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

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How I Live with Asperger’s: Tips from a 52-Year-Old Aspie

My name is Carlos and I’m 52 years old. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s back in 1997 at the age of 32. Through many years of painful trial-and-error, I learned a few things that have helped me cope with my disorder. 
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The 3 Anger Styles of Adults with ASD

“I never know what to expect from my Asperger's partner. Sometimes she's as cool as a cucumber. Other times, she’s the devil incarnate. Her anger button is either full tilt boogie – or virtually non-existent. It’s one hell of an ‘on-again off-again’ emotional rollercoaster ride at times (she either launches into a rage, or is totally silent - and even somewhat submissive/apologetic).”

Many adults with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism have reported anger-control problems. They may become hostile, or may withdraw into themselves and become very quiet, silently stubborn, and depressed. Others fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

The anger styles for these individuals tend to fall into three main categories: aggressive, passive, and passive-aggressive.

Anger Turned to Aggression—

The “aggressors” are easy to recognize. They can be hostile and antagonistic. Common signs of anger-control problems for “Aspies” that are aggressors include:
  • Destroys property
  • Frequently vocalizes anger
  • Furious temper
  • Loud voice and yelling
  • Blames others for the relationship difficulties
  • Makes threats
  • Verbally abusive
  • Often demeans or swears directly to others
  • Excessive complaining
  • Uncontrollable fits of rage 
  • Meltdowns

The aggressors create an unsafe situation for themselves, for others, or for property around them. If spouses or partners are the focus of physical aggression, the problem is extremely crucial to address.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Anger Turned to Passivity—

The passive individual can also be fairly simple to recognize. They are somewhat submissive. They do not argue or fight back when confronted – rather, they “shutdown.” This person’s traits may coincide with the diagnosis of depression. Some of the warning signs below are taken from the diagnosis for depression, and others are additional common signs of shutdowns:
  • Deals with difficult emotions by “cutting” them off
  • Isolates when upset
  • May be extremely passive to the point of getting “walked on” by others
  • Has difficulty expressing emotions
  • Holds anger in, then “blows up” suddenly
  • May be seen as a “loner”
  • May blame self unnecessarily
  • May have few friends
  • May simply “go along” with whatever - even when it is a poor decision
  • Often has an upset stomach, muscle aches, backaches, headaches, or other physical symptoms from “holding it in”
  • Appears depressed
  • Seems to have very little emotion
  • Appears withdrawn

Passive individuals are in danger of destroying themselves emotionally from within. They have no emotional release valve. When they blow up, they can become violent, which can result in harm to themselves, others, or property. Internalized anger is as destructive to the passive person as aggression is to the aggressor.

Anger Silently Planning Revenge—

Perhaps the most difficult to detect, passive-aggressive individuals engage in an anger style that appears calm on the surface, but is fuming, scheming, and plotting underneath. They give the appearance of a passive person, and do not directly confront the anger as an aggressor would do. They are docile and appear to accept what is said, but then will ignore what is said to do their own thing. They can be devious, and oftentimes go unnoticed by others.

Unlike the aggressors, they lack the courage to be direct, and instead perfect the skills to be sneaky. They seem to know where the “back door” to revenge is – and use it often. The list of passive traits also applies to them, but here are a few additional traits to look for with passive-aggressive Aspies:
  • Inconsistency between what is said and what is done
  • May be very good at blaming others
  • May not admit mistakes
  • Often gets caught in a lie
  • Sneaky behaviors
  • Tries to avoid direct conflict while creating problems in other areas
  • Tends to sabotage

People with Asperger’s who try to manage their anger through the passive-aggressive style are as potentially dangerous to others and themselves as the other styles. Spouses and partners tend to underestimate this anger style, because the danger does not seem to be as bad as the aggressive style.

Lastly, it is not uncommon for some adults on the autism spectrum to vacillate between two - or even all three - of the anger styles depending on the situation.

Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples 

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

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

 ==> Cassandra Syndrome Recovery for NT Wives

==> Click here for more information on anger and mood swings in adults on the autism spectrum...

Shutdowns in Spouses/Partners with ASD

“How do I communicate with a husband (has Asperger syndrome) who won’t talk? He tells me whatever I want to hear so that I’ll stop talking as soon as possible. If I bring up a topic that he finds stressful, he immediately stonewalls me. It’s impossible to get him to talk about his emotions. It’s like talking to a brick wall. If I really push it and go after him, sometimes he’ll respond and we’ll finally address something. But it’s like I have to freak out to get him to open up and discuss the issue at hand. It’s so maddening. I don’t want to be a ‘bitch’ - but I feel that it’s the only way to get him to engage.”

