Married to someone with Aspergers....

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-01-2007
Married to someone with Aspergers....
129
Wed, 10-10-2007 - 5:53pm

My self esteem has been gone for a long time and I'm trying to get it back. Prior to getting married, I was working and going to school full time, had friends, was energetic and enthusiastic about life. After being with my husband for almost 15 years I feel depressed, drained, hopeless and pretty lousy. I want to lose weight, go back to school and get into a job where I feel like I am contributing to society but its so hard when I'm having difficulty doing basic things and I have to focus whatever energy that I can muster on taking care of our young son.

One thing that I am trying to do -- for myself and for others, is to get the word out about Aspergers Syndrome so that other women won't be stuck in a relationship not knowing why it isn't working -- no matter how hard they try.

Aspergers syndrome is relatively unknown in the "mainstream" population and many men
with (less severe) AS have learned to adapt their behaviors in public to the extent that
they come across as "normal, nice guys" who are perhaps a little odd or shy.
However, when they are in the privacy of their own homes, other symptoms and
behaviors emerge under stress so there are women out there, who can be married to
someone with AS for years and not even know it. Many times the issues/awareness arises
AFTER a child is diagnosed on the autism spectrum and they learn more about it and start
seeing correlations in their spouses.

I am now a member of a support group for women in these relationships (see my profile for more info) and it is helping to know that I'm not crazy since I now know that there are other women who understand what its like to be married to an Aspie, but how do I regain my self esteem?

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Frequently Asked Questions on Asperger Syndrome
Dr. Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

1. What is Asperger Syndrome?
Asperger Syndrome (AS) is the term applied to the high functioning end of what is known
as the spectrum of pervasive developmental disorders or the Autism spectrum.
Asperger syndrome is a relatively new category, since it was officially recognized in the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for the first time in 1994.
Since AS itself shows a range or spectrum of symptom severity, many individuals who
might meet criteria for that diagnosis are viewed as "unusual" or "just different," or are
misdiagnosed with conditions such as Attention Deficit Disorder.
The new DSM-4 criteria for a diagnosis of AS include the presence of:
ï The impaired use of nonverbal behaviors to regulate social interaction, failure to ï
develop age-appropriate peer relationships, lack of spontaneous interest in sharing ï
experiences with others, and lack of social or emotional reciprocity.
ï Restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities
involving: preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted pattern of ï
interest, inflexible adherence to specific nonfunctional routines or rituals,
stereotyped or repetitive motor mannerisms, or preoccupation with parts of objects.

2. How common is Asperger Syndrome?
AS is much more common than previously realized and many adults are
undiagnosed.Studies suggest that AS is considerably more common than "classic" Autism.
Whereas Autism has traditionally been thought to occur in about 4 out of every 10,000
children, estimates of Asperger Syndrome have ranged as high as 20-25 per 10,000. A
study carried out in Sweden , concluded that nearly 0.7% of the children studied had
symptoms suggestive of AS to some degree. Time Magazine notes in its May 6, 2002 issue
cover story, "ASD is five times as common as Down syndrome and three times as common
as juvenile diabetes."

3. All of us have symptoms like these at times. Are we all Aspergers?
Many describe living with an Aspie as "water torture." It is the constant drip, drip, drip of
small thoughtless behaviors that destroys the relationship. The lack of eye contact, the
obsessive/compulsive behaviors, the adherence to rigid routines, the self absorption, the
social anxiety, all lead to family members feeling like they just cannot connect with their
Asperger family members. But it isn't so much the unusual behaviors that make the
connecting difficult, but the inconsistency. Never knowing what is coming next, makes a
loving connection very difficult.

4. What distinguishes Asperger thinking from normal thinking?
Asperger Syndrome (AS) is demonstrated by deficits in communication, social skills and
reciprocity of feelings. The Aspie knows what they think and feel but are often unaware of
what their loved ones think or feel. With limited empathy for others, you can't really
connect. So those with Asperger Syndrome go through life focused on their needs and
wants often missing what is going on with others. This does not mean that they don't feel
or love but they don't seem to notice what is going on with others and do not convey that
they care.

5. What is mind blindness?
Most of our communication and interpersonal relating is nonverbal in nature. The person
with Asperger Syndrome has trouble reading these nonverbal cues and therefore ignores
the bulk of communication. This mind blindness leaves the spouse wondering if she is
understood or cared for or trusted by her Aspie partner.

6. Can men with Asperger Syndrome love?
All people can feel love. It's a matter of quality in a relationship with an AS adult. The AS
man never seems to learn that his wife can't feel his love if he does not demonstrate it.
He will do what he thinks is best for the both of them but seldom talks to her about her
feelings or opinions. And if she tries to share her love for him, he may find her need to
"connect" smothering. Often these relationships are without sexual intimacy.

