If You’re Married To Someone On The Autism Spectrum

If You’re Married To Someone On The Autism Spectrum.  My husband and I have been in a Neurodiverse Relationship for the past 20 years.  It wasn’t until about 5 years ago that I realized he is on the Autism Spectrum.  Over the course of my marriage I experienced gradually losing my sense of self.  In the place of my former self emerged a person I barely recognized.  I was lonely, hurt and angry.  I felt isolated as my social connections gradually diminished.  Because my husband is a good man, I felt misunderstood when I talked about my problems.  I felt crazy and exercised a lot of “acting out” behavior that was hurtful to myself and others.

What I was experiencing is referred to as “The Cassandra Syndrome.”

Being married to a man with Asperger’s, and working with Neurodiverse Couples, I understand and have come to appreciate people think and process information differently.  And sometimes these people enter relationships where the two think and process information so differently it makes communication challenging.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I work with couples using a Neurodiverse lens where traditional couples counseling is ineffective and often frustrating for the couple who come in for relief from their pain and suffering.

People on the Spectrum feel criticized by some of the “labels” attached to them.   The Asperger’s and Autism Network (AANE’s) preferred the following terminology at this time.  They continue to examine and evaluate language use.

Preferred terms:
“Asperger/autism or similar profile”
“Neurodiverse/Neurodiversity” (not “neurodivergent”)
“on the autism spectrum” or “on the spectrum”
“Community member”

Please refrain from the following terms:
Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD
Asperger Syndrome, Asperger’s, or AS
Disorder
Disability or Disabled
High-functioning (or low-functioning) autism

Examples using preferred terms:

AANE works with individuals who have an Asperger/autism or similar autism spectrum profile.Society will will benefit from the different points of view neurodiversity brings to work and social settings.
We are proud to serve those on the autism spectrum in our work at AANE.
At AANE, our community members are children and adults with Asperger/autism profiles, their families and friends, and the professionals who work with those on the spectrum.

Individuals on the Spectrum have their own set of challenges.  When they enter into relationships that challenge is compounded by neurodiversity.  I act as an ASD/NT translator and my goal is to help both partners understand the world as seen from the other.
For more information please contact me at (858) 735-1139.

Is Your Husband On The Spectrum?

Is Your Husband On The Spectrum?  Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is an Autism Spectrum Disorder – (ASD) and is part of a group of complex neurodevelopmental disorders.  All of us are on the spectrum to some degree but those who suffer from AS are severely debilitated with respect to social interaction, behavior, and communication?  People with Asperger’s, affectionately known as Aspies, are high functioning, have no problem with basic speech, and are quite capable and intelligent.

I’ve been married to Phil, my husband for twenty one years.  From the beginning, I suspected he might be on the spectrum.

Common traits of Asperger’s Syndrome include:

  1. Thoughtlessness.  The lack of consideration for others, while unintentional, may appear to be rude or callous.
  2. Forgetfulness.
  3. Mindblindness.  This is known as a lack of Theory of Mind, which is the inability to reflect on the contents of one’s own mind and the mind of others.  Those with AS are incapable of putting themselves “in someone else’s shoes.”  They cannot conceptualize, understand or predict the knowledge, thoughts, beliefs, emotions, feelings, and desires behavior, actions, or intention of another person.  This can create major barriers to communication and intimacy.
  4. Lack of self-awareness.
  5. Challenges with time management.  People with AS can become involved in restricted or special interests and, in so doing, lost track of time.
  6. Possess a narrow range of interests and can become hyper-focused on one, (often very specific,) hobby.
  7. Demonstrate little to no empathy.
  8. Heightened sensitivity to bright lights and, loud sounds.  Their skin and their sense of taste can also be very sensitive.
  9. Repetitive behavior.  People with AS are not flexible; they like their routines and have little tolerance for change.
  10. Difficulty making small talk.  Possess limited relational skills.
  11. Propensity for one-sided conversations.
  12. Difficulty making friends
  13. Possess awkward moments and mannerisms.
  14. Little eye contact.

One might wonder why anyone would want to be in a relationship with someone on the spectrum?  My husband is a kind, generous, and intelligent man and I love him very much.  But his Asperger’s presented some challenges for me early on in our relationship.  I invested in the two of us by learning everything I could about AS, acquired the coping skills needed to manage my emotions (see related article on the Cassandra Syndrome), and found tools to help my husband become more relational.  Today, we have several systems in place to foster communication, awareness, and meaningful interactions that work quite well.

If you are struggling with the challenges of a neurodiverse relationship, where you and/or your partner have an ASD, I’m confident I can help you out.  Being a Certified Neurodiverse Couples Counselor (AANE) I can develop successful coping strategies and relational skills to deepen and strengthen your relationship.

For more information on moving forward with your Aspie husband or wife, please contact me at (858) 735-1139.  I know I can help.

Why I Work With Neurodiverse Couples

Why I Work With Neurodiverse Couples.  High functioning Asperger’s is receiving a lot of attention.  Asperger’s is a developmental disorder affecting the ability to effectively socialize and communicate.  With access to online dating, individuals on the autism spectrum are able to connect with people developing relationships that could lead to developing families.  Asperger’s/Autism is inherited so the need to provide services for Neurodiverse Couples is imperative.

