Most married couples will tell you that it takes a lot of work to enjoy a strong relationship. But when one partner has Asperger’s Syndrome, keeping the relationship healthy and happy can become even more challenging. Asperger’s is a condition on the autism spectrum.
Those with the developmental disorder are usually highly functioning but socially awkward with an inability to effectively communicate and naturally socialize. Given the incapacity to communicate and connect with their spouse emotionally, the relationship between a person with Asperger’s Syndrome and a neurotypical person (someone without autism) can be filled with frustration, misunderstandings, and stress.
Unsurprisingly, the divorce rate for married couples, where one spouse has Asperger’s, is said to be 80% – nearly double that of the national average. The high conflict, and even domestic violence, can make it difficult for the spouse of a person with Asperger’s to continue in the relationship.
A Glimpse Into Asperger’s Syndrome
Understanding how those with Asperger’s think may help reduce the angst within a relationship. Knowing how the disorder affects their view of the world can be unbelievably valuable in breaking down communication barriers. While those with classic autism may have acute impairments, that is not usually the case for those with Asperger’s syndrome.
Instead, they typically have difficulty making eye contact, taking verbal and nonverbal cues, reading facial expressions and body language, and may lack empathy. They also may do or unwittingly say things that are inappropriate or offensive to others. Due to a lack of social skills and several idiosyncrasies, people with Asperger’s may lack friendships and are often labeled as loners.
How Asperger’s Syndrome Impacts Relationships
Trouble communicating and a lack of empathy are among the top reasons why someone may find an Asperger’s marriage challenging. Frustration from their neurotypical spouse can lead to a lack of understanding and endless arguments. Over time, the emotional disconnect can be too much to handle for the non-Asperger’s partner.
They may become fed up with feeling unloved, lonely, depressed, and overall worn down by misunderstandings and disagreements. It is not uncommon for the non-Asperger’s spouse to constantly feel hurt and angry by something the Asperger’s partner said. The fact that the neurotypical spouse feels as though their partner simply “doesn’t get it” can be overwhelming. Because, yes, the person with Asperger’s absolutely does “not get it,” which is often frustrating for them too.
Challenges In An Asperger’s Marriage
The challenges in an Asperger’s marriage can be far-reaching and include the following issues:
Intimacy can be difficult to achieve in an Asperger’s marriage. Due to a lack of empathy and overwhelming sensory issues, sex is one of the first noticeable struggles for the couple. People with Asperger’s are unable to gauge when their partner is enjoying (or not enjoying) aspects of sex because they struggle with reading body language. This makes it hard for the non-Asperger’s spouse who feels as though they constantly have to talk during sex and give directions.
Children may be the demise of the Asperger’s/neurotypical relationship. Often, the neurotypical spouse is troubled by the lack of empathy expressed toward their child/ren. An Asperger’s parent may not understand the child’s needs, make hurtful comments, or ignore the child completely.
Strain of Socialization
Because of their partner’s lack of social skills, the non-Asperger’s partner may experience the strain of social situations. They may feel that they need to “save” their spouse from embarrassment or saying something inappropriate.
Often the couple completely stops going out or entertaining because socializing is too hard for both. Or the non-Asperger’s partner continues to go out, leaving their Asperger’s partner at home. Sometimes an Asperger’s partner will turn to alcohol in order to feel more comfortable and “normal” in social settings.
Coping Strategies When You Partner Has Asperger’s Syndrome
It is absolutely possible for people with Asperger’s Syndrome to have a happy marriage and be loving parents. The following are a few ways to nurture a successful relationship:
Do not beat around the bush and avoid sarcasm or hints (they won’t get it). Asperger’s partners need clear and concise communication either in writing or verbally. Avoid emotion and get straight to the point.
Set Parenting Rules
Discuss situations away from the children. The partner with Asperger’s may miss cues from the child that the other neurotypical parent is able to pick up. In many cases, the non-Asperger’s partner may need to take control of discipline because the obvious is not something the other parent can see.
There are many support groups online for Asperger’s marriages. From Facebook groups to meetups, there are plenty of people in the same situation. Knowing that you aren’t alone in a difficult marriage can be extremely helpful. Non-Asperger’s partners can share what has helped in their marriage and you can share, too.
Communication is key to a happy marriage and that is the hardest part about an Asperger’s marriage. Working with a professional therapist to navigate the dynamics of your own relationship can help you not only cope but ultimately thrive.
Online Couples Therapy
It is common for both partners to feel alone in an Asperger’s/neurotypical relationship. Behavioral therapy and communication training are just a few of the ways online marriage counseling can help. Through video chats, phone calls, and text messages, couples and individuals receive round-the-clock support at home or on the go. You deserve to effectively communicate with your spouse for a happier and healthier relationship.