Asperger’s And Intimacy

Asperger’s And Intimacy. Again, for those new to my Blog, I use the word “Asperger/Aspie” in a fond way with no demeaning label. Intimacy in a relationship is a feeling of being close, emotionally connected and supported. Being able to share a range of thoughts, feelings and experiences that involves both physical and emotional intimacy makes for a content romantic relationship. In my work with neurodiverse couples, it makes all the difference in moving forward when their sex lives are good. Being married to someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has many challenges. But I find with good sex lives, just like couples who aren’t on the Spectrum, makes for good long term results.

Asperger’s And Intimacy

Jennifer and Jerry have been married for 21 years. For the first 10 years Jennifer thought her husband was not showing her the attention she wanted. When they were dating he was shy and she thought it was endearing. He’s a brilliant man but lacked in social graces and fell short when it came to planning romantic outings. When it came to sex she noticed whenever he was interested he acted like a shy teenage boy making jokes to deflect intimacy. His physical approach to her was awkward if not clumsy and when going for her breasts he would grab them in such a way that she found it a turn off. Ok, there’s cute, then there’s “what’s up with that move?”

Sex is a hard topic to talk about whether you’re married to someone on the spectrum or not. In closed family systems members seldom talk about feelings, let alone sex. In neurodiverse relationships, it can be even harder to communicate because of the language difference. Sex is full of nonverbal cues that can be misunderstood. A wide range of emotions to a partner on the spectrum can be challenging as sensory triggers such as touch, smell, taste and sound can be overwhelming.

Sex is important in healthy relationships. Sex doesn’t necessarily have to be intercourse. Lying in bed hugging with or without clothes, kissing, touching, erotic massage and using sex toys are forms of giving and receiving pleasure. Oral sex can be a challenge due to sensory triggers but doesn’t necessarily have to be ruled out.

Maxine Aston (2001) in her study of Asperger’s and sexual intimacy found that fifty percent of Asperger’s (AS) and neurotypical (NT) couples had no sexual activity within their relationship. In fact, “there was no affection or tactile expression whatsoever.”

Tony Attwood notes, “one of the characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome can be emotional and social immaturity.” Rather than experiencing sex as an emotionally compatible act, AS-NT couples frequently experience themselves playing out, by necessity, parent-child roles which kills any chance of sexual arousal.

Is there any hope for couples in which one partner has Asperger’s? Yes, of course.  If both partners are motivated to change, then they can have a more satisfying sex life, one that makes each partner feel wanted and accepted. But a satisfying sex life generally starts outside the bedroom.  Partners first need to educate themselves about Asperger’s so that they can understand how it is affecting their intimate relationship. The best indicator for a good sex life is being able to communicate. Being able to initiate conversation, share thoughts and feeling, and ask for what you need and want is effective communication.

Sensate focus activities may also be helpful in slowing down both partners so that they can concentrate on what feels good, instead of on performance. Learning to give verbal feedback about sex without creating defensiveness is another valuable skill. Being realistic about what may or may not change in the bedroom is another facet of acceptance of the diagnosis of Asperger’s.

For more information about Asperger’s and sexual intimacy contact me at CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com or call me at (858) 735-1139.

 

Relationship Coaching

Relationship Coaching. People often ask me what’s the difference between a life coach and a therapist? One of the most fundamental differences lies in the process and purpose. Therapists help clients explore the cause(s) of their problems. As we are products of our upbringing that often means digging into past traumas, hurts, or unhealthy patterns. Therapists help their clients understand how they got to where they are and how to break what can sometimes be destructive habits. Therapist are trained to treat mental, emotional, and psychological disorders.

Relationship Coaching

Coaches on the other hand, focus on their clients’ futures. They help their clients identify actions that will move them forward and introduce strategies for solving problems and overcoming obstacles. Coaches help their clients build the bridge from where they are to where they want to be. A relationship coach is someone who supports individuals and couples in learning vital skills for relating, especially in marriages and romantic partnerships. Relationship coaches teach you to develop conflict resolution skills and offer tools to deepen intimacy and pleasure. The couple determines what they want to work on or enhance. The coaching gets that couple results sooner rather than later unlike talk therapy where the process can take longer due to gathering information from individual sessions to assess for personal issues that may affect couple’s issues.

