Someone with Asperger Syndrome (AS) is characterized by their lack of communication skills, social skills and reciprocity of feelings. A person with AS, also known as an Aspie, knows what they think and feel but are often unaware of what others think or feel. With a deficiency in these critical areas, some have wondered how someone with Asperger's develops an intimate relationship or even gets married.
The answer is simple, Aspies and Neurotypicals (someone not on the autism spectrum) choose partners much the same way as do all human beings. We are attracted physically and intellectually and emotionally. We may enjoy the similarities for the comfort and the differences for the spice!
We also unconsciously seek mates who have qualities we lack. An AS person may be attracted to a strong, intelligent, compassionate Neurotypical (NT) who can handle the social world for them. The NT may be attracted to the unconventional nature and child-like charm of the AS adult. They may sense that the Aspie will allow the NT his or her independence. It is only later that they learn their AS partner is quite conservative in relating. Instead of supporting independence, the NT spouse realizes that his or her AS mate is just not aware of (and even disinterested) in the NT’s interests. The Aspie’s attention is narrowly focused on her or his own interests.
This narrow focus is described as “mind blindness” or lack of empathy. Mind blindness is the disconnect between emotional and social cognition. Aspies typically have trouble reading nonverbal clues and therefore ignore the bulk of most conversations. Mind blindness can have some especially serious side effects on the partner or spouse of someone with Asperger's. Even though their behavior is not intended to hurt you, it still does. Because of the lack of empathy in your relationship, low self-esteem, depression, and resentment may settle in deep.
It is important to remember that Aspies do love. They just love in a different way. If you are in a relationship with someone with Asperger Syndrome, you must be realistic as to what expect from the relationship and take the right steps to lead you to a happier, more fulfilled life.
As a psychologist and marriage counselor I recognized that there’s a great need to give guidance to families of adults with Asperger Syndrome. Here are some of my suggestions for you:
· Seek out therapy from a professional specializing in Asperger Syndrome. You may think that just your Aspie partner needs therapy, but so do you. This type of mental and emotional confusion in an Asperger relationship needs powerful therapy to break through the faulty reasoning that is a result of using NT logic to make sense of the Asperger world. Find a therapist who specializes in these types of relationships.
· Join a support group. There are many men and women who are in the same situation, coping with the same struggles that come from being in an Asperger relationship. By joining a support group, you can build a “family” who understands you and your emotional needs. Look for a group that meets in your local area or even become a member online.
· Educate yourself about Asperger Syndrome. Don’t stay in the dark about Asperger Syndrome. Learn as much as you can about Asperger’s. That knowledge can empower you and guide you through any challenges along the way. There are many books specifically written for people in the same situation.
You can find love and fulfillment in your Asperger relationship. Focus on what you love about that person and appreciate those aspects. There was something there that drew you to them in the first place and keeping the love alive is possible. Visit www.kmarshack.com to download a sample chapter of my book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge? Practical Steps to Saving You and Your Relationship.
Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist is the author of the book “Life with a partner or spouse with Asperger Syndrome: GOING OVER THE EDGE?” (2009), available on Amazon.com. Dr. Marshack practices in Portland/Vancouver and can be reached at 503-222-6678, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.kmarshack.com.