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Friday, 11 April 2014

Can an Aspergers/neuro-typical marriage work?

With Ethan and I, things go well for a while, then discontent, disappointment, anger and irritation start to bubble under the surface. Life carries on - kids need looking after, jobs need doing, shift-work, lack of sleep and bickering kids take their toll. The simmering frustration builds until it crescendos into an all-out-blow-out.
That's what happened two days ago. There wasn't one specific thing that tipped me over the edge - rather it was the build-up of a thousand little actions, or inactions...
The way Ethan never smiles, the negative, cynical commentary on life that we're all treated to, the disengagement from family banter, the way he forgets something as soon as I tell him it and never remembers anyone's name! The way he shouts at the kids over minor things, the way he phrases things ("So you want me to go out Thursday, Friday and Saturday night?" somehow blaming me for the fact that we've been invited out to three occasions in a row. And why does he need to 'blame' anyone anyway? A few days earlier he'd been grumbling that he never gets to go out...) and the way he asks me if I'm OK after a battle of the wills with Ava only to laugh at a message on his phone and start texting someone a second later as I'm tellnig him that, actually, no - I'm feeling a bit upset. Most of all for the way he just doesn't get me.
It's a lonely existence sometimes.
And the result of these many little acts, the many occasions when we just don't connect when other people would - over a shared joke, a scintillating conversation, a knowing look, is me - every so often - losing it. I say I want us to split up, I pull him apart for all the ways he doesn't meet my needs, I put him down and tell him how miserable he makes me.
It's not fair. He does his best - most of the time. Which is all we can ask of anyone. And, in different ways, I'm equally (perhaps more) hard to live with than him.
We don't split up. We muddle on. Ethan is very patient with me.
What we could really do with, both of us, is a support group for him - a collection of other high-functioning, outwardly successful, competent people who happen to have Aspergers and who struggle with aspects of life that the rest of us take for granted. And for me, a group of other neuro-typical partners who would understand the massive and million minutiae issues of living with a partner with Aspergers. And who I could laugh at it all with...


  1. Thanks for this. It is much needed. We go through these sort of cycles too. Unfortunately, my AS husband has also told me that he doesn't love me as a wife or lover anymore. It hurts. I feel resentful thinking, I have put up with so much and yet get nothing and only selfish uncaring responses from him. Reading your posts helps me to understand my husband and myself better. Thanks once again.

  2. Just today my AS husband calculated for me the particular hours of his day to show that he doesn't have time to "do anything"--this in response to my expressed frustration yesterday that he takes for granted all of the things I do for him (shopping, making food, helping him get out the door in the morning, handle his paycheck and bills, all on top of my two jobs and other commitments). Rather than saying, "thanks honey, I know we're both stressed, and I appreciate you"... no, he had to point out HIS schedule and complain that I couldn't get ONE (small) task done.
    Every morning he wakes up angry. Every day he comes home angry. All evening long he looks for things to be angry about. I can hardly stand being around him. I've got work stress, too, and he just drains me at home. We've been talking for a long while about having a child, but I just can't even imagine taking care of a baby when my husband is so needy and moody.
    So now I'm even more frustrated and can't think of something to laugh about :-p I guess I need to remember that I'm married to a "Spock" who just. doesn't. get. it. Huh, I didn't realize--just looked up and saw there's a book "Loving Mr. Spock"--about being a lover to someone with Asperger's....maybe helpful?
    Thanks for your posts; so very, very helpful to know we're not alone in this.

    1. Hi M.B.
      Thanks for your comment - and huge sympathy for you over the calculation of hours thing. How gutting for you. Ethan last week watched back an hour of footage of me driving our car (on the latest gadget he's wasted our money on) so that he could point out to me the many places I'd gone wrong when I'd got lost driving home! The thing was, he really did think he was helping - as well as admitting to having an insatiable need to know exactly where and how I'd gone wrong. I'm learning to leave him to it and not to take it on board - although it can be hugely frustrating and irritating (he could have been doing something useful like washing up rather than watching an hour of me driving down dead ends and taking wrong turns at roundabouts!).
      The anger thing is difficult. Ethan has a tendency to often seem angry, sound irritated and see the negative in everything. He seems to spend his life looking for things to moan about and people to blame. It's crushing to the human spirit and I think you need to make sure you're counter-acting it by spending time with positive, light, cheery people. And maybe helping him to recognise the anger in himself and challenging him to turn it around, if he will - so that when he points out something negative or gets angry about something, you immediately turn it on its head to point out something positive or remind him of something he has to be glad about. I don't know - maybe a bit naive and simplistic but it certainly can't hurt. I've learnt that confronting anger with anger/frustration/disappointment seems to fuel the original anger. A kind word or positive thought may just diffuse it - maybe not immediately but over time...?
      Lots of love and sticking in their encouragement to you. You're doing amazingly.

