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Tips for Being in a Relationship With a Man Who Has Asperger's or Autism

By HERWriter
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Tips for Being in a Relationship With a Man Who Has Asperger's or Autism 3 5 31
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Being involved in a successful romantic relationship can be difficult for most people. Consider all the breakup self-help books available, the movies portraying cheating significant others, constant fighting and dramatic breakups, and your own relationship history.

Do you think these difficulties increase or decrease for someone with a mental disorder? Let’s just say that it’s not easy to have a relationship while trying to function “normally” in the world.

For people who have Asperger’s disorder or autistic disorder, social interaction is complicated. Although people with Asperger’s are thought to have high-functioning autism, they still have social problems. For example, people with Asperger’s don’t contribute as much socially and emotionally, and they don’t know how to use nonverbal behaviors as well, like eye contact, according to an abnormal psychology textbook.

Interaction and emotional reciprocity are important in relationships, so it’s no wonder that it would be a challenge for someone with Asperger’s or autism to be in a relationship. Although this doesn’t happen for everyone, it’s a stereotype that someone with these disorders will not share his or her emotions as frequently. For example, they might not say “I love you” or show affection as often, because they don’t understand and express emotions as well as the typical person.

If you decide to be in a relationship with someone who has Asperger’s or autism, it seems there are some things you have to consider to help the relationship work. Keep in mind, this may not apply to everyone who has Asperger’s or autism. There is the proposed autism spectrum disorder, which places autism and Asperger’s together. Basic symptoms will be the same, but specifics may differ.

This is what I have observed after being in a short relationship with someone who thought he had Asperger’s and through reading different articles:

1) Don’t assume the other person is uninterested, just because he isn’t telling you he likes you or finds you attractive. Decide what you think of him and let him know.

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[Sorry in advance for the long comment, I did try to make it shorter but hope it helps as a comment from the other perspective]

Hi, I'm a guy with high functioning autism, ADHD and a history of depression and OCD who has been married for just over 12 years (we've been together for 14). Although I always knew something was weird about me and I had trouble negotiating social situations, I was only diagnosed last week. Of course it's been my "special interest" recently! On the other hand, the ADHD was diagnosed a few years ago and my wife had been asking me to get treatment for it for about 5 years before I did. To be honest, the main reasons I didn't want to do it were because I was worried that medication would change parts of me that I liked (e.g. creativity) and I was aware that there were other issues that I didn't want to deal with - life can pretty stressful and it's hard enough without medication upsetting a delicate balance you've constructed, especially when you have a history of failure to meet your own expectations in many areas of your life.

Sure enough, once I began the medication (Strattera) I started having odd symptoms that matched things like autism and bipolar disorder. It was scary, but I kept going as I was learning a lot about myself and my wife thought I was nicer to be with (more engaged and less aggressive, although aggression meant something like saying "leave me alone" or throwing a pen across the room (away from her) if I felt overwhelmed by too much sensory input or demands and felt that I couldn’t express it in words – I’ve never sworn at her or threatened to hurt her in any way, and the last time this happened was about a year ago, before I started the medication). I also noticed that the symptoms hadn't started with the medication, it was more that I was noticing them as distinct and important issues now the ADHD was being addressed to some extent.

To be clear, my wife first suspected that I was autistic soon after we met 16 years ago, but I seemed to be managing fairly well in life without treatment and she didn’t want to make an issue of it, so she didn't tell me. When we first got married, we worked on things like skills for socialising, looking people in the eye, expressing love for each other and being clear with each other. I guess I had a rough idea about a number of issues and I wanted to avoid the kind of miscommunication I’d seen in other relationships, so I asked for a few basic rules to be kept: There must be no passive aggression. I often don’t pick up signals or forget things, so if she thinks I should do something, I may not know. If she tells me, I still may not know. If she tells me in the evening, I’ll forget. If she tells me, I repeat it to her and then I write it down, THEN I know. But I may still forget, so smartphones with notifications have really improved my life. If she wants something or isn’t happy, she MUST tell me. If she hasn’t done that, she is not entitled to feel bitter at all (the same goes for me, of course). I’m probably not trying to insult her or ignore her, but she may feel that way – always ask for clarification and apology if necessary. We have to take each other seriously and respect is important, but she doesn’t have to take my ideas that seriously, especially if I’m in the middle of a train of thought. I will try to find outlets for this to take some pressure off her. Many acts of love feel unnatural to me, but seeing them as actions that will make my wife understand that I love her means that they’re as authentic as saying something in someone else’s language. The learning process isn’t automatic, so we work on it together.

