Asperger/Autism Relationships. I write about How I Survive An Asperger Marriage which is designed to explore specific areas of concern for Neuordiverse Couples. They are known as neurodiverse relationships. It refers to one or both partners being on the autism spectrum. Neurology matters because neurological differences in the ways your brains work may make it hard to see eye-to-eye, live together, co-parent, be in social settings together or communicate about certain topics.
I use the word “Asperger” in the most endearing way despite the DSM-5 making the change to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). What distinguishes Asperger’s Disorder from classic autism are its less severe symptoms and the absence of language delays. Many professionals believed Asperger’s was a more mild form of autism, leading to the origin of the phrase “high-functioning.” Regardless, I believe we are all on the spectrum to some degree.
ASD is referred to as a spectrum so individuals possess a range of strengths and challenges. Some of the challenges include experiencing social anxiety. Sensory challenges make being in close proximity with others uncomfortable and loud noises unbearable. My husband has a sensitivity to bright light so dining outdoors can present a problem for him. I prepared brunch al fresco in our backyard one morning and he didn’t look pleased with the meal or the environment. He didn’t have the words to express himself at that time, (pre Asperger’s acknowledgment), and was quiet. I took the silence personally and became angry, really hurt and disappointed, that he wasn’t pleased. There were other situations where we would have a picnic at the beach. Again, he was quiet and looked uninterested and distressed. When we went to happy hours he was quiet and not engaging in conversation.
We eventually came to realize his sensory challenges stem from his ASD. The bright sunlight hurt his eyes, the sand on the beach felt annoying, the people during happy hour were loud, and socializing at house parties were anxiety provoking. When we understood what was happening I was able to manage my feelings more appropriately as they felt like a personal assault.
Asperger strengths include:
- Special Interest
- Good memory
- Detailed oriented
- Unique humor
- Fair and just
- Desire to connect
The Challenges include:
- Theory of mind – inability to understand and take into account another individual’s mental state or of “mind-reading”
- Hidden cirriculum – everything you learned that you were never directly taught. It includes the unwritten rules and expectations that you intuited from your environment, rather than being directly taught about them.
- Social pragmatics – aka practical everyday use—or the social use of language and communication
- Self advocacy – knowing when and how to approach others to negotiate desired goals, build better mutual understanding and trust, and achieve fulfillment and productivity. Successful self-advocacy often involves an amount of disclosure about oneself to reach the goal of better mutual understanding.
- Flexible thinking – develop rigid ways of thinking and lack flexibility in their thoughts and perceptions. This affects their ability to problem solve. It also means that they often find it difficult to cope with change and unpredictability, leading to a drive for routine and sameness.
- Central coherence – people diagnosed with autism can show remarkable ability in subjects like mathematics and engineering, yet have trouble with language skills and tend to live in an isolated social world. The theory is among the more prominent conceptual models that try to explain the abnormalities of autistic individuals on tasks involving local and global cognitive processes.
- Executive Functioning – AS individual have great memories for facts and details, but have trouble organizing their thoughts and accessing and integrating the information they have to make it useful for them
As a certified neurodiverse couples counselor/coach I assess couples through a neurological lens translating for the AS and NT partner what their behavior means to the other. Both learn to speak each other’s language to become more communicative. More importantly, help their relationship become less transactional and more relational so they feel emotional connected.
My husband has Asperger’s so I can relate to what neurodiverse couples go through. Surviving an Asperger Marriage is possible. Learning each others’ love language is a start to establishing that intimacy. For information about my services and fee please text me your email address at (858) 735-1139.