With my husband Phil

Not all Marriage Counselors have the expertise to work with Neurodiverse Couples so often times neurodiverse couples come to see me as their last resort.  When a neurotypical woman (NT) is married to a man who has behaviors associated with Asperger’s, (neurodiverse; ND or Aspie; AS) she will most likely experience gradual lose of her sense of self and feel invisible.  A lonely and hurt former self emerges that she can barely recognize.  She experiences Cassandra Syndrome as she starts to feel crazy and misunderstood.

As a Marriage Counselor working with women married to Asperger men this story by Sarah Swenson, LMHC says a lot about what life becomes:  https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/married-with-undiagnosed-autism-why-women-who-leave-lose-twice-0420164

This article hits home for me because I am a neurotypical woman married to an Aspie husband.  As a Marriage Counselor, certified to work with AS/NT couples, my role is to be an AS/NT translator, with the goal of helping both partners understand the world as seen through a Neurodiverse Lens.  Conventional marriage counseling is ineffective as there are specific tools to help neurodiverse couples understand one another.

Being married to someone on the spectrum is a life-long challenge.  For more information about Neurodiversity and being able to move forward in your relationship, please contact me at (858) 735-1139.  I know I can help.

Cassandra Syndrome

Cassandra Syndrome.  What is it?  In Greek mythology, Apollo gives Cassandra the gift of prophecy; the ability to foresee the future.  He did so out of an act to seduce her but when she ultimately rejected him, he hexed her with a curse of never being believed.  Even though Cassandra had the power to predict the future and could warn people when something bad was about to happen, no one believed her.  She was dismissed and rejected, regarded by the townspeople as an insane liar.  The curse of never being believed became a source of pain and frustration throughout Cassandra’s life.  Despite her powers as a clairvoyant, she was all but invisible.

My husband has Asperger Syndrome (AS), making us a Neurodiverse Couple.  During the years before we obtained an unofficial diagnosis, I was quite troubled and experienced a great deal of psychological and emotional distress.  I was an emotional hostage, suffering through daily trauma of feeling invisible to my AS partner.  My husband could not express empathy, was awkward socially and had a limited ability to express himself non-verbally.  My response was to act out.  I was angry, unreasonable, hurtful and verbally abusive.  My self-esteem was being demolished by a partner who could not provide the connection I longed for.  There was either something terribly wrong with me or my husband had some sort of undiagnosed psychological challenge.  As a result, I was losing my sense of self.

I was experiencing an ongoing traumatic relationship syndrome (OTRS), known in this case as the Cassandra Syndrome, a term coined by the families of adults affected by AS.  Like Cassandra in the myth, I had become invisible, disregarded, and ignored.

 

There was never any doubt I loved Phil but the Asperger’s was creating many challenges.  I didn’t want a divorce so I educated myself on AS, and Cassandra Syndrome and acquired coping skills to manage my emotions more appropriately.  We also found the tools my husband needed to be more relational and put systems in place for better communication.  This had made me so much happier.  Today, our Neurodiverse challenges are much more manageable and our mutual commitment to stay together and keep moving forward is truly one of the great achievements of our unique love story.

 

For more information on coping with Cassandra Syndrome and moving forward with your Aspie husband (or wife/partner), please contact me at (858) 735-1139.  I know I can help.

                      with my husband Phil

 

 

Do You Think Your Husband Has Asperger’s?

Do You Think Your Husband Has Asperger’s?  I’ve been married to my husband for twenty years and from the beginning, I thought he might be on the spectrum.  We all are to a certain degree but those who suffer from the syndrome show signs of severe debilitation which affect social interaction, behavior, and communication.  What exactly is Asperger’s?  Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder characterized as an autism spectrum disorder  (ASD).

A person with Asperger’s, an Aspie, is very high functioning and has no problem with basic speech, are quite intelligent and capable.

Common traits of Asperger’s include:

  1. Not being thoughtful – despite any ill intent, the impact may appear rude or callous.
  2. Have memory problems – forgetful
  3. Have a lack of theory of mind (Mindblindness) – incapable of putting themselves “into someone else’s shoes.”  Cannot conceptualize, understand or predict knowledge, thoughts, and beliefs, emotions, feelings and desires, behavior, actions, and intentions of another person.
  4. No self-awareness.
  5. Time management problems – lose track of time as they can become involved in restricted or special interests.
  6. Have a narrow range of interests – hyper-focused on one (often very specific) hobby.
  7. Show little to no empathy.
  8. Have sensory problems – sensitive to bright light, loud sound, skin sensitivities, and sometimes taste.
  9. Repetitive behaviors – like routine, have little tolerance for change, inflexible.
  10. Struggle for small talk – limited relational skills.
  11. Conversations can be one-sided.
  12. Difficulty making friends.
  13. Have awkward moments and mannerisms.
  14. Little eye contact.

As a Marriage Counselor married to someone on the spectrum I’m working with and able to help Neurodiverse Couples (a couple is neurodiverse when one or both partners has an Asperger / Autism Spectrum profile) focus on problem-solving, developing coping strategies for one or both partners, and acquiring relational and communication skills through putting systems in place and implementing a process that is successful.

I love my husband as he is a kind, generous, and intelligent man. I didn’t want to leave the relationship so I educated myself on this syndrome and acquired the coping skills to manage my emotions (Cassandra Syndrome) more appropriately while getting my husband the tools he needed to be more relational.  We have put systems in place and are implementing a process that is actually working well.

For more information on being able to move forward with your Aspie husband please contact me at (858) 735-1139.  I know I can help.