“I’m a 28 y.o. man who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at the age of 9. My wife and I have been together for almost 5 years married, but almost 6 knowing each other. We have gotten into disputes about every other day where it always comes down to her saying she resents me for being so ‘distant’ and ‘selfish’. She always says it seems like I just don't care about things like she does. I do care and I do worry about things like she does, I just don't show it the same way. She has said to me several times now that she wished she had taken more time when she met me to get to know me more before getting married. She says it’s not because she wishes she wasn't with me, it’s because she could have made a more informed choice. I am a very laid back person, and I guess that can seem a bit like I don't care, but I am not sure I know how to be any other way. My wife and I grew up in different life styles. I didn't have many friends and I wasn't good in school. She was very good in school, had a lot of friends, and she was forced into an early adulthood because she had to take care of her father growing up. She is a very responsible person. She is my rock and the rock of her whole family. But, she says she is “tired of being everyone's rock,” but feels she has to be because she can’t count on anyone to get things done like she does. Any help in how I should handle this situation would be greatly appreciated.”
Most of the time, a wife’s resentment will show up as something like “you don’t treat me special like you used to” …or “you don’t spend enough time with me” …or “we never have sex anymore” …and so on. If a husband is not spending enough time with his spouse or neglects her (intentionally or unintentionally), then there is some validity to her complaints. Most women become resentful because they realize that their husbands have ceased to be the men in their life that they need.
Routine is the biggest enemy of many marriages. After several years together, the couple gets used to one another and their feelings change. But, it’s the wife (more often than the husband) who can’t accept this change and feels unhappy. Some wives adjust themselves to what is now the “new normal” (e.g., less sex, less affection, spending less time together, etc.). But, even though the couple in this situation may enjoy a fairly stable, affection-less relationship, the marriage may be slowly falling apart without anyone noticing it.
How can you tell if your wife is actually discontented in the marriage? Here are just a few of the symptoms:
- She often appears sad or irritated.
- She keeps finding reasons to spend time away from her husband.
- It seems as though she initiates arguments over the most petty of issues.
- She, too, has lost interest in sex.
- It appears that she is looking for reasons to lash out at her husband, even if he hasn’t done anything seriously wrong?
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the wife doesn’t love her man. More likely, she is tired of the routine, the responsibilities, and the never-changing everyday chores and tasks. It sounds like your wife has taken on WAY too much responsibility for things, and is in “burn-out” mode as a result, which isn’t entirely your fault. This was a choice she has made. You said that she had to be a caretaker as a child. It’s very likely that she brought that trait into your marriage. Thus, my best guess is that she feels more like your mother than your wife.
The truth is that men with an autism spectrum disorder, by virtue of “mind-blindness” (more on that here), have difficulty empathizing and imaging how another person may feel. As a husband, if you have the ability to put yourself in your wife’s shoes (so to speak), you can come up with a pretty good idea regarding what she needs and what may help mend the broken relationship. Thus, as hard as it may be for you as a man with Asperger’s, try to put yourself in your spouse’s position. If you were your wife, what changes would you like to see? What would you want to work on in the relationship? What would you like to talk about? What issues would you need to address? And so on…
Resist the temptation to continually ask your wife “what’s wrong.” Instead, propose to talk about it. And when you do, talk in an apologizing, caring tone. Your attitude and behavior have an influence, even if your wife is not aware of it – and it better be a calm and reassuring one. Express your support and understanding. You may not feel like it at all, believing that you are the one who should be comforted. But, your wife is obviously bothered with her emotional state as much as you are. So, even though it’s normal to feel insulted and upset, try to find the inner strength to feel compassion for her.
Keep an eye on your wife. If you don’t see a positive change in her emotional state, consider asking her to go to counseling with you. Most importantly, listen to her with an open mind and heart. And give her time and space to deal with her frustration.
Lastly, maybe you could get your wife to read this piece on resentment:
Best of luck!
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
==> Skype Counseling for Struggling Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA
• Anonymous said… "You Just Don't Understand," by Deborah Tannen; "The New Passages," by Gail Sheehy. Try to not refer to Aspie vs. NT norms. You sound like a normal married couple with normal life circumstances who needs to work things out. Doing so is very much worth it.
• Anonymous said… I am both you and your wife, lol. I'm on the spectrum and a natural worry-ninja. My very first instinct is that you both need do some work to compromise. (Like we've never heard that before about relationships, lol) You obviously already see her point, which is wonderful. I'm sure there are some great self-help books on how to outwardly appear to care more, probably even for people on the spectrum. Also, I would ask your wife some specific things you could do for her or with her to show you care and want to take some of her stress load. However, as a natural stress-case, I'm taking an experienced guess that your wife is one too. The child that cares for a parent often grows into an adult x10. It's likely she can't stop worrying and stressing and being "the responsible one". I'm sure somewhere inside, she knows that. She'll need to come to terms with that herself, though. And in the meantime, making an effort on your part will help her feel supported and probably help her come to see her own stress-ninja persona. Hope my tiny bit of insight helps.
