Narcissism or Asperger’s? How to Tell the Difference

Young person with shoulder-length hair lies on stomach in park using laptop computerAs a therapist working with people affected by someone else’s personality condition, I’m often asked the question, “How do I know if my partner is a narcissist or if they have Asperger’s?” This is an interesting question. I did some research in order to give justice to this topic.

For one thing, both are on a spectrum. Narcissism is a personality condition that ranges from mild to severe. In the most severe instances, the person demonstrates sociopathic tendencies or antisocial personality.

Autism also resides on a spectrum. It is a neurologically caused developmental condition. Prior to 2012, people with mild symptoms, considered “high functioning,” were identified as having Asperger’s syndrome. With the publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), this label disappeared, replaced by autism spectrum.

Since mirror neurons are part of the brain’s social interaction system—involved with social cues, imitation, empathy, and the ability to decode intentions of others—some scientists have found that people on the autism spectrum have a dysfunctional mirror neuron system (University of California, San Diego, 2005). It appears mirror neurons also play a role in personality condition-related issues.

An emotionally neglectful childhood, involving parents who did not empathize, may result in narcissistic traits in adulthood. It has been suggested that this occurs because of under-utilized mirror neurons in childhood, which leads to dysfunctional mirror neurons in adulthood (Kellevision, 2015).

Here is a table depicting some of the similarities and differences between the two conditions. Can you see your loved one’s symptoms in either column? Could it be your loved one displays symptoms of both?

 

High-Functioning Autism (Asperger’s) Narcissism
Does not understand social interaction Manipulative
Does not do silent treatment Uses silent treatment as a weapon
You can say no May punish you if you say no
Does not do guilt trips Uses guilt trips as a manipulative tool
Does not sit on the “pity pot” Feels sorry for themselves and envious of others’ successes
Clueless about damage they cause even though they can be hurtful and selfish Hurts other people’s feelings and doesn’t care
Lacks empathy, but is not malicious Lacks empathy, and may be malicious
Lacks intuition Has intuition and uses it to get narcissistic supply
Not connected to their feelings Hyper-connected to their feelings
Tends to be one-dimensional Tends to flip into different modes or personalities (Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde)
Does not blame others Tends to blame others
Wants a playbook (structure and predictability) Wants chaos and control
Triggered by lack of familiarity Triggered by ego threats
On a spectrum from low functioning to high functioning On a spectrum from “normal”-range behavior to psychopathy/antisocial personality
Not sensitive Insensitive

 

If Someone You Care About Is on the Autism Spectrum

If you are in a relationship with a person on the autism spectrum, it is helpful to know how to take care of yourself. Here are some tips:

  • Be in the right “head space.”
  • Take charge of your own life. It is helpful to be flexible and adaptable.
  • Understand you have to do things on your own. Your partner will probably not be able to do the things that are important to you—at least not in a satisfying manner. Rather than getting upset by this, I recommend practicing acceptance. It is liberating to understand the situation and adjust yourself accordingly rather than expecting the situation to adjust to you.
  • Realize you can teach a person on the autism spectrum how to be different. This will require patience and perseverance. Do not be satisfied with the status quo; instead, get in there and help your loved one learn how to relate to you in a healthy way.
  • Recognize that if your partner hurts you, it is not intentional. Don’t take it personally and don’t be surprised. They do not do this to be controlling, feed their ego, or fulfill a personal need for superiority.
  • Research and study autism and learn what you can to have compassion for your partner.

If Someone You Care About Has a Personality Condition

If you are with a person with a personality condition such as narcissism, then you may have similar unfulfilled relationship issues, as well as the added bonus of emotional abuse. Following are some suggestions for coping with this type of relationship:

  • Observe the person’s behavior, don’t absorb it.
  • Understand that people with narcissism do not cooperate or collaborate well; you will have to learn to be independent in this type of relationship.
  • Do not expect the person to ever have empathy or compassion for you.
  • Develop healthy, happy connections within other relationships. Don’t expect them in your relationship with the person with narcissism.
  • Recognize that your partner may derive pleasure from hurting you. Why may be difficult to understand. Study the concept of “narcissistic supply” and you will discover that people with narcissism are “fed” by the reactions they get. It may help the person feel in control, superior, or powerful.
  • Realize you may not be able to teach a person with narcissism how to be different. No matter how much patience and perseverance you have, you may discover nothing works to change the other person. You can only change yourself.
  • Research and study personality conditions and learn to have compassion for yourself.

References:

  1. Goulston, M. (2011, November 17). Just listen – Don’t confuse a narcissist with Asperger’s syndrome. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-goulston-md/just-listen—dont-confus_b_316169.html
  2. Kellevision, (2015, August 6). Psychopaths, autism, empathy, and mirror neurons. Retrieved from http://www.kellevision.com/kellevision/2015/08/psychopaths-empathy-and-mirror-neurons.html
  3. Oberman, K., & Ramachandan, V. (2007, June 1). Broken mirrors: A theory of autism. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/broken-mirrors-a-theory-of-autism-2007-06
  4. University of California, San Diego. (2005, April 18). Autism linked to mirror neuron dysfunction. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/04/050411204511.htm

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Sharie Stines, PsyD, therapist in La Habra, California

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

  • 31 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • Glenn

    Glenn

    November 14th, 2017 at 6:47 AM

    Interesting question for sure. I love the comparative chart that you have listed above because looking at that you really do notice the big differences between the two; whereas if you are just looking at someone with their surface behaviors, you might think that they are one and the same. This is a great tool for breaking those similarities down and seeing where the real differences are.

