Is It Still Gaslighting If My Partner Has Asperger’s?

Young couple sitting in coffee shop in disagreementAuthor’s note: It is always a challenge to choose genders when writing about neurodiverse couples. Here I use the example of an autistic man and a neurotypical woman. I don’t mean to imply there are no cases in which this is reversed. It’s just that at this time, men are diagnosed at a 4:1 ratio to women, and in my practice, it is the majority of men who are the autistic partners. This could reflect the higher frequency of autism among men, or it could mean more couples like this present for counseling than couples in which the autistic partner is female. It is also important to note that individuals on the spectrum can be susceptible to gaslighting from others, and I will address this in a separate article.

In my work with neurodiverse couples in which one partner is autistic, one of the words I hear most often is “gaslighting.” Here’s an example:

“It would be one thing if we just fought like other couples who eventually make up. But that’s not how it is with us. Instead, we argue about something, and he tells me I’m being irrational. Or childish. Or critical. Then he shuts down. Often, he storms out of the room. If I try to bring it up later, he tells me I’m imagining things, that he didn’t say that, or if he did say it, he didn’t mean it the way I took it. He says I’m being too sensitive. And he shuts down again. I’m left feeling as if I’ll explode with frustration. I’m furious. And I have nowhere to go with it. I start to wonder if he’s right about me. I don’t know what to believe anymore. Is this gaslighting?”

Gaslighting Defined

In brief, gaslighting is a term that derives from the 1944 movie called Gaslight in which a husband successfully manipulates his wife into doubting her own reality. The husband in the story has a dark secret which is at the root of everything he says and does to his wife. To him, she is not a person with her own interior life. She is a pawn in his selfish game, which until the end he plays shrewdly enough to cause her to doubt her own version of reality.

“Instead, we argue about something, and he tells me I’m being irrational. Or childish. Or critical. Then he shuts down. Often, he storms out of the room. If I try to bring it up later, he tells me I’m imagining things, that he didn’t say that, or if he did say it, he didn’t mean it the way I took it.”

In reference to the flickering gaslights in the story, this effect has become known as gaslighting: intentionally treating a person in such a way as to cause confusion and cognitive dissonance, which eventually lead to collapse into self-doubt.

Of note is that at the heart of the husband’s motivation is a desire for riches, symbolized by jewels. This part of the story is often overlooked, but it is worth consideration when we are talking about autistic behavior.

Questioning Reality in Neurodiverse Relationships

First, let’s return to the comments of the neurotypical partner I quoted above. One way to view her statement is in terms of gaslighting, just as it is laid out in the movie.

In this model, time after time, incident after incident, she is cajoled into questioning what her own eyes, ears, and heart are telling her. Finally, she gives up. She begins to believe the mirror her partner holds up to her reflects an accurate representation of who she is. In order to believe that, she has been forced to discount any impulse of her own that contradicts such an image. She collapses into self-doubt. His manipulation has succeeded. Does this make him right? His smugness suggests that he believes so. He feels clever. He has won.

What would motivate someone to treat another person this way? Such manipulation may be observable in certain personality disorders, such as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder (BPD). In short, it is not healthy to intentionally set out to dominate someone else by negating that person’s reality. Such individuals leave a trail of emotional wreckage in the lives of others. Shelves full of books and countless hours of therapy are devoted to helping those victimized by such manipulators.

Looking Beyond the Behavior: Self-Protection

Behind the behavior of the personality disordered, there is an unconscious drive to protect that which feels threatened, which is usually the person’s self-worth. In twisted logic, anything that might compromise such fragile emotional integrity must be extinguished at all costs before it can extinguish the very life of the manipulator. This may be felt as desperation.

As a result, manipulation can be rationalized. It may not be viewed as a choice but rather as a necessity for survival. Incidentally, there is no respect for someone who can be manipulated, which makes further mistreatment easier and may even be viewed as what the person deserves.

But this is not the motivation of someone with autism.

The Tragic Dance of the Neurodiverse Couple

The jewels an autistic person guards could best be described as personal integration and a sense of security in who he is. Threats may come from feeling overwhelmed emotionally in the face of what seems like unmanageable ambiguity and uncertainty, which often lead to untenably high anxiety. Reducing that anxiety, consciously or not, is the most likely driver for behavior that appears to be gaslighting in someone with Asperger’s.

Reducing that anxiety, consciously or not, is the most likely driver for behavior that appears to be gaslighting in someone with Asperger’s.

Often, this person is oblivious to the harmful effects of his behavior and doubts the validity of someone’s observation that it might be gaslighting. The fact is that I have never met an autistic person whose conscious intent is to manipulate his partner.

But the key phrase is “conscious intent.” Because even though a person with Asperger’s may not mean to manipulate (gaslight) his partner, her actual experience is the same as it would be if intent were there.

In short, we have a couple in which one partner feels as if he is fighting for survival and another partner who feels as if she is fighting for survival, and in a two-way charge, one person’s means of doing so obliterates the reality of the other. It is what I call the tragic dance of the neurodiverse couple.

Addressing the Tragic Dance in Couples Counseling

The autistic person can learn in counseling that his behavior has the effect of invalidating his partner’s emotional life. He can come to understand that even though he does not intend to inflict such pain, the effect is real. Her dismayed and perhaps argumentative behavior is how a neurotypical person might justifiably respond to what feels like manipulative behavior from someone else. She is not trying to criticize him. She is trying to express her pain.

More often than not, this realization is met with deep remorse and often guilt. In time, he can learn to understand his own way of being in the world without judging himself harshly as being wrong or defective, because that is not the correct metric. Emotional support for him is key to his growth in this area.

The neurotypical partner can learn, first and foremost, that her response to feeling manipulated is normal. Her pain and confusion are normal. They are valid. She must be allowed to acknowledge and heal her wounds, because it doesn’t matter whether she was stabbed intentionally or inadvertently: she is still bleeding.

The second step, though, is to begin to understand that her autistic partner is not trying to hurt her; instead, what she experiences as manipulation is his way of trying to reduce omnipresent anxiety, which usually derives from a lifelong experience of not quite getting things right when it comes to understanding someone else’s emotions. She needs emotional support in order to move forward. At the same time, she also has to come to terms with the fact that her partner’s way of offering this support may not align with her idea of what that support must look like.

The way to view communication in a neurodiverse couple, or any couple, is in terms of its effectiveness. This is the only metric that matters. It’s not a matter of who is right or who is wrong. The goal of communication is mutual understanding. In order to improve communication skills and strategies, recognizing differences with an effort to respect them without judgment becomes the foundation for growth in the relationship.

When I work with couples, we concentrate on slowing down conversational speed, considering linguistics and the formal logic of argument, and identifying the emotional subtext and context inherent in communication. It takes time. It takes practice. It is not always successful. When it is, it can be described as a process of two steps forward and one step back as two parallel lives learn to build bridges between two lines that will never completely merge.

Learning to trust deeply after years of being hurt, having the faith that being vulnerable one more time might be worth the risk, accepting that one’s interpretation of another’s behavior may not be the same as that person’s intent: these are the challenges.

It can’t be gaslighting without the intent to manipulate. Regardless, it can feel like gaslighting. Education about neurodiversity, skilled counseling, and communication in renewed mutual respect create the tools for interrupting this revolving door.


Gaslight (1944). (n.d.). Retrieved from

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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.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Jsnnette k.

    Jsnnette k.

    March 11th, 2019 at 8:37 AM

    I found your discussion on neurodiverse and neurotypical partners very relevant. As a sibling of a brother on the spectrum I witnessed the tragic demise of my brothers marriage as he and his partner aged . Aging was extremely hard on their marriage .

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    March 11th, 2019 at 10:08 AM

    I’m glad you found this helpful. Aging can be very difficult in a neurodiverse marriage for many reasons. I send warm regards to you.

  • Edna


    January 8th, 2020 at 9:07 AM

    Why is aging harder on a neurodiverse couple? My husband is an Aspie and he was finally diagnosed 2 years ago. It has been a struggle, to say the least; however, we are seeing a therapist and that does help.

  • Lisa M.

    Lisa M.

    March 13th, 2019 at 8:53 PM

    Very good and enlightening article

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    March 19th, 2019 at 7:18 AM

    Thank you, Lisa. I’m glad you found it supportive. All the best to you.

  • DJW


    May 5th, 2019 at 7:28 AM

    As a wife of a yet undiagnosed person living with what I believe is Aspergers, it’s a double whammy ; not only is he the one who causes the hurt, even if he sees it, he is unable to give any comfort at all. It’s a lonely place to be – 31yrs on, my options are still open for me….

  • KTK


    May 21st, 2019 at 8:20 PM

    I, too, found this quite helpful. It doesn’t help to suspect or accuse my companion of gaslighting if he is unaware he’s doing it. I had already noticed he does the same thing to himself. When he recounts a story of a situation in which he felt judged or uncomfortable, he rewrites it to cast himself in a better light. His distressful experiences don’t seem to imprint as clearly as do mine, so he’s forgotten the many times he’s been inconsiderate, rude, or deliberately (in the moment) hurtful. I’m trying to forgive, but can’t forget.

  • Katherine U.

    Katherine U.

    May 27th, 2019 at 5:11 AM

    I am a psychotherapist with Asperger’s and I felt this article was a bit one-sided. I noted that the autistic person can learn how their behavior is hurtful and it is “normal” for people to respond in an argumentative way, while the NT can learn her behavior is normal. Personally, I have had my experience discredited by NT men (as well as perhaps the general population growing up), and it has really caused me to struggle with my ability to self validate. I don’t know if you have worked with couples where it is the autistic person’s perspective being missed, perhaps you need to amend this article to include those examples. I’m always a little weary when NTs try to write about people on the spectrum. It’s a little like a man writing about women’s issues, a straight person writing about the LBGT+ community, or a Caucasian person describing the strife of the African person. There are plenty of therapists, researchers, and writers on the spectrum. With respect, it would be more appropriate if you let us write for ourselves. We are a minority but we are quite capable and don’t need a NT to speak for us.

  • Elaina


    June 8th, 2019 at 12:10 AM

    Katherine, the focus of the article is not the Asperger person but his/her neurotypical partner. So please let the partner’s side to be listened to. There are plenty of websites and articles to support autistic people and not enough to support NTs who are stuck and gaslit by AS partners. Please, make your comments and observations on AS platform and let us NTs have peace and understanding here. Thank you.

  • Katherine U

    Katherine U

    August 10th, 2019 at 6:08 AM

    “Please, make your comments and observations on AS platform and let us NTs have peace and understanding here.”
    Do you really think it’s appropriate (or even legal) to ask a certain group of people to stay out of a public area? I don’t know you, but I find that quite shocking.

  • R. D.

    R. D.

    November 12th, 2019 at 12:07 PM

    What I once thought was satire aimed at the overuse of the AT/NT Binary, has revealed itself to have a much more sinister bite to it than I originally thought. It reinforces the misconception that the ‘PROBLEM’ in these relationships is having developed feelings for a spouse who was diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum. You have amateurs diagnosing jaded, unsophisticated and antisocial people as “undiagnosed Autism” rather than simply accepting that there are people unhappy and are 100% willing to make everyone around them unhappy too. That, in turn, encourages people to lend weight to the stigma of the “Autism” label, making out living, breathing, FEELING human beings – with a full range of difficult-to-express (for them) emotions – to be some kind of wretched, inhuman, sinister entities.

    What I think Katherine is expressing here, is that there *IS* such a thing as explaining a problem in a two-way relationship without taking *EITHER* side, that’s basic sense in ethical journalism. There is a shortage of articles that ask both parties to own their damage, and a MASS MULTITUDE of articles that try and say that one side is being haplessly victimized by a demonic tyrant (based on Gender, or Diagnosis, or Ethnicity, etc.)

    It’s your site, you can exercise your First Amendment to your heart’s content, so long as your webhost is okay with what you post, I’m not going to try and play Thought Police. I *WILL* advise that your readers are encouraged to think of relationships as worlds colliding (in equal ways positive and, yes, negative), and that BOTH parties need to be equally willing to compromise and care for one another in order to make it work, else it is doomed to fail and they will both cause significant harm to one another in the meantime.

    For what it’s worth, kudos on having the courage to stand up for your beliefs, be your opinions popular or unpopular. Human opinions are like grains of sand on an endless Beach, but it’s up to each individual to determine what brings THEIR OWN life meaning and substance, and I’m all for people doing the best they can with what they have.

  • Carolyn


    March 25th, 2020 at 3:09 AM

    I so agree. Please let us NTs find the support where we can. Life is hard enough living with someone who hurts without apparently understanding what he is doing – although, he does not do this to anyone else, only me. I am a coach, empath and HSP. I know how to communicate. Have studied, taught and written about assertive and compassionate communication. I no longer argue. I speak clearly on subjects that won’t cause anxiety. And still he loses it over ‘nothing’. Sometimes I just can’t cope. Please allow us a space to find some refuge when emotions become overwhelming.

  • Brenda


    November 25th, 2019 at 2:22 PM

    This article is specific to how a person with autism in a marriage effects the neuro spouse. There are plenty of articles written about your situation. An autistic never could write this article because they cannot read the emotions of their spouse.

  • R. D.

    R. D.

    November 26th, 2019 at 5:23 AM

    If there’s one thing this “AS/NT” binary has confused, it’s the fact that personality is a series of sliding scales: nature and nature, morality, worldview, opinions, actions and even the goals one sets for themselves. There is no idyllic and Utopia-esque human subspecies versus a more insidious and unworthy human subspecies; there are differing individuals across the globe, no two identical, each trying to find their place in life.

