People with ASD are prone to anger, which can be made worse by difficulty in communicating feelings of anxiety. Anger is often a common reaction experienced when coming to terms with problems in relationships (i.e., things that occur that raise the ASD individual’s stress level).
There can be an ‘on-off’ quality to this anger where the individual is calm minutes later after an angry outburst (e.g., meltdown), while those around are stunned and may feel hurt or shocked for hours, if not days, afterward.
The NT partner often struggles to understand these angry outbursts, with resentment and bitterness building up over time. Once the NT understands that her ASD partner has trouble controlling his anger - or understanding its effects on others - she can learn ways to respond that will help to manage these outbursts (i.e., to keep them from escalating).
In some cases, the person on the spectrum may not acknowledge that he has trouble with his anger - and will blame his NT partner for provoking him. Again, this can create enormous conflict within the relationship. It will take carefully phrased feedback and plenty of time for the ASD partner to gradually realize he has a problem with how he expresses his anger and frustration.
A good place to start is identifying a pattern in how the outbursts are related to specific frustrations. Such triggers may originate from the environment, specific individuals, or internal thoughts. Common causes of anger in people with ASD include: other people’s behavior (e.g., critical comments); intolerance of imperfections in others; having routines and order disrupted; anxiety; being swamped by multiple tasks or sensory stimulation.
Identifying the cause of anger can be a challenge. It is important to consider all possible influences relating to one’s physical state (e.g., pain, tiredness), mental state (e.g., existing frustration, confusion), the environment (e.g., too much stimulation, lack of structure, change of routine), and how well the ASD individual can regulate difficult emotions. Life-coaching and Neurodiverse Couples Counseling can help in this area.
More resources for couples affected by ASD: