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Understanding Your “Immature” Asperger’s Partner: Tips for NTs

"I've been married to my Aspie husband going on 5 years, and honestly I feel like I'm raising a teenager. Anyone else feel this way? Is this just another symptom of AS? I'm trying to understand him better :(  "


So, you’re in a relationship with someone who has Asperger syndrome (AS) or high-functioning autism (HFA). You understand that this is a “developmental” disorder, right? In other words, this person is emotionally lagging behind his or her chronological age. For example, he/she may be 35 years old, but their emotional age is more like an 18-year-old.

In the fullest sense of the phrase, their social/emotional brain is under-developed, and will pretty much stay that way - to one degree or another - their entire life.

Understanding Your “Immature” Asperger’s Partner—

1.    Immature simply means “not fully developed.” By nature, your AS or HFA partner may not understand how to respond to typical social situations. He/she is most likely NOT trying to be difficult, however.

2.    Due to this immaturity-factor, your partner may come off as inconsiderate, unable to accept blame for his/her relationship mistakes.

3.    Emotionally immature individuals are often manipulative and controlling, and they do so as a way to cope with their anxiety (i.e., they hate change, so they feel a strong need to control the situation). Most people on the autism spectrum are “high-anxiety,” which can trigger emotionally immature reactions (i.e., “age regression”), and this can blur the lines between adult and childish emotions.

4.    Unfortunately, it may be particularly difficult for an emotionally immature person to realize she needs to change, because a hallmark of immaturity is blaming others for her struggles.

5.    An AS or HFA partner who is emotionally immature may often:
  • act out his emotions (e.g., explosive anger, sudden crying, etc.)
  • appear to always be justifying his actions to himself and others
  • be manipulative
  • motivated by fear or a feeling that he "has to do something"
  • be reactive
  • overly-concerned with self-protection
  • feel the need to avoid failure, discomfort, and rejection 
  • see himself as a victim

6. People with AS and HFA who are emotionally immature: 
  • feel that they can’t change their situation or improve their life
  • find it difficult to cope with their emotions
  • may not have learned how to face and handle difficult emotions
  • often act-out from a place of fear, feeling that they must protect themselves from uncomfortable emotions
  • often experience “learned helplessness” (see video below - and share with your Aspie)




While you may be tempted to respond to your AS or HFA partner immaturely as well, giving them a taste of their own medicine, this will backfire in a big way. It’s risky to egg-on an immature partner who is often on the edge of having a meltdown – or shutdown – anyway.

Use your social support network. Find a friend, family member, therapist, or any one else who will provide moral support (and advice if desired) during “the tough times.”

P.S. Resentment on the part of the NT partner is not uncommon in situations such as this. So, don't beat up on yourself if this is the case with you.


==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> Skype Counseling for Struggling Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA

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Janet Talks About Her Asperger’s Journey

Me at age 5.
I always felt different from a very early age. As I got older, I struggled with many of the challenges that come with Asperger’s, such as communication difficulties, being sensitive to loud sounds, a speech impediment, and other sensory issues.

I had to deal with bullying that occurred because of my differences. Fortunately, my mother (parenting as a single mom) was always a source of strength and inspiration for me.

Prior to being diagnosed, neither I nor my mother had an explanation for my meltdowns and shut downs and other issues. After the diagnosis, it was amazing how my mother reacted. She became my superhero.

She took me everywhere and pushed me into activities – many of which I didn’t want to do at the time, but in retrospect, I’m very glad that I did. Otherwise, I would’ve just isolated my entire childhood and adolescence.

Me and my mom.
My amazing mom wouldn’t let me use my disorder as a crutch for not getting involved in activities. I wouldn’t say she ‘forced’ me to do things, but she strongly encouraged me to do these things.

Long story short, I was involved in speech and drama, cheer-leading, and many other events that were highly social. Yes, those were some painful experiences in a way, but I hide my symptoms so well that others didn’t know that I was ‘different’.

I’ve failed to mention my brother up to this point. He was very supportive after the diagnosis as well. Our fights and disagreements and my ‘odd’ behaviors made sense to him at that point. In many ways, he was like a father-figure to me.

Me, my brother and his wife.
Also, he became a solid shadow of mine. For example, since we are only one year apart in age, we would run into one another quite frequently while at school, and he always had his eye out for me, especially when bullies started getting aggressive. 

He was like my ‘bouncer’ – and other students came to realize that if they messed with me, they were going to have to answer to him at some point (usually when no teachers were around to intervene).

After my diagnosis, my brother learned about AS and truly did muster up a bunch of patience with me. As stressful as his role was as both my advocate and my father-figure, to this day he states that this role was rewarding for him.

He takes credit for some of my successes today, which is the absolute truth. Had it not been for my strong advocates in the form of a mother and older brother, I’d hate to think what kind of shape I would be in today -- mentally and emotionally.

Thank you Mom, thank you Nicholas.

Stinking Thinking in People with Asperger’s and HFA



People with Asperger’ and High-Functioning Autism have a tendency to think poorly of themselves. We call this stinking thinking.

Here are some common examples people on the autism spectrum may face that lead to toxic, sticking thinking, followed by its replacement thought to help you shift your focus:

1.    Stinking Thinking: You’re a failure.

---Replacement Thought: You’re a person who sometimes fails. And that's okay. You’ll try again.

2.    Stinking Thinking: You really need to be dependent on someone stronger than yourself. Your happiness depends on others.

---Replacement Thought: You’re the one who ultimately decides what's best for you. Reliance on others is more like a habit and a state of mind that can be corrected with practice.

