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Challenges Facing Wives Who Are Married to Aspergers Husbands

The challenges facing some women who are married to a man with Aspergers (high-functioning autism) can be difficult to navigate. These challenges may be completely hidden to other family members, friends and co-workers. No one seems to understand what the wife struggles with. Her husband may seem to be a “good guy” who appears perfectly "normal" to everyone else.

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Autistic Adults and Blue Mood

ASD comes with anxiety, and whenever there's anxiety, moodiness is not far behind!
For the purposes of this post, the term “blue mood” is used to describe a mild form of depression, but one that is chronic (i.e., lingering through the life-span). 
For the person with ASD (high-functioning autism), a blue mood often begins in adolescence due to his or her lack of social skills and inability to fit-in with the peer group, being criticized, teased, bullied, and ostracized – all of which usually result in low self-esteem and a preference for social isolation (i.e., preferring to be by oneself).

Ridicule and rejection often takes its toll over the years, resulting in not only a pervasive blue mood, but also an element of paranoia in the mind of the autistic individual. In other words, he or she is so used to being mistreated (emotionally and/or verbally) that he or she comes to expect it. 
Being highly suspicious of others, preparing for an attack of some kind, and jumping to defensiveness very quickly is not uncommon in adults on the autism spectrum. In addition, it is not uncommon for the “blue” individual to use drugs or alcohol to try to relieve his or her despondency and other unpleasant emotions.

Oftentimes, autistic adults’ paranoid tendencies result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, their “expectation of ridicule and rejection” leads them to say or do something that provokes the very negative response from the other person that they so dread. For example, in anticipation of a critical comment, the person with ASD may deliver one first, inciting the other person to return the criticism. This, in turn, convinces the person that others and indeed “out to get” him or her.

Unfortunately, many people with ASD not only had to endure various forms of social stress throughout the school years, they now experience much of the same at home and at their place of employment. Many have reported bullying both at home and in the workplace.

The main venue for the ASD person's retaliation against others for past hurts tends to be online (e.g., in chatrooms, forums, etc.) where he or she can chastise others, yet remain fairly anonymous. The typical Asperger’s adult does not have the confidence or social skills to stand up to the “offending party” face-to-face.

As adults, people with a blue mood experience little joy in their lives. They tend to take life too seriously, and to take other’s comments and behavior too personally. In fact, many adults on the spectrum that I have worked with are unable to remember a time when you felt happy, enthusiastic, or motivated. They often report feeling as though they have been in a one-down-position their entire life.

These individuals tend to be rather irritable, gloomy and negative much of the time, usually expecting the worst possible outcome when uncomfortable challenges and struggles arise. They tend to be inactive and withdrawn, worry frequently, and are critical of themselves. Most have a hard time enjoying things and having fun – unless it is a solitary activity, usually one that involves their “special interest.”
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

As one man with Asperger’s stated:
“My social skills were and still are, reasonably poor. I have never been able to like myself. I have never cared about my appearance, having long ago decided that I was ugly and unattractive anyway and that grooming and clothes would make no difference to the obvious. Even though I was able to marry a very beautiful woman who loved me deeply and many have assured me that this is not the case at all, inside I have always felt it to be the truth.”

A blue mood appears to affect more women than men. Many of these women report feeling mildly, yet chronically depressed to the point that it seems to be a part of their personality. Kara, a female with Asperger’s, had this to say:  
“Well I have ASD and people are always telling me that I need to change who I am to become more outgoing and social. I don't think there's a problem with me. That's just my personality, part of who I am. Unfortunately there's not much out there in terms of books and things that give dating advice to people with ASD. People just assume that we like being alone and don't desire to date, but this isn't necessarily true. I want to feel emotional attachment. I'm just kind of unsure about how to achieve it. I don't really have the social skills to form lasting relationships with people.”

Having a blue mood may be associated with the presence of personality disorders (e.g., avoidant, dependent, histrionic, borderline, and narcissistic). However, it is difficult to determine the extent to which a personality disorder is present since many of the long-term problems of having a blue mood affect interpersonal relationships and how the ASD individual perceives him- or herself.

If the adult on the autism spectrum finally seeks treatment, it is not uncommon that he or she has had this problem for a many years. Because a blue mood tends to develop in adolescence, the autistic individual may believe that it is normal to always feel this way. He/she does not realize that the quality of his/her mood is anything out of the ordinary. 
So, it often goes unnoticed and, therefore, untreated. The symptoms of a blue mood tend to be chronic, yet the affected individual often does not seek treatment unless he or she develops major depression. Having a blue mood increases the risk of developing major depressive disorder.

As another young man with ASD stated:  
"I believe I have suffered from the blue mood most of my life. I don't remember ever being truly happy. Sure I was excited when my children were born and this past summer when I took my two boys to Boston was really cool and maybe I was happy for a brief few days but in my mind I knew that at the end of that week I was going back home, back to the reality of my life and my broken marriage. I have never felt whole because I always had unanswered questions about who I really was. I knew that I wasn't normal but didn't know why. When I got diagnosed with ASD that answered who I was but resentment sank in. There were so many things I would have done differently if I had known who I was. I would have chosen a different career and many other things. Yet now, at 51 years old it is too late for many of those things. Because of the ASD and all that goes with it I had to retire from teaching and my marriage is done. After 28 years of marriage my wife just can't live in the so called circus anymore."

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

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