyperactive and impulsive.
What is the likelihood that an ODD adult will become more severe in his or her behaviors (aggressive and anti-social)?
Here we're talking about serious, acting-out behaviors that could involve the law. Current data indicates about one in three ODD people will move on into a more serious disorder.
What would happen if an ODD adult is depressed, but the depression goes unaddressed or untreated?
Both the ODD and the depression will continue to worsen to the detriment of the individual. Self-injury or even suicidal attempts are a possibility.
Is there any hope if my husband has this disorder called ODD?
Most wives of ODD husbands find that the parenting strategies used with ODD children ALSO work with ODD husbands. Why? Because ODD adults are very immature for their age. You may have a husband who is chronologically 35-years-old, but emotionally more like a 21-year-old. So, yes there is hope!
• Anonymous said... I am also wondering this. Married 25 years and have had enough as it seems so much worse now such a rollercoaster. I dread waking up now as it all starts again day in day out. Tried a few times of asking him to leave but always feel so guilty so we are still carrying on. Friends say i have Stockholm :( • Anonymous said... this sounds just like my AS husband. Only we're still married with a two yr old. I wish I could leave. I'm miserable. • Anonymous said... Hmm, I'm dealing with somebody like this. I was looking for how pyrroles treatment is tricky in people with Tourette's, and my eye was drawn to this term as one of the conditions often associated with pyrroles. Sure enough, it seems it applies to my freind. He is nearly 80 and since gotten more well is back to this stuff. Oppositional to reason when it doesn't suite him, and difficulties in accessing things. He opposes authority in a way he is not content unless he is expressing authority/superiority over other people. His history is like what has been described here. The thing about ODD ending abruptly when you are 18: As the term doesn't mention childhood, it should persist throughout life. • Anonymous said... I can't leave because I am on social security. Life is upsetting wirh him every minute if everyday. No cooperatiin the blaming nme fir stupid made up stuff in hus mind. Belittling me . I say blue he says green. Can't have an adult conversation discuss solutions to problems with him. He thinks he is right about everything. • Anonymous said... I have a boyfriend he has all the signs and symptoms of O.D.D. he told me he has ADHD. We were at a restaurant he got upset and started rage yelling the manager was going to call the cops.I was so embarrassed and ashamed. I have tried to end our relationship he always begs me not to leave. We love each other it's very exhausting. I told him he needs to get help If this relationship will work. He says he wants to change. He needs to show me. I've caught him in so many lies. • Anonymous said... I have an aspie husband I think has odd… my child has odd just diagnosed I'm about to throw in the towel I can't handle it double dosed. What support can I find for me to cope better and not get overwhelmed • Anonymous said... I have been living with an aspergers spouse with undiagnosed ODD for 26 yrs. Is it possible that the condition worsens with age? • Anonymous said... I have had enough of being an ODD parent to my husband - I am exhausted! • Anonymous said... I was told recently by my current mental health RNP that ODD is only a kid thing, and that I couldn't possibly have it because I am an adult. SO FRUSTRATING. • Anonymous said... last few days our class held a similar talk about this subject and you point out something we have not covered yet, thanks. • Anonymous said... My adult son has ODD. A Lifetime of struggles. Refuses therapy, self meditates with weed, unable and unwilling to live on any kind if budget, spends all his money on good times and weed, puts no priority into meeting his financial obligations first, always pressuring me into helping him financially. Always angry, emotional outbursts on a regular basis, he is a Terrible Son,also a terrible Father, drove wife away and 2 years later continues to obsess about her, refusing to accept it's over and blames everyone else for his plight. My feelings for him go from love to hate and wanting him to go away forever....but he won't, and no hope for change because he refuses to accept his condition or get any therapy. Went to family counseling for 8 years as a kid and never got help because HE REFUSED TO PARTICIPATE. Finally letting him move into a house I own 2000 miles away in hope that our relationship might improve. I'm over 60 years old and I'm exhausted with this.....dont I have a right to some peace and happiness without having some guilt trip put on me or some havoc being created to prevent me from living my life????? HELP!!!!! Please post your comment below…