==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
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...
Given an Aspergers man’s social skills deficits, arguments with his wife may be fairly frequent and intense (as compared to that of “typical” marriages). Aspie males fight with their women for many reasons, but the most prominent ones tend to be due to (a) mind-blindness and (b) difficulty with empathizing.
If you seem to always end up in a fight with your NT (i.e., neurotypical) spouse - seemingly over the most ridiculous and irrational things - then you may want to take some action before the marital bond is damaged beyond repair.
Here are a few ideas to implement that may keep arguments from starting (or from repeating):
1. Don’t be passive-aggressive. Frustrated Aspies often fall into passive-aggressive behaviors, because it is one way to avoid expressing true anger. You may think of anger as a “negative,” so instead of being honest and saying something like, "Your comment is upsetting to me," you might withdraw, become silent, engage in your “special interest” as a way to avoid discussing the issue at hand, sulk, or demean your wife by “correcting” her as if she were a child. There is always a way to express anger in a healthy way. Thus, explain that you are upset and why, using "I" statements to highlight your emotions over objective facts.
2. Use little white lies every now and then. Do you want to be rude to your wife for the sake of brutal honesty (e.g., “Dinner was terrible!”)? Then you will have another fight on your hands. Dinner may have very well tasted like crap, but you’ve got nothing to gain by saying so. And honestly, nobody cares about your opinion on the matter anyway. Keep it to yourself. Smile and tell her dinner was appetizing. Be a peace-maker rather than a trouble-maker.
3. Compliment your spouse every day. One of the major reasons for fights between spouses is that they don't feel acknowledged. Compliment your spouse regularly, and she will feel appreciated. Wives who feel appreciated are less likely to fight.
4. Create a process for resolving fights without anger. Anger often makes it hard to respond to a situation rationally. A good way to keep anger out of the equation is to take a few minutes to express your emotions when you have a misunderstanding, rather than immediately trying to “change” your wife’s viewpoint.
5. Take your spouse out on dates. A lot of disagreements result from issues that haven't been fully explored. It's very important to have a way to stay up to date and to create some kind of ritual that has the two of you talking on a regular basis. In this way, you may catch problems early BEFORE they become unmanageable.
6. Swallow your pride and learn to keep your mouth shut. There will be many opportunities for you to respond to a comment your spouse has made that will be an invitation to fight. When this happens, bite your tongue, take a hard swallow, and change the subject. Just do it!
7. Discuss new issues immediately. When you notice an issue is building up to a boiling point, do not sweep it under the rug. Rather, discuss the problem while it is still small. In this way, you can prevent a future explosion. Keeping issues bottled up means when the next disagreement occurs, you run the risk of bringing up the past, in which case, you will be fighting several battles at one time. This will make your wife feel attacked. Even small problems can lead couples to build resentment over time.
8. Know your specific triggers around fighting. Take an inventory so that you can discover what comments and situations elicit anger and quarrelsome behavior in you. List them – write them down. Then come up with an action plan so you won’t get trapped by them in the future.
9. Have a sense of humor about conflict, without discounting your wife’s viewpoint on the matter in question. Laughter can help lighten the mood in a heated situation. Spouses tend to bond over shared comical moments. Laughter can help remind you both of your shared love and passion. So, when the argument begins to dissipate, try finding some humor in the situation, which will help return a sense of normalcy to the state of affairs.
10. Lastly, summarize what was discussed to make sure you understand. How are you both willing to work on the issue to make sure it doesn’t happen again? How does your wife feel? How do you feel? Taking a few minutes to summarize the situation after a fight can prevent it from reoccurring.
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
Scenario: You’re a man with Asperger’s (high functioning autism), and you just went off on your wife. You were extremely mad, loud, and critical. Now your wife is hurt and resentful, and perhaps firing back with her own complaints and insults. Once the dust has settled and you’re starting to feel guilty about your explosive behavior, what can you do to try to mend fences?
Here are some ideas to help:
1. First of all, allow some time to pass (at least one hour) so the both of you can calm down. Nobody resolves a fight immediately after it has occurred. Wait until you can look at the situation objectively.
2. Next, take a look at what might have caused the argument. Do some analysis and brainstorm on what you could have done differently (e.g., Do you regret anything you said or did? What triggered the fight? What was the argument over? Did it involve several issues, or just one? …and so on).
3. When reviewing the situation, remember that memories are subjective, especially under tense circumstances. Your wife is going remember certain things about the argument that may be different from your recall. That’s O.K. It doesn’t mean that anyone is lying about what happened. It's just means that high-anxiety often causes memories to be imprecise.
