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Cassandra Syndrome and Marriage to an Asperger’s Spouse

“I’m married to a man with AS (17 years), and I think that I may be suffering from Cassandra Syndrome. Have you heard of this? Is this common for NT wives who are married to an emotionally unavailable (abusive) husband with AS?”

Cassandra Syndrome (CS) is basically the neurotypical (NT) spouse’s experience of emotional suffering that results from distressing interpersonal relations with a spouse who does not understand, empathize with, or validate the NT’s pain and sorrow. Many NT partners are negatively affected by a number of Asperger’s traits (e.g., lack of empathy, mind-blindness, alexithymia, etc.). 

Over time, the NT spouse may begin to feel isolated, invalidated, and even ‘held hostages’ in their own home. A common phrase expressed by many NTs is, “I’m simply not important to my spouse.”

The emotional distress felt by the NT usually occurs when the Asperger’s partner:
  • exhibits communication problems
  • has an inability to be intimate
  • is emotionally distance
  • prefers to relate to the NT partner from a distance (the Asperger’s partner fails to realize that he/she must be intimate, vulnerable, and empathic in order to truly “know” - and cooperate with - the NT partner)

The NT wants a deeper, more personal and satisfying relationship (of course), and therefore “pushes” the Asperger’s partner to “step up” and participate more fully in the marriage. However, this pushing and pleading results in further difficulties, because the Asperger’s spouse now views the NT as being increasingly bitchy, irrational or hysterical. Thus, the Asperger’s spouse distances himself/herself even further for anxiety-reduction purposes.

Symptoms of CS may include any of the following:
  • avoidance of going places (e.g., social events) with the AS spouse because it “always ends badly”
  • being easily irritated and angered
  • difficulty sleeping and concentrating
  • emotional numbness
  • feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • intrusive distressing recollections of past encounters with the AS spouse that were perceived as him/her being selfish, uncaring, and insensitive
  • markedly diminished interest or participation in previously-enjoyed activities
  • persistent and distorted blame of self
  • persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself
  • persistent anxiety, anger, guilt, or shame
  • persistent inability to experience positive emotions
  • depression
  • suicidal ideation
  • severe resentment

As one NT wife stated: “I've grown to utterly despise him, and then, of course, hate myself for despising him because he ‘can't help it’. Living with an AS spouse is living with an abusive spouse. Period.”

It’s usually both a blessing and a relief when an NT partner learns about Asperger’s and realizes that there is an explanation for the Asperger’s spouse’s “hurtful” behaviors. In this way, the NT realizes she is NOT crazy, and that she may have taken a lot of things personally that were in fact part of the disorder. If you’re an NT spouse experiencing such difficulties, know that you’re not alone – and that this plight is indeed recognized in the literature (i.e., CS).

In a nutshell, a relationship that results in CS is one that lacks “emotional reciprocity.” Emotional reciprocity exists when partners provide empathetic support to each other. It's a mutually beneficial relationship with balanced levels of “give and take.” With CS, one partner does most of the “give” with very little “take” in return.

Note: It’s not uncommon for the NT spouse to feel lonely, anxious, and depressed because he/she has tried to tell others (e.g., family members, friends, coworkers) about the Asperger’s-related marriage difficulties, but receive little-to-no validation or empathy from others – or be viewed as melodramatic and whiny. This is due to the fact that the Asperger’s partner often presents himself in quite a different light in the public eye (i.e., appears “normal,” kind, composed). But he/she is a very different person at home behind closed doors.


  1. As someone on the spectrum, I can tell you that I have feelings, and write-ups like this hurt.

    First, let's remember that this thing is a spectrum, a continuum. Sure, there are some folks so far on this side that they can't rightly function alone or in society. But are there not are also people who are so consumed with others' perspectives ("empathetic") that they can't think straight? I prefer to refer to the "human personality spectrum" in all seriousness.

    Now I gladly identify with the AS community, albeit I think I'm a relatively mild case. But reading this still hurts. I'm hurt and angry.

    This is so slanted! For instance, if my condition is no fault of my own, why is AS referred to as a disorder? It feels derogatory in places like this. Why not refer to CS as a disorder as well? (Please don't. I'm just making a point.)

