What If My Husband and Child Both Have High-Functioning Autism?

happy family using tablet pcIt is not uncommon for a man with high-functioning autism/Asperger’s to have a child who also has it, because there are genetic components to this brain structure variance that manifests as what we call HFA. These differences are in the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala.

High-functioning autism is not a mental illness. It is not a personality disorder. It is not ADHD, ADD, or oppositional defiance disorder. It is a physiologic difference in the brain with a spectrum of possible manifestations. A father passes on his genetic material to his son. Some of this material can contain the code for HFA.

In my practice, I often see neurotypical women in such a triad. Usually, the pathway for the wife is difficult, as she feels as if she is the outsider as she struggles to be understood and to feel that she is valued in her family.

It is a difficult challenge for a neurotypical woman to put herself in the mindset of the HFA husband or son. She can understand the differences intellectually, but when it comes to feelings, she inadvertently defaults to her neurotypical frame of reference. She tells me she can’t help it. She tells me it is exhausting and, most often, fruitless.

I tell her that I understand her position. We talk about feeling alone and alienated. But I also try to bring her to a place of being able to see what it might be like for her if she were in her husband’s or son’s position as individuals with HFA trying to make their way in a neurotypical world.

They are often exhausted, confused, and frustrated. They feel intense anxiety and fears about missing social cues, misunderstanding subtexts in conversations, and taking everything literally, missing the nonverbal aspects of communication.

When I see women married to HFA husbands whose children also carry the diagnosis, we work together on several things: the grief that attends the loss of her dreams and hopes, the reconstruction of her sense of self and the reinvigoration of her personal goals, and ways in which she can retain her newly-regained confidence. We also work on methods she can use so that she can communicate with her husband and son in such a way that they understand cognitively what she is explaining about her emotions.

It is not easy. But with support, the wife in such a situation can learn techniques and strategies for getting her point across that may not seem comfortable to her at first. Once she begins to see that they work, however, they can become second nature to her.

They will never be her first nature, however. Good support along her journey of discovery is of extreme importance for her well-being and for reinforcement that she is doing the best she can. She will also need help decoding things she does not understand and things she has tried which have not worked, or which have backfired. A good therapist who understands the unique position of the woman in this family is an ally in this journey.

The family dynamics are challenging, but they can be managed with care and with the intent to hold the family together.

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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 GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • cara

    January 29th, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    That would be a tough situation to find yourself in. I didn’t realize that if the husband has this then there is a greater likelihood for the child to have to too?

  • Sarah Swenson

    January 29th, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    Hello, Cara,
    Yes, it is a very difficult situation. With good counseling support, a woman can learn to create space for herself in her own life. Our goals together, besides those mentioned above, include identifying core needs that the woman is unable to compromise on if she wants to remain true to herself. This is, perhaps, the most painful and difficult part of the work, because it includes the risk of facing that a couple must separate in order for both individuals to thrive.

  • Jen

    September 2nd, 2017 at 12:12 PM

    I am sure that every situation is unique, as is every individual, but I would suggest that the differences are too great. NTs enter a relationship for validation and look for their partner to mirror back to them that they are worthy and valued. You are unlikely to get that in an NT/AS partnership and if your children are also AS it is a terribly, lonely, uphill battle. Over 25 years fighting this battle taught me that you will likely lose.

  • Estella

    April 30th, 2018 at 12:55 PM

    My husband and daughter have aspurgers. For years I walk on eggshells and obsessively try to make everything perfect so he won’t shutdown. It’s particularly hard to keep him involved on holidays. My confidence is non existent now I will never feel valued or loved but him but I can’t leave because I care and I love him
    My daughters school doesn’t understand her diagnoses because she is nothing like the other artistic kids they are Accommodating. I’m actually looking for a lawyer because they have been harassing me and abusing my child

  • cara

    January 29th, 2014 at 12:44 PM

    I guess I am just a little confused as to how these sorts of relationships even make it to the altar? I mean, there would be so many concessions and compromises that would have to be made that I am not sure that I would want to have to sacrifice that much to make a relationship work! I am all about the give and take but if you are the one without Asperger’s then it must sometimes feel as if you are the one who is always on the giving end of things.