  • Lynne

    Lynne

    March 15th, 2018 at 7:32 AM

    Yes I agree. Putting the list side by side made it easier to compare. Big thanks for that. I was a slow learner as far as see my hubby as a narcissist. Looking back the signs were there to be read. The internet wasn’t so easy 15 years ago so I did think it was me, being unwell added to my stress. Now I know for sure I’ve fibromyalgia and I’m dealing with it alone. I’m also 100% sure he’s a narcissist. So in recent years I’m stronger than ever and able to stand my ground. This brings out the worst in him ,but at least I’m no longer his whipping boy. I still get caught out from time to time but not often. I’ve a small group of friends so this support helps. Im family minded so it’s been difficult to put myself first ,but im learning. So good luck to anyone who’s in the same situation as myself. You need to free yourself and only you can do it. This doesn’t always mean divorce but you do have to develope self worth in spades.

  • Maureen

    Maureen

    August 25th, 2019 at 3:24 AM

    Hi I’ve been married to a man for 25 yrs I’m a lively & sociable 73 & he’s 64 , who I’ve always believed he is on the Asperger / autistic spectrum (not diagnosed ) he made me so ill with headaches & stress , & im not as vivacious as I used to be because of-my husband . I had to read up on why this man was different & now I understand him a lot better! But @ times he really gets to me & upsets me with his behaviour ! he a generous man, kind in a funny way, like washing dishes, hoovering, etc without asking. But he’s manipulative & very Nasty, when we have words and always blames me for everything within the conversation , if I make a comment he takes it a derogatory comment towards him & after 25yrs I’ve learnt how to word my comments, as I know he doesn’t take the blame he has the ability to make you believe everything that said is my fault ( he was like that with his 1st wife ) but cannot see it . I’m a laid back person & im used to him not talking to me & wanting his own space to do his own thing & not socialising , but sometimes he gets me so stressed I end up with a bad headache & feel sick. Like today 😢

  • Lurker

    Lurker

    November 10th, 2019 at 5:31 AM

    I thought the list was a bit one-dimensional and generalizing, in fact. For instance, I have autism, but I’m not one-dimensional, I behave differently around different people (as does everyone – you don’t behave the same way to your SO as to your boss and to your friends). Plus ‘not sensitive’ and ‘insensitive’ are the same thing, so I don’t really get why you didn’t just use the same word.

  • Pryce

    Pryce

    November 14th, 2017 at 8:34 AM

    For the narcissist it is always about themselves and in a very selfish manner

  • Tatiana

    Tatiana

    November 15th, 2017 at 11:20 AM

    I feel like you wrote this just for me. I want to be able to do more observing and not inhaling and absorbing that behavior, but you can probably tell that this is of course what I do. I let the way that others treat me and respond around me dictate how I then think and feel about myself. I know that this is the wrong thing to do but it is a powerful thing that certain people have over me, and try as I might, it is a habit that I have yet to be successful breaking.

  • Elizabeth

    Elizabeth

    December 20th, 2017 at 8:43 AM

    What should we do if our loved one possesses traits of both? For example, my husband does understand social interaction, uses silent treatment and guilt to manipulate me, and I have learned that I can most definitely not say no. However, he’s very one-dimensional and not connected to his feelings. He’s clueless about the damage he causes. And then on the flip side again, he definitely sits on the pity pot and blames others.

  • Robin

    Robin

    March 14th, 2018 at 6:15 PM

    Elizabeth he is a narcissist, I lived with one for 38 years and he almost destroyed me and his family in the process of trying to be in control. It took me 18 months of visits to a psychologist before I could really step back and see what was happening, that’s how much he screwed with my brain. I have a 32 year old daughter who still lives with me and has high functioning autism, her personality is nothing like his was. His was all about him, him, him, her’s is more about where she belongs in this world and the bubble (as she calls it) she lives in and has to step out of to face what goes on in the rest of the world. He was a great one for untruths, it worries my daughter to not stick with the truth. Educate yourself on both afflictions, I found my final answer on a site called ‘First Wives World’ if I may add this here, it was like a weight lifted from my shoulders after reading the piece of information where someone else had suffered under a narcissist. I hope this helps a little to work out where your are at. Good luck but definitely question his actions in your own mind if you feel they are not right.

  • marie

    marie

    May 22nd, 2018 at 12:07 AM

    Can I please get a clarification here?
    Is the author advocating that partners of aspies should stay? I really struggle with this because codependents are urged to draw boundaries with people who do not meet their emotional needs. Clearly, aspies struggle with meeting the emotional needs of their partners. But what I’m getting here is we should be more understanding and more patient in dealing with aspie partners because their shortcomings actually point to a developmental disorder.

  • Jason

    Jason

    September 4th, 2018 at 9:50 PM

    It all depends on the person and those are on the autism spectrum are difficult to understand.
    Speaking from my own experience there is nothing I want more than to meet the needs of a partner and join with them spiritually. I haven’t had the courage to put myself back out there since an adult diagnosis because I want to get things right and don’t feel I’m ready. If you can sense this in a partner and you see enough of them to love them then it’s worth a try. Find out if he feels the way I do.

