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95 Videos by Mark Hutten, M.A. : "Understanding Your Partner or Spouse on the Autism Spectrum"

As a counseling psychologist working with couples where one partner has a diagnosis [or suspected diagnosis] of Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism, I’ve found that there are certain traits of the disorder that often make a relationship very challenging. However, when the partner on the autism spectrum focuses on improving certain traits, and the NT makes certain adjustments in how she/he approaches the autistic partner, the marriage is often able to come back from a crisis. 

Traits You May Witness When Your AS Spouse Is Super-Smart but Lacks “Social Common Sense"

Have you ever thought of your partner or spouse on the autism spectrum as the absent-minded and socially-inept “nutty professor”? 

Many extra-intelligent people with Asperger’s and high-functioning autism have high levels of technical ability, but are seen by others as having rather forgetful and odd behaviors outside the realm of their professional expertise.

It has been observed that high IQ types on the autism spectrum are often lacking in common sense – especially when it comes to dealing with other human beings.

Traits you may witness in your AS partner:

Strengths: Thinks critically; has high expectancies; is self-critical and evaluates others.
Possible Problems: Critical or intolerant toward others; may become discouraged or depressed; perfectionist.

Strengths: Large vocabulary and facile verbal proficiency; broad information in advanced areas.
Possible Problems: May use words to escape or avoid situations; becomes bored easily; seen by others as a "know it all."

Strengths: Intense concentration; long attention span in areas of interest; goal-directed behavior; persistence.
Possible Problems: Resists interruption; neglects duties or people during period of focused interests; stubbornness.

Strengths: Inquisitive attitude, intellectual curiosity; intrinsic motivation; searching for significance.
Possible Problems: Asks embarrassing questions; strong-willed; resists direction; seems excessive in interests; expects same of others.

Strengths: Independent; prefers individualized work; reliant on self.
Possible Problems: May reject others’ input; non-conformity; may be unconventional.

Strengths: High energy, alertness, eagerness; periods of intense efforts.
Possible Problems: Frustration with inactivity; eagerness may disrupt others' schedules; needs continual stimulation; may be seen as hyperactive.

Strengths: Enjoys organizing things and people into structure and order; seeks to systematize.
Possible Problems: Constructs complicated rules or systems; may be seen as bossy, rude, or domineering.

Strengths: Ability to conceptualize, abstract, synthesize; enjoys problem-solving and intellectual activity.
Possible Problems: Rejects or omits details; resists practice or drill; questions others' instructions/directives.

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

Comprehensive List of Traits That You’re Likely to See in Your Partner/Spouse on the Autism Spectrum

This is an informal assessment for neurotypicals (NTs) to investigate whether or not their romantic partner may have Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism:

1.    Abrupt and strong expression of likes and dislikes
2.    An apparent lack of “common sense”
3.    Anxiety
4.    Apparent absence of relaxation, recreational, or “time out” activities OUTSIDE of his/her "special interest"
5.    Avoids socializing or small talk, on and off the job
6.    Bad or unusual personal hygiene
7.    Balance difficulties
8.    Bizarre sense of humor (often stemming from a “private” internal thread of humor being inserted in public conversation without preparation or warming others up to the reason for the “punchline”)
9.    Bluntness in emotional expression
10.    Clumsiness

11.    Compelling need to finish one task completely before starting another
12.    Concrete thinking
13.    Constant anxiety about performance and acceptance, despite recognition and commendation
14.    Deliberate withholding of peak performance due to belief that one’s best efforts may remain unrecognized, unrewarded, or appropriated by others
15.    Dependence on step-by-step learning procedures (note: disorientation occurs when a step is assumed, deleted, or otherwise overlooked in instruction)
16.    Depression
17.    Difficulty in starting a project
18.    Difficulty with unstructured time
19.    Difficulty expressing anger (i.e., either excessive or “bottled up”)
20.    Difficulty in accepting compliments, often responding with quizzical or self-deprecatory language

21.    Difficulty in accepting criticism or correction
22.    Difficulty in assessing cause and effect relationships (e.g., behaviors and consequences)
23.    Difficulty in assessing relative importance of details (an aspect of the trees/forest problem)
24.    Difficulty in distinguishing between acquaintance and friendship
25.    Difficulty in drawing relationships between an activity or event and ideas
26.    Difficulty in estimating time to complete tasks
27.    Difficulty in expressing emotions
28.    Difficulty in forming friendships and intimate relationships
29.    Difficulty in generalizing
30.    Difficulty in handling relationships with authority figures