    When addressing marital issues, the focus should be how human beings should treat other human beings, not based on fictitious binaries that try and split all of mankind into two neatly cut squares and trying to force everyone (at least in one’s own kind and one’s message) into one of those two conveniently *symmetrical* packages.

    Not everyone with Depression cuts. Not everyone with Anxiety is a shut-in. Not everyone with a dash of Schizophrenia is running through the streets screaming and being chased by imaginary demons. Yet you talk as if every married person who got diagnosed with this new hotword “Autism” brings misery and sadness into a relationship.

    I disagree with saying “there are plenty of articles defending-”

    No. There are plenty of articles ready to place all of the fault of any miscommunication or tension in a relationship on a single person based on Skin Color, Religious Views, Diagnosis, Sexual Preference and/or Identity, etc.; What there actually IS a shortage of, is articles talking about successful marriages when one party has been diagnosed (by a qualified professional) as being in the Spectrum, because they do exist.

    I met someone online who thinks every obnoxious person who lives on her block, who she butts heads with at the grocery store, who serve her a meal she didn’t order at a restaurant, is “obviously” on the Autism Spectrum. That everyone who is kind, gentle, warm and loving is “Neurotypical”. That kind of thinking is toxic, especially when people feel a need to broadcast these views and draw in others who lack the education or exposure to resist falling into the same trap of demonizing individuals with an AS diagnosis.

    I don’t like to see “Neurotypical” demonized either. In fact, there is so much one-sided, polarizing BS on “NT vs AS”, I wish nobody had popularized yet ANOTHER divisive label with which to divide and confuse people with.

    I would’ve rather read an article on how neuro-different relationships pose challenges for BOTH sides, than see one side cast in warm fuzzy light, and the other with…. Well, something scarier.

  • Ana


    December 27th, 2019 at 2:06 AM

    thank you

  • Rather


    February 24th, 2020 at 6:00 PM

    She is writing from the NT perspective and answering her question about gaslighting.

  • Beth


    June 9th, 2019 at 9:58 PM

    This is the closest anyone has come to describing or understanding the dynamics in my 25-year marriage, despite many years of individual and couples counseling. I think we may both be aspie.

  • Tammy L

    Tammy L

    June 20th, 2019 at 9:46 AM

    It appears Katherine U has just validated what neurotypicals have been expressing about people on the spectrum. Her own mindblindness and inability to empathize was a huge validation for what neurotypicals experience when dealing with people on the Autistic Spectrum. Katherine’s comments support that even education in the field of psychotherapy cannot overcome the mindblindness, lack of empathy and the need to be right. She does not have a clue what a neurotypical spouse goes through on a daily basis. She is unable to grasp the dynamic or empathize due to the nature of her own Autism if she were able to, she would not have expressed the unempathetic comments that she did.

  • Katherine U

    Katherine U

    August 10th, 2019 at 5:47 AM

    The comments about “mindblindness” are ugly stereotypes. Today people talk about a “double empathy problem” meaning that it’s not autistics who are just missing the NT perspective but NTs who are missing the autistic perspective. Because I am expressing my views which challenge this article does not mean I don’t understand the perspective of partners who feel missed by their other half. To say that I must have “mindblindness” because I’m autistic and all my education can’t change that is simply prejudice.

    Another user suggested I shouldn’t comment on articles meant for Nts. This is like saying we should have separate water fountains. This isn’t someone’s personal right wing blog that I have decided to comment on, this is a public mental health web site that publishes articles for all.

    I don’t want to argue or set myself up for being insulted further, I would just like for people to consider that it may not be as simple as one perspective is right and the other is wrong.

    My complaint about this article is that it claims autistic partners (who have a different perspective to their NT partners) are “gaslighting” their partners. It worries me that people (especially clinicians) still think like this. It’s not helpful for either partner actually. In my opinion, the article misuses the term “gaslighting”. Gaslighting is something done to purposefully mislead others, but the author writes that when the autistic partner realizes they are doing this (implying it wasn’t on purpose) they have “remorse and guilt.” A healthy relationship is one where both people make an effort to understand how the other works. I think we are all on the honour system. Part of that means trying our best to be good to each other, but also not using unfair words to describe the actions of others, and being mindful of what might be prejudice.

  • Athena


    September 30th, 2019 at 1:12 PM

    The article says the exact opposite of what you think. The NT wife wants to know if she is being gas-lighted and, after much explanation, the answer is, no, because gas-lighting is something that someone does intentionally and with a harmful intent. I was very relieved to read the article because I have struggled with just this issue and used the same expression not even knowing that it was a regular issue for NTs in a relationship with an AS. So now I know it’s not gas-lighting and he’s not a psychopath and he doesn’t hate me and, now that I am emotionally validated and soothed, I can put my newly calmed energies into being supportive and understanding. Honestly, I don’t mean this to be upsetting, but I really needed the NT perspective and was just overloaded with guilt when you added your comments.

  • Pea


    January 12th, 2020 at 8:49 AM

    Just right

  • Katherine U

    Katherine U

    August 10th, 2019 at 1:07 PM

    I felt, in order to be fair, I needed to acknowledge that I got it wrong about the author claiming that Autistics gaslight their partners. I responded to your comment before re-reading the article (which I originally read months ago) She is really clear that there is no intent and I accept that.

    I only came back to this page because I’m doing a study on Neurodiversity and how people (mainly clinicians) view people with a-typical neurologies. I can hear that you have strong feelings about autistic people. I am sad that you seem to have drawn a lot of conclusions about what I personally know and don’t know and my levels of empathy based on a single critique of an article.

    I experienced your comments as being unempathic to my perspective, but it didn’t occur to me that you would lack the ability to empathize at all.

  • CS


    September 3rd, 2019 at 3:20 AM

    As an NT in a relationship with an un-diagnosed hfa boyfriend, I find this discussion confounding. Honestly, I have no agenda here, I am speaking from the heart. I have spent years researching, listening to YouTube vids, and reading to educate myself about Autism, so I can support my boyfriend and have a happy relationship. I have made changes, compromised, sympathized and supported him through countless personal and professional challenges. And been delighted by his perspective and learned so much from him. He has also supported and loved me and I believe would do whatever he could to make me happy. He is a brilliant musician who teaches young kids and turns them into highly talented players, who find professional work in their field and are accepted to some of the best graduate music programs in the country. I understand that he processes the world differently than I do and have made every effort to make our home a place where he can feel safe. He deals with an immense amount of hurt and confusion in his daily interactions, much of which I think would be helped by an official diagnosis, but that’s another post entirely. And I listen to all of it, I do so gladly (most of the time) because I want to be a good partner.
    He has 3-5 topics that he feels safe talking with me about: the cat, house projects, current events, etc… But when it goes deeper to an emotional level, it all goes haywire. And I know why and understand that, from his point of view, emotion is overrated and complicates things unnecessarily. I do my best to understand.
    And, he gaslights me. every. single. day. Multiple times a day. He denies, changes the version of events to save face that there is no truth left. And I am often the brunt of that thought pattern. He tells me that my experience is not real.
    I know his intention is not to harm me, but he does. Over and over again. So to say it’s not gaslighting, to say that it’s not manipulation – it’s like I’m being gaslighted. To say that I need to accept a partner that uses lies and distortion of the facts to deal with his disorder, and that I need to accept that is the most insane, confounding idea I can think of. To say that he has learned the social graces of work and outside life, so when he comes home to me he needs to feel safe, and part of that is by trying to constantly control and manipulate me is for crazy making. And I’m coming to terms with that maybe I’m not cut out for a relationship with an HFA. It’s me that needs to look for a different partner, so he can find someone who won’t take all of this personally and keep things light and emotionally detached – so he does not feel misunderstood and they don’t feel emotionally abused, which is my reality and what I am experiencing. For me, in this relationship. Just as he has the right to experience the world away from the demands of the NT schemas, I also get to have my own experience. I don’t mean to offend. I have so much love and respect for him in many ways, and for the Asperger’s community. But I can’t live it anymore.

  • Athena


    September 30th, 2019 at 1:45 PM

    I wish I could give you a big hug. I completely understand because I am going through a very similar process. We were going to try an intensive couples retreat, but it fell through because we couldn’t stick it out long enough to attend. I love him dearly but he has no idea when he causes me pain and, when I use my “I” sentences (I feel ___ when ___ and I would love it if ___ instead), I get no response, like null/void, and then we just spiral downward. I try not to “flood” him with my emotions, which are usually stirred up because my emotions are ignored. I wanted to fix myself to be a better partner but it’s all a total loss now. I forgot to mention the story-changing: one day he seeks sympathy for some terrible thing that happened and the next day he’s telling me what a great thing happened and how much he enjoyed it, and I’m like, huh? It’s really too bad, because I was starting to understand and appreciate his way of expressing or distancing from things. But then all sorts of betrayals happened and it all fell apart. Oh, dear, I’ve lost my boundaries in all of this. Sorry.

  • sapphire11


    October 30th, 2019 at 8:21 AM

    Hi CS,
    Thank you so much for sharing your experience of being an NT in a relationship with a HFA man. Your experience is so much like my own (except that my partner and I did not live together), and it was validating to read. Our relationship just ended after 2-1/2 years and even though I read everything I could about being in a relationship with a HFA, although it helped to understand that he never, ever means to cause me harm with his behavior, it didn’t help me to feel less hurt or isolated by it. Our breakup is recent and we have acknowledged that we still love each other, there is attraction, and we have a lot of fun when we’re together. Like your partner, my guy is also a brilliant musician, so we played music together. I was so happy when he brought me into his world by sharing music with me. However, I noticed over time that my interests were pushed to the side in favor of his. When we talked after a disagreement, I had to be the one to bend. I only just realized that he was bending just as much in the relationship as I was, in different ways, but I had to let things go when we got into talking about emotions. You end your post sounding like you feel you each need partners who are a better fit. That is what my now ex-bf and I have decided, but it’s heartbreaking. He sees it very logically and to me, he seems much more at peace than he was when we considered ourselves a couple, but I am in so much pain, feeling that I could have done more. After reading this article and your post, I feel validated by my own emotional responses to his behavior (which I know was never intended to cause me harm). I have been still trying to understand what happened between us, and I realized that we each have diferent needs in a relationship. And neither of us is wrong for having those needs, it’s just because of how we’re made. We’re made differently. I love him so much and I feel there were reasons why I was drawn to him. He has amazingly beautiful qualities and in some ways a purity, for lack of a better word, in that he always means well. We both did a lot of bending to try to accommodate each other’s needs, and it’s only since our breakup that I understand that he was very likely bending as much as I was, and we both hurt because of it. I am still thinking about ways I might be able to save it, but after reading your post, perhaps it is best that I leave it as it is, with him as a friend, and each of us finding what we need in a partnership elsewhere.

  • Maybe I am a robot

    Maybe I am a robot

    November 4th, 2019 at 8:44 AM

    If he can pick and choose who he ‘gaslights’ and when, doesn’t it show some level of intention and awareness. If they put the effort in to making up the lies to cover their behavior and story changes about what happened, same thing. They had to rethink and come up with a different version and they don’t do it with other people. My husband doesn’t have a good job because he unintentionally twists and misunderstands what everyone says all day. It’s only me. He can hear my daughter say the same exact words I say, and hear her, but when I say it he can’t hear it correctly, he turns it in to some kind of drama or problem. We’ve tested this. Something happened to my car on our daughter’s 16th birthday, she’s now 20 and it’s sitting in the same spot. He didn’t see any reason for me to have a car anymore when she could drive. He can always get food when he’s working so no need for me to go grocery shopping. His completely competent and capable brother needs anything he runs right to the store. I found out he’s been doing his grocery pick up for awhile now. We constantly have problems because he refuses to maintain our home but if there’s a nickle size spot of oil in his dead mother’s driveway it’s an emergency. I could go on for hours about how he is able to make these choices about how he wants to treat different people. See where I’m going with this.

  • Dee


    December 4th, 2019 at 3:58 PM

    CS, I hear you. And I agree. I am gaslighted by my Aspie It really doesn’t matter whether it’s the ‘intent’ to hurt, or the intent for self-preservation. It’s still a lie, still manipulation, still deception. I’m done also.

  • R. D.

    R. D.

    December 27th, 2019 at 11:11 AM

    Autism can’t just be arbitrarily *bestowed* upon someone by a partner, friend or relative who thinks the person is socially awkward or emotionally unavailable. Maybe they’re just difficult, maybe they just don’t love you as much as they’ve said they do, that’s as much as can be determined without a formal assessment and evaluation from a qualified neuropsychologist.

    I’m genuinely sorry you seem to have ended up in a relationship with someone who gaslights you, who can’t see things from your perspective. I really hope you can find the peace and autonomy (in mind, body and spirit) every human being deserves!

  • Jen


    October 14th, 2019 at 7:56 PM

    I am not sure they don’t know they are doing it. I tell my aspergers husband over and over that his denying having said something he said literally said seconds ago like the speech bubble is still attached to his mouth ago drives me completely insane. Recently he told me we had to turn at 86th Street several times then he drove past. I said you missed the turn. He said no, it is 92nd. I said you said 86th. He denied it. We looped around that a few times. I said I was tired of his lying about what was said, that he had said 86th several times, he had never said 92nd ever. I knew he knew he had. He said he meant 92nd and in his head it was 92nd. He did not know he said 86. I fell he just could not admit the mistake. He cannot ever admit a mistake and when caught out cannot admit it nor apologize. It is exhausting.

