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Recovery from Cassandra Syndrome: Tips for Neurotypical Partners

As most of you may know, Cassandra Syndrome is basically a lack of adequate psychological nurturance from your significant other [in this case, your spouse on the autism spectrum]. If you have developed this syndrome, you probably gave up hope of having your emotional needs met a long time ago.

Emotional neglect is a failure of your ASD partner to respond to your emotional needs, which occurs as a result of his or her traits associated with the disorder [e.g., alexithymia, mind-blindness].  This neglect can have long-term consequences, as well as short-term, almost immediate ones.

Neurotypical [NT] spouses who chronically feel “affection-deprived” may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • are easily overwhelmed or discouraged
  • are generally in worse health
  • are more lonely
  • feel hollow inside
  • feel like there’s something missing
  • have a feeling of being “numbed out” or being cut off from one’s feelings
  • have a lack of clarity regarding others’ expectations and their own expectations for themselves
  • have a pronounced sensitivity to rejection
  • are less happy
  • are more likely to experience depression and anxiety
  • have less social support and lower relationship satisfaction
  • have low self-esteem
  • experience a loss of “self”
  • have thoughts of “going crazy”
  • feel like they are on the outside, looking in
  • feel empty inside
  • secretly feel that there is something deeply wrong with themselves
  • have difficulty managing their emotions
  • have difficulty finding ways to “self-soothe”


Cassandra Syndrome often occurs because the ASD spouse has a low “emotional-empathic quotient” [i.e., alexithymia]. In other words, the NT frequently finds that her ASD partner is often unable to fully engage with her feelings - and his own feelings!

Due to low social-emotional intelligence, the ASD partner is “psychologically stunted” [i.e., his social-emotional age is significantly younger than his chronological age]. In other words, your ASD spouse may be, for example, 45-years-old but have a maturity-level of a young teenager. As a result, the NT may experience that her partner:

  • views neutral comments as criticism
  • only focuses on his needs
  • can become quickly defensive when she tries to “work” on the relationship problems
  • doesn’t own his mistakes
  • has commitment issues
  • has severe communication problems
  • won't go deep into conversations that involve emotions
  • prefers spending more time with his “special interest” than with her


The effects of chronic and long-lasting “affectional neglect” may have devastating consequences [e.g., failure to thrive, hyperactivity, aggression, depression, low self-esteem, substance abuse, and a host of other emotional issues]. In some cases, Cassandra Syndrome can lead to PTSD. While not everyone who experiences emotional neglect suffers from PTSD, those who do are by no means weak. PTSD is not a sign of weakness.

Often, the ASD husband’s lack of intimacy is the reason the NT partner feels emotionally abandoned and loses interest or desire for sex. The NT may then develop a “fear of intimacy” herself, which can cause her to be emotionally unavailable – just like the ASD partner has been in the past. An endless dance of pursuit-and-distancing can then occur between both partners – along with a significant degree of resentment.

A marriage can survive without intimacy, but it will become a real struggle for both spouses as time goes on. Neither spouse will be happy or feel secure in the relationship. Without happiness and security, both parties become more like roommates rather than soulmates.

So, what can the NT do if she thinks she may have Cassandra Syndrome? Here are a few ideas:

1.    The NT should be gentle with - and take good care of - herself, starting with small steps. Spouses who experience emotional neglect often have difficulty with self-care. Unaware of their feelings and needs, they frequently don’t know where to start. So, the NT should try treating herself with the same care and tenderness she would give a child who wasn’t able to take care of himself/herself.  The NT should be especially tender and compassionate with herself, especially if she tends to be self-critical or judgmental [i.e., at some level, blames herself for the failures in the marriage]

2.    The NT can begin to identify her needs, and take steps to meet them. Many spouses who experience emotional neglect over the years are often unaware of what they need - and typically don’t feel deserving of getting their needs met.

3.    If the NT truly believes she doesn’t deserve to have her needs met, she should acknowledge that belief, and see it as just that - a “belief” and not a “fact.” Begin to deconstruct old beliefs you’ve held for a long time that may no longer hold true.

4.    Remember that recovery from emotional deprivation is a process. For example, if you skin your knee, you need to clean out the wound and expose it to the light of day – right!? The same holds true for emotional injuries. Bring the injury out of hiding, give it some light and air, and then you’ll be on the road to recovery.

5.    Recovery from Cassandra Syndrome is a gradual, ongoing process. The memories of the emotional neglect that you have experienced will never disappear completely. This can make life seem difficult at times. But, there are steps you can take to cope with the residual symptoms and reduce your anxiety and distress. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy [CBT] is a type of psychotherapy that has consistently been found to be the most effective treatment for emotional trauma, both in the short-term and the long-term. “Grief counseling” is also high effective. And don’t forget the NT support groups that are available online.


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

The Wounded Aspie

This post describes an unfortunate phenomenon involving individuals who think and behave differently (i.e., people with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism), and as a result, have been misunderstood and mistreated to one degree or another throughout their life. 
 
