Anxiety in the Asperger’s/Autism Marriage: It Cuts Both Ways

couple having communication issuesIf you are what is commonly referred to as a “neurotypical” spouse of a person who is diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, you are probably accustomed to anxiety. I don’t mean to imply that you enjoy it, but I suspect you are accustomed to walking the line between your initial reaction to a conversation, for example, and the way you may come to sort it out afterward.

It usually falls to the neurotypical spouse to make these distinctions, because he or she is the person who has the capability of doing so. This derives from the differences between the brains of the partners.

You may know that Asperger’s (AS)/high-functioning autism (HFA) is a structural, neurological condition and not a mental illness. This is of great significance because there is always risk of shame around a psychiatric diagnosis. If it is clear to you and to your partner that this is not a mental illness, you will be able to manage it more readily. Secondly, you may realize that if you attribute intent to something your AS/HFA spouse said or did based on your assumptions about what you might have said or done in similar circumstances, you are winding down the wrong path.

This error of attribution, natural as it may feel at the time, is one of the sources of the anxiety you experience, but there is seldom intent to inflict pain in your life on the part of your AS/HFA spouse. There is a difference in the way your brains process information, and you are the one most capable of seeing and understanding these differences; you are neurotypical. But your spouse is not setting out to confound you, regardless of how frustrating conversational and situational conflicts may feel to you.

Educating yourself about AS/HFA is an excellent place to start. You can learn about the neurological differences. You can learn about the difficulties your spouse has faced his/her entire life in trying to figure out social protocols and nonverbal cues for meaning in interpersonal communication. You can begin to understand that there is nothing wrong with you, and that your expectations have been normal and natural; they simply haven’t been met because your spouse is unable to meet them. You can also learn means of expressing your thoughts that are less likely to cause confusion.

For example, if you bear in mind that nearly 70% of interpersonal communication is nonverbal, and that your AS/HFA spouse is very literal in his/her approach to communication, you can quickly see the limits. And even that is compromised by nonliteral forms of speech, such as metaphor, analogy, or figure of speech, all of which can be extremely difficult to discern and comprehend for a person on the autism spectrum.

Tony Attwood is an Australia-based clinical psychologist who has made the study of AS/HFA his life’s work. I recommend his works for anyone setting out on the path of understanding this diagnosis.

Now I’d like to return to the first point regarding your anxiety. It is important to acknowledge your anxiety and frustration so that you don’t fall into the trap of assigning blame where there is none, neither on your spouse’s part nor on your own. Understanding AS/HFA from a clinical standpoint is an excellent first step.

The second step I recommend is couples counseling with a psychotherapist who understands both the world of the individual with AS/HFA and the world of the spouse. Be mindful of this as you speak with potential counselors, because you don’t want to find yourself in a situation in which one side or the other is advocated and the remaining partner is expected to do all the adapting.

Finally, I would like to point out that in my clinical experience, nearly every individual I have met with AS/FHA experiences constant anxiety often coupled with depression, due to the complex demands of coping with a world that seems as inscrutable to them as the world of the person with AS/HFA may seem to be to you.

A final word of counsel: be kind to each other. Remember that bridges can be built between you and your spouse with the help of a talented counselor who understands what lies on both sides.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • granger

    August 21st, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    I honestly don’t think that I would be cut out for a relationship like this. It takes a very special person to walk that line all of the time and quite frankly I know that I would not have the patience to do that.

  • Samantha

    October 30th, 2016 at 10:16 AM

    I do not believe that anyone is “cut out” to deal with this. As with anything else in life, some of us educate ourselves and maybe learn to cope. I have spent 21 years with someone who is HFA with other personality disorder “add ons”. For over half that time, I believed him when he insisted the problem was me. It was my problem only because I was there. Still am. Learning about this has not helped me in the short term. All hope is gone. I feel like I’m too old to start over and so now am here with someone who will never, ever be able to relate to me in a satisfying way. I wish information about HFA had come to me 21 years ago. I would say to anyone young enough and with the resources to do so, get out now. It’s not going to get substantially better.

  • zazu

    December 15th, 2016 at 4:32 AM

    i don’t like when people make such general recommendations.
    If that doesn’t work for you, it may work for others.
    I personally think socially needy people are a hassle, overbearing and demanding.
    I understand people needs are different, and yours are different from mine, but what you’re saying just add to the stigma, it’s like a sighted person who spent a lifetime with someone blind and expecting them to see the beauty of flowers they are arranging and putting for them everyday.

  • Beth

    December 19th, 2016 at 12:35 AM

    Well, this Aspy person who’s a 2nd year law student would disagree with you guys. Do I have challenges? Yes. But my fiance and I deal with them. It does stress her out some, but it also comes with some wonderful benefits. Not everything about High Functioning Asperger’s is bad.