  • An Autistic Person

    An Autistic Person

    October 14th, 2019 at 1:12 AM

    Autistic people can’t be manipulative, because they lack the social skills needed in order to manipulate.

  • Jen


    October 14th, 2019 at 7:42 PM

    I disagree. I think there many on the spectrum who can manipulate.

  • An Autistic Person

    An Autistic Person

    October 15th, 2019 at 11:55 PM

    Well, perhaps that’s true.
    However I don’t think it’s a common trait.

  • pasta


    November 23rd, 2019 at 3:47 PM

    The fact that the number of neuro-different couples you see in your work who are ASD male and NT female is much greater than the reverse can also be explained by at least one other possibility. It could also be simply because there ARE more ASD-M & NT-F couples than there are ASD-F & NT-M couples in the real world. Maybe there are more ASD-M looking for a mother figure than NT-M looking for someone to take care of. Do we have statistics on these other problematic situations?
    On another topic, I’m not sure the mere fact of a person gaslighting one person as opposed to everyone he meets is a sign that he is doing it on purpose or not. It might be a tendency to gaslight people who are close to him, or who are a captive audience (people living or working with him).
    I think a better sign is: does he do it in front of his parents or his in-laws, or their friends, or in public. If he stops himself, it means he is *somewhat* aware of it, which is a good starting point, unless he is sociopath, which is possible.
    Maybe gaslighting was part of his own family dynamics and he was built with “sick” bricks-and-mortar, and he doesn’t know any other way of relating to close ones.

  • Ana


    December 27th, 2019 at 2:02 AM

    “I don’t mean to imply there are no cases in which this is reversed. It’s just that at this time, men are diagnosed at a 4:1 ratio to women, and in my practice” : in your practice men are diagnosed at a 4:1 ratio to women because diagnosing Asperger on women is really difficult. Women with Asperger has been masking all their traits since the beginning of psychology and labelled weirdos and that’s it. I’m an Aspie woman, I have been recently diagnosed at age 40. I´m also a psychologist myself, with not only a bachelors in psychology but also a MSci in Psychology Research that I obtained at one of the best universities in the world. Have done plenty of psychotherapy with all sorts of meds and psychologists from the best to the worst. STILL, I wasn’t diagnosed until now! Immediately after my diagnosis I started pointing at other Aspie women in my family. We are not 4:1 we are equally 1:1. Just, we spend our lives undiagnosed, masking all our traits and receiving 0 help :)

  • R. D.

    R. D.

    December 27th, 2019 at 11:15 AM

    Something that has significantly less exposure than the divisive AT/NT binary conflict, is narcissistic partners who pair up with someone who is on the Spectrum (or who has other social/emotional/psychological difficulties) because they can gaslight their disadvantaged partner, and play all kinds of sadistic mindgames with them, because everything about the AS partner makes it difficult for them to find support or validation out in the community, among people who can’t (or merely won’t) relate.

    Personal experience speaks louder than statistics gathered by people nobody knows, on studies nobody we know has participated in, using subjects none of us have ever met. And personal experience has taught me that there are plenty of people who systematically prey upon the socially awkward/inept and use them for narcissistic supply, because people are quick to dismiss their complaints/objections with “oh, he’s/she’s autistic, and probably just not understanding his/her partner’s point of view”.

    I would love if you could do an article on this! :)

  • Dawn


    December 28th, 2019 at 8:55 AM

    Bang On! One thousand thank-you’s for this article!! Married nearly 17 years to AS husband, I feel as Beth does that this is the closest anyone has come to explaining the dynamics of my marriage. Despite much effort, I could never really put my finger on it, or explain my situation clearly. All I know it the pain, loneliness, resentment and disappointment I feel.
    Question: If the AS person doesn’t intend to hurt, and is not aware they are doing it, how can they possibly stop/change. No amount of explanation will convince them that they are doing anything worth changing. My husband “is never wrong” and dismisses my feeling. He has many wonderful qualities but this behaviour just tips the emotional scales for me. Am I forced to decide to continue living this way or leave? Is there really any hope?
    2nd Question: How do I help my AS 12 year old son? I do not want him mirroring the behaviours of his father. He may or may not marry in the future, still I want him to have meaningfull healthy relationships with the people in his life.

  • BB


    January 2nd, 2020 at 12:31 AM

    Thank you so much for this space and these articles!!
    I have a brother with asperges and an ex boyfriend, and I have always felt that I was wrong, because of my upbringing with my brother and his opinion of me and my “wrong” emotions… I am so fed up with it and so angry as I have tried to understand it all of my life and finally realize that there is NOTHING wrong with me!! Aspergers has – if you are close to them – the ability to make YOU feel wrong because – in reality – they feel wrong and can’t bear the feeling. So they have to project it out onto other people.
    I have thought and fought for my right to be me for all of my life in these relationships and it has affected me greatly. I am done with carrying the weight of their feelings of being wrong, and they dont know that they are projecting because they dont have the ability to realize what they are doing cause they can’t feel it, so they dont know.
    They are probably not even aware that they are feeling this, because feelings just complicate things right…?! WRONG! Feelings tell you if something is right ore wrong. Feeling have messages to you. They are to be listened to. They cary great wisdom that aspergers will never get.

  • Julie K

    Julie K

    May 6th, 2020 at 12:41 PM

    Sarah, thank you so much for the light this post has shed. Gaslighting tends to be confined to “narcissism” in most circles …… but I was convinced all along that my h did not intentionally manipulate me, thought all along he didn’t realize what he was doing. Since I stumbled upon this post a few weeks ago I have read many of your other posts and most of Tony Attwood’s book. I am clinging to the statement, “If you’ve seen one AS, you’ve seen one AS,” because much of what I read doesn’t fit my h of 36 years ….. but then again so much does. (I’m not looking for a “label” to pin him with – just trying to get out of my confusion and feeling crazy.)
    Here’s a difference that is not commonly discussed, although I’ve seen brief nods to it in Attwood’s book. My h is extremely intelligent and pleasantly outgoing, with only extremely subtle social awkwardness. (Social and emotional reciprocity is another matter altogether.) He spends all of his life on the computer, either as a master programmer or as an inveterate surfer of information. The thing is, he has no anxiety, and only extremely rarely any anger. As a young child he was diagnosed with a very high IQ and subsequently put up on a pedestal his entire childhood, sent to elite schools, etc. He sees himself as of superior intellect and thus, by definition, “right.” Anyone who challenges his thinking is “wrong.”
    So this statement you made in your post doesn’t “fit” either:
    “Threats may come from feeling overwhelmed emotionally in the face of what seems like unmanageable ambiguity and uncertainty, which often lead to untenably high anxiety. Reducing that anxiety, consciously or not, is the most likely driver for behavior that appears to be gaslighting in someone with Asperger’s.”

    I noticed your words, “the most likely driver” for apparent gaslighting. I guess what I’m looking for is validation that there are pleasant, superficially engaging autistics who functionally gaslight out of a sense of *superiority.* His lifelong experience is one of being superior to everyone around him.
    I’m the only one who sees it because I’m the only one he has deeper conversations with and the only one who tried to confront him concerning his communication issues. He literally tried to convince me I was mentally ill, in addition to the constant blame-shifting.
    I think I’m concluding: just like any other human being, an AS person can be humble or can be prideful. That makes all the difference in a relationship.
    Thanks in advance for any response!

  • Pia


    February 12th, 2020 at 12:10 PM

    This article is not only ableist against autistics, but it is also ableist against people with cluster B personality disorders. Moreover, the use of outdated functioning labels is a wildly harmful practice. You should engage with the autistic and cluster B communities before publishing articles that 1) harm marginalized people and 2) could have been written without mention of any disorders. Unbelievable.

  • pasta fresca

    pasta fresca

    February 14th, 2020 at 10:47 AM

    Very often, the far-right propaganda resembles the far-left propaganda. Conservative far-right politicians who want to eliminate all benefits and services for minorities (the few who get any) sometimes want to make us believe that differences are not real (which sounds like a far-left talking point), and just let those people who need services & benefits rot.

  • Amy


    February 14th, 2020 at 1:19 PM

    I am autistic and I think you are interpreting the autistic perspective incorrectly here. The double empathy issue probably is at fault. When the husband says he didn’t say something or that he didn’t mean it that way it’s because he was trying to communicate something different from what she “heard”. A lot of communication is body language and tone which NT and autistic people use differently. She probably got a different message than he was trying to communicate. Add on top of this the re-editing we all do without conscious thought to our memories. She may feel gaslighted but he probably does too. It’s difficult being misunderstood and making people angry without meaning to all the time. Maybe try being a little more understanding and empathetic of the autistic experience as well.

  • mentsh


    March 11th, 2020 at 6:11 PM

    This is my thought, too. He probably feels just as gaslit and invalidated as she does, but no one thought to ask him because he doesn’t express emotions in ways that NTs can pick up on and understand. I don’t think the wife is intentionally gaslighting him any more than he is intentionally gaslighting her. But he probably has very logical explanations for his behaviors that no one is listening to and is just getting their feelings hurt, and they’re not giving any credence to the way he sees things. It’s such a lonely and isolating place to be when you’re in the neuro-minority, and everyone points the finger at you as the cause of the problems. That doesn’t mean an NT should have to stay in a relationship that isn’t working for them. I get that it’s painful when the two people’s “operating systems” aren’t compatible. But recognize that the pain goes both ways.

  • Sinead


    March 25th, 2020 at 12:06 PM

    I’ve been with my partner for nearly 3 years, I’ve suspected of him being Asperger & ADD since a year ago (when we moved in together). It’s the gas lighting that’s the worst part – makes me feel like I’m going insane. The formal language, the robotic body language, the dead-behind-the eyes-look, his inability to socialise and he boasts about how robotic he is. I hate it. He boasts about being logical and intelligent, but he doesn’t posses an ounce of common sense. Confront him with anything and he freezes like a deer in the headlights or starts yelling. I do not see him being in my life for much longer, it’s like I’m his mother and he’s my son… so very very unattractive.

  • wendy


    March 28th, 2020 at 3:45 PM

    My ND partner and I the NT found this described exactly what was happening in our communication . we both feel validated and understood by this article. Thank you as it has been calming to us during a rough and confused day of us both in tears .

  • Fadel


    April 18th, 2020 at 1:14 AM

    I don’t know if I am Asperger, but so many things in this article relate to me, I have been called manipulative by my ex, and it really hurt me to be viewed as such when I know my self I wasn’t manipulating anyone. I wish I have read more about my issues two years ago. Its too late. Thanks for taking the time to write this article.

  • Marion B

    Marion B

    May 6th, 2020 at 1:39 AM

    Thank you so much for this article. For the first time, I feel like this is exactly how I have been feeling for the 23 years of my marriage. I just want to copy what you have written and read it everyday to help me cope, particularly in this time of lock-down. I rang LifeLine today just for someone to talk to. This has really lifted my spirits!

  • Julie K

    Julie K

    May 6th, 2020 at 12:47 PM

    Marion B, I know just how you feel. I’m so sorry but am glad you reached out to talk to someone and that you found some relief here! I just posted a new comment and wanted it to appear as a new reply, but it might appear under BB’s.

  • Marion B

    Marion B

    May 6th, 2020 at 8:33 PM

    Julie K. – I wish you lived down the road from me – we could be such a great support for each other. What you have said is “spot on”. My friends think he’s great and don’t believe me when I try to talk about my despair. My closest friend responds by saying “get him to find a hobby, like my husband just just bought a motorbike and goes out with his friends for a whole day” when my husband’s hobby is to stay home and play with our finances and track the visa card purchases. H wants me to contribute financially (after 20
    years of being fully “at home’ mum and wife) as I have recently gone back to part-time work with basic wages. I am loving having my own bank account (which he is resentful about) but he wants me to contribute to our combined finances and when I finally agree after lots of arguing, he says “I’m bitter”, which he will deny later, like when I remind him that he referred to me as “a babbling brook” when I asked him to “open up” to me. This was apparently because I talk so much, he hasn’t got the space to. So now we just walk past each other all day and the silence is deafening. Some would ask “why don’t you just leave”? H has the finances all sown up and I don’t have any enough personal money. Don’t get me wrong, there is no physical abuse here, he’s a great father to my kids, I just feel so lonely sometimes. But my “faith” gets me through from one crisis to the other and as much as I love my 90 year old Mum, when she goes, I’ll have some of my own money to get my own house, down the coast, somewhere cheap. Sorry about the rant! I just wish there was a support group (like AA, NA) somewhere close I could talk and others would understand. Still, I have found this forum AMAZING and will continue to be a part of it. Thanks to everyone including people who are ND, find your own forum or be a part of this one and learn from it. No-one is saying you don’t belong. My h’s extended family are all ND so I understand what it’s like as a NT to not belong, every Christmas, birthday etc!

  • Tim


    May 14th, 2020 at 11:29 AM

    My issue with this article is that you don’t appear to allow for the possibility that the autistic guy is actually right.
    Sometimes people are irrational and childish and it’s entirely fair that the person on the receiving end of that behaviour calls them out on it.