The mistreatment started as bullying in school, and continues in the workplace (perhaps to a lesser degree). Through years of perceived rejection and ridicule, the Aspergers adult may now feel permanently damaged - psychologically, socially, emotionally and spiritually (which is not the case at all).

Evidence of Being Wounded—

Traits of Aspergers adults who have been wounded by past experiences include the following:
  • acting or feeling as if the abuse is happening all over again
  • angry outbursts
  • decreased interest or participation in certain activities
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty falling and/or staying asleep
  • avoiding activities, places, or people that might be emotionally threatening
  • avoiding thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with past abuse
  • feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • inability to have certain feelings
  • intense distress related to internal or external events that remind one of the perceived abuse
  • meltdowns
  • persistent recollections of past abuse
  • recurrent dreams of past abuse
  • thinking that time is short and there is no future

Traits of the Wounded Aspie—

The wounded Aspie:
  • believes that he is misunderstood and unappreciated, a view that is exacerbated by the negative responses he receives from others for his consistent defeatist stance
  • believes that other people interfere with his freedom
  • expects the worst in most things, even situations that are going well
  • experiences control by others as intolerable
  • has a basic conflict concerning his self-worth
  • has to do things his own way
  • is inclined toward anger and irritability
  • is often disgruntled and declares that he is not treated as he should be, yet he is just as likely to express feeling unworthy of good fortune
  • oscillates between self-loathing and entitlement or moral superiority; either side of this oscillation can be projected onto the environment, and the chaotic nature of this experience of self and others often leads other people to avoid or minimize contact with the Aspie
  • views himself as self-sufficient, but feels vulnerable to control and interference from others
  • views others as intrusive, demanding, interfering, controlling, and dominating

How Relationships Go For the Wounded Aspie—

The wounded Aspie is ambivalent within his relationships and conflicted between his dependency needs and his desire for self-assertion. He wavers between expressing hostile defiance toward people he views as causing his problems and attempting to mollify these people by asking forgiveness or promising to do better in the future.

The wounded Aspie is noted for the stormy nature of his interpersonal relationships. He engages in a combination of quarrelsomeness and submissiveness. His affect is sullen, and he engages in both unintentional – and intentional – rudeness. He is resentfully quarrelsome and irritable. He often feels like a victim. 
 

Wounded Aspies inflict a great deal of discomfort on others through the use of their anxiety and emotional symptoms. They can become so destructive in their attitudes and so unable to provide rewards to others that they become socially isolated.

These individuals struggle between their desire to act out defiantly and their awareness that they must curtail their resentment. They engage in grumbling, moody complaints, and sour pessimism. These behaviors serve as both a vehicle for tension discharge (i.e., relieving them of mounting anger) and as a means of intimidating others and inducing guilt (i.e., providing them with a sense of retribution for the wrongs they believe they have experienced). These socially maladaptive behaviors result in inevitable interpersonal conflict and frustration. After a time, the sullen moodiness and complaining alienates others. These individuals are able to sense the exasperation and growing animosity that others feel toward them, and they use their awareness to become even more aggrieved (without corresponding acceptance that their behavior has contributed to the situation).

For these individuals, being difficult, unpredictable, and discontent produces certain rewards and avoids certain discomforts. They can control others by forcing them into an uncomfortable anticipatory stance. People in relationships with wounded Aspies are perpetually waiting for the next struggle, the next grievance, the next round of volatility and carping criticism. Wounded Aspies are able, within their relationships, to trap people into situations wherein whatever they do is wrong. Relating to Aspergers adults who are “wounded” becomes a tense, edgy experience where great caution must be employed to avoid precipitating an angry incident.

Ambivalence in the Wounded Aspie—

Ambivalence is expressed behaviorally by vacillation between negativism/autonomy and dependency/conformity. However, even when conforming, the wounded Aspie tends to be contrary, unaccommodating, sulking, pessimistic, and complaining. Aspies who are wounded will behave obediently one time – and defiantly the next. They will be self-deprecating and express guilt for failing to meet expectations in one situation – and express stubborn negativism and resistance in another. They fluctuate between deference and defiance, between obedience and an aggressive negative attitude. Their behavior will go from explosive anger or stubbornness to periods of guilt and shame.

Anger in the Wounded Aspie—

Anger may be expressed directly or indirectly. Indirect expression of anger can take the form of chronic, seething hostility or sadistic carping criticism. Irritating, oppositional, and resentful behavior can be demonstrative of a pervasive pattern of passive resistance. If there is a pattern of chronic hostility and resistance, no situational provocation may be needed for these individuals to engage in preaching behavior, excusing self by accusing others, bumbling behaviors when competence is actually possible, and using a positive gesture as a vehicle for a negative message (e.g., including relationship grievances in a birthday card).

Anger expressed by commission is usually justified by laudable motives (e.g., concern for the well-being of the victim). The expression of the anger is dictated by the desire to wound while concealing the intention to wound – and even the existence of anger. This is not to spare the feelings of the victim, but to wound them more effectively. The intent is to provoke counter-anger with such subtlety that the victim blames herself and believes her anger is not justified. That way, the wounded Aspie can assume the role of innocent victim.

