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Understanding Your “Immature” ASD Partner: Tips for NTs

"I've been married to my husband [high functioning autistic] 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 ASD? 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” Partner with ASD—

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. 


  1. I'm so glad I found this information about immaturity within a marriage to an autistic partner. It's very helpful to know I'm not alone in my struggle to understand asd. I thank you for the help and strategies and will apply them to my everyday life.

    1. I definitely can agree with your answer. To me it’s so draining and I don’t feel comfortable putting myself through this as I’ve already wasted 12 years of my life but I didn’t know he was autistic or I would have never married him.He has no friends, he feels he can do whatever he wants but when I do anything he wants to know about it immediately. It’s like tick for tack. He is 64 years old but to me he has the mind of an 18 year old. Very immature and only feels he should please himself. Doesn’t have any friends but talks to his 2 boys and that’s it. Same reputable behavior every single day. He’s been married 4 times. I want out of this. But me never takes no for an answer. Anyone that is in a relationship with someone on the spectrum beware especially if you’re a NT woman. It’s the most miserable life I’ve ever lived.

  2. As someone who is Autistic this just makes me feel more misunderstood and depressed about myself. If you NTs find it so difficult to be with us, then don't be with us. I've had a hard life emotionally, but mask extremely well. I am usually very mature, especially in public, but I find interactions with loved ones difficult sometimes.

    1. I mean you just have to be dedicated to self improvement in your relationship with loved ones. Autism makes it harder but you can't give up on maturing and expect your partner to pick up all the slack or be able to handle the immaturity all the time. It's give and take. It also doesn't usually become apparent how hard it can be until the couple is already married and living together. If your aware of your struggles and the way you can affect others and are open about it and to changing that will help a lot as opposed to just being defensive.

    2. My experience with my male friend who is autistic is he deals with situations like a child. He went to the mall and a kiosk closed 10 minutes early. The next day he had to call them a question them, then told me how the man lied to him and this guy is lucky he didn’t call corporate. My friend also through a fit over Amazon charging him $4 for returning an item. He called Amazon and demanded he not be charged. His emotions are harsh and mean, but when I question him he can’t see how he comes across. IT’s miserable being his friend.

  3. Oh- and I am VERY introspective and reflective, always trying to improve myself. It's exhausting and it contributes to depression and feeling broken.


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