Are you an adult with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger's? Are you in a relationship with someone on the autism spectrum? Are you struggling emotionally, socially, spiritually or otherwise? Then you've come to the right place. We are here to help you in any way we can. Kick off your shoes and stay awhile...

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Surviving Relationship Conflict & Misunderstanding: Tips for Partners Affected by Asperger's

The theory of mind perspective holds that many adults with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) will have difficulty seeing the world through another person's eyes. This creates problems in relationships. The AS/HFA partner may act inappropriately in some situations, and appear to be insensitive and inflexible in other situations. Also, there are problems with reading body language and the “hidden messages” in conversations. All of these problems are greatly amplified in intimate relationships. 

Many “neurotypical” partners (i.e., people who are not on the autism spectrum) easily assume that the AS/HFA partner is doing these things intentionally, but the AS/HFA partner is usually surprised or shocked to hear how his or her words or actions have been perceived.

Surviving relationship conflict and misunderstanding: 

1. All good relationships involve a degree of compromise, and there will be many things a neurotypical partner can do to ease the situation. Objective non-emotional expression of frustrations and expectations will work much better than lecturing or arguing. For some couples, writing things down can work remarkably well. Writing it down defuses the emotions, it’s a visual strategy that works well for AS/HFA adults, and can be kept for future reference.

2. AS and HFA have wide-ranging effects, and your affected partner is not choosing to make life difficult for you. Learn all about autism spectrum disorders and understand why your partner has trouble understanding social situations and reacting in appropriate ways. Try to meet each other half way and work on strategies that will make things easier for both of you.

3. Don’t underestimate the impact of relationship counseling, especially when both partners acknowledge there is a problem and want to do something about it. When problems have been going for some time, it’s natural for both partners to become defensive and simply blame each other for the situation. Counseling is a great way to get a balanced perspective again. A fresh objective angle from the counselor can work wonders. Ideally you will find a counselor familiar with autism spectrum disorders.

4. Don't allow your diagnosis to be an excuse for behavior or social interaction that hurts or frustrates your partner. Use your knowledge of autism spectrum disorders as a basis to learn the skills you need to minimize problems. It’s true that having AS and HFA can be like living in a foreign country where it’s hard to understand the language, customs and “rules for behavior,” you can always learn to adapt to living in this “foreign country” if you work at it. Sure, you can simply stay just the way you are, but relationships always involve compromise – so you may be forced to make a choice!

5. It’s rarely all the other person's fault, even though AS and HFA can create huge difficulties at times. YOU would like your affected partner to minimize the problems caused by AS and HFA. So, it’s only fair that you minimize any problems you might have with emotional manipulation, being overly controlling, passive aggression or volatile outbursts with harmful insults.

6. It’s only natural for a partner without AS or HFA to think all the trouble lies with the other person, but some of your reactions could be contributing to the problems. Relational issues usually trigger insecurities, so you may need to look within yourself at how you need to change too. For example, if tend to be passive-aggressive, you will tend to show your dissatisfaction by treating your AS/HFA partner coldly or with sarcastic comments. But you need to know that these poor communication strategies will probably not be understood by someone with AS or HFA.

7. Leaving someone can be very difficult, especially for those that took marriage vows seriously and vowed to be with someone in sickness or health, for better or worse. The sad truth is that in some cases, the effects of AS and HFA, and the inability of others to cope with these, will end some relationships despite the best efforts of both. For other couples, these best efforts will keep the relationship going, and both parties will eventually emerge the stronger for it. That is why any decision to leave should be first discussed with someone that has been there (e.g., an experienced therapist) and after all possible options have been tried.

8. People rarely make the decision to end a relationship frivolously. In most instances, it usually only comes after excruciating guilt, depression, frustration and having tried every option to make it work. Talking all of the issues through with a qualified therapist will help you make the best decision in your circumstances. If the relationship does end, there may be years of hatred, resentment or pleading for a return to the way things were. In some instances, there may be threats or actual violence which can’t be tolerated in any circumstances. If this happens, check with the police or legal system in your area for how to best protect yourself.

9. Relationships are not easy for anyone, and having a form of autism is just one of many factors that can bring relationships to the breaking point. While many neurotypical partners believe that commitment is lacking in relationships with AS/HFA partners, the truth is that most AS/HFA partners do their best to keep a relationship together until they believe it can’t be rescued.