Affective Issues in the Wounded Aspie—

The wounded Aspie is vulnerable to anxiety, somatoform disorders, and depression. Major depressive episodes are not uncommon. In depressive cycles, there is evidence of a tendency to blame others, a demanding and complaining attitude, and low self-confidence.

Wounded Aspies experience an undercurrent of perpetual inner turmoil and anxiety. They appear unable to manage their moods, thoughts and needs internally, which results in emotional instability. They suffer a range of intense and conflicting emotions that surge quickly to the surface due to weak controls and lack of self-discipline.

Co-occurring Substance Abuse in the Wounded Aspie—

The incidence of co-occurring substance abuse with the wounded Aspie is high. He is prone to use drugs to regulate mood states. It is consistent with his general attitude and belief that he views himself as entitled to an external solution to problems. The drug of choice is a pharmacologic defense mechanism chosen by how well it fits with the Aspie’s usual style of coping and how effectively it bolsters already established patterns for managing psychological threat. Prescribed pain killers, anti-anxiety agents, marijuana, and alcohol are the most commonly used drugs by these individuals.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies in the Wounded Aspie—

Due to mind-blindness, the Aspergers adult does not always understand the motives of others. Unfortunately, when he is impacted negatively by another person’s words or actions (and doesn’t understand why that person would say or do such a thing), he tends to fill in the void with a “negative” (e.g., “she said that to hurt me” …or “he did that because he doesn’t like me”).

Thus, since the Aspie is pretty much in a constant state of “misunderstanding others motives” and subsequently “filling in the void with a negative,” he often perceives himself as being on the receiving end of criticism, disrespect, and downright emotional abuse.

Now that the wounded Aspie feels like a victim, he responds at times with retaliatory techniques, and at other times with isolation and avoidance – both of which often elicit a negative response from others. This negative feedback from others serves to provide proof (in the Aspie’s mind) that “others are out to get me.”

Treatment for the Wounded Aspie—

There are two major ways for the wounded Aspie to enter treatment. The first is externally leveraged treatment for those Aspies who do not see themselves as having a problem. Someone forced them into treatment (e.g., parent, spouse, employer, the legal system). These clients have minimal insight and often fail to admit that they are a major factor in the problems they have.

The second method is to enter treatment via self-referral for vague complaints (e.g., "I'm just not getting anywhere").

When assessing Aspergers adults who are psychologically injured, the following areas should be explored:
  • coexisting anxiety disorders
  • medication evaluations for antidepressants
  • mental status
  • psychosocial and AOD history
  • self-care skills
  • social skills
  • survival skills
  • use of illegal drugs
  • use of OTC drugs

Treatment for these individuals involves openly exploring the ways they express aggression and neediness toward others by being contrary. Understanding this aggression can allow discovery of the depressive and invalidating experiences underneath, which lead to a fear of loss of autonomy when others want to be close and a fear of loss of connectedness when others want to be alone. 
 

Determine which situations or experiences are most difficult for these individuals in the direct expression of their feelings or beliefs. Identify all avoidance and anxiety-arousing situations. Address these issues with anxiety-management behavioral intervention techniques. Cognitive therapy can help these individuals understand that they expect the worst from others and then proceed to behave in such a way that brings out the worst from these same people.

Group therapy provides an opportunity to learn how to manage their hostility. When their hostility emerges, group leaders can comment on hostile behavior and encourage other group members to respond. The group leader can assist these individuals to process what it is they want or need at that moment and to rehearse appropriate behavior within the group context. However, these clients will not do well in group if they refuse to accept responsibility for their hostility and alienate the other group members. When that happens, these individuals often leave or become isolated within the group.

Whether the client is in group or individual treatment, it is important to identify and highlight examples of destructive behavior. Reflect on how the behavior is more maladaptive than adaptive. Give examples of how it creates more problems than it solves. Use illustrations from within the immediate treatment process as these individuals will use oppositional techniques and devalue treatment providers in response to real or perceived criticism.

Self-Healing for the Wounded Aspie—

Psychological healing refers to positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances. These sets of circumstances represent significant challenges to the adaptive resources of the Aspie, and pose significant challenges to his way of understanding the world and his place in it.

The general understanding that suffering and distress can potentially yield positive change is thousands of years old. For example, some of the early ideas and writing of the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and early Christians, as well as some of the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam contain elements of the potentially "transformative" power of suffering.

Psychological healing occurs with the attempts to adapt to highly negative sets of circumstances that can engender high levels of psychological distress, which typically engender unpleasant psychological reactions. Healing does not occur as a direct result of past abuse, rather it is the individual’s struggle with the new reality in the aftermath of the abuse that is crucial in determining the extent to which healing occurs.

People who can heal past wounds, either through formal treatment or self-help strategies, often experience the following:
  • changed sense of priorities
  • greater appreciation of life
  • greater sense of personal strength
  • recognition of new possibilities or paths for one’s life and spiritual development
  • warmer, more intimate relationships

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

 
COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... My son is experiencing this at 12 and I am doing everything I can to make things better for him. School does not seem to be doing enough or even understand. He complains of being bullied daily (part is him not understanding when kids joke with him and feels bullied). He states he has no friends and upset often, hates school wants to be home schooled. I am looking into trying to get him in autism school. Any suggestions from anyone?

