Blog for Individuals and Neurodiverse Couples Affected by ASD
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...
Dealing with unemotional, reserved men with ASD (high functioning autism) can be a tough dilemma for girlfriends and wives – especially if they are used to handling more assertive men.
They are frustratingly silent during conversations, they take coaxing to come out of their shell, and they often seem uncomfortable when dealing with social situations. Even so, men on the autism spectrum are often very sensitive, which can lead to a truly fulfilling relationship. In order to get there, though, an enterprising woman needs to know how to approach her reserved partner properly.
If your ASD husband or boyfriend clams up around your friends and family, avoids social outings, or is too reserved to express his feelings, you've got some challenges ahead, especially if you're an outgoing person yourself. Be patient, because people on the spectrum need more time to adjust to new situations. If you let your reserved man take his time to open up, your bond will be even stronger.
Here are some tips for getting your unemotional, reserved ASD partner to open up:
1. Be confident, but not overbearing. If you do manage to get your man to open up (e.g., he starts talking about his feelings), be sure not to interrupt him. It will make it even harder for him to open up again if he feels like what he’s saying is not sufficiently appreciated and that you may think that what he’s talking about is unimportant or boring.
2. Be patient. When it comes to men on the spectrum, it may take some time to get a full answer, so don't be afraid of a little silence. Prompting, such as "go on," or "what are you thinking?" will not help and will likely make him nervous. You should also generally avoid finishing his sentences when he pauses momentarily. He may want to articulate his thoughts in a particular way, so give him enough time to do so.
3. Calling attention to your husband's “reserved nature” can make him feel uncomfortable. Never ask him why he is so quiet or un-expressive. He has most likely heard these things many times, and talking about it will be counter-productive.
4. Do not push your guy to talk if he clearly seems to be avoiding it at that moment. He will only become annoyed with you and try to avoid you in the future.
5. Don't assume your man’s reserved nature is just a social phobia (although it might be). Perhaps he is instead going through a hard time or has had an emotionally trying past. Don't rush him, and don't come on too strong.
6. Don't pressure your man to contribute to a group conversation (e.g., at a family gathering). If he is not already participating, and especially if he is off to the side not even noticeably listening, abruptly requesting his input will likely make him quite and nervous since several people will suddenly be fixing their attention on him. If he is already part of the group and hesitates to contribute, however, asking a simple question related to the topic at hand may be helpful for allowing him a chance to speak.
7. Avoid making jokes about your man’s reserved nature. On the other hand, be judicious with potential compliments. Compliments can make him feel more comfortable around you if they seem sincere.
8. Find out his favorite thing, and try to find something about yourself that relates to his thing. If you have discovered an activity that he enjoys, ask him if the two of you can do it together.
9. Have an ongoing joke with your man. This will help him to be himself around you.
10. Look for topics that seem to engage your man. You will be surprised at how much reserved partner can blabber once you get them onto a topic they care about.
11. During conversations, make normal eye contact, but don't stare at him the entire time. Staring can feel a little intimidating to a person with Asperger’s. Remain casual and relaxed through the conversation, and really listen when he speaks.
12. Many guys with ASD have another side to them. If you discover a way to really bond with your man, you may find that he is loud, fun, and funny.
13. People with Asperger’s tend to choose their words with care. When your man says something, be sure to listen, and then think about what he said and the inflection he used before responding. There may be several layers and meanings hidden in the folds of that sentence you thought were simple and straightforward. When you respond, know that your husband wants you to understand the hidden meanings and layers, in addition to just the words. A blunt or overly simple response from you could potentially be interpreted as a loss of interest or being dismissive of his comments.
14. When you do ask questions, avoid ones that are personal. Try focusing on something related to the current location or activity. Ask what he thinks about different things that come up in the conversation. Try to avoid “yes-no” questions. Instead of "Did you like the new movie?" ask "What did you think of ..."
15. You may have to initiate most conversations initially. But after your man becomes comfortable with you, he will likely be more open and outgoing with you.
