Saturday, October 22, 2011

When Your Girlfriend Has Asperger's Syndrome

(By "girlfriend" I am simply referring to any aspie female friend.) 

I am the wife of a man with asperger's, but I am friends with many females who have strong aspie traits.  And the same lessons learned in an asperger marriage apply in relationships with aspie females.  You gotta be prepared for some things.  You must drop those expectations that they will act like your typical girlfriend!

1.  If you need a shoulder to cry on, the aspie female is not the one you should call.  She might get V E R Y uncomfortable seeing your tears.  And then you might get very hurt that she is just sitting there staring at you as you pour heart out.  If you need emotional support, be sure to call someone else who will be higher on the empathy scale.

2.  But the aspie female is likely VERY loyal and ready and willing to offer practical help to you, even when no one else will  . . . . if you clearly ask and spell out exactly what would be helpful.  She wants to help, but seriously doesn't have (forgive me, but it's true) the common sense to know what to jump in and do to help.

3.  She might not respond to your attempts to stay in touch.  She may have "always been there for you" when she lived down the street, but if one of you moves away, you may rarely hear from her.  It doesn't mean she doesn't deeply care about you.  But the idea of a friend or family member "being close" may be taken literally. (Example:  "you're close to people you see often because they live close to you.")  The idea of emotional closeness is not easily understood by the aspie.  And knowing what it takes to sustain a long distance relationship long term?  That may be a one-way, very determined effort on your part.

4.  Disagreements or conflict of any kind could rapidly destroy the relationship.  If you ever try to address something the aspie female does that is upsetting you, she will likely feel attacked and may get overly emotional.  "You don't like me/love me!  You hate me!  You don't appreciate or admire me anymore!"  She won't be able to see that she is not considering your feelings.  Trying to get her to see your perspective is really rather pointless.  You have to drop that attempt at resolution 'by talking it out' as you do with other NT women.  The bottom line is, the aspie female just wants you to be cheerful and kind and patiently forbear with anything and everything she does, even when you are annoyed as hell by her behavior/habit/etc.  How what she does/says affects you is entirely beside the point!  And this being so, few female aspies are able to sustain friendships with NT women.  It will take unrelenting effort on the part of the NT to make a relationship with an aspie female survive.

5.  But when it comes to shared hobbies, similar areas of interest, and like minded ideas . . . you can have the best, most interesting and fascinating companion to hang out with.  The devotion and focus toward the shared interest will make discussions and outings fun, fun, fun.  Do you both love running?  Bridge? Sewing? Movies? With any activity that centers around a shared special interest, you may find you always have an eager girlfriend to join you!  And that can be a really wonderful thing.

Maintaining a relationship with a female aspie will be a lot of work.  There are expectations that must be dropped.  Do not expect empathy and remember she is NOT the best shoulder to cry on.  But know you may have the strongest loyalty you have ever known.  And you will have a knowledgeable and focused companion during outings that revolve around a shared special interest. 

I love my aspie girl friends and enjoy their company very much!  Easy?  No.  Worth the effort?  Definitely, yes.

19 comments:

  1. I appreciate your honesty on this blog. As a woman with many AS traits (undiagnosed b/c the cost), it makes me think of all the things that I am just clueless with. I pretty much have one friend (my definition of a friend is a person who calls me or wants to hang out with me) and I realize the ways I probably fail to connect with her. I am grateful for the grace she extends to me though, and I am grateful to God for her. I have many sisters in the Lord who are kind to me, but don't make much of an effort with me. I had one tell me that I just had too many issues and I overwhelm people.

    To your post - "She won't be able to see that she is not considering your feelings. Trying to get her to see your perspective is really rather pointless. You have to drop that attempt at resolution 'by talking it out' as you do with other NT women."

    May I suggest patience, pen and paper, and perseverance with this. I know myself, and in the moment I can be hard to get through to. I really do care though and want to know how others feel. Sometimes if you write it out for the aspie it is easier to process because we don't have to deal with all the emotions attached. I would be very hurt to know that my friend felt it pointless to resolve a conflict with me. I would appreciate it if she would continue to seek reconciliation, rather than allow bitterness to develop.