3.    Stinking Thinking: You should be liked and approved of by almost everyone.

---Replacement Thought: Nobody is liked by everyone. That’s na├»ve.

4.    Stinking Thinking: You’re a product of your past. You can't change anything. You’ve always been this way.

---Replacement Thought: Things have happened in the past that influenced your behavior, but you can learn to modify how you think and react. People can - and do - change.

5.    Stinking Thinking: You’re stupid and don't deserve good things in life.

---Replacement Thought: What you did may have been stupid, but you can forgive yourself and try again.

6.    Stinking Thinking: It's easier to avoid this problem than to face it.

---Replacement Thought: In the long run, it's better to face this problem and accept your role in it. Then there can be a resolution and improved relationships.

7.    Stinking Thinking: Things always go wrong for me.

---Replacement Thought: You must accept that things will go wrong sometimes – and that's not a big problem in most cases.

8.    Stinking Thinking: This problem shouldn't have happened. You’re to be blamed.

---Replacement Thought: You might very well be at fault, but you’re not to be blamed, because we all make mistakes and can improve based on the lesson learned.

9.    Stinking Thinking: To be worthy and have high self-esteem, you have to be competent and victorious in all respects.

---Replacement Thought: You can't expect to be perfect in every way – it's okay to fail, and then learn from those failures.


==> Living with an Aspergers Partner: Help for Struggling Couples

==> Skype Counseling for Struggling Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA

Skype Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA

Mark Hutten, M.A. - Counseling Psychologist

Are you experiencing relationship difficulties with your Aspergers partner? Has separation or divorce crossed your mind? Are the two of you already in the process of breaking up? If so, then this is your opportunity to receive counseling via Skype from me, Mark Hutten, M.A.



If you're interested, simply do the following:
  1. Create a Skype account, if you haven't done so already -- it's free!
  2. Add me to your contacts list. My Skype name is: markbhutten. [After you get into your Skype account, do a search using my Skype name. You'll see my picture and my name: Mark Hutten.]
  3. Send me a contact request. I will accept it and add you to my contacts.
  4. Email me so we can set-up a day and time to talk: mbhutten@gmail.com [I'm on Indiana Eastern time.]
  5. Cost: $49.00 per session. At some point before we meet, you will need to send a PayPal payment to: mbhutten@yahoo.com
  6. [Optional] A short summary, sent via email before we meet, of the important issues that need to be addressed would be helpful.
Sessions are 1 hour long (only one session per week, but we can do multiple weeks if needed).

Email me if you have questions: mbhutten@gmail.com 


Crucial information to get you started with healing your relationship:







Not ready to do counseling yet? Try my program first then:

==> Living with an Aspergers Partner

...is a downloadable eBook designed to help couples who are experiencing relationship difficulties related to Aspergers (high-functioning autism).

WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW!




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Brief biography:

Educational-
  • Bachelors Degree; Psychology - Anderson University, Anderson, IN
  • Masters Degree; Counseling Psychology - Vermont College of Norwich University, Montpelier, VT

Employment history-
  • Madison County Juvenile Probation: SHOCAP Program
  • Madison County Community Justice Center
  • Madison County Correctional Complex
  • Sowers of Seeds Counseling
  • Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force

I'm a retired Family Therapist who performed home-based counseling/supervision for families experiencing difficulty with their children's emotional and behavioral problems, and conducted the following group therapies:
  • Parent-Education Training
  • Anger-Management Groups
  • Relapse Prevention Groups
  • Drug/Alcohol Workshops
  • Sex Offender Groups

I'm a practicing counseling psychologist and parent coach with more than 20+ years of experience. I have worked with hundreds of children and teens with Autism and Asperger's. I have also worked with hundreds of couples (married or otherwise) affected by autism spectrum disorders. I present workshops and run training courses for parents and professionals who deal with Autism Spectrum Disorders and am prolific author of articles and Ebooks on the subject.

Dealing with Severe Relationship Difficulties: Help for Couples Affected by Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism




Are you experiencing relationship difficulties with your Aspergers partner? Has separation or divorce crossed your mind? Are the two of you already in the process of breaking up?  S T O P !

10 Signs You're Experiencing Trauma in a Toxic Relationship with an Asperger's Partner


If you’re in a relationship with intense baggage, conflict, or symptoms that seem similar to PTSD, there’s a good chance you’re in a toxic relationship with an emotionally abusive partner or spouse, and are suffering as a result.

Whether you actually qualify for a PTSD diagnosis or not, these feelings are very real and prevent you from having a healthy life - both physically and emotionally.

Here are 10 signs that people often experience when they are in a toxic, emotionally abusive relationship with someone on the autism spectrum:

1.  You have lost interest in having sex with this person. In fact, just the thought of it can make you a bit sick. You don’t enjoy spending time with him or her, and you dread such things as meal time and phone calls etc. Most social contact with this person causes you an element of distress.

2.  You often feel worthless and notice your confidence and self-esteem are waning.

3. You often have thoughts of divorcing this person, which brings you a sense of temporary relief. But this is quickly followed by feelings of guilt for even contemplating divorce.

4. You often have intense feelings of isolation and loneliness. This may occur when your Asperger's partner is off somewhere engaging in his or her "special activity," or when this person is in shutdown mode as a way to cope with relationship-related stress.

5. You blame yourself at some level for being "stupid" enough to fall in love with a person who is this selfish, uncaring, and insensitive. This person wasn't abusive early in the relationship, but now you feel like a fool or a sucker for not noticing the red flags "back in the day."




6. In your heart of hearts, you know you can’t continue living like this, but you’re having a very hard time letting go and moving on.

