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Aspergers DH....Can it work, really?

(76 Posts)
AspieWifie Sun 14-Apr-13 13:13:22

I have name changed for this. Please be gentle with me, I've never had to post on Relationships before.

My husband has Aspergers. I am continuing to learn what this means in terms of our relationship. I know this is something that he cannot change. I have only recently accepted that he will not change (this was very hard for me as I am a hopeless optimist).

We have tried all sorts of ways to try to communicate better; we went through nearly a year of counselling and it did help while we were doing it. But now that we have been finished for a few months, things are going back to the way they were before, even though I feel I have changed and learned and have grown so much from the therapy.

We are currently reading self-help books specifically about Aspergers relationships.

He has been officially diagnosed in the last couple of years and has received CBT therapy and goes to a support group. He is very intelligent and very loving and caring (in his own way). He is a devoted and loving father (again, in his own way).

What has come up recently is that now I am realizing that my needs cannot be fullfilled by him, I am starting to take care of my needs more and more. I have my friends who I can talk to, I have my personal time to de-stress, I have my kids to keep me more than busy and happy, I am doing a course to hopefully have a career when the kids are older.

This has left him feeling left out and out of sorts. His night-time routine has changed because I am no longer staring at the t.v. with him every night. He is becoming even more reliant on me to make life ok for him.

It feels like I am between a rock and a hard place.

I love him and I would love to live harmoniously with him under the same roof, but is this possible? To live harmoniously together we would have to understand what the other person needs, right? And give and take on both sides. Is this even possible with a DH who has Aspergers?

Is there anyone out there who has been married to as Aspergers man? How do you make it work? If it didn't work, how did/do you manage, especially if there are children involved?

I love him, I do. I'm just so emotionally drained.

SorryMyLollipop Thu 25-Apr-13 06:14:41

OP , in answer to your question I think it can work but it is very, very hard work.

For me, by the time we realised that my STBXH had AS, too much emotional damage had already been done and we were too broken to mend us.

The main problem was parenting, I felt like I had an extra DC who couldn't be trusted with the actual DC, I was hyper-vigilant all the time because I was trying to protect them from emotional damage. I would build them up emotionally and he would knock them down and undo all my hard work and I would have to start again - exhausting!!

I too felt cheated and totally let down. I didn't have the strength or the will to carry on so I ended the marriage. The diagnosis of AS explained the past to me but also it painted a bleak future with little prospect of things getting any easier.

If we had known ten yrs earlier we could maybe have overcome it, but like I said, too much damage had been done.

He copes well with having the DC alternate weekends as it is relatively small(er) doses. He is a much better, much more confident, more involved, more relaxed dad now than he ever was before. He has a new GF and he told her from the start that he has AS so hopefully it won't be so destructive for their relationship.

I now get a proper break every other weekend. Actual time to myself smile (36hrs and counting....)

knitknack Sat 20-Apr-13 17:44:50

There ARE positives - at dad's funeral there was standing room only in the church and we've only lived in this area for 4 years - he was just so HELPFUL, in a quiet, PRACTICAL way. I'm still grieving, it was a very real love. Sweeter in some ways for its tricky beginnings.

MyNameIsSpecial Sat 20-Apr-13 17:41:48

It would've been far better for us to understand that he couldn't cope with our noise or movement or showing affection, for example, we wouldn't have interpreted it in the way in which we did (as anger, or dislike).

Yes I found that too both myself as partner and with my dcs. It's always heartbreaking to see a dad who is trying to give a cuddle to his child (who is asking for it!0 but can only managed it at arms length.

That's why I think that spreading the word about AS is essential. The very positive bits about it (as you said you dad loved you and your mum) and the more difficult ones too.

knitknack Sat 20-Apr-13 16:39:20

My dad had aspergers, and similar to the poster up thread my poor mother... I don't know how she coped (well, I do actually - badly! There were bouts of depression and anxiety. He'd swept her off her feet, she was his obsession, but he couldn't sustain it and soon moved on to other obsessions leaving her confused and depressed I think - she died too young or me to talk to her about it). Thing is dad was depressed and anxious too and I'm sure it's because he had a family... I've no doubt he loved us - he showed it all the time in practical ways, espeally when mum died very young. But emotionally he was hopeless. He wasn't a very good husband, bless him, I think he'd have agreed with that (he died recently too, also relatively young in his sixties). He was certainly much happier living on his own with his routines and strange eating habits clearly in place and uninterrupted.... He missed mum to bits, and loved my brother and I, he just found life much, much easier on his own.