    "The bottom line is, the aspie female just wants you to be cheerful and kind and patiently forbear with anything and everything she does, even when you are annoyed as hell by her behavior/habit/etc. How what she does/says affects you is entirely beside the point!"

    Speaking for myself, I would be hurt to know that my friend felt she had to pretend for me. If something I do is annoying, I would like to know about it. I am constantly asking my friend if I have done something or said something wrong. I want so badly to learn to be more appropriate because I do long for relationships with other women. How what I say and do affects another is definitely not beside the point. More often it seems that I'm not even aware that it is a point.

    "And this being so, few female aspies are able to sustain friendships with NT women. It will take unrelenting effort on the part of the NT to make a relationship with an aspie female survive."

    This definitely saddens me. It is true because up to this point in my life (I'm 32), I've only sustained one friendship - my longest, just over 3 years. She does make an effort to pursue me. She knows that I tend to isolate because there are many times when I am so depressed that I just don't want to be a drain on her. Other times, I just don't want to bother her because I know she has a lot going on. Admittedly, there are many times when I am so wrapped up in what I have going on in my head that I just don't think of her or forget important things she has going on. Still, it saddens me because, although I try to be a good friend, my aspie traits make it seem that the only thing I have to give is information (which I do like to give), but some of us aspies do long to give more. But we often don't know how.

    Sorry for the long comment. I just hope that giving a perspective from the other side may be helpful to you and to your readers.

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    1. Thank you Georgina. Your comment is, up to now, the most useful I read about the theme. I´m struggling to make my relationship with my aspie girlfriend survive.

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  2. Georgina, I LOVE your comment. Thank you so much for sharing so much detailed information. I only wish the female aspies I have the most difficult time with had the self-awareness that you do. This really helps me to believe they do really, really CARE and just don't know how to get that across. But those female aspies closest to me definitely get too defensive during any conflict and have no interest in talking it out or trying to see another's point of view (they are also undiagnosed). Thanks again!!

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  3. What an eye opener this was, and such a huge help too. Thank you for sharing this.

    I just lost a relationship with a NT girlfriend - we were friends (like sisters) since the 5th grade. When it happened, I became furious. I thought, "She hates me! She never loved me - it was all a lie!" Even though she hurt me by her particular actions, I refused to see that I could be at fault too. Now it's too late - she hasn't spoken to me since August. Another friendship dead.

    Try as I might, my friendships always implode and I'm always left wondering why. But no one will tell me what I did wrong at the time - they just stop talking to me and walk away. :- / This helped me understand some of the things that caused them to walk away, and I thank you for that. Sorry for the long post.

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  4. My wife has high functioning Asperger's. We have been together for 23 years. Sometimes it is magical, other times, well, less so. Sometimes it can hurt me really badly. But I can do nothing but be her husband, because I love her very much.

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  5. @ Anonymous - I feel for you about your wife. I have an un diagnosed aspie girlfriend and it's very much the same mixture of magic, pain and misunderstanding. This blog post has helped. Has it taken all the pain away? No. Has it helped to lessen it? Yes

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  6. I am also in a situation where my wife is an Aspie
    When things are going well, she is an angel, pure delight to be around, with so many great qualities I couldn't count them.
    But, when she goes into her "other personality" its unbearable for me and I find myself feeling so deeply hurt and alone and abandoned
    I dont know what to do
    Its affecting my study, my mental health, we have had to move house due to difficulties she caused with the previous landlords

    Can anyone point me to some useful resources for coping with this?

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  7. I came across this when looking for advice on a relationship in terms of boyfriend/girlfriend, with my girlfriend who has been diagnosed from a young age with the condition. And in reading it I can make a lot more sense of many things straight away, I really want to develop a dedicated relationship with her and she appears to want the same, she is clearly very loving, but the traits she expresses make a lot of sense after reading up on the condition, to get a better understanding of her, through autism.org.uk and then I found this blog and I can see now something that has been an area of worry for me, that she doesn't eat very much and I keep trying to have talks with her about it...and your point number 4 has really made it clear that I need to drop this more with her, thank you very much for the help, I'm sure I will keep coming back here for advice. Tonight has been a big step forward in our relationship. It's made a lot of things clearer, as she often struggles to express her feelings, but every now and again she will just say these amazing things. Thank you again for your help!!!

