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30 Common Issues that Partners of Asperger’s and HFA Adults Experience

If you are an NT or “neurotypical” (i.e., non-autistic) partner or spouse of an individual with Asperger’s or High-Functioning Autism (HFA), you may feel as though you are the only one in the world who is experiencing significant and ongoing relationship problems. You may have even asked yourself, “Are these issues my fault somehow?!” You are not alone.

Below are some very common traits of the disorder that may contribute to relationship problems. Some (and I say ‘some’ – not all) of these traits have nothing to do with your Asperger’s or HFA partner being an insensitive jerk, rather they are symptoms of the disorder that the affected person may have little control over:
  1. a common marital problem is unfair distribution of responsibilities (e.g., the partner of a person with Asperger’s or HFA may be used to doing everything in the relationship)
  2. “Aspies” (i.e., people on the autism spectrum) are known for their adherence to routines and schedules, and they can become highly anxious if the expected routine is disrupted
  3. they experience difficulties in empathizing with their NT partner
  4. after accepting that their Asperger’s of HFA partner's disorder won't get better, common emotions include guilt, despair and disappointment
  5. “Aspies” are often mistaken as being ignorant and vain individuals
  6. they are very literal in what they say
  7. have difficulty comprehending complex words, phrases and expressions (e.g., metaphors and jokes)
  8. have difficulty in maintaining friendships
  9. many partners of “Aspies” state that there is a failure to have their own needs met
  10. "Aspies" have difficulty knowing when to start or stop a conversation
  11. do not take very well to a sudden change in their daily time table
  12. fail to interpret change of voice-tone of others
  13. find it difficult to express themselves
  14. follow routines and rituals religiously
  15. are usually more interested in tasks (or objects) than people
  16. frustration, since problems in the relationship don't seem to improve despite great efforts, is a common reaction in NT partners
  17. “Aspies” usually have an intense or obsessive interest or hobby
  18. many NT partners feel overly responsible for their “Aspie”
  19. people on the autism spectrum may be confused at the way other people behave, because they are unable to understand social ways of conduct
  20. may lose interest in people and appear aloof most of the time
  21. partners of the people on the spectrum often feel a sense of isolation, because the challenges of their relationship are different and not easily understood by others
  22. people with Asperger’s and HFA have problems controlling feelings such as anger, depression and anxiety
  23. some NT partners state that they frequently wonder about whether or not to end the relationship
  24. subtle messages that are sent by facial expression, eye contact and body language are often missed by people on the spectrum
  25. they have problems understanding another person's emotions and/or point of view
  26. difficulty managing appropriate social conduct
  27. difficulty with thinking in abstract ways
  28. there is often a lack of emotional support from family members and friends who don't fully understand or appreciate the extra strains placed on a relationship affected by Asperger’s or HFA
  29. “Aspies” have difficulty imagining alternatives to social incidents (i.e., can’t predict a normal course of action according to social norms)
  30. they are usually at a loss in choosing a topic to speak on, unless it’s their special interest

People with Asperger’s and HFA usually experience and mixed bag of successes and tribulations. They may function very well in some arenas - and not well in others. An “Aspie” may do quite well at work because he or she is extremely bright and well-suited to the job, but this same person may not have or know how to create or maintain a satisfying life outside of work.

There are others who don’t function well in a work environment, but can maintain one or a few friendships or acquaintances. And then there are those who can’t maintain employment or sustain friendships, but can create software programs or produce beautiful art, for example. There are numerous combinations, and all could be considered part of the disorder, depending on how you look at it. 

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