    Consider that scene in “Mad Men” where Don Draper falsely accuses his wife of flirting with his boss/friend just because she was polite to him when he came over for dinner. She is very hurt by this accusation and it was completely unwarranted. Would she not have been entitled to tell him he was being ridiculous? Should she have just pretended that she was, in fact, flirting with him just so that she is not “invalidating his feelings”?

    The only manipulative person in this article is the NT girl. She is basically saying “I am allowed to be completely unreasonable and if you dare to defend yourself against my accusations by using logic then I’ll cry”.

  • J Kong

    J Kong

    May 14th, 2020 at 2:58 PM

    Hi Tim. Since I’m here, I’ll add a couple thoughts to your post. 1) A writer can’t address all scenarios in one post. She’s trying to make *this* point, and not another one. 2) Of course situations like you describe happen often. And I’m thinking: it’s possible (and usually wise) to validate someone’s feelings *without agreeing with them.* When one’s feelings are recognized, one is often enabled to see past them and hear an alternative viewpoint from the other person.

  • Marion B

    Marion B

    May 14th, 2020 at 5:29 PM

    Hi Tim, my Mum used to cry to manipulate my long-suffering father which worked) and this I never do because it is a callous, gutless thing. Now that he is gone, my mother feels “bad” about it but sadly too late because she contributing to him dying a physical and mental wreck. So, I’m just saying, logic is great, absolutely but as NT, we have to understand that our Aspie partners brains work almost robotically which has it’s advantages for sure! Just don’t ask for sentimentality or anything that requires feelings. Imagine not being able to understand feelings, to just go by hard data all the time, to “colour by numbers” when people need to be comforted after a sad event (or a happy one). I have had to learn to deal with the “data”, to read what will cause my husband may be thinking and cut off any misconceptions before they begin to take a hold, eg. “flirting with a colleague” by saying something like,” I would never be interested in him because eg. he is too smug, too boring” etc. My Aspie has said things like “Women have their own bank accounts because they are planning to leave their husbands”. Ok, maybe some do but not all, but that is what he has been told and that is “data” so that’s what he believes. I can only say That is how it is for me.

  • Rich W

    Rich W

    July 4th, 2020 at 12:29 PM

    Thank you Ms Swenson. This article is so well stated and offers such amazing insight for AS-NT couples that frankly I am surprised at the number of fellow Aspies who have replied to argue with or criticize this article, despite the conclusion that the Aspie partner is *NOT* gaslighting. But it can feel that way to the NT partner. Fellow Aspies, please. You know that mindblindness, or difficulty seeing the thoughts and intentions of others, is at the core of Aspergers/HFA. Accept that you struggle to see the NT partner’s feelings. Accept that your partner can feel gaslighted or manipulated even though you’re not trying to manipulate. Rather than being defensive, ask your partner about those feelings. We can’t intuit them, so we can only learn them by asking and accepting the answer. And if you can, let your partner know those feelings are valid. We don’t have to agree that we remember things differently. But there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that our partner might be right. In response to @Tim, I would say that the guy may actually be right more often, but in the end, in almost all cases, who’s right is less important than the relationship itself. Ms Swenson said “It’s not a matter of who is right or who is wrong. The goal of communication is mutual understanding.” and this was my biggest takeaway from this article. Very valuable insight, and very fair treatment of the issue. Well done!

    @Julie K, I’d just like to take a second to reply to your question, not only because it’s a great, heartfelt question, but also because I felt like you were talking about me when you described your husband. For a moment, I wondered if my wife hadn’t written your comment. It was only the “h of 36 years” that let me know you weren’t talking about me (we’ve been married for 21 years). “My h is extremely intelligent and pleasantly outgoing, with only extremely subtle social awkwardness…He spends all of his life on the computer, either as a master programmer or as an inveterate surfer of information…he has no anxiety, and only extremely rarely any anger.” That all describes me very accurately, and from what I can gather of other Aspie’s, “no anxiety” sets us apart – anxiety is VERY common with ASD.

    Your question was “I guess what I’m looking for is validation that there are pleasant, superficially engaging autistics who functionally gaslight out of a sense of *superiority.*” For me, I can see how I come across to others as *superior*, even though I’ve never actually felt superior. My wife has told me I always have to be right. And my first thought when she says that is “not *ALWAYS*”. I think that itself is the problem. I pick apart her statement, because “ALWAYS” is not accurate, but I focus on that rather than what she is trying to communicate about her feelings. I miss the point. She’s not actually trying to communicate that I ALWAYS have to be right, even though that’s literally what she said, she’s trying to communicate that she feels invalidated and small when I choose to focus on that rather than what she is feeling. So I think we can both make some adjustments – I can do better to see what she is really trying to communicate (but it is *super* hard, because mindblindness is really at the core of ASD, right?), and she can do better to use more accurate communication. Don’t say “You always have to be right.” Say “I feel invalidated and unacknowledged when you nitpick the things I said and don’t see the feelings behind it.” But that’s *super* hard too, because she’s used to NTs who can just read the feelings behind her statement without using accurate language to describe them. To complicate matters even more, she probably doesn’t even really recognize that she feels invalidated enough to describe it – she just feels it. It’s not her. Me, you, everyone doesn’t always recognize our actual feelings.

    I’m only starting to recognize these things – and the added level of complexity that ASD brings in to the relationship. I was only diagnosed less than 3 years ago. And it has been a mighty, mighty struggle in our marriage. But as I go to counseling and continue to read more about ASD and relationships in general, I think I’m slowly, very slowly getting better. I really like what Ms Swenson said about her counseling: “When I work with couples, we concentrate on slowing down conversational speed, considering linguistics and the formal logic of argument, and identifying the emotional subtext and context inherent in communication. It takes time. It takes practice.” I’ve been through a number of tests with my psychologist, and one thing we discovered in that process was that for me, almost all of my ASD problems can be attributed to ‘slow processing speed’. The tests showed that I have ‘low average’ processing speed. I just need more time to process information, especially emotional information. Given time to process, I can often bring myself to see the intents and feelings of others. But most interactions don’t afford that processing time, so I end up lost. If we are able to slow down the conversation speed, as Ms Swenson tries to do, it goes a long way toward me understanding my wife, and her feeling understood. “It takes time. It takes practice. It is not always successful.” I would even say it is more often unsuccessful. But when it is successful, it’s great. And we’re slowly learning to be successful more and more.

    Anyway, I didn’t really answer the question, but hopefully it was helpful. It was helpful for me to write it down. Best wishes to everyone struggling with this tough, tough issue.

  • Marion


    July 5th, 2020 at 2:22 AM

    Hi Rich. I really like what you posted. You sound so like my h! “Who’s right is less important than the relationship itself. Ms Swenson said “It’s not a matter of who is right or who is wrong. The goal of communication is mutual understanding.” Well done

  • Jennifer


    July 7th, 2020 at 11:09 PM

    My estranged husband is Aspbergers. He badly hurt my daughter’s hand during one of his rages. I asked him if he continues to use my car could he please contribute to the costs,. This turned into a verbal assault. After he had smashed my daughter’s little hand in the door, he jumped out on my front door step and yelled “Abuse, this is abuse, you tried to prevent me from leaving!”.
    While I drove to the ER with my 6 year old, he wrote me text messages about how I had prevented him from leaving my home and so it is all my fault. I again apologized to de-escalate. He said that I was responsible for the doctor’s bill because I caused this.
    This was manipulation, control and bullying. He always gets away with it because he can turn his rage on and off at will. I lost my job. Again. I’ve tried to get him help, but why would he want help. He controls us and his whole family with his rages, tantrums and gaslighting.
    Do you believe it is possible that NPD and ASD exist on the same spectrum?
    He is never accountable for his actions.
    He also spoke of what a good father he is in the days following.
    I feel hopeless and so alone.

  • Julie K

    Julie K

    July 8th, 2020 at 9:27 AM

    Rich W – more in a few days, but I want to say right now: your response was an incredible gift to me. Thank you.

  • Marion


    July 8th, 2020 at 4:51 PM

    Julie, this is unacceptable in anyone’s book. For your daughter, it’s not just the physical harm (terrible) but the social (shame – (in front of the neighbours) and the emotional harm that wounds. This man does not seem to have boundaries to his emotional state. I hope your daughter is OK and the injuries to her hand are able to be healed.

  • J


    July 8th, 2020 at 9:59 PM

    I noticed quite a few female autistics getting upset with this article, claiming that it does not properly represent their experience as someone on the spectrum. As a female with autism who has been in a long-term relationship with a male with autism (and who has had male friends with ASD)…I have to say that autism is often expressed very differently in men than it is in women. Especially if a man with ASD spends their whole life undiagnosed and traumatized because of it. The male brain is different than the female brain and their autism can be a whole different animal. There can be lots of unintentional abuse as they have a MUCH harder time accessing their emotions, which are extremely complicated given that men aren’t supposed to be so sensitive. This is hard to understand unless you have lived it. Not everyone’s autism is created equally!

  • Susie


    July 20th, 2020 at 3:57 PM

    My boyfriend manipulates and lies and he is autistic. He gaslights me. I tested to see if he was gaslighting or just didn’t know what he was doing. I started recording our arguments. I let him know when I started recording and just like that the gaslighting stopped!

  • Julie K

    Julie K

    July 20th, 2020 at 5:22 PM

    Susie, great strategy! I recorded with permission though and it didn’t stop. Interesting.

  • Jeff


    August 14th, 2020 at 4:44 AM

    I’m interested to hear views about whether alexithymia (inability to identify and describe emotions of oneself or others), a common ASD trait, could have something to do with this discussion. This first occurred to me when my former partner described how we had had a big fight a number of months earlier, which I’m almost 99% certain did not happen given that I have visceral memories of, in fact, us being sexually intimate at that exact place and time. It was in the middle of the afternoon at her family’s cabin, and the couple who was visiting with us for the weekend had gone off to canoe out to an island. My memory is of a delicious, sort of mischievous, time as we snuggled under the covers of the daybed on the enclosed porch, periodically poking our heads up to see “are they still out at the island?” It was like being youngsters again, doing something naughty while the “old folks” were away (my partner and I, who are solidly middle-aged, actually had a very deep, intimate, almost spiritual sexual relationship). My former partner used that as an example of our “constant fighting” saying “remember that big fight we had while our friends were canoeing out to the island?” What really blew me away was when I later told my friend (the woman in the couple) about this and she said that, in fact, she and her partner had had a fight that morning and that was why they had canoed out to the island – to process what had happened. This is all conjecture on my part, of course, but it made me wonder whether my former partner had created a story based on a recollection that SOMEONE had had a fight, but because of alexithymia she didn’t have a clear recollection of who, and by having the story be that it was US, it helped relieve her anxiety about leaving our relationship. The ending of our relationship was very painful for me because in any attempts for me to hear from her what was not working, the examples she gave were like this story. This article resonates so much with me because I don’t think she was “gaslighting,” because she truly believed the stories she told me, but the impact on me – huge cognitive dissonance – was the same. I still believe she is a beautiful human being, possible undiagnosed ASD, and am struggling with whether and how to reach out to her to share this possibility. I welcome any and all thoughts on this. It’s not easy being a human, for any of us. Kudos to all of us for staying in the fight! (and compassion for those, particularly in positions of power, who cause immense harm).

  • Jules


    August 14th, 2020 at 9:06 AM


    It is definitely not easy being human!

    I can really relate to your story. I’ve been in a three year relationship with a man who always relates the best and most intimate moments of our relationship as some kind of abuse or dysfunction. Many autists are abused and this leads to cluster B personality disorders, but it looks quite different from when a neurotypical has a personality disorder. Sadly, every time you are intimate with them they perceive it as some kind of threat, because subconciously they associate intimacy with abuse, because this is what happened to them as children. My partner won’t respond to something in the moment, but at a later point will accuse me of doing or saying something that I did not. He has almost no empathy, so he cannot understand why this behavior is hurtful. He does this in his workplace too and will likely lose his job, and has lost all of his friends because he accuses them of things. He has severe alexithymia too, and cannot understand why he has sexual feelings towards me. And there is a lot of projection, which makes things even more difficult because he cannot own his own thoughts and feelings and places them on other people. The only advice I have is to be extremely cautious in persuing a relationship.


  • Jeff


    August 18th, 2020 at 5:47 PM

    Jules, that sounds very painful, and very familiar to me. I came across an article you might find interesting: “Trauma makes us shun kindness when we need it most.” Good luck with your situation. I hope that through the pain you can find learning and growth. I know that I have. Or I think I have. :)

  • p


    August 23rd, 2020 at 2:13 PM

    wow. 18 months later and 200 replies later, on every topic under the sun.
    this thread or even this page has gone from trying to help one person with one problem to everyone talking about any topic they want to talk about. I feel sorry for the original poster.

  • Julie K

    Julie K

    August 24th, 2020 at 7:49 AM

    p, your perspective is so interesting. Just because it’s so different from mine . :) As I started to read your response, I thought: oh, this person must see, like I do, the tremendous value of having a community here where we can share thought and insights. So I was surprised!
    In the end – different folks, different perspectives. And that’s what this is all about. 😊

  • Jules


    August 24th, 2020 at 7:55 AM

    Thanks Jeff,
    That’s a good article. Good luck to you too…

  • Kyle


    August 24th, 2020 at 11:12 AM

    I can relate to this article but both the article and the comments don’t give me comfort or hope. My wife has said that my intentions are irrelevant and I am always ready to apologize and make amends but I feel like she doesn’t or can’t understand that when she is hurt/angry for 1 or 2 days that due to my anxiety…I can barely stand it.
    I am not suicidal but I often would prefer being dead to the feelings of isolation and loneliness that I feel in these times. And when I try to bring up my feelings she talks about how selfish I am, how like a child I’m behaving, and how I always make it about myself. I know that I do make it about myself a little more often than I should but I regularly feel like nobody cares about my emotions.