4. After a fight, both parties need to accept and experience their true emotions. While certain feelings are painful to experience (e.g., rage, anger, sadness, disappointment, rejection, etc.), it's important to acknowledge these feelings rather than sweep them under the rug. Trying to cut-off your emotions is synonymous with hiding them in the closet. When the next argument occurs, those pent-up emotions will rear their ugly head again.
5. People with Asperger’s tend to be very rational – almost to a fault. But, you need to understand that feelings are not always rational. That’s O.K. The two of you are entitled to an emotional response to an argument, even if that response seems illogical to you. The part of the brain that expresses emotions is not the same part that can look at things logically.
6. Next, the two of you should come up with a time to discuss the issue(s). Pick a time to discuss the situation when there will be no constrictions on time (e.g., a Saturday night). Try to have the discussion right after dinner – but before bedtime – so that hunger and drowsiness won’t interfere with the discussion.
7. When discussing the problem(s), use body language to demonstrate that you are listening and open to suggestions (e.g., don’t cross your arms or do anything that makes you look defensive, make eye contact, nod occasionally, etc.).
8. Don’t interrupt your wife when she's speaking. When she pauses, ask for clarification if she said something you didn’t fully understand.
9. When it’s your turn to speak, don’t include too many details. Instead, try to get to your main point fairly quickly. Also, ask if she understands what you're saying.
10. Use "I" statements (e.g., instead of saying, "YOU overreacted to what I said" …say something like, "I felt like my point never came across as intended”).
11. Validate your wife's emotions. Even if you don’t agree with her, try to make her feel that her emotions are justified. Allowing your spouse to feel the way she does often removes a lot of negative tension from the situation.
12. Find out where the two of you disagree. All couples have a few issues that they can’t agree on. That’s O.K. Take the fight in question as an opportunity to discover where the two of you differ (e.g., about expectations regarding time together, your sex life, lifestyle choices, etc.).
13. Next, attempt to reconcile the dispute. The two of you should get into problem-solving mode:
- Identify the problem: This is not always as simple as it sounds. In some cases, couples may mistakenly identify the wrong source of a problem, which will make attempts to solve it unproductive.
- Define the problem: After the problem has been identified, it is important to fully describe the problem so that it can be solved.
- Form a strategy: The approach used will vary depending upon the situation and the couple’s unique preferences.
- Organize information: Before coming up with a solution, organize the available information (e.g., what do we know about the problem – and what do we not know?). The more information that is available, the better prepared the two of you will be to come up with an accurate solution.
- Monitor progress: Effective problem-solvers tend to monitor their progress as they work towards a solution. If the two of you are not making good progress toward reaching your goal(s), then reevaluate the approach or look for new approaches to the problem.
- Evaluate the results: After a solution has been reached, it is important to evaluate the outcome in order to determine if it is the best possible solution to the problem.
Sometimes simply acknowledging that the two of you feel differently about an issue can help ease stress in the relationship. Spouses often take certain things less personally if they understand where they differ personality wise.
14. Lastly, apologize. After considering your actions and role in the fight, apologize for any offenses. Make the apology specific and sincere in order to demonstrate that you have heard and understood your wife's concerns.
Resources for couples affected by ASD:
As odd as it may sound, sometimes the holiday season can be a source of depression, especially for individuals on the autism spectrum. Holiday depression is usually temporary and mild, but it can become serious and can linger unless some precautions are taken.
Signs of holiday depression include:
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Decreased energy
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Feeling restless or fidgety
- Feeling worthless, helpless, or guilty
- Frequent crying
- Loss of interest or pleasure in doing things
- Sadness that won’t lift
- Sleeping too much
- Trouble concentrating
Is it possible to make it through this time of year without feeling down —and actually enjoy yourself? Yes! However, it will require (a) being proactive about sidestepping the challenges before they actually occur, and (b) self-awareness of the support you need and the situations that bring stress in your life during this time of year.
Here are some ideas to help alleviate the holiday blues:
1. Don’t feel “bad” about feeling “down.” There’s nothing wrong with not feeling cheerful. A lot of people experience the blues and feelings of loss during the holidays. So, be kind to yourself. Accept yourself no matter how you “feel” during this season.
2. Alter your expectations of the “ideal” Christmas.
3. Help others who may be feeling down during this time. Be a good listener and encourage discussions about emotions and concerns. Acknowledge difficult emotions, including a sense of loss if family or friends have moved away or died.
