Notice I said “traits” – not “character flaws.” We’re talking about symptoms that come with having the disorder. And the affected person often has little - or no - control over most of these symptoms. This post is not designed to blame or ridicule men on the spectrum, and it should be noted that they do have more strengths than weaknesses (which we discuss a lot on this site). But for the purposes of this post, we will focus on some of the features associated with AS that can negatively impact romantic relationships.
Men with AS often have some of the following traits, but they will vary in both number and level of severity from person to person:
1. A special interest (e.g., coin collecting) is common in males with AS, and this may be something they have pursued for years. They will be passionate about it and often have an extensive collection of related items as well as incredible knowledge on the subject.
2. Although AS males are often highly intelligent, they may have held down a menial job or drifted from job to job for years. This stems from their problems with social skills and communication.
3. An AS man may have a pet (often a dog) that he becomes quite attached to. The pet is a friend that does not place demands on the man and accepts him as he is.
4. AS males may seem set in their ways and can appear to be selfish or insensitive. They may speak without weighing how their words will affect others.
5. AS men have been known to pass blame onto other people. In an effort to save face and protect their fragile self-esteem, these males may blame others for things that they should take responsibility for themselves.
6. Hot temperedness is not uncommon. AS men have been known to explode over relatively minor things (e.g., a burnt meal, a missing book, etc.). Frustration is another trigger for hot tempers. However, the man may feel that he is a “bad” person to behave in such a way, yet feels powerless to change.
7. In a romantic relationship, the AS man may resist physical touch and public or private displays of affection.
8. Job interviews often pose a problem since the AS man has impaired social skills and may not respond appropriately, or may misread the interviewer’s body language.
9. Males with AS have normally spent decades learning how to get by in life.
10. Males with AS often have a reputation for being cranky and difficult. People around them assume that they are simply ill-tempered or prefer their own company.
11. Many AS males often desire friends, but may also be considered loners. Typically they have a much lower capacity for social interaction than a “typical” man.
12. Many AS men have learned to lie to help them cope with life. For example, instead of admitting they are overwhelmed by noise, tired of being around people, or simply want to go and work on a favored interest, they may lie and say they feel sick or they have an appointment they need to get to.
13. Many males with AS do marry, but unless both partners are willing to work on problem areas, the relationship may not last.
14. Many males with AS fit into the stereotype of “geek.”
15. Most AS males are not good at making small talk. They can focus on a subject that interests them and talk endlessly about it, but they may not fully understand the give-and-take of a shared conversation.
16. Most males with AS can find employment and are generally reliable workers. However, even if they have the same qualifications as “typical” males, they may not find a job as easily due to a deficit in social skills.
17. Sensory difficulties may mean that the AS man does not like seams in clothing or labels in shirts. Hearing may also be affected, and he may dislike loud noises and certain music. Also, crowds may be overwhelming, and he may avoid them all together.
18. Sexual issues may arise if the AS male has not received an appropriate sex education earlier in life. In some cases, he may have learned about sex through watching porn on the Internet. This can be extremely disconcerting if he tries to act-out similar scenes with his partner/spouse.
19. Social activity may be limited, and the AS man’s wife often forms her own friendships and socializes while her husband stays at home.
20. Some AS males end up living a secluded life style and become known as a “hermit” or a “recluse.” They seem to cope better by being isolated, and feel less anxious than when they are confronted daily by the difficulties of interpersonal relationships.
21. Some AS males prefer to have a confirmed diagnosis, while others would rather carry on with life as they have in the past. Still others refuse to accept the possibility that they may have AS – and are offended when the issue is raised.
22. Some males with AS may have become defensive as years have passed and are difficult to confront or reason with. This is often the result of bullying and exclusion by their peers when they were younger.
23. Teamwork may pose a problem, and the AS man may function better if he is in a separate office without noise or distracting social interaction.
24. When courting a lady, an AS man may come across as quiet and reserved. In marriage, these qualities may become a point of contention if his spouse/partner becomes frustrated by his lack of communication.
- Are often "in their own world"
- Attention is narrowly focused on their own interests
- Can be obsessive
- Can be preoccupied with their own agenda
- Can be very critical of themselves and others
- Can become quite defensive when others ask for clarification or a little sympathy
- Can engage in tasks (sometimes mundane ones) for hours on end
- Can obsess about having friends to prove they’re “normal”
- Can often be distant physically and/or emotionally
- Can spend hours in the library researching a special interest
- Collect things
- Desire for friendships and social contact, but difficulty acquiring and maintaining them
- Difficulty understanding others’ feelings
- Don't always recognize faces right away (even some family members)
- Find emotions messy and uncomfortable
- Great difficulty with small-talk and chatter
- Have an urge to inform that can result in being blunt or insulting
- Intense focus on one or two subjects
- Lack of empathy at times
- Lack of interest in other people
- Likes and dislikes can be very rigid
- Limited interests
- May be clumsy and have uncoordinated motor movements
- May find their partner’s “need to connect” to be smothering
- May have a flat or blank expression much of the time
- May have a hard time saying “I love you” and showing physical affection
- May have a strong need to withdraw and have solitude
- May have an eccentric personality
- May have an idiosyncratic attachment to inanimate objects
- May have difficulty staying in college despite a high level of intelligence
- May make few attempts to keep a friendship going
- May shut down in social situations
- Non-verbal communication problems (e.g., difficulty reading body language, facial expression and tone)
- Often feel as if their partners are being ungrateful or “bitchy” when they complain (e.g., “you don’t really care about me” or “you never listen to me”)
- Often takes things personally
- Preoccupied with their own agenda
- Repetitive routines or rituals
- Rigid social behavior due to an inability to spontaneously adapt to variations in social situations
- Sensitivity to the texture of foods
- Speech and language peculiarities, or early in life may have had a speech impediment
- Strong sensitivity to sound, touch, taste, sight, and smell
- Unusual preoccupations
- Use word repetition (i.e., may frequently repeat what you've just said)
In no way is the above information provided to discourage relationships with AS men. Again, these traits are part of the disorder. These men often do the best they can in relationships. But unfortunately, it is too often the case that the “neurotypical” (i.e., non-Asperger’s) wife/partner views these traits as “defects that could be corrected if the man would just try harder,” resulting in the wife/partner feeling depreciated, unloved and resentful (which is truly the downside of AS for men).