7. You often have intrusive thoughts, "waiting for the other shoe to drop." When is your Asperger's partner going to have his or her next meltdown or temper tantrum? As one neurotypical spouse stated, "Whenever things are going well and my AS husband is calm, this little voice creeps in my head that says, 'This won’t last. Don’t trust this. The other shoe is going to drop at any moment.' And it always does." [This is a sign of PTSD, by the way.]

8. You feel like you are constantly walking on egg shells, and you frequently apologize for "upsetting" this person.

9. You have tried really hard to not say or do anything to be upsetting to this person, but your best efforts usually fail.

10. You frequently feel anxious and/or depressed. Flashbacks from past disputes, as well as a few nightmares, are not uncommon.




 
==> Living with an Aspergers Partner: Help for Struggling Couples

==> Skype Counseling for Struggling Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA

Meltdowns in People with Aspergers & HFA

Can an adult with Aspergers or High Functioning Autism have a meltdown just like a child with the same disorder? 

The answer is ‘yes’ – but the adult’s meltdown-behavior looks a bit different than a child’s. Under severe enough stress, any normally calm and collected individual may become “out-of-control” – even to the point of violence. But some individuals experience repeated meltdowns in which tension mounts until there is an explosive release.



The adult version of a meltdown may include any of the following (just to name a few):
  • aggressive behavior in which the individual reacts grossly out of proportion to the circumstance
  • angry outbursts that involve throwing or breaking objects 
  • banging your head
  • crying
  • domestic abuse
  • pacing back and forth
  • quitting your job
  • road rage
  • talking to yourself
  • threatening others
  • walking out on your spouse or partner
  • yelling and screaming

On the mild end of the continuum, the adult in meltdown may simply say some things that are overly critical and disrespectful, thus ultimately destroying the relationship with the other party (or parties) in many cases. On the more extreme end of the continuum, the adult in meltdown may attack others and their possessions, causing bodily injury and property damage. In both examples, the adult often later feels remorse, regret or embarrassment.

Meltdowns, usually lasting 5 to 20 minutes, may occur in clusters or be separated by weeks or months in which the Aspergers adult maintains his/her composure. Meltdown episodes may be preceded or accompanied by:
  • Chest tightness
  • Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
  • Increased energy
  • Irritability
  • Palpitations
  • Paranoia
  • Rage
  • Tingling
  • Tremors

A number of factors increase the likelihood of experiencing a meltdown:
  • A history of physical abuse or bullying: “Aspies” who were abused as kids have an increased risk for frequent meltdowns as adults.
  • A history of substance abuse: Aspies who abuse drugs or alcohol have an increased risk for frequent meltdowns.
  • Age: Meltdowns are most common in Aspies in their late teens to mid 20s.
  • Being male: Aspergers men are far more likely to meltdown than women.
  • Having another mental health problem: Aspies with other mental illnesses (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders) are more likely to have meltdowns.

The meltdown is not always directed at others. Aspergers adults who experience meltdowns are also at significantly increased risk of harming themselves, either with intentional injuries or suicide attempts. Those who are also addicted to drugs or alcohol have a greatest risk of harming themselves.

Aspergers adults who experience meltdowns are often perceived by others as “always being angry.” Other complications may include job loss, school suspension, divorce, auto accidents, and even incarceration.

If you're concerned because you're having repeated meltdowns, talk with your doctor or make an appointment with someone who specializes in treating adults on the spectrum (e.g., a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, etc.).

Here's how to prepare for an appointment with a professional:
  1. Make a list of all medications as well as any vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
  2. Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  3. Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  4. Write down questions to ask your doctor. Preparing a list of questions can help you make sure you cover everything that's important to you. 
  5. Don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.

There's no one treatment that's best for Aspergers adults who experience meltdowns. Treatment generally includes medication and individual or group therapy. Individual or group therapy sessions can be very helpful. A commonly used type of therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, helps Aspergers adults identify which situations or behaviors may trigger a meltdown. In addition, this type of therapy teaches Aspies how to manage their anger and control their typically inappropriate response using relaxation techniques. Cognitive behavioral therapy that combines cognitive restructuring, coping skills training, and relaxation training has the most promising results.

Unfortunately, many Aspergers adults who experience meltdowns don't seek treatment. If you're involved in a relationship with an Aspie, it's important that you take steps to protect yourself and your kids. Any emotional and/or physical abuse that may be occurring is not your fault.  If you see that a situation is escalating, and you suspect your partner may be on the verge of a meltdown, try to safely remove yourself and your kids from the area. 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Dealing with Your Aspergers Husband: Tips for Spouses

“I am married to a man with Aspergers. I must say this has been the biggest challenge in my entire life. Although I do love my husband dearly, I am finding myself slipping into feelings of resentment quite often. What advice would you have for a couple that is experiencing marital problems due to the fact that one partner’s brain is wired differently?”

Here are some facts about adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism that neurotypical (non-Aspergers) spouses need to understand:
  • A person with Aspergers has challenges understanding or predicting the consequences of his/her behavior on others.  Therefore, the Aspergers spouse may see the neurotypical spouse as irrational or illogical.
  • Aspergers adults, because they have a hard time separating boundaries at times, may hear criticism of a family member (e.g., father, mother, sibling) as a criticism of them, and they likely will not be willing to tolerate it.
  • Aspergers men in particular may find conflict almost intolerable.  They may hear a difference of opinion or an attempt to explain a different perspective about a situation as conflict or a criticism of who they are.
  • Neurotypical women especially tend to want their spouse to understand them and their feelings.  However, they need to realize that this is something they may not be able to get from their Aspergers spouse.  Some change may be possible, but the neurotypical spouse may need to adjust his/her expectation, and find other places for support without being unrealistic about what they expect from their Aspergers spouse.
  • The most basic elements of speaking and hearing are the most important issues that the Aspergers-Neurotypical couples may have.  Aspies often have a very difficult time hearing negative emotions expressed by their spouse.  They may refuse to communicate, but then end up lashing-out in a very hurtful way later on.

