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Aspergers and abuse - long, sorry

(17 Posts)
sairie11 Thu 01-Sep-11 10:54:59

I am at my wits end as to how to support a close friend of mine who has suffered for years with her husband. I have known them a very long time and outwardly, they are a very sociable couple with lots of friends, activities, well off etc but, more recently, she has confided in me some terrible things. I really want to help but have no idea what to suggest/how to support (they have also had lots of counselling and it's failed)

Her husband sounds borderline aspergers (one of the therapists they have seen suggested this) in that he cannot empathise with her at all. He thinks all their issues are caused by her, although she is the kindest, most forgiving, lovely person I have ever met. He is very charming, good company, generally a very loyal and caring friend/father/grandfather but is completely in denial about his behaviour towards his wife. It seems to me that the main problems are:

1. day to day emotional abuse. He puts her down constantly, shouts at her, sulks if she expresses a view different to his, twists every comment into imagined criticism, snaps or makes snide comments at every opportunity - basically treats her as if he has no respect for her although I do think he genuinely loves her.

2. sexual abuse. He has subjected her to what sound like terrifying ordeals of prolonged sexual abuse. Rape, to put it bluntly. From what I understand, these have coincided with periods when he has been suffering from quite severe depression, but clearly that is of no comfort to her. As a result, she understandably has a fear of intimacy. He gets angry about her 'rejections' and has labelled her uptight and insisted she sees counsellors and they are currently having hypnotherapy at his instigation to 'cure' her.

As I write this, the answer seems obvious. Why on earth would she stay with him?? Except that they are in their late 60s, she hasn't worked for 40 years and has terribly low confidence in her ability to cope on her own (she would be absolutely fine). Her sister has been divorced for 10 years and is still not over it and she (my friend) says she doesn't want a lonely life like that. Also, she fears that her husband would be unable to cope without her and would have a breakdown. She is such a kind and empathetic person that I think the guilt if this happened would be very difficult for her to deal with.

What on earth can I do to help? I listen, sympathise, acknowledge how terrible the situation is and try not to push suggestions that she has decided will not work for her (like leaving him). Please help.

TeddyRuxpin Thu 01-Sep-11 11:08:41

I don't have any real advice but didn't want to read and run.
Your friend's situation sounds a lot like what my late mum went through with my stepdad so I can empathise.
I'm not sure that there is anything you can do that you are not already doing.
If your friend's husband has always been like this and refuses to acknowledge he has a problem, I very much doubt that there is any hope that he will change.
Hopefully someone will come along soon with some better advice for you.

RabbitPie Thu 01-Sep-11 11:11:22

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

cestlavielife Thu 01-Sep-11 11:20:59

i doubt this is to do with aspergers at all.
it is abuse plain and simple
buy her the lundy bancroft book why does he do that from amazon
it could save her

cestlavielife Thu 01-Sep-11 11:22:01

if she is seeing a good counsellor on her own they should be helpoing ehr tos ee what is what and a way forward.

bullet234 Thu 01-Sep-11 11:22:58

No. Aspergers cannot be used as an excuse. Absolutely not. Of course he is going to blame her if he's abusive. I have very low levels of empathy. In my case it means I don't think about other people, or how what I'm doing impacts on other people and I can't manipulate, can't maintain offline friendships, could never have a job supervising somebody else and grew up with no concept of peer pressure or wanting to be like other people (now I know about it but don't care about it). It doesn't mean I'm abusive or that I don't care about people or that I deliberately put them down. Yes, there are very significant issues in my marriage, to give one example, as a result of my Aspergers, but they don't include abuse.

tallwivglasses Thu 01-Sep-11 11:28:13

How awful. Introduce her to mumsnet and recommend the Lundy book. Suggest she lurk on 'relationships' and EA threads. There's also some really good threads by strong women who also once felt they could never leave - and are now thriving.

I'm convinced that lurking kind of gives you strength through osmosis (or something) <scientific>

What a nice friend you are sairie.

sairie11 Thu 01-Sep-11 11:29:40

I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to imply that Aspergers was an excuse or that anyone else with Aspergers behaved this way. It was merely to try to explain other parts of his personality. Misleading thread title - probably because this is the latest thing that a therapist has said to her so it was at the forefront of my mind (she is hoping that an insight into his mind might help her work out coping strategies). Many apologies for any offence caused.

