The Challenges Of An Asperger’s Marriage
Updated June 28, 2019
Asperger's is a condition that isn't particularly rare, but it's one about which not many people know a lot of details. If there's someone in your family who has it, then that's usually the impetus for your learning about it, as is the case with virtually any medical condition. If you happen to become romantically involved with someone who has Asperger's, though, then you'll undoubtedly want to read up on the characteristics so that you have some idea of what to expect. It becomes even more vital that you do so if you marry someone who has it. In this article, we'll talk a little bit about the challenges of an Asperger's marriage, and we'll discuss some strategies for living a healthy and fulfilling life with a partner who has it.
What is Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger's Syndrome is a condition that is closely related to or connected with autism. Those who have it are usually highly intelligent, but their social skills aren't as well developed as is considered typical. They may also become locked into patterns of repetitive thought or behavior.
What Are Some of Its Distinguishing Characteristics or Behaviors?
Those who have Asperger's generally don't have any identifying physical features, as might be the case with someone who has Down's Syndrome, for instance. If they have limited social interactions with other humans, then you might not notice any immediate indicator that they may have it. However, the more time you spend with someone who has Asperger's Syndrome, the likelier you are to observe that they seem self-centered or self-involved. That is because, for those who have it, there is a strong, nearly undeniable urge to focus on oneself. That might seem juvenile or annoying, but often the individual who has it is not willing or able to act any differently.
Because of this, dealing with someone who has Asperger's Syndrome can present as a distinct challenge. It might seem to you that they're fully capable of being hurt, yet they don't seem to fathom that they can hurt other people. The idea of someone other than themselves having emotions is completely foreign to them. Because of this, if you point out that they are behaving unreasonably then they can become argumentative or angry. They might pout or stew. The irrationality of their behavior is evident to everyone but themselves. When you keep this in mind, it's easy to see how being married to someone with Asperger's can present a unique set of challenges and obstacles to potential intimacy.
How to Have a Successful Asperger's Marriage
While people with Asperger's do get married, when it happens, the spouse is going to have to understand that some of the things that you're likely to get out of a traditional marriage are not likely to be forthcoming. For instance, if you get a new haircut or a new outfit, then it would be natural for your spouse to compliment you on it. Because someone with Asperger's is so self-involved, it's not likely they would ever think to do that. Even worse, they might say something insensitive about your appearance because they can't imagine that their words could cause you pain.
You might fall and injure yourself, and if your spouse has Asperger's, then they might tell you to get up without ever acknowledging that you might be hurt. Again, that is not because they're being intentionally insensitive; they're simply wired that way. People with Asperger's also tend to be nervous or standoffish about physical intimacy. It is certainly possible for them to give and receive hugs, and sexual contact is possible as well. They have biological urges just like anyone else. However, what could be considered conventional romance and physical affection is going to be foreign to them.
It's also going to be challenging raising children that you have with someone who has Asperger's. They aren't likely to be particularly affectionate toward them, nor will they give them many compliments for things like good grades or sports trophies. They might be physically, verbally, or psychologically abusive. Because of this, the children growing up in the environment are going to have their own set of challenges that are just as pressing as that of the spouse. They might act out as a way of coping, even if they don't have Asperger's themselves. The pressure will be on the parent to provide much of the love and support.
Some Techniques for Coping in an Asperger's Marriage
While being a loving and a nurturing person might not be something that comes naturally or easily to someone who has this condition, it is possible for specific patterns of behavior to be altered to make things more acceptable for both members of the partnership. If you know that you have a birthday coming up, for instance, it's probably too much to hope for a person with Asperger's to buy you something romantic. Left to their own devices, they'll probably buy you a coffee mug, a blender, or a lawnmower.
You can get around this by simply telling them what it is that you want. It's not the way things are typically conducted, but you have to make allowances if you don't want to be hurt or disappointed. By doing so, it also takes the pressure off the person with Asperger's.
Therapy for both members of a marriage when one of the individuals involved has Asperger's is almost a must. By talking with your spouse in a professional setting, it reinforces to them that this is something that you feel strongly about, and they're least likely to pay attention to the urgency of any problems that you're having with their behavior.
Having a couple's therapist who has dealt specifically in the past with people who have autism or Asperger's is preferable. They can present things in such a way that your spouse will not feel like the two of you are ganging up on them. If they feel like they are being unfairly put-upon, then they will probably withdraw themselves even more from what is happening.
Issues of physical intimacy are among the most common that people in Asperger's marriages face. Hugs and caresses that other couples take for granted are not likely to be present, or they will not be anywhere near as frequent as in other marriages. The very idea of holding hands might seem strange to someone with Asperger's. It's possible that a therapist will suggest getting a dog, cat, or some other animal for the support and affection that they provide. If you have children, then they can be another source of physical comfort and intimacy.
Unfortunately, it's not as though you can force your spouse to be physically intimate with you or comforting toward you. This is the reality of living with someone who has Asperger's.
It's always good to have close friends or relatives with whom you can talk and visit if you are in one of these marriages. There will likely be times when you are exasperated with your spouse's behavior, and you want to distance yourself from them and vent for a while. Having some family members or friends with whom you can go shopping, go to a movie, or get a drink with is always going to be in your best interest.
Activities Outside the House
It's also useful if you take up a couple of hobbies. If you volunteer at an animal shelter or a soup kitchen, join a bowling league or an adult softball team, or if you take up hiking or swimming, then you can have an outlet if the pressures of your marital situation become too much. If your entire life is focused on your marriage at all times, then it can feel like being caught in a vice. You need to have some variety and some ways of letting go of your feelings for a while.
Adjusting Your Expectations
Probably the best advice for someone who is in an Asperger's marriage, though, is for you to modify your expectations. No two relationships are going to be exactly alike, but if you have married someone with Asperger's, then you have to understand what the situation is going to entail. When these behaviors emerge, then they should not surprise you, and while you and your spouse can work on some of these issues together, if you expect miraculous, wholesale changes then you are bound to be disappointed. There are certain characteristics of Asperger's that are impossible to stifle completely, and if you know that going in, then it's going to be a lot easier for you.
You Can Still Make It Work
If you hope to survive as a person in one of these marriages with your self-esteem and sanity intact, then you have to try and look on the bright side of things. In all probability, your spouse is still going to be intelligent, philosophical, talented, and undemanding, all of which are excellent qualities. The nature of your relationship is going to be different from some others, but there can still be a profound beauty in it if you accept it for what it is.
If you're having trouble coping with an Asperger's marriage, then you can reach out to a trained medical professional at www.betterhealth.com/online-therapy/ for more tips and suggestions. These marriages and relationships are never going to be easy, but every partnership needs work from time to time, and the nature of that work is never going to be identical. While the challenges of partnering with and loving someone with Asperger's might seem pronounced, it is still possible.
The real trick is to go into the situation harboring no illusions. Know that ultimately, you're going to have to be the one who is responsible for your happiness and sense of well-being and self-worth, because your partner might not always be capable of assisting you in these areas.