Are you an adult with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger's? Are you in a relationship with someone on the autism spectrum? Are you struggling emotionally, socially, spiritually or otherwise? Then you've come to the right place. We are here to help you in any way we can. Kick off your shoes and stay awhile...

Search This Blog

Showing posts sorted by relevance for query empathy. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query empathy. Sort by date Show all posts

Problems with Empathy: Tips for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

As people with ASD (high-functioning autism), we are often blamed for lacking empathy. Empathy, as you know, is the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand his or her emotions and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions.

Empathy is NOT agreement, commiseration, endorsement, pity or sympathy. Instead, it is getting into another person's world and connecting with him or her – both emotionally and compassionately. 
 
We don't have to agree with other people or fully understand them to be able to empathize, and we don't even need to be able to relate to what they are experiencing specifically (although sometimes that can help). We just need to be present, connect with others where they are, and acknowledge what they are experiencing.

Is it possible for anyone on the autism spectrum to become more empathic given that “lack of displayed empathy” is one of the major traits of ASD?  I believe the answer is “yes.” But we must make the effort to “learn” this skill since it does not come naturally or instinctively to us. 
 
The best way to learn to show more empathy is to look at – and copy – the traits of those individuals who are already doing a good job in this area. Below is a list of such traits.


People who empathize – spontaneously and consistently – exhibit many of the following traits:
  1. adopt the Native American proverb, “Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before you criticize him”
  2. ask others how they are feeling – and really listen to what they say
  3. ask themselves where empathy is missing, taking inventory of their life and relationships and noticing where empathy may be wanted, needed, or simply absent
  4. challenge their own preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what they share with people rather than what divides them
  5. develop an ambitious imagination
  6. develop the ability to be present to what’s really going on within—to the unique feelings and needs the other person is experiencing in that very moment
  7. embrace lifestyles and worldviews very different from their own
  8. empathize with people whose beliefs they don’t share or who may be “enemies” in some way
  9. find other people more interesting than themselves, but do not interrogate them
  10. have an insatiable curiosity about strangers
  11. listen hard to others and do all they can to grasp their emotional state and needs
  12. make themselves vulnerable, removing their masks and revealing their true feelings
  13. master the art of radical listening
  14. realize that empathy doesn’t just make you good—it’s good for you, too
  15. realize that they may have an apology to give, an acknowledgement to make, or simply an admission that they want to bring more compassion to a particular relationship
  16. talk to people outside their usual social circle
  17. tend to be an “interested inquirer”
  18. try to understand the world inside the head of the other person
  19. understand that all genuine education comes about through experience
  20. will talk to the person next to them on the bus or in the check-out line at the grocery, for example

Obviously, it would be an impossible task for you to dive-in and employ all 20 of the traits listed above. However, it would be within your reach to pick one or two of these traits, and make an agreement with yourself to implement them on a consistent basis. You can do it! I have faith in you!!! It just takes practice.


Resources for couples affected by ASD: 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


COMMENTS:

•    I do believe we learn how to communicate better ND understand others better but I don't see the above list of 20 being helpful. I don't think the fake until you make it will really be the road to better understand in this case especially since many of the trait listed involve a different method of internal hard wiring. The secret is to get to the same end result using your internal hard wiring. Case in point I have gone through a lot of assertiveness training, business related, collage courses and with private therapy. On the conscious level I understand what was being taught. I can see the difference in the behavior response discussed. But internally it just doesn't make sense to me. I can really wrap my mind around it enough to effectively us it. I end up feeling like I am being dishonest and manipultive. This results in be giving off the wrong body lqnguage nd tone. So what was to be an assertive action end up coming off as sarcatic or passive aggressive or other wrong message. Why because in the end i am still speaking a different language. It ike talking louder and putting on a heavy accent and assuming the other person will now understand you.

•    I'm kind of half way between your sentiment and the article. For me, I over-empathize. I find people overwhelming. But I can't seem to use that understanding of a person to effectively communicate and connect with them. I often see something in them they don't want to acknowledge. Combine that with being overly logical and blunt and knowing but not understanding social norms, and I can just come across as being very hurtful, when my goal is to help. I have a hard time navigating that. The biggest challenge for me, though, is turning all this into a solid connection with a person. It's like reading a book you just can't get into, not because you don't understand what's going on, it just doesn't grab you. That's how I feel with other people. Although I do have a strong desire to help people when concrete (usually physical) acion can be taken.

•    This question is for NT partners married to an Aspie spouse - what are the reason(s) to stay with them? Here is a bit about my wife and I and why I am asking. I ask this because I seem to "have" Aspergers, and I see the pain my wife goes through. As I continue to gain a deeper understanding (albeit a conceptual understanding) of what it means to be in a relationship as an NT, the sadder it seems. It appears to me that if the goal of the relationship is partnership it cannot be found with someone with Aspergers. We do not have children, we have no deeply functional reason to be together other than love and partnership. I very much like and appreciate this about our relationship, but she appears to be a better partner and seems like she is getting short changed in a sense. To an outside observer, I imagine that I appear like a good partner. I support her goals, I respect her in multiple ways, I encourage her to do things that make her happy, I don't care about social norms, I happen to make a substantial income relative to most people and therefore pay for everything so she doesn't have to work, happy to help out and do the chores and whatever else is helpful, I am loving towards out cats, people see us and consistently tell her "he loves you so much". Etc. Etc. But I don't know how to respond to her emotions (on multiple occasions, I have walked away from her while she was crying), I seem to really only understand what she is saying when it is laid out in an argumentative/logical format (and even then I rarely seem to feel what she is saying), I don't communicate well, I don't listen well, I am often swirling around in my own head (sometimes during serious conversations I will trace geometrical shapes in my head when we talk - and the more I try to stop it the stronger it goes). I love my wife - I care for her and I want her to be happy. However, after several years of trying to change, I see that she is now looking for happiness in changing her expectations of a partner. Perhaps this is the "appropriate" thing to do, but logically I cannot understand why. It seems the proposition is to spend a life with someone that cannot deliver emotional understanding and comfort and in exchange one receives...? I want her to be happy, and I would like for that to be with me, but I worry that I am holding her back from finding a person who can make her happy (or be alone, but not with someone who consistently disappoints her). Thank you for any insights you may be willing to share.

•    This is empathy. Empathy is the understanding of what another is going through. Expression of empathy is what I think a better term would be. I most certainly have empathy and can understand what others are going through. My problem is how to express it in a way that can convey that I understand rather than overtaking and making their emotions my own towards them. But this can also be an issue for our own emotions and how to appropriately express them in a NT world. As far as empathy within the relationship, as an aspie in a very good relationship with my partner and with kids, I have found communication even what either of us think is redundant to be key.