•    Anonymous said... I too have been exploring various schooling options for my 11 year old with AS. I can tell you that multiple sources within the AS support community have told me to try to keep him integrated within a mainstream school population if at all possible rather than moving him to a special needs school. Their rationale was that the real world...college and beyond...is not insulated like these specialized schools, so the transition is that much more difficult. I get the logic...but allowing my child to be bullied and have his self-esteem suffer as a result is not an option. We are currently trying a small private (regular Ed) school...and so far so good. No IEPs...but a kind, tolerant, creative environment. This decision/dilemma is a complicated thing for sure.

• Anonymous...Wow, this article describes one of my Aspies to a "T", and she is only 11 years old. We have struggled for 2 years to get her out of this hole she is in, even with professional help. It is almost like she has PTSD. Any advice for treating a child?

• Anonymous...This article sounds a lot like my 20-year-old Aspie son. We have been trying to teach him to be more independent for the past two years. He simultaneously fights us tooth & nail, refusing to work toward independence, while declaring that he already knows all this stuff and accuses us of thinking he is stupid for thinking he needs to learn it. He is brilliant, but very naive and awkward socially. Despite his declarations to the contrary, he could not take care of himself if he were on his own. He doesn't want a job because "stupid people" with "stupid policies" are everywhere, and he doesn't think he could take working with either. He sees a counselor twice a month and works (begrudgingly) with a state agency to find employment. They have suggested that we should look into applying for SSI for him. I don't want to throw in the towel, but he could get into an independent living program if he had their funding. His father & I are in our fifties and won't be around forever to support him. The longer we wait, the harder the transition will be for him. We ultimately don't want him to arrive at fifty years old, having never left his parents home and having never learned to live without us, and suddenly we are gone and he is left to fend for himself. We wouldn't really be good parents if we let that happen. Any advice from parents who've been through this transition to adulthood with their Aspie children, or from others who have helped Aspies make this transition would be greatly appreciated.

• Anonymous...There is a great deal of overlap between the Wounded Aspie and the narcissist.

• Anonymous...This is has made my jaw drop..its my husband. I've forwarded it to his/our psychologist, my famuly that are personally impacted and worried for me. Thank you so much.
 
*  Anonymous ...This is an absolutely spot on description of our future daughter-in-law and future mother to our grandchild. Our son's 1st wife passed away. She has painted my wife and I as monsters and is causing a lot of division in our family. We don't get to see our grandchild and we hear from others that he is showing signs of depression and that he is even malnourished. Our son just doesn't want to lose another companion. We feel completely helpless.

*   Anonymous... My partner is like what is said here but I do not believe it is because he was wounded. I believe it is because he has autism and they are traits of having autism and NOT from being wounded. I think the person that wrote this has autism. 

Post your comment below…

What I’ve Learned About Me: Self-Confessions of an Aspie

I’ve often been accused of being “unsociable.” I don’t mean in the sense that I’m “criminal-minded” or out to get people or do them harm. I mean I tend to feel awkward in social situations, and as a result, I try to avoid some interpersonal encounters.

I’ve discovered that my tendency to be unsociable is a form of extreme self-focus – a preoccupation with my thoughts, feelings and physical reactions. When I talk about being unsociable, I’m referring to three traits that involve a sense of self: self-consciousness, self-preoccupation, and self-evaluation.

I do indeed have difficulty meeting people, initiating and maintaining conversations, deepening intimacy, interacting in small groups and in authority situations, and with asserting myself. I don't take advantage of social situations, never go out on a date, am less expressive verbally and non-verbally, and have little interest in other people. If this makes me unsociable, then so be it.

Part of me truly wants to be more outgoing and approachable, but I’m slow to warm up in social situations. I may go to an event and stay 10 minutes, then leave. I know this is a mistake because I haven’t given myself enough time to “warm up.” If a party starts at 7 p.m., I’ll go at 8 p.m. But showing up late actually works to my disadvantage. I should show up early (maybe at 6:30 p.m.), get used to the surroundings and greet people one-on-one as they arrive, so that by 7 p.m., I’m comfortable.



I have what I call a “small comfort zone.” I have friends and a social network – but it’s a very small circle. I tend to do the same things with the same people again and again, because I feel at ease in a situation I know. I don’t like to try new situations, and I purposely restrict my contacts. I may be at a social function and see someone new I’d like to talk to, but I won’t step-out of my comfort zone.

One of the negative consequences of being this way is that I’m under-employed – stuck in a job that requires less skill than I truly have. I’ve tried to force myself to be more sociable, but I come off as so awkward that it usually backfires in some way. For example, if I’m at a party or event, I think all I have to do is initiate a conversation. But that’s just the first step. I have trouble taking the next steps (i.e., actively listening to the other person, responding to his or her comments, connecting their experience to mine, and so on).