31.    Difficulty in imagining others’ thoughts in a similar or identical event or circumstance that are different from one’s own (“theory of mind” issues)
32.    Difficulty in interpreting meaning to others’ activities
33.    Difficulty in judging distances, height, depth
34.    Difficulty in learning self-monitoring techniques
35.    Difficulty in negotiating either in conflict situations or as a self-advocate
36.    Difficulty in offering correction or criticism without appearing harsh, pedantic or insensitive
37.    Difficulty in perceiving and applying unwritten social rules or protocols
38.    Difficulty in recognizing others’ faces (i.e., prosopagnosia)
39.    Difficulty in understanding rules for games of social entertainment
40.    Difficulty judging others’ personal space

41.    Difficulty with “teamwork”
42.    Difficulty with adopting a social mask to obscure real feelings, moods, reactions
43.    Difficulty with initiating or maintaining eye contact
44.    Difficulty with organizing and sequencing (i.e., planning and execution; successful performance of tasks in a logical order)
45.    Difficulty with reciprocal displays of pleasantries and greetings46.    Difficulty with writing and reports
47.    Discomfort manipulating or “playing games” with others
48.    Discomfort with competition
49.    Disinclination to produce expected results in an orthodox manner
50.    Distractibility due to focus on external or internal sensations, thoughts, and/or sensory input (e.g., appearing to be in a world of one’s own or day-dreaming)

51.    Elevated voice volume during periods of stress and frustration
52.    Excessive questions
53.    Excessive talk
54.    Exquisite attention to detail, principally visual, or details which can be visualized (“thinking in pictures”) or cognitive details (often those learned by rote)
55.    Extreme reaction to changes in routine, surroundings, people
56.    Failure to distinguish between private and public personal care habits (e.g., brushing, public attention to skin problems, nose picking, teeth picking, ear canal cleaning, clothing arrangement)
57.    Flash temper
58.    Flat affect
59.    Flat or monotone vocal expression (i.e., limited range of inflection)
60.    Generalized confusion during periods of stress

61.    Great concern about order and appearance of personal work area
62.    Gross or fine motor coordination problems
63.    Immature manners
64.    Impulsiveness
65.    Insensitivity to the non-verbal cues of others (e.g., stance, posture, facial expressions)
66.    Intense pride in expertise or performance, often perceived by others as “flouting behavior”
67.    Interpreting words and phrases literally (e.g., problem with colloquialisms, clich├ęs, neologism, turns of phrase, common humorous expressions)
68.    Known for single-mindedness
69.    Lack of trust in others
70.    Limited by intensely pursued interests

71.    Limited clothing preference (e.g., discomfort with formal attire or uniforms)
72.    Literal interpretation of instructions (e.g., failure to read between the lines)
73.    Low apparent sexual interest
74.    Low motivation to perform tasks of no immediate personal interest
75.    Low or no conversational participation in group meetings or conferences
76.    Low sensitivity to risks in the environment to self and/or others
77.    Low to medium level of paranoia
78.    Low to no apparent sense of humor
79.    Low understanding of the reciprocal rules of conversation (e.g., interrupting, dominating, minimum participation, difficult in shifting topics, problem with initiating or terminating conversation, subject perseveration)
80.    Mental shutdown response to conflicting demands and multi-tasking

81.    Missing or misconstruing others’ agendas, priorities, preferences
82.    Nail-biting
83.    Often perceived as “being in their own world”
84.    Often viewed as vulnerable or less able to resist harassment and badgering by others
85.    Out-of-scale reactions to losing
86.    Oversight or forgetting of tasks without formal reminders (e.g., lists or schedules)
87.    Perfectionism
88.    Perseveration best characterized by the term “bulldog tenacity”
89.    Poor judgment of when a task is finished (often attributable to perfectionism or an apparent unwillingness to follow differential standards for quality)
90.    Pouting frequently