• Anonymous said… As a woman with AS who has been happily married for almost 30 years to a man with AS, the mother of a daughter and four sons who are all on the spectrum, the grandmother of little Spectrumites and as a fully human being with a complete range of emotions I would like to say that it is the mis-match between different neurologies that causes most of the problems. Oh, and I'm the daughter and grand-daughter of Spectrumites too. I have dropped my non-AS 'friends' over the years as I was unable to meet their expectations that I should change to be more like them. They never tried to understand me, yet expected ME to understand THEM! I have great Spectrum friends and we have fortnightly family get-togethers that are huge fun. Socializing with other Spectrumites is easy. We understand each other’s body language; eye-contact is not a problem nor is bluntness and honesty in conversation. We make allowances for each other's sensory difficulties and can tell if the other is uncomfortable, and why.
• Anonymous said… Being married to someone with AS is so lonely. I feel that all my time is spent on how I can make things better for my husband to cope with life. Yet I am the one that has to handle everything and there is never someone there to help me. I agree about being fin/soc ind. For a long time I pushed aside my friends when it came to social outings since my husband always seemed so awkward at these events. I have started going to things by myself which may sound rude but at least I feel alive!!!! To have another adult to talk to is worth more than anything.
• Anonymous said… Compliments are the hardest thing to give and to take. Call me an "Aspie" and any chance of me wanting to talk to you goes straight out the window. An asp (supposedly) killed Cleopatra. I am not an asp.
• Anonymous said… Dear Mark, Thanks for such a quick response. I see that I am responsible for my own anger and resentment and criticism, and the response it has provoked in him. I feel terribly guilty about that. But I also see that he will never be someone who will hug me spontaneously, kiss my cheek when I am crying, grab my hand when we are walking, look me in the eyes and truly understand emotionally what I am going through. Not sure I can live with that in a husband, although I can love him as the wonderful father of my child that he is. Do you understand that? Very Sincerely, Marietta
• Anonymous said… Dear Mr. Hutten, Thank you for your wonderful book. I wish I had read it about 15 years ago, before I married my husband in 2000. I believe my husband has Aspergers. I am a physician myself who has worked with many children with DD and have also been reading every book I could find on the subject since I realized Aspergers was likely the cause of my husband's odd behaviors. For a long time I thought it was his upbringing --with selfish, distant parents, or me, that he wasn't in love with me, or I was too emotional and needy. He doesn't like to make eye contact, unless it's an overly direct, almost aggressive stare, and pulls away quickly after a stiff hug. He is very intelligent in some ways, especially about mechanical and electrical things and political topics, and oddly off base about very basic aspects of pleasant human interaction. I have been driven into a rage more than I care to admit by his rudeness, and into despair, near suicidal, living with someone who has so little empathy. He absolutely refuses to accept he has Aspergers. He even took an online test where I felt he basically lied so that it would not come out as Aspergers. His parents are the same-weirdly rude and unemotional and isolated and very intelligent. Who knows-maybe Aspergers is the evolution of our species. But I am not there. For me, love and joy and art and music are more important than anything else. If I had parents or other family members or friends I could rely on for love and emotional support in my life, perhaps I could stand this marriage. But we have gotten to the point of no return. We have been to 3 different marriage counselors, I have been to counseling alone, and I have read dozens of books (he has read none as the only problem he sees is my dissatisfaction with him!) I have told him I am sure I want a divorce and his main concern, appropriately, is that he gets enough time with our 6 year old daughter. Inappropriately, he has suggested I sleep on the couch and let him come to the home for visits, have him continue to live here but in the basement room, and has had coffee to discuss the divorce with a divorced father with whom we are only distantly acquainted through our children in the same neighborhood. I know he is dependent on me for his social and family life, not to mention finances. I want to continue to have him as a friend, and will continue to help him. He is tall and attractive and self-confident so I expect he will find a new partner much sooner than will I. I also want to be happy, and especially to give my daughter a peaceful household. I am hoping you have some advice to get through a divorce and set up a healthy "after marriage" with your ex-Aspergers partner.
• Anonymous said… Eight years of going through hell and back, you either sink or swim. Delphi forms AS Partners is a wonderfully supportive group of pro active women it is worth checking out. Good luck to you all.
• Anonymous said… Have you seen a movie called "Mozart and the Whale" --- It's about finding love when you have asperger's.......very uplifting even to someone who doesn't because it made me see accepting each other in imperfect condition is such a wonderful sign of loving each other.
• Anonymous said… I agree that living with an Asperger's person is not easy, but the marriage can be manageable and happy if the two talk about the challenges and work through them. It is only natural for a person with any difficulty to choose someone who complements them to be their partner. Reading this article gave me a very negative feeling about people with Asperger's Syndrome; but this is not accurate. Beneath all that "oddness" lays a very vulnerable person who is easily overwhelmed and overloaded. The "selfishness" is just a means of coping with that. The partner can be happy as long as he/she lower their expectations and look at the other half of the cup.
• Anonymous said… I am a 40's male, and I guess I'm probably an Aspie. I've achieved well academically and financially in a narrowly focused scientific field. I agree with the AS lady that says that the partners who choose us do it for the safety of not having to let anyone very close. They may say they regret it later, but how do you not notice that someone is self-absorbed and emotionally distant? Give me a break. A while back, after having a high fever for a few days, I had delirium, and along with it some startling realizations about how my spouse must feel. For some reason (you explain it 'cause I can't) I understood that I could be more nurturing and tuned-in. I understood that I needed to notice her. It's not like I think it "cured" me or something, but I got a good glimpse at something more like typical. Here's the rub. When I try to learn about my NT wife and my NT parent, I repeatedly find that they won't talk about themselves, their feelings, or what's important to them. They are pleasantly evasive. They do not want me to become more emotionally available. They were comfortable with the idiot savant who went away and worked really hard on stuff they didn't understand. My wife has been touched by the deeply intimate, very personally focused love-making (that part of it all, she seems to like just fine). But now that I have understood the intimacy I've been missing, I'm seeing that she is resistant to me growing and healing. I'm breaking free from self-absorption - as much as I can in the life I have left. Now I understand that she never was emotionally available. I was just so focused on me that I never noticed. Maybe time will heal. Anyway, my overall impression of this whole Aspie/NT thing is this: I don't steal. I don't cheat. I don't lie. I am intellectually gifted and valued by those who can't focus for long enough to understand the things that are obvious to me. I use those talents to help humanity to the best of my ability. And now, I am aware of another dimension to the people with whom I interact. (It's not like I can't do it. Now that I know it's there, if I work at it and watch people more closely, I can pass. It's exhausting, but people no longer look at me like I'm an insect they've never seen before.) So, who is it exactly that has a problem? Can you imagine a bunch of aspies starting a war? systematically starving a population? perpetrating genocide? hiding a beneficial discovery? I don't think so. If you ask me, having a working knowledge of how this sick society functions is the illness. Am I wrong?