People tend to think of my lack of sociability as a negative trait, but that’s because they don’t understand it. I talk about becoming “successfully unsociable.” It involves realizing that there’s nothing wrong with me. Most people don’t care about me, they care about themselves. It’s very liberating to realize this.

The fact that I’m not very outgoing doesn’t mean my personal achievements are limited. I’m good at what I do and do have a few close relationships. Staying mostly to oneself is not a disorder. I’m ok with me. If I come across as uncaring, selfish, or cold, it’s not my intent. I’m simply reducing my anxiety level. And as I mentioned, part of me does want to be more outgoing, and I’ll continue to work on that. But, in the meantime, I’ll do what I have to do to take care of me.  ~  Anthony

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

What To Do When Your "Neurotypical" Wife Resents You

“I’m a 28 y.o. man who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at the age of 9. My wife and I have been together for almost 5 years married, but almost 6 knowing each other. We have gotten into disputes about every other day where it always comes down to her saying she resents me for being so ‘distant’ and ‘selfish’. She always says it seems like I just don't care about things like she does. I do care and I do worry about things like she does, I just don't show it the same way. She has said to me several times now that she wished she had taken more time when she met me to get to know me more before getting married. 
 
She says it’s not because she wishes she wasn't with me, it’s because she could have made a more informed choice. I am a very laid back person, and I guess that can seem a bit like I don't care, but I am not sure I know how to be any other way. My wife and I grew up in different life styles. I didn't have many friends and I wasn't good in school. She was very good in school, had a lot of friends, and she was forced into an early adulthood because she had to take care of her father growing up. She is a very responsible person. She is my rock and the rock of her whole family. But, she says she is “tired of being everyone's rock,” but feels she has to be because she can’t count on anyone to get things done like she does. Any help in how I should handle this situation would be greatly appreciated.”




Most of the time, a wife’s resentment will show up as something like “you don’t treat me special like you used to” …or “you don’t spend enough time with me” …or “we never have sex anymore” …and so on. If a husband is not spending enough time with his spouse or neglects her (intentionally or unintentionally), then there is some validity to her complaints. Most women become resentful because they realize that their husbands have ceased to be the men in their life that they need.

Routine is the biggest enemy of many marriages. After several years together, the couple gets used to one another and their feelings change. But, it’s the wife (more often than the husband) who can’t accept this change and feels unhappy. 
 
Some wives adjust themselves to what is now the “new normal” (e.g., less sex, less affection, spending less time together, etc.). But, even though the couple in this situation may enjoy a fairly stable, affection-less relationship, the marriage may be slowly falling apart without anyone noticing it.

How can you tell if your wife is actually discontented in the marriage? Here are just a few of the symptoms:
  • She often appears sad or irritated.
  • She keeps finding reasons to spend time away from her husband. 
  • It seems as though she initiates arguments over the most petty of issues.
  • She, too, has lost interest in sex.
  • It appears that she is looking for reasons to lash out at her husband, even if he hasn’t done anything seriously wrong?

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the wife doesn’t love her man. More likely, she is tired of the routine, the responsibilities, and the never-changing everyday chores and tasks. It sounds like your wife has taken on WAY too much responsibility for things, and is in “burn-out” mode as a result, which isn’t entirely your fault. 
 
This was a choice she has made. You said that she had to be a caretaker as a child. It’s very likely that she brought that trait into your marriage. Thus, my best guess is that she feels more like your mother than your wife.

The truth is that men with an autism spectrum disorder, by virtue of “mind-blindness” (more on that here), have difficulty empathizing and imaging how another person may feel. As a husband, if you have the ability to put yourself in your wife’s shoes (so to speak), you can come up with a pretty good idea regarding what she needs and what may help mend the broken relationship. Thus, as hard as it may be for you as a man with Asperger’s, try to put yourself in your spouse’s position. 
 
If you were your wife, what changes would you like to see? What would you want to work on in the relationship? What would you like to talk about? What issues would you need to address? And so on…

Resist the temptation to continually ask your wife “what’s wrong.”  Instead, propose to talk about it. And when you do, talk in an apologizing, caring tone. Your attitude and behavior have an influence, even if your wife is not aware of it – and it better be a calm and reassuring one. Express your support and understanding. 
 
You may not feel like it at all, believing that you are the one who should be comforted. But, your wife is obviously bothered with her emotional state as much as you are. So, even though it’s normal to feel insulted and upset, try to find the inner strength to feel compassion for her.

Keep an eye on your wife. If you don’t see a positive change in her emotional state, consider asking her to go to counseling with you. Most importantly, listen to her with an open mind and heart. And give her time and space to deal with her frustration.

Lastly, maybe you could get your wife to read this piece on resentment.

Best of luck!

