Autism, PDD-NOS & Asperger's fact sheets | When relationships are at the breaking point
Fact sheet on adults with Asperger's syndrome and their parenting abilities
 
 

WHEN ASPERGER'S THREATENS A RELATIONSHIP

by Barry K. Morris B.ScWk

 

Some individuals will be at the milder end of the autism spectrum and will enter relationships but experience various degrees of difficulties due to autism or Asperger's syndrome. The theory of mind holds that many people on the autism spectrum will have difficulty seeing the world through another person's eyes. This can create many problems in relationships, as the person may act inappropriately in some situations and appear to be aloof, blunt, uncaring, insensitive, inflexible or cold at other times. There can be problems with reading body language and the 'hidden messages' in conversations, and these problems are greatly amplified in intimate relationships.

 

Non-autistic people easily assume that adults on the autism spectrum are doing these things intentionally, but they are usually surprised or shocked to hear how their words or actions have been perceived.

 

Relationships are not easy at the best of times, and the autism spectrum is just one of many factors that can bring relationships to the breaking point. While many people believe commitment is lacking in relationships today, the truth is that most people do their best to keep a relationship together until they believe it cannot be rescued. This fact sheet can help to make sure you have explored your options before deciding to end a relationship.

 

Counseling

Never underestimate the impact of relationship counseling, especially when both people acknowledge there is a problem and want to do something about it. When problems have been going for some time, it is natural for people to become defensive and simply blame each other for the situation. Counseling is a great way to to get a balance perspective again, with a fresh objective angle from the counselor. Ideally you will need a counselor familiar with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Check with your nearest autism or Asperger's Association.

 

Own up to your problems

Remember it takes two to tango! It will be natural for a partner without Asperger's to think all the trouble lies with the other person, but some of your reactions could be contributing to the problems. Relational issues usually trigger our insecurities and you may need to look within yourself at how you need to change too.

 

For example, if tend to be passive-aggressive, you will tend to show your displeasure by treating your partner coolly or with sarcastic remarks - poor communication strategies that will normally not be understood by someone on the autism spectrum. Try to see the things you need to change as well, it is rarely all the other person's fault, even though Autism Spectrum Disorders can create huge difficulties at times. You would like your partner to minimize the problems caused by autism or Aspergers. It is only fair that you minimize any problems you might have with emotional manipulation, being overly controlling, passive aggression or volatile outbursts with cutting insults.

 

Remember all good relationships involve a degree of compromise, and there will be many things a non-autistic partner can do to ease the situation. Objective non-emotional expression of frustrations and expectations will work much better than yelling. For some couples, writing things down can work remarkably well - it defuses the emotions, it is a visual strategy that works well for people on the autism spectrum and can be kept for future reference as well.

 

Get informed about autism and Asperger's syndrome

Remember Autism Spectrum Disorders have wide-ranging effects and your partner is not choosing to make life difficult for you. Learn all about the autism spectrum and understand why your partner has trouble understanding social situations and reacting in appropriate ways. Try to meet each other half way and work on strategies that will make things easier for both of you.

 

For adults on the autism spectrum, don't allow your diagnosis to be an excuse for behavior or social interaction that hurts or frustrates your partner. Use your knowledge of the autism spectrum as a basis to learn the skills you need to minimize problems. It is true that having Asperger's syndrome can be like living in a foreign country, where it is hard to understand the language, customs and 'rules' for behavior - but you can always learn to adapt to living in this 'foreign country' if you put your mind to it. Of course, you do have the right to stay just the way you are, but relationships always involve compromise so you may be forced to make a choice!

 

support groups and forums

In some areas, there are actual support groups for people where one or both partners are on the autism spectrum. This can be a great opportunity to learn from others and find strategies that may work in your relationship. It there are none in your area, there are various forums on the Internet. Just try "Aspergers partners forums" in Google and go from there. You cannot underestimate how chatting with others can defuse the worst of your negative emotions and allow you to start doing objective things to get your relationship back on track again.

 

It's still no good!

Despite what is said about our 'easy divorce' society, people rarely make the decision to end a relationship flippantly. In most cases, it usually only comes after agonizing guilt, depression, frustration and having tried every option to make it work. Talking all of the issues through with a skilled counselor will help you make the best decision in your circumstances. If the relationship does end, there may be years of antagonism, bitterness or pleading for a return to the way things were. In some cases, there may be threats or actual violence which cannot be tolerated in any circumstances - when this happens, check with the police or legal system in your country for how to best protect yourself.

 

Coming to terms with it all

Leaving someone can be very difficult, especially for those took marriage vows seriously and vowed to be with someone in sickness or health, for better or worse. The sad truth is that in some cases, the effects of an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the inability of others to cope with these, will end some relationships despite the best efforts of both. For others, these best efforts will keep the relationship going and eventually emerge the stronger for it. That is why any decision to leave should be first discussed with others who have been there, an experienced counselor, and after all possible options have been tried.

 

Click here to read personal stories by adults with Asperger's syndrome.

 

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Some individuals will be at the milder end of the autism spectrum and will enter relationships but experience various degrees of difficulties due to Autism or Asperger's syndrome, some of which can lead to relationships being at the breaking point