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).

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