ASD Traits That Contribute to Relationship Difficulties in Adulthood

We took a poll of 86 women who are in relationships with men on the autism spectrum (level 1). The question was: “What is the #1 trait that your Asperger's partner or spouse exhibits that seems to be the most problematic to the relationship?” Here are their responses:

  1. A sing-song "ohhhHHHhhh" is all I get and that's ONLY because in marital counseling she told him he needs to acknowledge when I'm speaking even if he won't look up from what he's doing. I get the same response for "I like this song on the radio" as I do for "my dad took his life eight weeks ago and I am absolutely distraught."  😒
  2. Although him and I are not married he is the same way. Not with the lack of touch, but in his mind if he has already told me he cares or how he feels (which is never upfront, he beats around the bush and I have to figure it out) he feels like he shouldn't have to say it anymore. Once it’s said, it’s done and time to move on.


  3. Always the same face expression, no emotions, no need for body contact, no sex, extremely stressed when something unplanned happens, he comes first and he always think that everyone works and think like him everyone else are idiots. No friends and always in conflicts without seeing he made something wrong.
  4. Before kids I would have probably answered inflexibility. Once he sees or does things a certain way it is a real struggle to get him to change it. After having two children it is definitely him not automatically putting his children's needs over his own. Parenting is full of self-sacrifice, and he doesn't really have any of that.
  5. Black and white thinking
  6. blaming, he's never wrong, no empathy
  7. Bottling up his emotions until he erupts. His "meltdowns" include irrational thinking, self-sabotage, and verbal insults. They affect the entire family.
  8. Communication
  9. communication and others …also having to be careful what I say (walking on eggshells) in case it's misinterpreted and causes an argument as he's on such a short fuse most of the time.
  10. Communication and special interests!
  11. Communication by far, it goes hand in hand with not expressing any emotions.
  12. Communication issues as well: if he is right, he is right and he will talk my ear off until I agree
  13. Communication, moods, lack of coping skills, lack of empathy, inconsiderate. Sorry that's more than 1!
  14. Completely self-absorbed. I am at the point where I do not know if I can commit to being his "seeing eye dog" anymore. This is unbearable.
  15. Communication and his inability. To respond to urgent important issues.
  16. Constant struggle with depression but refusal to discuss meds.... he’s always right...
  17. Definitely the focus problem. If he's interested in something, it's to the exclusion of EVERYTHING else -- doctor's appointment, bills, promises ... Everything.
  18. denying that I said things to him. So hard to get him to register anything!
  19. Does he always appear rude? Mine does and when I tell him he is being rude he denies it.
  20. Emotional distance and celibacy is going to definitely be my chief concern. It's taking its toll and my fear is that this will be what kills my love for him someday soon. I have always been absolutely, madly in love with this man… But I feel it's slipping away and I am less and less interested every day. As I begin to learn to cope without him, I'm beginning to appreciate the time without him more than with him.
  21. Empathy, lack of support
  22. Foreign communication skills. It's like we speak different languages when we communicate. We truly do not understand each other.
  23. Grumpy/moody!
  24. He doesn't want me to go, and I don't want to. It's just unfolding in front of me. The longer I am ignored and pushed away, the less I find I want to be in a place where I feel ignored and pushed.
  25. he has done so much damage with the things he’s said. things I would never say or type just too vile to repeat. the threat, he’s never touched me but I don't know honestly if that would always remain that way. he pulled a knife on his mother at age 10… 
  26. He is most recently spending hours on coin collection. Hours. Lonely
  27. Hiding and lying.
  28. His defensiveness about everything I say and always needing to be right, so fragile
  29. His lack of desire to socialize. He never wants to go out anywhere. Part of it I think is because it doesn't interest him and it's a point of anxiety also I think. It can be very frustrating. Also, communication!
  30. His not acknowledging or caring about others' emotional needs (or at least not showing that he cares whatsoever).
  31. His reactions on the outside not matching the inside & not matching the situation. Ambivalence. Nothing is certain. Nothing is for sure. I'm so busy being baffled not able to process his words or behaviour or being in shock by it that there's no time for life.
  32. I agree about the lack of communication which leads to a myriad of other problems. I finally gave up.
  33. I dunno is the response to everything… and " I forgot!".
  34. I feel totally unloved, not cherished and so unimportant in his life. Not anywhere on his priority list which is a very different thing from the first 2 years together. Pulled me in, fell in love married had kids now lives like a hermit. Totally shut me out!
  35. I get 'yep' and 'ok'. That's about it. Usually punctuating my sentence after every word. Every. Single. Word.
  36. I have a rule now. 2 comments and it is over. The constant comments are defeating for everyone.
  37. I have that rule as well in texting. We also won't text each other in arguments. (Or try to but we are long distance) Doesn't help when we are in person, I’m a sucker for just shutting down and giving in. It's okay to agree to disagree but he sees conflicts as needing to be solved now!
  38. I make more money than him so financially he’s a joke he spends everything he makes
  39. I think loneliness is a major common issue for all of us. Right?
  40. I totally get this. He has used me as a scapegoat for the last few years and had almost ruined my relationship with my mum and his parents because he was so good at hiding/pretending. 
  41. I would say irritability/mood swings tied with unsaid expectations I'm supposed to follow
  42. I wrote a letter to my mum recently explaining everything and she now gets it. Such a relief! I'm at the point where I need to decide, knowing that it's not going to change unless he acknowledges stuff, whether I can stay, or if I need more. Take care x
  43. I'm just so done and I only suspect that this is the problem. But he has almost all of the traits.
  44. in the midst of nastiness toward me, he can turn to a child and speak kindly so I KNOW he has a choice in how he speaks.
  45. Inability to accept the situation if he thinks it should be a certain way, stays fixated and festering it which I call spiraling which leads to inappropriate behavior towards me such as name calling, sulking, anger outbursts, silence, melt downs etc.
  46. Inability to communicate on even a basic level about anything.
  47. Increased (now daily) alcohol use and mixing with his other medications leading to constant "forgetfulness", spending 99% of free time with his buddies in our attic or backyard and neglecting the kids (and me too). No affection/ no or little sex.
  48. Inflexibility, there is only his way of doing things, I can say "there is more than one way to skin a deer" but it's his way or the highway. Also obsessed focus he becomes so involved with something and everything else is neglected.
  49. Irritability
  50. Lack of affection, communication.
  51. Lack of affection, empathy, motivation, sex and the fact that I come last all the time.... yep he is definitely aspie  :(
  52. Lack of cognitive empathy, but lots of affective empathy, so I get no validation and don't see myself reflected back accurately, but others think he's really helpful and lovely!
  53. lack of communication specifically when he gets so frustrated in an argument that he resorts to verbal attacks such as name-calling (b*tch c*nt stupid ignorant mentally unstable) and threatening (ill have someone cut you, I’ll have your mother deported (she’s been a citizen for 40 years). and it’s not just attacking me it’s my close family members.
  54. Lack of emotion, empathy, communication.
  55. Lack of emotional support, communication
  56. Lack of empathy and real remorse. He repeats the issues then apologizes (does not excuses himself any longer)) but then redoes it in a few days. I have tried making lists and put them on the fridge, we signed agreements in point form and made handshakes, but nothing has worked. Now he just says "I am sorry, I don't know what is wrong with me". Since he has found out he has Asperger he uses it as an excuse to be like a kid, but not in a funny kid way.
  57. Lack of empathy for emotional hurts
  58. Lack of physical intimacy and meltdowns.
  59. Lack of proper communication.
  60. Lack of touch/not realizing that I need to hear he loves me. He says that he married me so obviously he loves me, he shouldn't have to remind me he loves me.
  61. lack of uninitiated loving touch, "shoulding" me all the time and lack of ability to have appropriate, inoffensive social interaction with friends and family
  62. Loads! The one the one that drives me insane. How he can make ANYTHING turn around and to be my fault. Then totally believe it’s all me.
  63. Mine irritated me earlier. He is away working and called to talk to the kids. Youngest is almost 2. She kept saying "daddy" over and over again. He kept asking what and then told her " talk to me". Uhh she IS! That's appropriate for HER age however his response was very inappropriate for HIS age.
  64. Mine is so child-like at times. I long for a true adult relationship.
  65. Mine is the opposite of a lot of women on here I feel.... his unhealthy obsession with sex and seeing me as an object. Not supporting my emotional needs either and inability to hold conversation when it is regarding me and my interests
  66. Name calling is SO hurtful to me too.  πŸ˜₯ The threat to "cut you" worries me. Does he mean "cut you off" financially or have someone physically stab or sever off part of your body?
  67. No need for relationships or emotional connection
  68. No reciprocity so I don't receive stimulation the way I would in order to regulate myself when having regular reciprocated conversation.
  69. Not taking responsibility/blaming equally with not understanding (believing) me about my emotions and also just not getting or reading me and not listening and failing to live up to previous agreements and and and
  70. Oh geez! Your reference to "shoulding" made me smile a knowing smile. I tell my husband all the time "stop shoulding me!" He has stopped using that word but still says "you need to do xyz" and thinks it is not a should!
  71. Oh man, mine changes moods like he changes clothes. We will be having a great convo an hour before we get home. And as soon as we get home it turns into "don’t touch me, I don’t want to be bothered"
  72. Oooohhhh fun, a poll!! I would answer these all day for you if it means we might get you to do a workshop real soon!! Mine is the inability to feel loved through physical validation - holding me in public, caressing me like he feels it instead of it being on his check off list, genuine and sincere touch that is loving and not just a hand on your back sitting there. With this of course is my husband’s asexuality. Thanks for this!
  73. Parenting. Treating a child's inability to cope in a situation where attachment and support is called for as deliberate misbehaviour and handing out punishments.
  74. Playing the victim
  75. Refusing to acknowledge mood instability esp when depression sets in. He sleeps 16 to 20hrs a day and is very hurtful or neglectful when awake.
  76. Right this moment experiencing a meltdown he is refusing to stop and take the medication that helps him to at least stop spiraling  😟
  77. Same here. Why even say sorry when you repeat the same thing over & over again. I can see if the first time you don't understand but when we take time to explain it & you are logical then the next time seems intentional even if it isn't. Agreements just like on Big Bang Theory.
  78. Selfish, inflexible, always others fault, keeps on talking about topics of his interest and not able to understand others not interested in or Listening just for being polite, gets in conflict all the time with others and do not understand his role, communication problems and problems in understanding simple instructions or messages (but you would think he understood until you see he did the opposite of what you said or meant), not being able to understand how you feel or think, fails affection in the relation, quite boring, not being able to hold on schedules, ruining finances, not keeping promises, prioritizing problems (less important more than important), focusing on unimportant than important (Even if you point it), not understanding others body language or understanding things wrongly and wouldn’t get convinced if you try to explain him ( keeps on believing what he himself thinks, kind of paranoid)
  79. Several: 1. Inability to decipher tone in the intended and expressed way. Always assumes I'm being mean or hurtful which leads to shut down and his very hurtful explicit outbursts to hurt me. 2. Attachment to electronic devices. Can't go a second of the day without some device in his hand - which leads to isolation and lack of conversation. 3. Unhealthy addiction to sex and pornographic materials. He said that it’s his means of distraction. I get that - but there are so many other options (read a book, watch tv, talk to me)
  80. so very rigid takes an act of congress to get the slightest change, and he's always right, while I am apparently an emotional troublemaker who is so hard to read. I am by nature on the shy side and pretty much wear my heart on my sleeve
  81. Special interests/collecting/hoarding
  82. Task management difficulties. I worry about how this burden might fall unequally on me as we progress in the relationship.
  83. The inability to communicate.
  84. Tone of voice.
  85. Tough one...lack of communication I guess but there are so many! 😭
  86. Unwilling to take responsibility for behavior

