Lately, it seems we’ve been getting more and more comments from people with non-neural-typical partners and struggling to deal with it. What is a non-neural-typical partner? Well, if we say neural has to do with how the brain functions, and typical is … well … “normal” (by that I mean their brain is the way most peoples are). So a neural-typical person has “normal” brain function. And thus a non-neural-typical person has a “non-normal” brain function. OK, that doesn’t explain much. So, I’ll give you two examples that I’ve fairly well versed in.
I’m not going to get into an argument about whether it’s ADHD or ADD, or if they are the same or different, or whatever. The resources I’m reading from leading work says it’s all ADHD whether or not you have the “H” (hyperactive) component defines the sub-type. So I’m going to call it ADHD. Now, ADHD is probably one of the most common examples of non-neural-typical, but it’s also probably the most over-diagnosed. I think there are a ton of kids on stimulants that have no reason to be, and there are a ton more than should be and aren’t. Many people think it’s a myth (I was one of them before researching it), probably because of the poor diagnostic quality we’ve been seeing in the world. But, live with an adult with ADHD and you’ll soon believe it’s real. You’re alternative is to believe they are lazy, crazy, and/or stupid, which by the way is an amazing book on the topic. Another good one is Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? Neither are Christian books, so filter as needed, but they are both worth the read. I’d recommend the first one to the person with ADHD and the second to the spouse.
So, what is ADHD?
Most of these types of things have extremely complicated lists of symptoms, subtle things that are hard to pin down, because we’re working with a brain, and, the logic isn’t always readily apparent. I mean, how do you know someone is hyper-active instead of just really rambunctious? How do you know they’re hypo-active, and not just lazy? There is no clear defined scale where you can point and go “oh, see where they sat there for 3.4 seconds staring at the wall, that’s the cutoff, 3.3 would have been fine”. But the underlying cause is actually quite simple, but it requires knowing a bit of how the brain works. So, let’s see if I can break this down. I want you to understand, because a lot of people with ADHD (diagnosed and medicated) have no idea what their brain is actually doing. Usually the doctor diagnosing it doesn’t either (sorry if you are good, responsible doctor, but I’ve seen it for myself, too often).
So, this is my understanding of what happens in the brain. Keep in mind, I have absolutely no medical training, so go check this stuff yourself (and don’t cut your brain open, the parts we’re talking about are too small to see anyways), by reading a book or asking a doctor, and challenge their answers too. So, here we go.
You’re brain is not a big singular mass that just magically works. It’s made up of neurons (and other stuff, but we’re going to skip that) that do the thinking, but a single neuron isn’t able to do much on it’s own, so it networks with other neurons to increase brain power. Do this through the brain, and you get your ability to think, and move, and feel, everything. The connections are key. Now, just about everyone has heard that the brain has uses electricity to transmit data. That’s mostly true. But, where these neurons reach out and touch another neuron (we call that “arm” that reaches out an axon), there is a space between the axon and the next neuron. We call that a synapse. It’s basically a gap, and that gap is too big to send electrical current across. So, what happens is that the axon, when it receives an electrical current, it shoots a bunch of neurotransmitters (which are chemical based) across the gap to hit receptors on the other neuron. It sends a burst of them, not a single one, per electrical impulse. The neuron, on the other side of the synapse (the gap), if it picks up enough of these neurotransmitters, it accepts it as a valid signal, generates an electrical signal, and sends it up to the neuron to process. It’s designed this way, because typically you won’t catch every neurotransmitter, some get lost on the way, or misfire, or whatever. So, this is sort of an internal verification system.
OK, got that? Neuron (thinking cell) fires > sends electrical signal down the axon (arm) > turns into a bunch of neurotransmitters (chemical) > shoots across the synapse (gap) > picked up by receptor > IF enough hit, electrical signal created and continues on.
This happens every time you brain wants to do something. Have a thought, or part of a thought, feel something, do a task. This happens, I don’t know how many times a second in your brain.
OK, so what does this have to do with ADHD? Basically, that part where the neurotransmitters shoot across the synapse (gap), there aren’t enough neurotransmitters shooting. I’m not sure of the ratio, but say if 16 normally jump across, the receptor might need 8 to say “this is a signal!” So, in an ADHD brain, it’s sending maybe 10, but still needs 8 to complete the connection. So there is a much higher chance that the signal will not be completed.