  • Mel

    Mel

    June 1st, 2018 at 2:29 AM

    I think you are barking up the wrong tree – your first mistake is to assume aspergers and high functioning autism are the same thing – THEY ARE NOT! And from that point you are going down the superficial hill that most people go down when they do not have the skill, experience or knowledge of autism.
    Bottom line? Narcissism IS high functioning autism where intervention has failed and been fooled by a child desperate to survive and appear ‘normal’ as they approach teens and social survival starts to become paramount. Narcissism is nothing more that a set of hooks for the unsupported autistic mind to function.

  • Sabrit

    Sabrit

    September 10th, 2018 at 6:06 PM

    “For one thing, both are on a spectrum. Narcissism is a personality condition that ranges from mild to severe. In the most severe instances, the person demonstrates sociopathic tendencies or antisocial personality. Autism also resides on a spectrum. It is a neurologically caused developmental condition. Prior to 2012, people with mild symptoms, considered “high functioning,” were identified as having Asperger’s syndrome. With the publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), this label disappeared, replaced by autism spectrum.” Mel, how is your reading comprehension?

  • Alex

    Alex

    June 27th, 2019 at 1:20 PM

    Very interesting. Can you tell me more about this? I am struggling with a manager who appears to have high functioning autism / narcissism. What you are saying definitely makes sense. How did you come to this conclusion? Any literature you can share?

  • Isa

    Isa

    June 23rd, 2018 at 2:27 PM

    Very good, helpful article. Finally someone who understands and indicates the right direction to deal with it. Thank you.

  • Robin S

    Robin S

    June 24th, 2018 at 6:15 PM

    I really don’t believe the previous person is correct. As I said previously I have a daughter (unmarried) who has high functioning autism, I have another daughter who doesn’t have autism, but has two children with it. A daughter who was recently diagnosed in the same autism range as my unmarried daughter, and a son who is much lower on the spectrum and yet another daughter in that family who is normal. Why this happened no one has an answer. All these children DO NOT exhibit full blown narcissism as my ex partner did. I have read a lot about autism and still have a lot to read to try to understand it. Aspergers is now spoken of as high functioning autism and is not labeled as narcissism. Yes these two afflictions are both on the autism spectrum, but are somewhat different. Narcissism is about control and lack of empathy and the worst are psychopaths, whereas high functioning autism tends to display quite a high intelligence driven towards a single aspiration of what interests them the most. There have been and are many famous people on this list, look it up. Yes they may not realise that their emotions confuse the more normal people, but they do have a certain amount of empathy. If they don’t then they are definitely in the narcissistic range. I have included a link if I may that may help with some understanding of the situation. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/narcissism-vs-aspergers-how-can-i-tell-the-difference-1114174 . Research I have found has moved me forward in my understanding. But when researching have an open mind and don’t just research one article, there is a lot of rubbish on the internet, but there is also some very good information that can improve the knowledge of anything you want to learn about and especially the autism spectrum.

  • Freja

    Freja

    August 17th, 2018 at 4:42 AM

    I am so glad I am not the only one struggling with this ‘diagnosis dilemma’. I am a 47 yo woman who has recently realised she is autistic and currently seeking a diagnosis. Asperger’s is simply the term used to define high functioning autism – they are diferent only by degrees. It is my understanding that autism is a developmental / ‘brain wiring’ difference and narcissm is a personality disorder. Yes both types are ‘egocentric’ and lacking in empathy but it seems to me the motives and methods are almost completely opposite.

    I was born into what seems to me to be a family of narcs and was terribly bullied, abused and scapegoated both as a child and as an adult – in the end I had to cut contact with my whole family. I now realise this constant bashing I experienced was in part because I was such an easy target as an autistic person and also a constant thorn in their sides because 1. I can not lie or hide my thoughts, opinions or feelings – what you see is what you get. Narcs want to be adored and to maintain control; if they pissed me off, I would not be able to hide it OR let it go. 2. I am VERY easy to wind up, tease and upset which absolutely delights the more sadistic narc. 2. I do not understand manipulative behaviour and fall into the same traps over and over again, even with the same person. 3. I do not play head games or understand why people play them, I therefore frequently end up being ‘the loser’ in social situations. Because my family were nasty game players, I became more desperate to fit in and then easier to use and manipulate. 4. I do not accept any kind of social heirarchies – to me everyone is just a human being. I cannot be subordinate to anyone, not even to try and ‘fit in’ or to ‘climb the ladder’. Narcs are all about the power and putting poeple in their place – i.e. underneath them. If I do not ‘go to my basket’ willingly, then I ahve found that the verbal attacks would become more and more hostile until eventually I would be physically attacked. 5. While I absolutely LOVE being right and will happily crow about it when I am, I am actually more interested in finding THE TRUTH than in being right and I can readily admit to being wrong or making a mistake. My family will do ANYTHING to avoid being wrong and to pass the buck – something I also take umbridge with. 5. I am obsessed with fairness, transparency and understanding ‘the rules of play’. I cannot help but point out any inconsistencies or double standards and am unable to take them in my stride or let them go. I do not understand why people do not ‘play fair’ or how anyone could willing hurt or gain pleasure from deliberately hurting another human being.

    I found this article really helpful and clarifying but because of my own autism, I still find it incredibly difficult to distinguish other people’s motives, especially when they seem to frequently chop and change. I was convinced my husband is a narc and left him because of it. I ahd to return to him and now think he is in fact autistic but had a very narc mother and grandmother who he learned to relate from – in other words he plays by their rules because that is all he knows. (He had no father or siblings and was very isolated growing up.) I wonder if perhaps Aspies who grow up with Narcs can take on some on their traits because they mimic to try and fit in. Any thoughts?