 



Lack of “Demonstrated Empathy” Among Adults with ASD

A lack of “demonstrated empathy” may be the most problematic ASD trait that seriously affects social interactions. 
 
I use the term “demonstrated” empathy, because each person with the disorder certainly has empathy, but it is not conveyed to others through his or her words and expression of emotions to the degree that is “typical” or socially acceptable. This, in turn, often gives others the impression that the autistic individual is insensitive, uncaring or selfish.

This empathy deficit can’t be “fixed” – and is not an intentional or malicious method of relating to others. Unfortunately, many “neurotypicals” believe that if the person with ASD would just “try harder” or “do better,” then there wouldn’t be a problem. This is like saying to someone with dyslexia, “If you would just pay attention to what you’re reading, you would be able to read better” (and then get upset when they don’t). In fact, you could think of Asperger's as a form of social dyslexia.

In fact, sometimes “trying harder” makes a bad problem worse. For example, the more the person on the spectrum tries to “fit in,” the more his or her anxiety rises, which in turn makes it even more difficult to have a relaxed, spontaneous conversation.

Due to high levels of anxiety in social interactions, a person with ASD may engage in a one-sided, long-winded monologue about his or her favorite subject, while not recognizing the listener's reactions (e.g., a desire to change the topic or end the conversation). Such failures to react appropriately in social exchanges can appear as disregard for other's feelings and may be perceived as egoistical or self-centered.

The reality is that the cognitive ability of people with ASD (high-functioning autism) often allows them to articulate social norms in a laboratory context, in which they may be able to show a theoretical understanding of other's emotions – but have difficulty acting on this knowledge in fluid, real-life situations.

People with the disorder often analyze and distill their observations of social interaction into rigid behavioral guidelines and apply these rules in odd ways (e.g., forced eye contact), resulting in behavior that may seem rigid or socially naΓ―ve.

Furthermore, due to a history of failed social encounters, the ASD person's desire for companionship can become numbed, causing damage to self-esteem and a strong desire to isolate from society in general.




Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples 

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism  

==> Online Group Therapy for Couples and Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder

 ==> Cassandra Syndrome Recovery for NT Wives

Lessons from a Pessimistic Aspie

Hey all. My name is Max, and I’ve been asked to talk about “pessimism in adults with Asperger’s.” So, I will be using myself as an example here (see if you can relate):

Pessimism was part of a defensive posture I used to take to protect myself. It was usually triggered when I feel hurt by something someone said or did. Instead of dealing with the hurt directly, I would allow it to gnaw at me and blur my outlook.