4. Do something creative that is holiday-related (e.g., bake some cookies and decorate them, make a few home-made Christmas cards, etc.).
5. Focus on what is good and the things you have, rather than on what is bad and the things you don’t have.
6. Take a brisk walk in the morning before you begin the day, or in the early evening to wind down. Fresh air and sunshine (when the sun is actually shining) will boost your mood.
7. Limit or eliminate “mandatory” contact with people. True, this is a time for “get-togethers.” But, if socializing is going to make matters worse, find a solitary activity that will bring you some joy. Sometimes, there’s nothing worse than being around a group of “cheerful” people when you’re the only one who is far from feeling cheerful.
8. Practice random acts of kindness every day during this season – nothing fancy, though. Keep it simple (e.g., opening the door for someone whose hands are full of packages).
9. Only spend time with the people you REALLY want to spend time with.
10. If you’re not in the mood to socialize and have “face-to-face” contact with family or friends, then a friendly phone call, a nice e-mail, a greeting card or letter can brighten your spirits.
11. Volunteering is a great mood lifter. Contact your local United Way, or call your local school, hospital, museum, or place of worship to inquire about volunteer opportunities in your area.
12. Watch some Christmas comedies. Humor is perhaps the best mood lifter. Here are a few to consider:
- "Bridget Jones's Diary" (2001)
- "Elf" (2003)
- "Home Alone" (1990)
- "Jingle All the Way" (1996)
- "Miracle on 34th Street" (1994)
- "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" (1989)
- "Scrooged" (1988)
- "The Santa Clause" (1994)
- "When Harry Met Sally" (1989)
- “A Christmas Story” (1983)
Spring is right around the corner. So, get some enjoyment out of the holidays, because it will soon be over with!
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
“What can I do about my Aspergers boyfriend’s tendency to spend countless hours on the computer (researching this and that)? I don't usually care for labels, but I think it would be fair to call him a "computer addict." He is in his “home office” constantly and spends very little time with me or my son. Our relationship ALWAYS comes second. When I approach him about it, he just says, "I’ll be done in a bit… hold on!” Do you have any ideas that can help us? We have talked about getting married someday, but we’re just not there yet. I really do love this man, but I have to wonder if he values being on the computer more than he does me.”
The first thing to do is to make an effort to get inside your boyfriend's mind. If you can understand his motivation and what makes him tick, you'll be in a better position to help him fully comprehend your concern. As you may already know, people with Aspergers are “wired” differently. One of the traits associated with the disorder is the fact that they give a lot of time and attention to just one or two “special interests.”
Give this a try: Plan a nice dinner out with your boyfriend on the weekend (without your son, if possible). Put aside your anger and disappointment and tell him how much you love him and appreciate him as a partner and a role model for your son. At the same time, be honest with him and let him know that his “computer time” seems to be taking precedence over the relationship. Tell him you value his input and involvement as a father-figure, and ask him if he would be willing to examine his schedule and make some changes.
If you can deliver this message in the spirit of love rather than resentment and frustration, you may be surprised at how positively your boyfriend responds. On the other hand, if he reacts defensively and denies there's a problem, it may be time for the two of you to consider couple’s counseling with someone who specializes in ASD. If he refuses to go to counseling, then you may need to either (a) learn to live with this situation, or (b) consider moving on.
If your boyfriend does express an openness to your concerns, then you've taken a huge step in the right direction. But you will want to have plenty of patience in store. If he truly has a computer addiction, he's not going to change overnight. If he's serious about making the changes you're requesting, he'll want to be held accountable by a therapist who specializes in addiction.
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
• Anonymous said… So what is the sum total of all of this? My answer is this - ACCEPT PEOPLE AS THEY REALLY ARE.
• Anonymous said… As to finding out what he needs, suggest you use a computer to interact with him.
• Anonymous said… Best bet is to figure out why he feels he needs to spend that much time; if it is an escape what is he escaping from? Does he feel stressed/overwhelmed? But as states above setting concrete desires and plan of action; I need x # of hrs each day of personal interaction/Family time/etc and working that out; he may not realize or pick up that there is or that you have an issue with his actions.
• Anonymous said… Don't use the word relationship it's meaningless..state what u want simply e.g. an ideal daily/weekly schedule then say please talk with me tomorrow night at...about this.he needs time alone with you too if poss..nothing improves unless you design it to
• Anonymous said… I also have aspergrs and it is always helpful to have a schedule. Computer use from one time to another, family time from another time to another
• Anonymous said… I am HFA and am 63 years old, am married. As a group ASDs generally tend towards empathy but away from overt displays of emotion. People tend to hide from things which bother them in some way. Perhaps he find emotions difficult or touching and being touched. Perhaps he cannot slow his thinking self down so as to hold a conversation. Perhaps his radius of privacy versus interaction is further away from himself than others' are aware. Also, be aware that ASDs may not be able to distinguish individual voices when more than one person speaks. Pushing emotional contact onto an ASD may result in a meltdown.