  • Autumn R

    January 18th, 2018 at 7:12 AM

    I am sorry for you and understand because I am in the same boat. :-( Good guys….just don’t know how to connect emotionally and therefore we feel alone and starved. But at this stage in my 50s where would I go? To recreate myself and start all over again would be epic.

  • Etta

    August 21st, 2014 at 2:39 PM

    that is a whole new learning curve if you are married to someone or in a committed relationship with someone with Aspergers or who is on the spectrum. this is a whole new set of responsibilities and coping skills that you must undertake in order to keep this typ of relationship viable especially when you are neurotypical and your spouse is not. not saying that this is not doable, because i am sure that there are many relationships out there like this which are very successful, but i am saying that it would be a totally different experience than any relationship that you have probably ever been in before.

  • Jayme

    August 22nd, 2014 at 3:42 AM

    The more that you are willing to educate yourself about this and what your significant other has lived with in the past, I think that you will be better suited to help him or her through those future challenges when they arise.

    If you really don’t know anything about being on the autism spectrum, you could be pretty shocked when certain situations arise and your partner exhibits behavior that you might think is a little out of the ordinary.

    Well that could be true for you but for him or her this could be their normal and you need to learn how to anticipate those things and cope.

  • Solomon

    September 9th, 2018 at 8:49 AM

    I was a Psychologist for 20 years. Unfortunately, my training never involved learning about Asperger’s. Now I find myself in a relationship with a women who has ASD and her son (also ASD). I can tell you that life is terrible with them. There is no family life. All their energy goes into being with others out in the world. For these two, home is for recharging the batteries, and I am the recharger. It is a lonely, depressing experience. And what galls me is when I read the nonsense that some Psychologists talk about – they have no idea what it is like to live with people of the spectrum. The textbook is great for the classroom, but woefully inadequate for the real world. I am now a firm believer in Neurotribes and accept that one can only have the best life with one’s own neurotribe. I realise this is a strong opinion, but it is borne of decades of clinical practice and decades of living outside my neurotribe. I hope this helps people to look in the right places for happiness.

  • Shannon

    September 9th, 2018 at 10:04 AM

    Wow! Thanks for posting. I understand every individual is just that – an individual. The dynamics of a relationship of two individuals even more complex….. especially with contributing factors of both NT folks and Hfa/Aspie folks.

  • Solomon

    September 9th, 2018 at 5:52 PM

    Shannon, I think your responses are idealistic and ill-informed. What I usually find is that NT’s want MORE life – more music, more song, more colour, more interaction, more interest…. MORE.. .. alternatively ASPIES want LESS…. they want routine, they want simple, they want predictable. ….. And it is all a matter of biology….they can’t handle the complexity and stimulation that NT’s thrive on. SO, an NT living is an aspie world is often a devestating experience. In fact, Prof Attwood, the world renowned ASD expert, has said that living with Aspies causes mental illness in NTs – the phrase Cassandra Complex has been mentioned… For the sake of your clients sanity I suggest you take off you rose colored glasses and see the reality of things..

  • Lynn

    October 21st, 2018 at 12:07 PM

    Solomon, thank you! It has to be said despite those who disagree. Those of us who are just learning need to hear your words. They are validating. Yes, there are individual differences but when you’ve lived a life without a diagnosis or any knowledge of what you’re dealing with – when you finally see where the pain comes from… it’s almost unbearable. Almost. No one is to blame but it doesn’t change the fact that I was drowning. Yes, I want MORE from my life but instead I got smaller. I worked hard to figure us out, to solve the problem. I was married to a nice guy, did anything I asked… but I always have to ask, even for the same needs to be met. There was no sustained attention to my needs despite being attentive to his. But then life got too much and he stopped doing what I asked. I was sick and he was needy. There have always been times where I wasn’t on his radar but then, I became invisible in my own house. I left because I was drowning… he can’t see the water. He loves me the best he can. He never in a million years would intentionally hurt me… but this does not diminish my pain. I gave it everything – years of researching ADHD and other things that could be causing our conflicts – until I realized there would be nothing left for myself. I read this analogy somewhere and it helped relieve any guilt: doesn’t matter if the fire was set intentional or by accident, you still need to get out of the burning building to save yourself.
    Solomon – thank you for your words. I’m 51, been married for 26 years and though at times I feel like I have nothing for myself, starting over when I feel empty is a very scary thing… there is nothing better than being alone and having space in my brain for myself. For my “MORE”.