    And what about my depressed and "suicidal" mindset, knowing that this person whom I love (or at least honestly think I love) is suffering at my hand? And then you carelessly call it abuse! You're lumping me in with bad actors, when I'm fully aware that my consistent non-action is the problem. Should I look in the mirror and call myself abusive? What about when my wife keeps pressuring me to become different, calling me a punishment... Is that abuse?

    And one more thing. I want a meaningful relationship too. I realize my preferences differ from my wife's, and so I don't pressure her to become like me. You might say that my mere presence is pressure, but try expanding that beyond this discussion - see if it works. I really try not to pressure, try to compromise, but it's never enough.

    The point is, her and I are both suffering, and to frame it in simplistic abuser/victim language is both unfair and inaccurate.

    1. I hear you!
      I have been married for over 25 years with Chris who a year ago discovered he has Aspergers.
      As you can imagine our marriage has had many stages! Suffering included. As an artist and highly community minded person I have tried to keep myself emotionally balanced.
      Recently I have discovered that my suffering came because I was not loving him unconditionally. Once I decided to accept that he has a developmental reason for being how he is our relationship is taking on a new light. I have asked him to think about our relationship as a task he is required to attend to. I am reading and listening to any material out there that can assist us in reshaping our marriage. I hope you and your partner can turn things around for yourselves too. Cecilia in New Zealand ����

  2. I didn't read the whole article . When I came upon , the quote :As one NT wife stated: “I've grown to utterly despise him, and then, of course, hate myself for despising him because he ‘can't help it’. Living with an AS spouse is living with an abusive spouse. Period.” I stopped reading be she is right ...aspergers are VERY abusive , but what this woman and almost all NT's think are that the aspie can't help it , and this is simply not true. Yes the are abusive and they know it . They are by no means unaware of what the do. Why do you think they are always so good , romancing, catering to us and doing things we like BEFORE MARRIAGE? ....tHE ANSWER IS EASY , BE CAUSE THEY DO KNOW HOW WE FEEL ...THEY ARE NOT UNABLE they simply wear the mask , of a good person until they marry us and then they don't care anymore. They have most of the world tricked into believing that they cant change because they are unable , the truth is they can just like they proved to us before we married them .They don't want to change. The truth is they don't care and they don't care that they don't care. . Most wives because of being stuck and not wanting to admit it , buy into this. RARE is the Doctor or Psychologist that knows anything about Aspergers. Beware of ANYONE calling themselves an expert. It was only discovered in the nineteen fifties and people how can we have any experts when nobody has studied them . Nothing has been discovered about them in human relationships ....its just been a few years that we have found out that NT woman married to an asperger man is abused and suffers, and this fact with an exception here and there is a fact. .

    1. 100% correct. Us fellow aspergers abuse survivors need to continue to speak out like this to protect each other from the narrative that has been constructed around these abusers. The last few sentences of your comment are dead on: do your own research, ladies - the pathologization and protective classification of this behavior all falls apart under closer inspection. Trust your intuition.

    2. If you feel abused by an autistic partner and can't see how it is involuntary and even distressing to them, then you didn't marry an Aspie: you married someone with a personality disorder. A sociopath or narcissist, most likely.

      The AS partner in such a marriage is no less "abused". Both partners are in dysfunction because their wiring is at odds, both suffer, both care but are unable to feel secure with the other. The difference is that someone on the spectrum will fail to be emotionally available because we don't know how or it doesn't occur to us to do it. We are like golems: we have to be fed explicit instructions, which we will faithfully execute. Our emotional blindness is taxing on us as well as you, because it is not at all intuitive, and we have to emulate that behavior as best we can to support you, if we're able to develop that skill.

      The AS partner often lives in constant anxiety about doing the wrong thing, having to walk on eggshells, which vanishes when the spouse is away. We suffer emotional abuse too.

      I have made progress in weathering the storms with my spouse by actively trying to hear their needs and working to express my feelings more, good or bad, as best I can. Conversely, my spouse has worked on being less "emotionally volatile" and being patient with interpersonal difficulties I face as the AS partner, and actively remembering that I do not react in a NT way, and never with intent to be hurtful or neglectful.