  • Deborah

    July 7th, 2018 at 2:10 PM

    This is in reply to Cara. This relationship gets to the altar b/c you are everything to them, they charm you, you get to do fun romantic things like travel, share a hobby. However, once married, or had a baby, this is completely turned off, and you will be his “sister”. Don’t expect validation on anything. Don’t expect him to understand why you are upset, or not get angry at you for (gasp) crying. I didn’t know until our son was diagnosed. I now feel bookended by these 2, not loved but rather verbally attacked – my words taken personally, or defensively, when I am just trying to understand what’s going on. “Oh don’t cry!!!!” Well guess I’ll go in the bathroom for a spell. I am really unlucky in he had a wife(me) who worked, cleaned, cooked, raised his son. But, oops! I got a blood clot and became disabled. He actually told friends in front of me, “I didn’t expect a crippled wife!” I feel trapped between 2 men who cannot “get” why I have emotions, and that it’s OK. It has worsened my health, given me a small stroke, b/c I was stressed and continue to be, I have PTSD. I did not cause these things for myself. I get therapy. I also was once in hospital, and he didn’t come. I am weighing divorce right now, at 60. I can’t take it anymore, and do not want to be susceptible to another stroke. Sometimes I feel like no one cares at all, and want to die. My social circle has dwindled with being disabled. He is resentful b/c he works, but has to cook dinner (I told him don’t do it on my account but noooo, he must do it), after 10yrs of waiting for me to dust the house, clean the blinds- I’ve now been given “permission” to get a housekeeper. It is as being in a jail. I may contact an attorney- I cannot do this anymore, especially now my own son has turned on me. I regret marrying into that full on aspie family.

  • Janie A

    July 13th, 2019 at 6:53 PM

    Get divorced if you need to. I did it and its been 4 years and I’m still coming off the ptsd of feeling unloved, ignored and misunderstood. Two of my four daughters likely have it. I’m getting evaluations done on the two youngest. You deserve to have a peaceful rest of your life. This was not your fault .You don’t win a medal at the end. And nobody understands like other people who have gone through it!

  • Sarah Swenson

    January 29th, 2014 at 6:17 PM

    Yes, Cara – you make another good point. There are many models for a person with Asperger Syndrome/High-Functioning Autism to follow in many social and work-related environments before marriage. Difficulties tend to emerge once the real business of conducting an intimate relationship with a partner begins, and that is often after the wedding. It can be challenging and painful for both partners.

  • Len

    January 30th, 2014 at 4:47 AM

    You automatically go to your default way of functioning and processing things, which in these cases will be totally different. You may process things in a way that is more “typical” while the spouse and child will see it from a different angle. I imagine that you may also feel that they are ganging up on you leaving you to believe that there is something wrong with you.

  • Sarah Swenson

    January 30th, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    Thanks for your note, Len. It is true that we go to our default way of functioning and processing, especially under duress. That’s one of the complications in this triad. It is a challenge to bear in mind that the differences bewteen the processing methods of a person with Asperger Syndrome/HFA and a neurotypical person often come into play during those times when the differences are the greatest: when emotions flare or when emotional intimacy is required.

  • Gregg

    January 30th, 2014 at 3:10 PM

    Often we think about the hardships that are placed on the families and loved ones who have someone in their lives with Asperger’s or autism.

    But let’s also stop for a minute and think about the hardships of those with it, always feeling a bit alienated or misunderstood. I guess what I am trying to say is that sometimes we do need to take a step back and put ourselves in their shoes and try to learn a little more about what they too are going through instead of only thinking about how hard it is for us. Thanks

  • Kristine B.E.

    September 18th, 2016 at 2:16 AM

    Yes, Gregg, this is all I do. I don’t even really have a choice if I want to stay together. The difficulty comes when it is nearly never reciprocated. It is definitely never instinctually reciprocated. Also, my husband doesn’t seem to mind being isolated and misunderstood. He seems to prefer it, unless it is me who is mind understanding him, which only happens when I bring him an issue I need understood. Otherwise, he is perfectly content. I am also the one that translates his sons needs to him. They care about me, they just don’t know how to care for me, and if I feel upset by that, I spend my time helping them feel better and understood about me being upset. Believe me, I remember how misunderstood they feel, so much so that there is no time or space left for how I feel.