So, if you understand how the brain works, it’s as simple as saying “not enough neurotransmitters are sending”, and a room full of neuro-scientists will go “oohhhh!” That’s what I mean by a simple cause.
How this plays out, the effects, are another matter, I’m going to try to write a post about how ADHD affects marriage and specifically sex in the next couple of weeks.
Asperger’s Syndrome/High Functioning Autism
Asperger’s Syndrome and High Functioning Autism are really the same thing. Often doctors disagree with that, but basically two groups found this non-neural-typical type case and named it independently. To this day, many doctors still think they are different, but they aren’t. Most of you have some knowledge of this, even if you aren’t aware of it. If you’ve watched the TV Shows Community or Big Bang Theory, you at least have been in contact with a representation of it. As High Functioning Autism suggests, it is on the autism spectrum. On the lower end of that spectrum, you get the people who are trapped in bodies that won’t cooperate, rather they are trapped in brains that can’t make their body cooperate. On the high functioning side, you can get very close to neuro-typical, to the point that they can fake being neuro-typical so well that you may never know.
So what is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Like ADHD, the root cause is pretty simple to explain. Now, again, for those without a background in neuro-science, let’s walk through this. Neuro-scientists categorize the brain by different sections. They subdivide it in many ways, but the major subdivisions are: Frontal lobe, Parietal lobe, Temporal lobe, Occipital lobe and Cerebellum.
In the frontal lobe (which is basically the area right behind your forehead), you further subdivide into smaller categories. One of these is the pre-frontal cortex. What does it do? Well, it does some really cool stuff that people really have trouble explaining how it works. This is where a lot of psychology comes in. So, it’s responsible for controlling emotions, for intuitively navigating social interactions, for recognizing body language, for a lot of the stuff that you can’t really explain how to do it, you just do. You can explain why 1+1=2 (math), or why you drive on the right side of the road (laws/history), but try explaining why you don’t wear a baseball hat to a wedding. Usually the answer boils down to “you just don’t”. So, that’s some of what your pre-fontal cortex does.
In an Asperger’s/High function autism brain, the pre-frontal cortex is under developed.
See, simple. Again, like ADHD, the implications of this are vast and intrude on every aspect of life. An excellent book on the subject is The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. Again, I’ll write a post about this in the near future as well, how it impacts marriage and sex.
How do you deal with having a non neuro-typical spouse?
So, how do you deal with examples like this, and these aren’t the only two. There are things like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), and a host of others. And in all these cases, the person involved can’t really help it. It’s how their brain is wired. So how do you deal?
Recognize that it’s not their fault
In cases where the make-up of the brain is affecting them, they can’t help it. They had no input in how they were formed. Some of these are genetic, some are environmental, most, no one really knows exactly why. Accept what you were dealt and learn to deal with it. But being upset at the person with the non-neural typical brain is not helpful to anyone.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.
Now, I’m not going to say that we are all appointed to be prophets to the nations, but I think it’s clear that God has plans for us, and God knew how we were going to be before we were born, and he still counts us as his heirs, if we accept him.
Recognize that it’s non-typical might not be worse
Sometimes, non-typical doesn’t mean worse, it just means different.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Some of these non-neural-typical traits can be quite helpful, and in some jobs and situations, the non-neuro-typical person handles things better than a neuro-typical. God has a purpose for each and every one of us. Don’t doubt that.
Learn everything you can about it
This is an odd process. When you start reading a book about how your brain works, or how your spouses’ brain works, it’s like a light bulb going off every chapter, sometimes paragraph. You will understand them better, you will know them better. All the confusion behaviors, habits, fights, will suddenly make sense. You’ll both learn to navigate better knowing what the field of their mind is. Somewhere in there, you might feel sad. You might lament that it’s never going to change. This is the way their brain is. You might also feel relieved, and you finally have an answer.
This process can change a marriage, just knowing. This has a larger impact than any treatment or medication. What’s my basis for such a claim? My wife has ADHD, and I have Asperger’s Syndrome. We only found out in the last year. I spent weeks learning about ADHD, and then spent weeks learning about Asperger’s Syndrome, and my wife and I talked about every bit of information we came across. We’ve been through over 10 years of marriage without knowing about each other’s brains. Knowing makes all the difference.