• Anonymous said… I can pretty much guarantee your relationship comes first even though he doesn't show it. Aspies are highly loyal and dedicated. My husband is exactly the same way, video games and computers are his escape and relaxation. When our kids were younger we set it up that he doesn't play until after the kids go to bed (which was 8 for us). He also had to set an alarm for his phone or else he would play til all hours of the night. Also plan date nights where you can get out of the house. Good luck!
• Anonymous said… I married late in life - after army service and after my 40th birthday - the 1 st marriage was not a success, though we struggled on for 11 years; I found her need for emotion and constant touching difficult to cope with and I escaped into books and hobbies.
• Anonymous said… I reckon he loves you loads, personal space, my computer and other bits of nonsense represent safe haven for me, I use mobile devices to stay connected to that which allows me more time to venture out into the crazy world, I'm rubbish at peopling in general so not the best person to be giving relations advice, but when people say autistic folk don't feel stuff they are wrong, it is an overwhelming experience that creates my blank response to those deep situations not the fact that I'm not feeling anything, hope you can find some solutions. 😎 🎈
• Anonymous said… I think you need to put very specific boundaries around your needs - ie I need to have an hour of time each day to catch up on life - etc
• Anonymous said… In all of this I do not hear or see his voice nor what he wants - until you know what he honestly and truthfully wants, then you are whistling in the winds of uncertainty.
• Anonymous said… My 3rd marriage happened late 2014 and we are both essentially loners who felt the need for companionship. M is severely disabled and I am her principle carer. Somewhat ironical because I wear a power chair. We annoy each other and then we laugh about it.
• Anonymous said… My second marriage was to a lady I call the love of my life because she instinctively knew what she needed and when I needed to have separation because I was heading for a meltdown; we were really close - she was terminal when I met her and we had 8 years together. She died on the operating table on Jan 26th 2013. so just coming up to 4 years now.
• Anonymous said… Nothing will change .. been there done that
• Anonymous said… Now as to a non-ASD imposing rules or routines on an ASD - you are likely to find that he withdraws even more.
• Anonymous said… now it sounds like your boyfriend is a typical Aspergic, let me tell you we love our patterns i have Aspergers my self, now i don't know him or you so i cant give direct advice but what i cab say is that yes he does love you, being and Aspergic we are drawn to certain things like technology, i my self love playing on my ps4 when i am at home. if i would give advice from an Aspergerics view point id say try to set up a time table of sorts a lot time for him to go on his pc and time rot you and your child.
• Anonymous said… Yes He Probably Does value the time understanding and processing then with you. However that does not mean ur not valued. Tolerance levels of one on one and groups?
Asking for time in other activities is key for eveyone whos lives are online.
• Anonymous said… Yes, this. 1. We need an exact, specific, literally-worded schedule, 2. Schedule ALL time, & 3. The hyperfocus on the computer/similar favorite activity is akin to what others do to relax and have fun. The computer stuff is simultaneously stimulating and relaxing. But it's also a need for us in this overwhelming world, not merely a hobby or escape.
• Anonymous said… You need to be more concrete in your needs. People have mentioned a schedule for the computer but actually a schedule for family and couples time is probably s good idea too. Give him definites around the time and activities you expect him to do with you and his child. Now you may get tired of always doing the planning but getting him to plan things might be stage two. For now set up a schedule for the evenings. Including playtime for your son and time for just the two of you. It may be a good idea to schedule his computer time for the very last thing in the evening when you are having your own chill out time or going to bed. If he has met his commitments then don't complain about his computer time. If it cuts into his sleep time that's his issue. Not yours. Giving him very concrete plans is best. Saying vague things like you want him to spent time with you may get through to him as he won't understand what you want or what you are saying. Learn to speak his language and see how it goes. It's all about compromise and it may seem like it's you doing all the compromising but it won't be. Escaping into the computer or an activity is a natural impulse for us aspies and giving up some of that is actually hard. It doesn't mean we don't love our kids. This is " our" bottle or wine or beer . Or friends or social outings. These type of behaviour replace a hell lot of stuff people like you do naturally to feel good. Like friends or nights out or wine etc.
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