Marriage is something that takes a lot of work to succeed and remain harmonious for the longer term. And when one of the spouses has Asperger’s syndrome, it can even be more daunting than it already is. For one, having the condition makes it very difficult for the person to connect emotionally and socially. Consequently, the spouse without the Asperger’s can be severely stressed, confused, and frustrated. Psychologists suggest that it is vital to understand thoroughly how people with Asperger’s are affected by its signs and symptoms to learn how to cope with one’s spouse or partner.
Asperger’s syndrome is a congenital disorder that is categorized under ASD or autism spectrum disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a recent report stating that there is one out of 68 children in America with a type of autism spectrum disorder. Another report showed that ASD is four times more commonly seen in males compared to females.
Each with Asperger’s syndrome has unique traits and personalities, but some common qualities include an above-average intelligence, having strict mannerisms and routines, difficulty making complicated and some simple transitions, sensory problems, and an obsession over a particular topic or thing. Because of these peculiarities, including their difficulty socializing, individuals with Asperger’s syndrome often have a few friends and are usually loners.
How The Syndrome Affects A Relationship
Among the most frustrating problems that a spouse can face is his partner’s lack of empathy or responsiveness. As someone not affected by the condition, you would naturally get hurt and angry by the affected person’s insensitivity and lack of emotion. Most of the time, when you argue, you would tell him, “Why can’t you just get it?” It’s because he doesn’t, which is why he backs away, does not respond, or becomes defensive. When this happens progressively, the disconnect can destroy the relationship. The spouse becomes worn out, depressed, and unloved. The Aspergerian still doesn’t get it.
This is why, Eva Mendes, LMHC, says, “NS partners can sometimes experience their own mental health issues such as anxiety, ADHD, Affective Deprivation Disorder, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, as a result of being in a relationship with an undiagnosed ASD partner.”
Couples with this kind of relationship also have to face other challenges, which include the following:
- Parenting Conflicts. Mental health experts say that when children are involved, it is often the end of the relationship. The unaffected spouse feels so devastated by the lack of attention and affection that the Aspergerian shows to their child. He may neglect the child, blurt out sarcastic words, and may not know how to communicate with their child appropriately. Often, the parenting is left to the non-Aspergerian only to stop the conflict and the never-ending argument. Thus, Psychologist Kathy Marshack agrees, stating “Lack of empathy is one of the most challenging problems for someone with Asperger’s who is in a relationship.”
- Problems With Sex. Because the Aspergerian spouse has sensory issues and is not empathic, he is unable to show affection and passion. Therefore sex is not enjoyable. The affected partner is unable to figure out what makes his partner happy, as he doesn’t quite know how to read body language. It’s going to be awkward having steamy sex and then suddenly your Aspergerian spouse asks, “Where do I put my hand?”
- Tension When Socializing. When your spouse with Asperger’s socializes at a party with you, he tends to blurt some words that are out of the topic, or just simply get irritated. You, the non-affected partner, would already be used to saving your spouse from getting humiliated. It’s draining when even socializing takes too much effort from you, and eventually, you’ll stop going to parties or watching your children’s shows because of it. Some Aspergerians abuse alcohol just to relax in social events.
How To Cope With Your Aspergerian Spouse
- Communicate Directly And Frankly. You can either write it down or tell him straight to his face. Hints won’t do it. Remember, they usually don’t get it.
- Seek Therapy. Mental health professionals recommend starting with individual therapy first for each of you. After a few sessions, you can do couples therapy. It will be emphasized that you will not and will never be able to fix your spouse, but awareness and education is a vital part of keeping the relationship going. Read about Asperger’s syndrome and master the dynamics of your relationship. Therapy can play a significant role in helping you thrive and survive with your partner.
“If she is fortunate, she has found a good therapist along the way. She has had the opportunity to talk without feeling crazy. She has cried the bulk of her tears, though they still come when she thinks of her children, of how she loves them, of how unfair this has been to them, to her, to her former husband.” – Sarah Swenson, LMHC.
- Find Support Networks. Joining support groups will do you great, especially when spouses are involved. They can share how they deal with the different characteristics of their partners, and you can learn from each other.
Individuals with Asperger’s syndrome do want to love and be loved, for most of them. However, just as you as the non-affected spouse needs to understand the whole gamut of his condition, he, too, needs help in learning how to express, and probably, what to express. Life can be a little easier for you. Be there for each other.