So what can Aspergers-Neurotypical partners do to maintain their relationship. Here are some important tips:
  1. Both spouses must make a serious commitment to making the relationship work. However, the neurotypical partner is going to have to understand that it will feel to them that they are the party making more accommodations.  Even if the Aspie accepts and understands their diagnosis, the truth is that your brains are wired differently.  As a neurotypical partner, you will need to shift from "what is wrong" about your spouse and the relationship, to "what is right."  You will need to build on the strengths, and value the differences, versus seeing your spouse as insensitive and uncaring. 
  1. Both spouses need to have an in-depth understanding of Aspergers and how marital relationships are affected. 
  1. Conflict is normal, even healthy. Differences between you mean that there are things you can learn from each other. Often conflict shows us where we can or need to grow. 
  1. Couples often derail a resolution when they try to acknowledge the other spouse's position, but then add a "but" in their next breath and reaffirm their position (e.g., “I can understand why you didn't pick up the dishes in the family room, but why do you think I'm the maid?”). 
  1. Defending yourself, whether by vehemently protesting your innocence or rightness or by turning the tables and attacking, escalates the fight. Instead of upping the ante, ask for more information, details, and examples. There is usually some basis for the other person’s complaint. When you meet a complaint with curiosity, you make room for understanding. 
  1. Develop the self-discipline to set limits on your anger and your behavior. If either of you resort to physical force and violence in your relationship, seek professional help. Acting out your anger in aggressive ways violates the other person’s boundaries and sense of safety. Each of us has a right to be safe and free of abuse or physical danger in our relationships. 
  1. Fighting ends when cooperation begins. Asking politely for suggestions or alternatives invites collaboration. Careful consideration of options shows respect. Offering alternatives of your own shows that you also are willing to try something new. 
  1. For both “neurotypicals” and “Aspies”: Become students of each other's culture. Pretend that you are learning a new language from a new country.  If you are an Aspie, remember that, in many ways, your spouse is from another planet, the neurotypical planet.  And if you are a neurotypical, remember that your Aspergers spouse is from the Aspergers planet.  Celebrate the diversity and the differences. 
  1. For the Aspergers partner, reconsider your perception of your spouse and of yourself.  Consider that, because of the differences in the way your brain works, a lot of what your spouse is telling you about your role in problems is probably right. 
  1. For the neurotypical partner, shift your focus from what you are not getting from your Aspergers spouse to see and value the strengths he or she brings to the relationship. 
  1. Forget that adage about always resolving anger before going to bed -- and let someone sleep on the couch. Going to bed angry is often the best choice. It allows spouses to clear their thoughts, get some sleep, and make a date to resume the fight (which might seem less important in the light of day). 
  1. Friendly fighting sticks with the issue. Neither party resorts to name calling or character assassination. It’s enough to deal with the problem without adding the new problem of hurting each other’s feelings. 
  1. Global statements that include the words “always” and “never” almost always get you nowhere and never are true. When your spouse has complaints, ask to move from global comments of exasperation to specific examples so you can understand exactly what he/she is talking about. When you have complaints, do your best to give your spouse examples to work with. 
  1. In the heat of an argument, threatening to leave the relationship is manipulative and hurtful. It creates anxiety about being abandoned and undermines your ability to resolve your issues. It quickly erodes your spouse’s confidence in your commitment to the relationship. Trust is not easily restored once it is broken in this way. It makes the problems in your relationship seem much bigger than they need to be. 
  1. It is best if the diagnosis of Aspergers is made and accepted by the Aspergers spouse. One of the best things that can happen is for the couple to seek help from a therapist or marriage coach who understands the unique differences between Aspies and neurotypicals.  If the therapist does not understand the unique differences, all that will happen is the couple going back and forth, arguing for their own view of the situation.  And the Aspie will have a hard time understanding his/her impact on the neurotypical. 
  1. It’s pointless to blame each other. Blaming your partner distracts you from solving the problem at hand. It invites your partner to be defensive, and it escalates the argument.  
  1. Putting your spouse down or criticizing your spouse’s character shows disrespect for his/her dignity. In sports there are many rules that prevent one player from intentionally injuring another. In marriage and relationships, similar rules must apply. When you intentionally injure your spouse, it’s like saying, “You are not safe with me. I will do whatever it takes to protect myself or to win.” 
  1. Small concessions can turn the situation around. If you give a little, it makes room for the other person to make concessions too. Small concessions lead to larger compromises. Compromise doesn’t have to mean that you’re meeting each other exactly 50-50. Sometimes it’s a 60-40 or even 80-20 agreement. This isn’t about score-keeping. It’s about finding a solution that is workable for both of you. 
  1. Stay in the present and resist the temptation to use the situation as an occasion to bring up other issues from the past. It’s discouraging to keep bringing up the past. You can’t change the past. You can only change today. You can look forward to a better future. Try to keep your focus on what can be done today to resolve the issue at hand and go forward from there. If you get off-topic, on to other issues, stop yourselves and agree to get back on track. You can always come back to other issues later.  
  1. Taking a 1-minute break can help a couple push the reset button on a fight. Stop, step out of the room, and reconnect when everyone's a little calmer. 
  1. The louder someone yells, the less likely they are to be heard. Even if your spouse yells, there’s no need to yell back. Taking the volume down makes it possible for people to start focusing on the issues instead of reacting to the noise
  1. There almost always are parts of a conflict that can be points of agreement. Finding common ground, even if it’s agreeing that there is a problem, is an important start to finding a common solution. 
  1. There are two things that derail intense fights: (1) admitting what you did to get your spouse ticked off, and (2) expressing empathy toward your spouse. This can be difficult, but typically is extremely successful. Letting down our defenses in the heat of battle seems counter-intuitive, but is actually very effective with couples. 
  1. There comes a point where discussing the matter doesn't help. So couples need to just hold each other when nothing else seems to be working. Reconnecting through touch is very important. 
  1. Use words that describe how you feel, and what you want and need, not what your spouse feels, wants, or believes. It may seem easier to analyze your spouse than to analyze yourself, but interpreting your spouse’s thoughts, feelings and motives will distract you from identifying your own underlying issues, and will likely invite defensiveness from your partner. More importantly, telling your partner what he/she thinks, believes or wants is controlling and presumptuous. It is saying that you know your partner’s inner world better than your partner does. Instead, work on identifying your own unmet needs, feelings, and ways of thinking and describe these needs and feelings to your partner. 
  1. When one speaks, the other should be really listening, not just planning their rebuttal. Take turns speaking and listening so that you both have a chance to say what you need. Have you ever tried to work through a difficult issue when your partner was talking over top of you and interrupting you? How did you feel? Consciously remind yourself about this when you feel an overwhelming urge to interrupt or speak your mind.
  1. When people feel strongly about something, it’s only fair to hear them out. Respectful listening means acknowledging their feelings, either verbally or through focused attention. It means never telling someone that he/she “shouldn’t” feel that way. It means saving your point of view until after you’ve let the other person know you understand that they feel intensely about the subject, even if you don’t quite get it.