    Even as I leave this comment now, I don’t think that I’m being fair to my wife. Apparently, I said things to her this morning that upset her and I now see that I was being callous but I 100% didn’t have any idea that I was hurting her.
    I would do anything to make it up to her and to feel like we are on the same team but I know that my feelings aren’t relevant.

  • MGB


    August 24th, 2020 at 6:18 PM

    This website was of immense help to me as a NT when I first joined it. It led me to a Aspbergers’ MeetUp meeting in Sydney which has been great. I believe that everyone as an individual is different, we all have different levels of inability to understand another’s point of view, anxiety and stress. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about massively talented people or just the ordinary work-a-day person we happen to be living with. The original article was to address a perception of gaslighting and to find out what it means and if it’s an appropriate term for how people with Aspberger’s deal with ambiguities in their lives and relationships. I don’t think we are talking about every topic, just helping people to cope, clarify and identify if what they are going through is really worth all the emotional pain, suffering and misunderstandings of living with a mental illness. Critical comment is important but only if it builds up and not tears down fragile emotional lives. This GoodTherapy thread has helped me so much but I find it difficult to read mocking comments and hurtful, angry words when really this is a place for care, understanding and encouragement.

  • Julie K

    Julie K

    August 25th, 2020 at 6:24 AM

    Kyle, my heart goes out to you. You sound like such a self-aware and kind-hearted person. Seems to me your marriage could be wonderfully helped with the right coaching from a NT/AS relationship coach. Have you tried this? This might not be approved ….. but there are some helpful resources online.

  • CC


    September 3rd, 2020 at 7:26 AM

    Isolation within isolation. A lonely relationship still after 18 years. Step family with dominant traits. I am a survivor of emotional yoyo realities. I hang on to the good days. Currently I happened on this article because I was searching for “something” to comfort me. Glad I found it. It’s lovely to hear your own voice via others’ experiences. May this communication blog continue for another 18 months and beyond. We are not alone. Thankyou!

  • Laura P

    Laura P

    September 22nd, 2020 at 3:29 AM

    I have just come out the other end of a two year relationship with an undiagnosed ASD man. At first he was kind, thoughtful, understood me like no one else, then I gradually noticed I hadn’t met any of his friends or family, I seemed permanently in my own seperate box away from his work, friends or family. It stayed this way for the whole relationship. I tried not to make a big deal out of it but I felt hurt. When I realised he may well be on the spectrum he admitted his friends had said the same. Gradually, he began to work more, almost pretend he didn’t have a girlfriend, wanted to stick with same routine at Christmas and all holidays etc etc, that therefore did not involve me. I found this article as I felt I was being gaslighted (having previously been in an abusive relationship with a narcissist). I felt bad all of the time but knew it wasn’t intentional. I started to ask myself if it mattered whether it was or not, as the effect was still the same. As I live with anxiety and depression myself, it fed into my own self loathing, which I felt like he knew. But as an empath, I continued to give, rarely receiving any support, emotional or otherwise. He won’t get diagnosed, I suggested CBT just for coping techniques when he has a melt down or loses control. He couldn’t bring himself to do anything to help himself or me. I had to compromise a lot – I always wanted children but was prepared not to to be with him. Before long I compromised on my own mental health and putting myself first. I compromised on the idea of him ever wanting to meet friends and people that I love, and knew that I would most likely never be introduced to his. I am heartbroken as he is a kind, clever, funny man, and I am in love with him.
    Those who have complained about this not being helpful or considerate of the ASD perspective – as others said there is enough information out there to learn about this. This thread is a lifeline and after two years I’ve never felt compelled to talk about my difficulties as an NT in an AS relationship. I feel like I’ve given up on him – but I had to do that rather than give up on myself and everything I ever thought I wanted in life. Its a lot to compromise in a relationship with an AS man.

  • R. D.

    R. D.

    September 22nd, 2020 at 10:07 AM

    I would love if we could stop with this “I was with an undiagnosed ASD man”. This propaganda from the Anti-Autism hate groups (like Heartless Aspergers) ignores the fact that random untrained, uneducated, unqualified individuals cannot just MAKE someone magically be ASD because they’ve exhibited one or two traits shared by COUNTLESS other traits exhibited by every human being on Earth at some point.

    That’s like me arbitrarily deciding that every Ex I’ve ever had was Dyslexic because my words and behavior may’ve been confusing to them, choosing to ignore that I’m unqualified to diagnose, and demonizing everyone who may AC

  • R. D.

    R. D.

    September 22nd, 2020 at 10:09 AM

    There is no “undiagnosed Asperger’s”, not in the context that Anti-Autism hate groups like and their cronies purport. They’ll tell you that anyone who was ever mean to them, argued with them, or disagreed with them was “undiagnosed ASD” and that “they are everywhere” like they’re sinister soulless demons hiding beneath a human disguise.

  • Jeff


    September 23rd, 2020 at 7:41 AM

    Responding to both Laura and R.D.
    Laura, my heart goes out to you. I have been through a very similar experience, and I know that the hardest part is how much we love the other person and feel helpless to help them.
    R.D., along similar lines, I think that most, if not all, of the people posting here are the farthest thing from hating the person who might be on the spectrum. I’m sorry if this thread is hurtful to you. Our hearts are broken precisely because of how much we LOVE our beloved one. Whether it’s ASD or whatever it might be, we are in pain because our loved one is living in such a different reality than us, and that makes life so hard for us, as well as them, and try as we might, we can’t find a way into their reality to find a common place to meet. A friend of mine posted this on Facebook recently, and while it’s about addiction, it captures for me the feeling of helplessness when I see my loved one – who seems to meet so many of the signs of ASD – struggling with life, and yet resistant to any help:
    Loving a person with an active addiction is the hardest thing you may ever do. Watching someone you love, who has fought so hard to beat the addiction, throw everything away and sink back into a life that will most likely lead to jail or death, is one of the hardest things you will ever do. All you wanted was to help them back to a clean and sober life but you realize by doing this, as you have before, will now just be enabling them because it will show them that you will always be there to bail them out. You want to grab and shake them and say “What are you doing?!?!” But, at some point you realize that it wouldn’t make a difference. So you sit back and watch the tragedy unfold, as if you are watching a movie. Feeling helpless to stop it, feeling like you haven’t done enough to help, even though you know only the person with the addiction can help themselves.
    A person battling with a drug and/or an alcohol addiction is a beast for the person struggling with addiction and the ones who love them. So l am asking you to stand with me in prayer for every family member and friend who has lost or is losing their battle with drugs and alcohol and those who continue to conquer this part of them..Put this on your page for one hour if you know someone who has or had an addiction. Many will be hesitant to copy and paste this as a prayer for those people suffering with this disease…
    And thanks💜
    So to Laura and R.D. and everyone, let’s be tender with each other. I agree with R.D. that hate has no place anywhere.

  • Laura P

    Laura P

    September 23rd, 2020 at 10:59 AM

    I’m not demonising anyone. I’m talking about my personal experience in this specific relationship with my own mental health issues in the mix. My ex was very aware he more than likely had ASD based on a lifetime of experience and more than ‘one or two traits’. We tried to work on this together, with the help of his doctor, and I had my own therapy also. It might also help you to know that I have a doctorate and am fully qualified to diagnose ASD. But that’s not my job in a personal relationship. You’ve made an awful lot of assumptions, I’ll assume you’ve had some kind of experience either as someone with ASD or otherwise, as you are jumping to either your own or others defence when no one was under attack. You should look at where that comes from rather than trying to shut down NTs personal experiences on an article about feeling gaslighted in an AS/NT relationship. Just a thought.

  • MGB


    September 23rd, 2020 at 5:13 PM

    I can just say now that one one hand we have a women who is trying to find answers and a balm for her pain and putting some of her heart out there in an attempt to make sense of her sadness. On the other hand we have cranky folk who are understandably so, so tired of amateur psychologists who want to label everyone with a mental illness. Either way, can we just comment without it feeling like we are dumping our frustrations and anger on some unsuspecting person? Please?

  • Anita


    September 27th, 2020 at 10:13 AM

    I have lived 43 yrs married to a man I believe may have aspergers due to comments from family, friends, co-workers and the life I have lived. He was intriging, handsome, educated, quiet, and I thought talented. Ten yrs older than me. I initially believed he was very attracted and attached to me and I felt needed and loved, although he did not, could not express it unless I asked him what he felt. He felt ridgid and I believed he was a gentleman and that we had similar beliefs and upbringing. After we married he completely stopped speaking to me and seemed angry or upset. No eye contact. As an 18 yr old with a baby on the way I tried harder and harder to please him. Nothing worked. Absolutely no communication, no planning, no vacations, no honeymoon, Unhappy anywhere we lived, no church, no social involvement only if we were with his Mom or Dad. This intelligent high college achieving man did not find us a place to live and actually had no visible means of income when we met. Family gave him odd jobs while he was very qualified for any position, Many years later I began to put many things that were confusing to me together and realized he had no plans for a job, marraige, children, home, and because I loved him so much, I would not let my self believe this was possible. Years passed and I gradually realized I was not always wrong, and that he did have many shortcomings. While aspergers men may not have eye contact or speak to you during a death, illness, birth or promotion, never show enthusiasm or show affection in front of anyone, they can divulge the most personal information or legally liable information at crucial times to your employees, co-workers and family. Like a gotcha, or retribution. He is never really wrong, never apologizes, or resolves conflict. Surprisingly he can do all these things with a boss or friend he wants to impress or keep in his life. I have changed enormously in the years we have been together. From a smiling, outgoing, forgiving, loving, compassionate, hardworking homemaker and full time employee to a confused, exhausted, overwhelmed beaten (literally) woman, to now a hardened, angry bitter person, who is finally aware of what happened. I believe his family knew what was waiting for me, and I normalized his restricted life. I now know my role is to prompt him to do what needs to be done, as it never occurs to him. This is called prompting, as his mother had always done. I am responsible for all aspects of our financial life such as bills, taxes, renters, wills, insurance, etc. Planning for a good outcome never occurs to him. It is almost like having an older child. He is unaware if I am sick, but after all these years he feigns concern, and never follows through. After the death of our oldest son, he allowed our daughter and I to take care of every aspect of his estate, will, homes, belongings, etc. When I suffered grief and an almost breakdown in the time after, he told he he had looked it up on Google and he was not responsible for me when I threatend suicide. He later moved in with his 90 yr old mother for 18 months while I almost died from grief, sadness, work, and trying to help our other children who were also in pain from their brothers death. During this time he drove his mom’s car, ate her food, used her electricity, and would occasionally drop in on me like he was my neighbor, who might want to have sex. He would then disappear for 4-5 days with never a call or plan for our future. When she died, my friends and family told me he will now cling to you and want you back. He did just this. I was kind to him and tried to believe he meant what he said to me. We now live in his mother’s house that he inherited and I have tried to feel like it is my home. He has not changed. I know he can’t. He does try to be with me. I feel empty and no longer want us to have a loving life. I see things for what they are. I wish I was strong enough to be a wonderful wife and make his life great. I have tried. I also try to implement the skills suggested like leaving lists, notes, calenders, requests for sex, meal planning, and to be OK with prompting everything. Sometimes I just feel lonely and I don’t want to use anyone or to manage him. I want what he does to be his idea, or inspiration. I miss being able to talk to someone. I was not raised like this and although my family was probably dysfunctional, we did show love and concern and passion. Things did matter and we were not ambivalent about everything. He can also be cruel and had seems to bate me when I am upset. This does not seem like the innocent, shy, overwhelmed aspergers. If you have not lived with a person on the Autism scale or had no clue what Aspergers even was, you can’t imagine the pain and confusion you can experience. He will never be tested or acknowledge, even though I have tried to empathize with him and tell him I am on his side. Do I love him? Yes. Do I want a good outcome and to salvage my family, children, grandchildren? Yes Do I want to be supported and not the supporter? Yes Am I broken and bitter? Yes I am strong enough to continue to live despite his childish behavior. I don’t want the be the leader or man in this family, sometimes someone has to take responsibility and stand up or you lose everything. We are not young now and our time is limited. I don’t know any more about his end of life wishes now than I did in 1977. I have asked gently and want to do what is right. In the end I will make these decisions like every other life question. Sorry for the rant. Just for the record, we don’t label our aspergers partner as monsters or criminals, we love them and feel responsible. But we do know that people sometimes communicate, listen, snuggle, cheer for you, back you up, defend you and can be selfless.

  • Rose


    September 28th, 2020 at 7:25 AM

    Hello, I dated a man who was so charming and attentive to me during the early stages of our relationship. Later I realized he hid alot
    untruths and did not let go of a past person that he keeps an intimate relationship with…She is married with children. when I told him I knew about him keeping her on the side, he said I was crazy and that he loved me…During a nother conversation about this woman, He shut down, screamed at me! and told me, He is bad! He does not love me! He later texted to say he missed me?????????????

  • R.D.