  • Nina

    November 4th, 2018 at 9:12 AM

    Your comment about NTs wanting MORE from life and the AS who wants LESS is spot on. After 21 years of marriage to a AS, I’m exhausted and deflated. I’m so tired of being his mother, his therapist, his caregiver. I want MORE and I’m not asking for anything extraordinary, just normal things that others take for granted. I want someone to glance into my eyes from across the room and send a message of love to my soul. I want someone to hold my hand when we walk on the sidewalk. I want someone to whisper “I love you” in my ear, in the grocery store, in the pasta section, on a Tuesday, for no reason. I want someone’s eyes to light up when I come into the room. I want a simple birthday gift. I’m tired of the loneliness. I have no idea what it feels like to be connected to a partner in an emotional, psychic, spiritual way. I want that MORE than anything else in this world.

  • Bary T

    May 16th, 2019 at 8:05 AM

    Solomon, I am a woman on the Autism spectrum. I agree with you regarding the concept of neurotribes (although I do believe this is a spectrum and some people fall between the defined areas). I find communicating with others with ASD straightforward and easy. I find communicating with neurotypicals to be like two parallel lines that are not quite sequitor and don’t quite touch. If I had the option of living in a community populated by other HFA’s I would do it, 100%. I do not dislike NTs in any capacity, and I am currently in a relationship with one, however for the sake of everyone’s stress I think we are just too different not to have our own space. I think we can contribute to one another economically, scientifically, artistically, etc, but I do feel I would be happier and more successful working and socializing with mostly other Autists.

  • Sarah Swenson

    August 22nd, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    I agree with the comments from Granger, Etta, and Jayme. It takes patience, willingness to educate yourself (and openness in your partner to this education as well), and a strong, mutual desire to keep the relationship solid in order to move forward in an AS/HFA-NT marriage. For some, it is possible; for others, it is not. It depends on the individuals and the situation, as each marriage and its conditions are unique, as I am certain everyone knows.

  • Pressley

    August 22nd, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    There is still such a lack of understanding overall about autism that I am surprised to know that there are so many who have this who are actually able to hold down relationships. I am guessing that a lot of that has to do with just how profound this is for the person who has it but I am always glad to read things when you see that there are those who are still able to maintain some semblance of normalcy in their lives.

  • LaDonna

    August 23rd, 2014 at 5:28 AM

    Hopefully you would have known that this kind of anxiety was a possibility before signing on to marry this person, so what is getting so much worse now that you can’t deal with it? I am not sure that this would be about the autism but just the seeming ways that any marriage can break down in the face of loss of communication.

  • Padgett B.

    August 25th, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    Oh yeah this definitely would be a marriage that will take a whole lot of work, because how you think about things and process them will be absolutely one hundred percet different from that of your spouse.

  • lila

    August 28th, 2014 at 4:00 AM

    I agree that this can all be about how you view this (do you see it as a mental illness or an opportunity to learn something about an issue that you have not understood in the past?). Your spouse will know how you think about it too and that will probably have a huge part to do with how they tend to relate to you on a daily basis.

  • Jordy

    August 29th, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    This would be a huge leap of faith to get involved with a person with Aspergers.

    I am sure that there are different ranges of how one perosn or another is affected by it, but for me it just seems that there would be a whole lot of obstaacles that have to be conquered in addition to the regular relationship hurdles that we all have to live with.

  • Sarah Swenson

    August 30th, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    All the comments above support the idea that all intimate relationships are complicated, but the AS/NT relationship is even more so. To answer the point that LaDonna makes, however, I would suggest that it is most often not until after a couple is married that the traits of AS/HFA begin to emerge, especially in instances where there is no official diagnosis. It comes as a great surprise to the NT spouse, who more likely than not will assume she (for it is most often the wife who is the NT spouse) has done something wrong, or, worse, that there is something wrong with her. This is a painful and difficult situation. Counseling can be very helpful, particularly with a therapist who understands both the NT and the AS/HFA perspective.

  • Estelle

    December 21st, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    I believe my spouse has AS though he has not been diagnosed. He was able to “pretend” to be someone else until we got married (been married 10 years, 5 of which he was on deployment off & on). Slowly but surely over time things have gotten worse. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. There is no emotional connection , no intimacy, he takes everything I say wrong ! I can’t get any affection or empathy …. I come towards him & he is extremely uncomfortable. He absolutely does nothing social & has no friends. Plays video games incessantly (he does work FT). This is one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced. I would tell any woman if you discern this in your mate prior to marrying , be prepared for a lot of hurt feelings & loneliness.

  • Savvy

    August 5th, 2018 at 3:15 AM

    The words of your post could have come out of my mouth. I was so in love with my aspie yet he ended up turning on me saying I am self centred! No intimacy, empathy or affection. Everything was about him so total projection. Add to this his painful childhood (foster care) plus most women leaving him makes him very damaged. His radar was so attuned to any & all incoming missiles, I was literally walking on eggshells. Same as you he was wonderful in the beginning & seemed like the sweetest, kindest & intelligent man on the planet but slowly the real him emerged. I was in therapy but he made me feel so worthless I had to leave.