To make matters worse, when I grew pessimistic toward one thing in my life, it wasn’t long before I became pessimistic about a lot of things going on in my life. Pessimism was like a cancer for me in that sense. Have you ever had something go wrong, and then that one event colored the rest of the day such that it felt like EVERYTHING was going wrong?

I’ve discovered that when I get pessimistic about something, I’m usually just indulging in a self-righteous attitude, and have formed some expectations that people “should” behave a certain way. Pessimism often surfaces when I direct my own negative perceptions that I have toward myself outward onto those around me.



Many of my pessimistic emotions come about when I’m feeling vulnerable. In those moments when I’m feeling disappointed in something or somebody, I’m far more likely to react by getting defensive (i.e., asshole syndrome). An increased vulnerability to pessimism is usually a sure sign that I’ve turned on myself. When I enter this mindset, I begin to view those around me through the same critical filter through which I see myself. 

This judgmental self-talk tells me that I’m not good enough or that I don’t “fit in.” Yet, this inner voice is projected outward onto the people around me. I start seeing others solely for their flaws - and fail to have empathy for their own challenges. When I’m in my pessimistic mood, I’m indulging in a "me versus them" mentality that pins me against a certain person (or group).

Ultimately, it’s always in my own self-interest to be open and vulnerable rather than to be cynical and write people off. The only person I can control is me. When I get pessimistic, I’m the one who suffers. Why make myself suffer over the flaws in others?

Avoiding pessimism is about alleviating my own suffering by dealing with emotions directly without letting them color the lens through which I view the world. Instead of getting defensive toward someone I feel provoked by, I can think about what is triggering my pessimistic reactions. Have I possibly slipped into a point of view that is not my own? Am I projecting my self-attacks? Am I experiencing hurt?

Fostering an attitude of empathy (in which I’m curious, open and accepting of myself) is crucial to fighting pessimism. When I’m able to feel secure in myself, I’m better able to have empathy toward others. I can start by recognizing that everyone has issues. Often, when people do something that hurts me, they are acting from a place of defense and hurt themselves. Some people may have worse characteristics than others, but everyone has weaknesses.

We each have independent minds that think differently, but at the same time, we are all in the same boat, and we are all hurt in our own unique ways. Empathy counters pessimism by allowing me to feel my pain and frustration without taking these emotions to a dark place that end up hurting me and those close to me.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
 

What To Do When Your ASD Spouse Fails To Empathize

“My boyfriend with ASD [level 1] seems to have no empathy for others and can be so callous at times. It's very hard to have a conversation with him if it's not something he agrees with. If I have a different view on the matter, it always turns into an argument. Don't get me wrong ... I'm happy to compromise, but it works both ways -- and I do admit when I'm wrong. When he is clearly in the wrong (because there are times when I produce evidence to prove it), I get no apology from him for being rude to me, or even an admission that I was right. What do you do with an Aspie man who simply fails to empathize on any level?"

The lack of displayed empathy is perhaps the most problematic characteristic of ASD. I use the term “displayed empathy” because it’s not that people on the autism spectrum have no empathy. Instead, they often “give the impression” that they do not care about their partner/wife. This is partially due to “mind-blindness” (more on this topic can be found here) than with their inability or unwillingness to show compassion for others.

Having said that, this trait does not give them license to be rude and unapologetic. Partners/wives need to stand up for themselves and call their man out whenever he is being unfair or disrespectful!

People with ASD experience difficulties in the basics of social interaction, which includes: difficulty developing close friendships, failure to seek shared enjoyments or achievements with others, impaired nonverbal behaviors (e.g., eye contact, facial expression, posture, gesture, etc.), and lack of social or emotional reciprocity (i.e., the give-and-take of interpersonal relationships).

The cognitive ability of people with ASD allows them to articulate social norms in a "laboratory" context (i.e., they may be able to show a theoretical understanding of other’s emotions). But, they typically have problems acting on this knowledge in fluctuating, real-life situations.



It's not uncommon for men on the autism spectrum to over-analyze and distill their observation of social interaction into rigid behavioral guidelines, and apply these rules in odd ways, which often results in a demeanor that seems rigid and socially inept.

Regarding your question, "What do you do with an Aspie man who simply fails to empathize on any level?"

Bear in mind that (a) your boyfriend does empathize, just not in a clearly observable manner, and (b) this fact does NOT get him off the hook. That is, I'm not saying, "Boys will be boys, so just get used to it." As stated earlier, whenever he is "callous" or "rude," mindblindness is no excuse. Mindblindness is NOT his choice, but being disrespectful IS his choice -- and needs to be confronted in an assertive way by you. Having said that, there are ways to "fight fair" (so to speak).
 


Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples 

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism  

==> Online Group Therapy for Couples and Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder

 ==> Cassandra Syndrome Recovery for NT Wives




BEST COMMENT:

There are a million misconceptions about HFA or Aspergers Syndrome. Being an exceptionally HFA, maybe I can explain some of these. Aspies emotions are turned way down, not off. It comes from the many years of emotions getting in the way of making evidence based decisions. Keep in mind that words are not evidence. They are only tools to convey a thought or process. Words are inherently empty until they are filled with truth. It's not that Aspies have little room for emotions. There just isn't any need for them. They just get in the way of competing tasks. Remove the emotions and accomplish the task more efficiently. Aspies don't have to do things their way if you can provide reasonable logic with proof that your way is better. Remember, words are only uncorroberated statements, not evidence. People say things all the time that have no value because non-Aspies often say things that aren't backed up by evidence. So, Aspies disregard words as empty meaningless jibberish.