==> Living with an Aspergers Partner: Help for Struggling Couples

==> Skype Counseling for Struggling Couples Affected by Asperger's and HFA

 
COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Great article.
•    Anonymous said... I know EXACTLY how you feel. This is my life in a nutshell. One thing that helps me is to write my thoughts and feelings down, then have him read them. This gives me time to calm down and think about how I want to say something. Also, you need to give logistical reasons for things, at least I do. "I need you to take out the trash because I'm cooking dinner." "It upsets me when you ignore me for video games because it makes me feel like you'd rather play games than be married to me. I'm asking for help because I can't do everything myself." "You cook, I clean. This is our agreement." "You can't be around chemicals, so you have to sweep, vacuum, and do the laundry." Getting emotional usually frustrates and/or shuts my husband down. Once I learned to take a step back, breathe, and think of a reasonable argument in a calm, low tone, things got SO much better. I'm a hot-tempered Texan, so it's not 100%. Ask him what he needs. That really changed my relationship. Also, try reading "Five Love Languages". There's a quiz you can both take that will tell you your love language, which was crazy eye-opening for me and my husband.
•    Anonymous said... Just try to hang in there.
•    Anonymous said... Read everything about it, have someone to talk to, have your OWN free time and try to be as rational as you can when you talk to him which you have to do when you know he is in the "listening mode". I'm married to adhd and asperger for 13 years Not easy but very possible!

*   Anonymous said... My husband says I am his dream girl and he wouldnt change a thing about me. Sure we didnt know I had as when we got married or for years but it sure helps to know and learn how to communicate better.
*   Anonymous said... I'll talk from your hubsnd's perspective, if you'll permit. Although a person with AS can tell they've angered or disappointed you, they rarely understand why. I'll assume that your husband has the normal high IQ common amongst folks with AS, and if so you can use that to your benefit to help him learn how to relate to you and "behave" in a more neuro-typical way. No one with AS wants conflict or strife, as it only serves to worsen the anxiety and depression that is so common in this disorder. Take the time to explain how his behavior made you feel, and most importantly tell him EXACTLY what you want him to do differently. Try to do so calmly, and at a time that both of you agree is appropriate to discuss the concern. Right when he gets home from work, or just before bed, would not be ideal.
•    Anonymous said…  "am finding myself slipping into feelings of resentment quite often" if you love him.. This comment wouldn't bother you or even spew out your mouth or even come as a thought in your head... that's what true love is.
•    Anonymous said… Everyone's wired differently and marriage is a journey, a struggle and hard work but also a fantastic experience. The key is two people who want to keep trying.
•    Anonymous said… Find a support group. It's easy for people to say "everyone is wired differently" but let's be honest - that puts the burden on the non-aspie partner to figure out how to deal because the aspie really cannot contribute to resolving the language barrier that happens in this situation. And there is a significant amount that is lost in translation leaving the non- aspire partner feeling not understood, not cared for and even unloved. My support group was the best thing that ever happened to me. Women who understand what it's like to be married to someone with Aspergers - no one else can even begin to understand the challenge. Many of the people at the adult Asperger's support groups I go to comment that their diagnosis made their marriages to their NT partner much happier. I think the linked article is pretty balanced. It points out that both people in the relationship need to work at understanding the other. The challenges are not because ONE partner "is wired differently", it's because TWO people have brains wired differently to each other. BOTH people in the relationship need to be willing to understand and adapt to each other's outlook.
•    Anonymous said… I completely understand the feelings. She is asking for advice. She didnt just up and leave. This is an example of true love. She is trying to understand and reach out for help. I agree with David Iverson.
•    Anonymous said… In my case my wife died before I got my diagnosis. We managed OK for 16 years but a lot of things fell into place in hindsight once I had the diagnosis. There were some arguments that I now understand were down to mutual misunderstanding from our brains being "wired differently" . Or times when we both felt a little unloved or uncared for because we didn't recognise the way the other was expressing their love. I can collate some of those things and ask the guys at the support group for their experiences to get something together.
•    Anonymous said… It also means being willings to understand what each person needs. That should be made very clear at the outset. This is not about right or wrong....just differences ....and what you can live with and what you can't.
•    Anonymous said… My partner has aspergers and honestly its not much of a relationship. Its a struggle & he doesn't care.