  • Laura B

    June 6th, 2016 at 6:06 PM

    You are so right. My husband didn’t get diagnosed until he was 38 years old after “slipping through the cracks” his whole life, being functional enough to seem “normal”, but having some psychological problems with anxiety and depression. His AS was difficult to diagnose because he had adapted in certain ways that made his AS less obvious. Now that he has been diagnosed, 13 years into our marriage, difficulties have become greater and what was once effortless is not so effortless anymore. Anyone reading about AS/NT relationships should always remember that no two individuals on the autism spectrum are the same, so it is dangerous to generalize. For example, sexual issues do not always involve the AS individual avoiding touch and intimacy. There are important differences from individual to individual.


    September 2nd, 2014 at 8:23 AM

    Hi. Very informative. It,s good that you mention that Asperger’s is a neurological condition as a lot of people do believe it to be a mental condition.

    Thank you for educating the masses.

  • Joe

    July 1st, 2015 at 6:52 PM

    Hi, I am the HFA person in the relationship and I am searching for more information out there myself. My wife and I have been married for three years and we’ve been together for five. I love her deeply. The stress surrounding my job and her being in school has been overwhelming and is taking a toll on our relationship. This article was very helpful to understand things from the NT side… :-)

    I just have one thing to say to Estelle, just be careful about assuming a person has a diagnosis without medical confirmation. While it’s possible he has Austism Spectrum Disorder (the DSM-V name for all Autism disorders including Asperger’s Syndrome), there may be other things such as PTSD or depression which might mirror some of the more non-social tendencies of ASD. I see he’s only recently been home; my wife was really not aware of my quirks until we started living together. My feeling is find an Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialist in your area and get him tested. There are a whole deal of criteria you have to meet for ASD (lack of eye contact, repetitive movements, anxiety/anger at a change in routine, sometimes a delay verbal communication when younger, intense interest in one or a narrow range of subjects). It’s more complicated, but I commend you for wanting to learn more.

    And to all of you, thank you for loving or having loved someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Many of us want the same things you want, but we also need space, and we also need much more patience and assistance in daily tasks. It’s tough especially for the High-Functioning and Asperger’s Syndrome side of the Spectrum, since we just come off as quirky. We are difficult to love sometimes, and I am only learning how my diagnosis feeds both the negatives and positives in our relationship. Thank you!

  • Shannon

    October 17th, 2017 at 10:31 AM

    Joe, I hope you still visit this site. I am in the beginning of a relationship with someone with Hfa. We hit it off just fine but when I look at research/articles on Hfa/NT relationships they are all so overwhelmingly discouraging. In addition, I was in a long marriage 19 yrs. with someone who had poor interpersonal skills due to ???? what one had called borderline personality disorder, with traits that, from one article, followed exactly what I should anticipate in an Hfa/NT relationship. I don’t know what to ask or say from here to you, but I guess I’m just looking for a peek of hope. This person has been through great trauma from abuse from his family and yet has survived and now has a desire to love and be loved. From the articles, writers make it sound impossible for a person with Hfa to do that intimately on an emotional level (much less on a physically intimate level). Am I foolish to think that someone will give me better hope of a good relationship? Those writers would think I’m nuts to ask you, an Hfa, to share a reflection on even this that I ask, implying that you are incapable of doing that. I work as a special needs teacher. I know “some” things about autism, but I have never looked up what it means to have a relationship with someone with Asperger’s. Indeed, I am a caretaker and I am “emotionally needy,” as some have put it. My language, communication skills, and executive function look much like an Aspie, too! Folks have a hard time following my conversations. So, I’m rambling, and I thank you for staying with me, and, unless I am blind, my new friend and I connect in a way that he has not been able to and in a way that I long for. He is kind, seems to genuinely care and love, and seems to be growing to his delight. His counselor told him that, yes, he is able to love others. I am cautious because I don’t want to hurt his life if it doesn’t pan out for us and these articles so discourage me that it never could. What gives!?

  • Elizabeth

    June 20th, 2018 at 4:51 AM

    Joe, thank you for the comment. I am a mom of HF young adult and your comment helped me understand from another perspective. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Lyn

    July 12th, 2015 at 6:34 PM

    There is a constant push to define ASD as “different” not “disabled”. Yet most advice contradicts this, with the NT person (parent, spouse, work colleague) expected to accommodate the “difference”. Limits of ability that are unalterable are a disability, & there needs to be more recognition of this for both ASD & NT people. If someone is “normal but different” then there is no need to constantly accommodate the other persons needs. That becomes enabling.

