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Hot and Monogamous, just as God intended

Asperger's Syndrome and MarriageTwo posts ago, I wrote about dealing with a non-neural-typical spouse.  If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest going back and doing so to frame this post.  It also has a lot of content I’m going to leverage in this one.  In fact, I’m going to go back and read it now to make sure I know what I already wrote.  It’s OK, this post will still be here after we’ve read the other, well, it will be for you, I haven’t written it yet, so I have a largely empty page.  After you’re done, we can get back to talking about Asperger’s Syndrome and marriage specifically.

So, as I said, I have Asperger’s Syndrome, but I should point out, I am, with all due humility, extremely high functioning.  Almost no one in my life knows, including my parents.  So, if you know someone with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism, they likely will not match me.  I have a much higher ability to self-observe about how my mind functions and am not quite as trapped inside my mind as others.  That said, I will do my best to communicate the typical Asperger’s traits, so be aware, not everything I write will be about me.  Sorry, this may get confusing and may make you believe things about me which are not true.  I will attempt to mitigate that as best as I can.  In many cases and ways, these behaviors are going to seem like ultra-stereotypical male, which, I think, may be part of the reason people like reading this blog.  By being an ultra-stereotypical male in some ways and attempting to mitigate weaknesses in order to survive in a neural-typical world, I may have insights that help wives understand their husbands and husbands learn to coexist better.  That’s my theory anyways.

So, this underdevelopment of the pre-frontal cortex can cause some obvious behaviors, and some not-so-obvious ones.  I was going to follow the same pattern as my post on ADHD, but I’m finding the subject matter doesn’t lend itself that way.  So we’ll see if I can get the same effect of showing weaknesses and strengths and tips for mitigating and leveraging them respectively while using a different form.

Difficulty regulating sensory input

We’ll start here, because it’s easiest to discuss.  Many people with Asperger’s Syndrome have a problem regulating sensory input.  What does that mean?  Well, it means our sense tend to be hyper-sensitive.  Noises can seem louder or more intrusive, light can be brighter or more painful, textures can feel just…wrong.  For myself, I have trouble paying attention to someone when there is too much noise.  I don’t mean it’s too much and I can’t hear them, I can hear just fine, the volume isn’t the issue, it’s the amount of signal coming in.  If it’s too much, I have trouble separating what the one person is saying from the background noise around me.  I’m also very sensitive to light, my eyes are always half way closed.  On the other hand, I have excellent vision, both at night and during the day.  People are always surprised at how far away I can be and still read text.  My wife used to turn the light on for me when coming to bed, but we’ve realized that it actually is better just to keep it off.  I generally have more than enough even with the blinds and curtains shut to navigate, whereas the sudden light makes me close my eyes, and then I have trouble seeing.  And there are some textures I just don’t want to touch.  I can’t categorize them, but I know them when I see it, and some I can’t stand to put in my mouth.  My wife makes this dish with rice and jello that her and the kids love…I’ve never tried it, and never intend to.  I just know that mix of textures is … wrong.  It makes me cringe internally.  Now, I’ve read that this can be a huge problem in regards to sex.  Some can’t stand to kiss because they can’t stand the texture of their spouses’s lips, skin, nipples, or genitals, and it’s not that there is anything wrong with them.  I like Jello and I like rice, but I can’t put them together, I have no problem with anyone else eating it, but I just can’t.  Likewise, these people say it’s not that they find their spouse’s various parts intellectually repulsive…they just can’t stand to touch them, or they have trouble with slimy things.  I’m not sure how you would mitigate this other than understanding that it’s not you, it’s their brain.

Likewise, most people with Asperger’s have some aversion to being touched.  I’m not that bad, but others are much worse.  I know there are spouse who can’t stand to touch their spouse, to hug or hold them.  When they have sex, it’s genitals only touching, because anything else is just too much.

I’m quite uncomfortable hugging people other than my spouse.  My kids are usually OK, but sometimes not even them I’m afraid.  It’s too much, it feels too intimate.  I was incredibly uncomfortable at our church when we started attending, because everyone hugged.  Made me want to run.  I’ve gotten better, I can hug people now without being too awkward.  Shaking hands is another thing I had to get used to.  These social conventions really do confuse me.  I can accept that you shake hands when you first meet someone, but why every time you see them?!  Sadly, the only answer I get is “it’s what you do”.  I find often I meet someone and turn to something else, only to realize they have their hand out to shake mine, and I completely missed the social cue, making them look like the strange person trying to shake someone’s back.  Not a good way to start a business relationship.

Difficulty making intuitive mental jumps

The pre-frontal cortex is also at least partially responsible for making intuitive leaps in judgement.  Neural-typical people do this all the time and never realize it.  Any time you can’t explain step by step how you know something, you do this.  Anytime you can attribute anything to “common sense”, you do this.  And we (those with Aperger’s Syndrome) don’t do this well.  We don’t understand a lot of these abstract social conventions that everyone intuitively accepts and agrees to.  Jokes can be difficult, especially if they based on social convention.  Sarcasm can be as well, because most people just “know” it was sarcasm.  This also can cause problems with making inferences and predictions.  I have often been asked something like “what would you do in that situation”, and often my answer is “I would never be in that situation”, which just frustrates people.  But I don’t understand, how am I to know how I would react if there is zero chance of me being in that situation?  But, my wife on the other hand would probably tell you she’s not sure what she would do, but then go on to how she would feel and interact with it, and after talking for a while, would come up with 3 or 4 things she might do depending on all the possible scenarios.  All based on intuitive leaps.  Now, ask me what to do in a system that is based on logic and rules if specific event A happens at specific time B, and I’m all over it.  No intuitive leap needed, just follow the logic.  So, don’t ask your spouse to make intuitive leaps.  Never assume they have common sense, whatever that is.  I haven’t found it yet.  After 10 years of marriage, I think my wife has found out I never will.