• Anonymous said… i can relate... been married almost 49 years... didn't know about Aspergers ( husband ) until about 6 years ago...
• Anonymous said… I was poured into the same mould as your wife. I also feel a lot like her being married to someone I now know has aspergers. The book Journal of Best Practices was written by a man on the spectrum ( David Finch) and is the best reference I can think of since it is specifically focused on his marriage. My suggestion would be to specify her needs and then strive to meet them- that is a simple as marriage gets. Learn her love language and then begin to speak it to her, but that takes her being able to identify and communicate them to you. There are lots of books on love languages, too 😊. We really do speak different languages and just your efforts to learn hers will help her begin to feel cared about. Those of us who have cared for others really need to feel cared about in return. Best to you both.
• Anonymous said… I'm in the same boat, I fear that my family feels like I don't care about anything I have a very difficult time expressing my emotions. I'm very laid back but I can't handle chaos. I have been told buy my husband that I'm "cold" and "heartless" of course that's far from accurate. I've been seeking mental guidance and my husband has been trying hard to understand me so far things seem okay
• Anonymous said… Keep up the good work. My hubby now knows me better than I know (or understand) myself! Sometimes we need to forget our dx and simply share how we see and feel. Works for us. I'm Aspie by the way.
• Anonymous said… lol I see a psychiatrist regularly it's helped a lot. I've been trying to get my husband to go with me, but he won't.
• Anonymous said… Mental guidance sounds ominous and a bit spooky - hope you are not camouflaging ?
• Anonymous said… Seriously, have your wife read this book. My wife and I were having serious communication problems in our marriage and she read this book and actually highlighted portions that were important to her, then I read it again, paying particular attention to the highlighted portions. It made a huge difference in our communication issues and our marriage. Rudy Simone - 22 Things a Woman Must Know If She Loves a Man with Asperger's Syndrome
• Anonymous said… sometimes I have noticed when people try to put their methods on me, I respond with opposition. I feel that a shared task or a delegated one should allow for autonomy. some people have higher levels of perfectionism. I sometimes get ocd about stuff needing to be done a certain way. I also have ocpd, which takes a long time to do anything. so for me, that can mean that I do can decide to avoid something if I know it will take more time than I have to accomplish it. which is bad. clutter piles up. I am hiring a professional organizer to help me figure out how to solve this so it doesn't haunt me forever. I have also noticed that when I am focused on something, my awareness of time goes right out the window. hours can pass by and it feels like short bursts of time. I have rarely ever seen things the way others around me do -but I greatly appreciate understanding how others see things. when people will communicate in detail, often I can adapt closer to a compromise. when people expect me to read their mind -failure is maximized. I was required to raise my 6 younger siblings. my mom had 3 jobs, my father lost his job became depressed and shut out responsible things. you only get to be a kid once. there are no redos. maybe ask how she thinks you are when she knows you care about things. everyone always has things to learn about other people. life is not supposed to be without need to expand thinking. I have learned I cannot see things how other people do -so I cannot settle for taking things "how they are" because I might not see them from big picture
• Anonymous said… Sounds like she doesn't understand what is required of her to be the wife of someone on the spectrum. It sounds like she's saying she regrets getting married. Time to kick her to the curb for both your sake.
• Anonymous said… Sounds like she is a nurturer who has takes care of everyone else at the expense of her own needs. She needs to find ways to meet the needs she feels arent being met. Find friends , support groups, hobbies , church , get out and enjoy nature, go to a spa . Things that will nourish her soul and help meet whatever she feels is lacking. One person can never fill all of someone else needs and shouldnt be expected to. Right now she may be hyperfocusing on you to meet her needs and once some of that pressure is off it will be easier as a couple to work on some things to develope better communication and closeness.
• Anonymous said… sounds like wife needs some emotional support and care / self-care
• Anonymous said… Sounds like she's the one with the problem to me??
• Anonymous said… Try asking her some questions about her day. Ask her what she would like to do on the weekend. If she feels she's doing everything and your going off into your own world etc maybe she's wanting som focus on her and her interests.?? Help her with dinner, get in and do things together. It's very easy for people on the ASD not to notice things going on around them, and they tend to be focused on their interests. It's not being selfish, it's just how they are. So many make her your interest? Hope that helps?
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