91.    Preference for bland or bare environments in living arrangements
92.    Preference for repetitive, often simple routines
93.    Preference for visually oriented instruction and training
94.    Problems expressing empathy or comfort to/with others (e.g., sadness, condolence, congratulations)
95.    Psychometric testing shows great deviance between verbal and performance results
96.    Punctual and conscientious
97.    Rage, tantrum, shutdown, self-isolating reactions appearing “out of nowhere”
98.    Relaxation techniques and developing recreational “release” interest may require formal instruction
99.    Reliance on internal speech process to “talk” oneself through a task or procedure
100.    Reluctance to accept positions of authority or supervision

101.    Reluctance to ask for help or seek comfort
102.    Resistance to or failure to respond to talk therapy
103.    Rigid adherence to rules and routines
104.    Rigid adherence to social conventions where flexibility is desirable
105.    Ruminating (i.e., fixating on bad experiences with people or events for an inordinate length of time)
106.    Sarcasm, negativism, criticism
107.    Scrupulous honesty, often expressed in an apparently disarming or inappropriate manner or setting
108.    Self-injurious or disfiguring behaviors
109.    Serious all the time
110.    Shyness

111.    Sleep difficulties
112.    Slow performance
113.    Social isolation and intense concern for privacy
114.    Stilted, pedantic conversational style (“the little professor” concept)
115.    Stims (i.e., self-stimulatory behavior serving to reduce anxiety, stress, or to express pleasure)
116.    Stress, frustration and anger reaction to interruptions
117.    Strong desire to coach or mentor newcomers
118.    Strong food preferences and aversions
119.    Strong sensory sensitivities (e.g., touch and tactile sensations, sounds, lighting and colors, odors, taste
120.    Substantial hidden self-anger, anger towards others, and resentment

121.    Susceptibility to distraction
122.    Tantrums
123.    Tendency to “lose it” during sensory overload, multitask demands, or when contradictory and confusing priorities have been set
124.    Unmodulated reaction in being manipulated, patronized, or “handled” by others
125.    Unusual and rigidly adhered to eating behaviors
126.    Unusual gait, stance, posture
127.    Verbosity
128.    Very low level of assertiveness

 ==> Learn more about your AS partner's way of thinking, feeling and behaving...

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

Why Your AS or HFA Partner Thinks and Behaves the Way He Does

What AS Partners Need to Learn and Practice to Save Their Troubled Relationships

“Mark, so what do you do exactly when working with the Asperger’s spouse or partner in your online counseling sessions? I’m an NT wife who has reached the end of her rope.”

Well, first of all, if the AS spouse is struggling in his/her relationship, I will have to work with both parties. But I do prefer to have a few sessions with just the AS partner beforehand, in which case, we will work largely on social skills and the development of emotional reciprocity.

Asperger's (high functioning autism), like classic autism, falls on a continuum of symptoms and impairment. Usually, it includes an exclusive focus on one area of interest, particularly of a non-social nature. The ability to empathize with his “significant other” and her circumstances is the main area in which social skills get compromised.

Social skills can be improved, and an awareness of social signifiers do make a big difference in the AS person’s ability to relate at a deeper level with his/her spouse. Sometimes called interpersonal training, the approach consists of two dimensions:
  1. The individual is taught to understand communicative cues, and how to send and receive them in a contextually appropriate manner (e.g., active listening, eye contact, nodding to register comprehension, paraphrasing, learning to ask open-ended questions, learning to disclose opinions, experiences, and feelings in a reciprocal manner).
  2. Learning interpersonal skills and gaining emotional insight (e.g., managing anxiety, self-criticism, depression, anger, and avoidance in social circumstances).

The first dimension gets most of the attention, but the second dimension is most important, because you might learn a "skill," but feel too much anxiety, depression, or critical self-consciousness to implement it.

By developing emotional muscles, which consists of displaying creative optimism, self-acceptance, and an acceptance of others with whom one disagrees with, the individual on the autism spectrum can learn some specific social skills and cultivate a deeper level of emotional intelligence. 

==> Learn more about why your partner/spouse on the autism spectrum thinks, feels and behaves the way he/she does...

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

When You Want to "Talk" and Your Spouse with AS Wants to Leave

“My husband with Asperger syndrome was so affectionate and loving in the first few years of our marriage. But over the years he has drifted away from where we started. I still love this man, but now I find that most days I feel so alone in my own house. We live like college roommates at this point, we just coexist with no real exchange of intimacy. When I try to talk to him, he just leaves – walks out, and that’s the end of it. PERIOD! Is this common for a man with Asperger syndrome? Could he be cheating on me? Do they just fall out of love as their spouse ages? Do they change their mind about their commitment level when children enter the picture? I have so many questions I don’t know where to begin.”

It’s such a paradox when the neurotypical wife gets to the point where she has numerous unresolved issues that relate to her AS husband that she feels compelled (for good reason) to complain loudly and angrily in a desperate attempt to simply get her point across and to get him connected to her - and to be a team player in the relationship! There was a “team spirit” back in the day in the early going of the relationship, but through the years, the team spirit got lost. Now it’s like, “I’m here, and you are over there. What happened to ‘us’?”

But here is where it becomes a paradox: The more she expresses emotion, especially troubling emotions, and gets loud, assertive - and even aggressive and demanding, the more he shuts down and withdraws both cognitively and emotionally. This, in turn, exacerbates the problem and extends the period of time that any resolve to the relationship problems can occur.

The wife, by nature, is the nurturer and wants the relationship to grow and deepen with increasing intimacy and bonding over time. The AS husband, who is not as interested in a deeper social and emotional connection due to his developmental disorder, and whose social-emotional brain is less developed compared to his logical brain, often finds that “going deeper” into the relationship requires skills that he does not have.

I hear this phrase so often from these men: “I really try to make her happy, but it doesn’t matter what I do, it’s never enough. I’m always in trouble with her.” This mind-set creates a negative cycle that looks similar to this:
  • he feels like he is always in the doghouse
  • this causes him to feel highly unsafe in the relationship
  • this in turn raises his anxiety
  • which then increases his search for anxiety-reduction techniques
  • and unfortunately, the techniques include disconnection, detachment, and often isolation; in many cases, his wife has become his major source of stress

Of course, this cycle results in the neurotypical wife feeling unloved and abandoned, which then increases her sense of desperation - and an even stronger drive to reestablish the connection and bond with her husband. And it’s at this point the cycle just starts all over again.

So now the question becomes, “What can be done?”

In working with couples over the years, I’m finding that there is no “magic bullet” when the division between the two parties has reached this level of severity. However, a good “first start” in healing the relationship involves teaching the husband on the spectrum some simple social skills, as well as devising a tailored communication strategy for the couple that is (a) sensitive to the AS husband’s anxiety, and (b) sensitive to the NT wife’s need for emotional reciprocity. Every couple is unique though, and as such, there is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to creating an effective communication style or problem-solving method.

Examples of some simple, yet super effective social skills that can be taught include:
  • The art of paraphrasing what was heard
  • Reflective listening
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Learning how to pay attention to body language
  • Identifying and replacing negative thoughts and self-talk
  • Assertiveness
  • Asking open-ended questions
  • and other general conversation skills …just to name a few.

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

When Your Neurotypical Spouse Accuses You of Being Narcissistic

Self-Help Strategies for Alexithymia—
  • Group Psychotherapy: The interactive aspect of group therapy will offer you ways to explore your thoughts and feelings – and experience meaningful exchanges with your NT partner.
  • Hypnosis and Relaxation Training: This uses guided imagery and mentalizations to help you enhance emotional understanding. 
  • Journaling: Expressive writing can be helpful in stretching your ability to detect emotions. You should write every day in a journal with the goal of broadening the range of your observations within - and outside - of yourself. [See below]
  • Reading Novels: The language of describing thoughts, feelings and experiences is usually found in all novels. This is a great way to learn expressive language, develop the skill of receptive language, and gain expertise in how to describe a story or personal narrative.
  • Skill-Based Psychotherapy Treatments: This therapy aims to teach through skill building (e.g., Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Mindfulness Training, Short Term Interpersonal Therapy). These will teach you how to be more attentive to personal feeling-states and how to identify emotions in other people.
  • Expressive Arts: This is a more formal approach with an acting, dance, art, music, or movement therapy class that will help you to recognize and externalize emotions.

Click to enlarge

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

Chronic, Invasive Thinking-Patterns in People on the Autism Spectrum

☹️==> Audio Clip: Chronic, Invasive Thinking-Patterns in People on the Autism Spectrum

What I hear from a lot from clients with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: "I just want the thoughts to stop!"

In working with clients on the autism spectrum, what I see pretty much 100% of the time is the individual’s tendency to chronically get lost in thought - usually stressful thoughts. The autistic brain is very rarely paying attention to what’s going on in the present moment.