• Anonymous said… I am a 45 year old AS man married to an NT woman for the past 17 years. We live in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada and have 2 teenage daughters. My wife and I self-diagnosed me almost a year ago. The initial suspicion entered my wife's mind when she first met my father (17 years after we first met) whom she suspected immediately to have AS. She ordered some books on-line in an effort to help me understand and resolve and some of my childhood issues growing up with him. However, I wasn't very far into the first book when I realized that it was describing our tumultuous relationship and the effect it has had on my wife which has been called "Cassandra's Syndrome". So in my case I didn't immediately associate myself as an AS man but definitely recognized the effects an AS man can have on his NT wife. From there is was not difficult for both of us to accept that I had AS - albeit not in many of the text book stereotypical ways used to characterize AS men and in a very different way than my father exhibits his AS. My wife started exhibiting physiological symptoms of Cassandra's Syndrome a couple years ago and it has gotten to the point where she is anxiety ridden and unable to handle traffic, crowds let along get on a plane to attend an AS workshop. Her inability to cope with everyday things has hampered our progress and is testimony of the problem our relationship brings to her. It has gotten to the point where she often concludes that change is impossible and that leaving me is the only solution to her well being - something I have been hearing for 17 years now but am finally starting to sympathize with. Luckily, we still love each other, are devoted to our children and have always been fully dependent on my self-employed income - typical reasons couples stay together. However, this doesn't seem to be enough anymore now that the initial elation of diagnosed AS is over and very little has changed in our marriage.
• Anonymous said… I am a 50 year old Aspie woman. I have had to admit that I am emotionally unavailable. I find being in a couple difficult, and I am infatuated with another man who is also emotionally unavailable (and he infatuated with some lover he had years ago, long gone). So what I say is this: Emotionally unavailable people are drawn to one another. If you are with someone who cannot show you love and tenderness, then there is a reason within yourself for that. Easier to focus on the partner's inability to love than your own (I know this because I have done that myself). We choose each other. We have some need, some craving, for the pursuit of someone who can never truly be with us. All the focus goes on to "if only s/he'd change, I'd be happy". Not true. It's a bitter, repulsive fact that people like us love each other because of the guarantee of coldness and distance. I have come to believe this is all part of Asperger's, not lack of self esteem, childhood trauma etc (though being Aspie, we are rich in both those things). He can't love? Nor can you. Nor can I. I want to face this miserable, hurtful truth. I suspect some partners of Aspies are also on the spectrum, or have some other condition that draws you to us. There's no right, no wrong and (short of domestic violence) no victim and no villain. We can't love as we'd wish to love. What now? Accepting that is the first step, for me. Not that I know what comes after that.
• Anonymous said… I am a 64 year old man who has lived a good life. I have recently become aware that I am most likely AS. I had few problems in my 31 year career at one company and was even able to complete my Masters Degree late in my life. My problem with this article is that it strongly suggests that the only way to learn is by going to a Professional Therapist. To do that seems like I will need a formal diagnosis and other sites I have looked at suggest that may not be the best route for me given my age and position in life. After the death of my first wife, I met and married a really nice woman. We had the typical AS courtship and after 4 years have discovered my AS issues t be a problem in the relationship. I love her very much and want to learn about how to live with this woman and provide for her emotional needs, but do not do well at remembering what I read or listen to with regards to dealing with my AS tendencies. So what is the suggested best course of action for me to follow.
• Anonymous said… I am a non-aspergers male, married to a self diagnosed aspy female. We have been married for 14 1/2 years and I am really struggling. Struggling with the whole aspy thing as well as her reaction to my 16 year old son who came to live with us 1 1/2 years ago. Is there anyone out there like me? I'm sinking fast...
• Anonymous said… I am dating someone with AS. I really care for him as a person and want to take things further. Any advice on how to proceed? Do I need to be the one to initiate things? Do I need to be more revealing in my feelings?
• Anonymous said… I am married to a non-diagnosed Asperger Husband and we have a diagnosed Aspie son. My older brother shows classic signs of Aspergers – very socially inept and has difficulty holding down a job. He is currently unemployed and has been taken care of by my parents both have now passed away. He constantly blames the world for his problems – thinks the world is out to get him, when in reality, it seems he sabotages himself and makes downright stupid decisions. Recently, the state was going to pay for him to go to Truck Driving School and right before the class when my oldest brother sent him some money to live off of, he bought some pot and smoked a joint so he failed the drug test and got kicked out of the school. I think he self-medicates – he also has been diagnosed with Manic Depression and Bi-polar. Just this weekend, he decided to go camping with his dog and took my mother’s van on a back road and ended up rolling it and totaling it killing his dog. He is very upset about the dog as it was his only companion and friend. He is currently being seen by an Army Psychologist as he is a veteran. I would like to write his doctor and let him know of my suspicions and of the strong family history of Aspergers. Do you recommend I do this or do I just forget about it? We are fearful that my brother may one day take his own life or worse – become a mass shooter because he is ticked off at someone. If you have any suggestions, articles or resources we could use to help our brother, we would greatly appreciate it.
• Anonymous said… I am separated from my husband/Partner of almost 15 years. I noticed quirky/bizarre behavior from the start of our relationship, but never gave AS a second thought until now. We went to marriage counseling, the therapist suggested I get a book regarding AS, OMG! Now I know why I've felt insecure for most of my marriage...I always initiated any intimacy. He's told me less than 10 times in 15 years that he loves me. We have 2 children; otherwise I would have left sooner. Now that I have moved out, I find myself reading more about AS. Part of me feels sorry for my husband, the other half feels relieved...I'm so exhausted, mentally and physically. I also noticed that every time I made a comment, his response had nothing to do with what I had just said...He has no emotions and it's frightening?? I would like to join a support group as well...Any ideas?