Adjust your life to fit your strengths and weaknesses
In this process, we’ve learned more about what our strengths and weaknesses are. We’ve discovered strengths and weaknesses we never knew about, and we’ve adjusted out lives, our communication, to suit them instead of constantly fighting against them. There is nothing worse than trying to live in a neural-typical world when you aren’t neural-typical.
Of course, this process works for neuro-typicals as well. It’s always of use to learn more about your spouse. The best way to do that? Communicate. Ask them what they think, how they think, why they think. Ask them what they feel, how they feel, why they feel. These are the types of questions that lead to understanding. To knowing your spouse, regardless of how their brain is configured.
If you have questions/comments/concerns, please comment below and we can start a discussion.
28 thoughts on “Dealing with a non-neural-typical spouse”
Thanks Jay Dee. I think this would be a great article to show some people who say “oh why do you stay with your husband”. Ignoring that aspergers isn’t biblical grounds for a divorce anyway, it’s because he’s just different not bad.
He does drive me insane, but I drive him insane so we’re even. He has aspergers. I have mild OCD, mild ADD and some aspergers features too (although I can understand most social rules like why you do won’t wear a baseball cap to a wedding, I just occasionally put my foot in my mouth in social occasions).
It can be difficult at times, especially trying to explain why some things are inapprorpriate – like it can be hard not to be hurt when he is accidently rude to my friends. But as you said, people with aspergers have so many good qualities. He will never deliberately be rude to my friends for example.
Guys with aspergers can make fantastic fathers. My brother has it (not officially diagnosed) and it gives him an amazing gift and ministry. He has two special ministries – the first is with children, his aspergers makes him blunt and socially child like, which means he does wonders working with kids because he really understands them at their level. And where most aspies have an obsession, his obsession is theology. He can explain just about anything biblical to anyone. From the most basic, to the most complex – he is the most knowledgeable person I know at a personal level. If I needed to know something from the bible or need something explained, he’s the guy I call. If a friend asks me a difficult theological question or needs a recommendation of a good book, again, he’s the guy I call.
Even when he’s driving me nuts, I adore my husband. His aspergers does give him special talents, and he is an amazing dad to my daughter with aspergers. Her own father walked away from her, declaring her “too difficult” but not only is my husband good with her, is he loves spending time with her and has far more patience than I do! and I like to think I’m pretty patient (I have more patience with her than 99.999% of people).
I wish more people could see that having aspergers isn’t bad. One of the best desriptions I’ve heard of it is that people are like computers, and we all have different programs and files, but people with aspergers have an entirely different operating system. And it’s a very good description. It’s not that a different operating system is “bad”, it is just different with different strengths and weaknesses and it is often difficult dealing with “compatibility issues”.
But in the end, if you can work past the compatibility issues, it’s well worth it. It’s good to have a spouse who complements you and isn’t just a carbon copy of you. And I treasure that my husband and I have a good amount of similiarities and differences. Of course there are many times I wish we shared a few more similiarities (sex being one of them), but in the grand scheme of things, I think we are as matched as two human beings can expect to be.
I find way too much of the literature focuses on the negatives and the struggles. Not enough on how to celebrate the differences and strengths.
More on that in my next couple of posts.
I completely agree – more embracing the differences!
“…Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,…”
You know what I love about this verse? God takes ownership of every one of His creations. He not only takes the ownership of knowing us; but also HOW we are each made. To me, this includes not only our giftings; but also our ‘differentness’ of each other. We truly are unique – each and every one of us!
While I think I understand the point you are trying to get across by writing this article, I have to question whether you really understand the meaning behind the scripture you quoted? God “fearfully” and “wonderfully” made you…he did not say” well, I’ll put a dash of ADHD in her, and a pinch of Aspergers in him”. When Jesus became the final and perfect sacrifice on the cross, he took ALL sin, sickness, an imperfection upon himself so you and I could live free! God want you well, and all this talk about embracing diagnosis that some doctor gave you is insane. When you say” I have this, and my wife has that” you have accepted a lie of the enemy. Life and death is in the power of the tongue…you have what you say. It is not normal or ok to have chemical imbalances of the brain…God did not make you that way. I find it ironic to be quoting scripture in one sentence, and then saying I have some disease in the next sentence and making it out like you should just accept it and alter your life around it. You need to apply Gods Word to every situation. I love your blog, but this is upsetting.