This may seem weird, but pointing out things that make you feel loved and pointing out when you did something to make the other person feel loved is a positive reinforcement mechanism that avoids feelings of bitterness when you feel taken for granted, and makes it easier to do those things next time. You will never change your husband by focusing on the negatives, you will only make him frustrated. This is doubly true for aspies, as we react to a negative emotional environment without knowing it – and we can be very stubborn. However, the opposite is also true and I respond very well to a positive and encouraging environment.

While I may not be particularly far along the spectrum, I have had a number of the same issues. I had no idea that she was interested in me for months, and just saw her as a friend for a long time and with many people trying to give me hints. When we were engaged or just married, I might not say hello to her when I arrived after not seeing her all day, and not be able to talk with her for an hour or more. We have had a number of miscommunications and she finds my obsessions hard to deal with at times (especially when they relate to our relationship or to beliefs – after meeting as missionaries, I became an atheist within four years of getting married). I really can’t just not have obsessions and I can’t prove that they won’t end up in a place that she won’t approve of. Such is life. However, I work on what I can do: she has my respect however different our views may be. I try to create the best conditions to allow us to be happy together, with as little pain as possible if we have to split up for some reason. I work from home and look after the kids while she works – I must take shared responsibility for the house, and she must not become a substitute parent or carer. This also means that I have less contact with people during the day, so I have more energy for the family when she returns from work. I discuss issues online, so I don’t have to bore her with them too much. I try to find obsessions that improve our marriage and make me a better person – feminism, psychology, cooking, child raising etc. From my encounters with theology and philosophy, I am aware of the many different and often harmful conclusions that smart and opinionated people reach – there must be more fundamental things than my opinions, however well-founded I think they are. We have certain contexts where she gets to talk about what is on her mind – generally every evening before bed. Similarly, she has people that she can talk with so I’m not bored with hours of conversation about the various people in her life (I’m not putting that down, it’s important but hearing it is like reading the phone book to me at times).

For my part, I have to think about my attitudes to this relationship: when I first went on the medication about 9 months ago, I became obsessed about divorce. After realising that I had alexithymia and was having difficulty identifying my emotions properly, I tried looking around the issue to analyse how I felt and why. I think it’s because of attachment issues and a feeling that I would be socially isolated without my wife, as well as a fear that I wasn't meeting her needs. Attachment is cute, but it can be dangerous and it can smother your partner. I have to deal with this by being more independent, holding the relationship in an open hand and making sure she is being looked after (and that we communicate more). She does not want to leave me, but we have talked about conditions under which she would do this for her own safety or wellbeing. It’s not that I am aggressive toward her or feel that this is likely to happen, it’s just that there are too many negative stories about husbands with autism and I don’t want my family to be hurt, especially by me.

I also have to think about my goals in life – there are many aspies who make their work or interests into an obsession, and I know how that ends. I try to keep myself grounded and ensure that I am involved with the family and not drifting off. Unfortunately I have a set of neurological issues that can cause a lot of trouble in relationships, but I am trying to make the most of the positive elements and find constructive outlets for the ones that are more risky. I have a very loving and supportive wife who respects me and herself, which makes a lot of difference.

May 18, 2016 - 5:34am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Jon_Roberts)

Nice. Uncortunately... My wife will not tell me what she wants. She says.. "you should just know".