I have actually bought my friend the Lundy Bancroft book and I think it did help a bit, but really the only sensible answer is for her to be out of the situation, and she feels unable to leave. Should I be pushing this as a solution more? I don't want her to feel I'm pressurising her about something she may be unable to cope with, but we've never discussed it in detail and I think she would cope much better than she thinks and that the consequences would be less scary than she thinks (I have been through a divorce but am much younger, but don't think her age would stop her rebuilding her life).

bullet234 Thu 01-Sep-11 11:30:59

I was blaming the therapist for saying it, not you sairie11.

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Thu 01-Sep-11 11:41:40

Here's my whacky theory about the therapist's statement: Couples' counsellors do not out-and-out tell one member of the couple "you're being abused". What they do is ask probing questions to permit the couple to work out whether their problems are tractable or not. So the therapist may well have said something like "you are displaying lack of empathy towards your wife, which is something I would expect of a person with Asperger's". Now it is up to your friends to determine whether he has Asperger's or not. If he doesn't, then why could he be displaying so little empathy towards his DW...? Shoe-drop moment for your friend: because he's an abusive bastard!

So maybe encourage your friend to see if her husband can get an official diagnosis. If he can't, then Lundy will tell her why he acts the way he does.

But frankly, the Asperger's issue is a red herring in all this: he treats her unacceptably, and she accepts it as a better trade-off than being alone. Just be there for her, and if you can nudge her towards Lundy, or towards solo counselling for herself so she can understand why she accepts shoddy treatment (and therefore question whether those reasons override her happiness), then so much the better.

cestlavielife Thu 01-Sep-11 11:42:54

really, she needs to change therapist.

if the therapist is simply suggesting to her how she can continue in such an abusive relationship.

do they have DC? how many and what ages?

sairie11 Thu 01-Sep-11 11:54:29

I think the aspergers is definitely not key. At most, it would be borderline, it was just my friend who thought it might give her insights rather than the therapist. They've been through a number of therapists, several of whom have refused to continue treatment because of the husband's attitude (I didn't know therapists did this). I think my friend is almost fed up with trying to find reasons/causes/solutions and just wants to know how she can get on with life happily. Not sure she can though, given the situation.

They have three grown up children who know the score to varying extents. The family is still close. Generally I think the children are supportive behind the scenes but play happy families when all together so as not to inflame the situation. My friend says that's how she prefers it. Maybe one of them should be saying something to their father...

VeryLittleGravitas Thu 01-Sep-11 12:19:08

This is not Aspergers.I have 2 children plus partner and father who are on the spectrum (from v. high functioning Aspergers to severe autism)

None of them indulge in rape, physical and mental abuse of their loved ones. They can be blunt to the point of rudeness, socially awkward, obsessive and prone to horrendous meltdowns, but are all capable of treating other people with love, respect and understanding.

If this man is saving up his appalling behavior for his wife, then he's just an abusive arse who has found a convenient label to hide behind. Get rid of the therapist, it sounds like they are colluding in and excusing the abuse.

fargate Thu 01-Sep-11 13:35:14

FWIW This man sounds more like he has a psychopathic PD rather than ASC to me.

Also, think change of relationship counsellor is in order

amberlight Fri 02-Sep-11 22:39:39

To confirm what other posters have said, as Simon Baron Cohen puts it in his new book Zero Degrees of Empathy, if someone is targeting another person and being deliberately abusive to then, that's psychopath behaviour, not autism.

I'm on the autism spectrum and we might be socially clumsy and end up panicking and need to know what's going to happen each day and what's expected of us, but we're also almost always highly moral and highly fair and want to see everyone given the same respect and same opportunities.

We're normally very rule-driven and won't wish to break the law, ever.
I do wish that counsellors/other 'experts' wouldn't assume that cruelty is something to do with autism - it absolutely isn't something that causes deliberate cruelty, any more than someone who's blind or Black or gay or a wheelchair user or has size ten feet would be more likely to be deliberately cruel.

babyhammock Fri 02-Sep-11 22:54:19

Doesn't sound like Aspergers at all, more psychopathic as fargate suggested.
btw I looked into all of them massively when I was trying to help my abusive ex

bossthehoss Sat 03-Sep-11 00:24:14

IMO he doesn't like his wife. In fact he hates her - yet at the same time loves her. I bet his greatest fear is that she'll leave him and so he's hurting her, hating her, pushing her away. He'll want her to believe it's all her fault, that her problems are causing this because he's externalising blame. He'll read critisism into every word, every gesture, because he's convinced it is there. He can't empathise with her because he feels his own hurt is the greater and in his mind it is. He's heading for a breakdown.

I loved and lost a man who was like this. He loved me but he didn't like me for it. After his breakdown he admitted he was ill, but the behaviour continued. It's very disconcerting to have a man crying that he loves you yet acting as if he despises you. I am glad, very glad, to not be with him anymore.

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