COMMENT: I have seen a lot of articles about significant others and how to deal, I am 51 and just recently was diagnosed with aspergers. I have never been able to connect with anyone beyond casual conversation and that is uncomfortable. I can't imagine ever getting to know someone well enough to even date much less anything beyond that. Sure would like to see more info on finding help dealing in small town America.
Unfortunately, it is very common for adults with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) to experience more than their fair share of stress – and to make matters worse – many of these people also lack the ability to manage their stress effectively.
Poor stress-management (PSM) occurs when the person is unable to cope with a particular stressor. Since individuals with PSM normally have symptoms that depressed individuals do (e.g., general loss of interest, feelings of hopelessness, crying, etc.), this condition is sometimes referred to as “situational depression.”
Unlike major depression, PSM is caused by an outside stressor and generally resolves once the person is able to adapt to the situation. PSM is different from anxiety disorder (which lacks the presence of a stressor), or post-traumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorder (which usually are associated with a more intense stressor).
Some emotional signs of poor stress-management are:
lack of enjoyment
thoughts of suicide
Some behavioral signs of PSM are:
performing poorly at school or work
ignoring important tasks (e.g., doing homework, paying bills)
hibernating in one’s bedroom or home
excessive time spent doing a particular "comfort activity" (e.g., playing computer games)
The recommended treatment for poor stress-management is psychotherapy. The goal of psychotherapy is symptom relief and behavior change. Anxiety may be presented as "a signal from the body" that something in the persons’ life needs to change. Treatment allows the AS or HFA adult to put his/her anxiety and anger into words rather than into destructive actions. Therapy can help the person gain the support he/she needs, identify abnormal responses, and maximize the use of personal strengths.
Sometimes small doses of antidepressants and anxiolytics are used in addition to other forms of treatment. In people with severe life-stresses and a significant anxious component, benzodiazepines are used. Tianeptine, alprazolam, and mianserin were found to be equally effective in people with anxiety. Additionally, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and stimulants (for people who became extremely withdrawn) have been used in treatment plans.
In addition to professional help, moms and dads can help their AS/HFA teens and adult children with their distress by:
having them engage in a hobby or activity they enjoy
involving their educators to check on their progress in school/college
letting them make simple decisions at home (e.g., what to eat for dinner, what show to watch on TV)
offering encouragement to talk about their emotions
• I find this extremely helpful. I would love to talk to the person who wrote this or other people dealing with these issues themselves or with their adult Aspie child. We are trying to get some medication to help with this, but I would also like to help my child (age 21) learn some coping skills.
• Im 25 and mostly everything on this page rings true. Ive never been diagnosed but recently a psychologist said I might have aspergers but that they dont officially diagnose that anymore.
• As an Aspie, I lose it under stress. I resort to covering my ears and reciting "I'm sorry," over and over again. When someone screams at me, my palms sweat and my hands are clammy. I shake and I hyperventilate, my thoughts race into a garbled jumble, and I avoid communication altogether. I simply cannot think.
• This is also me. Most of us, due to our condition, have anxiety/depression and all sorts of other nasties because we have had to work so hard at getting along with others, etc. I am currently hibernating to recover my equilibrium after what was a very pleasant time visiting family interstate. The cruel part is that even happy times are stressors to us! Anything which is out of the expected routine, unexpected outcomes, changes in plans, all stressful as we mentally work thru all the details of what will be NOW expected of us (to appear 'normal') It's a helluva situation, and I applaud you for your honesty and sharing. BTW I also say 'I'm sorry' way too much when not on top of things. We are so very used to being 'wrong' and 'odd' that our very existence seems some colossal reason to be apologetic to the world. Keep going,
Dealing with ASD (high functioning autistic) men can be frustrating and difficult for neurotypical partners, especially if you are involved in a love relationship. These guys who present themselves as “Mr. Logical” tend to be afraid of being controlled by others and "losing" who they are inside of a relationship. In some cases, they may reject emotional attachment as a way of protecting themselves.