  3. Dear MB. It is a good thing you don't have kids. It gets worse. You may be split in your thinking that "things may improve with time" which is impossible, although lng-term therapy does help you cope better. They say. I was advised not to have kids! But I did not know exactly what was wrong and really, who would have imagined a permanent, neurological disorder? If we did not become parents we would have divorced.... I am married now for almost 20 years

  4. Laura, so grateful for people like you who can put those diificult words and bits n pieces of feelings to paper. He coul be grateful he gets invited anywhere at all�� i can only acknowledge what you feel and say Yes, it's commendable how you strive to make the best of it all. I was hoping, and do NOT laugh at what I am about to say, that eventually after diagnosis and everyone settled deeply, snugly into therapy, then I would be rid of that nastiness of frustration building up due to my spouse's steamroller ways of living as if I and my needs are transparent, foreign or abnormal.�� sooooo glad you brought me to reality here! But honestly, it is those little things of intimate value that makes for this road to be so lonely. We have to settle for friendships to share and enjoy those moments and of course, it's not exactly the same. Nevertheless. I hope this can cheer you a little:, this past weekend I felt like replying to my hubby that he needn't bother himself about what I need (after verbalising a need and then stupidly thinking he may respond), because, I said only in my mind of course, there is that other guy around the house who looks like him who can see to

  5. .... my needs! And rhen there's another double of him who can help me with stuff that need to be done, and another guy who can love me, and another double who can play with our daughter, and of coyrse then there's that other diuble who is so eager to be loving, go out and enjoy life with me. In fact, it's a perfect life we have since hr( the real husband) only needs to work hard and care for us, which we appreciate enormously, while the doubles can do all the enjoying of life with us and some handywork. He's off the hook. But I did'nt say it. He would see it as blame instead of getting the aha! Hope you are gathering a sturdy group of supportive friends, and keep up the blog!

  6. Hi Laura,
    I have been meaning to comment for quite a while as have been reading your blog since late last year when I began to suspect my fiancé(now husband) has Aspergers. Certainly your blogs have been an absolute lifeline to me and some of the things that come out of your husband's mouth could have almost certainly come out of my husbands. It's the constant negativity that gets me. I can relate to your blog the most and I like it as it is the most positive (believe it or not) that I have come across on this topic. I am only recently married and am wondering if this is going to be my life forever and if am strong enough and have a thick enough skin to be able to be able to handle it. I hope I am...

  7. Tonight I need to ask if someone can validate my experience which I'll describe with this example: my husband asks me to do something on his behalf, but it is something he should actually do. Since I am clear in my mind that I need to express my boundaries with him, I say 'No. You must do that yourself." I was even in my tone, friendly and firm. We were walking to his car at the time, needing to get home from a meeting after work. Immediately he starts to push my boundaries with a "new rule" (again), by bringing up an idea which I find ludicrous and which infuriates me because I experience his determination to override me as a subtle disrespect of the fact that I am an individual, I have said "No" and basically he has not accepted it. In this case his "new rule" on the AS planet which he assumes I share, is that this task is my "department". I counteract by pointing out calmly that it is not so, and that he must respect my declining his request.
    This followed by the steamroller effect from him, as he still pushes me. When I point out that he needn't get upset with me because I have said NO, he proceeds to fire back at me for "going on about it". Now I start to feel bullied. Why? Because first he refuses my resistance, then he is demeaning my resistance by walking over the sentence or two by which I have just verbalised that he need only accept my NO, and then there will be no argument. He uses words to interrupt me when I state my point, and to quiet me so that he doesn't have to hear what I say. Or he bluntly walks away. It leaves me feeling that he believes I do not have the right to differ from him, and that he has absolutely no respect for ME.
    This is why we avoid conversation! I feel as if an argument just is unavoidable and the stuff he comes up with to force things his way just blows me away! I could have been a railroad track and a train would have treated me with more respect.
    At this point he is walking away from me, the atmosphere is heated. Did I say, this is also why we avoid conversation?��
    Now, reading your previous blog on criticism Laura, I so absolutely identify with you in all of what you bravely and honestly described there. What I do envy you, is that you say there is opportunity to talk things out afterward. Even if that process isn't changing things, or if it does help, I want to say that I can only wish for an opportunity to talk anything out with my husband, He bluntly refuses, willfully blocks any talking out of any matter big or small, not the next day not anywhere in the future, not at all. He will not allow room for discussion because he is not meeting anyone halfway, not in this universe.
    Is there anyone who can identify with my plain, simple example I gave please?

