Is It Your Husband’s Autism Or Personality? When a couple is aware that their relationship is affected by autism it can be quite difficult to decipher what traits are caused by personality and what are due to being on the autistic spectrum. I’ve been married to a man with Asperger’s for over 20 years. During the first 13 years he displayed some behaviors that looked pretty much like he was being a jerk. His lack of consideration and thoughtfulness made him appear self-centered and self-serving. Not all differences are due to your partner being on the autism spectrum, and not all personality traits can be attributed to or blamed on autism.
Is It Your Husband’s Autism Or Personality?
I’m working with a couple whose Asperger (AS) husband is talkative with anyone and everyone. He is also quite flirtatious with the ladies. He flirts with waitresses, grocery store clerks, and women at the bank. He states he just wants to be personable and doesn’t mean anything bad by it. This bothers my neurotypical (NT) client (his wife) as it is a trigger for her due to trauma from past relationships where there was cheating. With tools they’ve acquired during counseling he shows her the empathy needed so she feels seen and heard. Some think people with Asperger’s have a difficult time with filter and being impulsive when interacting.
I have another client who discovered her Asperger husband had been having an affair for the past eight months. They were in counseling with me during that time which makes it even more horrific and disappointing for this neurotypical wife. Her husband states he thinks he’s a sex addict and manages his anxiety with other women. He blames his Asperger’s for his inappropriate behavior. I point out being unfaithful is not a trait caused by being on the spectrum.
Traits caused by being on the autism spectrum:
- Highly focused
- Single minded
- Reactive to noise
- Reactive to smell
- Reactive to touch
- Reactive to taste
- Reactive to light
Traits not caused by being on the autism spectrum:
- Verbally abusive
- Emotionally withdrawn
- An unloving parent
- A loner
When a couple is aware that their relationship is affected by autism it can be quite difficult to decipher what traits are caused by personality and what are due to being on the autism spectrum. Not all differences are due to the partner being on the autism spectrum, and not all personality traits can be attributed to or blamed on autism. Knowing whether a trait is caused by having autism or personality is confusing for both in a relationship, especially the neurotypical partner. It’s confusing because everyone on the spectrum is different, that’s why they call it a spectrum. All will have their own unique personality with their own childhood history. We are products of our upbringing which has moulded who they are now and will have encouraged certain beliefs, behaviors, and opinions.
When working with neurodiverse couples in neurodiverse couples counseling, I emphasize any kind of abuse is not a trait of having Asperger’s. Sometimes bad behavior is just bad behavior and should never be tolerated. I work with the couple through a neurodiverse lens where I help them recognize, understand and treatment the problems in their relationship. When we are able distinguish what is an Asperger trait versus a personality trait, both can see more clearly where the work needs to be done.
For more information on neurodiverse couples counseling please contact me at (858) 735-1139 or my website CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com