  • zazu

    December 15th, 2016 at 4:46 AM

    It’s not really this.
    I assure you from the POV of an ASD, it’s the other way around.
    NT person have lots of expectations about how the other should respond and behave, from the POV of an ASD, they are normal, heck, they don’t even notice something “wrong with them” till others start treating them differently and pointing fingers at them.
    So, it’s mainly the problem of the NT who is putting too much expectations about someone without being clear, verbal about them.

  • Keri K.

    July 12th, 2015 at 6:36 PM

    If you have never loved someone on the Autism spectrum then you don’t understand how special these people are. They have the ability to love deeply and establish a connection deeper than a lot but totally different and challenging. They are like a complicated jigsaw puzzle to the “neurotypical” person. They just speak a different language than most. Open your mind. We are all unique in our own ways. Who is to say we aren’t the odd ducks.

  • J.

    September 27th, 2015 at 3:06 AM

    I’m currently in a relationship with an autistic man, & I think that I myself may be high functioning autistic, but am close to being neurotypical. Right now our biggest problems s,tem from miscommunications to say the very least. My hurt feelings because of something harsh he says, my own reactions to the things he says, him wanting to completely shut down because when he tries to communicate with me it’s hard to get out the right words without being harsh… Him, as an adult, being expected to have a full time job and function in the world up to the judgements of everyone else, while truly walking that line of not being able to do so. This is one of the most difficult situations I’ve ever been faced with, but I do love him very much. I believe he loves me as well, very much. I really want to have this work out, & so many difficulties arise from it. human relationships are hard enough. And when you take on something like this, someone like this… I don’t know what to say. We do love each other. But autistic people can visciously lash out when fighting which is inevitable in a relationship. That’s just the beginning. It’s really hard. And it’s also hard to find support groups & therapists that are willing to take this kind of challenge or have experience with it. Not to mention neither one of us has the time outside of our schedules of work or have the organizational mind enough to pursue everything it takes to get all that done.. We really need caseworkers, however I’m not autistic enough to merit one, and he probably won’t go get one. I’m afraid we’re screwed trying to do this on our own. I guess if we just keep trying tthats something. I wish love really could heal everything. I hope it can.

  • Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC

    September 27th, 2015 at 3:14 PM

    Hello, J – thank you for sharing your story. I know it is challenging to unravel the aspects of communication that relate to whether there was an intent to be hurtful in a relationship such as yours. In my work with couples, I encourage the partners to have a discussion about this. Even using the conventional framework can be a place to start: “I would like you to know that when you say ______, I feel _____.” If you search the directory here at, you may find someone nearby who understands autism. It might be worth investigating as a way to get guidance and to alleviate your distress. I send you my best wishes.

  • Lyn

    September 27th, 2015 at 7:58 PM

    In reply to J.
    I know 4 adults who have been diagnosed, and another 8 who I suspect as being on or as you put it “may be high functioning autistic, but am close to being neurotypical” … including both my parents, and my sister-in-law. One couple I know the husband & his father have been diagnosed, the wife doesn’t believe in Autism, but recently a nephew, her mother & one of her brothers & one of her sisters were diagnosed (I believe she is too)… so yes it is complicated & it’s not an exact science seeing most diagnostic criteria can be changed or interpreted in different ways. That couple their marriage is working, it is quirky & on her behalf is very compliant to her husbands direction. Another couple I know have just broken up as the stress on the wife & the husbands refusal to acknowledge or address his ASD diagnosis has made it impossible for her. I think it basically comes down to a couple having clear agreement on goals, communication rules & decision making process- and in a relationship where at least one person has ASD that needs to be exceptionally clear.
    Have you seen or contacted any of these sites/organisations: (some are for people with ASD, others for family/partners)
    The Neurotypical Site
    Maxine Aston
    Aspergers other half
    Autism Speaks
    All the best !

  • Jen

    October 17th, 2016 at 1:42 AM

    Wow. So good to find this article. I recently ended my relationship of one year with my aspie boyfriend. When we first met, he came off as very emotionally intuitive and affectionate. Really, even still he is quite affectionate, but then again in addition to his ASD he is also diagnosed as hypersexual, so I guess it makes sense… Anyway, after the first few months of dating, things went from being incredible to being incredibly draining for me. I should mention that in this context, I’m neurotypical, but I struggle with generalized anxiety disorder when I don’t have my life in order.. I began to see a therapist, in hopes that I could “fix” myself, feeling as though I was not interacting properly with my boyfriend. He encouraged my therapy, but never sought his own. I realized that every time we would argue, it would boil down to him asking a plethora of questions about WHY I was behaving the way I was. My insecurities and anxieties perplexed him, and I was unable to crawl out of my despair without his emotional support and understanding. Well, after several months of therapy, and increasing arguments and miscommunication, I decided I needed to “escape”. I’ve moved back home, and honestly, I’m feeling a bit “shell-shocked”, being around my family who are all NT. It’s like I’ve been underwater for a year, having spent mostly all of my time with my aspie boyfriend, and now I am finally able to come up for air.