Hey, thanks for the chance to discuss!
Where to start…
First, I believe my wife is fearfully and wonderfully made. I’m not sure there is an argument you could bring forth to make me not believe that.
Second, yes, the fall effects us all. It even effected Jeremiah. So, Jeremiah was a fallen creature (not perfect), and God said he was fearfully and wonderfully made. My wife and I (and all other people, excepting Jesus, Adam and Eve, of course) are fallen creatures, and I believe God fearfully and wonderfully made us. To believe otherwise I think is to call God a liar. Why would Jeremiah be the exception? He was not perfect.
Third, I never said the word disease. That’s your assumption projecting onto my post. Frankly, I like having Asperger’s Syndrome. If there was a drug I could take or an operation to fix it, I would opt out. I like the way my mind works, and frankly, the people who read this blog seem to as well. Does it have draw backs? Yes, does it have advantages? Yes. Does it mean I’m broken (other than in the same way everyone else is)? I say no. You seem to disagree, and that’s your prerogative.
Fourth, my point in using that verse from Jeremiah (and balanced with the one from Romans) was that it is not right to write-off a human because of one trait, or flaw, or disorder, or disease, regardless of what it is. If you can deal with it, adjust to fit in society, there is no reason they can not be a productive member of society, or a relationship.
Fifth, I don’t believe God decides every particle in each of us. That would be inconsistent with what I see in scripture. I see that He made a system, which was made perfect and He is responsible for. And He allowed, due to His wanting us to have free will, to let it be corrupted. So, does God want people born with disorders? Yes and no. It depends on how you look at it. He wants a world with free-will, and right now that means these things have to happen. So, yes, that’s His will. Is that the way He designed the system originally? No, so that’s not His will. See the problem? But, I do believe God designed the system knowing it would fall. To believe otherwise is to remove God’s omniscience. So, yes, I believe ultimately God knew I was going to be this way from before creation, and He created the universe knowing I would turn out like this. So, I have to believe that He wanted me this way. But, I think I understand what you mean, that ideally, God would want all of us perfect, and in heaven we will be. But, I think that neural-typical humans will have a little bit more Asperger’s in them in heaven, and Asperger’s people will be a little bit more neural-typical in heaven. My wife says that thought may be a symptom of Asperger’s though, so I retract that statement.
Sixth, I don’t believe Jesus took all sin with Him on the cross. I believe He paid for all sin on the cross. We still see the negative effects every day. Again, I don’t see this as consistent with scripture, or experience. I do not believe we can live perfect lives yet, and I don’t believe we can live lives untouched by sin yet. And, I believe God has called me to this ministry, not despite my Asperger’s, but including it.
Seventh, is it OK to accept sin? No. Can we ignore sin? No. Can I change the way my brain is? No. Paul says we should learn to be content in all situations. What would be the point of constantly lamenting that my brain is different than yours (which I wouldn’t do anyways, as I said, I like my brain)? But, if I accept it, if I learn to work with the strengths God has given me (directly or indirectly, see point 5), and mitigate the weaknesses, then how could I do anything else and still be a good steward? If I ignored it and constantly tried to live as a neuro-typical, my life would be an unproductive disaster and I would be miserable. This seems contrary to God’s will.
I’m sorry that you are upset. To me, this reads that you are upset that I believe my wife is wonderfully made. To me, this reads that you are upset that I believe I can use this disorder to an advantage, to serve God. To me, this reads that you think people with disorders are unworthy spouses or that their spouse should constantly try to make them neural-typical and never settle for less or accept who they are until they are “normal”. To me, this reads that you feel people with disorders have inherently less value as people/spouses. Frankly, if I wasn’t able to detach from negative emotions very easily, this might upset me in return. But, as it happens, I can sit back and enjoy the discussion.
Looking forward to your reply.
THANK YOU Jay Dee!!!!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Aspergers is not a disease and I don’t believe it should even be called a disorder.
My beautiful, wonderful daughter is not “broken”, nor is my husband. They just see the world differently to the average sheeple out there. It has its blessings and its curses. There are many wonderful ways the asperger’s minds operates, and I think most of the curses are simply that the average “normal” person doesn’t understand the asperger’s mind and doesn’t try.