Post your comment below… 

 

"My wife suspects that I have Asperger's..."

Question

My wife suspects that I have Asperger Syndrome. I often wonder the same thing. She's been pushing me to seek a diagnosis. How exactly do they diagnose an adult who may (or may not) have this disorder? And is it ever too late to seek a diagnosis (I’m 32-years-old!)?

Answer

It is never too late for you to increase self-awareness in order to capitalize on strengths and work around areas of challenge. Knowing about Aspergers gives you an explanation, not an excuse, for why your life has taken the twists and turns that it has. What you do with this information at the age of 32 is a personal decision, but it is still very important information to have.

When adults come in for a diagnosis, the therapist usually begins the exam with an IQ test. Since Aspergers adults have normal or above normal IQs, this is a good place to start. The therapist also administers an assessment of adaptive skills which tests the client’s ability to manage complex social situations.

Aspergers doesn't suddenly show up when you're 32, so most young people with true Aspergers showed symptoms throughout their childhood. Thus, if a parent is available, a parent interview called the Autism Diagnostic Interview Revised (ADI) is administered. The therapist will be looking at current functioning and early history to get a sense of the client’s skills in social, communication and behavior domains. If parents aren't available, the therapist may ask the client to recall their childhood, asking such questions like “What hobbies did you have?” … “Did you have a lot of friends?” … Where you bullied as a child?” … “What did you enjoy doing?” …etc.

The therapist may also administer the ADOS Module IV (i.e., the autism diagnostic observation schedule; module four is for high-functioning, verbal adults). Along with the ADI, it allows the therapist to look carefully at social and communication skills and behavior. The tests look at such questions as:
  • Are you interested in the others people’s thoughts and feelings?
  • Can you have a reciprocal social conversation?
  • Do you demonstrate insight into relationships?
  • Do you have odd or over-focused interests?
  • Do you use appropriate non-verbal gestures and facial expressions?

The test allows the therapist to attach a grade in each domain to determine whether the client meets the criteria for Aspergers.

It's not unusual for a client to come in expecting the diagnosis of Aspergers and to leave with a different diagnosis. Distinguishing between social phobias or shyness and actual impairment with Aspergers can be very tough for a layperson. Other disorders, such as OCD or social anxiety can sometimes look like Aspergers. If the therapist picks up on these other disorders, he/she can recommend appropriate therapy and/or medication.

A diagnosis is primarily used to drive treatment decisions and to make it easier for clinicians to communicate with each other. But in many cases, it can also be an enormous comfort to the adult and his family. As long as a person with Aspergers feels like he is being blamed or criticized for something he doesn’t even understand, he can only be defensive or bewildered. When the people around him feel offended or disrespected, he can only get exasperated, argue, or write them off. But when the thing that makes a relationship difficult is named and understood, it becomes a problem that can be worked on together. That shift can change everything.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples 


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Always knew inside but didn't get diagnosis til 52! Definitely helps explain all the train wrecks of my life, but don't know if it will prevent future ones yet. I'm going forward with hope that "knowledge is power" and wishing for the power to find a way to live happily in the mostly NT world. I would encourage you to get a diagnosis, though for adults it's frustrating trying to find someone to do this unless you live in a progressive area. Good luck!
•    Anonymous said... I also have trouble making eye contact, but I'm getting better each day as I practice more and more. Whenever I get asked to stare someone in the eye, that's when it gets awkward I find.
•    Anonymous said... I was diagnosed late at age 48. The diagnosis helped to explain a lot of my inner feelings(shy/withdrawn/living in one's own world/almost obsession with certain 'specific' subjects that did particular appeal to me)/outward behaviors(not given to socializing much/not understanding why I'm so damn awkward in public/avoiding parties like it was the plague...-(due to too much over-stimulation)- like I just cannot 'fit in'?!). it gave me the 'why' I do what I do; whereas before I never really quite understood what made me think/feel/act/behave so 'different'; and, now, I feel it all makes perfect sense, and, finally, I know why. This was/is a great big relief; as I feel we all wish to both know/understand ourselves more...and, why we relate to others like we do. For example, When somebody asks me why I'm NOT inclined to go stare them directly in the eyes; I can now-a-days say it's because I suffer from Asperger's; but, that still doesn't mean I cannot 'try' and look them in the eye; some AS people through doing sufficient practice have been able to overcome this. That's why I say 'labels should never ever limit you; because we as human beings are totally and completely limitless, instead; we constantly develop/change/grow.' The person who I was yesterday; might not be the same person who I am today; and, tomorrow, I might have changed yet again.
•    Anonymous said... Like any other disability, you can't manage what you don't know you have. Getting diagnosed allows you to start learning how to adapt to this neuro-typical world. You'll definitely gain a better understanding of yourself, and why you see the world so differently than other folks.
•    Anonymous said... my husband was diagnosed age 60yrs old,never too late,both daughters have it too,best thing ever ,hubby glad he got diagnosed too,we understand each other more now,
•    Anonymous said... My husband wasn't diagnosed till late 30's and it helped make everything fall into place and things started to make sense in certain areas and ways for him. It saved our marriage ! I said to him you either have Aspergers or you are one self centred prick! It could help you both in numerous ways!

Please post your comment below…

Social-Skills Training for People with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Social skills are the skills we have to get along with others. Often times, we take our social skills for granted without realizing all the complicated skills we use when we interact with family, friends, coworkers, and so on.

Some of these skills are very basic (e.g., saying hello, smiling, making eye contact). Others are more complex (e.g., negotiation, conflict resolution, etc.). Some adult Aspies learn social skills easily and quickly, whereas others find social interactions more challenging and may need to work on developing their social skills consciously.

Social skills are important for Aspergers (high functioning autistic) adults for a number of reasons. Aspies with good social skills are naturally more popular than their less socially adept peers, which means they have better supports to call on when experiencing difficulties in their lives. Also, well-liked individuals get more “social reinforcement” (i.e., messages from others that they are appreciated and worthwhile), so they tend to have higher self-esteem, which can also help them through tough times.

Aspergers adults often experience social difficulties, social rejection, and interpersonal relationship problems. Such negative interpersonal outcomes cause emotional pain and suffering. They also appear to contribute to the development of co-morbid mood and anxiety disorders.

Because Aspergers is an "invisible disorder," often unrecognized by those who may be unfamiliar with the disorder, socially inappropriate behaviors that are the result of Aspergers symptoms are often attributed to other causes (i.e., people often perceive these behaviors and the individual who commits them as rude, self-centered, irresponsible, lazy, ill-mannered, and a host of other negative personality attributes). Over time, such negative labels lead to social rejection of the Aspie. Social rejection causes emotional pain in the lives of many adults who have Aspergers and can create havoc and lower self-esteem throughout the life span. In relationships/marriages, the “inappropriate” social behavior may anger the neurotypical partner/spouse, who may eventually "burn out" and give up on the relationship/marriage.

Educating individuals with Aspergers, their significant others and their friends about Aspergers and the ways in which it affects social skills and interpersonal behaviors can help alleviate much of the conflict and blame. At the same time, the individual with Aspergers needs to learn strategies to become as proficient as possible in the area of social skills. With proper assessment, treatment and education, adults with Aspergers can learn to interact with others effectively in a way that enhances their
social life.

Social skills are generally acquired through incidental learning: watching people, copying the behavior of others, practicing, and getting feedback. Most people start this process during early childhood. Social skills are practiced and honed by "playing grown-up" and through other childhood activities. The finer points of social interactions are sharpened by observation and peer feedback.

Children with Aspergers often miss these details. They may pick up bits and pieces of what is appropriate but lack an overall view of social expectations. Unfortunately, as adults, they often realize "something" is missing but are never quite sure what that "something" may be.

Social acceptance can be viewed as a spiral going up or down. Individuals who exhibit appropriate social skills are rewarded with more approval from those with whom they interact and are encouraged to develop even better social skills. For those with Aspergers, the spiral often goes downward. Their lack of social skills leads to peer-rejection, which then limits opportunities to learn social skills, which leads to more rejection, and so on. Social punishment includes rejection, avoidance, and other, less subtle means of exhibiting one's disapproval towards another person.

It is important to note that people do not often let the offending individual know the nature of the social violation. Pointing out that a “social skill error” is being committed is often considered socially inappropriate. Thus, Aspies are often left on their own to try to improve their social skills without understanding exactly what areas need improvement.

Specific Social Skills—

• A momentary lapse in attention may result in the adult with Aspergers missing important information in a social interaction. If a simple sentence like "Let's meet at the park at noon," becomes simply "Let's meet at noon," the listener with Aspergers misses the crucial information about the location of the meeting. The speaker may become frustrated or annoyed when the listener asks where the meeting will take place, believing that the listener intentionally wasn't paying attention and didn't value what they had to say. Or even worse, the individual with Aspergers goes to the wrong place, yielding confusion and even anger in the partner. Unfortunately, often neither the speaker nor listener realizes that important information has been missed until it is too late.

• Actions speak louder than words. If someone's words say one thing but their actions reveal another, it would be wise to consider that their actions might be revealing their true feelings.

• Be alert to what others are doing. Look around for clues about proper behavior, dress, seating, parking and the like.

• Be aware of body language, tone of voice, behavior, or the look of someone's eyes to better interpret what they are saying.

• Find a guide to help you with this hidden language. Compare your understanding of reality with their understanding of reality. If there is a discrepancy, you might want to try the other person's interpretation and see what happens, especially if you usually get it wrong.

• Learn to interpret polite behavior. Polite behavior often disguises actual feelings.

• Look at a person's choice of words to better detect the subtext. ("I'd love to go" probably means yes. "If you want to" means probably not, but I'll do it.)

• Look for clues in your environment to help you decipher the subtext. Be mindful of alternative possibilities. Be observant.

A related social skills difficulty for many with Aspergers involves missing the subtle nuances of communication. Those with Aspergers will often have difficulty "reading between the lines" or understanding subtext. It is difficult enough for most to attend to the text of conversations without the additional strain of needing to be aware of the subtext and what the person really means. Unfortunately, what is said is often not what is actually meant.

Treatment Strategies—

When the social skill areas in need of strengthening have been identified, obtaining a referral to a therapist or coach who understands how Aspergers affects social skills is recommended. Social skills training usually involves instruction, modeling, role-playing, and feedback in a safe setting such as a social skills group run by a therapist. In addition, arranging the environment to provide reminders has proven essential to using the correct social behavior at the opportune moment. These findings suggest that adults with Aspergers wishing to work on their social skills should consider the following elements when seeking an effective intervention. It is important to note that these treatment strategies are suggestions based on clinical practice, rather than empirical research.