• Anonymous said… I dated someone who had Aspergers syndrome and it led to me having a breakdown and suffering from severe depression. He denies to this day that he has done anything wrong and the problem is that the people around him have simply enabled his behavior. He is a high achieving professional but lacked the capacity to understanding that his actions and words were deeply damaging. If someone told me they had Aspergers now. I would run in the opposite direction.
• Anonymous said… I don't know where we go from here. If he does have Asperger's, it could explain his infuriating behavior. But will that make it any easier to live with? Who knows? We have a long history. Deep down I know we love each other. But unless something changes I will lose my mind.
• Anonymous said… I have "outgrown" aspergers, or at least symptoms have disappeared. The only social problems I have are a result of previous social individuality, plus all the other teenagers I know seem like idiots. So to answer your question, there are cases you can recover from aspergers, but it really depends on the will of the person.
• Anonymous said… I have been divorced for a few years from my spouse, but, I do believe that he has Asperger's. Now so much of his personality and so much of what we went through in our marriage makes sense, like pieces of a puzzle coming together. Thank you for posting your article!
• Anonymous said… I have been with my husband for almost 44 yrs and the last 15 have been the worst. I took a job I didn't want driving truck because I knew in my heart that he would never go it alone. As much as the AS person is a loner many times they work best with someone else by their side, and heaven knows I was an enabler the fist yrs of our marriage. We only know he has AS because our grandson, who is just like him was diagnosed 7 yrs ago. Thank God he has been able to get the social training he needs to help in adulthood. My husband just doesn't get or want to get the fact that he has caused me great sorrow and I am wondering after all these yrs if I can continue. I too know, it's not his fault but I also know it's not my fault and I don't want to end up not giving a da-n about the father of my children. God I need someone to vent to once in a while.
• Anonymous said… I have suspected my husband of 40 years has Asperger's for the last year. I love him dearly and know he is a good person and has love in him. Even so, I feel isolated and totally exhausted from the continual effort at what often feels like a one sided relationship. No one believes me!
• Anonymous said… I just want to share my experience and testimony here.. I was married for 6 years to my husband and all of a sudden, another woman came into the picture.. he started hailing me and he was abusive..but I still loved him with all my heart and wanted him at all cost? then he filed for divorce..my whole life was turning apart and I didn't know what to do..he moved out of the house and abandoned the kids.. so someone told me about trying spiritual means to get my husband back and introduced me to a spell caster? so I decided to try it reluctantly..although I didn't believe in all those things? then when he did the special prayers and spell, after 2days, my husband came back and was pleading..he had realized his mistakes..i just couldn't believe it.. anyways we are back together now and we are happy..in case anyone needs this man, his email address email@example.com, his spells is for a better life. again his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Anonymous said… I knew something was wrong for decades and only recently realized it is Asp. I am shocked but now things make sense. I feel like the only real adult in the marriage and do everything for him. He is VERY nice though and high functioning and well liked because he never argues with anybody. His main emotion is happy all the time, even during a crisis. It is totally exhausting and very sad for me. He does not get sad so he is okay all the time. We are in counseling, but even the counselor wants me to be positive. There are no support groups for Asp. wives around here either. Good luck to all of us.:)
• Anonymous said… I recommend the support group "Aspergers and Other Half" which you can find at yahoogroups.com and there are many members on it that live in Australia.
• Anonymous said… I seem to have "outgrown" certain traits myself but I'm still an Aspie. There are traits which I'll never be rid of. The bottom line is aspies mature just like NTs (maybe not the same way or at the same pace).
• Anonymous said… I showed more moderate autism traites in elementary, only when I got older (8 years or so) did i imporve and kept going, b4 that, i was difficult to get through to, very odd, aloof. Im a fully functioning adult today, drive, go to work, and someday plan on supporting a family. I realize once on the spectrum always on the spectrum however.
• Anonymous said… I split up unintentionally with my undiagnosed interstate partner 3.5 months ago. Despite me apologizing for my frustrated outburst to him...is aid I've noticed that you don't touch me except when you want sex.no response of course! The more he said nothing, the more I tried to get a reaction, as even after eight months, I still had had no signs to show me that he cared. All too familiar? He knows he is dyslexic, but I think has no idea he is Asperger. Mind you, I didn't know either! I was told that he was very shy. Last November, when his ex wife, who left him 3 years before,found out that he was dating me, did an attempted suicide and a rape allegation when she was 11. She drove him mad with text messages for six months, which made him understandably stressed. I became very wobbly and fearful that they may get back together, as I had fallen in love with him...for the first time in my life. I am 61 and have 25 year old twins who I have raised on my own since they were four. So you can glean that falling for this man was a momentous occasion for me! I have just phoned him, and told him I think we had a big misunderstanding, that I had no intention of splitting up with him, I apologized yet again for my outburst of frustration, and said I'd like to think that we could forgive each other. That everyone has misunderstandings,and you need to communicate.I said I would like to see him again...he said he wasn't sure and that he was still going through a difficult time of trying to organize himself and get things done. At no stage did he ask me how I was or say he was sorry too or that he missed me. He did keep lapsing into conversation about what was happening in his life and did not return to the talk we were having. I got off the phone and thought wow this is one hard nut to crack!! You said you may be able to help. Any suggestions? I am wondering if this is just way too hard to get myself back into...it sure makes me wonder what I am attracted to !! But like in your e book you say how boyish and honestly naive and loyal, intelligent and handsome...and he is all of that! Boy is this ever confusing...I find it so hard to know what to do. I would love your advice!
• Anonymous said… I think that's great that you were able to become more in-tune with our wife. Give it a little time. I'm not sure how long you've been together, but your changes may not seem genuine yet. My husband wasn't at all self-absorbed and emotionally distant while dating and through our engagement. In fact, he couldn't have been more perfect - same dreams/goals, etc. He continues to be/act very social outside our home. The day after the wedding, I didn't recognize the man I married. It took 20 years to figure out what was going on. I'm so glad that there is more information about undiagnosed Aspies now. Hopefully more support for adults and their partners will follow soon. I commend you for the changes you're making. We NT wives all have very similar stories to tell. Though not intentionally done, your marriage has truly hurt/changed/damaged your wife. She will appreciate your efforts and will reciprocate when she feels a little more secure. And, yes, it is a sick society....and I love my Aspie. I just wish we knew about it. Not knowing caused a lot of hurt and confusion for both of us.