  • ALicia

    November 29th, 2017 at 6:07 PM

    YES! you spend so much time worrying about how they feel you get exhausted! My thoughts are always consumed about my husband with HFA. And we have 4 sons, 2 of which are also HFA. SOS! Send help!

  • Sarah Swenson

    January 31st, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    Hello, Gregg,

    Thank you for your comment. You are right – it is stressful and exhausting for individuals who carry the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrone/High-Functioning Autism because they are trying to fit into the neurotypical world without the subtext that the rest of us take for granted. That is why I try to support the wives of such men in ways that allow them to begin to imagine what the world looks like from their husbands’ perspective. It is a challenge on both sides of the partnership.

  • Estella

    April 30th, 2018 at 12:54 PM

    Please reach out to m
    My husband and 6 year old have HFA and I’m hading on to my last hope

  • Rachel

    February 12th, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    You have basically described my life. My husband of thirteen years, is high functioning and our middle child is too. We have two other children who are typical and our life together is a beautiful, complex challenge.

  • Sarah Swenson

    February 12th, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    Rachel, it sounds as if you have managed to find balance in your shared lives. That will serve you well!

  • Christina

    March 14th, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    I’ve been with my fiance for almost a year and a half. and he is the one with HFA I didn’t understand how difficult. it would be to deal with it. and sometimes I would think maybe I’m the problem. but after intense research and such one found many interesting things about it I never knew. like the difficulty people with HFA go through with non verbal things. but after reading a lot of information on it. I am now understanding what my man is going through. and we are going strong to this day. he even comes to me when he is stressed out with things and needs a more simple way of understanding things. Some people may not want to put in the effort. but believe me. finding someone you love, you love them for everything. and this defines him as a person. and I woipdnt have it any other way.

  • Tiffaney

    October 4th, 2014 at 6:48 PM

    I have been married to my husband with autism for 10 years. We have two children together. Our son, age 9, has autism too. Life is not easy having your husband on disability and fighting for your child. But I love them both so much. They are never boring. I truly don’t think either of them could show me love more that they already.
    Here is my problem. As much as they both love me and my daughter they have a problem with each other. I can see both of them trying in their own way to constantly find a way to connect with each other. They don’t understand each other at all. They try but can’t wrap their head around how the other thinks r feels. I am so worried about their relationship. You would think this would be perfect, but it is a constant fear and forever struggle.

  • Mari

    January 9th, 2016 at 11:17 PM

    Oh yes Tiffaney! This exactly!

    My 8yo has ASD, and I believe his father also may. They struggle to be together so much. As the father is not my partner, he also constantly blames me for the difficulties in their relationship. This is incredibly distressing – I want for nothing more than that they have a good relationship, but the father’s anger with me, and his assumption of intellectual superiority mean that he finds it hard to listen to even the smallest piece of advice from anyone else in trying to establish a good relationship (such as, your son doesn’t like playing cars, but does like pokemon). But then when our son won’t play cars with him, he is offended, our son is angry that he hasn’t listened to the fact he doesn’t want to play cars, and I am somewhere in the middle, in trouble with the father, supporting a son who doesn’t want to see him to go back and try again, without much hope it will be different next time.

  • Kris

    December 1st, 2016 at 2:07 PM

    Is it possible that my husband is high functioning autistic and has never been diagnosed? Or perhaps he is just antisocial. But his actions/behaviors seem to fit the very definition of high functioning autistic.