The point of all this ramble is to say that I think it's about expectations - what you and your children can expect of him. My brother and I were both damaged by the.... oddness, I suppose, of certain aspects of our childhood (I think anyone with an asper parent can identify with that!) so make sure that your children have realistically expectations of him too. It would've been far better for us to understand that he couldn't cope with our noise or movement or showing affection, for example, we wouldn't have interpreted it in the way in which we did (as anger, or dislike). I'm sorry, I hope that's not too hard to hear. It's only my experience, I do know that.

crazyhead Sat 20-Apr-13 14:43:33

I don't have a partner with AS, so I'm not going to give advice but I am going to ask a question.

You obviously know your partner well and seem clear that he isn't going to change massively. You are also clear you love him. But my question is whether you are actually fundamentally happy and satisfied by your marriage and whether you ever truly have been?

My experience has been of being in several relationships that never gave me what I needed and then my current relationship which is profoundly satisfying. I suppose I don't believe that you can fix things that were broken in the first place, only ones where there was an underlying rightness for you at some stage - regardless of AS or anything else.

MyNameIsSpecial Sat 20-Apr-13 14:07:55

By heck we try to love people, generally speaking. If being lovely isn't enough, then that's fair enough. But there are so many very very good partners and friends out there. If you've got an autistic partner who isn't willing to try, it's fair that you part company. If you have one who simply can't see you properly, it's fair to take that into account.

YY to that. my Dh is a kind, generous man. He IS trying his best.
It's just sometimes his best still like not enough for me.
And this is even harder to deal with actually.

MyNameIsSpecial Sat 20-Apr-13 14:06:07

Agree about trying to highlight all the positive in ASD and about the fact that failure in an AS/NT marriage is about the 'incompatibility' of 2 persons, perhaps regardless of the AS.

But it is true that, from the NT pov, leaving a marriage because you can't communicate with your partner and you know one the major hurdle is the AS... then it actually means you are leaving because of your partner disability. Very hard to do, even harder when you have a dc who is on the spectrum too (as it is the case for me). How can I say I can't leave with DH because I can't communicate etc etc and then hope for a happy, normal married life for my ds? Is that not hypocritical?

What I don't agree is when people come on here, list a number of things that can either be attributed to just being nasty or be linked to AS (because as you say, one of the collateral is depression and anxiety which is ever so hard for the aspies), then telling people off for even mentioning it is perhaps the wrong way to go about it.

Highlighting that AS/ASD doesn't mean being nasty, Or that some AS behaviours could look nasty but actually aren't IS good.
But at no point it should stop people from looking into it. Because maybe they will find that their partner is just plain abusive. Or maybe they will find they are somewhere on the spectrum. Or maybe they have just some traits. In anyway, knowledge will always be helpful for the person to take a decision re leaving and/or adapting behaviour (which is a necessity is an AS/NT relationship).

Ime, I looked at AS a long time ago for DH. Talked about it on here. Got a right bollocking for even mentioning it. So I assume he was just abusive. I tried to leave but couldn't. Do you know why? Because deep down, I knew that he was a nice kind man who wasn't there to impose his will but someone who was struggling and anxious. It took me another few years before I could sort it out ion my own head, see the AS, broach the subject with him. And for him to see that yes he is on the spectrum just as is his own dad.
If I hadn't been told off the way I did at the time, I wouldn't have wasted a couple of years trying to do things that had no chance to work (eg talking about feelings and putting him on the spot).
And if, by any chance, I had just gone with MN flow and just said 'Oh he is abusive' I would never have learnt as much as I did about AS and then see it my own ds (who has no meltdowns at school so would never have been spotted there).