• Anonymous said… I was pretty aspie as a kid and adolescent - although I had a few friends as a teenager I was still horrible at meeting new people, conversation and socialising. That changed dramatically during my 20s - around 23-28 I was very social, had close friends, went out partying, met new people. I guess the fact that I was at university at that time made it easier. I kept a lot of my traits, though, and needed a lot of time on my own to relax, but still I was able to live an almost normal social life with my peers. At a certain point I just had understood how to fit in.
• Anonymous said… I would recommend the yahoo group Aspergers and Other Half. They are a great group of ladies married to AS. Some are trying to make it work, others are trying to make divorce work. They helped me gain a lot of clarity. However, I recommend anyone who joins to use a new and secret email and a pseudonym to protect yourself from husband cyber stalking and protect the security of the group, as this has been an issue.
• Anonymous said… If Asperger's is neurological, it's really hard to say you can outgrow it. However, a lot can be dealt with through education. Example, learning about metaphors will help someone take things less literally when needed, as you learn to recognize common phrases. Not only that, but learning something like logic will help you infer when something is a metaphor and something is literal. If you know that you're not good at learning through lectures, you can tailor your education to suit your needs (I am treated like an idiot when someone demonstrates, but give me a manual and I'm fine, usually, depending on the quality of the instructions.) Sensory issues, etc, are probably more permanant, but your best bet is always education.
• Anonymous said… In response to 12 maybe he likes big butts. A lot of guys do. I am not trying to be a perv here its just that not all straight men are into the hollywood standard of what is attractive in women. I have aspergers and I have gotten in trouble for telling women they are not skinny but I mean it as sort of a compliment because I don't consider skinny to be beautiful.
• Anonymous said… It is true that I have "outgrown" more juvenile expressions of my AS. That is just a regular part of growing up that everyone goes through (e.g. NTs outgrow juvenile expressions of NTism). But as I engage in the adult social world with its expectations for employment, socializing, etc. I adapt in more contemporary ways. Truth be told, tho, I do indulge in some older behaviors when I am alone.
• Anonymous said… living with my AH for 12 years now. At first didn't know why he's so aloof and emotional at the same time and it was really confusing. He can get really agrrasive when playing games (rule boy) and totally into any debates in the most defending manners...even when others lost their interest and he wouldn't read their 'signals'. I'm Chinese and he's English, I first thought it's cultural and language differences. Only by chance read something about ASD and got goosebums cause it's matching most of my husband's behaviour. I got to a stage where I have to 'explain' openly and bluntly to our daughter - on every 'odd' behaviour that he display just in case she thinks that is normal. Because I starting to notice she not using the eye contact and begins to ignore people. I'm feeling really exhuarsted and lonely :-(
• Anonymous said… Me NT, him Aspie. We met 2 years ago. Good friends for 1.5 years. Roommates while platonic but it was getting intense. He moved out. Got all touchy, huggy, kissy then sexual + romantic increasingly over the spring and summer. He has said "I love you" and "I love you, too" to me about 200 times on chat, in person, in bed, via texts. We've slept together and had sex (he was a very sweet and generous giver of pleasure) at least 10 times and even traveled this summer together on vacation. When I tried to have the "relationship" conversation and discuss how to accept our friendship growing into being lovers, he told me could never be my lover or boyfriend, only my friend with benefits and then he stated he only said "I love you" or "I love you, too" or "xoxoxoxoxoxoxo" to me because it was socially acceptable and he doesn't even know what love is. He said he cared for me but only as a friend and he isn't willing to categorize. When I got emotional/upset about him LYING that he loved me and spending months saying false words, which added to my increasing affection and desire for him, he shut me out by blocking my emails, texts, and AOL chat. It's been weeks of hell for me.
• Anonymous said… My AS husband had a diagnosis 3 years ago and now that we have this framework to understand his behavior we have been able to 'save our relationship'. Pre-diagnosis, it was often difficult for either of us to make sense of many of the things that he did. His diagnosis gave him a new way to understand himself and gave me the necessary information to try to support him with his challenges. We have also been able to begin to change our expectations of how our relationship can be successful. It was a very difficult time emotionally for us both but we found some support online - services for adults in the UK are very few and far between. Sharing helps - so a big "thanks" to Karen and your ex for being brave enough to tell your story to the public. Doing so might save many more marriages.
• Anonymous said… My ex is an Asperger's man and so is our son. I could not deal with it but it was mostly because of my own personality. I am extremely outgoing and very much a people person. I thrive on volunteering, being with friends, etc. My ex did not and got upset if I wasn't at home with him. I am also highly kinesthetic (I process through my feelings and emotions more than through visual or audio clues). Many Asperger's tend to 'lack affect'--not show emotions very well and tend to not be as affectionate. I am the opposite so on the whole we were just a bad match. Everyone is different however. Some 'normal' (heck who is really normal? I mean non-asperger's people here) people are naturally not so outgoing or strong people-persons. Some tend to not be as emotional. Some don't like as much affection. There are plenty of those out there who CAN deal with the aspects of asperger's. I think it is also easier if you are a woman. It has been said that Asperger's is like being overly male. That on a spectrum men tend to be a little further away from social, etc. than women and that asperger's syndrome people tend to take that a step farther. So the average man is sort of a bit closer to the asperger part of the spectrum than the average woman--making it a bit easier for a asperger woman to find a man than an asperger man find a women. The thing is, humans are all over the spectrum in every trait. There probably is someone out there for everyone--probably several someones to be honest. It may be a bit harder if someone is farther towards one end of the spectrum or the other, but it is quite possible.
• Anonymous said… My husband definitely is Aspie. He has a lot to learn in the social department. Luckily, he likes to be physical and that is a plus for our marriage (i actually told him I can't marry him unless we have sex at least 3x's a week ;o) haha Yes, I'm a woman! LOL He is not very romantic but he has allowed me to open some doors and travel places I don't think he would have without me. He has been more flexible and so I believe the balance has helped him. I insist on Intimacy. Luckily, this is not uncomfortable with him. The biggest problem is him being a work horse and "shutting him down" almost like a computer FROM the computer and him learning to "realize" that it's "too much" He needs to check in to Life, the kids, me Things he once felt was important (and still does) I guess it's the transition. I don't like the emotional detachment (like i feel he could have sex with someone else and it wouldn't be a BIG deal) and so yes, I feel he would be more likely to "wander" but he does know the difference right/wrong and hopefully he will keep to his vows/promises. I know he loves me and the kids. He's just a bit "impulsive" and so that sometimes makes me worried that it will ruin our marriage. We've been married for 10 happy years though and I feel we both compliment each other, though I'm not on the Spectrum. I love that he's a very logical thinker and he is more involved with the kids activities than most men. He also is not into sports so that frees up some time for the family. I love my Aspie husband and I like that he sees/knows he has weaknesses (isn't arrogant) and knows he has much more strengths.
• Anonymous said… My husband DOES have aspergers (and ADHD), as did his father and uncle. It is stressful and I am exhausted. The groups I've tried to join basically say the same thing: Be positive, accept him, it's not his fault. I'm not a good wife for not "enduring". I understand that. I really do-but I am losing it. Fast. It's been 15 years and I am EXHAUSTED.
• Anonymous said… My husband has always been kind of difficult to live with. Neil can be charming and witty, but he also tends to be callous, selfish, and detached. When my kids were young I focused on them so my husband's indifference didn't bother me. But now that they're gone he's really driving me crazy.
• Anonymous said… My man is also an Aspie. Not diagnosed, but he recognizes it in himself, and we have an Aspie grandson, as well as an autistic granddaughter. Their mother also has certain Aspie traits. Our marriage was torture for me for almost 30 years. The loneliness and frustration finally became overwhelming & we divorced. We actually got back together about a year later because we do really love each other, but it took some really brutally honest sessions to work past things. He was shocked to learn how hurtful he had been, in spite of my trying to communicate this for years. He was finally ready to listen after the divorce. We haven't remarried, mostly due to his horrible financial management. I refuse to be tied to his debts. All that being said, one key for us has been just accepting each other as we are. I no longer expect him to come to concerts with me, so there is no disappointment when he won't. I understand his tendency to be a hermit. I have learned to make my own life and enjoy what we can together at the same time and to be content with that. It has been difficult - I'm a very tactile person and that deficiency in the relationship has bee very painful to me. The confrontations surrounding the divorce ended the verbal abuse, and my advice to those who suffer it is to be very direct in saying that they are being mean and hurtful. You newd to refuse to listen to it. Get the positive strokes you need from friends and family - they aren't likely to come from your spouse very often if at all. After all these years, I can now say that I am content, and often happy in the relationship. It isn't everything I dreamed or even needed, but it works.
• Anonymous said… My social skills were and still are, reasonably poor. I have never been able to like myself. I have never cared about my appearance, having long ago decided that I was ugly and unattractive anyway and that grooming and clothes would make no difference to the obvious. Even though I was able to marry a very beautiful woman who loved me deeply and many have assured me that this is not the case at all, inside I have always felt it to be the truth.
• Anonymous said… My traits have become less of an issue as I've aged. I noticed it first when I was about 38. I'm 50 now. I sure can't say the traits have been eliminated, but the other adults I'm around aren't as judgemental as younger people when I was younger (if that makes sense). Also, I'm less reactive and more accepting of myself.
• Anonymous said… Thanks for the comprehensive article. You've identified the ideal client I want to work with. I have found that dialectical behavior therapy teaches a lot of these EQ skills as well. Have you considered that model for teaching EQ?
• Anonymous said… The problem is that we are already separated. I'm in Arizona and he's still back in Michigan. Have you dealt with Asperger's folks who's parents are ultra controlling and possessive? He comes from a nightmarish family that never accepted me even though I did the best job care taking him and was the best woman he has ever had. I know that I did a great job and so did my 11 year old son. I did everything and anything to keep the marriage going but his parents were jealous of me and Kent's happiness as well, so they poisoned him with negative talk about me that is just not true. Being a disabled person he probably didn't have the sense to not listen to them even though he admitted to me on several occasions that his family was 100% crazy. I have no doubt that they had been coaching him to leave us because back in February his dad came with him to our house to move him out (without giving me any warning). So here I am with my precious son and no hubby. How can a wife compete with a spouse's parent? I feel helpless and hopeless, even with your communication techniques because I'm afraid that his parents will continually try to break up our marriage. His dad told his mom that he does not want Kent to be happy. It's sickening to watch them continually ruin his life by not letting him live it on his own without their control. Do you have any ideas of what we can do? My son and I thought of sending him an email this Thursday about watching the brand new office episode since we'll be watching it at the same time at our house. We used to always watch The Office together as a family so it would be something to connect us, we thought. I know we are supposed to be together but I couldn't move back to Michigan since his unstable family lives there. I would need him to move out here if he did want to get back together. We have had very little communication since the split (a few weeks ago). My dad did yell at him and told him he would have Kent arrested if he continually emotionally abused me anymore (Kent was blaming me for all kinds of untrue things at the end of the relationship. He also struggles with bipolar and was having paranoia. He would not go to the doctor even though I encouraged him to). My dad told Kent he better not ever bother me again after I moved out here to AZ, so I think he really scared Kent into not calling us. We have a tough situation because I feel deeply that we should be together but I'm up against his medication issues (not taking his health seriously), his family, and his fears of my dad.
• Anonymous said… There are many aspects of this article that really hit home but I don't feel that being married to a person with Asperger's is the worst thing in the world. Would you just up and run if your part developed cancer or was seriously injured in a car crash and need care all the time? My husband has Asperger's and OCD. We have been married for 6 years but together on and off for 13 years. We have 5 kids together, two of whom also have Asperger's. My daily life is VERY exhausting mentally and physically caring for my children and my husband especially since they all have their own set of challenges to tend to but I wouldn't trade my family for anything in the world!! I think as long as you (the neurotypical spouse) have some outlet to keep yourself balanced it is very doable. I know my husband loves me with all his being. It may not always be perceived that way because all his love can seem small in comparison to a "normal" relationship but I know that he is giving all he can and that means something. It would be nice to have a forum to talk to others who understand where I am coming from though.