I’m sorry to put it bluntly (feel free to take this out) but screw being normal! What is “normal” anyway? the “average” person? the “average” behaviour? some kind of societal defined “acceptable” way to think and act?
No one is truly normal! God has made us all individuals and we should celebrate differences (as long as those difference are not sinful and don’t make life harder such as genuine disabilities and illness).
I fell in love with my husband precisely because by society’s standards he is “weird” and “abnormal”, and 99% of those things society would label him “weird” and “abnormal” for are good qualities not bad.
I’m weird, I’m not another of society’s lemmings myself. I’m proud of it and I’m proud of most of the ways my husband and daughter are different from what society declares “normal”.
Does it make life hard sometimes? yes. no doubt about it. Society often condemns anyone who is outside the “norm”, hence why christians who are serious about their faith are often condemned, at best seen as weird, and at worst totally shunned and persecuted. It is little wonder people with aspergers struggle when society punishes them for being different, but I don’t know a single person with aspergers (and I know quite a lot – my brother, my father, my husband, my daughter, and my sister’s on/off boyfriend of many years, as well as those within my wider circle of friends), not one of them would change having it to be “normal”.
Of course, there is 1% of problems that aren’t societal based, and are simply the communication issues that go with aspergers that most heavily effect the partners and children of aspies, but no one is perfect. all marriages will have some communication issues. It just sometimes takes a little bit of extra work when married to an aspie. But the benefits far outweigh the bit of extra work.
I’m sorry, but I get really mad when people even imply that people with aspergers are somehow broken. It is the rest of society that is broken that they cannot handle a person who thinks outside the box.
Sorry not aimed at you Victoria. Just spent another night on a parenting forum where so many people act like kids with aspergers are somehow broken, or second rate children or people basically saying they’d rather be childless than have a child with aspergers.
I worry that a test for autism (which it looks like one will happen very soon) will lead to the same issues that the test for downs syndrome has led to, with 90% of babies testing positive for downs syndrome being murdered before they are born. I’d love to see society be more accepting of people with aspergers but unfortunately most of society seems unable or unwilling to accept anyone who is different in any way.
Wow. I don’t even know how to respond. Either there was miscommunication, or you really took the majority of what I said out of context. I LOVE that you see your wife and yourself as fearfully and wonderfully made…YOU ARE!! I saw so much error in what you said that I really don’t even know where to begin. Honestly, when I think about it, I wonder if this is even an itch I should scratch. Nobody is saying you an your wife have something wrong with you and you aren’t accepted(which seems to be how you took it) I definitely don’t think an imperfect spouse is an unworthy one either. So, after sitting here, rolling around what to do in my mind, I have decided to leave this one up to The Lord, and just enjoy your blog. I certainly wouldn’t want to become viewed as arrogant, and really, in the end, what would a debate back and forth prove? So I will step back.
Blessings and abundance to you and your wife! â¤
It’s quite possible there was a miscommunication. That’s one of the issues between neural-typical people and those with Asperger’s. As both I and ButterflyWings seem to be on the autism spectrum, it’s possible that we would both perceive what you said in the same light, which may not have been what you intended. Rest assured, there are no hurt feelings or anger on my end.
From my perspective, I read what you wrote, argued each point, and then re-iterated what I understood from what you wrote to make sure I understood. It is quite apparent that I did not understand what you intended me to.
I would very much like to know though what you meant, because I am interested in learning and in new perspectives. Since I obviously failed to grasp yours, it means it is still out there to learn.
At no point did I think you arrogant. What would a debate prove? I would hope enlightenment and wisdom by both sides.
If you still wish to step back, I understand and will respect that, though I will feel the loss of an opportunity to learn and to understand you better.
Blessings to you and yours as well.
My wife was born with one eye turned in, and they were not able to surgically correct it until she was three. That means for the time that babies learn how to recognize facial expression she was not able to really focus on a face. She to this day can’t easily tell how a person is feeling from visual cues which can be frustrating when you are feeling really down and she doesn’t seem to even notice. I though she was being cold and uncaring before we understood her challenges in this area. Not the same thing as ADHD but it is kind of similar.
Oh, and 3D movies don’t work for her, her brain still relies on only one eye 90% of the time.
I’d imagine that can lead to better communication. You can’t rely on subtle, often misinterpreted facial expressions and body language, so do you verbalize your true feelings more now?
It’s good you both understand it and realise what the problem is and can now work around it 🙂
LOL! This sounds like my husband and me! He is very close to the being on the Asperger’s Spectrum and I am a bit ADD. This has created some minor bumps in our marriage. I am really curious to see future posts on this!
Hi Brooke, welcome to the site!
The post on ADHD is up if you haven’t seen it yet. You can hit the next post link at the top, or the link right below this comment to see it.
Hoping to have the Asperger’s one up tonight as I will have some time this afternoon to write.
Jay Dee, I find this post fascinating, so much so I read it four times. I do not have ADD or autism, neither does my husband, but we live with the in-laws, and my brother-in-law has Asperger’s, OCD, and bipolar disorder.
I love my BIL like he was my own brother, and so it’s hard sometimes to understand that he can’t always control what he’s doing or saying. It must be incredibly frustrating because I know how hard he wants to be viewed as and to be “normal.” His parents, my husband, and I all try to make him understand that he is loved and he is special, and just because he has some differences in his life, doesn’t mean that he is bad or wrong.
Still it’s amazing how many times I tell myself I’m not going to be judgmental, and then something my BIL does ticks me off, and I have a hard time just letting things slide again, torn between helping him to understand he can learn and change and understanding some things may never change. Your post inspired me to be more open-minded, to love more like Jesus, to pray for my BIL more regularly, and to research more about the conditions he struggles with.
Thank you for linking up with Becoming His Eve Marriage Moments Mondays!
Wow, I don’t think I read it that much while writing and editing it.
So glad you liked yet. Yeah, sometimes we do things we have no idea annoys other people. My next post (planning on working on it now) is all about Asperger’s Syndrome, so hopefully you’ll like it as well.
My husband has Asperger’s. It is very hard to deal with. Absolutely no emotion. Just like you said ‘the big bang theory’. He is a Sheldon, or a Spock. Brillant mind, but ‘trapped’ in a non-emotional mind. It was lead to much resentment and bitterness. And yes, they can fake it – for sure. 31 years later was when I found out about the Asperger’s. Aspies live in a different world, their own world. And they tend to not invite anyone else into their world. If you want to live a lonely life, marry an Aspie.
I’m not sure I agree with that. I’m definitely emotional…just not the same. To quote Spock “no life as we know it”, it may be “no love as you know it”, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t love. I don’t believe my wife would say she’s lonely at all, but it does take some adjustment. I’m more than happy to invite people into my world…but I find people don’t often fit there. I’d urge you to read my post about dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome. Maybe it might help the two of you connect a bit more. Of course, we’re not all the same, so I can’t make any guarantees.
Actually I think Spock and Sheldon are fantastic examples of how people with aspergers do have feelings. Have you watched much of Star Trek or Big Bang Theory? If you have, here are some good examples. It’s more about bromance than romance, but one of the most touching scenes in the original series of original Star Trek is when Spock says to Kirk “I am, and always shall be, your friend”. In those simple words, Spock sums up extreme brotherly love. Particularly in the Star Trek movies, you can see the very deep love Spock has for his friends. In some ways it is the strongest out of all the characters.
Another example is Sarek, Spock’s father. Vulcans are constantly portrayed as these logical, emotionless beings. But in every episode and movie with them, across all the variations of the show, Vulcans are actually revealed to be infinitely more deep in their emotions than humans – they just control those emotions with logic and expressing them in different ways. One of the most touching love stories in Star Trek is Sarek’s love for Amanda. Even their “kisses” are a mere touching of fingers, but even in that, you can see the profound love Sarek has for Amanda. And despite the father/son frostiness, you can always see the very deep love Sarek also has for Spock.
And as for Sheldon… he’s another good example. His interactions with Penny and Leonard shows a love for them both. Despite all the talking down to them and the accidental rudeness, he can’t bear to be away from them. Sheldon is often represented as being in nature like a young child with Penny and Leonard as his parent figures, who he adores like a little child loves their parents. And his relationship with Amy is hilarious. Despite all the miscommunication, his totally inappropriate behaviour, his inability to act like a boyfriend should, he very obviously does love her. Even being willing to rewrite their relationship agreement to more meet her needs (which is a big thing for someone who is affected by aspergers that heavily).
I know it’s touch, and I know it can be lonely at times, but there is emotion there, it’s not faked, it’s felt differently and acted out differently. I know with my husband, I came to love him very quickly when we were dating but I didn’t say the words “I love you” – for two reasons. The first being I just didn’t want to get hurt again, but the second bigger reason is I wanted to make sure he truly loved me and wasn’t just mimicking me, or saying he loved me back because he felt it was socially appropriate to say it back to someone who has said it. so when he finally said “I love you”, I knew he meant it with all his mind and heart.
Sure he drives me nuts, and I can remember in the first month of our marriage I said to him a number of times when he treated me poorly (accidently) that it was “obvious” that he didn’t love me. But I can see in many things he does, that he does love me – he just kinda sucks at showing it a lot of the time. But there are things he does that show such depth of love at times, that are neurotypical guy wouldn’t think of in a million years.
And another good thing is when a guy with aspergers shows you love or says I love you or anything like that, you know they are extremely serious. That there is not a shred of doubt in their mind that they love you completely. Many guys will say “I love you” to get sex, but if a guy with asperers says it, it because he means with absolutely no expectation (or even desire) for anything in return. He is saying it because he feels it and is thinking of it at that moment and has no ulterior motive.
I know it can be so lonely – I moved half a country to be with my husband after we got married, to the only state in the country where I know no one. Even my best friend who lived half a day drive’s away moved to another state much further away a few weeks after I moved here. Friends can’t replace a relationship with a spouse, but they can help fill in some of the loneliness. Is there anything you can do to get out and make more friends? Are you a member of a church or bible study? I found particularly bible study is a great place to make new good friends. Or even just join a new group for a favourite hobby or similar. Also, many larger towns and cities now have support groups for partners of people with aspergers. I am a member of an online one, and I’m hoping one day to start going to the local face to face one (at the moment I have a clash activities with something important my daughter does so it’s out), and just having a place to vent where some of the women really understand is great. The only warning I’d put on it is you have to be careful of some who cross the line – there is a difference between venting for support, and outright ripping into your partner and basically expressing hate for them. A few of the women in the group I joined cross the line into hatred for their partner and it can be quite depressing, and I can see it can sometimes be damaging for women who are considering divorce – in some ways it makes them think they are justified in getting a divorce. But as long as you are strong, and are there for support to save your marriage not end it, the groups can be very helpful – and of course, the advantage of online groups is if someone is being mega negative or destructive, you can always block them.
There are also some good resource sites online for partners of people with aspergers with info on how to communicate better and how to get them to let you into their lives. And there are a few good books out there too. One I found helpful was 22 things a man with aspergers wants a woman to know (I think that’s the title anyway). There is also one by the same author about what women with aspergers want men to know too. I bought both (thought the women’s one would be good for my daughter when she’s a little older) and I actually found it really helped me because it also dealt with the topic of women who have aspergers (or have traits of it like me) who are in a relationship with a guy who has aspergers. It’s interesting but true, that in relationships like that, the woman with aspergers actually tends to be far more like a neurotypical woman than a man with aspergers in the struggles in dealing with a guy with aspergers and the difficulting in wanting the guy to express emotions and love and let the woman into his world.
I wish I could remember the names of some of the other books I have, but if you google sites on partners of people with aspergers, a lot of them list good books. I’ve bought a few, read most of them and found them very helpful on the whole issue. If you can find the titles, they’re pretty cheap to buy online, particularly second hand book sites, or simply borrow them from a library if you have access to a good library.
Either way, I strongly suggest spending more time with friends or making new ones if you don’t have many near you. It can’t take away all the loneliness but it definitely helps.
Thank you for your response. I’ve actually read some of your post on other forums and you impressed me as a very outspoken, honest, and caring person. I appreciate your advise. The things is – I’ve been married for 34 years now. Honestly, I’m about at the end of my rope. I have many church friends, work friends, and both my grown daughters are my friends. But I wanted a husband also. Not just a room mate. Someone to share their life with me, and me share mine with them. Only through God’s unending love and grace am I happy with my life – just not happy with my H.
The article was interesting. I was diagnosed with High Functioning Aspergers about a year ago and struggle with so many things in life……I want a black and white reality and fight for it where I can and will upset some of the people I love trying to do so. I try to have empathy and cry in sadness and joy at times when seeing or hearing others experiences and feel empathic, but I don’t connect so well with my spouse feeling that I can’t always face life together, often wanting to run away from conditions that i cannot handle….even my marriage. My life seems so pointless at times and yet when moments of happiness grasp me I could not want for more. I need to understand myself more, but often can’t be bothered, and my spouse has to accept me as I am as I know no other way. She shared this article with me as she is trying to love me and get me to return that love in the same way……I AM STRUGGLING. 🙁
I know how you feel. It’s difficult to feel so out of place in this world, isn’t it? We always feel like we don’t quite belong, like everyone else is built just a little different. That can make it harder to connect. However, it is possible.
While there is no “cure” for Asperger’s Syndrome, you can learn to adapt. It takes both of you. Your wife will need to learn to be a bit more black and white, and you’re going to need to learn to accept a bit more grey. And it’s not as simple as deciding to do it. It will take practice and time.
And you can get to a point where that contentment with life stays and will persist, regardless of the circumstance. But again, it takes time, patience, and working at it.
And yes, you need to understand yourself more, and so does your wife. And you need to become a student of her mind as well. When you understand how hers works…it becomes easier to process. While most people can intuitively understand a bit of how their spouse is thinking and feeling, you need to learn to read inputs and process them. To be able to recognize their facial expressions, body language, moods, etc.. It will be a much more analytical approach, but we tend to lack that part of the brain that would do it in the background for us. You learn to do it faster and not to comment on it so you don’t sound so “odd”. We can’t do it as fast as neurotypicals…but you can get close.
And don’t forget, it’s not all downside, we have some pretty big positives going for us as well. Don’t go feeling sorry for yourself. You are not broken…you are just different.
I was in a relationship with a man recently who I believe has Aspergers. We read many articles about it. He saw himself and accepted it and seemed to be happy that someone now understands him. He was very loving but also could change very quickly and become mean and hateful. If he felt someone was unfair to him, he would go off on them. As far as he was concerned, the other person was always wrong and not him. He would call me terrible names and say he was sorry afterwards but do it again and again so the apologies didn’t mean anything to me after a while. I am wondering if he could possible be bi-polar also. He is very smart in some areas and has a hard time comprehending other things. Is this typical behavior for Aspergers? I got out of the relationship. I miss him but just couldn’t handle the rages anymore.
Yes, one of the difficulties in Asperger’s Syndrome is that emotions escalate quickly. While most people’s anger will go 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 before they explode, those on the autism spectrum are more likely to go 1, 2, 9, 10. We go from being fine, to being furious, with no intervening gap.
That said, we can learn to master our emotions, but it is difficult and comes with a bit of a … consequence. As a teenager, I was very emotional. I would jump from being okay, to wanting to kill myself and others at the drop of a hat. These days I am known in my circles as about the most level headed person anyone could meet. Someone who is in complete control of his emotions. However, the downside is that I’m also known as never getting excited about anything. In order to temper my emotions…I had to temper all of them, good and bad. I have not yet learned how to control negative emotions and leave the positive ones to experience their full range…but, it’s worth it to me. I’m stable. My family and friends know I love them, even if I am not as … passionate as others. I am well respected and my counsel is sought after as a man of wisdom, someone to ask advice of or bounce ideas off of. But I’m not the first person people think of when they are looking for “someone fun”.
To me, it’s a trade well worth the cost. But, it doesn’t happen overnight. It is hard to reconfigure your brain. I finally started when I had something worth doing it for: my then girlfriend, now my wife. It still took me many years to get the hang of it.
I hope that helps.
I just found your site, and I’ve bookmarked it. I too have Asperger’s (a relatively mild case) and my wife has Adult ADD. We’ve been married nearly 16 years and have only started to discover these things about ourselves, and I’m doing everything I can to learn more about how to respond and react to her. I look forward to reading through your posts to gain a better understanding of what’s going on “in our heads” as you share your experiences!
I don’t spent a lot more time on Aspergers, but you can see how I apply my thinking style to the problems of marriage and sexuality.