That's why I really believe in giving the info to people. telling them 'Yes it * could* be AS or it could just be abuse'. Read about it, get your head straight, have a word about it with your partner (who might be rejecting the idea altogether btw) and then decide. As an adult, people are very unlikely to see they have AS traits if it's not spelled out to them (or they have a dc with AS and can then make the relationship)

thewhistler Sat 20-Apr-13 08:48:09

Completely agree with Amber that there is a huge difference between AS and ArSe.

The difficulty as we all know is that for NTs sometimes the comments made by AS partners can be hard to distinguish from ArSe, when they are not, and sometimes they are ArSe ish, just as all people can be.

And on the other side, the anxieties are huge.

It's a minefield both sides.

thewhistler Sat 20-Apr-13 08:08:20

Jog, about to pm you.

jogalong Fri 19-Apr-13 22:37:39

Will youlistentome i am in the exact same boat as you. Ds has recently being diagnosed and now i can tell this is what is wrong with my dh. I feel so unloved and cheated. Dh is so ignorant Im social settings and i know my family are very uncomfortable around him. He has very little insight into this and when i tell him he just doesn't care and really doesn't care about the impact this has on me.
I feel like i have a right to be loved but Dh just can't love me like this. I sometimes feel that id any man even looked side ways at me then id jump on him. That's how desperate i am for someone to make me feel special.
Sorry Im rambling. I hope you get my drift

amberlight Fri 19-Apr-13 22:17:46

Well yes, sometimes being lovely isn't enough. It's a good start, though, eh?

But there again, of the neurotypical marriages I'm aware of with friends, 70% have major problems at the moment (sample size, 42).

I'm concerned about anything that correlates autism with nastiness or emotional draining. I'm autistic and a Government adviser on autism for the country, working with the National Autistic Society and most other major organisations in the UK, if that puts me in context.
If a couple aren't coping with one another, it's fair and right that they take a wise decision on it. That can happen.

But it's hell on many autistic people to be unable to see the emotions that others convey with body language, tone of voice, eye contact, gesture, proximity, etc ....and then be told that we're failures in relationships. I'm not for one moment saying that's the case in this particular example.

But there are a lot who read this type of thing...refuse then to befriend or form relationships with us, send us hate mail and even become violent towards us. 75% of autistic people don't have a single friend. Only 15% are given the chance to get a job. 80% have experienced bullying and violence, sexual abuse and poverty.

Most are lovely. But socially clumsy.
Some also have mental health conditions etc which can lead to difficult behaviours. Those mental health conditions are caused by a lifetime of intense pain and fear. vimeo.com/52193530 shows you what even entering a cafe is like for 8 out of 10 of us. The knack is to tolerate the intense pain whilst also being 100% attentive of our partners. Not many of us manage it.

That is why I'm very very positive about autism. By heck we try to love people, generally speaking. If being lovely isn't enough, then that's fair enough. But there are so many very very good partners and friends out there. If you've got an autistic partner who isn't willing to try, it's fair that you part company. If you have one who simply can't see you properly, it's fair to take that into account.

MyNameIsSpecial Fri 19-Apr-13 21:13:23

I had typed a very long post full of examples and decided to delete it all.

There is certainly nothing at all in autism that causes violence, manipulation, nastiness etc. Those are personality traits or signs of another condition altogether that might be alongside autism.
No AS doesn't make a person violent or grumpy or nasty etc... However, a collateral of AS/ASD is depression and high anxiety. And as everyone knows, one of the signs of depression is high irritability, low threshold for anything, incl these things that aspies can be so sensitive about like noise.
So saying that there is no relation is a bit quick. There is a strong correlation between them even though these behaviours are not caused by the ASD as such.

It's different being married to an autistic person, but most are simply lovely.
Being lovely isn't always enough though.
It is well known that aspie can find it hard to understand the 'rules' of the NT world. That living in a world that asks them to be and behave in a different way that they would naturally do IS hard (and creates lots of anxiety). Well the opposite is true. Being able to understand how an aspie thinks and reacts IS hard for an NT person and a big source of stress. It is perhaps harder because they are asked to switch from one way of 'being' (AS) to another (NT) in a matter of seconds, esp if they have NT children in the mix.