  • Neurotype

    March 13th, 2017 at 2:08 PM

    Yes very likely your spouse has no diagnosis & depending on age may never have it. My spouse is 61 and will never have a clear diagnosis. This spectrum is large. From my reading, many features of AS is not the carbon of my husband but many others are. Married 44 years, it has only been in the last two that AS exists in the many failed attempts at marital happiness. At this time he is in full mode and will never be addressed medically due to his own shame of anyone thinking he has any ailment at all. He is high functioning but has a low IQ that seems to be getting even lower. His comprehension window is narrowing significantly by the year. He cannot read and understand what he has read. He can read words but cannot explain it back to you. He belittles me for being concerned and controls our finances and every other aspect of our living. I have no life with him literally. He has a horrible problem with me existing I believe and fear of that mixed with his lack of intelligence causes me to feel sick a lot. I know we haven’t enough money for separate households. If you are married less than 20 years and start seeing signs of finance control, suspicious jealousy that is hidden, lack of empathy, silent treatment, lack of communication, lying and deliberately keeping info from you, use it as a sign of whats to come. It gets worse with age. My husband was able to function better when his sons were coming up. He never went above and beyond as a parent and spent most time at work but he treated me with more kindness. The last ten years has been a nightmare, the 10 before that was confusing and troubling. I would walk out the door tonight and sleep in my car if I knew I could be ok with an apt/car and some income. But there is no help for senior women who need to heal emotionally. At this point it would be best if one of us died, He is not capable of being happy with me. It was a marriage that never should have happened. But I was pushed away by my mother at 15, and had no choice. I tried to make it work and thought I had done that only to see what an emotionally and financially oppressed woman he has made me. Sorry this is so long, I have so much to say and no one to say it to.

  • K

    May 5th, 2017 at 6:01 AM

    I hear you loud and clear. I also have no one to say these things too. I was once a vibrant happy go-getter and after 24 years of trying to hold all of the pieces together in my marriage…I am an exhausted, hollow shell. I didn’t realize my husband was HFA for many years. Our first child who is now 21 was diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 4. Our daughter is a NT 20 year old. I have given my life to stay at home to raise our children. I realized that our son needed a great deal of love and unique 24/7 parenting that my husband seemingly refused to participate in a constructive manner. I thought that my husband was simply angry that his son required so much help to cope in a NT world. My needs were met with indifference, stonewalling, epic monologues consisting only of his point of view, passive aggressiveness and an abrupt lack of desire for any intimacy. He conveniently blamed our son or me for every problem within our marriage. I was so thoroughly confused by his behavior and if I wasn’t his a target that day for his Covert passive aggressiveness, our son was. When my son was on the receiving end, of course he had melt-downs and became a danger to our NT daughter. So, I was constantly stepping into the line of fire from my husband to protect the damage that would be otherwise saddled upon our children. However, the difference in my situation was the fact that my husband was/is a very successful 2nd generation business owner. He looks normal in the business arena and no one has a clue about his inability to have personal relationships. He managed to develop excellent “mimicking” of NT’s until the very night after we wed. Our honeymoon was so bizarre that we came home early. Somehow, I was the one crushed over his sudden robotic onset and any time I tried to discuss our marriage, he denied, ignored or turned the hope of resolving matters together into a battle that he was determined to win. It made no sense. I had no family left (even at that young age of 23) and his family was a powerhouse of money and influence. When his parents detected my declining happiness-and health- they manipulated me into believing that if I ever considered divorcing their son, they would arrange it so that I would never see our children ever again. I believed they had that kind of power within our community and leaving my Aspie son and NT daughter to what I finally recognized as monsters….it just wasn’t an option I would ever risk. So, now that our kids are in college, I have finally the opportunity to leave. But, my husband has always maintained strict control of ALL of our finances because they are “family business”…meaning he and his parents and their huge capital tied to their 3 business. I accepted early on the 1 sided money handling simply because I had to chose between accepting the cards dealt or risk leaving our children in their hands in order to save myself. I thought I was strong enough to either endure things or to change things for the betterment of our whole family. Well, I wasn’t. My health deteriorated so quickly and I barely had enough energy to take care of the kids’ needs. I had nothing left over to put into myself. I now am nearly 50 and have no real world job skills and only aprox. 2 years of college. I had always planned to continue my education, as I love to learn and have an incredible bank of self-taught medical knowledge but no such degree to “hang on wall” to prove that I have any employability. I have recently discovered that my husband has greatly mismanaged our money and now that the kids are in college (my Aspie living at home and in college pursuing his Finance degree with plans to go into the family business and our daughter away in a Christian University) he is becoming more bizarre rather than better to live with. I am still referee at home between my son and my husband and know that if my son ends up in the family business, he will be eaten alive and destroyed. Yet, his misplaced fear and anger is now turned on me because he logistically feels that an alliance with his dad I his only way to survive as an independent adult making enough money to prove himself worthy to his dad. He will never get his dad’s approval of a job well-done. Accepting that I have done as much as I could for the last 24 years, I am ready to leave. But….seriously poor health, not credited with employable skills or education and exhausted beyond repair, and with the likelihood of being awarded very very limited financial support if divorce ensues 😜 I am stuck. And for what? I haven’t been able to effectively protect my children from their lineage of unconfirmed HFA and I am totally used up. Where do people in my situation find resources to significantly help me out of this until I am recovered enough to go back to school and find employment (at my age and in my poor state of health)? Any thoughts?