 
MORE COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… *YUP* Very frustrating (and feeling of alone) to be on that side for years on end.
•    Anonymous said… Being the ASD partner, I may be that way, but it isn't malicious or intentional. I wish someone could explain that to my NT partner and him believe it. I may not express emotions very well, but I still feel them.  πŸ‘½
•    Anonymous said… Every time I tried to have a conversation with my partner about anything, he turned into an argument. I felt like nothing I could say or do was good enough to him 
•    Anonymous said… exactly me also i said to her will take a bit of break to deal with things and she went and got married to someone else in april this year, so not only am i scared but the emotional pain and the distress is unbelievalbel
•    Anonymous said… i feel for you have a husband and a grandson like that
•    Anonymous said… I just let things like this go over my head, you can either let it stress you or decide life's too short and you know what no one is perfect. My aspie man is very untidy, argumentative and not demonstrative but he has the kindest heart I've ever known, would do anything for me and the kids and he puts up with me!!
•    Anonymous said… I know about "presenting evidence," too. My husband will state a "fact" that I know is untrue, but he won't believe me, so I love when there is something specific I can look up to "show" him I was right! Like the time he INSISTED that tea had more caffeine than regular coffee. If course, he didn't apologize, he just stopped arguing.
•    Anonymous said… Maybe try finding another man if you can't handle an Aspie.
•    Anonymous said… Most Aspies can't empathize. CAN'T. Their brain connections just don't work that way. The more you understand about how they think and feel the easier it is to accept their perceived shortcomings. I equate Aspi to logical Spock from Star Trek, there is little room for emotion is their lives. Once you can accept an Aspi for who they are and how their brain works, and they accept that you think and feel different, you will have an amazing, loyal partner.
•    Anonymous said… My daughter is 21 and has Asperger's. She's very empathetic.
•    Anonymous said… My situation was different, mine was a aspergus female and it breaks my heart there was always imaginery issues that she dreamt up all the time, in the long term i had a emotinal breakdown, it was so sad cause it was only her view and nobody elses view
•    Anonymous said… My son is 28 and always argues with me. I often put the phone down telling him to sod off. In a few days he will apologise and come round to my way of thinking. He needs that time away from me to process. He thinks completely round and through a subject. His partner is very easy going and that is where the success lies. It's no good if the irresistible force meets the immovable object. On the other hand like Sheldon, he is most often right.
•    Anonymous said… NO matter how much I tell mine to be more affectionate ..he can't seem to get romantic or affectionate.
•    Anonymous said… Not empathetic? I find that there is empathy....just not expressed the way neurotypicals expect. Run you over with conversation....yes....short terms memory requires that the aspie get it all out before he forgets his/her train of thought. None of this is easy for mom, dad, friend, partner to navigate. It's a challenge that can wear you done if you let it. Yet, I always find validity is his/her thinking if I stop and truly listen.
•    Anonymous said… you just have to learn to deal with it or leave... you can't change him! i've lived with one like that for almost 49 years but didn't know what the problem was until about 7 years ago... it's not easy!
•    Anonymous said… You poor thing. I went through the same with my aspie man. I am going through an emotional breakdown now because he left leaving me feel like everything was my bad though everything had to be his way  :-(
•    Anonymous said… You really touched my heart when you mentioned "presenting evidence" to prove your point in a disagreement. That is so very typical of our lives. Frankly, when I have situations in which he is immovable concerning something important (and I know it doesn't involve huge anxiety or sensory issues that are severe), I often come back with refusing to do something he likes and clearly state that I won't "Move" until he does. It ususally works.
•    Anonymous said…..and sometimes a jerk is just a jerk, Aspie or not..

Post your comment below…

The Male Aspie Brain vs. The Female NT Brain

The differences between Aspergers (high functioning autism) men and neurotypical (NT) women (i.e., women without Aspergers) are not only well-documented, but frequently at the heart of troubled relationships. Experts have discovered that there are major differences in the way Aspergers men’s brains and NT women’s brains are structured and in the way they react to events and stimuli.

Below are the big differences between “male Aspie” and “female NT” brains. Some of these differences have more to do with male vs. female traits, while others have more to do with Aspergers vs. neurotypical traits.

1. Typically, Aspergers men’s brains are about 12% bigger than NT women’s brains. This size difference has nothing to do with IQ, but is explained by the difference in physical size between Aspergers men and NT women. Aspergers men need more neurons to control their greater muscle mass and larger body size, thus generally have a larger brain.

2. NT women typically have a larger deep limbic system than Aspergers men, which allows them to be more in touch with their feelings and better able to express them, which promotes bonding with others. Because of this ability to connect, more NT women serve as caregivers. In fact, often times the NT wife "takes care" of her Aspergers husband in the same way she does her children. The down side to this larger deep limbic system is that it also opens NT women up to depression, especially during times of hormonal shifts (e.g., after childbirth, during a menstrual cycle, etc.).

3. NT women tend to: (a) utilize non-verbal cues (e.g., tone, emotion, empathy, etc.), (b) talk through relationship issues, (c) intuit emotions and emotional cues, (d) focus on how to create a solution that works for the couple, and (e) communicate more effectively than Aspergers men. On the other hand, Aspergers men tend to: (a) be less talkative, (b) be more isolated, (c) be more task-oriented, and (d) have a more difficult time understanding emotions that are not explicitly verbalized. These differences explain why Aspergers men and NT women often times have difficulty communicating.



4. Two sections of the brain responsible for language are larger in NT women than in Aspergers men, indicating one reason why neurotypicals usually excel in language-based subjects and in language-associated thinking. In addition, Aspergers men typically only process language in their dominant hemisphere, whereas NT women process language in both hemispheres.

5. Aspergers men tend to process better in the left hemisphere of the brain, whereas NT women tend to process equally well between the two hemispheres. This difference explains why Aspergers men are generally stronger with left-brain activities and approach problem-solving from a task-oriented perspective, whereas NT women typically solve problems more creatively and are more aware of feelings while communicating.

6. Researchers hypothesize that Aspergers is associated with abnormalities in fronto‐striatal pathways resulting in defective sensorimotor gating, and consequently characteristic difficulties inhibiting repetitive thoughts, speech and actions. Neurotypicals tend not to experience such abnormalities. This might explain why Aspergers men tend to be more obsessive-compulsive than their NT counterparts.

7. An area of the brain called the inferior-parietal lobule (IPL) is typically larger in Aspergers men (especially on the left side) than in NT women. This section of the brain controls mental mathematical ability, and may explain why Aspergers men frequently perform higher in mathematical tasks than NT women.

8. Aspergers men tend to have a "fight or flight" response to stressful situations, whereas NT women seem to approach times of stress by taking care of themselves and their children and by forming strong group bonds. The reason for these different reactions to stress is rooted in hormones. The hormone oxytocin is released during stress in both males and females; however, estrogen tends to enhance oxytocin resulting in calming and nurturing feelings, whereas testosterone (which men produce in high levels during stress) reduces the effects of oxytocin.

9. Aspergers men typically have stronger spatial abilities (i.e., being able to mentally represent a shape and its dynamics), whereas NT women typically struggle in this area. Medical experts have discovered that females have a thicker parietal region of the brain, which hinders the ability to mentally rotate objects (an aspect of spatial ability).

10. Because of the way Aspergers men and NT women use the two hemispheres of the brain differently, there are some disorders that Aspergers men and NT women are susceptible to in different ways. Aspergers men are more apt to have dyslexia or other language problems, ADHD, and Tourette’s. NT women, on the other hand, are more susceptible to mood disorders (e.g., depression and anxiety).

Given these differences, it is easy to understand why Aspie male-NT female relationships take so many odd twists and turns, and why the divorce rate amongst these couples is disproportionately high.



BEST COMMENT:

Anonymous said... As most parents have at this point, I've seen Frozen roughly 1.4 million times. There is one song, "Fixer Upper" that has a line that really annoyed me for a while. "You can't really change him, because people don't really change." As a person who is working at managing my Asperger's and trying to improve my life, that really ticked me off for a while. If people don't really change, than why am I bothering? But in some ways, it is true. Who we are at our core doesn't really ever change. If we are kind, we aren't suddenly going to become cruel. If we are wise (different from smart), we aren't suddenly going to become foolish. At our core, our soul, or whatever you believe, we don't change. It is what we do, our actions based on our core that can change. Really, we all change little by little as we go through life, our experiences causing us to become more and more mature. I have come to believe that what can change is our strength, and that is what allows our behavior to change. Aspies tend to become trapped in familiar patterns and circular thinking. Breaking out of those patterns and thoughts is extremely difficult, and choosing to do so is a harder choice than NTs probably realize. It takes a great deal of strength and commitment to choose to change our aspie behaviors in such a way to improve our lives. I know from my experience, a lot of times it is easier and less anxiety ridden to stay with negative behaviors than to try to make something better, because my aspie brain doesn't like change. But if you can find something to be strong for, some reason to make your life better, you can also find the strength to make those changes. Trust in your self-worth, believe in yourself, know who you are, and you may be surprised at how much strength you really have.