Relationship coaching includes:

  • Achieving clarity about each partners’ vision, goals, and values
  • Developing mutual understanding and acceptance of differences in personality and gender
  • Getting a reality check; each partner being accountable to their identified requirements and needs
  • Developing strategies for testing and decision-making
  • Addressing emotional and compatibility issues
  • Discovering and overcoming issues and obstacles
  • Developing mutual understanding and acceptance of differences in personality and gender
  • Identifying and negotiating mutual wants, needs, and goals
  • Building lasting intimacy, trust, communication, love, fulfillment

Reasons for relationship coaching:

  • You are serious about having a successful life partnership.
  • Working with a coach can move you farther and faster than you can move on your own or in talk therapy.
  • You don’t know what you don’t know, and your success may depend upon access to new information about yourself and relationships.
  • Using a coach can be the most effective means of translating knowledge into practice. One of the most indispensable roles of a coach is to help you use what you already know to make effective choices and take the actions necessary to be successful.
  • You deserve to get what you want. You do not want to settle for less or risk failure, and you are willing to gift yourself with the support and technology needed to ensure success.

As I have helped more than 2,000 couples over the past 25 years I have the professional and personal experience to move couples into the 21st Century getting them what they want. For more information on life and relationship coaching please contact me at (858) 735-1139 or visit my website at CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com

Autism Spectrum Disorder Strengths

Autism Spectrum Disorder Strengths. Asperger’s Syndrome is a developmental disorder on the Autism spectrum. However, it is classified as a more low-support form of autism and considered high functioning autism.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Strengths

My husband has many of the positive strengths I indicate below:

  • He can fix anything that breaks down on computers
  • He’s an excellent problem solver because he has patience
  • He is the most honest person I know
  • He will do anything I ask; it helps to give him a timeline
  • He never gives me any “lip” even when I act out on him when I am frustrated and angry
  • Because we embrace his ASD when he is quirky and funny I totally appreciate and love it; in the past it would annoy me
  • He is willing to try new experiences; food, travel,
  • He wants and appreciates the relational tools to manage the ASD challenges

Now for the challenges that frustrate me:

  • He tends to have tunnel vision and can’t do more than one thing at a time (lack of executive functioning); I’m a multi-tasker
  • He forgets where he puts things; when I tell him where to look he still can’t locate it; takes him a loooong time to find things
  • He doesn’t apologize unless I tell him I need it; apologizing triggers judgement and criticism and low self-worth
  • He forgets to utilize the tools he has acquired.

You might be surprised to learn that many famous people have an Asperger diagnosis. Here are a few names that you’ll recognize:

  • Dan Akroyd, actor and musician
  • Andy Warhol, artist
  • Andy Kaufman, comedian
  • Daryl Hannah, actor
  • Susan Boyle, singer
  • Courtney Love, musician
  • Sir Anthony Hopkins, actor

Common Challenges include:

  • Difficulty with social interactions
  • Restricted interests
  • Desire for sameness
  • Distinctive strengths
  • Hypersensitivities (to lights, sounds, tastes, etc.)
  • Difficulty with the give and take of conversation
  • Difficulty with nonverbal conversation skills (distance, loudness, tone, etc.)
  • Uncoordinated movements, or clumsiness
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Quirky

 

Strengths can include:

  • Remarkable focus and persistence
  • Aptitude for recognizing patterns
  • Attention to detail
  • Honest
  • Loyal
  • Kind
  • Quirky

 

 

Autism Spectrum Disorder Strengths

As I am married to a man on the Autism Spectrum I know what the challenges look like. I sympathize with my husband because those challenges are not only frustrating to our relationship, it is frustrating to him on a personal level. His strengths, however, do outweigh the challenges. When my husband realized he had Asperger’s, it all made sense. We speculate his father and brother were on the Spectrum and had limited resources to improve any of their challenges which affected their family dynamics.  My husband felt lonely in the family that he grew up in and had very few friends. He said he always felt something was “off” when interacting in social settings and in past romantic relationships as his anxiety and nonverbal conversation skills were part the problem.

With acquiring relational tools, putting a system in place, and implementing the process for moving forward his life is more meaningful, happy and functional. He is even more animated with his expressions and can make jokes that can really make all of us laugh…in a good way.

The world needs to recognize despite their inappropriate behavior and saying or doing things that others may find objectionable, they often do not appreciate the full implications of their words and actions, and very rarely do so with any ill intent. They were never taught that this was unacceptable. With Autism awareness comes more understanding and sympathy toward the challenges and greater appreciation of the strengths.

For more information on Autism Spectrum strengths give me a call at (858) 735-1139 or visit my website at CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com

New Year New Review

New Year New Review.  San Diego Realtor gives feedback on her experience with San Diego Marriage Counselor Sarah Ruggera, LMFT.
“Sara is a consummate professional and works with intense passion. Her book is spot on called Happy Me Happy We! I started going to Sara to help with communication barriers in my marriage and realized that most of what needed work was my reaction to things that literally had nothing to do with my husband. She has helped me gain a better perspective of how I should go about handling my own deep seated feelings before placing a huge emphasis on my communication gaps. Thanks Sara for opening up the Channels for me.”
Melissa
Happy Me Happy We
New Year New Review
Sarah Ruggera, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in Affair Recovery and is a Certified Neurodiverse Couples Counselor/Coach in San Diego. She holds in office and online sessions. (858) 735-1139 CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com
Visit her  Blog at CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com/relationships for additional information about relationships and what healthy relationships look like.

The New Year And Your Relationship

The New Year And Your Relationship. Another year come and gone. What are your expectations about 2022? There are still uncertainties about the pandemic. The way I see it COVID-19 is still not being managed effectively. Our new normal seems to include feelings of paranoia, fear, confusion and anxiety. The way we behave has changed as we continue to social distance and wear masks. These types of physical boundaries may have psychological long term results. If you’ve had COVID there are the residual long term physical health concerns that “long haulers” are managing.

The New Year And Your Relationship

When the vaccine became available people received their two inoculations. Many, like myself believed this would keep us safe from getting the virus. Then the boaster became available and like many, I believed we would be extra safe. I contracted COVID after both doses. I, like many others, became less diligent about following the CDC’s best practices for protection. Wash hands, use sanitizer, stay six feet apart, and wear a mask. Even with testing readily available on some level this pandemic may be here to stay.

Happy Me Happy We

As a marriage counselor working with couples dealing with issues of infidelity (affair recovery), neurodiversity (Asperger marriage), and relationship discord, I know they just want to be happy and content. With the uncertainties of life it’s important to know what you want so you know what your relationship needs. Happy Me Happy We was launched during the pandemic and is still a best seller helping individuals do just that.

Relationships in the time of coronavirus is an opportunity to think about what you want in life moving forward. If the last couple years have been unhappy due to being isolated at home do something about it. As a Marriage Counselor, I see some couples who have become closer due to the proximity of time and space. For others, that time and space adds to their unhappiness. A woman I’m working with said her husband doesn’t interact with her at all. She says she feels lonely in her relationship. She also said she’s taking this time to reassess her marriage as status quo is no longer working or wanted.

Life is too short to remain in a relationship that isn’t working for you. I help people who ask the question…”Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” Through my counseling process I help couples look at and choose from three options. Option 1 – keep status quo, option 2 – move forward with an action plan, or option 3 – move on and find another life that best suits you.

If reassessing your relationship is something you know you want to do please contact me at (858) 735-1139 or visit my website CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com

Decide what your “new normal” is going to look like.

 

 

 

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