• Anonymous said… There is some evidence that kids with Aspergers may see a lessening of symptoms; up to 20% of kids may no longer meet the diagnostic criteria as adults, although social and communication difficulties may persist. As of 2006, no studies addressing the long-term outcome of people with Aspergers are available and there are no systematic long-term follow-up studies of kids with Aspergers. People with Aspergers appear to have normal life expectancy, but have an increased prevalence of comorbid psychiatric conditions, such as major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder that may significantly affect prognosis. Although social impairment is lifelong, the outcome is generally more positive than with individuals with lower functioning autism spectrum disorders; for example, ASD symptoms are more likely to diminish with time in kids with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism. Although most students with Aspergers/High-Functioning Autism have average mathematical ability and test slightly worse in mathematics than in general intelligence, some are gifted in mathematics and Aspergers has not prevented some adults from major accomplishments such as winning the Nobel Prize.
• Anonymous said… This article is so welcome. For many years I had no idea what the reason was for the strange, nearly indefinable problems we had in our marriage. Now I realize that there must be many exhausted, isolated, deeply sad women out there trying to cope with a very difficult situation alone, because so few understand. My husband is a beautiful, gentle, intelligent individual but this does not prevent my suffering. Denying one's self and sacrificing all basic emotional needs every single day, giving up the most important personal desires bit by bit as the years go by is so damaging. I wish support was better organized for partners of Aspergers. Many of us live in a trap, denying ourselves more and more as times goes by but finding it unacceptable to abandon a good and in a way helpless person who is the way he is out of no fault of his own. It is enough to make one crazy and there is no help around. Thank you for your article. This is a first step.
• Anonymous said… Total honesty. You have to become as brutally honest as he is - it will feel awkward but will open up all kinds of doors. "Giving me a rose, every now and then, makes me happy..." and then explain the symboism. Or, "when we are intimate - can you touch me here or kiss me there, it feels good." "I know that it isnt something you would normally do, but when you do this - it reminds me that you love me."
• Anonymous said… Well I have AS and people are always telling me that I need to change who I am to become more outgoing and social. I don't think there's a problem with me. That's just my personality, part of who I am. Unfortunately there's not much out there in terms of books and things that give dating advice to people with AS. People just assume that we like being alone and don't desire to date but this isn't necessarily true. I want to feel emotional attachment I'm just kind of unsure about how to achieve it. I don't really have the social skills to form last lasting relationships with people.
• Anonymous said… While there is currently no cure for Aspergers, treatment can help improve social skills and coordination. Treatment is best started as early as possible. Even with treatment, some people with Asperger's Syndrome may still have trouble socializing, but most are able to work and live independently as adults. -At least one study has shown that 20% or more of children with AS grow out of it and do not show evidence of it as adults.
• Anonymous said… Yahoo group Aspergers and Other Half are what kept me sane for the longest time. I think very few people who do not live with Aspergers have any real understanding of how tough it really can be, particularly undiagnosed partners. I am not really surprised we are not believed half the time, their behaviour can be so outrageous yet they are so plausible in their genuine belief it is us that are the sole cause of the difficulties, we are often emotionally exhausted and fragile so we are seen to be the problem and most just think 'it can't be that bad, you must be exaggerating'. I read my life over and over in AS&OH forum. They give incredible support and you get the validation you need to believe, no, you are not nuts or too needy or 'the problem'.
they are misunderstood but loving and living with a spouse who has AS can be a difficult experience
• Anonymous said… You can curb your aspie traits in various ways. But not completely. I guess it is important to understand that AS is a difference and, for many, a set of more difficulties on top of everything else. But it isn't a disability.
• Anonymous said… Your not alone...I too lost myself, my friends, and my family by letting him isolate me..After 6 years we started reacting violently towards each other..which i never ever do. He refused to accept his diagnosis..and when we broke up..he treated me like he never knew me..he replaced me with ano5her he met online (like me )..months before we splt....six long painful years.
• Anonymous said... i hope one day we stop QUANTIFYING (PS i mean "counting") "strengths and weaknesses". they are not quantifiable, since they are abstract concepts, and as such, they can be subdivided into any number of sub-categories, or even merged into more general ones. i hope we stop measuring and comparing the value of individuals. this is entirely missing the point.
If we say something like "you have difficulty with xyz", we DON'T HAVE TO "balance it out" with something like "but you're good at abcde". if the point you're making is the difficulties, then don't change the subject, discuss the difficulties honestly and clearly.
If something is true, it's true. we don't have to sugar-coat it. The quicker we get to the truth, the quicker we get to helping, solving, improving, or simply understanding and accepting.
• Anonymous said… Not too bad a list and is pretty much right I guess. I can sum it up a lot more easily than listing symptoms of what is good and bad, by looking at the root behind why these symptoms exist:
1) They have no id, no automatic way to do things. Because they have no id, they can learn absolutely anything, without limitations that other people face.
2) They learn things in their own little way and communicate in their own little way. Because they spend their whole lives trying to interpret things so that other people can understand them, they find it a lot easier to understand other people with differences, not just other people with disabilities, but people from other countries and cultures - learning another language is a piece of cake in comparison.
3) They are very meticulous and need to do things in a very organised way. Because they need to do it in this way, they make extremely good workers, as they are absurdly well organised, and even better if their chosen obsession matches neatly with a job.
4) They have no automatic social skills and have to learn even the most basic social functioning. Because they have to learn everything, though, it means that if they do learn it, they can learn it to a much higher level than most people are capable of.
I could go on but hopefully you get the point. As with anyone, it is not a matter of strengths vs weaknesses so much as looking at the exact same thing from a positive perspective or a negative perspective. It is really just a matter of perception. This goes for people with AS and anyone else too. I hope that this makes sense.
* Anonymous said... Thank you for posting this link. I dated a man who displayed nearly all of the traits listed as possible symptoms of AS, but who was never diagnosed. Now, at 30, he struggles with anxiety, addiction, obsessive thinking and violent behavior. He faces significant prison time as a result of criminal activity. I do not condone his actions, but I see now that they may have been related to symptoms beyond his control. I always suspected that he had AS or some related communication disorder. Your link served to strengthen my belief and helped me gain awareness. It is terribly sad to think that many of his demons may have been prevented (or at least mitigated) by the proper intervention & treatment.