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  8. My wife is an undiagnosed Aspie. She has 3 kids, two are diagnosed Aspies, one NT. it truely is a funny house to live in when you drop all expectations of I guess you would say a normal household. The kids are not my biological kids, but they are mine all the same. Sometimes when everyone is going off about their certain item being moved or whatever, the NT and I go see a movie or grab a bite to eat to escape the madness. At times it has been extremely rough without emotional support. My marriage looks like a typical business arrangement. During these times, the NT knows a split is a possibility so she always I need to stay because I am her only emotional support.

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    1. Please trust me when she says you are her only emotional support she means it..Great emotional harm often comes to NT's raised by Aspergers/Autistic parents. NT's NEED to have the person raising them to have a deep, and automatic understanding of their emotional beings and how to connect with them on a.deeply personal and intimate (you know what I mean) level.

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  9. If she can learn to live well in a house with so many aspies, she'll be better at managing all kinds of situations in her future. So glad she has you there for support. Hope you can encourage her to know what she wants in a future spouse--and to really take time to figure out if she is in a relationship like all she has ever known growing up--which is aspergers!

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  10. Im a 18 year old girl with aspergers and social anxiety disorder and tbh it's a horrible combination bc my social mistakes scare people off and half the time im depressed and withdrawn so it's hard not to feel isolated. I agree kids with AS have high iqs and no social skills, poor grooming, routines, narrow obsessions and often few friends because of this. Some of the things you mentioned aren't true for me. I am comforting emotionally to my friends/family when they're upset and they make it clear they want support, i am loyal but i don't usually have practical advice and i don't turn every conflict into "You hate me!" unless the relationship is already broken and im insecure about it.

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  11. My wife was diagnosed about five months ago. After reading a lot about Aspergers I am slowly understanding the depth and the width of this. I still struggle with it at times, which makes it worse for her. Point #4 hits home with me the hardest. If I allowed it, pretty much EVERY issue we have could destroy our marriage because it ALL comes down to me not loving who she is and wanting her to change. I am sort of venting now because we've had a rough week. But I swear sometimes its just like having another child to take care of. I made the mistake of joining the military early in our marriage before we knew about all of this, and it has been the most challenging thing for both of us even to survive at times. On the other hand, we are best friends and very close. Many people are amazed at our marriage and how close we are. But we still have hard times. I am still in the military, and will be for the next 3 years. The only place she can function semi-normally is our home town where she lived for 20 years. Where we live now I practically have to cart her around everywhere. I apologize for sounding heartless, I'm not. Like I said its been a rough week. But as you said in your post, it's easier just to pretend everything is fine, because conflict resolution does NOT happen. She just chalks it up to needing to separate, because she's "holding me back and I'm holding her back." And I usually just give it up, whatever it is. It makes it hard to have a balanced marriage that takes care of the needs of BOTH partners. I do have tremendous guilt about being in the military because I know its so hard for her. I like to think of myself as a very understanding husband, and I do my best to accommodate. But sometimes you just get tired, you know? It's difficult for me to understand how Aspies brains work- some things are just so simple and yet still cannot be grasped. I'm tired and need a break.

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  12. Well...sad for me to read. The truth is I don't have time or energy to build a friendship for my AS ex, chase him, and put up with all the callousness and bad moods...especially when so little comes back my way. It does seem like going out of my way to get used; is there a woman alive who really needs to look for it? So sad, but I think I'm done.

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  13. Thank you for this post and for all of the comments - it's really helped me. Several years ago, I dated an AS woman who had not been diagnosed (she did say once "I think I'm autistic" - but I had never heard of Aspergers at the time, so didn't follow it up). Lately, I've been thinking about her and what went wrong in the relationship and because of the distance in time, I've only been remembering the good things. However, this post and comments have really helped me remember why I left that relationship and what my life would have become if I stayed.