      I found this page by looking up Cassandra complex (in the context of being married to someone on the spectrum) and the Apollo archetype, at the behest of my partner, to better understand our marriage. If you have gotten this far, and aren't divorced, I encourage you to try helping you AS partner engage their Apollo traits to the advantage of your relationship rather than detriment. We are in there, we do care, we do have feelings, and we do want to make it work, we are still the person you fell in love with (maybe a little too much, in our rigidity). And affirming my spouse's feelings of not being heard by trying to listen better in the future, and taking remedial steps where possible on past communication failures.

    3. Thank you for your perspective, this really helps me put myself in my (newly diagnosed) AS partners shoes better, particularly since he’s not at a point of being able to describe how our relationship struggles are effecting him

  3. This gets worse with age else death of a parent or children leaving the nest result in more falling off of the "mask" albeit involuntarily...

  4. Im currently in a long term relationship with a male *as*

    Im having a tough time with shut downs. Every time we have the slightest argument, he shuts down for the rest of the night, turns off all the lights and gives me the silent treatment. I have to then apologize in the morning. If I dont apologize then the silent treatment continues.

    A typical argument ends with him accusing me of yelling at him. He then demands I repeat back everything he says and if I cant say it word for word (I get very flustered), he calls me a liar. He shhh's me and tonight he starter calling me names.

    I'd like to work on our communication, because we are both not bad people. He is under alot of stress, which Ive read is a trigger for shutdowns.

    Does anyone have any links to support groups? Or can anyone with asbergers help me understand what to do when we fight?

  5. Do not feel sorry. I walked away from a marriage to an aspie. My daughter is also on the spectrum. The both of them who have no understanding of truth have cooked up a story between them of how evil I am. My daughter hasn't spoken to me for 5 years and my ex has cut off all communication and engaged a solicitor. He repeats "its nothing to do with me" over and over and yet it has everything to do with him. He is hiding in plain sight. From the day I said I was leaving, he just became this robot who refuses to talk. I never got closure and have lost everything.

  6. I dated a man with aspergers. Everything was a routine. In fact He left me, because I had no routine, and that bothered HIM. lol. He was very difficult to deal with. He would find every fault in me, and there was constant criticisms from my looks to the way I do things. Forget it- if plans changed all hell would break loose, but if HE broke plans it was fine. He was restless always needed a to do list. Became bored easily. He was very veryyyy rigid, and forget it, sex was very mechanical. I even told him once do you need me to give you a manual? There was no compormising, if I wanted to talk about something he would blow it up into an argument, or if things angered me HE would get angry at me for that and walk away. I wasn't allowed to have my own feelings basically. It felt like a one way relationship. I was always walking on eggshells. He would raise his voice out of nowhere. He would have very poor social mannerisms, blowing his nose while we ate, biting his nails while driving or sitting on the couch, or randomly burping at age 35. He had a very limited diet, routine snacks etc. He has one side tics which I later found out is connected to AS as a good portion have tourettes. He watched the same tv shows over and over. Part of his routine was his pot use. He said it took the edge off. His OCD was intense too. His house was spic and span clean, and then hed clean on top of it already being clean. If there was a crumb or a spill- forget it. He showered and shaved everyday and I just knew the way he went about doing things in the morning because I could hear the sounds from the room (while I lay asleep). He was a narcissist and the meanest drunk everrrr. There was a lot of emotional and verbal abuse, a lot of false promises. The beginning of the relationship was NOT who he was from the middle to end. Apparently, AS can mask really well in the beginning because they know something is wrong with them then their mask falls off because its not who they are. Consider yourself blessed to have left him.

  7. Neurodivergence is not an excuse to abuse other people. I think Jacob C's comment is so interesting because he so violently denied the idea that NT people can feel uncomfortable around AS people. I have trauma about it as my dad was AS.

    I have some AS friends who are super lovely and friendly and fun. The difference is that there's trust and communication. They believe what I say when I describe how their actions make me feel. They do not deny my emotions when it might threaten their sense of self-esteem.

  8. I’ve been badly abused by professionals with Asperger’s,denied medical treatment and even instigated my suicide. I don’t feel safe with people with Asperger’s anymore they won’t hear me and they bully me.


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