  • Elizabeth C

    Elizabeth C

    March 28th, 2019 at 9:22 PM

    I wonder too about Aspies growing up with narcissistic parent. Do they take on some of those traits?

  • Robin

    Robin

    March 29th, 2019 at 5:16 PM

    For some of you struggling with how Aspies think, I have been given a book written by a man who had Aspergers most of his life then found out he had it, it is certainly an eye opener to how differently they think. I liken it to the logic of the Vulcan in Star Trek. I now understand my daughter a whole lot better and why she thinks like she does. There is nothing really wrong with her she just doesn’t think like I do. The book if anyone is interested is ‘Look Me In the Eye.’ Most libraries have it and most bookstores.
    As to your question of whether they can pick up narcissistic traits from their parents, I believe any child can pick up these traits, as children we learned a lot by copying what we saw. Perhaps if they are seeing and are subjected to these traits then there is a possibility of developing them. My father was a horrible narcissist, my mother wasn’t, I began to take on his traits as these were the most ‘powerful’ in the house, then one day I realised I didn’t want to be like that, I preferred the gentleness, kindness and thoughtfulness of my mother, and hopefully I’m still that today as I reach my autumn years.

  • Aspie

    Aspie

    July 21st, 2019 at 6:29 PM

    I am just reading this, but I an a grown woman who has just been diagnosed with ASD level 1 (Asperger’s) and I have a sibling who I believe to be a narcissist. It was very difficult growing up with an older sibling who was very manipulative and all about self. She knew how to push my buttons, and even as an adult would purposely try to hurt me. No empathy! She is very confrontational and I do not like confrontation, so I have cut her out of my life as of now. I don’t believe she will ever change, but if there is a chance I would be willing to slowly, but very slowly let her back in.

  • Robin

    Robin

    August 21st, 2018 at 2:03 AM

    Hello Freja, I understand there are four levels of autism. Here is a link that gives quite a good explanation: autismspectrum.org.au/sites/default/files/Vic/The%20DSM%205%20Autism%20Spectrum%20Disorder%20criteria.pdf
    if I may add it to this reply.
    My daughter was diagnosed as Level 2, which describes her as socially unable to mix. This means being around people she doesn’t know causes her anxiety she can’t control, so to counteract this she retreats back into her safe place. She likens it to living in a bubble and when she steps out of that bubble and she can’t handle it, anxiety takes over. The anxiety she feels is not what normal people feel, where one can calm oneself to a certain degree. She experiences uncontrollable anxiety, apparently something that is unique and at different levels for those within the autism spectrum. When I read the report in the link, it certainly described her situation. I then went looking for more information so I could understand what I was dealing with better, and found the information about her bubble situation, explained in a different way, but meaning the same thing. This was a huge step for me in understanding how she felt. Life is much better now, I know not to expect her to do things straightaway, but to work up to them.
    I felt by explaining the above, it could help in knowing what level you’re on to know how to handle it. I found it very difficult to find someone that would diagnose adult autism. What prompted me, was that I have another daughter with three children, two recently diagnosed with autism. One 12 years and the other 6. I contacted her psychologist and asked if they tested adults. No, but was referred to another phone number. No again. So I did some ringing around different psychologist and was finally given the contact details of one that did. There was a wait to get in but in the end it has been well worth it. This is something perhaps to think about in trying to find a psychologist that will test adults, and what level you are on.
    Your life so far sound very much like you have been at the mercy of a number of narcissist. Its easy for me to say you need to get a different perspective on life. It has taken me several years to rid my ex from my brain. Reading about psychopaths and narcissists and the way they think was a help to me. It was actually a turning point in my life. There were a couple of sayings I came across that made me think, and I found they helped me as well. I have listed them here with a bit of an explanation, and perhaps they may be of help to you: a person is not responsible for how another thinks (in other words, do you expect others to be responsible for how you think? No. Then don’t be responsible for what they think); I am not my brother’s keeper (in other words everyone has a brain, what we do with that brain counts. If someone is doing something stupid, you cannot jump inside their brain to stop them, they need to use their brain to stop themselves, the responsibility is not yours.) With the last one, yes we can offer advice, but it still goes back to the individual to think for themselves. I hope I’ve explained it so you can understand what I am trying to say.
    Another idea, is to step back from your life and look at it from an outsiders point of view. As if you were a spectator, and watch the things other people do. I found it very beneficial. I did this to get my head around my ex (who was a psychopath) and asked myself, would I walk past him in the street, and the answer was yes. Do I really like this man, no. Does he do horrible things, yes. Is he manipulative, yes. I did this often to remind myself what I was dealing with.
    I think we get very lonely when living with these types of people, and we look for comfort, something they are incapable of giving. Perhaps stepping back from your family, husband and anyone else in your life, and trying to feel if they have good vibes (as my autistic daughter says) may allow you to find those you want in your life and those you don’t. I suggest walking away from those you don’t, and don’t give in to the guilt trip that you feel bad because you haven’t seen them, or some other guilt you feel. They are capable of approaching you. See if this happens, but be really careful when it does.
    You only have one life you can live, no one gets a second chance. I made that decision and I’m the happiest I’ve been in all my life. I don’t have a partner, I don’t need one, my brain is now at peace not screwed up by someone else trying to manipulate it. I do what I want now and make my own decisions without having to factor someone else in that wants to be negative.
    As regards your husband, step back, take a good look, you will soon work out if he’s worth it or not. Narcissists have a way of getting you back, it’s called guilt. There are many genuinely nice men in this world, but they don’t continually go on that life is all about them.
    I apologise for this being so long, but its a huge subject with a lot of traps for the unwary.
    An afterthought, research the effects of heavy metals and food additives. A load of these can affect decision making and make humans sick in many ways. I was somewhat ill mentally and physically. I was able to return to almost good health after eliminating pre made and eating fresh and foods with no additives. I hope I’ve now got an extra ten years up my sleeve.
    A hug for you because I think you need one, and I hope you can rise above all this to a better life.
    Robin

  • Tina

    Tina

    February 25th, 2019 at 8:19 PM

    As Robin touched upon, I feel that we cannot begin to determine what is really going on with a person’s brain until their environmental toxins and deficits are corrected.

