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30 Common Issues that Partners of Asperger’s and HFA Adults Experience

If you are an NT or “neurotypical” (i.e., non-autistic) partner or spouse of an individual with Asperger’s or High-Functioning Autism (HFA), you may feel as though you are the only one in the world who is experiencing significant and ongoing relationship problems. You may have even asked yourself, “Are these issues my fault somehow?!” You are not alone.

Below are some very common traits of the disorder that may contribute to relationship problems. Some (and I say ‘some’ – not all) of these traits have nothing to do with your Asperger’s or HFA partner being an insensitive jerk, rather they are symptoms of the disorder that the affected person may have little control over:
  1. a common marital problem is unfair distribution of responsibilities (e.g., the partner of a person with Asperger’s or HFA may be used to doing everything in the relationship)
  2. “Aspies” (i.e., people on the autism spectrum) are known for their adherence to routines and schedules, and they can become highly anxious if the expected routine is disrupted
  3. they experience difficulties in empathizing with their NT partner
  4. after accepting that their Asperger’s of HFA partner's disorder won't get better, common emotions include guilt, despair and disappointment
  5. “Aspies” are often mistaken as being ignorant and vain individuals
  6. they are very literal in what they say
  7. have difficulty comprehending complex words, phrases and expressions (e.g., metaphors and jokes)
  8. have difficulty in maintaining friendships
  9. many partners of “Aspies” state that there is a failure to have their own needs met
  10. "Aspies" have difficulty knowing when to start or stop a conversation
  11. do not take very well to a sudden change in their daily time table
  12. fail to interpret change of voice-tone of others
  13. find it difficult to express themselves
  14. follow routines and rituals religiously
  15. are usually more interested in tasks (or objects) than people
  16. frustration, since problems in the relationship don't seem to improve despite great efforts, is a common reaction in NT partners
  17. “Aspies” usually have an intense or obsessive interest or hobby
  18. many NT partners feel overly responsible for their “Aspie”
  19. people on the autism spectrum may be confused at the way other people behave, because they are unable to understand social ways of conduct
  20. may lose interest in people and appear aloof most of the time
  21. partners of the people on the spectrum often feel a sense of isolation, because the challenges of their relationship are different and not easily understood by others
  22. people with Asperger’s and HFA have problems controlling feelings such as anger, depression and anxiety
  23. some NT partners state that they frequently wonder about whether or not to end the relationship
  24. subtle messages that are sent by facial expression, eye contact and body language are often missed by people on the spectrum
  25. they have problems understanding another person's emotions and/or point of view
  26. difficulty managing appropriate social conduct
  27. difficulty with thinking in abstract ways
  28. there is often a lack of emotional support from family members and friends who don't fully understand or appreciate the extra strains placed on a relationship affected by Asperger’s or HFA
  29. “Aspies” have difficulty imagining alternatives to social incidents (i.e., can’t predict a normal course of action according to social norms)
  30. they are usually at a loss in choosing a topic to speak on, unless it’s their special interest

People with Asperger’s and HFA usually experience and mixed bag of successes and tribulations. They may function very well in some arenas - and not well in others. An “Aspie” may do quite well at work because he or she is extremely bright and well-suited to the job, but this same person may not have or know how to create or maintain a satisfying life outside of work.

There are others who don’t function well in a work environment, but can maintain one or a few friendships or acquaintances. And then there are those who can’t maintain employment or sustain friendships, but can create software programs or produce beautiful art, for example. There are numerous combinations, and all could be considered part of the disorder, depending on how you look at it. 

Recent Poll on the Divorce Rate Among NT Women and AS Men

We polled 40 “neurotypical” women who are (or where) in a marriage with an Asperger’s husband and asked the following question: “Were you married to man with Asperger’s and are now divorced?”

Their responses fell into 4 general categories: (1) married with no plans for divorce; (2) married, but one or both spouses are making plans for divorce; (3) divorced; and (4) married, but separated.

Here’s the statistical outcome of the survey:
  • 28 women stated: Married with no plans for divorce (70%)
  • 6 women stated: Married, but one or both spouses are making plans for divorce (15%)
  • 4 women stated: Divorced (10%)
  • 2 women stated: Married, but separated (5%)

In summary:
  • In this survey, the divorce rate was only 10%.
  • 70% of these women are married (many of which stated they are “hanging in there,” but “dissatisfied” with the marriage). 
  • 30% are in some state of marital difficulty, or have already divorced. 

