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Overcoming Self-Doubt in Relationships: Tips for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Question: How can men and women with Asperger's (high functioning autism) go about overcoming self-doubt and fear in relationships?  
Answer: By creating a very powerful shift in your self-perception. This enables the light to shine more clearly on your authentic self. The pathway to authentic living will provide you with many positive tools for change.

How to overcome feelings of self-doubt in relationships:

1. Allow relationships to progress in a natural way. If you really like someone, it’s only normal that you would hope for the relationship to move to the next level. But, it’s very important to allow it to do so on its own time, in a natural and healthy way. Avoid “forcing” the relationship due to your own fear that your “special someone” is going to leave you for another person.

2. Avoid over-generalizing. If you’ve been burned in a past relationship, it doesn’t mean that you will be burned in the next one. If you dated someone previously that cheated on you, it understandably could make you feel anxious about a new relationship. But, that situation can be very unfair to your current “special someone.” Take a step back and stop generalizing about people and relationships. You wouldn't appreciate it if someone did that to you. Remember that just because you’ve been hurt before doesn't mean you will be hurt again. Your ex-partner and your current partner have nothing to do with each other.

3. Avoid spying. Don't let self-doubt turn you into a “snoop.” For example, if your boyfriend has a female friend that makes you feel uneasy (perhaps because she is good looking or intelligent), avoid sneaking around and playing back her voicemail messages to your boyfriend. If you listen to something without knowing its proper context, you could be setting yourself up for confusion and unnecessary distress. Also, you don't want to come across as a “nib-shit.”

4. Stay positive. If your feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt are really strong, chances are you put all of your energy towards agonizing about the relationship. Agonizing all of the time is no way to create a happy relationship. Instead, think about why your “special someone” is in a relationship with you in the first place. Remember why you want to be in a relationship with this individual, and focus on all of the good experiences you’ve shared so far. Staying positive will help you eliminate feelings of self-doubt and insecurity.

5. Enjoy what you really like to do. If you enjoy doing something quirky or odd, don't be afraid to show the world. It will make you more contented and inspire other people.

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

6. Find a new talent. If you have low self-esteem because you feel like you are unable to do anything, then find a talent. Start dance classes or swimming lessons …how about guitar lessons? …may even learn how to scuba dive.

7. Find out the causes of your self-doubts. Do a self-reflection and write down which areas in your life where you lack confidence or assurance. Go over your list of insecurities one by one. Beside each item, write down an explanation why you feel this way. Go back to the time when the self-doubt was born, then examine your feelings. Is your self-doubt justifiable? Or is it just your fear magnified? By looking honestly into the source of your self-doubt, you will discover that you are the one who is punishing yourself.

8. Take a moment to ask yourself what you can do to make progress in the area you are not confident about. Maybe you don't like your appearance. Do a major makeover of yourself (e.g.,  get a new haircut, change your wardrobe, etc.). Maybe you are fearful of getting into a new love relationship because of poor social skills. Do something about it (e.g., read some self-help books, enroll in a class that will address your concern, etc.). There is always something you can do to start building your self-confidence instead of wallowing in apprehension all day.

9. Find support groups that will help you feel better about yourself and your life. They could be your trusted friends, members in your family, online chat groups, etc. Let them know your struggles and your wish to change them. Having another person to help you change yourself makes it easier than doing it alone.

10. A lot of adults on the spectrum become timid in relationships due to their overactive imaginations. If, for example, you are constantly imagining that your girlfriend is showing interest in other men, even when she really isn't, you are letting your insecurities get the best of you. Look at what is really happening around you instead of letting your imagination run wild.

11. Find new friends. The more friends you have the better. But remember that if you are going to get a new friend, he or she has to like you for who you are. If he or she doesn't, then you’ve found the wrong person to like.

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

12. Don't be timid because you are not like other people. If you love yourself for who you are, others will also. Notice features and aspects of yourself that you like – and be proud of them.