    Has anyone run across any studies of people who have had no vaccines or other exposure to heavy metals etc, who don’t use drugs including caffeine, and/or who take supplements including essential minerals, B and other stress vitamins? For that matter, people who get enough sleep, sunshine and fresh air? According to the film “The Magic Pill”, even eliminating carbohydrates can markedly reduce the symptoms of autism!

    THEN we could assess people’s true basic functioning, and start our therapeutic approach from there.

  • Joyce

    Joyce

    May 31st, 2019 at 10:48 AM

    My husband has some from both but primarily Narcissism but just got diagnosed in 1 hour for Asperger. I fell out of love about 3 years ago and only stay for financial reasons. I was desperate for attention and conversation and no abuse and so I had several sexual encounters that he just found out about and now I dont know how to end this all

  • Robin

    Robin

    June 3rd, 2019 at 11:02 PM

    In recent months my autistic daughter and I have been trying to source books written by individuals who have autism to better understand what it is all about and how their minds tick. Because my daughter is a slow reader and finds it hard to take in all the information at once, I have been reading these books to her one chapter at a time in the evening. She has gained a great deal from some of the information and has been able to relate to information in these non fiction books. She now feels much better about herself and her anxiety levels have gone down somewhat. I have learned people with Asperger’s or autism as it’s now called suffer from a lot of anxiety. These books came from our local library and were suggest by a teacher who taught at a one teacher school and had to deal with an autistic child. The two books we have read are ‘Look Me in the Eye’ and ‘Born On a Blue Day’, if I may add them here. We then began watching a couple of DVD’s, one depicting Temple Grandin’s life growing up and her struggle with her autism. Another was made by the psychologist Dr Richard Eisenmajer called — Imagine Having Asperger’s Syndrome, A first consultation. In this DVD the doctor admits to his ideas about Asperger’s being wrong after meeting a very successful man who had it, but had the help of two very competent secretary’s to help run his business. The man spoke to the doctor about the world he see’s out there as being like chaos and how he needs order in his life. When I spoke to my autistic daughter about this, she said that’s how she see’s the world. It is also apparent that they can only process one thought at a time, and are continually on catch up throughout the day, a reason why autistic children come home like bears with sore heads. It was brilliant information and I now understand where my daughter is coming from and have adjusted the way I view her decisions and her actions. She has become calmer, I think mainly because she knows she is not alone but that she is one like many others out there. What I have written may not solve what people are experiencing living with individuals with Aspergers or Autism, but it may go a long way to understanding how they think and why some do the things they do and in turn may help solve a few problems. My daughter is 33 and she was only diagnosed last year. So I have had my time pulling my hair out and being hugely frustrated and desperate for an answer how to handle her. Not now, that I have my answers. My ex husband was a narcissist bordering on psychopathic. I lived with him for around 38 years and one of the worst things to be experienced is the manipulation and degrading of personal self and loneliness under the barrage of rot they seem to like to dish up. I’m not sure if what I have written will help but I hope so even if its just a little. Sending you a hug. Hang in there life does get better you just have to find that way out.

