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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Raising an Adult Child: The NT Woman's Dilemma

The problem that some NT women encounter with their ASD (autism spectrum disorder) spouse is that they find themselves raising an adult child rather than being in an equal relationship with a mutually-responsive partner.  

What has happened in many (not all) cases is the result of the following scenario (or scenarios similar to this):

As a child, the ASD individual struggled in general, as many kids on the autism spectrum do. This hypothetical child was perhaps bullied at school, had few if any friends, was anxious about many things, and experienced meltdowns and shutdowns from time to time. He may have struggled in school academically and socially. And in too many cases, this child was ostracized from his peer group.

Long story short, the parents (who had good intentions) frequently made special accommodations for their “special needs” child. For example, allowing endless hours of video game-play, perhaps working with the schools to set up a deal where the child didn’t have to do homework, overlooking certain misbehavior in order to "keep the peace," and avoid meltdowns, etc. As an older teenager, this individual was still more concerned about isolating and playing video games than finding a part-time job.

He may have gone on to college, but after only one semester, he returned home and resumed life as a child due to the fact that he has very few emotional muscles to function out in the real world. This is the result of the parents’ over-assistance throughout the years. In many cases, this individual has lived with mom and dad well into his 20's, and even 30's.

Then when he does get in a romantic relationship, he is used to being "child-like" on multiple levels. In the early stages of the relationship, the woman may be OK with that, and may even view it as a somewhat charming trait. But she soon comes to realize that she is taking on the lion’s share of responsibility - financially, emotionally, with chores around the house, etc. In many cases, the man seems indifferent to his partner’s concerns in this area.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples 

The ASD man is often so engulfed in his special interest, that the girlfriend or wife begins to feel like she is basically just living with him, but not in a mutually-responsive relationship. Over time, this creates a lot of hurt, confusion, and even resentment in the woman.

It is true that people on the spectrum are emotionally immature compared to their peer group. For example, a man may be 35-years-old, but emotionally more like a 14-year-old. After all, autism is a "developmental" disorder. Their chronological age never matches up with their emotional age no matter how old the individual is. And of course, this creates problems in the relationship with his NT partner because she wants a relationship with someone who takes equal responsibility. I have heard many NT women claim that, for example, if she has two kids and one husband, she feels like she’s raising three kids.

As one wife stated: “My soul has withered living in an NT-AS marriage for 24 years. I am drained of all life from within. I am exhausted (to say the least) from trying to figure out my husband, from being the social-interpreter for him (because he can be clueless here), from constantly protecting him from everyone who misunderstands his communications and facial expressions, from coaching him for 'normal' (neurotypical) behavior and interactions. I was literally losing my mind. It is somewhat a relief to know that experiences like mine are documented and studied and that help is available.”

Another NT wife had this to say: "Well, yes it feels like raising 3 kids and we have 2 only. Yes he lived with his parents until 30 years old and doen't know how to cook, clean, wash clothes, but pays bills at least. All that is true. I sent him to therapy when we were 3 years of marriage as it was almost unbareable to live with him. He improved a lot. It was behavioral therapy I think. Little by little. He also takes medication antidepressants and mood medicine."

This is a perfect example of the wife assuming a care-taking role. Of course, this is not the case with every man on the autism spectrum in a romantic relationship. But this scenario does play out quite often (or ones similar to this).

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 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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