Resources for Neurodiverse Couples:

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Living with ASD: eBook and Audio Instruction for Neurodiverse Couples 

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by ASD

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

==> Cassandra Syndrome Recovery for NT Wives

==> ASD Men's MasterClass: Social-Skills Training and Emotional-Literacy Development


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… "You Just Don't Understand," by Deborah Tannen; "The New Passages," by Gail Sheehy. Try to not refer to Aspie vs. NT norms. You sound like a normal married couple with normal life circumstances who needs to work things out. Doing so is very much worth it.
•    Anonymous said… I am both you and your wife, lol. I'm on the spectrum and a natural worry-ninja. My very first instinct is that you both need do some work to compromise. (Like we've never heard that before about relationships, lol) You obviously already see her point, which is wonderful. I'm sure there are some great self-help books on how to outwardly appear to care more, probably even for people on the spectrum. Also, I would ask your wife some specific things you could do for her or with her to show you care and want to take some of her stress load. However, as a natural stress-case, I'm taking an experienced guess that your wife is one too. The child that cares for a parent often grows into an adult x10. It's likely she can't stop worrying and stressing and being "the responsible one". I'm sure somewhere inside, she knows that. She'll need to come to terms with that herself, though. And in the meantime, making an effort on your part will help her feel supported and probably help her come to see her own stress-ninja persona. Hope my tiny bit of insight helps.
•    Anonymous said… i can relate... been married almost 49 years... didn't know about Aspergers ( husband ) until about 6 years ago...
•    Anonymous said… I was poured into the same mould as your wife. I also feel a lot like her being married to someone I now know has aspergers. The book Journal of Best Practices was written by a man on the spectrum ( David Finch) and is the best reference I can think of since it is specifically focused on his marriage. My suggestion would be to specify her needs and then strive to meet them- that is a simple as marriage gets. Learn her love language and then begin to speak it to her, but that takes her being able to identify and communicate them to you. There are lots of books on love languages, too  😊. We really do speak different languages and just your efforts to learn hers will help her begin to feel cared about. Those of us who have cared for others really need to feel cared about in return. Best to you both.
•    Anonymous said… I'm in the same boat, I fear that my family feels like I don't care about anything I have a very difficult time expressing my emotions. I'm very laid back but I can't handle chaos. I have been told buy my husband that I'm "cold" and "heartless" of course that's far from accurate. I've been seeking mental guidance and my husband has been trying hard to understand me so far things seem okay
•    Anonymous said… Keep up the good work. My hubby now knows me better than I know (or understand) myself! Sometimes we need to forget our dx and simply share how we see and feel. Works for us. I'm Aspie by the way.
•    Anonymous said… lol I see a psychiatrist regularly it's helped a lot. I've been trying to get my husband to go with me, but he won't.
•    Anonymous said… Mental guidance sounds ominous and a bit spooky - hope you are not camouflaging ?
•    Anonymous said… Seriously, have your wife read this book. My wife and I were having serious communication problems in our marriage and she read this book and actually highlighted portions that were important to her, then I read it again, paying particular attention to the highlighted portions. It made a huge difference in our communication issues and our marriage. Rudy Simone - 22 Things a Woman Must Know If She Loves a Man with Asperger's Syndrome
•    Anonymous said… sometimes I have noticed when people try to put their methods on me, I respond with opposition. I feel that a shared task or a delegated one should allow for autonomy. some people have higher levels of perfectionism. I sometimes get ocd about stuff needing to be done a certain way. I also have ocpd, which takes a long time to do anything. so for me, that can mean that I do can decide to avoid something if I know it will take more time than I have to accomplish it. which is bad. clutter piles up. I am hiring a professional organizer to help me figure out how to solve this so it doesn't haunt me forever. I have also noticed that when I am focused on something, my awareness of time goes right out the window. hours can pass by and it feels like short bursts of time. I have rarely ever seen things the way others around me do -but I greatly appreciate understanding how others see things. when people will communicate in detail, often I can adapt closer to a compromise. when people expect me to read their mind -failure is maximized. I was required to raise my 6 younger siblings. my mom had 3 jobs, my father lost his job became depressed and shut out responsible things. you only get to be a kid once. there are no redos. maybe ask how she thinks you are when she knows you care about things. everyone always has things to learn about other people. life is not supposed to be without need to expand thinking. I have learned I cannot see things how other people do -so I cannot settle for taking things "how they are" because I might not see them from big picture
•    Anonymous said… Sounds like she doesn't understand what is required of her to be the wife of someone on the spectrum. It sounds like she's saying she regrets getting married. Time to kick her to the curb for both your sake.
•    Anonymous said… Sounds like she is a nurturer who has takes care of everyone else at the expense of her own needs. She needs to find ways to meet the needs she feels arent being met. Find friends , support groups, hobbies , church , get out and enjoy nature, go to a spa . Things that will nourish her soul and help meet whatever she feels is lacking. One person can never fill all of someone else needs and shouldnt be expected to. Right now she may be hyperfocusing on you to meet her needs and once some of that pressure is off it will be easier as a couple to work on some things to develope better communication and closeness.
•    Anonymous said… sounds like wife needs some emotional support and care / self-care
•    Anonymous said… Sounds like she's the one with the problem to me??
•    Anonymous said… Try asking her some questions about her day. Ask her what she would like to do on the weekend. If she feels she's doing everything and your going off into your own world etc maybe she's wanting som focus on her and her interests.?? Help her with dinner, get in and do things together. It's very easy for people on the ASD not to notice things going on around them, and they tend to be focused on their interests. It's not being selfish, it's just how they are. So many make her your interest? Hope that helps?