  • jean

    jean

    August 10th, 2019 at 3:18 AM

    I’m trying to understand my boyfriend of one year. We are both seniors and the idea of starting afresh at this age is daunting so I’m afraid to let go. He is very intelligent man but I wonder sometimes if he’s not on a spectrum somewhere. I might be too, just not as much as him so I try and sympathize with his unusual behavior but it’s getting harder to do. He’s a loner and so am I so I thought we’d be compatible. When I first met him I thought he talked a lot but he did ask me a few questions about myself and we got along okay. The more I got to know him I realized he would talk incessantly about himself, his daughters, his hobbies, his past job in law enforcement, his health. If I say something about myself or my family, he hijacks the conversation and makes it about him or his family. I’ve heard this called conversational narcissism. He talks in monologues which can go on for hours. I’m very patient with him. I’ve noticed when I interject a remark to change the subject, he pauses then launches right back into what he was saying, he doesn’t even register what I’ve said. He was talking one day about his job and pedophiles came up and I mentioned I’d been molested as a child. I had to tell him 3 different occasions the same thing before he realized what I said and was surprised. I almost left then and now wish I had before I got too attached. In the beginning he would say inappropriate remarks about other women in front of me telling me I was too sensitive when I asked him not to do that. He said I it was from a 30 year job in law enforcement where that is accepted but I think it’s just the way he is like he has no clue not to do it. After a month or so of this I asked my son and some male friends about the remarks and they said what he was saying was disrespectful to me and I should stop seeing him. I told him I would if he kept making these remarks more appropriate to a locker room so he put it on the “list” as he calls it and says when the list is too long we’re through. He tries to curb these comments but complains it’s stressful for him having to monitor his speech for me. Most worrisome is that he repeats the same stories of his job, his ex wives, his children like he’s never told them before. He can repeat a story so many times I have it memorized. I mentioned this to him one day when I’d had enough and he got very upset and said now he has to try and remember everything he says too and put it on the “list”. I felt empathy for that so I apologized and never mentioned it again. He doesn’t feel he does anything wrong and when I try to tell him how I feel and he calls them “lectures” and adds them to the “list”. I am very supportive of his family and I ask questions and give him feedback but even when I bring my family he doesn’t really seem too interested. We went away for a few days and I showed interest when we spent a whole day in a small town and he showed me every place he’d ever lived, worked, went to school etc. I went to visit a friend for a week and when I regaled him what we did he said “you talk too much about her” just blew me away considering the hours I’ve sat and listened to him about his whole life. He loves history with a laser focus and when we go places I’m expected to show the same level of interest he has or he thinks we’re not compatible. If I get upset about something he says I’m too sensitive and we’re not compatible. I care about him and don’t like pointing these things out to him as he says I look to make big deals out of nothing, they go on the “list” so now I’m beginning to wonder about myself. Nine months ago his 34 year old daughter moved back in with him after getting a divorce and had an old dog that had been living with her friend while she’d been married and now wanted it at her dads place to live with her. I’m allergic to dogs but it only mattered to him what she wanted. I can’t go to his house anymore so he comes to mine and can only see me the same days of the week, it bothers him to change the schedule, Mon, Wed, Sat evenings for the last 9 months now. He’s affectionate towards me and can be social with strangers but doesn’t seem to have many friends. I’m also affectionate and have no problem calling him sweetheart or hon etc but the only term of endearment he has for me after one year is “Missy” saying he’s just not like that even though he calls his daughter sweetheart all the time. Sorry for carrying on but he has traits on both sides of that list and I don’t know what to do. I’m not perfect either but telling him my point of view or that you feel left out or asking for the same emotional support I give him (my daughter is going through tremendous health problems) shouldn’t be called a lecture. I do care about him because I think he has a problem and maybe can’t help himself but it’s getting tiresome. We’re taking time apart now as he thinks we’re not compatible because I didn’t show enough interest in some historical place we were at and I lectured for an hour (was really about 15″) about a subject I liked while at another historical place and he feels the “list” has gotten too long.. Should I chalk it up or try to understand this affectionate but one sided man?

  • Robin

    Robin

    August 11th, 2019 at 4:06 PM

    This appears as a very one sided relationship. Very much what he wants and not much what you want. It certainly has taints of narcissism. From what you have said, he considers you are the problem in this relationship and this is the reason why he is making statements that it is not working and he’s telling you this with his ‘list.’ This is typical narcissistic behaviour and is a tactic they use to demoralise and destroy the confidence of another person who allows them into his or her life. I wonder do you feel that the more he tells you it is not working the more you want to help him because you feel he has a problem you may be able to help with? The one thing narcissists don’t have is empathy. You certainly appear to have empathy, because by staying with him you feel you could help him. Perhaps a thought is to step back and look at him like he is someone you don’t know, someone just on the street. Observe his real behaviour without your emotional attachment. Like looking through real glass and not the rose coloured kind. Another suggestion, find your running boots before he drags you down and makes you believe you are all the things that are going wrong in his life. I experienced a narcissistic marriage for 38 years and was on the bottom rung of the ladder when I made the decision to get help. One divorce later and I am living the best years of my life now. Good luck.

  • Jean

    Jean

    August 12th, 2019 at 3:18 PM

    The more he tells me it’s not working, the more I try and honestly it scares me to have to start over. I feel tremendous empathy knowing he’s probably had to deal with the way he is his whole life, him not understanding why he has run ins with other people. Like he has some wiring that’s off and doesn’t realize it. I have also been a little different, not to his degree but do know how difficult growing up and living like that can be. I wonder if I’m attracted to this kind of person because I understand and feel so much for them.
    I need to mention some good things about him as a partner so as not to appear one sided. He’s extremely intelligent, honest and dependable. I see him starting to ask me questions about myself because I think (hope) he’s beginning to care about me more. He compliments me on how I look etc, mostly physical things. A few times he said I was a good person. He says he knows he cares for me because he can feel it when he hugs me. He listens to me more and I take this as his caring more or me just learning to interject. He drives 20 miles to see me, we used to take turns but now I can’t go to his house anymore because of the dog. I do think his obsession with his daughter will go down somewhat once she leaves as the incessant talking about her although still a lot, was not as bad when she wasn’t living with him. He talked about moving in together when his daughter moves out in another year.
    I feel hesitant to move in with someone who has only shown “fondness” for me and still can’t refer to me by anything but my proper name or Missy. And I also feel he could dump me with one wrong word.
    If I try to see him through glass I can see that he is self-obsessed, opinionated, considers himself always right (which he almost always is because of his intelligence) can be arrogant and is consumed with his own family, their happiness and his health. He can say inappropriate things without realizing it. He’s repetitive to an almost pathological degree, telling the same story from start to finish sometimes day after day. He has almost savant like abilities with facts, dates, details – and questions if others really know what they’re talking if they can’t relate their knowledge as well as he does. This has happened to me several times. He is a movie buff and can watch the same movie over and over, sometimes within the same week. He loves sarcasm but sometimes it just sounds like disguised meanness to me and again I’m too sensitive if I say it bothers me.
    I feel there is something not right here, some kind of personality disorder which led me to your article on Aspergers. I didn’t consider narcissism but some of those traits fit too.
    When we returned from our trip after we had a falling out he said it’s just my personality to find fault with everything. I asked him if it was over and he said he’d let me know. After 5 days of texts on and off telling me he wasn’t feeling good (he did have a cold) and then not returning a phone call when he said he would, I very nicely wished him well and said goodbye. He responded that since I just couldn’t wait until he was better to hear from him, and since we had no interests in common, that some time apart would give us perspective. That was 10 days ago. We have texted since, friendly but nothing more. I am confused and broken hearted. Don’t know what to do, just not respond to his texts or keep the dialogue going.
    I’m so unsure of myself now, perhaps I am too sensitive and feel like I’m the one who has screwed this up by asking him to change behavior he can’t help. Thanks for listening.

