With one in 68 children currently being diagnosed with some form of autism, it’s very clear that it is here to stay. Eventually those autistic children grow up, fall in love, and hopefully find the right partner and get married. With proper treatment from an autism specialist, an adult on the autism spectrum can lead a normal life, especially if he or she is high-functioning. This includes having healthy relationships with others. But there is still plenty of information the spouse will want to be aware of.
Asperger’s Syndrome in particular is very common, and there are increasing numbers of high-functioning adults who are being diagnosed with it. This means that these are people who have lived their whole lives with the disorder without seeking any treatment. This does not mean that hope is lost, but it does mean that certain behaviors will be ingrained in the person.
Common symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome include:
- Difficulty with problem-solving
- Problems making accurate predictions
- Difficulty empathizing with the feelings and emotions of others
- Difficulty using high-level verbal reasoning skills
- Anxiety in social situations, difficulty in participating in general conversations and “small talk”
- Tendency to become stressed or irritated when routines are altered
- Very passionate about specific hobbies or interests
- Average to above average intellect
While none of these symptoms are indicative of anything that would prevent the person from having a happy romantic relationship, some of the traits of a person with Asperger’s will certainly make the relationship more of a challenge. For example, if the wife is very social and loves to go out and talk to others, while the husband with Asperger’s is uncomfortable and hates those situations, frequent arguments may ensue. The husband may let inappropriate comments slip out and be seen as rude, further stressing out the wife.
Everyone, regardless of whether or not they are autistic, struggles in relationships with others. It takes work to make any marriage work. The people who fall on the autism spectrum tend to have more difficulties, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be happy in relationships. Those with Asperger’s struggle with the ability to make small talk, so it can be a challenge for them to form relationships in the first place. Difficulty understanding social cues may also make communicating somewhat challenging.
A healthy relationship between an autistic person and a person without autism will take some mutual understanding, respect and communication. Sometimes the partner who doesn’t have autism can feel lonely and isolated as he or she struggles to understand. Autistic people tend to shy away from touch, so less physical contact than the person might be used to should be expected. The importance of sexual intimacy may be lost on someone on the autism spectrum, so that is something that will need to be discussed as well.
If you suspect your partner has undiagnosed Asperger’s, getting a diagnosis will be the first step. Talk to a Newport Beach psychiatrist who specializes in autism spectrum disorders. After diagnosis, your partner will need individual therapy and specialized treatment as needed. You should also consider going to individual therapy sessions for the added support and to help you learn to communicate your needs to your spouse.
Here are a few other tips for coping with having a spouse on the autism spectrum:
- Communicate your needs directly. Do this either verbally or in writing. Do not hint to someone with Asperger’s—they simply will not get it, and it will frustrate them.
- When you do communicate, try not to show much emotion. This will help your partner process what you are saying easier.
- Understand that your other half is more likely than most to become obsessive about a hobby. Try not to take it personally. If it does become an issue, communicate your thoughts clearly and explain why the hobby takes time away from you and your family.
- Be aware that your partner will probably get angry if you are even a few minutes late for anything. You can alleviate the stress by agreeing on a less rigid time to meet, such as saying “I will meet you for lunch between 12:15 and 12:30.” Still, lateness happens due to traffic and other unforeseen issues. When this does occur, explain in detail what happened to make you late. People with Asperger’s often have trouble relating to situations that do not involve them.
- Set clear rules about parenting. If you intend to have children with a spouse who falls on the spectrum, be aware that parenting can be a struggle for someone with Aspergers. Parenting problems may come up when routines and schedules are broken or changes. It is important that the situation be explained to your children as they grow so they can better understand. Also, the autistic spouse needs to agree to stop disciplining the children in certain situations. The Asperger’s partner may miss something the other parent can pick up on. Communicating and agreeing on rules before you have children will help make the transition a little easier.
- Seek support! Consider joining a support group, either in person or online. Having people to talk to who are in a similar situation will help alleviate your stress and relieve the feelings of loneliness and isolation.
An ASD diagnosis does not have to mean the end of your relationship. Taking the time to learn how to communicate with each other will strengthen your bond and provide a foundation for a beautiful partnership.