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    May 5th, 2017 at 1:46 PM

    Hi K,

    Thank you for your comment. If you would like to consult with a mental health professional, please feel free to return to our homepage, https://www.goodtherapy.org/, and enter your zip code into the search field to find therapists in your area.

    Once you enter your information, you’ll be directed to a list of therapists and counselors who meet your criteria. From this list you can click to view our members’ full profiles and contact the therapists themselves for more information. You are also welcome to call us for assistance finding a therapist. We are in the office Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time; our phone number is 888-563-2112 ext. 1.

    We wish you the best of luck in your search.

    Kind regards,
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  • deb

    February 6th, 2018 at 10:50 PM

    my life situation is almost identical to K, above. how odd it is to read her story and find myself reflected as well. i found this site while googling how to deal with a borderline verbally abusive as son who is a college graduate but again, the product of a divorce between an as (father) and nt (me). whereas a boys father is his role model, and both have as, and the father is emotionally abusive to the mother (hence divorce) how can the son act any other way towards the mother. neither are diagnosed but both have all the symptoms. it seems to be a no win situation for me so i will continue to try to deal with son and look for a way to communicate that his way of treating me is inappropriate, but it seems a catch 22 because how can i explain that to him when he has no mental reference for what is appropriate…or does he? continuing my search…and hoping that K has found some answers as well.

  • K2

    April 8th, 2018 at 1:43 AM

    I have 2 sons and a spouse on the autistic spectrum. Only 24 year old son diagnosed, from about the age of 15/16. Were married with 2 children before realised anything was wrong. Only when son was dignosed did I start to think that the reason we had had so many problems was due to my husband’s aspergers. You tell yourself that all marriages have their ups and downs. Really stressful trying to access help for my son as he is clever, and school were really unhelpful, and it was all driven by me, my husband would get aggressive when I tried to get him involved. School kept telling me that I was the one who needed help.Over the years we have had various issues. Husband couldn’t cope when kids were young, when I was ill (migraines), would not discuss my 3rd pregnancy (which I felt I was forced to end because he couldn’t cope), when I tried to get a job, when I started nursing, when we moved house. I feel like I have had very little support from family and friends as he is a good financial provider, and can come across as easy going for short periods of time, and it usually me that comes across as the emotional crazy one. Last year my dad died and it was my son who was able to provide more empathy and support than him. You get to the stage in life when you think-is this it? He has often told me that he doesn’t feel anything and that I would be better off without him, which I has always refused to believe, but now i am starting to think that this might be true. e are meant to be starting couples counselling tomorrow, but this is not with someone with extensive knowledge of nt/aspie marriages and I am wondering if this might just makes things worse as it will appear as though my husband is the calm reasonable one and me the hysteric. I worry what my son who still lives with us would make of us splitting up, and that my husband would make it as difficult as possible. I feel completely stuck, not loved properly and unable to talk to anyone about it all, as they have no real understanding. The sad thing is I do love my husband, and in my head I keep saying “i don’t understand- why can’t you just give me a kiss/ hug me/want to make everything all right,etc etc”, because if you love me then you would. My dad died last year and my mum isn’t the easiest of people to be around, and feeling like this , I feel I am no good to anybody. I feel very tired, and don’t know what the answer is. It is sad to know that there are obviously lots of people in these sorts of situations. Thank god for the internet.