  • Robin

    Robin

    August 12th, 2019 at 5:34 PM

    He certainly seems to be a ‘box of tricks.’ One minute you are feeling ok about your relationship and the next asking yourself was it you that caused the situation where you needed time apart. From what you have said I can see a certain amount of manipulation going on. Perhaps if you did some research yourself on narcissism and manipulation you may get a better sense of whether this is happening to you or not. There is a site called First Wives World that may be of help as well. This is one that helped me to lift the clouds of confusion I had. One woman explained her narcissistic partner so well and all the things that had been happening to her and how she had such a guilt complex, that I could see my situation and this was a turning point in my life as well.
    He may also have a certain amount of autism. I watched a DVD recently by a psychologist called Dr Richard Eisenmeyer. The DVD was called ‘Imagine Having Aspergers Syndrome.’ He spoke about one of his patients having an attitude that he was ‘king’ and the rest of his family were his servants. Apparently it had been a nightmare situation for some years till they worked out where this young fellow was ‘coming from.’ Once they knew how his mind worked the parents put in strategies on ways to handle him and get him back down to their level. He also spoke about how a child with autism may come home from school and want to play a DVD, video game or such like, over and over in the same afternoon. He said it was the way they unwind their minds that are on overload.
    If this fellow you have been seeing does have Aspergers as you mentioned he watches the same movie over and over, you will need to learn as much as you can about the condition to be able to understand how to handle someone with it. I have a daughter living with me and she has level 2 autism. Very poor social interaction. I now know to be specific with the times if we are going out and not change them suddenly. This disrupts her organised thought patterns and she goes into ‘meltdown.’ Life is smoother now I know where she is ‘coming from.’ All I suggest Jean, is that you do as much research on both these subjects as possible to put you own mind at rest. Hope this helps.

  • jean

    jean

    August 13th, 2019 at 9:20 AM

    Yes you are right, some days I feel okay then others I feel I have failed and sad. Right now I’m being “benched” as they call it, left out of the game for not playing well. I will certainly go to that site as you suggest because as you can see from my texts I don’t know which way is up anymore – just that something is not right. I do think he has a certain amount of autism as I have read a lot on that even before I met him, it’s a subject that interests me considering my own thoughts that I may have a small degree of it. What was most interesting was how I recently read that there can be mixtures of narcissism and Aspergers (just called autism spectrum now) and that’s how I found your article. I didn’t realize that but it makes sense. I wondered how anyone with narcissism could show empathy or how people on ASD could be social. A lot to learn but worth trying. Thanks so much for helping me. Warm regards, Jean

  • Steve

    Steve

    September 24th, 2019 at 12:00 AM

    Advices for someone in relationship with narcissist:
    1. Break up and never look back.
    2. Break up and never look back.
    3. Break up and never look back.
    4. Break up and never look back.
    5. Break up and never look back.
    6. Break up and never look back.
    7. Break up and never look back.
    8. Break up and never look back.
    9. Break up and never look back.
    10. Break up and never look back.

