==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
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...
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Given an Aspergers man’s social skills deficits, arguments with his wife may be fairly frequent and intense (as compared to that of “typical” marriages). Aspie males fight with their women for many reasons, but the most prominent ones tend to be due to (a) mind-blindness and (b) difficulty with empathizing.
If you seem to always end up in a fight with your NT (i.e., neurotypical) spouse - seemingly over the most ridiculous and irrational things - then you may want to take some action before the marital bond is damaged beyond repair.
Here are a few ideas to implement that may keep arguments from starting (or from repeating):
1. Don’t be passive-aggressive. Frustrated Aspies often fall into passive-aggressive behaviors, because it is one way to avoid expressing true anger. You may think of anger as a “negative,” so instead of being honest and saying something like, "Your comment is upsetting to me," you might withdraw, become silent, engage in your “special interest” as a way to avoid discussing the issue at hand, sulk, or demean your wife by “correcting” her as if she were a child. There is always a way to express anger in a healthy way. Thus, explain that you are upset and why, using "I" statements to highlight your emotions over objective facts.
2. Use little white lies every now and then. Do you want to be rude to your wife for the sake of brutal honesty (e.g., “Dinner was terrible!”)? Then you will have another fight on your hands. Dinner may have very well tasted like crap, but you’ve got nothing to gain by saying so. And honestly, nobody cares about your opinion on the matter anyway. Keep it to yourself. Smile and tell her dinner was appetizing. Be a peace-maker rather than a trouble-maker.
3. Compliment your spouse every day. One of the major reasons for fights between spouses is that they don't feel acknowledged. Compliment your spouse regularly, and she will feel appreciated. Wives who feel appreciated are less likely to fight.
4. Create a process for resolving fights without anger. Anger often makes it hard to respond to a situation rationally. A good way to keep anger out of the equation is to take a few minutes to express your emotions when you have a misunderstanding, rather than immediately trying to “change” your wife’s viewpoint.
5. Take your spouse out on dates. A lot of disagreements result from issues that haven't been fully explored. It's very important to have a way to stay up to date and to create some kind of ritual that has the two of you talking on a regular basis. In this way, you may catch problems early BEFORE they become unmanageable.
6. Swallow your pride and learn to keep your mouth shut. There will be many opportunities for you to respond to a comment your spouse has made that will be an invitation to fight. When this happens, bite your tongue, take a hard swallow, and change the subject. Just do it!
7. Discuss new issues immediately. When you notice an issue is building up to a boiling point, do not sweep it under the rug. Rather, discuss the problem while it is still small. In this way, you can prevent a future explosion. Keeping issues bottled up means when the next disagreement occurs, you run the risk of bringing up the past, in which case, you will be fighting several battles at one time. This will make your wife feel attacked. Even small problems can lead couples to build resentment over time.
8. Know your specific triggers around fighting. Take an inventory so that you can discover what comments and situations elicit anger and quarrelsome behavior in you. List them – write them down. Then come up with an action plan so you won’t get trapped by them in the future.
9. Have a sense of humor about conflict, without discounting your wife’s viewpoint on the matter in question. Laughter can help lighten the mood in a heated situation. Spouses tend to bond over shared comical moments. Laughter can help remind you both of your shared love and passion. So, when the argument begins to dissipate, try finding some humor in the situation, which will help return a sense of normalcy to the state of affairs.
10. Lastly, summarize what was discussed to make sure you understand. How are you both willing to work on the issue to make sure it doesn’t happen again? How does your wife feel? How do you feel? Taking a few minutes to summarize the situation after a fight can prevent it from reoccurring.
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
Scenario: You’re a man with Asperger’s (high functioning autism), and you just went off on your wife. You were extremely mad, loud, and critical. Now your wife is hurt and resentful, and perhaps firing back with her own complaints and insults. Once the dust has settled and you’re starting to feel guilty about your explosive behavior, what can you do to try to mend fences?