Oftentimes, they are either (a) ruminating about a past stressful event, or (b) worrying about the potentiality of a future stressful event, or (c) they are experiencing stress in the present moment - the event that’s occurring now.

The only reprieve they get from being lost in this rabbit hole of random stressful thinking is to get lost mentally in their special interest. They are rarely at peace in the present moment unless the present moment involves their mental engagement with a preferred activity.

We all have random unwanted thoughts that show up in our head without permission - automatic thoughts. But, I have a ton of anecdotal evidence that the autistic brain seems to run on auto-pilot without the user’s permission pretty much 24 seven. 

We don’t have to beat our heart, it beats without us putting forth any effort. In the same way, the autistic brain thinks without the individual putting any effort toward the thinking. In other words, the autistic individual is no longer in charge of his thoughts, rather his thoughts are in charge of him. He is literally a prisoner of chronic intrusive thinking patterns. 

This translates to chronic anxiety to one degree or another, which in turn leads to the strong need to reduce the anxiety, which usually comes in the form of distraction through the use of a preferred activity or thought stream.

=> More talking points from Mark Hutten, M.A. -- Relationships Affected by AS and HFA

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

Anxiety Associated with Excessive Verbal Instruction and Performing Mundane Tasks

“My partner has high functioning autism, when I talk to him about something that’s important to me, he will zone out or he will pretend to be paying attention. But I always know when he has not heard me because he will not follow through with what he said he was going to do. He will agree to something but later will not complete the task.” 

==> Audio Clip: Anxiety Associated with Excessive Verbal Instruction and Performing Mundane Tasks

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

Low Social-Emotional Intelligence and Confusion Around Prioritized Allegiance

“My husband with Asperger seems to have a better relationship with his mother than with me… certainly more intimacy and consideration there. I don’t mean in a sexual nature of course. But he and his mother or like buddies and I’m kind of like the outsider in that group.”

==> Audio Clip: Low Social-Emotional Intelligence and Confusion Around Prioritized Allegiance

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

Toxic Guilt and Toxic Shame: The Autistic Dilemma

==> Audio Clip: Guilt to "Toxic Guilt" to "Toxic Shame"

People on the autism spectrum make social errors frequently. They already know that. But as they get reminded of how they keep "messing up," they often begin to view themselves as a mistake; it becomes a part of their identity. This often occurs at an unconscious level such that the individual doesn't even know he is experiencing chronic, low-grade, toxic guilt

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

To All the Neurotypical Wives Who Are About To Strangle Their Asperger's/High-Functioning Autistic Spouse


==> Relationships and Mindblindness in Men with Asperger's:

==> Why Your Asperger's Partner Seems Unable to Understand How You Feel (mindblindness and alexithymia):

==> Why Your Asperger's Partner Is So Sensitive To Criticism:

==> Why the NT Wife and the AS Husband Have Great Difficulty Reconciling Differences:

==> Why Your Partner with Asperger's is So Logical and Unemotional:

==> Why the Behavior of an Individual with Asperger's or High-Functioning Autism Can Appear "Childish":

==> Why Your AS Partner Blames You For The Relationship Problems:

==> Traits In Your Asperger's Partner That Are "Hard-Wired" and Unlikely To Change:

==> Cassandra Syndrome and Relationships with Partners on the Autism Spectrum:

Why Your Asperger's Partner Has Difficulty Meeting Your Emotional Needs:

Why Your Asperger's Partner Is Non-Committal

What’s Behind Your Fear of Commitment?
  • “I equate commitment with heavy responsibilities and a boring existence?”
  • "I'm afraid I won't be able to live-up to her expectations?"
  • “I fear being overwhelmed and ‘taken over’ in an all-consuming relationship that will just lead to a dreadful life of sacrifice, sacrifice and more sacrifice?”
  • “I fear that I simply can’t handle a woman’s emotional baggage?”
  • "I hate talking about feelings?"
  • “I fear that she will want me to spend a lot of time with her, and this will rob me of time that I need to spend on my special interest?”
  • “I fear that I’m simply not equipped to make a woman happy?” 
  • “I see a life filled with endless chores, such as taking out the garbage, being a chauffeur, and changing diapers?”