MORE COMMENTS:

• Anonymous...Interesting. I'd love to see an article on Aspie women and NT men!
• Anonymous... Very interesting article, and one I will def sit down and read properly later. I'm NT and my husband is suspected AS, so this got my attention :-)
• Anonymous ...If I was married to someone like my aspie son, I would have divorced him years ago!
• Anonymous...I wish my aspie husband was like my aspie son! No one taught my husband empathy, or the need for it! Nor does he understand intimacy. Ever watch the movie, "Adam"? The scene when the girlfriend was on the phone telling someone that her aspie bf never says, "I love you", and he walks in and says something like I said that before (like saying it once was all that is required)? That is my husband.
• Anonymous...Hmm..I'm curious about the opposite. Aspie female brain vs NT male brain.
• Anonymous ...Very interesting article. My biggest complaint with my husband was lack of communication. When my son was diagnosed 5 years ago I realised that my husband was an undiagnosed aspie. Once I came to grips with that I adjusted my behaviour to suit. This really makes sense when I read the article and our relationship works well now that I have learnt not to take things personally.
• Anonymous...I wish my aspie husband was like my aspie son! No one taught my husband empathy, or the need for it! Nor does he understand intimacy. Ever watch the movie, "Adam"? The scene when the girlfriend was on the phone telling someone that her aspie bf never says, "I love you", and he walks in and says something like I said that before (like saying it once was all that is required)? That is my husband. Aspergers is more common in males rather than females and cause might be structure difference of brain of males and females. According to experts, cause of Aspergers is still a mystery so it is quite difficult to be confident with this fact.
• MrCombustion... My wife has an Asperger's sister and for a few years before her behaviors were described as Aspergers I'd always found her somewhat repellent, with no sense of receptivity or attractiveness, just nothing feminine about her at all, kind of bisexual as though 'she' had female reproductive organs but 'he' had a male brain. Then I noticed articles referring to how MRI studies had shown the Aspergers female brain was very similar to the neuro-typical male brain in terms of it's structure. In other words the hypothesis is that males are more readily identified as Aspergers because there behaviors are odd period, whereas female Aspergers exhibit normal behaviors, normal for an NT male and thus are not detected as being 'odd', especially in these politically correct times where to look into this issue would have one labelled as a misogynistic bigot.
• Anonymous ...i too have aspergers hubby and children,its hard to hear but probably the children will be same when they have an intimate relationship,my 2 daughters both divorced as their partners couls not put up with lack of affection and empathy,
.my hubby has empathy for injured animals ,and daughters the same,they realy dont mean it and cant help it,its why up to 80%of aspergers live alone,and to sarah,we have same ratio female /males in family with a/s,more of the women are alone than the aspie men,just guess N/T,men are not as compassionate as us wives
• Anonymous ... Married to ASD Husband for 34 years, 2 children with ASD. I get my emotional support from my NT son, my friends on social media and my Poodles. I really cannot have friendships. I am married and it would be with married couples but my ASD husband has no desire for real friendships. They stress him out, As he says, I only have so much EMO to go around and I guess he gets more than enough from me. It is a hard life but one I chose, unknowingly, but, nevertheless, one I will stay with. I am a hyper-mom, So yes, I am more of his mom than wife.

Post your comment below...

How to Avoid Meltdowns and Shutdowns in Conversations with Your NT Spouse


Your NT spouse has always wanted “intimacy,” and she got it from you in the early part of the relationship. What you needed more than anything was to be “appreciated” in the early going of the relationship. She appreciated you - and she showed it.

Neither one of you had the thought of this intimacy and appreciation business, but that's what was going on. She got her intimacy in the early days when you first got together. You got your appreciation.

What happens most often in the early going of the relationship: The NT spouse IS his special interest, but after the newness of the relationship wears off, he often reverts back to his original special interest. And she notices that he is slowly detaching [but this occurs at an unconscious level for both parties, initially].

He's not purposely trying to do this, but he's disengaging from the intimacy that was established in the beginning; he separates somewhat, and she notices that - and she starts becoming the “pursuer.” But, the more she pursues, the more he distances himself, because her effort to get him to reconnect [even though her intentions are pure] downloads in his mind as criticism [e.g., I’m not good enough. I’m not measuring up. I’m not meeting her expectations.].

 ==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

The more that she pushes to get him back into the relationship, the more that causes anxiety for him, and he continues to distance and distance - and she continues to pursue and pursue. Finally, she gets tired of pursuing - and may become resentful for “wasting” so many years.

So, she's no longer getting her intimacy needs met, and you certainly are not getting your appreciation needs met. But the marriage difficulties affect her more profoundly, because one of her main passions is social and emotional things. So, when you disconnected, she lost one of her main interests. You didn't lose much though! You still have your main interest, whether that's a hobby, your work, or whatever.

When this disengagement occurred, she lost more than you did, and so that's why she is the one that's more distraught - and therefore the one that's more resentful …the one that's angrier and more verbal about the “disconnect” than you. You were more connected with her back in the day, but that has disappeared.

She might say something like, “When we first started dating, things were pretty good. He was sweet and nice and affectionate, but he changed. He changed, and it's not like it used to be anymore.”  In a nutshell, she needs you to give her more of a sense that she's getting some of her intimacy needs met - and in return, you will get more of your appreciation needs met. There are many ways to get intimacy needs met, and one of the main ways is through effective communication.

When she has broached some difficult topics, what typically happens? Your anxiety comes up, of course, because now she's talking about a heavy topic, and you may tend to either meltdown or shutdown, or just stand there and act as if you’re listening and agree with her [e.g., “Yeah, sure, okay, I’ll do it. Whatever you say.”] – just to hurry up and get the conversation over with.

The ASD man’s typical reaction [when his NT wife is trying to talk about some heavy topics about relationship problems] is to either do some version of a shutdown or some version of a meltdown. This is what we want to get rid of guys! We want to stop the propensity to react with meltdowns and shutdowns [i.e., a response that has been either aggressive or passive]. We want to avoid those two ends of the extreme, and what would be in the middle is “assertiveness.”