    Being an NT person with GAD is challenging as it is, but maintaining a healthy relationship with my ASD partner was just too much to handle.. I give so much credit to those who can transform themselves into ideal partners for their ASD loved ones, but I personally have come to terms with the fact that had I stayed with him longer, my anxiety may have ended me.

  • Diana

    December 29th, 2016 at 6:05 PM

    Please stop blaming spouses for not knowing who they married. Some people role play very well before marriage and then lose complete interest in their partner that they “love bombed” once married. Stop blaming. It is bad enough to have all this pain.

  • Lynn

    January 3rd, 2017 at 11:10 PM

    Right there with you, Diane.

  • Laura W

    March 15th, 2017 at 9:00 AM

    I married my ex husband in 1973. He has high functioning Asbergers never diagnosed. He refused any help, no counsceling, no recognizing anything wrong with him, everything was my fault. I was the typical NS trying to cope with all the problems it brings. and raising 5 children. The whole marriage i knew something was wrong, I was lonely and very embarrassed by his comments made to me in public. He was a payor and an engineer. I spent most of my time explaining his odd behaviors to parishioners. He was no pastor but a theologian. After 40 years I divorced him. The last 5 were spent begging for marriage counseling . Unheaded, and lectured that it wasn’t biblical and i was the problem. My 5 children blame me for the divorce and are not talking to me. It has been 4 years. It isn’t fair. Ihave been dealing with anxiety and depression for 30 years. Even tried suiside so it would all go away. Under care now and married to a wonderful caring man. 40 years was far to long to be with him. A lot of damage was done to my self worth. The hardest part now is none of my children think there is anything wrong with him, it is all me. They never had a relationship with him and now that I am gone, they spend time with him for the first time. I am glad that they know him, but it is hard that it comes at the expense of me.

  • K

    May 28th, 2017 at 12:14 PM

    Laura I am so sorry to hear of your 40 year marriage and the way it dissolved. Suppose the hardest part to read was after 5 children you reared, basically alone, they turned on you. Do you suppose he had any part in that? I f so you may have been married to a covert narcissist. I am intimately – by marriage – acqaited with HFA, my child has it, souse has a very mild form of it, but the extended souses’ relatives have huge flags of autism. HOwever I am more acquanited with a personality disorder called NPD, Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Your “Pastor” husband who said therapy was not “biblical enough” sounds very flaggy as a covert narcissist. His biggest giveaway was that he did not concede to help save a 40 year marriage, that is a long and honorable investment that he just pettily tossed aside. No loyalty or faith in you as a couple. That is a signal of NPD, or perhaps another cluster B personality disorder. I know HFA, there really are many autistics that although have social communication disorder, and intimacy failures, it does not mean that they cannot or refuse to bond or attach with others. Sounds to me like what you married was a personality disordered individual who may have had a very mild spectrum. His hurts sound intentional, that is the key difference. I hope you are healing now.

  • Shannon

    September 9th, 2018 at 10:01 AM

    Been there, done that. I so understand your pain especially through the impact on your relationship with your children… i’m being there now. an Aspie/NT relationship that has been looming on my horizon for almost 2 yrs now kind of scares me because the dynamics of it so parallel what i’ve already had in a marriage of near 20 yrs with a BPD or narcisstic spouse. Much pain and after of destruction, hard to move forward and trust and/or even invest in the challenges of Hfa/NT relationship/marriage. It all sounds so good at face value but I wonder what the day-to-day will look like.

  • Laura

    May 28th, 2017 at 3:47 PM

    Hi K,
    This is the first time anyone has understood my pain. The kids are 40,38,36,35,and 34. They all take their dads side He is now connecting to them and I left the state because the pain was too much. He NEVER taught them to honor me in all the years I raised them. I had 4 boys and they look up to their dad. He wll never remarry. I will be the bad guy for years. It really hurts.