What you’re referring to here is a “shutdown” (the opposite of a meltdown). You mentioned that this happens when you are trying to discuss a matter that your husband finds stressful. When he withdraws from the interaction, this may be more of a coping mechanism he uses to deal with stress rather than his lack of interest in what you are trying to convey.

When a listener withdraws from an interaction by shutting down, it is usually a sign that he or she is becoming anxious. Oftentimes, people with Asperger’s emotionally or physically withdraw because they’re psychologically or physiologically overwhelmed. They are trying to avoid conflict – or escape from conflict – in order to calm themselves. For example, your husband may refuse to discuss certain topics or feelings, struggling to endure the approaching anxiety. He may turn away, stop making eye contact, cross his arms, or leave the room. As a result, you may label this behavior as rude, insensitive, and uncaring.

People on the autism spectrum shut down for numerous reasons. Shutdowns can result from extreme events (e.g., losing a job, marital conflict, etc.), but they can also have very small triggers, which simply remind the “Aspie” of a larger pain (e.g., a small incident at work can provoke some long-term insecurities and cause a retreat).

A shutdown will move some form of emotional pain to the center of the Aspie’s focus, and he may start contemplating "what if" and "if only" scenarios. These thoughts are always counter-productive, because we can't change the past, and they usually only make the Aspie feel entrapped by events.

Not surprisingly, shutdowns can be damaging to relationships. The person who shuts down is no longer participating in open communication, problem-solving, or bonding with his spouse/partner. Rather than contributing to the well-being of the relationship, shutdowns stifle conflict resolution. The recipient of the shutdown feels invalidated, ignored, and misunderstood. When your husband shuts down, you may feel so unimportant that you don’t even deserve a response.

So, what can be done about shutdowns?

Advice for your Asperger’s husband:

•    When you feel like shutting down, take several deep breaths and communicate what you need to stay productive. If you need some reassurance or a timeout, ask for that. Talk to your wife ahead of time about the best way to communicate with you.

•    Find other ways to soothe yourself rather than shutting down. It’s your responsibility to calm yourself so you’re able to respond — not react. Even if she wants to, your wife may not be able to soothe you, fix your emotions, or make things better. YOU must do your own emotional work (e.g., being honest and clear with yourself and your wife about what feelings are arising). Self-soothing is a very individual thing. Consider the activities that are genuinely calming for you.

•    Recognize when you’re shutting down. Tune in to what’s going on internally. For example, pay attention to your bodily sensations, which are connected to your emotions (e.g., a lump in the throat could mean sadness, a burning in the chest could mean anger, a fluttering in the stomach may mean anxiety, etc.). Tuning in helps you figure out what you need and prevents you from doing or saying something that may damage the relationship with your wife.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Advice for you, the wife:

•    When you notice that your Asperger’s husband is beginning to shut down, you can choose to lovingly detach and not perpetuate an unhealthy dynamic. If you keep trying to get your husband to engage with you when he doesn’t want to, you convey that you’ll tolerate this kind of behavior. Thus, there’s no motivation on his part to change. By removing yourself from the situation, your husband is left with no one to focus on but himself.

•    A shutdown is not about you. This is the way your husband has learned to manage his uncomfortable emotions. Trying to get him to “open up” will only lead to resentment on both sides. To think that you have the power to make your husband behave in a particular manner if you simply “freak out” is dangerous. It will lead to you taking on more responsibility than is yours in the relationship, which will leave you feeling stressed-out, angry, and resentful.

•    It's generally helpful to talk in a soothing voice during a shutdown. Just make sure that you're careful what you say - and keep things positive. The only thing to remember when soothing your Aspie during a shutdown is that you're still dealing with someone on the autism spectrum. Don't try to force eye contact, and don't touch your husband without either being invited to do so - or being cautious to see the reaction first.

•    When the two of you are calm, talk to your husband about the best way to communicate with him when he’s shutting down. Is there a way for you to talk to him when he’s starting to withdraw from the conversation? Discuss this with him, and do some trial-and-error attempts to see what works and what doesn’t.