And all that is when both partners know about the AS. A lot of people who are in their late 30s~40s have never being diagnosed because it didn't exist at the time and there was less awareness. So we have men with AS who don't know about it and have never been taught tools to cope with the NT world. And women who don't know about AS, interpretate their partner's reaction as if they were NT which means they feel hurt and stressed. (eg DH, once he has started talking about his special interest, never knows when the stop).
What a mix!

I am not advocating people to self diagnose their partners and put all unacceptable behaviour under the AS umbrella and to just cope with it. Nor am I saying that you can't have a nice and lovely life with an aspie.
But the reality is that for some couples it will be very hard to find a way to be together that works both for aspie and the NT partner. And their relationship will involve more grumpiness than in more 'normal' couples (id there is such a thing anyway).
That's why telling people 'Oh if he is grumpy, nasty..., then he is just a nasty person it's just part of who he is and LTB btw isn't helpful mio. Facing that sort of issues where there is a possibility of ASD, then surely the first step should be to confirm that, try to make it work in the light of that possibility and then take a decision.

devilinside Thu 18-Apr-13 22:44:06

I have aspergers, and can usually tell what my children need, whereas my NT partner can't. Think it's a man/woman thing rather than an aspie/nt thing

MrsTwgtwf Thu 18-Apr-13 21:55:04

www.aspia.org.au/pdf/Grigg_Is_There_Hope.pdf

Just making Snap's link work. Ginga66, I've sent you some info in a PM - have a look in your Inbox at the top of your screen. smile

amberlight Thu 18-Apr-13 20:42:28

My DH is aspie, as am I. He's gentle, generous, kind, thoughtful and absolutely wonderful. We have to use words to tell each other what we need and don't need...what we like and don't like. Being clear means that we get round the problem of not being able to 'see' one another. There is certainly nothing at all in autism that causes violence, manipulation, nastiness etc. Those are personality traits or signs of another condition altogether that might be alongside autism. It's different being married to an autistic person, but most are simply lovely.

Hi Gina, all the things you've listed could be AS. This might be helpful
http://www.aspia.org.au/pdf/Grigg_Is_There_Hope.pdf
Hope things improve for you.

Ginga66 Thu 18-Apr-13 00:38:10

Hi guys. I'm trying to figure out if my dh is autistic. What are the symptoms? He can be emotionally abusive definitely but there is ofme thing else. He can be very rude, he is excellent with the kids but really struggles with intimacy. He doesn't get th difference between sex a making lov, poor eye contact, not very demonstrative, very logical not very emotional. His mother is in denial but his dad is very odd and his sister is pretty bland and unemotional too. I just didn't see this weirdness prior to getting married with two dcs now who thank god are very tactile loving sociable souls. I did tell dh thought on autistic spectrum which caused him to not speak to me for a week. Oh an he can't handle anger at all and is very sensitive to noise.

moobieburger Tue 16-Apr-13 14:34:16

" as kids are ever changing, it is a challenge to keep DH up to date with what they do/need now that they didn't last week"

I can sympathise with this to a point. But does your DH have a full time job? How often does he really get to spend with the kids in the week? From some of the conversations i have had with my friends who have non-AS husbands/partners this isnt just a problem that occurs with AS fathers wink. i was also being surprised a lot and i can remember when our two boys were little that they were changing and developing so quickly that even I had trouble keeping up with it on a day to day basis, especially as I had to work part time during the day.

AspieWifie Tue 16-Apr-13 13:10:04

Yes, it's the emotional safety thing that concerns me, not their physical safety. In that respect he is much more 'wrap them in cotton wool' than me. I too had to go through the routine of how to take care of the kids and as kids are ever changing, it is a challenge to keep DH up to date with what they do/need now that they didn't last week. Small things that an NT may pick up on by reading between the lines or body language, but half the time, kids can't articulate fully what they need/want/what concerns them as they are emotionally immature themselves. So it is a real challenge for DH in this regard.

MyNameIsSpecial Tue 16-Apr-13 11:47:30

Aspie I have 'trained' my DH to look after the dcs when they were little (2 and 4yo). I know he found it extremely hard (He was with them on his own every other weekend whilst I was working) but he learnt that looking after young dc isn't easy and he also slowly learnt that their priorities have to trump his (shock).

But I have never been worried for their safety as such (Prob because I am very laid back myself). I have been worried for their emotional safety iyswim because I know that's where DH struggles. but worked out that he needed to learn about it and letting him off the hook wasn't the answer (And I had no idea about AS at the time either).

I am nodding along with everything that's being said.

AspieWifie Tue 16-Apr-13 10:54:27

MyName- I could have written your post nearly word for word, except for the last bits.
After 7 or so years of him and later the kids being the priority, now every so often I tell him I need to focus on me for awhile. Even just for an hour to go for a walk by myself, go see friends (which is rare, but knowing I can call upon them to distract myself in something other than DH is a relief)
I can only call upon my journey so far and say that in the last 6 months or so, gradually I have been finding my life again so that I can live with DH. If I couldn't have down time, or me time, or whatever we can call it, I wouldn't like my life. (and my life, me is so much more than being my DH's wife).
It is harder to find this time too as my children are little yet so I have to have me time when they are in pre-school or sleeping because I would worry leaving them with DH for a longer period of time. So this makes for a very busy life at the moment!

MyNameIsSpecial Tue 16-Apr-13 09:32:18

It also bring another question.
When differences in thinking are so important, it requires day to day effort to be able to interact in a way that works for your partner.
And sometimes, you just want to 'have it easy', not to have to make that extra effort again.

I think it's true both for AS and NT partners. Hence the OP's DH failing to keep up the good resolutions and the Op getting frustrated. But I am sure it also work the other way around. The OP 'forgetting' the AS and communicating in 'inappropriate' ways to her DH which leads to break down of communication too and her DH getting stressed/frustrated.

From my readings, it seems that it's the NT partner that ends up having to make more changes in their expectations/behaviours for the relationship to work. mainly because change is harder for people with AS and also because of the theory of mind which makes it easier for them to grasp what an AS needs/wants.
I have to say, even though my DH has made huge efforts, it does feel like I am the one who has made the deepest compromises. ie he still has his time for his special interests, he still has his quiet times in the evenings with no talking. We still organize our weekends/hols around what he likes doing. But he has learnt to deal with the dcs (that he wanted) which was a big deal for him. On the other side, I have no friends, no social life which was an important part of my life before I met him. I never get to do the other things I like because I am a mug and prioritize spending time together as a family over having time for myself doing what I like. Plus doing 'what you like' on your own isn't always fun either.

MyNameIsSpecial Tue 16-Apr-13 09:10:41

Agree with a lot of what has already being said.

I think that actually in an AS/NT marriage, the AS is an issue but the temperament of both partners can make it easier or more difficult to deal with the AS side of things.
I know of AS men who say very little and keep themselves for themselves (usually because they have learnt the hard way that saying too much is NOT a good idea). Some who are very 'vocal' and will not stop talking usually about their one special interest.
I know of NT women who are very chatty, thrive on social interaction. And others who are extremely independent or are more 'introvert' and dislike being in big groups.

My experience of having a mix of an AS man who is talking very little and me being an NT woman who loves interaction and talking.... well it's hard because his needs for calm and quiet can be met quite easily whereas my need of being able to talk isn't. Don't get me wrong he IS trying hard and WILL try and listen. But he won't have a ^conversation because he doesn't 'do' conversation.

As for why I got married in the first place?... I am not British (no surprise here) and for the first couple of years, our conversations were very much around the UK, him showing me the areas etc... (link to special interest). We had similar hobbies (again link to similar interest) so it didn't show up that much. Then move on a few years, add children to the mix, me being a SAHM (as being made redundant) etc... and all the cracks showed up big style.

OP I am not sure what to say re filling unmet needs though. I think you have done already all the things I have done myself and I couldn't think about anything else to do.
And the question of: Am I happy to live knowing these needs will not be met by my DH (or might never be met).... Haven't solved that question yet...

MaryBS Tue 16-Apr-13 08:00:35

The problem with "theory of mind" though is it works the other way too. That many people who AREN'T autistic fail to grasp what is autistic people find difficult! In my mind, its non-autistic people who generally lack theory of mind smile.

Having said that, you are really working at this aspiewifie smile

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