We also did a related poll in which we asked both men and women (43 participants total) in which one partner is affected by Asperger's or high-functioning autism the following question:

What is the current status of your relationship with your partner?
  1. Still together and mostly happy with the relationship
  2. Still together but mostly unhappy with the relationship
  3. Still together but considering separation or divorce
  4. Planning for separation or divorce
  5. Already separated or divorced 
  6. Other
Here are their answers (anonymously):
  1. Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy in large part due to weekly couples counseling with a therapist who specializes in Adults with Asperger's
  2. Anonymous said…Still together after 29 years but considering therapy to combat loneliness and frustration in the marriage.
  3.  Anonymous said… Married 18 years and happy but sometimes lonely.
  4. Anonymous said… Not happy. 20 years. Considering separation.
  5. Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy with the relationship
  6. Anonymous said… Still together as roommates and companions. Serious thought to divorce
  7. Anonymous said… Haven't had a partner for 5 years and very happy with that
  8. Anonymous said… Divorced for many years and very happy with my relationship with him now after many years.
  9. Anonymous said… Been together 1 year and happy 98% of the time
  10. Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy with the relationship. We are engaged and have been dating for 5 1/2 years.
  11. Anonymous said… Married for better or worse 26 years ago. Many rough patches but still together and mostly happy 😊
  12. Anonymous said… Happily together since 1992, married since 2007. For the most part things are good but we have major work/life balance issues. We are DINKS (Dual Income, No Kids)
  13. Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy with the relationship xx
  14. Anonymous said… ` Still together and mostly happy with the relationship
  15. Anonymous said… Celebrated 21 years of marriage two weeks ago. Mostly happy after at least 10+ years of very hard work and two separations, one for 2 months and the second 2 years later for 9 months. There were years I wished desperately I had left.
  16. Anonymous said… Still together - separated, but not legally.
  17. Anonymous said… was married for 16 years and now divorced for almost 10 years.
  18. Anonymous said… Still together 34 years and 75% happy?
  19. Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy with the relationship. I have learned how to deal with all his quirks and when to just let things go. We have been married 23 years. It is just a "different kind of relationship" that works for both of us! I think most NT's would have divorced one another.
  20. Anonymous said… Still together 15 yrs married and 5 knowing him. Mostly happy. Sex isn’t there. But he’s fine with an open relationship. So I have options.
  21. Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy with the relationship. *WITH SHORT BURSTS OF ABSOLUTE HIDEOUSNESS
  22. Anonymous said… Still together. Happy for almost 7 years. The last year has been a roller coaster.
  23. Anonymous said… Still together (married a little over a year), planning to stay together & find a way to be mostly happy, but not quite sure how yet . . .
  24. Anonymous said… Still together but mostly unhappy with the relationship,together 11years with 4 children
  25. Anonymous said… Seperated, after 13yrs of marriage.
  26. Anonymous said… 33 years married and miserable.
  27. Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy with the relationship. 27 years and counting.
  28. Anonymous said… Married 18 years, divorced
  29. Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy we have our struggles but I love is pulling us through where patience fails
  30. Anonymous said… 6 months married and mostly happy 💜
  31. Anonymous said… Still together and very happy
  32. Anonymous said… Still together and been married nearly 31 years. Mostly happy now but certainly had some challenges like all relationships and tend to feel lonely now and again.
  33. Anonymous said… Married 37 years to a wonderful man who tries very hard to be present, loving and considerate.
  34. Anonymous said… 30yrs. Still together and mostly happy with the relationship.
  35. Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy. 16 years and going strong ❤️
  36. Anonymous said… Still together and mostly deliriously happy, sometimes miserable. 😄
  37. Anonymous said… Still together but somewhat unhappy with the relationship, still trying though. I'm neurotypical and he's hfa
  38. Anonymous said… Separated but still in specialized therapy so we can co-habitats and co-parent together. Thank god we have a little guest house out back. I no longer feel like a hostage in my own home. This took 4 years for me to get to. Both of us committed to making this work for the kids. 8 more years to go!!!
  39. Anonymous said… Already divorced but not due to the autism issue - that was diagnosed afterwards for the child
  40. Anonymous said… Still together but mostly unhappy with the relationship.
  41. Anonymous said… Divorced and trying to coparent
  42. Anonymous said… Still together and mostly happy with the relationship. (13 years
  43. Anonymous said... other

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