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.
- 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)?
- Does my spouse see only two choices to a situation rather than many options (i.e., black-and-white thinking)?
- 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)?
- 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)?
- Is my spouse exaggerating the importance of an event?
- 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)?
- Is my spouse expecting perfection in him/herself (i.e., black-and-white thinking)?
- Is my spouse misunderstanding what is happening and assuming something that isn't true (i.e., a misinterpretation brought about by mind-blindness issues)?
- 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.
Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD==> ASD Men's MasterClass: Social-Skills Training and Emotional-Literacy Development