--just shoot me now.

May 18, 2016 - 7:49am
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

I'm sorry that's your situation, Anon.  You shouldn't "just know" - nobody is a mind reader.  


May 18, 2016 - 1:34pm
(reply to Anonymous)

Yeah... it really does require cooperation from both people, rather than the assumption that the other person will just get it. NTs have trouble reading people with A/S, so if they go into the relationship relying on their innate ability in that area, they will come out if it with statements like "people with autism can't feel or express love". It's a good skill to be able to explain things clearly without being patronising, and to respect differences. TBH, there were one or two areas that were a big challenge, as they were more sensitive and so my wife would be less verbal about them. Predictably, I didn't get it so we had to discuss them and define rules for how we acted around them.

May 18, 2016 - 10:30am
EmpowHER Guest

I just want someone who will want me for being me, who can look past my autism and see the person I am, instead of the disability I have. The tips are good, but I think the best thing people need to understand about people with autism, high functioning or otherwise, is that we're still people with emotions, whether we know how to show them or not.

March 3, 2016 - 6:50am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Not sure if you will ever see this but I just wanted to give you some encouragement that what you are looking for is out there! I've been dating my boyfriend with aspergers and I absolutely love him. I love that he's quirky, socially awkward, and sometimes has trouble communicating haha but I also see how much love this boy has to give. It all comes down to finding someone who can compliment both your strengths and weaknesses. My family and friends adore him and I think the key to this was our constant communication. Try and find someone who can communicate in a logical manner, who loves to problem solve, and who sees the intention behind the action. All the best :)

March 29, 2016 - 10:01pm
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks for this.

What advice do you have for Women with Asperger's Disorder trying to have a relationship with a man? He complains that I don't know how to show respect--and I try, but I always fail.

Pointers for the opposite of this? Because there is already a lot out here online written for NT's who are trying to understand people on the Autism Spectrum. There's a lot less focus on helping Autistic people understand the rest of y'all.

January 26, 2016 - 6:08pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

My AS husband and I have been married for 16 years. At first it was rough. In the middle, it was a little better. Now it is just fine. Truly, I think that love has to do with accepting and understanding a person for who they are (including their challenges). Love is seeing more in a person than what appears on the surface. Quite frankly, when you get right down to the internal workings of people, AS people are really not that different from NT people. They just sometimes have a different way of communicating their thoughts and intentions, which NTs tend to hugely misinterpret. When NTs are open to really get to know AS people on a deeper level, connections are easier to find.

February 4, 2016 - 9:28am
EmpowHER Guest

I have been dating a guy online with Autism who is a famous Dj in Korea. He is Korean and lately he has been angry at me telling me to act like an adult. Because he thinks I am acting immature, he says he can not take it no more and wants to end the relationship. He has not yet taken me off his relationship status on Facebook and he only just said these words to me yesterday. I really want to get him to talk to me over the phone but he doesn't like to communicate and never was clear on what made me look immature to him. He doesn't come online often and never takes the time to talk things over when ever I do something that angers him which leaves me clueless on why he is being that way and I try to ask him to talk it out with me so we can work things out instead of him wanting to break up with me. I was planning on going to see him in Korea once I had the money.

All I can do right now is give him time. He has gotten mad at me before and had a friend tell me that he was breaking up but he never came to me to say that we were still together so our friend who is my best friend told me herself on what he said to her.

I am being patient with him and I am trying to encourage him and give him time. I also let him come to me.

November 27, 2015 - 1:43am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Saying to the other to act mature is typically an autistics thing.
My ex-boyfriend with Asperger said that to me a few months ago, while I am a woman with a great career, Master-degree, bought a house, and mother of two. While he is a bachelor student for 8 years, without a job and being engaged with someone just for having a roof above his head and having food. He is not able to get a place on his own, nor is he able to get a job.
Who is the immiture? Don't worry about what he said. Probably he was clunked in his own personal problems.

January 8, 2016 - 5:19pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.