10. There are many support groups for individuals where one or both partners have AS or HFA. This can be a great opportunity to learn from others and find strategies that may work in your relationship. You can’t underestimate how talking to others can defuse the worst of your negative emotions and allow you to start doing positive things to get your relationship back on track.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Best Comment: 

Venting ! I would consider myself a textbook example of an un-diagnosed H.F.A. professionally I manage people at a large corporation. I am able to do this not by being able to relate to peoples emotions but instead through a lifetime of studying body language and the associated causes and effects. Some days are worse than others but long story short some days I come home mentally exhausted. Moving on in the story.. im getting married to a woman whom when she gets mad does this extreme version of the silent treatment were she pretends i dont exist for days or in her words "until she can emotional cope with my not taking the trash out" etc. So long story short she is giving the silent treatment as a punishment to somebody who relishes in copius amounts of alone time. When she wants to resolve the issue she is so mad that I remain calm and rational in the conversation that shes crying and calling me a robot with no emotions. I have no idea how to console somebody who is committing this kind of emotional self destruction. Just looking for a productive outside opinion as i know that i am not the most sympathetic spouse a girl could hope for is this a by product of my social deficiencies.

Adult Aspergers Subtypes: The “Loner”

The “Loner” displays a persistent pattern of detachment from social relationships as well as a restricted range of expression of emotions in inter-personal settings. He or she:

  • almost always chooses solitary activities
  • appears indifferent to praise or criticism from others
  • has little interest in having sexual relations with a partner
  • lacks close friends other than first-degree relatives
  • neither desires nor enjoys inter-personal relationships
  • shows emotional coldness, detachment, or flattened affect
  • takes pleasure in only one or two activities
  • is frequently (but often unintentionally) standoffish, cold and unresponsive

Click here for the full article...

How to Manage the Relationship with Your Partner on the Autism Spectrum

Many undiagnosed men and women with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are married with children. Some manage adult life very well, while others have significant problems. Living with an autistic spouse or partner can be very challenging because of the very subtle nature of the disorder. There are no physical signs from just looking at an “autistic,” and it can be hard to explain to family, friends, and coworkers that his or her odd behavior is not intentional.

Here are 15 tips to help neurotypical (NT) spouses manage their relationship with a "High-Functioning Autistic" husband or wife:

1. ASD can be viewed as “a disorder of insight into the thoughts and feelings of others” (also called “mind-blindness”). Thus, it may be very difficult to engage your autistic partner in the types of dialogue that marriage and family therapists use. These professionals may not have dealt much with partners affected by ASD and may need information from you in order to avoid misunderstandings. Also, it may be more useful to talk to a therapist on your own in order to have a chance to think through your feelings and decide potential coping techniques.

2. ASD is a complicated disorder. Thus, it is important that support is informed and understanding of these complexities. There are support groups available that can be very supportive. The benefit in talking to someone who understands should not be under-estimated!

3. Avoid personal criticism. A more impersonal approach in dealing with your partner will work better (e.g., instead of saying, "You shouldn't do that" …say, "Most people don't do that in social situations").

4. Have contact with other neurotypical spouses/partners in the same position for understanding, listening, support and advice.

5. If your ASD spouse acknowledges his or her social difficulties, it may be useful for him or her to see someone who knows about autism spectrum disorders and who can offer practical advice and social skills training, rather than “insight-oriented” talk therapy.

6. It may be hard for you to understand your ASD spouse’s needs. He or she may be interested in things that seem very boring to you, or may find seemingly normal social situations very stressful. Remember that he or she may not be able to read all the social cues that you understand without even trying. Thus, getting very upset may not be the best way to get through to your Aspie. A calmer, reasoned discussion – even writing things down – will work better.

7. It may be hard for your ASD spouse to change from routine; therefore, he or she may need plenty of notice when such disruptions are going to occur.

8. Know that you are not alone (although it may feel that way a lot). Use what help is available, through a support group or therapy.

9. Learn as much as you can about autism spectrum disorders. The apparently “hurtful” behavior by an autistic individual may not have been meant that way, but may be due to an inability to read the NT’s thoughts and feelings. In telling your ASD husband or wife what you are thinking and feeling and what you need him or her to do in response, be very frank and explicit.

10. Many NT spouses feel overly responsible for their ASD husband or wife. Acknowledge that there is choice connected to that responsibility. If you choose to take on responsibility for others, decide on how much and when you feel it is appropriate.

11. Often times, neurotypical spouses spend so much time looking after others that their own needs are not acknowledged by themselves – or others. Decide what you want and how you can get it (e.g., where you can go for conversation, support, etc.). Take time to pamper yourself and reduce your stress.

12. The realization that one’s spouse has a form of autism often comes about when a son or daughter receives the diagnosis. This occurrence may be compounded with guilt and a lack of support from your partner. Taking time to talk through positive coping techniques with a professional will be paramount here. The feeling of not being able to change things can be overwhelming. Thus, look at the situation objectively and decide (a) what can change and (b) what will remain constant.

13. Understand that all the unwritten rules of behavior may be very confusing to your partner. Something that you think is obvious may not be to him or her. ASD spouses/partners may not be able to project their mind into a hypothetical situation or put themselves in someone else's shoes. They may not immediately recognize the needs of others. And they may have a lack of perception about other people's motives. But bear in mind that this is largely due to “mind-blindness” issues rather than blatant selfishness.