  • Jenny

    Jenny

    November 4th, 2019 at 2:20 AM

    Hi My name is Jenny. I have really been encouraged by reading your article and the comments different people have made. It has brought me to a place where I find myself valuating my life, my relationships. I am married and have been for 6 yrs. This is my second marriage. My first marriage was to my highschool sweetheard who I was smitten by from the minute I saw him the school playground at the age of 15. We married at the age of 22 and had 4 beautiful children together. Our marriage ended after 25 years and was through my choice in asking him to leave. I was an extremely broken person by the end of our marriage and spent many years working on myself as I have always been determined to want the best out of life. On the day of our court hearing for our settlement my barrister told me that my ex husband was narsistic which I had never heard of before and went home to try and find out what that meant. As I began to read it helped me greatly to understand our situation and how it had got to this place. I am an advocate for marriage, I believe in it and I greived greatly when my marriage ended. All I ever wanted was to be valued and to feel like I was an important person in his life. I now underdstood that this was something he was never going to be able to give me now matter how good, kind generous, forgiving I was. I had spent the past 20 odd years trying to help my husband and felt a tremendous amount of guilt because of things he would say to me. He was always right and I was wrong (even when I wasnt). From the very begining I was subjected to weeks of silent treatment and this would only end when I grovelled back to him and said sorry. For many years I idolised him, protected him and always put myself last in every area, even walking through a doorway etc. I also put in a huge amount of effort to let him know he was number 1 and no one would take his place. Living with a narcistic man I now see he had me just where he wanted me and that was always below him and to never feel anything good for myself. This took a toll on me after 20 odd years and dealing with the lack of self worth he so graciously gave to me, I ended up becoming someone I didnt particularly like, value or relate to at that stage, my self asteem was at an all time low, this was in 2007 and I was 43 years old, at this stage I was not wearing my wedding rings and I was now quite self absorbed and looking mainly at my own needs. This was not who I was and came to a pivitol point around that time, as I felt deep misery. I sat down on my bed, said a prayer and asked for forgiveness for the person I had become. I put my wedding ring back on and made a commitment to myself to do all I could to save my marriage. Over the course of the next 2 years I turned my life around and gave it everything I had, however it was not meant to be and I ended the marriage in April 2019. It was one of the saddest days of my life yet it was also one of the most powerful as I had spend a lifetime being controlled by this man I tried so hard to love. I look back now and the courage it took for me to end it was beyond me and something I have not ever regretted. I spent the next few years working on myself, looking after the family and working full time in an office which was good for me at that time. I was not looking for another relationship and did not date other men as I thought I had had my chance at marriage. I had something I needed to get done on my home and had an inspector come to take a look, he was nice and we chatted about the beach as we both loved it and had caravans not to far from each other. He contacted me about having a coffee however I made him wait for a couple of months, i just wasnt ready. I finally gave in and went out for dinner with him and we have now been married for 6 years. I feel totally blessed to have a 2nd chance and we have had a lot of terrific times together. He is kind, considerate, loving, thoughtful, caring and tells me everyday how much I mean to him and how loved I am. He is the most loyal and dependable person I know and treats me like his queen. I am very grateful he is in my life. In the begining of our marriage I did find it quite difficult to accomodate his ways which I believe I am a very patient and tolerant person but there has been many occassions where I feel very hurt. Over this past couple of years through my unconditional love for him he has come to the realisation that he does have aspergers syndrome and is now starting to understand himself and why he is different to most other people around us. I came from a home where there were lots of people always in our home and we shared everything we had. He came from a very isolated situation where he was taught only to depend on himself and never ask to borrow or lend off anyone else. Because of his homelife with his ex wife who was also a narsistic person that had major alcohol abuse issues and insisted on having 6 children (girls) he was totally burnt out by the time I met him even though his marriage had ended 6 years prior. He was a very hands on dad, but always felt like he wasn’t good enough not understanding himself with aspergers. We have both worked hard to make our marriage work but I felt so hurt today when he seemed anxious because my sister came to visit me, I have just had a major operation and she came over to give me some company and was gone before he got home. He seemed on edge when he got home from work. When he acts like this is really hurts me because I do put in so much effort to accomodate this situation with the aspergers, yet he can not relate to how important it is for me to have family and friends in my life. He is happy for me to do this but not in our home, especially when he is around or knows about it. My stuggle is how do I cope with this? I want to share my home with my loved ones but he makes it so unconfortable I have to do this outside of my home. I am greatly sadened by this and wanting to share my life much more with family around but because I loved him very much and need to accomodate his needs I’m struggling to find the balance. In the past I have family here If he goes away camping for the weekend etc but I want to be able to have my door open for them not just on those occassions…. Can anyone suggest what I can do ???? I’m sorry if I have rambled on so long I just needed to vent and don’t want to do this with the family because then they will think bad of him. He is a truly great person to me just not to others. Has any one else been through something like this?
    What can I do to help put some balance in this situation? at this point I feel like I’m over accomodating to his needs and not getting my own needs met. I don’t want to be selfish but I also need to know how do I have a voice in these situations? This is not something any of my family have had to encounter before and I really struggle with it.

  • Robin

    Robin

    November 4th, 2019 at 3:15 PM

    Hi Jenny,
    I can relate to much of what you have said as far as the narcissistic partner, and how it destroys the very fabric of who you are. I may be wrong but from what I have read it appears you are still putting others ahead of your own happiness. Yes one doesn’t have to go overboard with putting themselves first, but they don’t have to give in to the whims of what others want to feel happy. One begins to get used if they give in too much, its human nature to like to get our own way.
    Aspergers in Australia is now called Autism and is on the autism spectrum. I have a daughter that is Level 2 on the Autism spectrum. Has huge difficulties with social interaction. She was diagnosed only two years ago and is now 34. She lives with me. The first thing I did when I found out what had been a troubling situation for so very long, was to learn what makes individuals with different levels of autism tick. It took me a lot of book reading and watching DVD’s to begin to understand where my daughter was coming from and it was very much of a relief to finally understand what I was doing wrong in the way I was handling her. I cannot change her, she is the way she is. She may be 34 but she is more like 22 in her mind, although she is very bright and creative. Now that I understand what makes her tick, I have been able to make adjustments to the way we interact and this has made our lives far better. I have set myself boundary’s as far as her stepping into my personal life, and I am the one who has to step her back if she over reaches, because she just feels she is trying to ‘sort it’. This doesn’t happen as much now . I am me and she is her, we need to remain our individual selves, not become someone that we are not.
    I also read an interesting piece of information recently and use this thought when I feel my mind is letting me down. It said that in our minds we have a ‘Mammoth.’ This mammoth is there telling us that we are no good, we should give in because of this or that, we should have done such and such better, I wonder what people will think of me now, etc. When I have these thoughts I think of it as the ‘Mammoth’ that’s weighing me down, and after a little practice I can now make that ‘lousy’ thought from my Mammoth disappear.
    All I can say from my own experience is to try to learn as much as you can about the condition to help with understanding it. You did it with the narcissism and here’s my congratulations for trying your best to understand that complex situation. My marriage ended after 38 years and I was a wreck, but with self help I feel I have bounced back to a new wonderful life.
    Good luck.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.