• Anonymous said… After my marriage ended, my eldest son (then aged 7) was diagnosed with aspergers the physchatrist was talking about whats it like as an adult with aspergers, he described my ex to a 't'.... I'd never really heard of it, so i guess i really didn't understand... Both my sons are now on spectrum.. Now i get it.. Unconditional love.
• Anonymous said… Aspergated wives is the most solution oriented, positive group there is. (Unlike many that are just bitching fests) The admin is incredible. & the whole group is amazing!
• Anonymous said… Aspergers partner/spouse support group is the other group I'm a part of, but not very active. I've been in several others, but left them because they were too negative.
• Anonymous said… I am in a relationship (going on 2 years) with a man whom I believe is also aspergers (no diagnosis). He chose me per se as I sustained a TBI 13 years ago so I am not so neurotypical and well, the same as many women when it comes to a relationship. He says we are meant to be because we are on that same plane. wink emoticon I know that love starts at home, within our own self first. If we love ourselves all else lines up with this and reflects it back to us. I think that those with aspergers are just the perfect mirrors to all that is within a person that they need to work out and love. My boyfriend and I do have our moments but they are short lived as we just "get each other." I know he is doing his best as am I and well when you truly love someone and can remain their friend as well all along learn and grow with them, that is the magic in life. Most people give up too easy and well, run from that reflection in which I admit I have as well in my past and have attempted with my love now but all in all, it is only running from our self. I am grateful he is in my life and that well, we just Be. smile emoticon
• Anonymous said… I am the aspie...thats worst..
• Anonymous said… I have an aspie son and he is going to be 18 he had a girl friend for maybe a few weeks he got bored with it I hope things change for him because he has a lot to offer but his challenges get in the way
• Anonymous said… Is there by chance one of these articles for women?
• Anonymous said… It is tough for Aspie women as well.
• Anonymous said… Thank you. As the parent of two Aspie males, I appreciate the thoroughness of this list. I won't lie....it is painful to read how many of those many apply to one or the other of my older two boys, it still reminds me of things that I forget are not their "fault".
• Anonymous said… Yup! But luckily there are wonderful support groups to help the NT partners to not take things personally & eventually have a successful, fulfilling relationship.
• Anonymous said… "...wife/partner views these traits as “defects that could be corrected if the man would just try harder,” I'm feeling this, time too time, with my own family, and it hurts.
• Anonymous said… I am blessed by a woman who understands to the best of her ability, and is willing to work with me, and accept me, just as i am... note: this is my 2nd marriage. My first... she was not as accepting.
• Anonymous said… I'm separated from my husband of 13 years (20 years together) because of communication issues related to his disorder. I know he can't try harder - all I want is for him to understand what's really happening. Because he can't see it (and mindblindness) and we didn't know about this until later in our relationship, a lot of hurt and misunderstandings occurred both
• Anonymous said… My first husband saw me as full of character flaws and that I was never making an effort. It was a nightmare for almost 10 years. I was suicidal. Thankfully, he left me. I later met a man who was not afraid of me, my spd, or my crippling anxiety and large number of other emotional and social issues. His strength gave me room to learn coping skills and he stood by me during years of CBT. We have children and a mostly beautiful life together. Even though I have not been a teacher of record for a class, I have earned my teaching certificate and finished my degree. I am also a highly sought after substitute. I share my stories of being non-verbal as a child, hyperlexic, and my years in special ed. Having the right partner makes all the difference in my world. My issues didn't go away, but when I lock myself in my quiet room, I get a note under the door saying I love you instead of someone berating me and humiliating me. Edited to add both of my husbands are NT.
• Anonymous said… Oh yeah, I guess there are downsides.
• Anonymous said… Yep, it's not easy...
• Anonymous said…I only began to "see" mine when I finally had a good idea as to what it is; then I could "see" it in my own thinking and listening, when I finally saw an article on Channelopathies, particularly as related to a condition called Alexithymia, (inability to identify and describe emotions in the self). It's my belief that the Channelopathy causes my own Alexithymia. I found I had relatively zero knowledge of my own inner self. That can be a pisser in communicating with anyone.
• Anonymous said… These things are true of Aspie women as well for the most part. But, not everyone on the spectrum has the same level of difficulty with each of these things. Also, there are three levels of severity that are usually communicated with a medical diagnosis, with level one being the least serious, so not everyone is equally affected. Finally, Aspies are able to learn coping skills and compensate for some of these issues. Some of us improve social interactions over time. And, I would like to see an equally long list of our charming, endearing traits. I have, for example, learned all of my spouses preferences over the years (down to how he likes his chili seasoned) so that I can adapt what I do to take them into account.
• Anonymous said… my husband is HF Autism. He came out with no filter so was considered "rude" until about 25 when he realized that he was saying negative things that hurt others feelings. He was called a Ahole a couple of times and said he learned to bite his tongue. lol He would say things from a visual perspective, Like "She's heavy or her nose is crooked." Strange things like that, that he learned to stop commenting on people and listen more. This strategy worked for him as well as reading books on body language. Needless to say, I've been married to him for 15 years and while we have communication "mix ups", our relationship is fantastic. Not only is he very honest and loyal, he helps out more then an average husband, is more gentle and loving and is a great Dad and pet owner. I do believe you need to marry the right person. For him, it was someone who could teach him a bit about social things, someone who maternal and good with babies/kids, not high maintenance who has patience and asks a lot of questions so that things don't get "miscommunicated". Other then that, he is a way better husband than the typical guy who womanized, lied and basically was not very dedicate to his child. Never underestimate. There are few husbands who can come close to being there like he does. Don't count yourself out either (of being married) because you like your alone time too (so do I). So just be honest and open about your expectations and wants and know there will be bumps in the road. I think the key to any relationship is: Chemistry, Caring, Communication and Commitment. The HF individual has to work extra hard on the communicating and caring part. My husband says he has very little empathy (I know, not every individual is like this) but he's being honest. So I sort of expect a disconnected emotional response at times. It's not always what I get or see but it's something he shared honestly.