14. Understand that in many cases, the ASD spouse is simply not going to "get better" or be transformed into the husband or wife you thought you married. Even so, certain behavior can be modified or changed, which can make daily life less stressful for both you and your partner (e.g., establishing routines and agreed timetables, looking at how you talk and what language is used, etc.).

15. When communicating with your ASD husband or wife, don’t be vague or assume your wishes will be acknowledged and understood. For example, it may not be enough to remind your partner that you are having family over for dinner. You may need to go through the evening in great detail (e.g., “I need you to help me with _______” … “I want you to greet everyone as they arrive” …"I would really appreciate it if you did not go to bed before the guests leave" …and so on).

Having said the above, many NT spouses feel as though the burden is totally on their shoulders to resolve the relationship problems in a marriage that involves a husband or wife on the autism spectrum. As one NT lady states, "This is very hard work and like having an extra son to care for. What about the needs of the spouse, me?!"  

ASD [Level 1]: Disability or Unique Ability?

Any increasing number of men and women with ASD Level 1 [Aspergers, High-Functioning Autism] are refusing to be classified as individuals with a disability, syndrome or disorder. They claim that ASD is not a disorder, but a “different way of thinking.” 
Many claim that a “cure” for the condition would destroy the original personality of the individual in a misguided attempt to replace them with a “neurotypical” (i.e., a person not on the spectrum).

The “different way of thinking” perspective supports the model of ASD that says that it is a fundamental part of who the autistic individual is – and that ASD is something that can’t be separated from the individual. As a result, some “different way of thinking” believers prefer to be referred to as “autistic people” instead of “people with autism,” because “people WITH autism” implies that it is something that can be removed from the individual.

==> Online Group Therapy for Couples and Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder

ASD individuals with this perspective oppose the idea of a cure, because they see it as destroying the original personality of the individual, forcing them to imitate neurotypical people (which they believe is unnatural to the “autistic”), simply to make mainstream society feel less threatened by the presence of men and women who are unique.

“Different way of thinking” believers assert that the “quirks” of ASD individuals should be tolerated as the differences of any minority group should be tolerated. When there is discussion about visions for a future where the condition has been eliminated, “different way of thinking” believers usually see this as an attempt to end of their culture and way of being.

“Different way of thinking” believers certainly would enjoy having fewer difficulties in life, and they find some aspects of ASD painful at times (e.g., sensory issues), but they don’t want to have to sacrifice their basic identities in order to make life easier. “Different way of thinking” believers strongly desire society to become more tolerant and accommodating instead of searching for a cure. These unique individuals:
  • think that treatments should focus on giving them the means to overcome the challenges associated by ASD rather than curing it
  • support programs that respect the individuality of the autistic
  • prefer the word "education" over "treatment"
  • try to “teach” other ASD individuals rather than “change” them
  • are in favor of helping make the lives of people on the spectrum easier

The “different way of thinking” perspective is related to the controversy of the movement. Some moms and dads see ASD as something that gives their sons and daughters great difficulty in life, and therefore see is as a true  “disorder.” Adults with this perspective believe that a cure for ASD is in their kid’s best interest, because they see a cure as something that will alleviate suffering. This is certainly understandable, but at a different level, insulting.

Many researchers and doctors have the goal of eliminating high-functioning autism completely someday; they want there to be a future with no ASD. But, many autistic men and women see the condition as a natural human variation and not a “disorder,” thus they are opposed to attempts to eliminate it. In particular, there is opposition to prenatal genetic testing of ASD in unborn fetuses, which some believe might be possible in the future if autism is genetic. 
Many scientists believe there will be a prenatal test for High-Functioning Autism someday. Our culture has started to debate the ethics involved in the possible elimination of a genotype that has both unique challenges and abilities, which may be seen as messing with nature in general – and natural selection in particular.

Many individuals on the spectrum believe that society has an opinion about ASD that is highly offensive. This opinion compares it to a “disease.” Thus, one of the goals of “pro-autisitc” adults is to expose and challenge those claims they find distasteful. Similarly, Autistic rights activists reject terming the reported increase in theASD population as an “epidemic” since the word epidemic implies that it is a disease.

If you are an autistic man or woman, and you're tired of hearing about all the "deficits" associated with the condition – join the club! The world needs to know that there are many more positives associated with it than negatives. If it is “cured” someday – then there go all the positives out the window. These positives are well worth celebrating. Here are just a few:

1. How often do neurotypical individuals fail to notice what's in front of their eyes because they're distracted by social cues and random small talk? Individuals with High-Functioning Autism truly attend to the sensory input that surrounds them. Many have achieved the ideal of mindfulness.

2. How often do neurotypical individuals forget directions, or fail to take note of colors, names, and other details? Adults on the spectrum are usually more tuned-in to details. They may have a much better memory than their neurotypical friends for critical details.