1. Aspergers adults should have a positive attitude and be open to the growth of their social skills. It is also important to be open and appreciative of feedback provided by others.

2. Adults with Aspergers may want to pick and work on one goal at a time, based on a self-assessment and the assessments of others. Tackling the skill areas one at a time allows the Aspie to master each skill before moving on to the next.

3. According to social exchange theory, people maintain relationships based on how well those relationships meet their needs. People are not exactly "social accountants," but on some level, people do weigh the costs and benefits of being in relationships. Adults with Aspergers are considered to be "high maintenance." Therefore, it is helpful to see what they can bring to relationships to help balance the equation. Investigators have found that the following are characteristics of highly likeable people: sincere, honest, understanding, loyal, truthful, trustworthy, intelligent, dependable, thoughtful, considerate, reliable, warm, kind, friendly, happy, unselfish, humorous, responsible, cheerful, and trustful. Developing or improving any of the likeability characteristics should help one's social standing.

4. Oftentimes social skills can be significantly improved when there is an understanding of social skills as well as the areas in need of improvement. Reading books on the subject of social skills training can provide some of that knowledge.

5. Adults with Aspergers can learn a great deal by watching others do what they need to learn to do. They may want to try selecting models both at work and in their personal lives to help them grow in this area. Television may also provide role models.

6. Adults with Aspergers can use prompts to stay focused on particular social skill goals. The prompts can be visual (an index card), verbal (someone telling them to be quiet), physical (a vibrating watch set every 4 minutes reminding them to be quiet), or a gesture (someone rubbing their head) to help remind them to work on their social skills.

7. Practicing the skills they need with others is a good way for individuals with Aspergers to receive feedback and consequently improve their social skills.

8. Those who struggle with missing pieces of information during conversation may benefit from developing a system of checking with others what they heard. "I heard you say that. Did I get it right? Is there more?" Or an individual with Aspergers could ask others to check with them after providing important information. "Please tell me what you heard me say." In this way, social errors due to inattention can be avoided.

9. Visualization can be used to gain additional practice and improve one's ability to apply the skill in other settings. Those who need practice in social skills can decide what they want to do and rehearse it in their minds, imagining actually using the skill in the setting they will be in with the people they will actually be interacting with. They can repeat this as many times as possible to help "over-learn" the skill. In this manner, they can gain experience in the "real" world, which will greatly increase the likelihood of their success.

Social skills are like any other kind of skill – they can be learned. How do you know if you need to improve your social skills? 

  • Do you wish that you had more friends but don't know how to go about making them?
  • Do you think of yourself as a 'loner'?
  • Do you feel like there's nobody to turn to when you need support?
  • Do you often feel uncomfortable around other people?
  • Do you find it hard to know what to say sometimes?
  • Do you consider yourself a rather shy person?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you may benefit from working on your social skills. The following is a list of basic social skills. Take note of any areas where you might need improvement. We will be discussing each of these areas in greater detail in subsequent posts.

Here are the simple skills involved in conversing and interacting with people on an everyday basis:
  • Basic politeness (e.g., saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, saying ‘hello’ and ‘good-bye’, etc.)
  • Making frequent eye contact
  • Showing "confident" body language (e.g., an open and direct stance, not fidgeting or twisting, etc.)
  • Showing interest in others (e.g., asking how their day was, how they thought they did on an exam, etc.)
  • Smiling when greeting people and talking

Here are the skills you use when talking to other people:
  • Knowing when to disclose personal information and when not to
  • Listening and showing interest in what the other person has to say
  • Nodding and smiling to indicate that you are following along
  • Small talk or being able to chat about unimportant things
  • Taking turns when talking
  • Using humor

Here are many skills involved in making and sustaining friendships:
  • Approach skills (e.g., being able to go up and start talking to someone who you don't know or don't know well)
  • Sharing decision making (e.g., not always insisting on having one's way but negotiating about what to do, where to go, etc.)
  • Showing appropriate affection and appreciation
  • Maintaining contact (e.g., not expecting the other person to "do all the work" of keeping up the friendship)
  • Being supportive (e.g., showing concern when your friend is having a hard time)
  • Allowing distance and closeness (people need time apart as well as together)
  • Thoughtfulness (e.g., "thinking ahead" about what might be a nice thing to do for your friend)

Empathy means being able to put yourself into someone else's shoes and recognizing their feelings. It is not the same as sympathy or "feeling sorry for someone". Empathy is responding in an understanding and caring way to what others are feeling. Empathic skills include:
  • Being able to recognize what someone else might be feeling in a given situation
  • Expressing concern at others' distress
  • Noticing other people's feelings
  • Showing sensitivity to others' feelings when communicating (e.g., being tactful when making critical comments when criticism is necessary and/or appropriate)

Social interactions do not always run smoothly. Conflict resolution skills include:
  • Assertiveness (e.g., being able to say what you are feeling without being aggressive or getting personal)
  • Negotiation skills (e.g., being able to discuss a conflict calmly and rationally and come to an agreement about a solution)

Principles for learning social skills:
  • Identify the skill you want to learn and specify the actual behavior, the social group, the setting, and the situation.
  • Social skills need to be learned in small steps (and only one or two at a time).
  • Social skills are practiced best in role play situations but are learned best in real-life interactions.
  • As much as possible, get immediate feedback and reinforcement from others.
  • Learning social skills takes time.

Although Aspergers certainly brings unique challenges to social relationships, information and resources are available to help adults with Aspergers improve their social skills. Most of this information is based upon sound clinical practice and research. There is a great need for more research on social skills and Aspergers in adults. Seek help through reading, counseling, or coaching and, above all, build and maintain social connections.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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