Learn how to deal with your “Mr. Logical” by following these 12 tips:
1. In most cases, Mr. Logical has trust issues that come from things that happened to him in the past. For example, some of these men may have developed a tough and distant exterior due to having been bullied throughout childhood due to their nerd-like behavior. In this case, it might take some time for your ASD man to develop trust and break down barriers with you. If you truly care about the relationship, you need to be patient and allow him time to really feel comfortable and secure with you.
2. If you are trying to get Mr. Logical to feel comfortable talking with you, avoid starting conversations with sentences like "We really need to talk" or "This is important." These kinds of lead-ins can trigger a “clam-up” response. He might feel cornered or pressured by the "serious tone” of the conversation. When dealing with Mr. Logical, the goal is to get to a point where he does not fear things (e.g., commitment) and to not make him feel nervous and pressured.
3. Consider the social norms that ALL men – ASD or not – are supposed to follow when it comes to emotions and sharing those emotions. Men are historically supposed to be the non-emotional providers for their family. This does not reflect on their ability to communicate as a husband, but it will help you to understand why he is hesitant to show emotion around anyone.
4. If necessary, you may need to establish some distance (even if it's just temporary) between yourself and Mr. Logical. If you get the impression he can’t offer you what it is that you want, or even if he straight-out told you that, spend some time apart. Hang out with your friends, throw yourself into your career, or begin a new hobby. Mr. Logical will attempt to reestablish a connection with you when he is ready to open himself up to you emotionally. In the meantime, take care of yourself.
5. Expect Mr. Logical’s emotions to be displayed as actions rather than words. While a woman can fully articulate what she is feeling, an ASD man is more likely to try and find a solution to the problem and work on it. In fact, when a woman constantly asks "What are you thinking?" to her man who has gone quiet, she usually assumes he's angry. But this is not necessarily true. More likely, he has gone quiet as he thinks about how to solve the relationship problem.
6. Give your guy a platform to vent frustrations. You may see some expression of emotion from him if you are able to disguise it as a session where he is able to vent out what he is feeling, manifested as frustration or anger. Most men view frustration and anger as more masculine emotions. Even if your man is feeling sad or depressed, you might find that you will see his feelings come through as a hotter emotion.
7. Look for the causes of emotional distance. You and your spouse with ASD might be dealing with a relationship crisis, and withdrawal is his way of handling the situation. Physical separation can create emotional distance as he deals with the pain associated with interpersonal conflict. Past experiences can also cause him to shut himself off so he doesn't get hurt again.
8. Look for non-verbal cues that reveal your man’s true emotions. Perhaps he will not tell you when he is stressed or nervous, but he always chews his nails when he is stressed about work. By watching for these cues, you can better understand how he is feeling by comparing the things he is experiencing with his physical reactions to the emotions he is feeling.
9. Their emotions are confusing – and sometimes contradict each other. Oftentimes, they do not even understand their own emotions. Depression often goes undiagnosed because it is difficult for male with ASD to explain what they are feeling or that they feel ashamed for not subscribing to the society "norm" of a tough, well-adjusted, providing man. Encourage your husband to show his emotions by being supportive and understanding that his feelings are often much more complicated than he lets on.
10. Notice what works and what doesn't with Mr. Logical. Focus on topics that get a conversation going before moving on to those that may bring the wall back up. Emotional distance is not created overnight, and neither are the solutions for it. It often takes several attempts to get a constructive conversation going.
11. Realize that these individuals often have a difficult time communicating their feelings. He does NOT want to tell you that he is sad or depressed. Instead of becoming angry that he does not want to share his feelings with you, simply let him know that you are ready when he is. Leave yourself open for that conversation. Do not force the issue.
12. When attempting to problem-solve with Mr. Logical, use rationality rather than emotionality when you speak (as much as possible anyway). When you are talking to a “logical” man, it is vital to talk to him in a manner that he can comprehend. To express yourself to this type of male brain, realize that he might not think in "emotions" in the same way that you do. His brain might operate in a more rational, non-emotional fashion instead. If you utilize logic, he may find talking and opening up to you more comfortable.