Because of this, many people with Asperger’s don’t like being in social situations.  It’s too dangerous, way too much social conventions that no one has ever written down for us, no rules to guide us, no logic to lean on.  You’re just expected to “know” how to react, respond and convey yourself.  The “higher functioning” the individual, the better they can fake it.  I’m pretty good at it, I think people just believe I’m a bit eccentric.  I know I don’t 100% fit in, but I have other qualities people like that offset it, so I manage.  But, my wife is awesome, she tries to limit these social obligations as much as she can.  I understand there are some that cannot be avoided (even if I don’t understand WHY they can’t be avoided), and so I go, and try to be nice and engaging and socialize for her benefit, but it is exhausting.  So, limit social functions both in frequency and duration if you can.

The world is black and white

I don’t mean literally, I mean morally and for decisions.  I think this might stem from the lack of intuitive leaps.  We don’t often understand a middle ground, or compromise.  I hate the phrase “everything in moderation” for various reasons, but one of them is because it assumes there is always a middle ground that is preferable, and in my mind, that’s just false.  For some, this translates into a belief or behavior that any and all difference in opinion equals an enemy and a fight.  Because someone must be right, and thus someone must be wrong, and thus one is defending truth, and one is defending a lie, and what else could they be but enemies?  I don’t think it’s often articulated as such, but that’s the subconscious pattern, I believe.

This can be a problem, because those with Asperger’s often have a stronger allegiance to the truth than to relationships.  Many, including myself, will cut all ties rather than follow something that is false.   People with Asperger’s who have a faith tend to be very strongly convicted.  I have never known what a crisis of faith was.  I believe God is there, and that is all there is to it.  I find the Bible to be logically consistent with itself and with life, and that’s it.

Those with Asperger’s also tend to be more truthful, it goes against their nature to lie or hide the truth.  This can be a problem when someone asks you a question and socially, you should not answer it.  So, it can cause conflict, but many people really appreciate the fact that they can trust what you say.

But, this can be a strength as well.  My wife says I have the gift of discernment.  Now, I don’t like the idea of claiming gifts, and I never would if it wasn’t a good example of this point.  One of my strengths (I’m told) is being able to see a situation, be it technological, or social, or theological, or whatever, break everything down to black & white pieces, sift through the useless data and pick out the key point, the piece of truth that everything hinges on.  These people who say this have some evidence on their side.  Those that I work with bring me over to find the single small problem in thousands of lines of programming code, and I can usually do it in seconds after they’ve spent hours on it, granted I have more experience, but not enough to account for the major time descrepancy.  Due to this blog, I have gotten several emails with relationship problems, usually after a few emails back and forth, which are generally just me clarifying or asking for more information, I can hit the nail on the head about the issue, or so I’m told.  In church, people come to me with theological problems, because they say I have the ability to find the verses about the subject at hand and build the concept that answers the question they have.  I’m not sure I could do this without this particular brain configuration.

Asperger’s people tend to be very good problem solvers where logic is needed.  They often become scientists, programmers, network administrators, IT consultants.  They like solving problems, because everything is like a big puzzle waiting for them to leverage their mind against.

Perceived arrogance

I think the most concise example of this perception is a statement that my mother has said on occasion to me, “You always think you are right!”  To me, this is a ridiculous statement.  Of course I do!  If I thought I was wrong, then I would change my thought to what is right.  My wife tells me that my mother means I’m arrogant, which is another common trait.  Not arrogance, but the perception of arrogance.  We tend to follow the truth, and so, we believe we are right, and so anyone who disagrees must be wrong.  We don’t think we’re better than others, but we also don’t understand all the social rules of conduct regarding societies views of humility.  We tend to be plain spoken.  My boss asked me last week “Has anyone ever told you you’re really smart?”  As it stands, people have, so in my mind, there are two choices (black & white): Say “no” and lie, or say “yes” and tell the truth.  My wife is much more socially adept, and so probably would have come up with an answer that avoided the question entirely while endearing her to the questioner, but she’s a social ninja compared to me.  As I was saying, this can often be misinterpreted.

Our speech can also sometimes be viewed as pedantic.  In fact, just using that word can be view as pedantic.

Pedantic characterizes a narrow, often ostentatious concern for book learning rules. Synonyms of pedantic include bookish, academic or scholastic. Pedantic speech characterizes a general insulting form of speech.Pedantic speakers often talk down to or lecture others, while emphasizing their own knowledge. Some speakers may find pride in the use of pedantic language. In pedantic speech, the individual places a large emphasis on self-knowledge by debasing the perceived intelligence of other speakers.Pedantic speech normally focuses on the academically correct nature of subjects. Lengthy or self-important lectures at times characterize pedantic speech. Pedantic speech or writing characterize a particular narrow focus on trivial facts and learning. Pedantic speakers often chastise those perceived as existing at a level beneath theirs concerning obscure knowledge of the subject.Pedantic speech may also mark a large exertion of care when speaking or writing. Pedantic individuals often note and correct others in even slight misuse of common words. Pedantic speakers may hold a large attention to detail as a highly valued personal quality.Pedantry speech may also indicate certain developmental disorders. Such developmental disorders include Autism, a disorder of high level attention to insignificant detail. Sufferers of Autism fail to function socially, instead focusing on patterns or details in their own separate imagining.Pedantic speech also finds frequency among sufferers of Asperger Syndrome. Asperger Syndrome marks a similar but less severe disorder to Autism disorder in the inability to function socially. However, individuals suffering from Asperger Syndrome may find social intergration easier.The effects of Asperger Syndrome include individuals choosing to make use of certain marked speech patterns. Specific Asperger speech patterns include avoidance of slang words and other abbreviated forms of speech. Some may consider Asperger Syndrome sufferers to use pedantic, unnecessarily formal patterns of speech.

Taken from Reference.com

If you don’t want to read that, it basically says we use big and/or archaic words that people don’t understand.  This is often misinterpreted.  People assume you are doing it to show off, or to put them down, or to appear more intelligent.  The fact is, my brain reaches for the words I use automatically just like you do, it just finds different ones.  I rarely think about whether or not my audience will understand, because frankly, I long ago lost the ability to guess what reading level people are at, so I use the words I use.  My eldest daughter will often say to me “Daddy! I don’t know that word!”, and so I will have to stop and pause and think “What word did I say that she doesn’t know?”, and then I have to think of a synonym, for which there usually isn’t one that conveys the same meaning, so then I have to come up with a sentence to explain the word.  This all requires a lot of thought, but, my 7 year old’s vocabulary is impressive.  My wife has to stop me far less often, but it does happen.  Thankfully, she’s very intelligent and her vocabulary continues to grow so that we can converse easily, because I have trouble speaking less concisely.  So, dear reader, if I occasionally, or often, use a word that you don’t know, I’m sorry.  I don’t mean to do it, I can’t help it, these are the words that pop into my head as I type.

As well, those with Asperger’s tend to have poor conflict resolution skills.  Now, this is something I have worked hard on with my wife, so I’ve managed to mitigate this one, but you or your spouse may not be there yet.  Take the time and invest in learning how to discuss conflicts without assigning blame or getting upset if possible.

Above average intelligence

Most people with Asperger’s Syndrome have above average intelligence.  Sorry, but it’s true.  I’m not trying to brag, it’s in every textbook.  The current theory, which I believe, is that we lack the ability to make the intuitive jumps most people do, so we develop logic, systems and functions to approximate and translate neural-typical behaviors.

Many with Asperger’s tend to be extremely good at math, logic, science, computers, anything that has a primary base of logic.  We like these thing because they make sense.  Math answers are right or wrong.  Physics has formulas you can follow to tell you how things behave, computers are entire worlds where nothing happens without a direct command.  And computer games…wow.  Computer games are like a world where everything thinks like we do, it’s like a vacation every time you play:  To know how the programmed entities are going to act and respond, because it’s based on logic.  Real people are so illogical, so run by emotions, they are confusing and can be frightening to some.

Emotional difficulties

Most people with Asperger’s have difficulty regulating emotions.  If most people progress from neutral to murderous in a stead progression of intensity from 1 to 10, it is said that Asperger’s people go 1, 2, 9, 10.  There is nothing in the middle.  When I was in grade school, a kid called me by a nickname I didn’t like.  It wasn’t insulting or anything, it’s a socially acceptable version of my name, I asked him to stop once, then again.  Then he went home covered in blood, I had picked him up and thrown him to the gravel ground, and he got quiet a few lacerations from the ground.

Most Asperger’s kids experience bullying through most of their childhood.  One of the most prevalent symptoms of having Asperger’s Syndrome in a neural-typical world is depression.  I think if there was a place where there were only people with Asperger’s, the depression level would come down dramatically.  It seems a large cause of it is trying to fit into the world, being misunderstood and misunderstanding others.

For me, and I don’t know about others, my emotions are a very distant thing, which may have been a survival mechanism.  I can completely detract from them it seems, even observe them as if from a distance.  As if I could take my “heart” out and examine it.  But, I often lack the vocabulary (which is ironic given my vocabulary) to describe what I’m feeling.  Luckily, I have a wife who is very good at describing emotions as she feels them so strongly.  She’s very patient with me when I try to figure them out.  I’d imagine it’s hard when all I give her is “I feel…something…I’m not sad…but I’m not as happy as I usually am…”, and I don’t know what caused it, why it’s happening, or how to fix it.  But I love those conversations, because in learning to how express my own emotions, I get to see inside her brain at the same time, and that is precious to me.

We also tend to not show emotion very well.  My pastor, who is a close friend and knows I have Asperger’s, the other day was just “on fire” (his words), he was excited, pretty much bouncing and then he said “but you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”  He fell into the same trap as others do, to assume that because I don’t show emotions, or that I have trouble expressing them, that I don’t experience joy, or elation, or excitement.  It doesn’t register on my face, and I don’t “bounce”, unless I’m REALLY excited about something, but I do get excited and happy and joyous.  It just doesn’t overflow into an external behavior as much as neuro-typicals.  Sadly, this means that when I’m excited about something, it’s generally not infectious to those around me, so I don’t get to talk about it as much as I’d like to, because I may as well be talking about the weather to them for all the excitement they notice, and so they change the subject far too quickly for my liking.

Another issue I find is that if I’m bored, I tend to detach from my emotions.  I become much more robotic in my speech and movements.  It’s like my brain gives up, “Well, I’m bored, so I’m checking out.”, and doesn’t bother trying to feel emotions at all.  When this happens, my wife often mistakes it for me being upset about something.  Which I’m not.  I’m not upset, I’m not happy, I’m nothing.  It’s just void of emotion.  I’m bored, that’s all.  It’s not fun at all.  I would rather be in pain than bored.

Sexual Behaviors specific to Asperger’s Syndrome and marriage

The research is divided on this one.  Older research seems to think that those with Asperger’s often tend to be either averse to sex, or low-drive enough as to make them almost asexual.  New research is saying this is not the case though, that their drives are normal, but other behaviors impede acting on it.  It’s hard initiating sex when you can’t stand to be touched, you don’t like to kiss, and all the cues that tell you your spouse is interested are completely unintelligible to you.  I’m not sure which is true, because I don’t suffer from this lack of drive, or my drive is high enough that I push through the difficulties, or I’ve learned to navigate the difficulties enough to still manage to have sex, or I have a wife that is extremely caring and help, or probably all of the above.

So, if the new research is correct, somethings to help is be aware of their sensory issues, don’t give subtle “open to the idea of sex” signals, but blunt: not like a spoon, like a hammer.  “Let’s go have sex” is probably about as subtle as you want to get.

As well, those with Asperger’s tend to mistake things as authoritative guides, more-so than the general public.  If they watch porn, they will think the behavior they see in porn is normal and expected.  Or, they may think romantic relationships in soap operas is normal and expected, or romantic novels.  We see this a bit in neural-typicals as well, but in those with Asperger’s, this can be highly exaggerated.

Special Interests

I’m going to end with this one, because it’s probably the most confusing to people.  People with Asperger’s tend to have one or two special interests.  These are an obsession beyond anything most people have experienced.  Think of your first infatuation, and that will be close, when you wanted to know everything about this person, you wanted to spend every waking moment with them.  You talked about them to everyone who would listen, annoying everyone that lives in proximity to you.  You knew their eye color, their blood type, their favorite shirt, when the last time they wore that shirt was, because you’ve been watching them and asking questions about them, or talking with them non-stop for a few weeks.

Now, imagine, instead of a person, it’s a topic.

I have two life-long special interests: Sex and theology.   I’ve been studying sex for as long as I know.  One of the best nights of my life was when I found out there was a talk show about sex on between midnight and 1 am on the radio.  I think I was in grade school at the time.  I listened almost every day for years.  Sadly, by high school, this obsession morphed into a porn addiction as well, though, even then, I was far more interested in learning new techniques than in the eroticism of it.

I’ve been talking about theology for about just as long.  I have learned that there are some people I simply cannot talk about theology with.  Because even if we’re arguing about it, I’m having a great time, I get to talk about my special interest!  They, on the other hand, are getting very angry, because theology is a touchy subject, and I’m more concerned with the truth than people’s feelings.  Sex is even touchier, so I generally reserve my discussion on that topic to this blog and the community of christian marriage bloggers, places where sex is an accepted topic, and people know that when you show up, sex is on the table.

Both of these though, while I love to talk about them and learn everything I can, my life doesn’t get too impeded by them.  But, in addition to these two special interests, I also get intermediate special interests from time to time.  These are the ones my wife dreads, because I obsess about them.  For weeks, it’s what I talk about non-stop.  I dream about it, I buy books about it, I watch movies about it, lectures, whatever, and they are uncontrollable.  I don’t think I have one at the moment, which is good.  It also means we worry about what the next one is, because they come suddenly and uncontrollably.  I spent weeks learning about ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome.  I still love to talk about them (as you can tell by this 5000 word post), my interest in my special interests never fade, merely the intensity.

But, these special interests aren’t all bad.  They help to calm me, relax me, and provide a lot of pleasure to me.  It helps me learn about the world around me an pull a part of it into a coherent pattern that I can understand.  It helps me understand people ultimately, and gives me another topic with which to discuss when I’m in awkward social situations, because I don’t know how to do small talk, but I have a few dozen intermediate special interests I could discuss.

Wrapping up Asperger’s Syndrome and marriage

I just want to go over a couple additional possible points of conflict that are specific to Asperger’s Syndrome and marriage:

  1. Regular expressions of love may not happen.  From the mind of someone with Asperger’s, it sort of goes like “I told them I loved them 2 years ago, it hasn’t changed, why should I say it again?”  It took me a long time to learn to express love regularly.  50% of spouses of people with Asperger’s say they don’t know if their partner loves them.  The one with Asperger’s may think they are showing love every day, maybe even just by being there, but to a neural-typical, they may get the opposite feeling due it not being stated.
  2. Most people with Asperger’s need to be alone to recharge emotionally.  It doesn’t mean they don’t love you, or like you, or that their mad at you.  It just means they need to be alone for a bit.  They may not realize that the same is not true for their partner.  My wife sometimes asks me “why didn’t you come downstairs after putting the kids to bed (my office is upstairs with the bedrooms)?”  Truth is, most of the time it didn’t occur to me.  I was happy alone, and it doesn’t enter my brain that she might not be.  I’ve gotten better at this, but I’m far from perfect.

Strategies for Asperger’s Syndrome and marriage

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  1. If a partner has Asperger’s (either officially diagnosed or self-diagnosed), both must accept the diagnosis before moving forward.  Being aware of it and it’s implications is huge.  This will help more than anything else.
  2. Both partners need to be willing to learn and change their behaviors.  You cannot change the Asperger’s person into a neural-typical.  They can learn behaviors to help interact and have a relationship, but the neural-typical spouse has to be willing to meet half way and communicate partially on their level as well.  You both need to be willing to research and implement the changes to help the marriage.

I highly suggest the book The Complete Guide To Asperger’s Syndrome.  Reading it was like someone had written about my childhood and all the difficulties I had growing up as well as information to help me as an adult.  Well worth the price (currently $10 for Kindle).

 

Your turn

This post, while extremely long, is not exhaustive.  I know I’m missing things, so please, if you have Asperger’s Syndrome, or are married to someone who does, let us know in the comments what I missed, strategies for dealing with it, or great things about being married to a person with Asperger’s Syndrome that I didn’t mention.

26 Responses to Asperger’s Syndrome and marriage

  • For those interested, the is a basic self-assessment here for Asperger’s Syndrome:
    http://www.aspergerstestsite.com/75/autism-spectrum-quotient-aq-test/

    • Had him take the test….borderline is 26-31, and a score higher that 32 indicated Aspergers….his was a 37. Praise God for the clarity this is all bringing!

      • Any questions, feel free to ask, here or over email. Happy to help in any way.

        • Thank you! I think our biggest thing lately has been the rapidly escalating emotions. It makes talking anything out so difficult. Do you have any tips?

          • I think the number one thing that’s going to help is recognizing why he gets angry. This goes for both of you. You both need to understand this lack of emotional control. If you both can see it and recognize what’s happening before it escalates, you may be able to stop the discussion and switch to talking about feelings, why he’s angry: is he frustrated, or does he feel disrespected, or wrong, or what? This will probably be more you doing this than him to start. Eventually he may be able to recognize he’s getting angry, but that can be slow in coming. Self-observation is another weakness in those with Asperger’s. They don’t notice what they are feeling until it is too much, and then they lack the vocabulary to express it safely and effectively.

            So, you’re going to have to help train him. Ask him pointed questions about how he’s feeling. “Are you angry? Are you sad? Are you annoyed? Are you frustrated?” Often, these are much easier to answer than “how do you feel?” It can be tedious running down the list, but if we don’t know how we’re feeling, it’s pretty hard to answer the question. But, sometimes we hear something and go, “Yeah, you know what, I am annoyed! That’s what it is!” Ridiculous as it may sound.

            And this may sound insulting, but treat him like an emotional 5 year old who doesn’t know how to express themselves, because often we are severely stunted in this regard. Don’t baby talk to him or tease him, but help guide him and give him the vocabulary to understand.

            It gets better, we can learn, we’re just a little slow in this regard. But we learn much better with a patient, caring spouse.

        • I am married to a man with Aspergers. Cut to the chase. We dated for four years long distance. We saw each every other week for 2 days. In those four years I had the best sex of my life and love letters
          professing his love and desire for me. I thought I finally found some one who matched my sex drive and my expressions of love.
          Fast forward. We are married and the first year does not match the courting sex but it was okay. 2-3 times a week that first year. Now we have been married 4 years and we have sex once a mouth no kissing and no affection at all. This routine has been going on for the last 3 years and I have to beg for it.
          My question: apparently he was faking the whole romance including sexual activity. It feels like a trick. I feel like a fool. How do aspergers people fake the affection and sex for so long during courtship only to be content without either after marriage . Help me understand please.

          • I have two thoughts here:
            The first is that we see this pattern a lot (though more often the genders are reversed) in marriages that had a sex prior to marriage. It occurs too frequently to ignore. It seems sex prior to marriage leads to unsatisfactory sex later on. I think this is one of the reasons God tells us to wait until marriage to have sex.

            The second is more specific to Asperger’s syndrome. It’s quite possible he wasn’t “faking” it, at least not the way you would think so. Rather, he was deeply obsessed with you, and in order to meet that obsession, his brain did what it needed to do. I doubt it is as conscious as you seem to think it is. ADHD people often have the same pattern: during the “new and shiny” relationship, their brain is firing on all cylinders, but once it becomes “normal”, often right after the honeymoon, their brain calms down and those parts don’t seem to light up nearly as often.

            I can 100% understand how it feels like a trick, I felt the same way in my marriage for the first few years. It can take some adjusting, some learning more about how your spouse’s Asperger’s Syndrome works and how to reach compromises and/or get him to understand the need, even build the desire in him to want it.

            Again, I’d suggest the guide listed in the post as a great starting point for learning more about how it works. Other than that, a counselor/therapist who knows about Asperger’s Syndrome specifics and can help in marriages.

    • Hubby took that test quite a while back, but I find the score he got fillimg in the questions didn’t represent him at all. I think he got 31 (just short of the 32 cut off), but he answers “slightly agree” to everything that he should be answering the fully agree with choice. He is officially diagnosed though, because wise psychs have seen the things he downplays.

      That’s the danger with self testing – it relies on the person doing it to be accurate in their assessment. Hubby has driven me to breaking point because he has had severe depression for months now and all he can say to doctors is “oh I feel a little down and a little anxious” – living with him, he’s not a “little” of either. He has been nearly catatonic at times he’s so depressed and anxious.

      I think if anyone is worried their spouse has aspergers, it’s so important to get a professional opinion – and with a psych who has lots of experience in ASD because ordinary psychs have no clue (my daughter was seeing one for therapy and it was a total waste of time and money because the psychologist had little experience with ASD, and zero experience with girls with ASD, which is slightly different in expression to boys with ASD).

      I find it funny I actually scored higher than hubby (I got 34) because I have only minor social skills difficulties and he has massive social skills difficulties (he just can’t see it and accuses everyone else of having the problem).

      But anyway, I had so many thoughts after reading your article and I’ll be back to write a huge reply tomorrow ;) Especially about how things are slightly different for female aspies.

  • I so appreciate this! We’re becoming fairly certain my husband has Aspergers, though also very high functioning. This really helps to explain a lot! we sat here reading through the post laughing at each paragraph….you pretty much wrote out my husband in blog post form!
    Darian Bohaty recently posted..Booksneeze and a Bonus Blog Review!My Profile

  • Thanks for posting this. As a parent of 2 young men who have sensory intergration dysfunction this might help their future spouses under stand their quirks.

    • Glad to be of service. Luckily, your sons know going into marriage about their quirks, that should help immensely if they communicate it effectively to their future spouses.

  • So Jay Dee, I hope my reply isn’t going to be too long ;)

    First up, I wanted to touch on something that you didn’t cover. I thought what you wrote was fantastic, but it is from a male point of view. Which is what 99% of the research on aspergers is written about. Since there are three times as many (diagnosed) male aspies versus (diagnosed) females, this is quite natural.

    I’ve been looking into female aspergers ever since my daughter’s diagnosis approx 4ish years ago. The test that you linked to is a pretty good one for guys – the only downside is some aspies think they can read people well, so they’d score low on those questions whereas an unbiased observer would score them very high points on them, particularly the question about politeness comes to mind – my husband has hurt a lot of my friends with extreme rudeness but he thinks he is perfectly polite and he’d score himself low on the question because before he met my friends, no one had the guts to say to him he was being rude. His close friends and family just dismissed as “just part of his aspergers” and said nothing, and other people just chose to not be friends and walk away and say nothing.

    It made some very tough times, particularly around the time of my wedding when he really badly hurt my best friend with extreme rudeness and his response was “well no one else thinks I’m rude, she must be seriously messed up”. I tried repeatedly pointing out to him that it wasn’t her imagination, that I witnessed it and it was the exact same inappropriate rude things he did to me that I had tried to be tolerant of and that other friends of mine had spoken to me about being hurt by the same behaviours.

    But anyway, you get that with any self reported test – the bias of the person completing it can’t be totally ignored. But it’s a good test to give an idea. As a spouse, it can also be good to fill in from your perspective about your partner, and if you can get your spouse to a professional, you can then share your persepective of the answers about them.

    I find though that particular test doesn’t work too well with females. Because one of the biggest usual difference between men and women with aspergers is that women with aspergers can be quite social creatures. One of the reasons my daughter wasn’t diagnosed until she was nearly 7 and her paediatrician missed it and had to take her to development specialist to decide if her social worker/counsellor was right in thinking she had aspergers, was because my daughter is a very social little girl. Her problem, like many women with aspergers is not that they don’t like social situations, is that they totally have no clue what is appropriate socially. They lack boundaries, constantly say and do inappropriate things, etc.

    It’s one of the tendencies I share with her – I’m not rude, people don’t usually think I’m impolite, but I’m constantly sounding like an idiot, saying something that people just think I’m stupid. I have had several people think I was below average intelligence despite the fact I have an IQ in the genius range because I constantly walk around with both feet planted firmly in my mouth. I’m not very good at reading what people do and don’t want to hear.

    In one ways, that’s a big problem hubby and I have – I love talking endlessly about topics that take my interest (as does he), and yet if it’s a topic that he (or me in the reverse situation) isn’t interested in, he simply totally tunes out. When we first got together, I missed the cues that he wasn’t interested (although he also tried harder to pretend he was interested), and the reverse is true. He is completely unable to tell that I’m not the least bit interested because I be polite while trying to change the topic after he’s talked endlessly about something that bores me silly.

    But yeah, I wanted to add really just how different women with aspergers can be, especially when it comes to enjoyment of social activity.

  • Ok I thought I’d share personal experience with the things written.

    Sensory input – some of the things you wrote very much effect both hubby and I. Both of us suffer from physical hypersensivity in different ways. We both struggle with noise, just in slightly different noise. Hubby likes total peace and quiet, and I can’t cope with “annoying” sounds. The softest dripping tap, or the softest talking in a nearby room, anything like that drives me totally insane. Like you Jay Dee, I can’t hear in a noisy room. Part of it is because I’m on the low end of the normal hearing range in the range of human voices, but definitely part of it is difficulty attending to just the person addressing me – I find it very hard to focus on one voice and not others.

    Hubby and I are very similar with bright light – we both prefer dim rooms. Over bright lights (and that includes just morning sunlight on a normal day) is enough to be physically painful for me, and the pain of bright light can sometimes trigger migraines in me, my reaction is so strong.

    With touch, hubby doesn’t like being touched at all (except in very limited doses by me – he’s definitely a genitals only touching type – well genitals and kissing), and I find most touch difficult. I definitely have a problem with touch things with my fingers – the slightest undesirable feel and it feels painful. I have days when I feel like hiding half of hubby’s clothes because I cannot touch him while wearing them. It often effects our sex life because I can’t get fully into things until he takes any prickly clothing off. And kissing is something I’ve struggled with my entire relationship. Hubby is now a really good kisser, but I still can’t get over that kissing is slobbery and doesn’t feel right. The wrong touch can totally put me off (not that I stop, I just try to get him to do something else before I lose focus).

    It’s very difficult because kissing is one of the few things that hubby loves, and it’s one of the few things I don’t like most of the time. I think though we’re both getting used to it. With lots of practice, I’m finding ways to enjoy it sometimes, and hubby isn’t asking for it constantly.

    I totally understand the mixing of foods and how gross it is. I can’t stand different foods mixing. I couldn’t put foods together either.

    Hubby and I are also not comfortable hugging other people. It took me probably over a year before I was comfortable hugging hubby. I despise people hugging me, even the closest of friends. The only exception is my daughter. I think part of it is the bonding we went through with the years of hell and torture her father put us through. It’s weird, she definitely has aspergers (been well and truly diagnosed), but hugging is one thing she loves. It’s like how some people with aspergers like weighted blankets, my daughter likes hugs like that. It’s like a cocoon. Most people with aspergers hate being touched, but you get some like my daughter who love that cocoon feeling. I wish I could work out how to hug people without feeling awkward, I hope one day I can. I’m just grateful for now that I can hug my daughter and my husband without it feeling weird.

    I think when it comes to intuition, people with aspergers don’t totally lack it. They may lack “common sense” and social intuition, but I’ve always found people with aspergers (and this includes my brother, my sister’s on/off boyfriend, my husband and others, are good with intuition in more “logical” areas. Things like maths, computers, science, etc, they seem to have a gift to look at a question and just “see” the answer. There is what most people would call intuition, but in reality it’s a connecting together of little pieces of information that other people don’t see – perhaps that’s what “normal” intuition is… it’s not true leaps of judgement, it’s just that neurotypical people pick up on all the little social cues that people with aspergers don’t see, the same way people with aspergers pick up all the little clues in logic based areas and can make amazing intuitive leaps in logic based fields.

    Jay Dee what you wrote about the whole “what would you do in that situation” is SO me. I have often had to answer with “I would never be in that situation” and can not at all think of what I’d do because it would truly not happen to me and for the life of me, I could not think of what I’d do. Whereas if something is a situation I could imagine being in, I get all OCD about it (I have OCD) and think of every single possible scenario and every single possible response and ruminate on it until I’ve come up with every possible reaction. Being inside my head is not a fun place.

    Unlike hubby though, I do have common sense. Perhaps because I only have aspergers traits (although hubby is dead serious when he wants me to go get assessed for aspergers), or perhaps my life situation is I have had to have common sense. In the environment I grew up in (my mum spent half my childhood in and out of hospital for long periods and my dad, who we are all sure has aspergers, has no clue – we’d have all lived on banana sandwiches for months on end if my brother and I hadn’t taken over the housework and looking after our much younger other brother and sister), and being married to a severely mentally ill first husband, I had to have common sense.

    I am a firm believer too that common sense is something people can (mostly) learn. My husband still lacks it in a few areas that drive me totally up the wall, but he still mostly has it. He spent years either living with just a single housemate half a country away from his family and living entirely on his own. In situations like that, you either find common sense in most areas, or life falls apart totally.

    It’s like social skills – people with aspergers may not understand WHY you do things (hug, shake hands etc), but they can learn to do still do those things. I think common sense is much like that.

    As I mentioned above, girls with aspergers tend to have no dislike in social situations. And a few guys, particularly ones like my brother, thrive in social situations. Yes they are socially awkward, they say the wrong things a lot, but they do two things – they surround themselves with people who are similar in nature (my brother has a lot of friends who are not neurotypical, some have aspergers, some have ADHD, and others are just plain weird), or they put themselves in situations where they are comfortable. My brother has an absolute passion for theology and for mission. At a party with strangers, he can barely speak two works, but when he goes out on mission trips, he can talk for hours on end to hundreds, even thousands of strangers. He comes alive.

    One of my favourite gurus on girls and aspergers is a writer called Rudy Simone. She has done so much research into female aspergers, but one of the things that always stuck out to me is how she is the same as my brother – she has spoken several times about how put her in a party, and she can barely string together a sentence, but yet she can get up in front of audiences of tens of thousands and speak without a single fumble.

    Most of the aspies I know actually like social situations – just they deliberately choose social situations where they feel safe. Examples like joining fan clubs where everyone is as passionate about their special interest as they are so they spend hours, days, weeks constantly taking about their special interest, and other examples is surroudning themselves with other non neurotypical friends.

    That’s basically what I do. People think I’m weird as anything, but I don’t care what they think. A great party for me is one of my brother’s parties – we start with a good sci fi show, followed by playings cards or boardgames and then debating theology for hours. I’ll never understand why people think a good party is getting drunk and throwing up and doing stupid things, and they’ll never understand why my brother and I and his friends love his type of parties. To each their own I guess. I think if more aspies could get out into social situations where they feel safe and comfortable, most would find they don’t hate social situations at all.

    For example Jay Dee, I can imagine at a theology convention where people liked and respected your views, you’d have a good time. It wouldn’t be a social burden the way most “parties” are. I can kind of imagine you’d be the type of person who would love parties like my brother’s where they just spend all night debating theology to the early hours of the morning.

    My hubby is not a big fan of socialising in general, but he has a passionate love of dungeons and dragons (roleplaying game for those who have never heard of it). He could meet up with groups of friends and he can literally happily socialise like that from early in the morning to quite late at night. I don’t know how he does it. I like doing that with him and his friends, but even I get emotionally and mentally worn out by half way through the day.

    “People with Asperger’s who have a faith tend to be very strongly convicted. I have never known what a crisis of faith was. I believe God is there, and that is all there is to it. I find the Bible to be logically consistent with itself and with life, and that’s it.” That pretty much describes me and hubby and the aspies in my family.

    I’m not sure I can totally agree about aspies and lying. Generally it’s true they don’t lie, and they also make really incompetent liars, but they can lie. Particularly in the situation where they feel it’s logical and justified to tell a lie, or even more so to hide things. Hubby has lied to me a few times, and hidden some very big things from me because his justification is I would be angry and irate and therefore it’s better to hide the truth than deal with an angry wife. THAT makes me angry because he is wrong in assuming I would be angry about what he is lying to me about/hiding from me, but I get extremely angry about being lied to/having things hidden from me. Especially as he’s so bad at it. I can see through his 99% of his lies immediately. But to him, it’s “logical” to lie. He can’t handle any form of disagreement, he takes the slightest difference of opinions as a personal attack and will do anything to avoid disagreement – even when disagreement is just debate and is actually very healthy. And often he wrongly assumes I will disagree with him, he just guesses and get’s it wrong (he’s not very good at judging what I think and feel even though it’s as obvious as if I put it up in neon flashing lights in front of him), and he genuinely logically believes it’s better to lie than to disagree.

    It’s caused some monster fights in our marriage and something we’re getting counselling for.

    “Those that I work with bring me over to find the single small problem in thousands of lines of programming code, and I can usually do it in seconds after they’ve spent hours on it, granted I have more experience, but not enough to account for the major time descrepancy. they have. I’m not sure I could do this without this particular brain configuration.” Hubby is exactly like that with anything computer related, and I have that gift with maths and other things. That’s why I believe people with aspergers have intuition, just it’s expressed in logical fields rather than social fields. ” They like solving problems, because everything is like a big puzzle waiting for them to leverage their mind against.” That’s how my mind works. there is nothing more awesome than solving complex problems that other people can’t see the solution.

    “I think the most concise example of this perception is a statement that my mother has said on occasion to me, “You always think you are right!” To me, this is a ridiculous statement. Of course I do! ” lol! my mother has been saying that to me since I was a little kid, and my husband says it to me too, but I point out he’s even worse! Like you, if I was wrong, I’d instantly change my opinion to what is right. I have no problem with abandoning a wrong idea (it’s the one thing hubby drives me nuts over – he’d rather make a mistake than admit I was right or had a better idea – but on the flip side, he DOES then admit I was right or my idea was better and that we should have gone with what I said, but is just resentful he didn’t think of it). So it’s not that he thinks I’m wrong, he just hates being wrong himself.

    My mother still insists I’m arrogant and think my thoughts are best – but as I say to her, it’s not my fault I’ve thought of every possibility and outcome, obsessed about it until there are no other avenues left to explore so therefore my idea has to be the best. I point out to her most people say the first or second idea that comes into their head, they don’t review and review a problem until they come up with the best possible solution, so of course I’m always right and have the best answer because I pursue the question until I have the best answer.

    Still drives my mum nuts though.

    It’s funny what you wrote about pedantic speech. It’s a trait that I particularly think of my brother being. He loves big and fancy words. But very few people have had a problem with it (other than my parents, particularly my dad, who have had very big fights due to him perceiving my brother was talking down to him), because even though my brother uses pedantic speech, most of his conversations are in situation they are sort of lecturing. He does a lot of teaching in his missionary work, and when he does one on one stuff, he’s still teaching people about God, and is in a way lecturing. His friends don’t mind either because they all tend to talk exactly the same way and think it’s completely normal. But yeah… you made me think of his assignments. He greatly struggled in bible college because he’d turn in a 10,000 word essay when it was supposed to be under 1000. I mean I understand, I tend to write at least 2-3 times word lengths on assignments because I know it’s a desire to make sure absolutely everything is addressed thoroughly but my brother takes it to the extreme.

    When it comes to slang, there is some evidence that not all people with aspergers avoid it. In fact others over use it. they get into the situation where they have convinced themselves that since “everyone” speaks like that, therefore they should too, but don’t realise where it’s appropriate to use and where it’s not appropriate to use. So some end up doing it excessively to the point where it’s hard to make sense of what they are saying. It’s still because of aspergers and that inability to truly understand slang and it’s proper usage.

    Anyway, there is so much more that I want to say, but I think I’ll stop there for now as I’ve already said heaps. I’ll come back later. Hope no one is put off by my rave ;)

    • Yeah, it’s been said that diagnosing Asperger’s is a little like saying “here are the 289 possible behaviours associated with Asperger’s, let’s see if you have 140 of them, then you might have Asperger’s Syndrome.”

      That’s why I used a lot of “many” and “tend to” and “some” and other qualifiers, because almost no one hits every point, if they did, I’m not sure they could function in society. But, MANY of us relate to MANY of the behaviors.

      It rarely presents itself the same way in two people, but there will be a lot of overlap.

      I appreciate the comment and added info!
      Jay Dee recently posted..How does Asperger’s Syndrome affect a marriage?My Profile

  • As a woman with aspergers (also high functioning) I can relate to so much of what you have said. This makes me somewhat of an oddball as neuro typical women are emotional, social, etc and I prefer to just keep things simple, straight forward, etc. (my husband gets frustrated with my blunt, strait to the point thinking sometimes) Socializing is exhausting! And I usually inadvertently offend someone. Anyway as this relates to our marriage and sex life, I’ve found that I need to do extensive research (those special interests again) in order to prepare myself for a new kind of sexual encounter with my husband. He has learned to let me know what he would like to do/try in order to give me time to prepare my mind/body to be able to accept the sensations, etc. Not much out there for aspie women.

    • I think most of us with Asperger’s tend to be “oddballs” in one way or another.

      It’s good that your husband has learned to adapt to help you adjust to new activities.

      Yeah, there isn’t much for women with Asperger’s, but if I come across anything specific, I’ll let you know.

      I’m curious what your sex drive is like (as the typical Asperger’s individual has a low or non-existent drive, and I feel like the “oddball” in this area), but I won’t pry.

  • Wow. This seems to fit me well. I have been sure for a time now that something is wrong but I didn’t know what. This might be it. I feel so socially awkward and unable to keep conversations going or start them. There is only so much you can say. Its like you’ve stated the obvious what can I add that you don’t already know or should know.

    I come off as rude a lot and a know it all sometimes. I always get along better with people who have been diagnosed with something. Nuerotypical people see me as weird

    I also do not read body language well and subtlety does not work on me. I just don’t get it. I need it spelled out clearly.

    I have to get my husband to read this.

    • First, I want to say, there is nothing “wrong” with you, just different. Don’t mistake this for a universal acceptance line. What I mean is that Asperger’s brains aren’t deficient in some way, they are just specialized. We lose no cognitive power, it just gets distributed differently. That difference can be extremely useful. While we miss out of social graces, we tend to gain in logical methodology. In my own life, I am highly sought out as a consultant on a wide variety of topics (some of which I’m not even knowledgeable in), because of my ability to dispassionately dissect a problem and point out the issues in a black & white manner. Work at the social stuff until you just seem a little “off” to others, but they will still accept you (try smiling more, it’s hard for me, I find it exhausting, but it seems to help), then don’t worry about it anymore. Play to your strengths, sell those, both in business and in friendship. Asperger’s people tend to be extremely loyal (typically loyal only to truth more than their close friends), and we tend to be very direct and speak plainly, which people appreciate, once the relationship is strong enough to bear it.

      Some things can be learned (body language and such). It takes some time, and we have to be more methodical about it (it’s conscious instead of subconscious), but it can be learned to some extent. We’ll likely never be as good as neuro-typicals, but you can learn enough to have it not be crippling.

      Definitely get your husband to read this, and I’d highly suggest that the guide on asperger’s I mentioned in the post. It has a lot of stuff that I simply couldn’t fit in a post, and may help your marriage immeasurably.

  • I am presently entering a relationship with a very fine man that happens to be born with Asperger’s Syndrome. What you have described is very clear and concise. As someone that is not familiar with Asperger’s, I am interested in knowing how to work where both of us can live and function in the best ways possible. As I said, he’s very fine and loving and is trying so very hard to learn about me and my brain. I appreciate your article, information and comments.

  • Hello great site lots of information in regards to aspergers,,, have a few questions how do i know if my male aspie partner loves me or even thinks of me as his partner? We been together for over a year but he still says we are just friends, but its not, i see us as a couple and we been together this whole time and been like a couple, wondering why he says we are just friends, we do everything a couple does and i live with him part time 3 days a week i stay with him at his place. I have fallen hard and deep for this guy and i just assumed since meeting and hitting it off and have not been separated since we met, why doesnt he think im his girlfriend? I am the only one in his life at the moment and have been the only one since we met. I love this guy and have fallen hard for him, i am not sure what i mean to him and how will i know? I have asked him many times how hes felt for me in which i get no reply. I tell him all the time i love him but i have not heard yet anything back from him. He does not kiss me or hug me and very seldom initiates anything sexually. He does however allow me to kiss him on the cheek and hug him, but he will not hug back. I am wondering if its because he doesnt like touch as i hear some other aspies dont like kissing or hugging or something else . Thank you for your time

    • Well, first off, I should say I don’t think co-habitation before marriage is a good idea. Neither is starting a sexual relationship prior to marriage. Both inevitably have long term consequences in your future marriage, whether to him or someone else.

      Try to think more logically than emotionally. Asking someone with Asperger’s how he “feels” about something is difficult to answer. Try asking him what he “thinks” about your relationship and you. Your more likely to get a response if you asks about thoughts and plans than emotions and feelings.

  • Thank you for this post. I was hoping to gain some insight on my son (who is possibly on the spectrum); however, I gained insight on myself. It’s taken me well over 20 years to function socially at my current level, and it was a very bumpy learning process. I thank God for my mother. We didn’t know anything about aspergers back then (I’m in my early forties) but she knew I was socially inept. She counseled me for many years before and after I left home on social situations. I related very well to the majority of this post. I have a 9’year old son with an above average vocabulary because apparently I use words he doesn’t know often and have to explain the meaning. I did take the test and scored 36. Not surprising. I can also see how my lack of emotions regarding others (primarily my spouse) caused problems early in our marriage. I was a refuser and it did not bother me if my husbands feelings were hurt or if he felt rejected. My mantra was “I’m not getting anything out of it, so why should I do it.” We struggled for almost ten years with physical intimacy. We had been married almost ten years before I experienced an orgasm with my husband. We are in year 13 and our sex life is much better and we are still striving to improve it. Thank you for this ministry.

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