    September 28th, 2020 at 9:51 AM

    When you’re talking about people with erratic and inconsistent behavior, a propensity for deceit and triangulation and other types of manipulation, and people who are abusive and deliberately try and harm the people they’re with (or who are so damaged that they inadvertently damage their partners’ emotional/psychological/physical well-being), you’re NOT talking about “undiagnosed Aspergers”. These are generally cases with people whose traits fall under an acute Personality Disorder (DSM-5). Asperger’s isn’t a catch-all term for objectionable people, nor is it one for the quirky and eccentric but intellectually gifted. There are several traits, dating back to their early development (information that most people won’t have access to about the people they date/marry offhand), that can lead a professional Neuropsychologist to diagnose Aspergers. And in some cases, someone can have both Asperger’s *AND* other diagnoses, like Schizoaffective Disorder, Schizophrenia, Psychosis, Bipolar, Narcissistic Personality Disorders, etc.

    My intended takeaway is not that there aren’t misunderstandings and headaches that come with any relationship, because there are. Two “NT”/”Neurotypical” people under the most *IDEAL* of circumstances will face all kinds of communication and ‘cultural clash’ problems that will cause them unimaginable amounts of grief. Anybody who acts like they’ve been in a serious long-term relationship without any serious issues is either lying to you, or there’s enough independent wealth being generated that all parties can just focus on the silver linings.

    But one issue that I’ve seen come up, is when someone with ASD has had extensive involvement in the mental health community. They’ve had friends and acquaintances with all kinds of neurological disorders and mental health issues, and they have counseled (and been counseled by) Peer Support groups and professionals who have professional and personal insights into these issues. The issue isn’t that they have all of this insight and this wealth of knowledge, but that their partner treats everything they say as “Autistic Nonsense” (whether or not they think/say those particular words).

    But even bigger than that, is that these “ASD”/”NT” labels have turned into yet another polarizing subject matter, like the Democrats/Republicans/Liberals/Conservatives/Believers/Heathens/etc. topics. Now, you’re as likely to find people who are weaponizing terms like “Neurotypical” (by the Autism Community) or “Autistic”/”Autist”/”ASD” (by some of the hate groups and/or people who have been misled by them) to try and paint one “side” or the other in a negative light.

    (I apologize if my posts are coming through weird. The text box I’m entering this in is weirdly triple-spacing and double-spacing in places, so it’s hard to tell if I’m formatting this message properly.)

    PS: My intent isn’t to try and undermine nor negate anybody else’s experiences, but to introduce insights and information that don’t really seem to be getting introduced to the discussion here in the Comments section. I am absolutely open to the insights and information that can be supplied by other users as well! :)

  • Laura P

    Laura P

    September 28th, 2020 at 9:52 AM

    Thank you for sharing your story, Anita. I just wanted to comment to say, that I fully understand your position and you have absolutely done your best by him. It is not a case of you not being strong enough to be his wife – you have been incredibly strong to get to where you are now, raising your children (and him at times, by the sounds of it) whilst going through incredible grief and for the best part, alone. If that doesn’t show strength then I don’t know what does. Your last line brought a tear to my eye as these are things that to most couples and individuals come so naturally – you don’t truly know the important of these little things until you realise they are not available. I once stood begging my partner for a hug and he could not understand how it would fix anything. For that reason he wouldn’t do it as for him, hugging in order to communicate support, love or affection was not logical. It made me feel so vulnerable and hurt. You hurt, and yet you remain in love. It’s a very confusing position to be in. Good luck with whatever you decide for the future.

  • Rose


    September 29th, 2020 at 7:10 AM

    Run! I did all the foot work. I stayed way longer than I should have. The cycle of pain and lies and the arguments are insane! I did years of gathering information and even having him find a therapist due to the fact, that when he did Big lies he would suffer anxiety attacks and I would have to help him during those times. He would then when better flip everything on me! Run!

  • Marion


    September 29th, 2020 at 5:10 PM

    So much sadness and pain – my heart goes out to all you strong people who love so much – and hurt so much when that love is not returned in the natural normal way that most people express it. Now my boys are adults, it’s that time in our relationship that I can find stuff to do for myself and try to be available in the rare moments when I feel he’s the man I married 23 years ago.

  • Marcy


    October 6th, 2020 at 2:40 PM

    Thanks for your comment, Athena. For the most part, I figured this out a few years into my relationship, thank god.
    Katherine, I think what you’re saying is that you’re tired of AS people being presented as the bad guys, which I totally get. There is a movement to view AS as simply another way of being in the world (rather than a disability). I also understand that NT people need help acclimating to the AS perspective. In the end, it helps everyone. So, I’m grateful to the author. Like the first commenter, I’m also curious why the author commented that aging is difficult in neurodiverse relationships. I want to know what I’m in for….

  • Kelly


    October 8th, 2020 at 4:25 AM

    A huge THANK YOU to Sarah Swenson for this very important article and to everyone who has contributed to this thread. I happened across this article when googling “Living with a Partner with Aspergers” and the word gas-lighting caught my eye. I have been with my husband for 27 years and it has recently been suggested by a very experienced psychologist that he has Asperger’s…(as well as both our children being somewhere on the spectrum as well). This has been difficult to get my head around, but it explains A LOT about the extreme difficulties we have experienced and the ensuing anxiety on my part. I have learned so so much from reading this article and thread. The idea that my husband may be on the autism spectrum came as a total surprise. However, we also have two amazing, brilliant and impossibly frustrating children…one who I have long suspected has asperger’s traits and the other who is convinced she has ADHD…so this “diagnosis of sorts” has been a huge revelation to me. I adore my children and love my husband, which has kept my head above water most of the time, but I have always thought “I’m sure it’s not supposed to be this hard!” every. single. day! It’s a clearer, somewhat shifted view of my family I have now, but knowledge is power and I’m very grateful to have stumbled across this article. Thank you everyone xx

  • Marion


    October 8th, 2020 at 1:02 PM

    Wow Kelly – you and I have the same life! Different places, probably on different continents though!

  • Kelly


    October 8th, 2020 at 8:34 PM

    Julie K, I think you and I are married to the same man! I am new to the Aspergers rabbithole, but it has certainly explained a lot! Your comment felt so familiar to me that I actually called my best friend of 30 years and read it out to her. She too was gobsmacked at the similarities… and I’m somewhat closer to accepting that Aspergers could be the hidden controlling dynamic in our relationships. I think you, Marian and I could have a few good laughs over a cup of tea. Blessings to you amazing women and your husbands too.

  • eva


    October 11th, 2020 at 2:54 PM

    I found this blog because one of my friends has Aspergers, and I was looking for tips on how to communicate with him. I gave up any exchange on how we function or process thoughts, because these are subjective topics. So I tried to have only discussions about objective topics instead. But this didn’t work so much better because he seems to have a tendency to want to be right. For example, he sometimes denies having said what he said, when it turns out that this was wrong. Of course sometimes he is right, but that is not always the case. He also tends to pick topics in which I have more knowledge than him, as for example my native language, what I have been working with, etc. When studying, he tries to give advice on my university assignments. If I point out that this doesn’t answer the question, he might reply that the teacher is somehow wrong, or asked the wrong question, that the exercise is pointless, that university doesn’t teach the right thing, etc. I understood that I should just let go, let him finish talking and then change topic towards something more neutral. But after a few months, this is weighing on me more and more, also because he casually criticizes everything I do including eating habits, the way I study, etc. I lost patience with him a few days ago and tried to bring this up. But because I lost my temper, he genuinely got sad and anxious, and just shut down. Although I understand from the article that this is not gaslighting, it does look like it and I don’t know how to handle it.
    If anybody has experienced this with someone who suffers from Aspergers, what is the right way to deal with it? Of course, it works when I try to never react to anything he says, but this requires a level of patience that I don’t have anymore. He has managed to turn a lot of people against himself and is now quite isolated, and doesn’t understand why. So I don’t want to let him down. Any suggestion on how to handle it, and how to improve the interaction so that it doesn’t need to be frustrating for both of us?

  • Mari


    October 15th, 2020 at 11:26 PM

    My issue with this article and the comments is that it fails to acknowledge that people with Asperger’s are still unique, with their own unique worldviews, perceptions, upbringings, cultural background, early childhood experiences, personality traits, and degree of self-awareness. People with Asperger’s aren’t all cuddly, warm, innocent, child-like souls who never do wrong by anyone, but they’re not all sociopathic, heartless, “robotic”, or emotionally shut off either. They’re a diverse group of people and their behavior and dynamics in relationships and in life in general will naturally vary according to all of the aforementioned factors. Some people with autism ARE abusive, manipulative, cold, or just unwilling to compromise or take the time to understand other people’s points of views. Is it because they’re autistic? No, it’s because they’re assholes. Some people are jerks, autistic or neurotypical. Some of you have gotten involved with jerks who happen to be on the spectrum. That happens. It’s part of some people’s personalities to treat people in poorly. It doesn’t mean these behaviors are typical autistic traits. There’s a tremendous amount of stereotyping and putting autistic people in boxes in these comments. I get that people are pain, but don’t paint all people with Asperger’s as “unfeeling” or robotic or manipulative just because you had the misfortune of getting into a relationship with an autistic person who’s a jerk. Don’t speak for all of us based upon experiences you’ve had with ONE person who may or may not be on the spectrum.

  • Beverley


    October 25th, 2020 at 6:01 AM

    Huge thanks for this article and especially comments and discussion. I think a lot of this can really help me in my relationship: which is exactly the dance of the NT/ND couple. Many thanks, especially for pointing out the need for awareness about language.. emotions behind imprecise language etc. I hope to read it this with my partner as regular ‘couples counselling’ has be unhelpful. Wishing you all peace and much happiness.

  • Andrew


    December 2nd, 2020 at 5:11 AM

    Why does Autism, particularly Aspergers, time and time again sound just like NPD? I read countless articles, quora answers and therapist blogs that describe it in exactly the same light. I mean where does the difference lie? These people even lie to get what they want and to avoid conflict they also lie.

  • JulieK


    December 2nd, 2020 at 11:16 AM

    Andrew, I have been immersed for the last year in domestic violence training and for the last six months in researching adult AS in relationships. My current thinking: look at the *motivation* for their desire to control. Is it because they feel superior to the other person, and want control over them for selfish reasons…… or are they desperately trying to control their environment in an effort to maintain their own equilibrium due to brain wiring differences/ sensory processing issues etc? “Narcissim” is a *character* issue. AS is a brain wiring/physical difference and will co-exist with either a humble or a proud heart. So AS narcissim can co-exist but certainly not necessarily.

    My thoughts in case they’re helpful.

  • Karen


    December 29th, 2020 at 7:13 PM

    8 years into our relationship and he was diagnosed with AS earlier this year, whilst at couples counselling. I am NT apparently. The couples counselling arose after a reconciliation (the 3rd in 18 months) all arising from extreme porn addiction. As we have tamed that beast for the most part, he turned to alcohol. He has accepted at last, that he has an addictive personality and he suffers from anxiety and depression, which he maintains are the real issue. His temper has improved a lot but he still regularly gaslights me and flies into the most vile verbal abuse, when temper ridden, which is usually preceded by alcohol. His cognitive distortions seem to be never ending. He is currently having some specific short term therapy with a view to understanding his own behaviour, it’s impact and changes he can make. This is conditional on my part to continuing this relationship. Likewise I have learned as much as I can about being supportive and depersonalising his outburst and actions, and now understand how to improve my own self care. He tells me he wants our marriage to work and regularly (now) tells me he loves me at the end of telephone calls. We are living apart with a view to me moving back in next week, but twice in the last week, he has told a third party that I have informed him I am moving back in unilaterally and that he should be grateful. He also said that I had extensively called him for long periods of time which is just not true. It is he who calls me, for several hours at a time, and it is he who continually begs me to return saying he will change. Is this just him continuing to exhibit cognitive distortions or is he lying to me simply to get me to return? I am so confused.

  • JulieK


    December 30th, 2020 at 12:24 PM

    Karen, I feel free for you regarding the confusion. My AS/NT marriage is different from yours- aren’t they all- but as the NT I would put in this word: it may never be possible to get completely to the bottom of his character vs his brain wiring. In the end, you have to decide if you can live with the impacts on you…..:or not. Just my perspective after some agonizing years.

  • MGB


    December 30th, 2020 at 5:01 PM

    You have a long road ahead but I hope that all the therapy he is undertaking with make changes. It is possible, as change has taken place for the better in my marriage. There is so much sadness – we just all want to be loved and valued don’t we? I have had to find this elsewhere eg. good friends who I can have a laugh with, something to challenge myself with (in my case tennis) and my own faith, which helps me to ask questions, even when I know there are no answers.

  • Peter


    January 15th, 2021 at 12:38 PM

    You have it exactly backwards. It’s the allistic wife who gaslights the autistic husband by insisting that he is behaving in odd or unacceptable ways or that his communication style is the problem. Generally the autistic man is straightforward and clear in communication, but the allistic woman is indirect and doesn’t say what she means, leaving the husband no way to know what’s true. She interprets other people’s reactions to him and tells him about them, but when he checks with those people it turns out that they didn’t feel what the wife thought they felt. Allistic people act like they can read minds, but they are wrong just as much as autistic people are wrong. This article is written from a privileged point of view that treats the autistic person as the problem. Autism is not the problem. Allism is the problem.