Here are some ideas to help:
1. First of all, allow some time to pass (at least one hour) so the both of you can calm down. Nobody resolves a fight immediately after it has occurred. Wait until you can look at the situation objectively.
2. Next, take a look at what might have caused the argument. Do some analysis and brainstorm on what you could have done differently (e.g., Do you regret anything you said or did? What triggered the fight? What was the argument over? Did it involve several issues, or just one? …and so on).
3. When reviewing the situation, remember that memories are subjective, especially under tense circumstances. Your wife is going remember certain things about the argument that may be different from your recall. That’s O.K. It doesn’t mean that anyone is lying about what happened. It's just means that high-anxiety often causes memories to be imprecise.
4. After a fight, both parties need to accept and experience their true emotions. While certain feelings are painful to experience (e.g., rage, anger, sadness, disappointment, rejection, etc.), it's important to acknowledge these feelings rather than sweep them under the rug. Trying to cut-off your emotions is synonymous with hiding them in the closet. When the next argument occurs, those pent-up emotions will rear their ugly head again.
5. People with Asperger’s tend to be very rational – almost to a fault. But, you need to understand that feelings are not always rational. That’s O.K. The two of you are entitled to an emotional response to an argument, even if that response seems illogical to you. The part of the brain that expresses emotions is not the same part that can look at things logically.
6. Next, the two of you should come up with a time to discuss the issue(s). Pick a time to discuss the situation when there will be no constrictions on time (e.g., a Saturday night). Try to have the discussion right after dinner – but before bedtime – so that hunger and drowsiness won’t interfere with the discussion.
7. When discussing the problem(s), use body language to demonstrate that you are listening and open to suggestions (e.g., don’t cross your arms or do anything that makes you look defensive, make eye contact, nod occasionally, etc.).
8. Don’t interrupt your wife when she's speaking. When she pauses, ask for clarification if she said something you didn’t fully understand.
9. When it’s your turn to speak, don’t include too many details. Instead, try to get to your main point fairly quickly. Also, ask if she understands what you're saying.
10. Use "I" statements (e.g., instead of saying, "YOU overreacted to what I said" …say something like, "I felt like my point never came across as intended”).
11. Validate your wife's emotions. Even if you don’t agree with her, try to make her feel that her emotions are justified. Allowing your spouse to feel the way she does often removes a lot of negative tension from the situation.
12. Find out where the two of you disagree. All couples have a few issues that they can’t agree on. That’s O.K. Take the fight in question as an opportunity to discover where the two of you differ (e.g., about expectations regarding time together, your sex life, lifestyle choices, etc.).
13. Next, attempt to reconcile the dispute. The two of you should get into problem-solving mode:
- Identify the problem: This is not always as simple as it sounds. In some cases, couples may mistakenly identify the wrong source of a problem, which will make attempts to solve it unproductive.
- Define the problem: After the problem has been identified, it is important to fully describe the problem so that it can be solved.
- Form a strategy: The approach used will vary depending upon the situation and the couple’s unique preferences.
- Organize information: Before coming up with a solution, organize the available information (e.g., what do we know about the problem – and what do we not know?). The more information that is available, the better prepared the two of you will be to come up with an accurate solution.
- Monitor progress: Effective problem-solvers tend to monitor their progress as they work towards a solution. If the two of you are not making good progress toward reaching your goal(s), then reevaluate the approach or look for new approaches to the problem.
- Evaluate the results: After a solution has been reached, it is important to evaluate the outcome in order to determine if it is the best possible solution to the problem.
Sometimes simply acknowledging that the two of you feel differently about an issue can help ease stress in the relationship. Spouses often take certain things less personally if they understand where they differ personality wise.
14. Lastly, apologize. After considering your actions and role in the fight, apologize for any offenses. Make the apology specific and sincere in order to demonstrate that you have heard and understood your wife's concerns.
Resources for couples affected by ASD:
Resources for ASD-NT Couples
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