Blog for Individuals and Neurodiverse Couples Affected by ASD
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...
Dealing with unemotional, reserved men with ASD (high functioning autism) can be a tough dilemma for girlfriends and wives – especially if they are used to handling more assertive men.
They are frustratingly silent during conversations, they take coaxing to come out of their shell, and they often seem uncomfortable when dealing with social situations. Even so, men on the autism spectrum are often very sensitive, which can lead to a truly fulfilling relationship. In order to get there, though, an enterprising woman needs to know how to approach her reserved partner properly.
If your ASD husband or boyfriend clams up around your friends and family, avoids social outings, or is too reserved to express his feelings, you've got some challenges ahead, especially if you're an outgoing person yourself. Be patient, because people on the spectrum need more time to adjust to new situations. If you let your reserved man take his time to open up, your bond will be even stronger.
Here are some tips for getting your unemotional, reserved ASD partner to open up:
1. Be confident, but not overbearing. If you do manage to get your man to open up (e.g., he starts talking about his feelings), be sure not to interrupt him. It will make it even harder for him to open up again if he feels like what he’s saying is not sufficiently appreciated and that you may think that what he’s talking about is unimportant or boring.
2. Be patient. When it comes to men on the spectrum, it may take some time to get a full answer, so don't be afraid of a little silence. Prompting, such as "go on," or "what are you thinking?" will not help and will likely make him nervous. You should also generally avoid finishing his sentences when he pauses momentarily. He may want to articulate his thoughts in a particular way, so give him enough time to do so.
3. Calling attention to your husband's “reserved nature” can make him feel uncomfortable. Never ask him why he is so quiet or un-expressive. He has most likely heard these things many times, and talking about it will be counter-productive.
4. Do not push your guy to talk if he clearly seems to be avoiding it at that moment. He will only become annoyed with you and try to avoid you in the future.
5. Don't assume your man’s reserved nature is just a social phobia (although it might be). Perhaps he is instead going through a hard time or has had an emotionally trying past. Don't rush him, and don't come on too strong.
6. Don't pressure your man to contribute to a group conversation (e.g., at a family gathering). If he is not already participating, and especially if he is off to the side not even noticeably listening, abruptly requesting his input will likely make him quite and nervous since several people will suddenly be fixing their attention on him. If he is already part of the group and hesitates to contribute, however, asking a simple question related to the topic at hand may be helpful for allowing him a chance to speak.
7. Avoid making jokes about your man’s reserved nature. On the other hand, be judicious with potential compliments. Compliments can make him feel more comfortable around you if they seem sincere.
8. Find out his favorite thing, and try to find something about yourself that relates to his thing. If you have discovered an activity that he enjoys, ask him if the two of you can do it together.
9. Have an ongoing joke with your man. This will help him to be himself around you.
10. Look for topics that seem to engage your man. You will be surprised at how much reserved partner can blabber once you get them onto a topic they care about.
11. During conversations, make normal eye contact, but don't stare at him the entire time. Staring can feel a little intimidating to a person with Asperger’s. Remain casual and relaxed through the conversation, and really listen when he speaks.
12. Many guys with ASD have another side to them. If you discover a way to really bond with your man, you may find that he is loud, fun, and funny.
13. People with Asperger’s tend to choose their words with care. When your man says something, be sure to listen, and then think about what he said and the inflection he used before responding. There may be several layers and meanings hidden in the folds of that sentence you thought were simple and straightforward. When you respond, know that your husband wants you to understand the hidden meanings and layers, in addition to just the words. A blunt or overly simple response from you could potentially be interpreted as a loss of interest or being dismissive of his comments.
14. When you do ask questions, avoid ones that are personal. Try focusing on something related to the current location or activity. Ask what he thinks about different things that come up in the conversation. Try to avoid “yes-no” questions. Instead of "Did you like the new movie?" ask "What did you think of ..."
15. You may have to initiate most conversations initially. But after your man becomes comfortable with you, he will likely be more open and outgoing with you.
COMMENT: I have seen a lot of articles about significant others and how to deal, I am 51 and just recently was diagnosed with aspergers. I have never been able to connect with anyone beyond casual conversation and that is uncomfortable. I can't imagine ever getting to know someone well enough to even date much less anything beyond that. Sure would like to see more info on finding help dealing in small town America.
Unfortunately, it is very common for adults with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) to experience more than their fair share of stress – and to make matters worse – many of these people also lack the ability to manage their stress effectively.
Poor stress-management (PSM) occurs when the person is unable to cope with a particular stressor. Since individuals with PSM normally have symptoms that depressed individuals do (e.g., general loss of interest, feelings of hopelessness, crying, etc.), this condition is sometimes referred to as “situational depression.”
Unlike major depression, PSM is caused by an outside stressor and generally resolves once the person is able to adapt to the situation. PSM is different from anxiety disorder (which lacks the presence of a stressor), or post-traumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorder (which usually are associated with a more intense stressor).
Some emotional signs of poor stress-management are:
lack of enjoyment
thoughts of suicide
Some behavioral signs of PSM are:
performing poorly at school or work
ignoring important tasks (e.g., doing homework, paying bills)
hibernating in one’s bedroom or home
excessive time spent doing a particular "comfort activity" (e.g., playing computer games)
The recommended treatment for poor stress-management is psychotherapy. The goal of psychotherapy is symptom relief and behavior change. Anxiety may be presented as "a signal from the body" that something in the persons’ life needs to change. Treatment allows the AS or HFA adult to put his/her anxiety and anger into words rather than into destructive actions. Therapy can help the person gain the support he/she needs, identify abnormal responses, and maximize the use of personal strengths.
Sometimes small doses of antidepressants and anxiolytics are used in addition to other forms of treatment. In people with severe life-stresses and a significant anxious component, benzodiazepines are used. Tianeptine, alprazolam, and mianserin were found to be equally effective in people with anxiety. Additionally, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and stimulants (for people who became extremely withdrawn) have been used in treatment plans.
In addition to professional help, moms and dads can help their AS/HFA teens and adult children with their distress by:
having them engage in a hobby or activity they enjoy
involving their educators to check on their progress in school/college
letting them make simple decisions at home (e.g., what to eat for dinner, what show to watch on TV)
offering encouragement to talk about their emotions
• I find this extremely helpful. I would love to talk to the person who wrote this or other people dealing with these issues themselves or with their adult Aspie child. We are trying to get some medication to help with this, but I would also like to help my child (age 21) learn some coping skills.
• Im 25 and mostly everything on this page rings true. Ive never been diagnosed but recently a psychologist said I might have aspergers but that they dont officially diagnose that anymore.
• As an Aspie, I lose it under stress. I resort to covering my ears and reciting "I'm sorry," over and over again. When someone screams at me, my palms sweat and my hands are clammy. I shake and I hyperventilate, my thoughts race into a garbled jumble, and I avoid communication altogether. I simply cannot think.
• This is also me. Most of us, due to our condition, have anxiety/depression and all sorts of other nasties because we have had to work so hard at getting along with others, etc. I am currently hibernating to recover my equilibrium after what was a very pleasant time visiting family interstate. The cruel part is that even happy times are stressors to us! Anything which is out of the expected routine, unexpected outcomes, changes in plans, all stressful as we mentally work thru all the details of what will be NOW expected of us (to appear 'normal') It's a helluva situation, and I applaud you for your honesty and sharing. BTW I also say 'I'm sorry' way too much when not on top of things. We are so very used to being 'wrong' and 'odd' that our very existence seems some colossal reason to be apologetic to the world. Keep going,