13. Remember that you are not a mind-reader. If you live in a constant state of anxiety that your “special someone” simply isn't that interested in the relationship, stop trying to be a mind-reader. This can only lead to driving you totally nuts. Instead of predicting the feelings of the person you have an interest in, ask him or her. Although asking straight out might hurt if you don't get the answer that you want, it might also be able to save you a lot of time, heartache and uncertainty.

14. Smile. It's really important to smile. Smiling givers others the impression that you are a confident, pleasant person to talk to and associate with.

15. Work on eliminating your self-doubts one at a time. Racing to defeat all of them at once is unreasonable and will hurt your chances of getting over them. Be persistent and pray for your success. True confidence is locked inside of you waiting to be opened. You’ve the right key to open the door to a secure future by getting rid of your self-defeating thoughts and welcoming the real you!

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

=>  Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Best comment:

I was reading this blog and have found that many of things on here match my current boyfriend. We have been dating for almost 4 years. When I first met him I thought he was just shy but as I got to know him better I knew that something was off.

If a friend called us to hang out we couldn't go because as he says he wasn't given enough time to mentally prepare. I would have to tell him things a week in advance for him to want to do it. He would make harsh and inappropriate comments and was a bit socially awkward. He also had this obsession with video games.

At first I thought well maybe he just needs to learn to communicate better. It wasn't until last year when my father passed away that I realized that his lack of empathy was a huge problem and that he might be an Saturday afternoon about a month after my father passed I tell him that my mom and I are going to go look at headstones and pick one out. I ask him if he can come with me and he responded with a shrug and by saying "this is going to be so boring". I was so hurt that I stormed out. I couldn't believe what he had just said.

Fast forward a few months later, I'm in my first semester of grad school..stressed out at school and still going through grief...I have multiple sclerosis and I have a flare up where my face and neck go numb. I'm in the ER in pain, cant feel my face. After the first hour or so in the ER he says to me "If this takes too long I'll go home and see you tomorrow"...not really want I want to hear at that moment.

So now I'm just really confused because I love the guy, I do, but I have a serious condition where I'm not disabled now but there is a good possibility that I can become disabled in some way in the future and other family stresses (like people passing away, kids getting sick, etc.) are going to happen...I'm just wondering if I can depend on him and if I should stay in this relationship?

He is able to self-reflect but it's usually after he has done something wrong. He never really gets that maybe he should make that comment. He can be very affectionate at times and I've noticed that he is very affectionate towards animals, he is often outraged if an animal is abused and doesn't like to kill spiders in our house.

One time he made a comment to me that he wants to marry me, then a few months later he says to me in an honest face that he said that because he knows that's what I want to hear. I don't know if he has aspergers and if he does, he has done a damn good job of appearing to be a typically developing adult...I mean he's right, that's what women want to hear but he doesn't understand that it's inappropriate to tell them that he only said that because he knows that's what women want to hear lol. Sometimes I wonder if he actually LOVES me or if he has just learned that that's what people do...?

Sorry for my ramble, I don't expect any answers just wanted to share my story.


More comments:
  • Anonymous said... I'm 27 with Aspergers and have been without a Girlfriend for 3.5 years nonetheless. I understand that to love is to accept being vulnerable, but that's not so much my issue with relationships. It's trying to find a woman that has the same interests as me, and has Asperger's. I'm not sure what to think right now though I get the feeling i'll be in love again. A part of me has grown impatient but I know that its a doubtful side of my mind that is fighting against me nonetheless. The only thing I find confusion above the rest is when friends and family say to me one of 2 messages such as "don't find love, Love will find you", or "Don't wait for Love, just go for it. Admittingly since this isn't on Facebook I don't have to deal with the embarassment of the sort. Plus i admit its a little embarassing when you realize at your age you're still a virgin. Regardless though as I was talking with a friend of mine about a few college friends we know I then arrived at the realization that getting jealous about those 2 couples was useless because I too will get engaged myself. I wonder when but overall as much as I try to ignore Love it appears everywhere on the internet and when I'm around couples I hear them never Shut The F**k up about it.
  •  Anonymous said... Why does it seem that articles dealing with a relationship with a High Functioning Aspie are about the neurotypical person in the relationship doing all the work and making all the sacrifices to make the relationship function? As a High Functioning Aspie who just destroyed a beautiful relationship, but long distance with a few other obstacles, I find my isolationism a necessary obstacle to overcome. I have fought hard to overcome many of my Aspir traits throughout my many years and have been successful in many regards. Yes, it is hard work and yes it is tiring and does require down time. The problem with downtime or isolationism in a relationship is not the need for it but the communication with the other partner about the need for it. Sometimes we just need to buck up and spend time with our partner, because he or she may need that time. A relationship requires work from both partners and the neurotypical partner should not be the one who has to give constantly. He or she will tire of the work they are putting in and go seek a partner who is willing to give rather than just take. I lost a beautiful soul because I was going through many things at once for a long period of time and literally shut her out and did exactly those six things mentioned above. With all of the obstacles, the distance and my isolationism she feared that I would be that way throughout a relationship, leaving her to nothing but loneliness. I sat and spoke to her about what I had been going through and she spoke to me about what she had been going through. Sadly she has been hurt before and simply wants to protect her heart...and wasn't sure she was making the right decision but went with her instinct and ended our relationship. I, of course, am devastated...I'm head over heels in love with this woman but I understand her need to have someone there who does not make her feel lonely while in a relationship. I also understand that she could not be the one making the sacrifice, that I too had to buck up and be the man she needed. It's not going to be easy to work on this while not being in a relationship but I will find a way because at 48 years old I'm tired of being alone and destroying relationships with my isolationism.

Overcoming Feelings of Isolation in Relationships Affected by ASD

 "I feel so isolated and alone in my 12 year long marriage to my AS husband. How does one cope with this - what I call empathy deprivation."

Isolation is a problem that afflicts nearly every relationship with an Asperger’s (high functioning autism) partner at some point. When one of the partner’s is on the autism spectrum, it’s not uncommon for some couples to slowly drift apart in ways they don't even recognize at first. Signs of isolation include the following:
  • feeling of being unable to please or meet the expectations of your partner
  • feeling that keeping the peace by avoiding the conflict is better than the pain of dealing with reality 
  • feeling that your partner isn't hearing you and doesn't want to understand 
  • refusal to cope with what's really wrong 
  • sense that your partner is detached from you 
  • attitude of "who cares, why try?"

If you, as a “neurotypical” (i.e., someone without Asperger’s), are starting to observe these symptoms in your relationship, you have begun experiencing the problem of isolation. All relationships need a plan to reverse isolation and to bring about intimacy. Isolation is like a virus that invades your relationship – silently, slowly, and painlessly at first – but by the time you become aware of its harmful effects, it’s too late. Your relationship can eventually be crippled by monotony and indifference, and it could even die from emotional malnutrition and neglect.

Follow these steps to defeat isolation in your relationship to an Asperger’s partner:

1. Attend meetings, lectures, and other activities that inform you about autism spectrum disorders. This is an opportunity to meet people who share similar problems as you do. And the more you get out, the more you will see - and be seen - by others (a remedy to feelings of isolation in-and-of itself).

2. Develop a network of friends and family to help support your relationship – a key in overcoming loneliness.

3. Develop your own identity and get involved in activities that interest you (e.g., self-enrichment classes, yoga, social functions, etc.).

4. Develop relational skills. You can develop skills in relating to your partner just as you can develop skills in golf, cooking, or painting. Most of us develop some bad relational habits over time, and we need training and practice to develop skills in practical, yet vital, areas of relationship (e.g., speaking the truth in love, resolving conflict, listening to each other, forgiving each other, communicating expectations, adjusting to differences, etc.). Your determination to improve your skills in areas like these will show just how serious you are about revitalizing your relationship.

5. Enrich your life by learning something new to bring fresh insight and communication to your relationship.

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

6. Get a pet. Pets can be great companions, and having an animal waiting for you to come home every day can really boost your outlook and make you feel as though you have a companion.

7. Get involved in causes important to you (e.g., walkathons to raise money to fight breast cancer).

8. Handle anger constructively. You've heard the old adage, "Don't go to bed mad." Well, it's older than grandpa. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Choose to forgive daily. Leave the past behind and move forward together.

9. Have you ever wondered what happened to your best friend from way back when? There are many good opportunities these days with the internet, and e-mail, and Instant Message to hook-up with just about anybody who is still alive. Rekindling old friendships is a wonderful way to reconnect with the human race.

10. Hire a therapist to help you better understand the fears you have about your relationship difficulties. A therapist can help you (a) work through the fears you have, (b) develop coping skills to deal with those fears, (c) learn new relationship skills that will enable you to feel more confident in your dealings with an Asperger’s partner, (d) learn assertiveness skills that will empower you to get your needs met in your relationship, and (e) learn conflict resolution skills to work through the inevitable issues that arise between you and your “Aspie”.

11. Improve the relationship you have with yourself. When you don’t like yourself, it’s hard to believe that your partner likes you. One very simple thing to do to change the relationship you have with yourself is to change the negative thoughts you have about yourself to positive ones.

12. Join a club. Whether it is a church club, a car club, or any other of the thousands of club that are out there, being around people and making new friends is a great way to overcome feelings of loneliness. You can find clubs in your local paper and on the Internet.

13. Join a support group. Support groups are a good place to meet people and make new friends. Support groups are a good, safe way to meet other people who have similar concerns and interests as you do. Sharing common concerns or interests is a great ice breaker.

14. Keep in mind that you can only change your situation. You can't make your partner change his/her behaviors or attitudes about the relationship until he/she is ready.

15. Keep the lines of communication open daily. A good "home-base" is at the breakfast table where the two of you can take a few minutes to talk and discuss concerns.

16. Make sure that the relationship you do have is based on giving and receiving—not just giving. There isn’t a lonelier feeling in the world than to be involved in a relationship in which you do all the giving without doing any of the receiving. If you are one of those partners who give and give and give with the silent hope that you’ll get back in return someday, then it’s likely that you may feel lonelier than the average bear.

17. Make your Asperger’s partner your best friend, if possible. To be well balanced, also include other friendships, but reserve the number one spot for your “Aspie.” Best friends risk being vulnerable, because they know the other person will still love and accept them for who they are, will challenge them to grow, and stick by them no matter what.

18. Revisit your courtship days. Think about what drew you together in the first place, the goals you shared, the traits you admired in him/her, the places you enjoyed visiting, the activities you did together, and so on. Often this exercise helps you trudge through the muck and mire of relationship problems and regain perspective of why you are together in the first place.

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

19. Set aside time each day to focus on communicating with your partner. Start with a small item that is of interest to him/her. A funny story from a coworker or the newspaper can be a great conversation starter. Keep the conversation light and easy, and don't bring up problems or issues at first. Remember that the focus should be on increasing communication and feeling of closeness.

20. Share experiences. Go for a walk together, or join in for a favorite show or game of cards. Make your partner your primary focus of attention. Turn off all the cell phones and other distractions.

21. Spend time by yourself to think about what you are expecting from your partner. Is he/she aware of what you are looking for? Remember that all couples grow and change over time. Perhaps your needs have changed. Discuss this with your partner. Sometimes we assume our partner knows things that we haven't communicated to him/her.

22. Talk to your partner about how you're feeling, and take time to hash out each other's feelings about any distance in the relationship. Communication is a key in overcoming loneliness in any relationship.

23. Try to manage conflicts as they arise, but respect your partner’s viewpoints throughout the “conflict resolution” process.

24. Volunteer work is a good way to get involved with others who share similar interests. Not only will you be associating with other people, your life will begin to feel more meaningful by getting out of your self-centered isolation.

25. Write a journal. Lack of communication can lead to loneliness. If you have no one to talk to, you can start to feel very isolated. By writing in a journal every day, you will have an outlet for your feelings. By expressing your feelings, it can help you overcome a sense of isolation and loneliness.

In a nutshell, if you are unhappy in your relationship to an Aspie, be proactive about resolving this state of mind -- whatever it takes. Reach out. Ask for help. Be your own self-advocate. Take care of YOU, because if you don't, no one else will.

==> Living with Aspergers: Help for Couples

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