*   Anonymous said... I have not started dating yet, but I often read these because I don't want to make the same mistake these men did. When I do eventually get married, I want my eventual spouse to let me know how she feels by telling me. Unless I'm not told about it, how will I be able to adjust my behavior? I may have Aspergers, but I'm also a full-grown man who will need to take responsibility for his own decisions. Having the same routine can get boring, so I do want to do different things

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Tips for the Socially-Awkward Individual with ASD

Are you unsociable? I don’t mean in the sense that you are “criminal-minded” and out to get people or do them harm. I mean do you feel awkward in many social situations, and as a result, attempt to avoid many interpersonal encounters. If you answered yes, you’ve got plenty of company -- almost half of all adults with Aspergers (High Functioning Autism) consider themselves "unsociable."

Unsociability (to coin the term) in ASD adults, teens, and children is a form of excessive self-focus (i.e., a preoccupation with your thoughts, feelings and physical reactions). When I talk about unsociability, I am talking about three characteristics that involve a sense of self:
  1. excessive negative self-evaluation
  2. excessive negative self-preoccupation
  3. excessive self-consciousness

Although many people on the spectrum of all ages experience unsociability, the effects of it -- from mild social awkwardness to totally inhibiting social phobia -- can have a severe impact on real-life situations (e.g., finding and advancing in a job, developing close personal relationships, etc.). Unsociable people on the spectrum experience difficulty meeting people, initiating and maintaining conversations, deepening intimacy, interacting in small groups and in authority situations, and with asserting themselves.

Those who live with ongoing unsociability don't take advantage of social situations, date less, are less expressive verbally and non-verbally, and show less interest in other people than those who are more sociable. As a result, unsociable individuals may find difficulty asserting themselves in the workplace and in interpersonal interactions.

Unsociability tends to manifest itself during periods of change, which came in many forms as the child with ASD was growing up. Having problems in school, with bullies, with parents, with teachers and peers – it’s during these periods of transition that unsociability kicks-in as a coping mechanism for the young Aspie as he attempts to protect himself. There are almost as many different stories about why a young person with ASD became unsociable as there are people on the spectrum.

Although unsociability varies from person to person, there are commonalties that help define how unsociability works:

1. Unsociable individuals avoid situations that involve interaction with others, particularly strangers or authority figures (called "approach avoidance"). Unsociable individuals truly want to be social, but for some reason, they feel like they can’t. And that’s the typical pain of unsociability -- when they want something they can’t have.

2. Unsociable individuals tend to be slow to warm up in social situations. They may go to an event and stay 10 minutes, then leave. They haven’t given themselves enough time to warm up -- they need to stay longer. One mistake unsociable individuals make is, if a party starts at 8 p.m., they’ll go at 9 p.m. But showing up late actually works to their disadvantage. They should show up early, maybe at 7:30 p.m., get used to the surroundings, and greet people one-on-one as they arrive, so by 9 p.m., they are comfortable.
 

3. Unsociable individuals have what I call a “small comfort zone.” These individuals have friends and a social network – but it’s a small circle. They tend to do the same things with the same people again and again, because they feel at ease in a situation they know. As a result, they won’t try new situations, or they restrict their contacts. They might be at a social function and see someone new they’d like to talk to, but they won’t step-out of their comfort zone. They truly want to expand their comfort zone, but they feel they can’t, so they’re stuck.

Statistics also show that unsociable individuals tend to have more trouble than sociable ones when it comes to advancing in a career. Under-employment, being stuck in a job that requires less skill or training than you possess, uneasy work relationships, and slower advancement mark the careers of unsociable Aspies. Research shows that the more unsociable a person is, the less prestigious her last job title tends to be. Almost every lucrative career requires solid communication skills, an assertive personality, and an astute sense of office politics.

Research differentiates between unsociability and introversion, although they are related. Introverts prefer solitary to social activities, but do not fear social encounters like unsociable people do. If you see two people standing by a wall at a party, the introvert is there because he wants to be. The unsociable person is there because he feels like he has to be. In fact, some unsociable individuals often attempt to force themselves to be extroverted. The problem with this strategy is it’s incomplete. Once an unsociable person is at the party or event, he thinks that’s all he has to do. But that’s just the first step. Unsociable Aspies have trouble taking the next step -- approaching people and making conversation.

One way to deal with this is to master the art of “small talk.” Unsociable individuals say, once they’re in a conversation, they’re OK. The problem is initiating it. So, the person would do well to learn “small talk.”

The by-products of social anxiety can consist of depression, self-medication (often with alcohol), family distress, and an inability to compete in our stressful, competitive society characterized by poor performance and a lack of productivity. Although medications exist to help these individuals deal with anxiety and depression, there is no magic pill for social awkwardness.

It is important to recognize that unsociability is a consequence of inadequate social skills, which are not improved just by taking a pill. The problem is that medications don’t always work, because people use them incompletely. Sure, they may reduce your anxiety, but just because you’re calm doesn’t mean you’re ready to go to the next step. So, some people on the spectrum take a Valium, for example, and go to social functions in a relaxed state, but they still don’t know what to do.