Sometimes, no matter how kind and gentle you are with your Asperger’s husband, he will still shut down or avoid engaging in a “stressful” conversation. It may also be the case that your husband is engaging in old, entrenched ways of coping with anxiety that existed long before you came along. If either of these things are happening, it would be prudent to get the advice of a good marriage counselor or relationship coach who can help you untangle the impact of past relationship patterns, and concentrate on how to relate in an advantageous way going forward.

FOOTNOTE: Tone of voice in itself can be a major trigger for this shutdown business! Some Aspies feel it easier to communicate through text. If you find it difficult to talk, try notes, letters, blog, facebook... But make it private. As one NT wife stated, "My husband has aspergers and 2 shutdowns in 2 years. He was completely unable to speak for 20+ minutes even though he tried. He could text much better but still had trouble spelling until it began to wear off. We learned this time that he can begin to speak again quicker if i get him talking about a totally objective, non-emotional, even mechanical subject."

MORE Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples 

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

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

 ==> Cassandra Syndrome Recovery for NT Wives

Does My New "Friend" Have Asperger’s?

"I have a male friend (wouldn't go so far as to say 'steady boyfriend' just yet) that is somewhat awkward in the social sense. As I describe some of his behavior to my other friends, they have suggested he may have asperger syndrome. So I Googled it and many of the traits do seem to fit him. That's ok with me (I think). But I would like to know for sure so I can adjust my expectations and responses accordingly."

So you’ve met this guy that seems a bit quirky. The idea that he may have Asperger’s has entered your mind (because you did a bit of research online, and he appears to have many of the traits of the disorder).

So, how might you know whether or not your new friend has some of the Asperger’s traits? 


If he seems cut off from his feelings…

If he seems to focus only on reasoning and intellect...

If he comes off as self-centered or insensitive...

If he seems to have difficulty reading body language and facial expressions...

If he has trouble picking up the rules of conversation...

If he rarely looks you in the eyes...

If he has difficulty participating in general conversations, including ‘small talk’...

If he has difficulty comprehending or communicating his feelings...

If he has trouble distinguishing feelings from thoughts...

If he asks very few questions about you and you get the sense he's not listening when you do talk about your life...

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

If he appears cold or unresponsive to your text messages...

If he has difficulty seeing and understanding your point of view...

If he has difficulty empathizing with you or understanding your emotions...

If he isn't interested in creating a bond with you – and is more interested in having fun and leaving the mushy stuff out of it...

If he only seems to liven up when there's a possibility of sex on the table...

If he’s not genuinely emotionally invested in what goes on in your life...

If he always seems too busy to spend time with you...

If he has an intense interest in one or two narrow topics, bordering on obsession (e.g., stamp collecting, song lyrics, computer games, collecting and organizing facts, etc.)…

If he seems very smart, yet has little “social intelligence”…

If he never wants to discuss "where is this relationship going" questions...

If he appears to focus on his own personal interests, without seeing your needs and wishes...

If he seems to “need” to spend A LOT of time alone...

If he appears to have quite a few sensory sensitivities (e.g., sounds, smells, bright lights, the sensation of clothing against his skin, etc.)...

If he tends to become stressed when his routines are altered...

If he appears very detail-oriented, often missing the overall picture (applying the same level of detail to every situation whether appropriate or not)...

If your gut is telling you this guy isn't in it for the right reasons...

… then he might have Asperger’s (now referred to as ASD Level 1, or high-functioning autism).

Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living with ASD: eBook and Audio Instruction for Neurodiverse Couples 

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by ASD

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

==> Cassandra Syndrome Recovery for NT Wives

==> ASD Men's MasterClass: Social-Skills Training and Emotional-Literacy Development

Why Some ASD Men Fall Out of Love - Seemingly Overnight

"Out of the clear blue, my boyfriend with Aspergers stated he's not in love with me anymore, but doesn't want to break up. We haven't gone on a date for several weeks. He stopped being intimate with me last week. And now ...well, I don't know what to think. Is this common for men with Aspergers? He swears he hasn't found another woman, and I believe him because he's not the type to cheat like that. (Plus I've peeked on his cell phone and FB page and see nothing suspicious.) How can someone just fall out of love like that - seemingly overnight. ~  Hurt and confused!"