  • emmi

    May 13th, 2020 at 8:10 PM

    I had no idea so many women out there had the same problems as me. This feels so lonely and desperate I don’t know how any of us cope with it day to day other than to put on a mask and basically pretend to be as like the rest of the family. How strange but that is what we do isn’t it? My husband is also controlling of every single thing, he even stands over me while I cook or feed the dog, I mean everything, finances, etc. Surely he would make huge trouble for our little girl if I decided to leave him. It seems no amount of therapy will ever solve these issues, yes to the poster who said that it is easier for one of the couple to die first. What I have found to help me lots is simply to pray, every day for guidance on how to get through each day, and to get my child through each day as well. Peace.

  • Truth Serum

    May 14th, 2021 at 3:57 PM

    It doesn’t matter how hard you try, it won’t work. A husband is not supposed to be the child, and the wife’s emotional needs will never be met – even on a good day. It’s what a counselor told me decades ago….Yes, they may have sad stories, though it isn’t what you needed. I was raised by an hfa/schizophrenic mother with an enabling narcisstic father, so I never had what I needed emotionally. By the time I understood what happened to me (conditioning to be the caretaker/scapegoat), my prime was behind me. Don’t let that happen to you; if you are not happy, don’t sacrifice your life to someone who can never give you what you need; in the end, your sadness will only be for you that you didn’t have the courage to stand up for yourself; we only have one life, and when the time is gone, it cannot be retrieved.

  • deb

    May 15th, 2021 at 1:11 PM

    You are so right. I wrote about my experience on this thread 3 years ago, and yes my prime is behind me now. But my son who was verbally abusive has now grown up a bit in the world and is much more respectful and even loving towards me although we live far away from each other. I have had next to no contact with my ex over the years, we are still entwined in a business but that will expire in about 3 years. I feel more settled in life, lonely but more accepting of what is, is. My biggest breakthrough since 3 years ago has been re-discovering my own early childhood abuse by my mother, that i always knew was there but it was never talked about in my family. Through talking about it with siblings we have compared stories and i now realize there was a very sad and strong reason why i ended up marrying who i did. In no way do i regret the divorce even though it was hell on earth as my ex did try to destroy me. It didn’t work, ruined my life for a period, but in the end it did not work.

  • Jennifer

    November 15th, 2021 at 9:12 AM

    This is all new to me. My 11 yo has been seeing a therapist since August and likely has hfa. I see the same traits in his father and just came to the likely conclusion today that he has it as well. We have a terrible relationship. Communication is extremely poor, and I feel like all responsibilities are on me. I’m alone and exhausted with trying to live with them both. I can’t afford therapy for myself and have no one to talk to about it. It’s been such a difficult day that I’ve spent the last four hours crying hopelessly in the bathroom. I just don’t know how to continue to cope, or if I even want to.

  • deb

    February 21st, 2022 at 3:34 PM

    its president day 2022 and I’m going through my computer and editing bookmarks and came across this post^^. I hesitate to give advice but…getting a divorce and extricating myself from my emotionally abusive husband who has hfa/as was in the end the best albeit hardest thing I’ve ever done, even though I loved him deeply. and for a time he did try to destroy me. my boys were in middle school then but are now young men with thriving lives. it was so hard at the time and some day they may need therapy themselves but getting them out of that highly highly toxic situation for at least 1/2 the time (shared custody), they even see it now, was the best avenue. and yes, sadly poor people can’t afford therapy (who often need it most) but…there are a myriad of online resources nowadays. good luck.

  • Kate

    September 3rd, 2022 at 4:47 PM

    Deb, thank you for returning and sharing. I am trying to figure my way out of this mess with my HFA husband. I did not know he had this when we married 25 years ago. He pursued me, and I had been in abusive relationships as a very young woman, so his apparent innocence and niceness attracted me. He was also “smart” and did a good job hiding his low emotional intelligence. Look at the quote by Marilyn Monroe, which she told the judge as she divorced Joe Dimaggio: “Miss Monroe said “I voluntarily offered to give up my work in hopes that it would solve our problems — but it didn’t change his attitude.” (Imagine MARILYN offering to give up her career for you!!!)
    A packed courtroom of spectators, press, and attorneys visiting from other sections of the court building heard the 29-year-old movie star give her testimony, tears splotching her makeup: “I hoped to have out of my marriage love, warmth, affection and understanding,” she said, “but the relationship was one of coldness and indifference.” Marilyn’s corroborating witness, Inez Molson testified that DiMaggio would push Marilyn away when she tried to show affection for him and would say “don’t bother me.””
    If Marilyn couldn’t swing it, how can a mere mortal like us? I have not divorced my HFA but I have moved into a separate bedroom, found a good therapist, enrolled in graduate school (in my 50’s!) and have stopped trying to communicate with him. I do not care IF he cares but can’t show it. It’s the same to me. I will no longer push aside MY intelligence and get down on my knees to communicate with a child-man who has the emotional IQ of a 13-year-old, IF that. I am very open to meeting someone else who is an adult emotionally. I no longer cook dinner or act like a caretaker to him. I do help with my teen however they have kind of aligned with him because they share the HFA profile. Therapy and understanding of the reality of my situation has changed my life. My intellectual pursuits have saved me. It is never too late to embrace yourself intellectually, that will save you from this mess, I am convinced. I at least have my autonomy back, and I no longer care what this child-man does. I do not have to meet his needs, and I am happily learning how to love myself and meet my own needs without him. I hope you will all at the very least start loving yourselves.

  • Elizabeth

    January 12th, 2023 at 8:47 PM

    Kate, I’m wondering If Joe dimaggio was on the spectrum? My hfa pushed me away for decades due to sensory issues.

  • Jaron

    March 2nd, 2023 at 12:24 AM

    Crazy question but are there any husbands of a wife and a child who are hfa? I relate an insane amount to all of these testimonials but some of the male issues are different than the female issues. Man I can’t tell you the freedom and pain that came with the realization after 16 years of marriage. I still feel like my family died that day and I’m still mourning it. The family that I tried so hard to build, so hard to work for, all the pain and humiliation and the confusion of knowing in my heart of hearts that she loves me deeply but never showing it and tearing into me when I try to talk about it. Wow the defensiveness. Anywho, yeah, any dudes?

  • Cmk

    February 4th, 2024 at 11:09 AM

    Yes yes yes to many of the above. I am married to AS and have a 16 year old son. So isolating. My unfortunate problem is my husband has a deep sense of refusal to explore even the possibility he has AS. The responsibility for our continued togetherness rests on me only and I’m exhausted.

  • Jannie

    May 8th, 2024 at 9:10 PM

    I have lived in a NT/AS marriage for 55 years – and surviving, but with heartache and regrets but I don’t regret hanging in there for the children who are a joy to both of us. Years ago, the term autism was reserved for those who barely functioned. My husband agreed to go to therapy several times, only to be diagnosed with depression. In marital therapy, I tried to explain to the therapist that my husband treated our marriage more like a business relationship – and the therapist never caught on that there was a lack of emotional intimacy. He said he thought my husband was ‘fine’ and couldn’t figure us out. Years later, as I read Stephen Porges and found out about why my husband’s lack of facial expression made me so anxious, I also began to realize that that marital therapist probably was also atypical, so my husband seemed normal by his own standards.

    My new heartache is coming to grips with the realization that my son, who is 46, also is atypical. He has the same characteristics as my husband, now that I open my eyes to it. Both are avoidant of social groups although it is confusing because they each do enjoy some groups. Mostly, they have what I’ve been calling ‘the automatic no.’ I now learned the psychological term for it, ‘Pathological Demand Avoidance’ or PDA. . My son lived with us for years as a struggling adult, but never cleaned his room. Once I decided to try to draw the line, and rather than talk with me, he packed up and left for a day, then returned and we never talked about it. My daughter wanted us to make him leave, but I refused, knowing that he might not survive until he got better. Eventually he got training and a job, and is now living with his girlfriend.
    Though there is friendliness, it is on his terms. I joke (but it’s not funny) that I get a hug from him on State Occasions like mother’s day, or if I’m leaving on a trip. But I have to ask for it. So now after years of not seeing what was right in front of me, I am actively working on letting go of the dream and the illusion that I could be close with my son whom I love dearly and it is so hard, I have to take it in little bites. I will have to just love him on his terms. I am lucky in that I have daughters and grandkids (some of whom also show traits of autism) who do feel connected, and I’ve made sure to build social connections with others.
    I wish for all who are reading these posts to know they are lovable and need to find those who can reflect that back to them.

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