  • J

    August 10th, 2018 at 5:01 PM

    These posts are so disappointing. I’m an AS partner of an NT female. I love her and I do things to show her constantly. I try to practice theory of mind and she just rejects me. I’m able to tell THAT she’s upset and be supportive. But I can’t always tell WHAT she’s upset about. I ask. She doesn’t always tell me honestly. And it’s somehow my fault that I didn’t magically figure it out.
    She yells at me, gets angry, tells me everything is all my fault, etc. She’s allowed to get completely emotional, irrational, irate, feel however she feels and do whatever she does, and then get support from all the other frustrated ladies out there, making it all my fault. I draw boundaries so that she doesn’t get to yell at me and make everything my fault, she tells me that I’m just in denial and making everything HER fault. It’s complete nonsense and really, really hurtful. And there’s no escaping a feeling of being ganged up when she gets “support” from her friends.
    I’ve never been in a relationship with someone with AS. I know it’s frustrating. But it’s not the only thing out there. There are thousands of diagnoses of all sorts, all of which have symptoms and behaviors, all of which are unusual, often maladaptive and difficult to work with. If the symptoms weren’t unusual or concerning in some way the diagnosis wouldn’t require a diagnosis.
    AS just means I process information differently. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. It doesn’t mean it’s what’s right for another person in a relationship. Nobody has to accept things about other people that they don’t like. But it’s literally 99% negative, saying RUN AWAY. And despite me reading everything I can, getting professional help, accepting responsibility for anything and everything and trying my darndest to show her that I love her, any progress I make is drowned out and negated by the OVERWHELMING negativity and sense of DOOM cultivated on nearly every thread about NT/AS relationships that I’ve come across.
    I’m sure it feels horrible to feel unloved. I’ve felt that way in previous relationships. But it feels really bad to feel unlovable because I process information differently and HATED by the person you ACTUALLY LOVE all because of how my brain is built.

  • Shannon

    August 13th, 2018 at 10:14 AM

    Hi J! Thanks so much for writing and sharing a deep place in you! Yes; these threads are almost all so overwhelming. You sound like a great guy giving it all you got. Keep going and maybe this one isn’t the right one for you. I, personally, wouldn’t put up with the yelling. In any case, trust that you are very loveable and I hope one day someone will really appreciate that and give open their heart and mind to love you with all they got, too!

  • Solomon

    September 9th, 2018 at 8:46 PM

    J, it ain’t going to work. Do yourself a favor and get out of the relationship. Somehow, we are conditioned to MAKE relationships work, and the Psychology people prey on that. Usually, Psychologists are doing what makes them feel better and don’t realize they are doing “feel good” harm. I think we try way too hard. It’s not just ok to say “enough” and move on, it’s actually very healthy. Life is too short to make square pegs try to fit into round holes. I know I’ve said how difficult it is for NT’s in AS relationships. But I am not saying that Aspies are bad people – you sound like a great guy who is investing in a poor asset. As far as relationships are concerned, I think that for NT’s, Aspies are best left as occasional friends, not life partners. I think that is for a number of reasons, but one of them is that without knowing it ASPIES want/need NT’s to compensate for them. So, in my situation, my AS partner needs me to soothe her, to provide optimism, to allay anxiety, to help her with empathy, to help her understand others ……. you get it? i feel more like a Psychologist in this relationship than I do a partner.. Actually, I feel more like a prisoner because if she doesn’t get this attention/management she has a melt down. So, my suggestion is that you find what makes YOU happy and stick to that. All the best

  • LT

    January 10th, 2019 at 9:52 AM

    Hi to all, I am a disabled military veteran (UK) & have been diagnosed with AS/HFA – nearly 3 years ago now – I assumed I had PTSD, which I do also have, but also OCD.
    The AS/HFA diagnosis does explain heck of a lot that has happened to me in my life since I was a child, how I view this planet you “normal” humans live on, lack of body language knowledge & much more. That said after my diagnosis I & my long suffering wife were relieved as I wasn’t “doing it” on purpose but now after a few more years the real fact that yet again I have something else wrong with me that cannot be cured is affecting me very badly.
    Had the military known when I joined back in the early 1980’s I wouldn’t ever have been allowed to join in the first place but truth be told I really enjoyed the discipline, the repetition – I was an engineer – BUT why were there all these other guys in my bedroom ? That part of it drove me mad but I adapted, sort of !
    Anyway, my wife suffers as much as I do unfortunately, she is a Saint & desereves to be commended for all she has put up with yet I do go on vacations as much as we can, I prefer being away in fact as it seems I stress less though the actual part of leaving the house whilst doing the 50 zillion lock up checks drives even me mad !
    AS/HFA isnt great to have TBH, we see the World in a very different way to you “norms” ! I analyse everything constatntly, my mind is going nuts 24/7 subconsciously working stuff out that TBH I dont even want to think about & once awake in the middle of the night….. forget about going back to sleep & even my huge amounts of pain Meds for my physical disabilities dont help !
    I once said at an AS/HFA post diagnostic group (yep what a contradiction in terms – autistic groups getting together for a chat – Ha !) that maybe just maybe AS/HFA people were in fact human kinds next leap upwards but we still didnt know it, who knows ?
    Perfect military fighter though, one that has no empathy ! Or so you think, I am haunted by the ghosts of my past as are many yet I dont know what they want or need ?
    PS – yep I am getting therapy so dont worry !
    If you are the spouse or long term partner of one of us AS/HFA “people” then Thank You for trying & I hope it works out for you.
    My wife is Irish so arguements dont usually go my way haha ! Plus she now has an EU passport so I have to behave & tow the line, not easy but it does concentrate the mind !