I wouldn't say "falling out of love overnight" is common for these men, but it does happen. As a counselor who has worked with many couples affected by Asperger's and high-functioning autism, what I see most often has to do with the fact that most men on the high functioning end of autism are very "task-oriented."  
The scenario often plays out something like this:

In the beginning, a new girlfriend is his new task. He works on getting her to like him, to go on dates, to have sex, and so on. Also, in the beginning, he may try very hard to appear "typical" (i.e., tries to avoid exhibiting any traits that may reveal his disorder).

Once he feels that he has "won her over," he begins to feel more comfortable around her. And it is during this time that he lets his guard down and begins to exhibit some symptoms of the disorder that his girlfriend picks up on (although she may simply view his behavior as "odd").

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Once he has achieved his objectives -- mission accomplished! In other words, he has completed the task of getting her to be with him. Unfortunately, due to (a) mind-blindness issues and (b) problems with empathy, he does not understand that the "relationship task" is never-ending. As most of us know, couples need to work on the relationship throughout its entirety, providing ongoing nurturing, love and support.

This doesn't make sense to some men on the autism spectrum. They think they have officially "arrived" and that there is no need to continue to "work" on the relationship.  
Think of it like this: 

You live in California and drive to a vacation destination in New York. That's a long hard drive! Once you arrive at your hotel in New York, you wouldn't continue to drive in circles in the parking lot, because you have already arrived at your destination. As odd as it sounds, this is analogous to romantic relationships in the ASD mind (e.g., "I'm here - the work is done").

Another issue that results from "mind-blindness" and "lack of empathy" (two traits of the disorder) has to do with the ASD partner confusing love with obsession. I've talked to many men on the spectrum who thought that they were in love, only to find out that it was just an obsession or a "special interest" in the romantic phase of the relationship (i.e., the first three months or so when everything is noncommittal, fun, and interesting).

Once the romantic phase is over with, the real work begins. For example, he has to have conversations about things that may not be so "fun" (e.g., has to listen to your past troubles, trials, and tribulations; listens to you sharing your past, which is what most people do in order to build trust and a bond).

He may have to go with you to family gatherings (socializing is NOT a strong point of people with Asperger's). He has to work on conflict resolution (another skill that is typically lacking). He has to deal with the anxiety that goes with moving to the next level of the relationship, such as a proposal and marriage - AND KIDS! Now, in the mind of some men on the spectrum, the relationship is getting too messy and complicated. Thus, they rethink their commitment level.

This may or may not be the case in your situation, but I can tell you from experience, the scenario described above is very typical of the man that - as you say - seemingly falls out of love over night.

Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples 

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

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

 ==> Cassandra Syndrome Recovery for NT Wives

  • So how do I survive this? I loved him completely. I cherished every moment. And I loved every part of him. He said he had loved me for 30 years. (obsession?) He was so happy we were together and so was I. I didn't want anything more than for us to be what we were. I didn't ask more of him. And now I am a casual friend, if that. Thrown away like last night's supper. I am truly dying inside.
  • Run. I’ve been there for 8 yrs. three married. They drain you emotionally. I finally left recently. I moved. I am at peace, even th I miss him and love him. They have a way of sucking you in an sucking the life out of you. If you knew what it’s like (worse married) you’d run. I wish I had walked away all the yrs I tried to get a commitment. Get therapy or go to a 12 step program. They are defective people. I’m sorry. It doesn’t work. I bought books, tried to communicate but it’s always my fault. Run. Fast. God bless you.
  • Take it from me. Run. I was where you are seven years ago ├óne he finally married me 3 yrs ago. I had high hopes. I’ve recently left him. I’m drained emotionally. He hasn’t called on his own for over two was now. I am so at peace for leaving, even tho I cry and miss him. They have a way of sucking you in and sucking you dry. God be with you!!!
  • I wanted to take care of him and receive in return. But I made a serious error and opened myself up to him just a few months after her death. He was happy with me but couldn't get past feeling guilty because of that and said this often. This escalated after her grandson whom they raised together committed suicide. He couldn't really grieve and began to be distant at times. It slowly escalated until he in complete opposite of any thing he had ever said, informed me that he was "done" and no longer has any feelings for me.
  • Obviously you have been through Hell. There are some differences though. He was married for 23 years and his wife died. It was supposibly an iconic marriage. I have talked with her closest friends who have no question that she/they were very happy. Of course, her style was quite different than mine. Per one of her best friends, she was the queen and he was her "devoted lackey". Well I don't want to be queen. I want to 2.

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