    1. HI Karien, I can identify with what you are saying here. My husband and I go through this too. There is no room for discussion. He will either look at me blankly and not respond or walk away. It is trying. And as a wife, I feel 'unvalidated' especially when he responds so nicely to other people, but not to me. It can be hurting.
      Having read Laura's blog, it is helping me to understand how to better communicate. And if I am having a bad day, I has better not express it to him, as he will have a sensory overload. Get this book, if you have not done so already.... 22 things a woman must know if she is in love with a man with aspergers syndrome. It is helpful. :)

  8. I've just read all your replies. So helpful to know you're not alone. Keep writing please! PS my husbands seemingly permanent state of anger is the most difficult thing to deal with. Any ideas on how to cope?

  9. On a lighter note...
    Just reading "So you want me to go out Thursday, Friday and Saturday night?" I couldn't help feeling anger and frustration creeping up.
    Then I realized that's not even my life and started laughing at myself... :)

    I noticed most of the comments are from people in your situation, I'm on the other side of the fence and maybe this will help you shed some light.

    We may not show it but we do try very hard to do whatever is required by society. However, when things keep piling up and we don't have enough time to "recover" it's very difficult to cope and we end up having a go at people we love over the most menial things.

    The anger (in my case) has a few different causes:
    - Lack of time. I already spend so much time interacting with people at work/etc that I would like to spend my spare time the way I like (mostly alone or with my husband and dog).
    - The state of tension and exhaustion that piled up because of other things we forced ourselves to do. It feels something like days of "deep concentration + pre-exam panic + sleep deprivation + death metal blasting in your ears + the worst hangover" all combined.
    - The frustration of not being able to keep up with the expectations of our loved ones, hence feeling inadequate
    - Asking ourselves over and over "They are the ones who can empathize and understand people's feelings, how can they not understand how difficult/exhausting/frustrating this is for me?"

    I wish I could make it better for you.

    My only advice would be to deal with it like people do with migraines.
    There's no definitive cure but if you identify the triggers and try to live a life that reduces them and doesn't concentrate too many of them in a short period of time the frequency and intensity of the migraines will drop and the quality of life will be amazingly better.

    It worked with my migraines, so I applied it to my life as borderline Aspi.
    I'm the happiest I've ever been and that reflects in my relationships, I even ASK to go out to see friends sometimes :)

    Best of luck!

    1. Hi powpow,
      Just wanted to say a really big thank you for taking the time to send your message. It really, really encouraged me (and Ethan, who I read bits out to now and again). It's so helpful to hear the perspective of someone 'on the other side'. Ethan himself was encouraged by hearing his own thoughts and feelings expressed so eloquently as he struggles to describe, even to himself, how he's feeling at times. And, for me, having the analogy of a migraine and trying to avoid too many triggers is really helpful - particularly as I get migraines and so can really relate!
      I am realising how important it is for Ethan to have downtime away from us all - since work is full or people, noise and stress and, often with three young children, home-life is too. I know, in that sense, his need for time away from us all is greater than mine but, as the person who keeps everything and everyone together at home, it's hard not to feel resentful. It's a journey, and we're muddling through. It's great to hear from people like you who are travelling the same journey and can point out the things that have helped you along the way.
      Thanks again, Laura x