Passivity could be: “I’m afraid that I’m going to say or do something wrong. So, I try to say and do as little as possible - anything to keep the peace” [an example of when he just avoids the conversations entirely]. Aggressiveness could be: “She has made me very anxious when she talks about these relationship problems, and my anxiety sometimes expresses itself as anger and rage.” So, we're trying to avoid those two extremes and come into the middle, which is assertiveness. 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

She wants you to be more empathic, but empathy is going to be incompatible with passivity or aggressiveness. You can't be empathic and passive. At the same time, you can't be empathic and aggressive. So, we must learn assertiveness before we can practice empathy, and what we're ultimately trying to achieve here is the business of getting some of her intimacies needs met.

One version of assertiveness would be to face the music when she wants to talk about heavy topics - and to sit there and practice dealing with uncomfortable emotions in the moment. For example: As she is talking, I'm going to look in her direction. I’m going to nod while she's talking. I’m not defending myself, and I’m not leaving. I’m staying right there and facing the issue in question.

Her message may not necessarily be the way that I see things, but I’m not here to defend my perspective or to offer my opinion. I’m here to listen to her opinion. So, the goal here guys is listen to understand rather than listen to “mount a defense” - and that sounds like a tall order, and some of you guys will be thinking, “I don't know how the hell I’m going to tolerate that.”

I know it's going to feel very uncomfortable at first, and your anxiety is going to come up, especially if she's complaining - yet again - about what you're doing wrong …or what you're not doing right …or things that you're saying that are upsetting …or things that you're not saying that you're supposed to be saying, etc.

I’m sure you've been in the “dog house” so much that you've taken up residence in there, because it's safer to be in in the doghouse than to face the music and have her talking to you about difficult problems. So, let me remind us of what we're doing here. My goal is to help you reduce your relationship stress, and one of the ways that I can approach that goal is to help you guys avoid taking either the passive reaction or the aggressive reaction to her difficult conversations.

How do we do that? We get to assertiveness rather than being passive or aggressive. What does that look like? We stay right there when she's talking, rather than talking over her or getting angry with her - or leaving. You say, “I’m here to understand your point of view, rather than listen to defend myself.”

So in this scenario, there's no defense …you're not going to feed your pride or ego. If you make the mistake of trying to squeeze-in your defense or try to prove her wrong – you've just SCREWED yourself out of a golden opportunity to give her some display of empathy.

In this instance, it's active listening, which will directly give her the impression that she's finally getting some understanding from you. That’s the whole goal here. When she's wanting to talk to me, I’m not going to leave …I’m not going to get mad. Instead, I’m going to listen, and I’m going to paraphrase what I heard, and I’m going to validate that she just spoke “her truth” to me. That is a form of assertiveness!


More resources:

 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

8 Things Every NT Woman Should Know About Her Autistic Spouse’s Brain

An autistic man's brain varies tremendously over his life span, quickly contradicting the image of the emotionally-distant, self-absorbed “nerd” that circulates in mainstream consciousness. From his task-oriented personality to his “excessive” need for time alone, here's what women need to know about their partner's mind:

1. “Men with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are non-committal,” the refrain usually goes. But this may be one of the largest misconceptions about these men. The “fear of commitment” is most likely to occur before men hit 30. After that, most ASD men focus mostly on providing for their families (of course, some have a harder time with commitment than others – a problem that could be genetic).

2. “Autistic fathers don’t really bond with their children.”  This is another myth. While many of these fathers may occasionally (and unintentionally) give the impression that they are not very interested in “bonding” or spending quality time with their kids (which is due to mind-blindness issues), most will tell you – categorically – that they love their kids more than anything or anyone else. They just have difficulty conveying that love in a meaningful way.

3. “Men on the spectrum embrace chain of command.” True! An unstable hierarchy can cause these men considerable anxiety. An established chain of command (such as that practiced by the military and many work places) gives them a sense of control in an otherwise chaotic world.
 

4. “Men with ASD have no empathy and are more focused on solutions than feelings.” Yes and no! While many studies suggest that females are more empathetic than males, this is not entirely true. The empathy system of the autistic male brain DOES respond when someone is stressed or expressing a problem – but the task-oriented, "fix-it" region quickly takes over.  As a result, these men tend to be more concerned with fixing a problem than showing solidarity in feeling.


5. “These men are hard-wired to check-out other women.” Maybe. While often linked to aggression and hostility, testosterone is also the hormone of the libido. And ALL men (not just those on the autism spectrum) have six times the amount surging through their veins as women. Testosterone impairs the impulse-control region of the brain. While it has yet to be studied, this may explain why men ogle women as if on "auto-pilot." However, most ASD men forget about the woman once she is out of their visual field.

6. “The ASD man is immature for his age.” Of course! He has a “developmental disorder” after all. This simply means he is emotionally and socially lagging behind his peers. But even “late-bloomers” develop a significant element of experience and wisdom over time.

7. “Men with ASD don’t show their emotions.” False. While women are usually considered the more emotional gender, infant boys are more emotionally reactive and expressive than infant girls. Adult men have slightly stronger emotional reactions, too – BUT ONLY BEFORE THEY ARE AWARE OF THEIR FEELINGS. Once the emotion reaches consciousness, most men adopt a poker face. When young, males likely learn to hide emotions that culture considers "unmanly."

8. “These men are vulnerable to loneliness and anxiety.” Unfortunately, this is spot on. While loneliness, depression and anxiety can take a toll on everyone's health and brain, Men on the spectrum seem particularly vulnerable. These males tend to “reach out” less than neurotypical males, which exacerbates the emotional problems and the toll it takes on their brains' social circuits. Living with women is particularly helpful for autistic men. Men in stable relationships tend to be healthier, live longer, and have hormone levels that decrease anxiety. Having “time alone” to de-stress is also especially beneficial for men on the spectrum.

How to Improve Relationships with Women: Help for Men with Asperger Syndrome

Hey guys,

My name is Rich. I'm 49 years old and have Asperger's.

Are you a man with Asperger's who would really like to date a member of the opposite sex, but simply cannot get even one lady to go out with you? Or perhaps you have been on a few dates, but they never resulted in a quality boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Maybe you are in a relationship with a lady, but for multiple reasons, it's just not working out the way you had hoped. Or possibly you are a married, but your wife frequently complains about your attitude and behavior (some of which is purely the result of your disorder). Maybe your wife has become so unhappy that she is now considering divorce.

In any event, if you are frustrated with relationships because you can't seem to do anything right (at least according to your partner), then why go another day in this chronic misery. There are a lot of things that can be done to help your situation.

I thought I knew everything there was to know about my disorder. But when I read an e-book on the subject, I realized I only knew a fraction of what was really going on with me. I'm referring to the e-book entitled "Living with an Asperger's Partner." As I read through the material, it was as if the author had been following me around my entire life. There was so much of me described in the content. I finally realized why my life had taken so many odd twists and turns. I also realized why my wife of 15 years was so frustrated with me, to the point of threatening divorce (which was a wake-up call for me to do something about her complaints).

Of course, there are many traits associated with Asperger's that simply cannot be fixed (so to speak). But I learned that there are a lot of traits -- the negative ones that cause so many problems in relationships -- that I can do something about. I'm not a victim of my disorder. But I was one of those individuals that had to learn the needed changes. They never would have come naturally to me.