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

Why Your AS Partner Seems to Prefer Spending More Time with His “Special Interests” Than with You

For all people with Asperger’s and high-functioning autism, life is usually divided into two categories: preferred and non-preferred activities. Preferred activities are those things your partner engages in frequently and with great intensity.

However, not all of his preferred activities are equal. Some are much more highly desired. An activity that is lower on the list can hardly be used as a “motivator” for one that is higher. For example, you, the NT partner or spouse, will have great difficulty getting him to substitute his “computer time” by offering a “social reward” (e.g., accompanying you to a family get-together) if the computer is higher on his list.

Any activity that is non-preferred will often be avoided as long as possible (e.g., doing chores, going to the grocery, watching a “boring” movie with you). The lower the activities are on the list of desirability, the more he will resist or avoid doing them.

Sometimes an activity becomes non-preferred because it competes with one that is much more highly valued. For example, going for a walk with you could be enjoyable, but if he is reading at the moment - and reading is higher on his list - he will not likely stop what he’s doing to go for an impromptu walk.

Most often, preferred and non-preferred activities are problem areas in the relationship. Your AS or HFA partner will always want to engage in preferred activities even when you have something more important for him to do (e.g., watch the kids while you run an errand).

He does not want to end preferred activities, and your attempts to have him end them will likely cause a bit of conflict. If many non-preferred elements are combined together, the problem can become a nightmare (e.g., go shopping with you, then stop by to see his mother-in-law, then back home so he can “fix” the water leak under the kitchen sink). Family vacations, where his routine is totally disrupted for a rather lengthy period of time, can also be a nightmare.

The AS or HFA individual rarely has activities he just “likes.” He tends to either love or hate an activity. The middle ground is usually missing. Obviously, you would like for your partner or spouse to experience new things to see if he likes them, but he may not want to do this just because you're asking him to do something new.

People on the autism spectrum usually HATE change and deviations from their “routine.” He already has his list of preferred interests, and will rarely see the need for anything new.

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

How to Get Your NT Wife to Divorce You: Tips for Husbands on the Autism Spectrum

Here are 15 very concrete ways that will drive your wife to filing for divorce quicker than a 95-year-old demented man can shit his pants:

1.    Recognize what’s NOT working – and keep doing more of the same.

2.    Remember the bad times and replay those memories often.

3.    Stop focusing on solutions to problems.

4.    Make her do all the chores around the house.

5.    When she wants to talk, face the other way and hold out your palm.

6.    Pressure your wife into having oral sex - on YOU - only!

7.    Gamble away the money set aside to pay the electric bill.

8.    Don’t take a shower or brush your teeth – EVER!

9.    Always announce when you have to poop (e.g., "Honey, it's gonna be a Big HONKER!!!").

10.    When you pee in the middle of the night, leave the toilet seat down – and aim for it (or the walls).

11.    If you do shower, leave your wet towel on her side of the bed.

12.    Sneeze straight ahead rather than covering your mouth and sneezing to the side.

13.    When she needs you to do some handyman work around the house, complete the task only halfway, then leave your tools where the “fixing” took place.

14.    Blow your nose on the cloth napkins while at the restaurant with her.

15.    When there isn't quite enough milk for a full bowl of cereal, but there is a second UNOPENED container, ignore the first and open the second.

Best of luck to all the manly men!

Why Your AS or HFA Partner Has Difficulty Understanding How the Social World Works

Your Asperger's or high-functioning autistic partner has a neuro-cognitive disorder that affects many areas of functioning. This includes a difficulty with the basic understanding of the hidden (i.e., unspoken) rules of social behavior – especially if they are not obvious. Life has many of these rules. Some are written, some are spoken, and some are learned through observation and intuition (and intuition is not a strong point for people on the autism spectrum).

In trying to understand how the social world works, your AS or HFA partner will try to make sense of your explanations, but sometimes is not able to do this. As a result, your efforts at trying to “fix” the relationship difficulties will often fall short. This occurs because your “reasoning” has no meaning. He can usually only understand things for which he has a frame of reference (i.e., a picture or idea about this from other sources or from prior discussions).

For example, your partner is not able to sit in a room, observe what is happening, and understand social cues, implied directions, or how to "read between the lines." Instead, he learns facts. He does not "take in" what is happening around him that involves the rest of the social world, only what directly impacts him. And you have probably had the thought that he is “overly-logical,” only living in his head with few true expressions coming from the heart.

==> Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors and Anxiety In Your AS or HFA Partner [audio clip]

Many of the conversations you have had with your AS partner or spouse have generally been about knowledge and facts – not about feelings, opinions, and interactions. This occurs because he does not really know how the social world works and what one is supposed to do in various situations. This can apply to even the smallest situations you might take for granted. Not knowing the unspoken rules of situations causes anxiety and confusion. This leads to many of the behavioral issues that appear as he tries to impose his own sense of order on a “mysterious” world he doesn't fully understand.

Thus, your partner creates his own set of rules for everyday functioning to keep things from changing - and thereby minimize his anxiety. Sometimes, he may even make up some rules when it is convenient. Other times, he may attempt to make them up by looking for patterns, rules, or the logic of a situation to make it less chaotic for him and more predictable and understandable.

If there are no rules for an event or situation, he may create them from his own experiences based on what he has read, seen, or heard. He will usually have a great deal of information to use in reaching his conclusions and forming his opinions. As a result, some of his conclusions are correct - and some are incorrect. And we will likely argue with you until the cows come home if you disagree with him or have a different point of view.

He will rarely consider your point of view if he does not consider you to be an "expert." The more he views you as an illogical and overly-emotional “amateur” on the topic in question – the more stubbornness you will see. He will argue with you about your opinions if different from his own, because he views his truth as THE truth!

He thinks that his opinion is as good as yours, so he chooses his. This represents his rigid thinking. He finds it difficult to be flexible and consider alternate views, especially if he has already reached a conclusion. New ideas can be difficult to accept ("I'd rather do it the way I've always done it"). Being forced to think differently causes a lot of anxiety. And the more anxious he becomes, the more he tries to squelch this uncomfortable emotion by “resisting change” even more – sometimes resulting in a meltdown or shutdown.

NOTE: The above statements are in no way intended to be criticisms, rather to simply explain why it is often difficult for NT spouses/partners to work on the relationship problems. Living in - and trying to cope with - a very confusing social world of results in rigid behavior that can look like insensitivity, narcissism,  and even cruel disregard for others.

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

Why Your Partner with Asperger’s or HFA is So Inflexible

Neurotypical individuals often don’t understand what their partners with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (ASD level 1) are thinking, how they interpret what is going on, and how their deficits cause relationship problems.

In these cases, it’s best to collect information and analyze what’s going on (i.e., do an investigation). Without investigating the reasons behind the relationship difficulties, NTs may very likely do something that backfires. But, if they know what is really going on, they can make a positive change in how the relationship operates.

Ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. Because a situation was one way the first time, does my spouse feel it has to be that way always (i.e., being rule-bound)?
  2. Does my spouse see only two choices to a situation rather than many options (i.e., black-and-white thinking)?
  3. Has my spouse created a rule that can't be followed (i.e., he/she sees only one way to solve a problem; he/she can’t see alternatives)?
  4. Is my spouse blaming me for something that is beyond my control (i.e., he/she feels that I must solve the problem for him/her, even when it involves issues that I have no control over)?
  5. Is my spouse exaggerating the importance of an event? 
  6. Is it the case that there are no “small” events in his/her mind, and everything that goes wrong is a “catastrophe” (i.e., black-and-white thinking)?
  7. Is my spouse expecting perfection in him/herself (i.e., black-and-white thinking)?
  8. Is my spouse misunderstanding what is happening and assuming something that isn't true (i.e., a misinterpretation brought about by mind-blindness issues)?
  9. Is my spouse stuck on an idea and can't let it go (i.e., he/she does not know how to move on when there is a problem)?

Realizing that people with AS and HFA will NOT be  good observers of their behavior is your first step. This is where you, the NT partner, may be able to provide some insight. Not knowing what to do results in anxiety that leads to the AS/HFA individual taking ineffective and inappropriate actions. Inflexibility is usually a result of this anxiety, which leads to difficulty moving on and letting go of an issue and "getting stuck" on something.

Understanding your AS or HFA partner involves knowing the autistic traits and how they manifest themselves in everyday situations. How does he/she see the world, think about matters, and react to what is going on?  Below are a few reasons that will help you understand why people on the autism spectrum act the way they do.