Unsociability may also become a self-handicapping strategy -- a reason or excuse for anticipated social failure that, over time, becomes a crutch. For example, the individual may say to herself, “I just can’t do it.”
 

There is a misperception of unsociable people with ASD. People tend to think of unsociability as a negative trait, but that’s because they don’t understand it. I talk about becoming successfully unsociable. It involves realizing that there’s nothing wrong with you. Most people don’t care about you, they care about themselves. It’s very liberating when you realize this.

Being unsociable does not mean your professional and personal achievements are limited. Unsociable individuals can succeed on the job as well as initiate and maintain close relationships. The key to unsociability is truly in the heart. Instead of being self-conscious, be other-focused -- be concerned with other people. When you start to show that you’re approachable, it makes it easier for people to approach you. Get involved with the lives of other people, and in doing so, they will help themselves, too.

Unsociability is not a disease – and you were NOT born unsociable. You “learned” how to be unsociable as a way to deal with the stress that came with “mind-blindness.” Mind-blindness can be described as an inability to develop an awareness of what is in the mind of another human. It is not necessarily caused by an inability to imagine an answer, but is often due to not being able to gather enough information to work-out which of the many possible answers is correct. However, practicing “the art of showing (or faking, as the case may be) interest in others” can be a powerful force in moving the ASD individual to “sociability.”

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

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




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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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

The Deceptiveness of Anxiety

The reason that most people with Aspergers (AS) have chronic anxiety is because anxiety can be so deceptive. If you are the type of person with high-anxiety, you are constantly getting fooled into believing that there’s something to be afraid of in the absence of real danger.

Fear is when you’re afraid of something and you know what it is, anxiety is when you’re afraid of something but you don’t know what it is.

A lot of people with AS have panic disorder, social phobia, a specific phobia, OCD, or generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Those who have generalized anxiety disorder get deceived into thinking they are about to be driven mad by constant worrying.
  • Those with OCD get deceived into believing that a terrible calamity is in the near future. 
  • Those with a specific phobia (e.g., the fear of elevators) get deceived into believing that they’re going to be trapped. 
  • For those with social phobia, they get deceived into thinking that other people are looking down on them and will humiliate them. 
  • Panic disorder causes people with AS to get deceived into thinking that they’re about to die or go crazy.



Anxiety is deceiving because when we feel discomfort we get tricked into treating it like a real threat. But as the rational part of your mind knows, discomfort is not dangerous. When there is true danger at hand, we either freeze up, run, or fight back. If the threat looks faster and stronger than you, you may freeze up. If the threat looks stronger than you - but slower - you may run away from it. If the threat looks weaker than you, you may fight back. If people are your source of major “discomfort” - but your body gets tricked into believing that certain individuals are truly “dangerous,” you will either argue with them (fight), avoid them (flight), or be intimidated by them (freeze).

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Your natural instinct to protect yourself is what leads you to get deceived by anxiety. So, why haven’t you been able to see the pattern of repeated episodes of anxiety that never actually lead to the feared outcome? Since your worst-case scenarios never come to fruition, why don’t you gradually lose your unreasonable anxiety around those scenarios? There’s several reasons why.

You took protective steps - and there was no disaster. Therefore, you started believing that these steps that you took “saved” you from disaster. But these steps that you take that save you from disaster also cause you to worry more about the next dangerous episode. It convinces you that you were very vulnerable and must always protect yourself.

The real reason you didn’t experience a disaster is that such disasters are not part of fear or phobia. We are talking about anxiety disorders, not disaster disorders. You get through the experience because the experience isn’t actually life-threatening. But, it’s justifiably hard for you to recognize that at the time. You may be more likely to think that you just had a “narrow escape.” And this leads you to redouble your self-protection steps.

It’s the self-protection steps that actually maintain and strengthen the deceptiveness of anxiety. If, for example, we think we just escaped a disaster because we went back and checked the stove 10 times, then we’re going to continue to feel vulnerable and continue to feel the need for self-protection. When this happens over and over, we are going to get stuck in the habit of protecting ourselves by certain means. This is when chronic anxiety gets entrenched into your life.

We think we’re actually helping ourselves, but we’re actually getting tricked into making things worse. That’s how deceptive anxiety is.

For those of us who have chronic anxiety, we have noticed that the harder we try to escape the anxiety - the worse it gets. Thus, if the harder we try the worse it gets, then what we need to do is take another look at the protective steps we’ve been using. With high-anxiety, we’ve been deceived into trying to protect ourselves against something that isn’t dangerous, and this makes our anxiety worse over time.

Let me repeat: the harder you try, the worse it gets. Thus, it would make sense to NOT try so hard to avoid anxiety when it comes. Instead, allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling, as uncomfortable as it is. Know that this feeling of "uncomfortable-ness" will be short-lived -- and it will not be life-threatening! Simply allow yourself to feel that emotional pain. Because running from it makes it worse -- it will chase after you and bring out even more fear as you “run for your life.”

==> Strategies for self-care in people on the autism spectrum can be found here...

 

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