I was in denial for many years that I even had the disorder. And even when it was revealed that I indeed do have Asperger's, I still blamed my wife for many of the problems we had. This blaming part alone was perhaps the number one obstacle to a quality relationship with my wife. 

She has always been willing to work with me, but only up to a point. I would often cross the line (so to speak) and end up hurting her feelings (unintentionally) and making her feel like she was unloved and unappreciated. This is where some education about my disorder as it relates to relationships came in very handy. Because as you may know, one of the traits associated with Asperger's is "difficulty with empathy." I say "difficulty" not "inability." I've always had empathy, I just didn't show it, nor did I realize how important it was to show it. This is something that I had to learn, and that's okay.

My wife doesn't expect me to be perfect. She knows about the disorder and understands I have my limitations. But she does expect me to work harder than I did originally (on those areas where some improvements can be made). One of my online friends who also has Asperger's once stated, "The big problem for me is that I would have to work twice as hard as everybody else just to be 'average'." My reply: "Then work twice as hard!"

There are a lot of issues that we as men on the autism spectrum have to deal with. But if we do not educate ourselves about these issues, we are doomed to repeatedly make relationship mistakes, and thus experience relationship headaches.

Are you familiar with the "theory of mind" concept and how it affects relationships? Did you know that we, as men with Asperger's, have problems with executive functioning? Have you figured out that our issues with anxiety and depression also play a role in relationship problems? Do you understand "mind blindness" and how it can destroy a marriage? 

You can think of Asperger's as "a disorder that negatively affects relationships." Where do we have most of our problems? It's not with our special areas of interest. We are experts in those areas. It's not with our employment. Most of us are excellent employees and breadwinners. It's not with academics. Many people with Asperger's are the smartest students in the classroom. If we want to be honest with ourselves, the major problems have always been in social functioning. 

Many of us, when we were younger, had great difficulty finding and keeping friends. Some of us were a bit quirky as teenagers and got ostracized from the peer group. We may have been teased, bullied, and emotionally abused. And many of us have carried those scars into adulthood and into adult relationships. It's not fair, it's not right, but unfortunately those were the cards we were dealt. We have the regrettable task of trying to "fit in" and adjust to people who simply do not think the same way we do. 

If everyone on planet earth had Asperger's syndrome, then there wouldn't be much of a problem. Unfortunately, we are a minority. And we can either choose to (a) isolate as much as possible to avoid interaction with neurotypical people, (b) learn ways to interact with them that they view as mostly appropriate, or (c) continue to interact -- but in our own rather odd ways (the latter being the most stressful approach to existence). 

Some men with Asperger's tend to be closed-minded in that they believe they should not have to make any attitudinal or behavioral changes. They say something like: "The rest of the world can learn to deal with me as I am, or they can go f*** themselves." These are the men that are living alone. These are the men that have burned too many bridges. These are the men that struggle maintaining regular employment and quality relationships. Many spend most of their time on the computer (social media, online gaming, etc.)  in an artificial approach to human interaction. That's not the lifestyle I choose for myself.

My purpose here is to reach out to those precious few men with Asperger's who truly are desiring to improve their relationships. Some of you have no interest in doing that, and that is understandable. However, there are a few of us that need to have a "significant other" in our life. And the only way to keep this person in our life is to keep them happy. As the old saying goes, "happy wife, happy life." I have found this to be so true.

So what should our goal be? I believe we need to (a) change the things in ourselves that we can, (b) accept the things that we cannot change, and (c) learn to distinguish between the two. If you can do that, you are well on your way to repairing any damage to relationships. 

If you prefer not to live alone, then you will hopefully take my advice: learn about yourself, change the negative traits when possible, and definitely capitalize on your strengths.

Rich

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Does Your Boyfriend Have ASD?

“I’ve been reading about asperger syndrome and high functioning autism recently. I think my boyfriend may have a mild form of it. I’ve looked at all the diagnostic criteria, and I’m not sure he fits in perfectly. But that is hard to diagnose since I’m not a professional. I was hoping someone might point me in the right direction. I’m not sure if this is just some personality issue, or something bigger. But I swear he has some social problems whether it is asperger or not. How can I know for sure what I’m dealing with?”

So, you think your boyfriend may have ASD (high-functioning autism)? Well, here is an informal quiz that may shed some light on the subject:


Does your boyfriend have:
  • a discriminatory sense of smell and taste
  • a preference for following instructions and abiding by rules
  • a tendency to be very literal in his understanding
  • an ability to see in detail, or an inability to see the whole because of too much detail
  • an apparent lack of empathy
  • an extreme sensitivity to touch, textures and pressures, or a need for stronger textures and increased pressure
  • either an acute sense of hearing or the inability to hear clearly
  • extensive knowledge about a single topic
  • inflexible routines
  • the tendency to care way too much about organizing stuff
  • the tendency to need other people to provide clear schedules and expectations
  • trouble describing basic emotions
  • trouble displaying emotion
  • trouble figuring what is appropriate in social situations
  • trouble understanding other people’s emotions

Does your boyfriend find it difficult to:
  • engage in or understand small talk
  • maintain eye contact
  • show empathy and understand of others
  • speak untruths in order not to offend
  • understand body language and facial expressions
  • understand personal space
  • understand sarcasm, jokes, irony 
  • understand social rules which are not based on logic
  • understand the complexities of interpersonal relationships
  • understand verbal communication without corresponding verbal cues (e.g., notes, diagrams)

Is your boyfriend:
  • anxious by change, spontaneity and unplanned events
  • experiencing difficulties in comprehending abstract concepts (e.g., formality, spontaneity, fun, anxiety)
  • experiencing difficulties in coping with the unknown (e.g., new people, new places, new situations)
  • experiencing difficulties in remembering sequences without prompts (e.g., diary, personal planner, alarm)
  • obsessed with a special interest, place or person
  • reluctant to use his own initiative

Are there times when your boyfriend can seem:
  • thoughtless
  • self-centered
  • rude
  • lost in his own world
  • eccentric
  • depressed
  • disorganized
  • anxious
  • aggressive
  • absent-minded
  • abrupt

But there are positives involved as well. For example, many people with Asperger’s possess the following traits:
  • direct, open and honest
  • excellent memory
  • high level of vocabulary
  • mathematical and technical skills
  • precision and attention to detail

If any of the above sounds familiar, then you may be dealing with a boyfriend on the autism spectrum. Of course, the only way to know for sure is for him to seek a formal diagnosis.

Unfortunately, another fairly common trait of  men with ASD (undiagnosed) is “denial” that they may have the disorder. So, don’t expect him to run to their nearest diagnostician for an assessment any time soon. 
 
In fact, it would NOT be surprising if he became offended that you “think” he may have autism. If this turns out to be the case, be prepared for him to get defensive - and possibly blame YOU for any relationship problems the two of you may be facing.

Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples 

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism  

==> Online Group Therapy for Couples and Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder

 ==> Cassandra Syndrome Recovery for NT Wives

 

Popular Posts

Chat for Adults with HFA and Aspergers