7. Why can't these men connect?
If you don't have much of an interior life yourself and you cannot comprehend the interior
life of another, then connection is very difficult. An Aspie husband and Neuro-typical (NT)
wife are often described as like two insulated wires wrapped around each other, . . .
touching but not connecting.

8. Why do Asperger men and Neuro-typical women get married?
AS men are attracted to strong, intelligent, compassionate women who can handle the
social world for them. These same women are attracted to the unconventional nature and
boyish charm of AS men. They feel he will allow them their independence. It is only later
that they learn their AS partner is quite conservative. Instead of supporting her
independence the NT wife realizes that her AS husband is merely disinterested in her
interests. His attention is narrowly focused on his interests.

9. Are there women with Asperger Syndrome?
Yes and their lives are probably even more complex than their male counterparts. To some
extent, males with Asperger's are more accepted because their behavior is viewed as
extreme male thinking. But women with Asperger Syndrome are viewed as cold, uncaring,
and selfish. Many AS women never marry or they marry AS men.

10. What kind of parents are people with Asperger Syndrome?
We are just learning about this tragedy from adults coming forward to tell about being
raised by AS parents. So far these people are reporting that they have coped with severe
depression and self esteem problems because they lived with a parent who could not
nurture them or get to know who they really are. It is very debilitating to experience
emotional rejection daily as a child, even if your physical needs are provided for. This does
not mean the AS parent does not love their child. But the communication and relating
deficits confuse the child and can lead to the child feeling unloved.

11. Why is it so emotionally debilitating for NTs to live with these people?
When the person you love does not respond to your bids for affection, or attempts to
share your inner world, you come to doubt your perception of reality. Slowly your self-
esteem is eroded. You walk on eggshells wondering what abuse the AS parent or spouse
will dish out next. If your mate, child or parent has not yet been diagnosed, you do not
know that they have a developmental disability. So you keep trying to reach them or solve
the problem and often blame yourself. You find a way to cope and often this creates
severe depression or extreme resentment. Many NTs who have grown up with AS parents
report a lifetime of severe depression, "nervous breakdowns" and a string of broken
relationships because they came to believe that they had no worth. Remember it is the
child's experience that defines the parenting, not whether the AS parent loves their child.

12. What do you mean by walking on eggshells in an Asperger marriage?
Men with undiagnosed AS often feel as if their spouse is being ungrateful or "Bitchy" when
she complains he is uncaring or never listens to her. He knows what he thinks and how he
feels, so should she. He has no need to understand her so her complaints are bothersome
to him. He can come to be quite defensive when she asks for clarification or a little
sympathy. The defensiveness turns into verbal abuse (and sometimes physical abuse) as
the husband attempts to control the communication to suit his view of the world.

13. Is there a cure for Asperger Syndrome or for the marriage?
Asperger Syndrome is an incurable form of autism. The usual methods of psychotherapy
used to teach clients communication and interpersonal skills will not work with AS. The AS
client can master some simple behaviors to get them by in the world, but they will fall
short in the intimacy of marriage. In the marriage the NT spouse will need to adapt to the
handicap. She must learn to translate the language to make her needs and wants as
explicit as possible because her partner cannot read her non-verbal communication. She
must also look to others for the type of personal and spiritual connection she can never
have with her husband.

14. How can you have a marriage without connecting personally or spiritually?
Again it is a matter of quality. If you have many interests in common, such as music or
sports, you may enjoy the companionship of your AS spouse. However, the strain of
raising children who may have inherited AS from their parent, often puts an end to the
marriage. The NT spouse cannot handle the loneliness and abuse, and care for dependent
children as well. Often she is the one to finally call an end to the marriage. On the other hand, some NT spouses report that the marriage can be quite gratifying if their AS spouse acknowledges his limitations and works with his wife to create a kind of loving connection.

15. What can you expect if you divorce an AS man?
Unfortunately he will not understand why the woman wants a divorce and he is likely to be
quite angry about it. Not knowing how to handle his distress he may turn the energy into
revenge. Many high conflict divorces are the result of the negativity and obsessing of the
AS partner regarding the wrongdoing he perceives of his NT spouse. It is likely to be a
long, painful and expensive divorce where all suffer, including the children. Some men
with AS, however, just leave quietly and never remarry, because they cannot quite figure
out how to rebuild a life separately from their former spouse. Some NT former spouses
report that their ex-husband even still refers to her as his "wife" years after the divorce.

