Living with Asperger’s Syndrome: Tips for Partners
Having a romantic relationship with someone with Asperger’s Syndrome can be engaging and rewarding, but it can also be very challenging, especially as the major life changes that often accompany relationships (marriage, home ownership, parenting) shake up the routine of the person with Asperger’s Syndrome and introduce stress and complex dynamics that he or she may be ill-equipped to deal with.
In order to get the best out of your partner with Asperger’s Syndrome, it’s important to keep the following points in mind; remember, however, that all people with Asperger’s Syndrome are different, and thus, so are all marriages with Aspergers partner—Some points may therefore apply more than others. The most fundamental thing to remember is that, like any other marriage, a marriage where Asperger’s Syndrome is present will only work if both partners share a willingness to communicate and understand each other’s needs.
When conversing with your partner who has Asperger’s Syndrome, you should try to:
- Be as clear and concise as possible; rely on logic and reasoning to reach your partner, not emotion.
- Be consistent; mean what you say.
- Be upfront with what you expect and need; “hinting” and other more subtle methods will not have any positive effect on your partner.
Be prepared to deal with extra challenges if you start a family. Those with Asperger’s Syndrome struggle with child-rearing at times because:
- It’s demanding and stress levels are raised by increased responsibility. Asperger’s Syndrome traits are often aggravated and made more prominent by stress.
- Established routines become more difficult to keep
To help offset some of these challenges, leverage each partner’s strengths as much as possible, and divide labor in a way that emphasizes and draws on those strengths. Try to maintain common activities that you shared prior; these are often a key source of relaxation for someone with AS. Also, it’s important to access support from professionals who understand AS and how to mitigate its impact on a marriage. If possible, hire help with housekeeping, babysitting, yard work, and financial management.
One should also be vigilant about avoiding “theory of mind” (perspective taking).
Likewise, do not try to negotiate with your partner when tensions are running high. Wait until the stress has passed, then approach the situation logically, without relying too greatly on empathy. Always try to avoid taking things personally; retain an objective perspective as much as possible. Try written communication if you are having a hard time speaking in a non-emotional way.
To get the best out of your partner with Asperger’s Syndrome, create clear written guidelines for what needs to be done around the house, and other duties. Keep requests simple, or break them down into smaller steps. Never assume the person with AS knows what needs to be done (or knows what you want), even if the task seems obvious to you. You’re unlikely to annoy your partner by doing so as long as you remain calm and fair and provide a “why” for your request(s).
And, of course, education is very important for both partners; learn all you can about Asperger’s Syndrome, and communicate freely about how to manage it.
Preventing Your Partner From Getting Overwhelmed
People with Asperger’s Syndrome can be easily overwhelmed and need a fair bit of “down time”. To that end, you should keep the following in mind:
- Sometimes you may need to give your partner a “break”; try not to take it personally.
- Remember that he or she can easily experience sensory overload.
- People with AS struggle to filter conversational input from multiple sources; they may withdraw from such conversations or dominate them.
- May leave situations without warning when he or she gets overwhelmed, including family gatherings. It’s often best to plan breaks ahead of time.
- Feel free to attend events and social functions alone. It may be easier for you and give your partner some down time.
- Understand that your partner with AS needs time to recover from social situations and will likely spend more time on the computer or engaged in solitary hobbies than most people. This is normal for them, and healthy.
- Anticipate that your partner with AS may need significant down time after work.
- Have a disclosure strategy in place detailing who to tell about your partner’s AS and when.
- Understand your partner may resist new ideas at first simply because they are new or seem overwhelming; he or she may come around to them later after he or she has thought it through. Give your partner time to think.
Remember that a person with Asperger’s Syndrome can be hypersensitive to touch, and that light touch may be even harder to handle than more forceful touch. He or she may not pick up automatically on your emotional and physical needs, or experience less of a need for closeness than you do. He or she may forget to express verbal affection as well. Again, do not take it personally; simply remind him or her of your needs, and explain the “why” behind them.
With the right approach, you will find your partner with Asperger’s Syndrome is capable of understanding, generosity, and useful insight. While marriages with Asperger’s Syndrome may be more work at times than neurotypical partnerships, they are sure to teach you many useful skills in the areas of logic and communication that will be applicable throughout your life. These marriages are just as likely to be loving and enriching as any other marriage where good communication and compromise are present.
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dannyman/9440383