    I particularly like this quote: "The bottom line is, the aspie female just wants you to be cheerful and kind and patiently forbear with anything and everything she does, even when you are annoyed as hell by her behavior/habit/etc" That summed up our relationship perfectly. As long as I worked my tail off cheerfully helping her with her special interests (which were horses - a lot of work), everything was fine, but if I wanted to deviate from the plan and, god forbid, go have a little fun, weirdness would ensue.

    But, like one poster said, there was a lot of magic in the relationship and I still miss her, but it was very trying. In fact, I remember at one point saying "Can we just have one normal week?" She had absolutely no idea what I was talking about - she thought everything was going along just fine.

    In retrospect, if I had known about Aspergers and studied up, we might still be together today, but it probably would never have been easy. For all those struggling in their relationship with an Aspie, I do feel for you, but know why you stay - they can be wonderful people in their own way.

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  14. I googled for 15 minutes (or more) to find out what is an NT woman. I found this, if anyone else was wondering :) http://www.mypersonality.info/personality-types/nt-temperament/ (NT = more logical, and less sentimental?)
    I wanna say thank you to everyone for sharing their stories.

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  15. Great post, but regarding #1 - people with Aspergers are generally very empathetic. Perhaps you are confusing needing a shoulder to cry on with a shoulder to complain on? I am never more there for a person as when they are going through an emotionally difficult time, but if someone wishes to waste my time with a negative complain-fest, I'm not into it. I can't run away fast enough. Just a distinction worth making.

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  16. It has taken me three very long and hard years to realise that my wife has apergers. She unfortunately won't accept it as true, but refuses any testing, she feels bad enough about herself as it is, she couldn't cope with finding out it's true.

    We have a little boy, who I suspect is aspergic too, the way he treats people and the way he has a melt down when we need to gently ease him of his favourite activities.

    Why an I writing this?

    I suppose as an NT partner, marriage is a very lonely road to tread, my marriage ranges from bearable to torturous, and the lack of any emotional content to our relationship is the hardest thing to bear without wanting to top myself at times.

    I realise now that I was her pet project, and once she got me, then she became asexual and shaved off all her hair. Our love life exists of a polite 30 second hug at the end of the day as she disappears into her room and I'm left stood at her doorway wondering what on earth she is feeling, if anything.

    It is not the fact that she is aspergic that gets me, it is the fact that she pretended to be something else in order to get me, and now e have a child, I have a responsibility to him that I will not abandon. The disappointment at how I was selected for being a caring person, then so deviously manipulated, just breaks my heart so deeply.

    I hope that one day she will get better and we can be a couple again, but the realisation that were are just child rearing colleagues, slowly sets into my heart, and my once brightly coloured world fades to grey.

    I'm not sure what great and positive things I can add, yes she is loyal, but also a complete dependent, which requires loyalty in order to support her lifestyle of having someone there to keep the family together whilst she obsesses over whatever project is currently in focus.

    The realisation that there is probably nothing much to look forward to is a sad one, and z once my son has left home, I cannot see any reason for me to remain either.

    So why am I worrying this? I suppose if someone reads it, who is either NT or AS, they may recognise something in it, and it may give yet another perspective on it from an NT husbands perspective.

    Sometimes life is just hard, you get married to AS partner, and go on a ride to hell and back, some relationships survive, most don't.

    As an NT partner it feels good to be strong and virtuous, but not at the cost of my emotional and mental health.

    Soon I start counselling to deal with what is known as ongoing emotional trauma. It is a real thing that NT people suffer at the hands of AS partners.

    Don't take it lightly, it slowly destroys your feelings and who knows

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    1. Hey Guy,
      I am an NT guy married to an aspergers wife. It's a very hard road. I just wanted to let you know that there is a great forum for AS Partners at Delphi Forums. These forums have been the best information on being a partner to someone with AS that I've run into. This forum has really changed my life reading about AS-NT marriages and the issues they have. Some of the fog and confusion has lifted for me. Most of the people who post are female NT spouses, but what they post often applies to aspbergers women.

      http://forums.delphiforums.com/aspartners/messages

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