  • faith


    February 14th, 2021 at 12:07 PM

    To Mari,
    I’m not sure if your autistic or not, but you sound like you are. Several autistic people have commented on this article and turned it into something about them, instead of sticking to the point of the article. Which is , I might mention, a big pet peeve of neurotypicals. People with Aspergers tend to turn an entire issue about them instead of paying attention to what the other person is going through. The point of the article was to answer a specific question and it was also dealing with the neurotypical side of things. The article wasn’t about exploring the diversity of autistic people. Because it was a question and answer targeted towards neurotypicals, neurotypicals are responding and posting the very real experiences they are having.

  • MBG


    February 16th, 2021 at 12:20 AM

    Peter, please understand that most of us aren’t saying that autistic people are the “problem” – that would be like saying someone with Downs Syndrome is a “problem”. The PROBLEM is how to best support two people in a relationship who are struggling due to both of their minds being “wired” differently. This is not about good/bad, honest/dishonest or anything along those lines.

  • Gina G

    Gina G

    February 16th, 2021 at 9:50 AM

    Without pointing the finger of blame at any of us (NT or ND) for how our brains were wired in utero, there are very real problems which arise from ‘gaslighting’ behaviours which look and feel a lot like domestic abuse in a marriage/ partnership, especially with children. I personally have been through divorce, family courts etc etc in last 5 years, as well as a very unhappy 3 years marriage before that, and I now believe it is much to do with undiagnosed autism, it is tragic for us all, especially the children. This article has really helped me feel less alone in my experience, which is on going and deeply damaging. So it may be hurtful and offensive for an autistic person to read that some autistic people have behaved in ways that look and feel like gaslighting, bit I think it is an important area to look at, as I wonder how common it is, especially with undiagnosed adults, who perhaps have no insight into their behaviour or the consequences of it on other people. We also have an autistic son, and I plan to make sure I help him understand these factors when he is older, so that he has a better chance at a happy marriage/ partnership when he is older.

  • MGB


    February 16th, 2021 at 11:32 PM

    Today I am feeling utterly exhausted with the continual round of emotions. If only every day was the same and I knew which husband I was coming home to. But with each new day, in order to cope, I have to conform and adapt to whatever personality he happens to wake up with. There is no regard for earnest promises made (eg “in future, I will cook and you clean up” which lasts for 2 days then it’s back to me doing everything). He feels he can change arrangements because he is “depressed” or something, but it’s tears and accusations and blame if I don’t consult him about changes to a prior arrangement, and I’m accused of not caring! Thankfully I get either easy going talkative and happy or sullen and moody and no conversation, or it’s accusation and blaming, so I guess one of only three isn’t too bad, now that I’m thinking about it!

  • Sumguy67


    February 24th, 2021 at 3:51 AM

    Good article. I completely agree and this scenario fits my experiences.
    The difficulties are clearly in communication. More so when one person is expected to act “normal” and the other to have a superhuman ability to understand the other. In these situations a neutral relationship needs to be developed BETWEEN two different worlds of understanding an not one person being pulled to the other side. This takes a huge effort on both sides. (and possibly a little help)

  • Ann


    March 17th, 2021 at 12:33 PM

    My brilliant partner has much of the behaviour described, I have been shocked to read it so clearly put. We have never spoken about his autistic, he is undiagnosed and seems completely unaware he has it. We have been together for over 30 years and worked out a lot but it has been lonely. How or should I tell him? I have no idea how he would respond. I don’t want to hurt him or make things worse but I would like to feel my own reality was less denied. Any advice?

  • Rosemarie


    March 18th, 2021 at 4:35 AM

    My partner is an older gentleman with aspergers, but he comes across narcissistic. He is manipulative, because he finds this way easier to get what he wants from people. He repeats himself and i find it difficult to listen to the same topic. He takes in a lot of fake news on YouTube – which if i don’t listen to him talk, i am not being supportive. He chooses who he’s nice to, which makes me feel is is able to be respectful and mindful with others but not me. He gaslights, manipulates, withdraws from me and can be verbally abusive. Is Autism and narcissism connected?…

  • guy


    March 19th, 2021 at 1:12 PM

    In my experience and research, Autism and narcissism are very related and can seem the same. The very big difference is intent.
    This difference, however, does not change how it feels to the person who has to deal with it. The good news is that with good communication and solid boundaries it can change with an autistic partner. With a narcissistic partner there is no change. That said, it does nto mean it is easy.

  • Andrew


    March 20th, 2021 at 3:41 AM

    This is my experience also, particularly if you consider that autism and narcissism tend to run in the same families. It just seems all trauma related brain development, although one is considered a personality disorder and one a developmental condition. They say autists are empathic but not all of them are able to put themselves in other people’s shoes, they just feel overwhelmed by the emotions present and cthen shut down. This sounds similar to how Borderlines behave too, who are considered overly sensitive, empathic yet with traits of Narcissism, it’s all such vague psychobabble-based conjecture dreamed up by a committee of pyschologists. I have an autistic family member and dated someone definitely on the autistic spectrum. Both seem to have a split in self and are stuck in a younger developmental stage of childhood, also like narcissists?? Is it just a variation of the same spectrum?

  • Jennifer


    March 21st, 2021 at 11:48 AM

    Wow. There are some very defensive commenters reacting to your article and other comments. I found it to be empathic and not attacking anyone. I am here because I just did an internet search to find out what “tone” is alright, or at least understood or acceptable, when a spouse has listened to the a) manipulative version of a husband who has about 90% of the symptoms of being high-functioning autistic where rather than asking me to do something applying HIS timeframe, he starts asking me other questions – knowing, it seems to me, that I cannot possibly meet his timeframe and that there is no need to aside from his sudden ambition to have me accomplish a task, followed by his repeating his efforts at least 4 times after I have responded appropriately (as best I can when reading manipulative spoken words and gestures) but not responding as he wanted, then 2) being told by him when after the 4th repetition of my answer, the tone of my voice evidences my frustration, that I should “listen to myself” and that I “have no right to speak with him that way” when all I did was disagree, again, but with frustation in my tone – or a phrase such as “as I just said 3 times”. Bottom line is, it seems to me, the non-autistic spouse, he is pushing me to do his will when it is not suitable or necessary at that moment AND, I should add, demanding that I accept his version of reality (that these are MY boxes full of MY supplies) which is simply not supported by facts. In other words, HE could do what he insists I do on HIS timeframe without pushing me the way he keeps doing. On point, was the fact that, after insisting that I had no right to express my frustration with being pushed numerous times with my earlier, non-irritated responses being ignored or not accepted, he said what he wanted, which was a statement that he had to right to control my tone – and walked out of the room in the process.
    THAT is why I landed here, not because there was an attack on so-called “Aspies” or a cajoling of so-called “neurotypicals”. I GET that it is difficult for people who often cannot follow the logic of what was said, or who get responses to an off-target joke or comment that indicate that he might have said something not understandable to all, or gone off on a private tangent . . . I get that this must feel pretty bad at times. That, however, does not alter the fact that every day, it is ME who is expected to change and adapt and accept the “way he is” because I can’t expect HIM to change. And it does not change the impact on self-esteem or relationship with reality and the effects of both those things on us in terms of having confidence to present ourselves in public say, for job interviews, or to meet with children’s teachers, or to start a business in order to earn income and feel some worth in other ways. Lastly, the thing that others have mentioned. My husband’s reality does not alter the fact that I feel alone, that other people do not understand the impact his behavior or non-behavior has on my life, or that I have no one who I can share the way I feel with and get empathy or even coping strategies.
    I am 60 years old and been married for 15. Before that, we were together and he was on good “courting” behavior and I was explaining away the times when his apparently self-serving behaviors caused me to be curious or concerned. I have wished to be divorced more times than I care to add up.
    So while I do understand and empathize with those who write above in some accusatory/defensive ways, I am glad this article was written and that others shared their experiences and concerns. I am quite certain that I would recommend anyone else against marrying someone like my husband (which I realize is unique to him) because there is much expected of the spouse and an incredible amount given, but much taken and very little given back – even if it can be excused.

  • Sarah


    March 22nd, 2021 at 8:12 AM

    I tried to rebuild with my partner but stuck in the same loop of feeling invalidated, unseen and unheard, never comforted and always end up comforting him. Defensiveness, being told to ‘f**k off’ if I am upset by something that has been said (and desperately, desperately trying not to be, knowing after 3 years it cannot be processed or understood and he will shut down). I know it is not deliberate and he is a wonderful kind man. But as others have said, the fact is, the effect is the same – can an NT live with that? I don’t think I can. I blame myself for having emotions and tears, he blames himself for not processing anything and causing me to cry (and I hate crying). I feel very deeply. I know he does too but he cannot express it. Time to let go.

  • Sarah


    March 22nd, 2021 at 8:22 AM

    Just to add – (sorry Jennifer I only saw your comment after I wrote) – I too am glad this article has been written and people such as yourself have come forward with your honest stories as I realise that all of this is not in my head. As a long term ‘sufferer’ of anxiety and depression myself it’s hard not to blame myself for even feeling like I need more from this relationship but in no way do I blame him for our incredibly difficult communication from two separate worlds.

    Sending you a virtual hug!

  • Jennifer


    March 22nd, 2021 at 3:27 PM

    Thanks so much for the virtual hug Sarah! That was sweet of you – sending one back atcha now!!
    I would never really tell anyone what to do in these circumstances. In my case – and it far too long a story – I had no choice but to stay after I left my great job and moved to the country he came from originally. There are days when I do need a hug, but he doesn’t know how to give one to me and, since he doesn’t and it has been mentioned, he can’t seem to do so without feeling that he is “complying” which is hardly what I wanted in the first place. I have given up or given in at this point. He has a good sense of humor and that matters to me. We are lucky that we have our regular house and inherited a “summer house” so I can escape at times and gather myself a bit. Feel capable. Do things in my own order. No 2 situations are the same – but the reason they created a diagnosis is because enough people have this constellation of similar behaviors, including an aspect of developmental challenge. My husband had those, though he has worked and excelled in the computer world. I asked the doctor once, in a visit for that purpose, and he said that given those behaviors it was likely “asbergers” they still call it that here. In his case, it seems hereditary as he has a niece and nephew, possibly more than those 2 (out of 6) who have even more severe symptoms – communication, abstract concepts, inflexibility etc.
    Would I ever tell someone to stay married with a person who has these challenges? I might be neutral, but I would never say to remain in a situation that is SO DIFFICULT & lonely if they felt they had less problematic alternatives.
    Best of luck Sarah whatever you do!

  • Steve


    March 24th, 2021 at 8:23 AM

    True to form, autism spectrum and cluster b folks read an article that doesn’t let them off the hook but reviews how their behavior affects others, and they just can’t take it and then respond in a way that perfectly fits the stereotypes of them. If you read any comments on an article or video made by a neurotypical regarding how they were influenced by an aspie or borderline, you will see nothing but aspies, etc writing “you are wrong and what about me?”.

  • Lena


    March 26th, 2021 at 7:14 AM

    Wow. I’m glad I’m not the only one experiencing this. I’m a Christian girl who waited for marriage to move in with my husband and many other things. He told me soon after getting married that my body wasn’t good enough for him sexually and he struggles sexually because “he thinks of the things that bother him about me” while having sex. Beyond that he is extremely blunt and told me my name didn’t need to be on his house, assuming I just wanted him for his house and his money. I feel like he thinks I’m out to get him. I’m a peacemaking person that has zero love of money or things. I care about people and relationships. He has completely misunderstood me. It’s so hard for me that he doesn’t see me for me.
    We have been seeing a counselor for about 6 months now and I finally asked to meet with him individually because I was on my last leg and he told me in confidence that he thinks my h has aspergers. My h doesn’t know it yet but all the signs are there. Very strict routines 8pm-bedtime(no later!). He has the awkward posture. Major sensory sensitivities with touch and hearing especially at night. He is basically asexual. He never sees my point of view and shuts down if I say anything that would require him to reconsider something regarding him. For example he had our cat in a physical hold, I asked him to put it down. He continued to hold it until the cat was growling and hissing and then I said “Put the cat down now!” Then he was pissed yelled “what is wrong with you!” Then stormed off to bed. The next day he goes on to tell me that animals need to know whose boss. Anyway, the list goes regarding black and white thinking…and I’m just a mess. We’ve only been married 3 years and I’m 31. I want to hold my marriage vows but I also want to have kids and I don’t know if I see that in our future. What do I do? Will it be better if he finds out? He’s very reactive and defensive.

  • Julie


    March 26th, 2021 at 9:05 AM

    Lena, he absolutely must know and seek to understand your differences for your marriage to survive. For you to survive. There’s a facebook group for NT Christian wives. You’ve got to start educating yourself on AS or you run the risk of being destroyed. I’m not exaggerating.