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Edited 11/5/2007 2:39 pm ET by notcaaty



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iVillage Member
Registered: 12-30-2007
Sun, 12-30-2007 - 11:41am

Hi there,

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-30-2007
Sun, 12-30-2007 - 11:23am

I understand the reference to Cassandra.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-30-2007
Sun, 12-30-2007 - 11:14am

Dear galen28,


I just read your post.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-18-2007
Sun, 11-18-2007 - 5:16pm

Hi there,


I hear you loud and clear! My husband and I have 2 grown sons who were diagnosed 4 years ago. One has Asperger syndrome and the other PDD-nos. My husband has recently agreed that he quite possibly has Asperger Syndrome also. I have known for a long time that he has had some issues because of his aloofness and stubbornness on some issues...but the big one for me (after 25 years of marriage) is how terribly alone I feel.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Sat, 11-03-2007 - 9:00pm

I just posted a hi-there/intro post at your yahoo group. Our current therapist has all the top initials after his name. We're both textbook AS & spouse and he hasn't even approached that possibility.

Since reading a book called Living Successfully with Screwed-up People, (before learning about AS) and putting some of it's advice to work in my life, I've been much wiser about how I conduct myself around DH & counselor. It's been helpful for me to re-find myself, under the layers of hurt, confusion and isolation that grew in layers on me, from living with AS-DH.

I've been practicing detaching during sessions and that's opened up a sort of window for them, exploring what might be DH's issues. Last session they explored ADD and ADHD symptoms, because DH has often said he couldn't relax, procrastinated, forgot things etc. I said exploring that was a good idea and (quietly and as subtly as possible) mentioned that some of Mel's symptoms fit the high-functioning, autism spectrum too. It went right past DH - showed no sign that I had even spoken. But the therapist paused, agreed, then jotted something down, but it was the end of the session. I wish you could have seen the therapist's face. I hope it wasn't my imagination, but I could swear I saw a light bulb turn on atop his head. PHD indead! ;o

We'll see next week if they get to AS or not. I know I'm not going to suggest it, or DH will get defensive and dig his heals in against it, (anything) if it's not first presented as DH or counselor's idea.

Give yourself a hug for me,
Sarah

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Sat, 11-03-2007 - 7:19pm

Hi again,
Good to hear from you. I signed off Cassandra figuring you'd get the AS connection, but it's not my regular name. It's so hard for other NT people to grasp any understanding of what you go thorough. Even professional counselors, if not familiar with AS will think you are just too needy at best. I'll try the link to your group, and check it out. See you there. You can get some support and information through FAAAS. They screen folks carefully before letting them participate, but it's a good place for spouses & family affected by AS.

Give yourself a hug for me!

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-03-2007
Sat, 11-03-2007 - 4:21pm

Oh my God! I don't know if I feel relived or am still a little shocked and upset with myself.. I just read your letter about being married to someone with Aspergers.. I really think that is what my husband and I are dealing with.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 10-25-2007 - 1:30pm

I'm reaching out - You are not alone, although no doubt it feels that way most of the time. There's not much support out there for the spouse of an Aspie. I'll chat with you and do what I can to support you through this board. Man you describe your before marriage self as the typical woman an AS man seeks, but can't fulfill.

When did you find out about your husband's condition- or rather when were you able to get anyone else to notice? Without help, If you've been able to maintain any semblance of a marriage, your husband is the typical funcioning, maybe even high functioning AS guy - publicly charming, etc. Is he an engineer, or similar profession? Since it's mostly a male condition, AS gives a whole new perspective to the overused expression "It's a guy thing" - just trying to interject a little humor - Only my God given sense of humor has gotten me through living with an AS spouse for 30 years, and raising 3 kids (didn't know it was AS until very recently).

When I found myself, more or less at the point you describe, I took baby steps out of it by scheduling personal indulgences once every two weeks, like a massage, or a manicure and pedicure. After some pampering of myself that way for awhile, I worked my way up to getting a trainer at the gym to kick start getting in strength and energy level and getting more serotonin in my system. Another thing that helped me develop a healthy perspective and maintain my self esteem was to keep reminding myself that none of his behaviors or lack of intimacy was personal - he would treat any other woman the same way.
It's great that you started a support group. I'm impressed. Maybe you could share how you went about that with me sometime.

If you haven't already found it, try reading "The Other Half of Asperger Syndrome: a guide to an Intimate Relationship with a partner who has Asperger Syndrome.".

Casandra

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-17-2007
Fri, 10-12-2007 - 9:13am

okay,

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-01-2007
Thu, 10-11-2007 - 10:54am

thanks for the welcome. We have been doing counseling for years, but up until recently we didn't know about Aspegers and even now, my husband is in denial that he has it. Living with someone with Aspegers Syndrome makes it very hard to have a healthy relationship with well defined boundaries. People with Aspergesr Syndrome have little if any capacity to feel or express empathy, or really understand their partners emotional needs because they just live in a different reality, with a different set of rules and expectations and its as if they speak a different language altogether.

While I am trying to work on my marriage, I need to learn how to focus on my needs and formulate goals. I was doing individual therapy to but the person I was seeing left the center and I wont have someone new for at least another week.

I guess I'm feeling pretty down so its hard for me to focus and motivate myself right now....




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Are you, or do you know anyone in a relationship with a man who has Aspergers Syndrome?





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