  • Amara

    January 21st, 2019 at 12:34 PM

    I fall into the trap of believing my husband is normal and that he’s done something because he’s crazy. Reading your article brought me back to balance because I forget how hard it is for him to communicate and be around people. I get frustrated with his behavior, I want him to ‘understand’ and to know what to do. Many times he asks for clarification and I get angry. The good side is that he is the kindest, most loving person I’ve ever met and I know that he’s incapable of dishonesty or meanness. He does everything for me, I just long for a normal conversation sometimes.

  • LT

    January 22nd, 2019 at 1:28 AM

    Hi Amara, thank you for your post & thanks too for sticking by your husband, not easy in “normal” relationships but with all this going on….. not easy at all !
    What is “normal” anyway ? Who knows ! I was just yesterday talking with a counsellor re my Aspergers & she was trying to explain all that AS/HFA sufferers could bring to society etc & then she bothered to check out my “history” & my Military Service etc, she paused, apologised & took another tack as we say. It would have been useful if she had bothered to read my Notes before hand but I think with “brexit” our NHS – National Health Service – is on the way out as funding is a serious issue now.
    Trouble is she has now lost my trust so I need a new counsellor & that means another long wait !
    Kindness ? I am fiercly loyal & expect others to be too, doesnt always work out like that but Im not sure how kind I am (my wife says I am) I try to be but I often wonder is it “learnt behaviour” ?
    BUT when you think about it just about everything we ALL do in life is “learnt behaviour” anyway !
    Fight or Flight is instinct as is hunger & fear etc BUT everything else we all “learn” to do & I think sometimes AS/HFA sufferers either learn to do something better or not as good as “normal” people & thats another way we stick out amongst normal people, maybe, just a thought.
    Please remember you are not alone & we really do appreciate ALL you do for us in our relationships even if we dont tell you every day, we should but I have tried that too, drove my wife mad as it came across as thanking her for absolutely everything she did for me about a million times, then I worried about upsetting her, then kept asking about that, then that made her mad so that affected me & I kept going on about that & then she got a Migraine so I blamed myself & kept on & on about that too asking if she was any better & could I do anything etc so that was a good day !
    Thanks again,

  • CS

    September 3rd, 2019 at 1:48 AM

    I have done a lot of research on Autism in a 3.5 year relationship with my undiagnosed hfa boyfriend. And I have spent much of that time thinking that what I was experiencing was not emotional abuse because my partner does not pick up on social cues, Iives with anxiety caused by stress from the outside world, etc… and I’ve been to counseling, we’ve been to counseling (but stopped because he is too busy working at his primary interest that is also his job). He does make changes in behavior, but only when he thinks he’s in trouble and as soon as the heat is off, things go back to the way they were. He is rude, selfish, critical of most things I say and do, gaslights me on a regular basis, ignores me for months at a time, then blames it on me. And I’m not blaming all of this on autism. We both come from backgrounds of emotional abuse by our parents. But I’m unable to accept that this is not identified as emotional abuse by the psychological community just because he has autism. Emotional abuse and neglect, manipulation, and gaslighting are just that, no matter what. He may not fully intend harm, but that does not change what it is. That’s the true definition of gaslighting: telling me that what I’ve experienced is not real because the other person is unable to accept what is actually taking place. I do believe because of his Autism I have chosen to give him a pass for this behavior when I should have not done so. Maybe there are better women and men than me out there, but I’m on my way out of this relationship. I’m taking my time, because although he has not physically harmed me yet, I fear he will do so when I tell him I’m leaving. If that’s not classic cycle of violence, then I don’t know what else it can be. Thank you for providing a space for comment. Writing this helped me gain some clarity: it’s time to get out.

  • laura

    September 3rd, 2019 at 1:12 PM

    I was married for 40 years to a man with Asbergers. No violence , that would take feelings. He had none. No love, no time just self absorbed. we had 5 kids and he would take his vacation and bicycle the coast of California not understanding why I was angry he didn’t spend it with his kids. I get what you are going thru. When I told him I was leaving, he was more upset about a failure than losing me. Good riddance

  • alice

    February 1st, 2020 at 10:43 AM

    so many wise reflections to ponder on: my aspie is a lovely man and i am well educated both in the context of my profession as well as personally. living with an aspie is not for the faint hearted… i have never been so lonely as in my marriage… knowing is not the same as feeling, understanding is not the same as connecting… i love him, i hate him… if had known then what i know now i would have made different choices… as would have he…

  • Emily

    November 27th, 2022 at 12:10 PM

    Zazu, if you dislike human interaction so much, why are you dating in the first place?

  • Keb

    July 6th, 2023 at 4:20 PM

    They want the characteristics they see in you, but when it gets real, they can’t meet your expectations

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