• Anonymous said…Is negativity because of aspergers or his personality? It is so draining for me. I have to have enough optimism for both of us & after 33 years I run out very early In the day. • Anonymous said…Indeed. What ever you do - whatever you bring into the home, will received a negative reaction. I have found myself saying on several occasions, "There can't possibly be something wrong with everything." • Anonymous said…His personality I think. My aspie husband is very positive generally even when he is suffering from anxiety he try to talk himself out of it by talking positive. They are all so different. My aspie son and husband are streets apart personality wise. • Anonymous said…....it will NEVER happen! "He" will never initiate physical contact now because as we get older, the desire for "sex" is less. Not something "he" needs so why even both touching or kissing...oh I could go on...it's so emotionally draining and very lonely. Like being the lodger. All very polite etc. Zero emotion....
Emotions are essentially feeling states that have important and often complex information about our life experience. “Emotional intelligence” is the term used to describe how well someone understands and uses their emotions for healthy living. Overall, an emotionally intelligent individual knows that emotions can be a signal to oneself, a motivator for action, a relationship monitor, and a signal to others.
Here are a few tips to help Asperger’s men understand their neurotypical wives/girlfriends:
1. The most important factor in any relationship is communication. If you refuse to open up, you will only make the lady in your life feel more insecure and uncertain about the relationship, and this will make her behavior seem that much more confusing to you.
2. Neurotypical females tend to make emotional decisions “in the moment” and rationalize them later. To them, logic comes second to feelings.
3. Listen to what your lady has to say. This requires staying silent on your part. You have probably conditioned yourself to look as though you're listening when, in fact, your mind is somewhere else entirely. Develop the habit of giving your wife or girlfriend your undivided attention. Most of the time you don't have to give any advice, because all she wants is to know that you care.
4. Talk to your lady. The next time the two of you have a disagreement, don’t give her the silent treatment. No matter how difficult it may be for you, let go of your pride and approach her for a genuine conversation. Ignoring her will only make you appear immature. If she asks you if something's wrong, don't give a shrug and say "nothing."
5. Let down your guard and confide in your lady about any life-changing events or experiences (e.g., death of a loved one). As you continue to share your inner-most emotions with her, you will notice the bond between you growing immensely. You will realize that, for females, sharing emotions and stories is an important part of a relationship.
6. It’s futile to rely on rational arguments with females. The golden rule is simple: change her feelings, not her thoughts. Asperger’s males fail to connect with their wives and girlfriends because they focus on what’s being said instead of what’s being felt. The secret to reasoning with females lies in addressing their emotions.
7. Walk a mile in your lady’s shoes. You will gain a much broader understanding of females in relationships if you simply take the time to acknowledge the struggles and disappointments that females face. Try to look at the world from a female viewpoint. As you become familiar with some of the hardships that females face, you will gain a much deeper understanding of their mind and heart. When that occurs, you will never be confused again.
8. Get out of your comfort zone. If you want to understand females in relationships, get ready to wear your heart on your sleeve. Most females expect their guys to be in touch with their own emotions as well. Learn to be open, expressing feelings frequently and genuinely.
9. Do some research on females and their feelings. Spend some time with your aunt, female cousin, female friend, grandmother, and sister and pick their brains. Don't be afraid to ask some pressing questions. You'll be surprised at how much you can learn about female behavior, habits, interests and desires just by spending time with your female friends and relatives.
10. Be patient with yourself as you begin the journey of “trying to understand the mind of a typical woman.”
Learned helplessness is pertinent to your health. Several studies show that an optimistic explanatory style is linked to good health, and a pessimistic explanatory style predicts poor health. Mechanisms probably include biological, emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal factors. Research also suggests that learned helplessness is an important mechanism contributing to passive behavior in aging, athletic performance, chronic pain, and unemployment.