Wednesday, December 2, 2009

When the Aspie Doesn't Respond in Conversation

For many years I have struggled when my aspie spouse totally ignores something I have said to him. I may make a comment or ask a question and get absolutely no response. No nod, no glance, no verbal acknowledgement that I have spoken or that I even exist. My angry response to this is usually "Could you treat me like I'm a human and acknowledge that I'm speaking to you?!" Ummm . . . no, he can't. He doesn't think about it. He doesn't think about it at all. He sometimes doesn't think about me, at all. OUCH.

After searching asperger's forums I found that I was not alone in this. Aspies don't always know how to respond, so they simply don't. Especially if the discussion is heated, if the tone is emotional, or if he is distracted.

I've been pondering the command to repay evil with good, and to bless and not curse enemies when they hurt you. It's important to distinguish the evil from the person. My husband is not evil, and is not an evil person. The 'evil' that hurts me so much here is the autism, which honestly, he cannot help.

Another example is with a female relative of his who does not respond to my efforts in communication. I have written snail mail, shared photos of the children, emailed questions, and shared things about our family. Typically I get zero response. Not even a reply via email to specific questions I have asked. I sometimes say "I'm not sure your email is getting to you as I've sent several with no response." And then I ask the question again. When she does (rarely) respond to my questions, she responds with short bulleted answers. There is no greeting, closing, or personal word (not even a signature of her name at the bottom of the email). This used to be a slap in the face to me. Every effort seems to be in vain to try and build a relationship with her. She must hate me and not want anything to do with me, I would think. But then this understanding of autism surfaced. Now I am determined to keep trying even though I get nothing in return.

This 'evil' is painfully hard to handle. How am to I respond to this sometimes 'evil' aspect of autism with good? I need to be understanding, compassionate, encouraging. I need to keep my tone level and unemotional. I need to be patient and wait much longer than is considered reasonable to an NT for a response, patiently asking again if I really need an answer. All of which is impossible in my own strength. But God's grace is perfected in my weakness.

And these are very, very, difficult lessons to learn.


  1. I have been in the same kinds of situations with my husband. Many times he does not respond to me at all. However, he does not display any of the other aspie symtoms. In fact the reason I married him is because he is so social, outgoing and friendly to everyone, he never had trouble making friends, or hanging out with other people. Maybe he is. Do Aspies tend to marry other Aspies? Yeesh!

  2. BTW, keep trying with your relative. My best friends are people that keep in contact with me, even though I ignore them.

    I learned a hard lesson over Christmas when my dearest cousin died suddenly, and I do not think she EVER knew how much she meant to me. She would always send me those little emails, always tried to keep in contact with me and always treated me like we were long lost friends when we did get to see each other. I miss her immensely, not because we talked every day, but because I knew that she loved me, even when I did not show my love to her.

  3. Hello. I am still in the deep deep hurt stage of being ignored, my affection being rejected, almost no intimacy, no interest in solving 'typical' kinds of household problems. But I too am Christian, which is why, despite the buckets of tears at being so sad and lonely, and the raging anger when I thought he was doing it on purpose I am still here. I have asked God to heal our marriage countless times, I have tried to be a godly wife... I am just lonely ... and tired. But I do want to love my husband. I do want to honour him and God. I just don't quite know how to cope with not being a valid person and therefore having legitimate human needs ignored. It still hurts !!!

  4. It must be very frustrating to try and reach out to your family and not have the response in kind that you desire.

    I pray that things will come together better for you and your husband and that you will make better quality connections with your extended family. Besides prayer, I think providing love and acceptance for who they are, where they are at this point in their life journey is a wonderful gift you can give.

    I'm not sure how much information your husband or extended family has about AS but if they are not aware of being on the spectrum and what that entails, they may not have any clue that their type of communication with you may be hurting your feelings or not meeting your needs or wants. They may want to develop a better relationship with you but feel intimidated or clueless on how to do that.

    I am the Mom of two children on the autism spectrum. About a year or so after their diagnosis, I came to the realization and acceptance of my own place on the spectrum. I'm blogging about it now. Let's just say that most of my family, friends and inner circle had no clue because I presented so "normally".

    I'm adopted, however I occasionally have contact with my birthparents and I have strong suspicions that both sides are on the spectrum as well. It's very hard for me to get reciprocal communication from them but I keep trying to reach out to them because it is important to me.

    I remember before my diagnosis that my husband's sisters and mother tried reaching out to me. It was very overwhelming and seemed invasive. I often felt my personal space violated without understanding why.

    I tried to be as nice as I could and as respectful as I could but I didn't "get" their way of doing things (such as family get-togethers) as I was used to my quiet ways.

    When I read your blog postings, it helped me see an example of what it is like from a different perspective. I encourage my husband (who is neurotypical) to blog and try to connect with others as I'm sure I can be rather overwhelming at times.

    I hope your blog is therapeutic for you. :-)
    Blessings and strength!


  5. Thanks for posting this Karen! :o)

  6. I'm working my way through your blog and have found it to be exactly what I needed as I have recently discovered I too, am an Aspie Wife and Aspie Mom. I want you to know that YOU are absolutely amazing. I just can't believe your strength and your insights and I am forever grateful that God led me to your blog. This thing is gold. I've been laughing and crying as I read through each post, top to bottom. I am still in the stages of "shock" as I begin to absorb what this means for our family and put together all the confusing pieces in my marriage so far. It's a huge turn that leads me in the same direction. Wow. Thank you again, I wish I knew you personally.

  7. Hello M, Your comment is making me cry! It is such an emotional journey, I know.

    When I first started learning about Asperger's I felt TOTALLY alone with absolutely nowhere to turn and no one I could talk to who would truly understand. I praise God you have been encouraged. Hopefully one day there will be a better understanding and more widespread support and better counsel available.

    Hugs! And thank so you so much for the encouraging and kind words. :)