  • Leesah


    March 28th, 2021 at 4:03 PM

    As Suspected aspergers myself I can see why people are having conflicting veiws in the comments here. I often get accused of gaslighting, and have never understood why, so this has shed some light for me as to the way my partner sees the way I react. However im not sure i can change this.
    The article is absolutely correct in saying that there is no malicious intent from the aspie. Speaking from experience I actually get quite upset when im told im gaslighting because it isnt how it is in my head at all. Due to difficulties in reading emotion arguements often do feel irational or crital because I dont have the same thought process and it doesnt feel like my side of the story is being heard. I then cannot cope with the anxiety and frustration, and often do go into autistic shut down or “storm out”.
    Im not doing this to manipulate in any way i try to remove myself from the situation because i know if i dont i will go into meltdown or overload. I feel i often feel i cant have my own opinion if having listened to someone else i feel like i might be wrong I dont feel like i am allowed to change my mind and agree. What i mean by that is that i often feel like my opinion is decided for me, and i cant get round the fact that my opinion is my own and i have a right to my own opinion without someone else altering that opinion before ive said it. That doesnt however mean that i cant come round to thier way of thinking but i need to express my original opnion first and not be judged for being wrong, otherwise i feel im not entitled to an opinion at all. This will cause me to shut down. Another example is when u ask an open or closed question. I struggle deal with open questions because the answers are too ambiguous for me to prossess and i find it hard to know where i have interperated the question corrctly. So in actual fact often removing myself from the situation to me seems like the kind thing to do in that situation so that i can calm down and think about things more rationally before i respond.
    However this doesnt solve the problem as I then cant bring it back up myself as i need to feel calm and this is then a subject that will then feel confrontational. This often leaves my partner feeling like i dont care about his opinions or invalidate them, but in fact i am deeply upset that he feels that way. To me all ive tried to do is avoid a full blown arguement. It doesnt mean i wouldnt discuss it but i need an extreame amount of understanding. I need to feel that we have emotionally reconnected before we can continue without ending up in the same situation. This is often difficult because my partner will understandably be upset with me and not want to connect at that moment but without that its like a wall stands between us and we aint gonna get anywhere until we break that wall down and let each other in.
    It also comes up a lot that i will say I didnt say that or i didnt mean it the way you took it. The way i see it, if you throw something back at me without my exact wording it doesnt mean the same thing, to me everything is literal and this is what I feel people on the other side of this are not seeing, one slight change to me completely changes the meaning. I dont have a huge thought process on the words that come out and can often be vauge again not intentionally, i just dont think to put in the extra details. Therefore my perspective on things often gets missed or misinterperated. I also find that when people try to put it in perspective they cant because i dont naturally put things in order when I’m talking about them. so instead of getting a full story you get a jumbled list of bullet points, then even when i try to put them in order for you there still bits missing or that don’t make sence because I don’t give enough detail. I would love to be able to but my brain just doesn’t hold information in the same way, when I try and recall details I literally go blank but if someone else says something it can almost unlock memories that I otherwise would have sworn blind where not true. It actually guenuenly scares me at this point because i feel like its possible other people actully know more about me than I know about myself, but from the other point of view i just look like a lier. Which makes me feel like he thinks im making excuses.
    I often feel like my partner deserves so much better, I literally hate myself because I feel like I’m hurting him but I just cant see it until after its happened to be able to stop it. There have been many a time where I’ve actually thought it would be kinder to walk away from the relationship due to the emotion stress i cause, but I’ve realized whoever I am with I am still going to be the same no matter how much I try and change it I cant and I feel like i will always be seen as the bad guy :( I think very much like depression having aspergers is one of those things that you will never truely understand unless youve got it. so i can actually see why there is so much negative around it even though it shouldnt be a negative thing.

  • Linda


    March 30th, 2021 at 9:06 PM

    In the end the NT person is still lonely and disappointed and depressed. Does it really matter if the behavior is intentional or not?

  • Ali


    March 31st, 2021 at 4:14 AM

    Can someone on the spectrum see his actions of gaslighting and claim that they happened only once/twice therefore they didn’t count. Simply gaslighting of a gaslighting action! Recently, I have started thinking that my partner may have Asperger however he is super functioning in many ways and I am doubtful. He doesn’t want to go to a specialist to check it but at the same time heavily uses gaslighting strategies in many occasions. How can I draw the line? We are a gay couple in a relationship of 13 years and I m on the edge of an emotional breakdown. Is there a way to get out of this other than breaking up? I would appreciate any advice.

  • Jennifer


    March 31st, 2021 at 4:09 PM

    Lena – At first I was right there with you on the symptoms you began to describe, as they are ones I have experienced as well. BUT, but but – I have never, in my relationship anyway, experienced the kind of violence you mentioned toward the cat, OR the rationale afterward. I URGE YOU to be especially careful by learning what the signs are for potential physical abuse toward you or god forbid any children you might (I get it – might never happen) have. I can’t analyze the man you married but especially if he is not flexible in his beliefs – I am concerned that you need to think about a plan B.
    Even if he doesn’t intend to be emotionally abusive, conduct that elicits the same responses (see partial list below) should not be accepted by you in my opinion. I say this because I wish I had been taught it myself when I was young. Bottom line: You only have one life you can count on, and no one “deserves” to feel horribly much of the time in their lives. So on top of the physical cues that I hope you’ll seek to understand very soon, here are some signals you might want to review to determine whether you, in effect, are feeling as people who are emotionally abused to.
    Feelings like:
    *quesitonning yourself, your thoughts, choices, validity, rights, movements
    *fearing, wondering or thinking YOU did something to cause him to react a certain way that feels painful to you
    *blaming yourself for feeling threatened
    * walking on eggshells in your own home
    *feeling you are not equal or
    *that you have less right to speak, feel, move about, opine, work than he does
    *you are unreasonably presented with challenges (lack of cooperation or respect?) when you attempt to set or act on your own schedule
    * you’re being denied or blocked from having access to marital information or property
    *feeling that his priorities (bed times? other?) require that you NOT learn new skills, attend events, have and get together with friends, participate in associations – religious, cultural, hobby because you have to accommodate him
    *Similarly, feeling that if you DO pursue these healthy activities, you will have to endure anger, threats, verbal assaults, name-calling or what you might consider “childish” behavior to such an extent that you can’t endure that so to avoid that you refrain from healthy activities outside the home.
    REMEMBER that you might be entitled to an annulment.
    HUGS 8^)

  • Jennifer


    March 31st, 2021 at 4:13 PM

    Leesah –
    How cool that you are making an effort to learn from the experiences others report and are in fact learning.
    I applaud you!!

  • Anonymous Autist

    Anonymous Autist

    April 10th, 2021 at 9:44 PM

    I’d have to add to the autistic voices here that say that this article comes across as one-sided at best and dismissive of the autistic partner at worst. I completely agree that there can be lots of struggles in a relationship due to one or both partners being on the spectrum, and I agree that in may cases the autistic person can be at fault. However the article takes a one-sided stance sympathizing solely with the neurotypical partner, and denying the autistic person any agency beyond being the cause of the problem. For autistic people, this is a particular problem for us as we are sensitive to being treated like children or things due to the way many of us were raised. This article seems to frame the autistic partner as a burden on the neurotypical partner, and that it is such a tragedy that the neurotypical partner is married to them. Two-thirds of the article talks about autists gaslighting their loved ones and only disavows this connection towards the end, emotionally way this argument is structured creates a link between autism and gaslighting that resonates in the reader’s mind even if the article says “no, it’s not the case” at the end. It also completely takes the neurotypical spouse’s side, assuming that they are always correct in their interpretation and the autistic partner is always wrong, rather than framing it as the two misinterpreting each other’s behavior (“gaslighting” implies the victim is correct and the abuser is wrong, as well as the fact that it is knowingly abusive in the first place). It also blames every disagreement between the spouses on the disorder, rather than the fact that this behavior happens between normal human beings and I have even seen neurotypical spouses do it just as often to their autistic partners!

    Perhaps the most notable example of this tonal issue is that the article doesn’t give any suggestions on what the autistic partner can do to help improve the situation. I don’t think that any autistic person would knowingly want to harm their loved ones, yet the article treats dealing with the issue as a conversation between the therapist and the neurotypical partner, rather than between all three individuals. Once again it reduces the autistic partner to an object rather than a participant. I read this article because I was worried about doing this to my loved ones and wanted to prevent it, and all it did was scare me enough to not want to enter a relationship with others to spare others pain.

    There are a lot of people in the comments saying this is a space for neurotypical spouses, not people with autism, so just leave us alone. That kind of highlights the problem here. For one, just take a look at the sheer number of comment on the article here talking solely about how horrible their partner on the spectrum is and how it’s ruined their life or they want out of their marriage. I don’t think I’ve seen one person here who has even says “being with an autistic person can be difficult but it’s worth it, and this article helps”. If an article provokes the same reaction in so many different people, it definitely has a certain type of subtext to it. Secondly, contrary to the claim that the commenters make there really aren’t spaces for autistic people to get similar advice, a quick Google search found a lot of articles similar to this one where neurotypical spouses lament how hard it is to be married to someone with autism, but virtually none for autistic people. And finally this article being a “safe space” for neurotypical spouses from their autistic partners just exemplifies the problem: it treats the autistic person as an object and results in people talking about us, not at us, even when we’re the subject of conversation. Do you think we enjoy being talked about behind our back and told to shut up or that we can’t understand because we’re inferior human beings when we try to say something? Do you think we don’t care about our partners too?

  • Guy


    April 12th, 2021 at 4:21 AM

    To: Anonymous Autist
    This article is titled: “Is It Still Gaslighting If My Partner Has Asperger’s?”. Your comments are out of context. It is about what seems to be gaslighting by people with ASD and, from what I have read, so are the comments. Yes it is a one sided discussion because that is the theme here.
    In your comment you say you wish to understand this common problem to avoid issues in your own relationships. That is admirable. I would suggest you read your own comment and see in it the actual gaslighting being discussed.
    On both sides of the discussion we need to identify the issue and find a way, in our own relationships, to resolve it. First is acceptance of our partner and ourselves. Then open and honest communication. And through it all is trust. Trying to hijack an open discussion like this one with an anonymous comment is not a good way to start.

  • MGB


    April 13th, 2021 at 1:39 AM

    Dear Anonymous Autist,
    I would like to say that you haven’t gone back far enough to see that there are plenty of people saying that, yes, though it is difficult for both neurotypicals and aspies to live together, if both parties work hard to resolve the many difficulties on a pretty much daily basis, then the relationship can be productive and affirming. I want you to remember that this is a forum for people who are finding the day by day struggle sometimes nigh impossible and they are just wanting some clues to work out if it is really worth it. In my case, it is worth it. My partner and I just had a discussion about the lawn. I have mowed the lawn for 20 years and now we need a new mower. I wanted petrol but he insisted on electric (with a cord) and when I said I wouldn’t use it, he agreed to. That was months ago. He has never used it. We have had letters from Council saying our neighbours are complaining about our long grass but yet he won’t use it and doesn’t want me too either, even though I have given in. He doesn’t want to start on the lawn because he knows he will be hours making it perfect when I would do it in half an hour. I just want to scream with frustration but I have learnt to put up with this. We have a lot of great times together but the day to day is difficult. Please don’t say we are blaming you – we just need the space to be affirmed, because our aspie partners rarely do this.

  • James


    April 13th, 2021 at 11:51 AM

    So much of this is familiar from my relationship with a woman who had then-undiagnosed ASD.

    She and I would clash constantly and she would frequently tell me ‘you’re just not thinking about it right’, and she would try to convince me that I was broken because I didn’t see the world her way. In the long term that did me a lot of harm, it left my questioning so many aspects of myself. Recently I came to wonder whether this constituted gas-lighting. For my part I had concluded much the same as the author of this article, the lack of intent made her behaviour something other, but that is not to say it was not extremely damaging.

    I would write for hours laying out the things that happened in that relationship and how they eventually devastated my life. Suffice to say, if you are struggling going through something similar, then you have my deepest sympathy.

  • Guy


    April 14th, 2021 at 12:22 AM

    Your lawn story is classic. Thanks for sharing. Setting boundaries doesn’t always work in these relationships. You had set the boundary against a corded mower, for example, but the comprimise never happened.
    In one case that I deem extreme, my partner insists the bathroom is perfect after every time I shower. (Her version of perfect) Now I have a routine and it is no big deal. Until the other day when she discovered that I wasn’t unscrewing the floor drain in the shower and cleaning out the drain trap every time.
    I almost dropped what I was holding when she told me. Then she went on explaining something about it but I was not listening because I was too busy thinking about how I was going to handle this one. So, I boarded the train to crazy town and began unravelling the threads. Luckily I was able to explain how extreme she was being and when we clean the bathroom is good enough and not at every shower. But I still catch her going in after me to clean it anyway.
    Still, having to constantly double or triple check not only the bathroom but everything else can be exhausting. And I certainly do not feel at home here, which I have learned is very unhealthy. “Walking on eggshells” whenever she comes home that there might be a confrontation or a meltdown or maybe another speach about how I do something wrong. All over something simple like the stove top not being polished to a shine.
    But it is not about cleanliness or perfect organization. It is something that is sometimes unrecognizable. She organized our campervan when we first got it and, in her way, everything was mixed. A drawer could have cutlery, a can of tuna, salt and tea towels. The next sharp knives, plates, coffee and the pepper. All neatly organized in her own fashion.
    I must admit that it is better lately but this is because of me and not her. I am a very calm guy and have learned a lot about ASD. I refuse to argue which helps a lot too. I have talked her through OCD tendancies, meltdowns, stonewalling,….. well you all know the drill.
    There was a point where I had to make a choice to become a different person in this relationship because having to live in a nonsensical universe created in someone elses head was really crushing me. When I looked at the literature it was described as a form of PTSD. At first I thought that was extreme but as it progressed I understood the reason for it. Now I set many, very necessary, boundaries and if it doesn’t fit the non-universe then I do my best to explain and then leave it at that. Also I say “no” a lot. Being agreeable is a very deep hole that is difficult to climb out of as I have discovered. Because when you begin to agree you enter a Wonderland that even Alice could not navigate.
    She is a wonderful person otherwise or I would not be with her. And to be honest I have also learned a lot about myself.

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