3. If you've ever joined a group or club to “fit in,” you know how hard it is to be true to yourself. But for individuals with the condition, social expectations are often irrelevant. Interest and passion are what really matters – not meeting other’s expectations.

4. Individuals on the spectrum tend to be less concerned with outward appearance than their neurotypical friends. As a result, they worry less about brand names, hairstyles and other expensive - but unimportant - externals than most adults do.

5. We all claim to value the truth, but few of us are truly truthful. But to most ASD men and women, the truth is the truth. A good word from an autistic is the real deal.

6. Most ASD individuals don't play head games, and they assume their partners/spouses won't either. That’s a refreshing change from the emotional roller coaster that damages many neurotypical relationships.

7. Who's Richer? Smarter? More talented? Prettier? For ASD individuals, these distinctions hold much less importance than for neurotypicals. Autistics often see through such surface appearances to discover the real person underneath.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism



•    Anonymous …On a bbc documentary called living with autism (an excellent programme btw) Simon baron Cohen has a brilliant explanation for the autism spectrum and how most of the world population is on it somewhere. This explains very well why some adults who are aspergers do not get a diagnosis either becuase they are not considered to be affected badly enough or becuase their issues are assigned to something else. Why in my case my issues were put down to 'well every has this or that experience or problem'. True moreso now I have seen prof. SBCs explanation. He draws a line on a piece of paper and on one side puts zero and the other 50. He then puts 25 in the middle. He then explains most people have 'some' ASD characteristics from zero to 25. Then some have 26 and over. The ones under 25 may be considered normal whilst over 25 may be seen to be ASD. But he then added that even though someone may clearly be ASD, the professional may still decide to not diagnose IF in their view the ASD is not impacting severely enough to necessitate the label. I found it re-assuring to find that most of us have some characteristics found in someone ASD becuase of this confusion some professionals were having over diagnosing becuase other people had similar issues who were not ASD, what I did find a bit of a problem is that clinicians still get to decide who to give or not give a label to. Not becuase I label is a good or bad thing but simply becuase the clinician decides if the person with ASD is suffering enough. I do not think it should be the decision of a clinician to decide what constitutes a good or bad quality of life for someone with an ASD. The only person who knows is the person themselves and if they've gone to be assessed for an ASD then clearly there is an issue! The label is regarded by some as unhelpful. Unhelpful to whom? Why unhelpful? If someone has ASD symptoms and are ASD then the label applies. End of. It is preposterous to infer that by giving a label to it you're damning the person with ASD. How so. When you consider it is a developmental disorder the damage for the want of a better dictum is done before or at birth. So how exactly does giving a label to that damn someone? It is a label that defines what is already there you muppets. So help and support can then be sought for the symptoms by the sufferer. IMO the only reason for not giving a label is to keep numbers down and funds are then not needed for those people becuase they are not 'officially' in need becuase they are not 'officially' ASD. To suggest someone with an ASD will be harmed further with a label is rubbish. And it insults our superior intellect. Since being diagnosed with aspergers I have been able to grow. To understand better my symptoms and embrace my qualities that previously actually had been misdiagnosed as personality disordered etc. Really helpful right!? Misdaignosing me added years of torture and misery onto me and my family. Since the (correct) label was given to me I have become empowered. Sadly there is little support for me still yet I have been able to get some extra support becuase of the label so not damned but some help and I have been able vto help lyself and others have gained a better understanding of my condition too so tolerance and support all round. So again I ask, why exactly is is a problem for me to have a label exactly? The ONLY issue I see is being given the WRONG label not being given the correct accurate one. For someone with an ASD labels are brilliant! For a profession that deals with labels all the time and thinking about it we all use labels all the time to say that 'labels aren't helpful', are you kidding me?!? Take it from a 50 year old asperger's person aka sufferer, this label is definitely helpful to me and those in my life. For the help and support for my issues and for the qualities I now can finally embrace. That were mis-labelled by these same clinicians as personality disorder and character flaws. More (accurate) diagnosing and labelling please not less.

•    Anonymous …I have Asperger's and have a lot of work to do to improve my social skills and interaction. I find that having been a member of a nas (national autistic society) group, the other Aspie's in the group are affected very differently to myself. Unfortunately; attending the group didn't help me to make progress in any way; i felt I didn't really fit in. I was diagnosed with Asperger's at the age of 22. I'm now 34 and have an awful lot of progress to make. Any Aspie who suffers with depression; i too; understand how it feels. I have suffered with depression for many years since my Asperger's diagnosis. It can be very hard at times and I guess life is not always easy for anyone. I hope with time that things will get better and that I will move on and get back to being my usual happy self. Hopefully I can vastly improve my independent living skills too: and reach my goals in life. And get the right help to improve my mental health too.

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