Reasons for inflexibility:

  • misunderstanding or misinterpretation of your motives or actions
  • violation of a rule or ritual (i.e., changing something from the way it is “supposed” to be)
  • anxiety about a current or upcoming event, no matter how trivial it may appear to you
  • lack of knowledge about the “hidden rules” of social engagement
  • sensory sensitivities, inattention (ADD), OCD, or other psychiatric issues
  • need to avoid or escape from a non-preferred activity, often something difficult or undesirable (often, if he can’t be perfect, he does not want to engage in the activity)
  • need to control a situation
  • need to engage in -or continue- a preferred activity (usually an obsessive interest)
  • transitioning from one activity to another (usually a problem because it may mean ending an activity before he/she is finished with it)

Never over-estimate your AS or HFA partner’s understanding of a situation because of his “high intellectual” capability or his/her other strong points. People on the spectrum often need a road map and a set of instructions, one example at a time.

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

What to Do When Your NT Wife Insists You Have Asperger’s

Does your partner suspect that you have and autism spectrum disorder? Do you feel that she blames you for most of the relationship problems due to this "disorder"? Have you felt that she uses this "label" as a weapon against you?

Take this informal quiz to see if you should pursue a formal diagnosis. If you answer ‘Yes’ to most of these questions (approx. 75%), then your spouse may be right.

"I either have the following traits, or I have been accused of having them":

1.    “Conflict-resolution” seems impossible?
2.    According to her, I am very insensitive, uncaring, and selfish?
3.    Anxiety is a common state for me to be in?
4.    Being in this relationship seems very difficult and complicated?
5.    Even if we are physically together, there is an emotional distance that leaves my wife feeling alone?

6.    Even though I like having a “companion,” it does create stress for me?
7.    Her expectations keep changing?
8.    Her feelings are all over the map and change from minute to minute?
9.    I am easily stressed by some social situations?
10.    I am mostly interested in my special activity rather than spending time with my wife?

11.    I can be “self-absorbed”?
12.    I can get defensive easily?
13.    I demonstrate my feelings of love through my actions rather than words or physical affection?
14.    I don’t exactly know what she expects of me?
15.    I don’t fully understand the nature of give-and-take in conversations?

16.    I don’t like making commitments to other people?
17.    I don’t like pressure or expectations put on me?
18.    I feel anxious when unpredictable situations occur or when things change?
19.    I find it difficult to empathize?
20.    I find it impossible to sense what my wife is feeling?

21.    I have difficulty talking about my emotions?
22.    I have had a hard time holding onto a job?
23.    I have trouble making the connection between what she is feeling - and what I have done [or not done] to hurt her?
24.    I like talking about my special interest – a lot!?
25.    I need long periods of solitude and quiet time?

26.    I need structure and routine?
27.    I often cut her off and change the subject when she is in mid-sentence?
28.    I often deny there is a problem with our relationship?
29.    I often fail to follow through with what I have agreed to do?
30.    I often worry that I’m not capable of being a good husband?

31.    I did put some effort into it “winning her” – but now do not put much effort in “keeping her”?
32.    I sometimes suffer from sensory overload?
33.    I tend to stay in my rational mind most of the time?
34.    I usually don’t like to socialize?
35.    I usually have trouble talking with my wife about emotional issues?

36.    I’m more comfortable with old friends than new ones?
37.    I’ve had significant relationships problems long before I met my wife?
38.    Making compromises is difficult for me?
39.    My best efforts in the relationship still don’t please her?
40.    My wife believes that she has made more adjustments to me over the years than I have to her?

41.    My wife claims she is depressed and “emotionally damaged” due to our relationship?
42.    My wife complains that she feels like she has to “mother” me?
43.    Our relationship was passionate in the beginning, but the passion has dwindled over the years?
44.    Our sex life has stalled?
45.    She always tries to change me?

46.    She claims that I am lazy and don’t contribute enough (e.g., with chores)?
47.    She has said I am narcissistic?
48.    She is a very complicate and difficult person?
49.    She is usually disappointed whenever her birthday or our anniversary occurs?
50.    She is very “needy” and “clingy”?

51.    She often says she’s not important to me?
52.    Sometimes, even neutral conversations with my wife can seem like an attack or a criticism?
53.    This relationship is often “messy?”
54.    When she wants to “talk” about our problems, I immediately get worried that it’s going to turn into another fight?
55.    When we argue, I tend to view my wife as illogical and neurotic?

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

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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