Asperger Syndrome and
Relationships
Autism Cymru
Tuesday 9th May 2006
Typical History of Relationships.
• Late developer in social/emotional
maturity.
• Not sexist, ageist or culturally biased
in choice of friends and partner.
• Wanting to be a friend and lover but
with little idea of how to do either.
What Attracted You to Your
Partner?
• The silent handsome stranger.
• Admiration of intellect or abilities.
• Shared interests (hobbies, animals).
• The degree of adulation.
What Attracted You to Your
Partner?
• Compassion for his/her limited social skills.
• Better looking than I would expect my
partner to be.
• Belief his or her character was due to
childhood circumstances and the person
will change in a new relationship.
What Attracted You to Your
Partner?
• ‘Pillar’ of the community.
• Child like quality, a ‘Peter Pan’.
• Creative in his/her work and good career
prospects.
• Similar characteristics to a parent.
What Attracted You to Your
Partner?
• A challenge to get to know.
• I was his first serious relationship.
• A lateral thinker.
• A child like personality.
The Empathy Continuum
Choice of Partner
• Similar profile of abilities.
• A natural ‘mother’ or carer . (opposite
characteristics).
Choice of Partner
• Women with As may prefer a relationship
with a man with As.
• Adults with High Functioning Autism less
likely to seek a partner.
What Signs Indicated He/she
Was Different?
hat is Love?
• Love is: Tolerance, non-judgemental,
supportive.
• Love is: A complex of beliefs that tap
into our childhood languages and
experiences; it is inspired when you meet
someone that has a quality that maybe
you admire, or do not have (admiration
and respect) – or that they (someone
you admire) reflects back to your ideal
self – which is what you want to be or
see yourself as.
• Love is: Passion, acceptance, affection,
reassurance, mutual enjoyment.
• Love is: What I feel for myself when I
am with another person.
Partner With Asperger’s
Syndrome
• Love is: Helping and doing things for your
lover.
• Love is: An attempt to connect to the
other person’s feelings and emotions.
• Love is: Companionship, someone to
depend on to help you in the right
direction. Love is: I have no idea what is
involved.
• Love is: Tolerance, loyal, allows ‘space’.
• Four aspects of love: everybody, friends,
family, erotica.
• Love cannot be observed.
• Love is yet to be felt and experienced by
myself.
• What is Love? I don’t know the correct
answer.
• Opening the door and letting a new world
into your life, then building a new world
that combines your world and their world.
• Someone that will try to understand the
Aspie way and still be there in the
morning.
Loneliness
Cry alone
Love
• Comprehension, expression and
confidence.
• Love and affection as an emotional
restorative.
• Affection capacity (bucket or a cup).
Star Trek
Love
• I have an enormous difficulty with the
verbal expression of affection. It is not
just a case of feeling embarrassed or selfconscious with it. I understand that this
may be difficult for anyone else to
understand, but it takes a great effort of
will to tell my wife how I feel about her.
(Slater-Walker and Slater-Walker 2002,
p.89)
Love
• Chris told me once that he loved me. I
have since discovered that it is not
necessary for the person with AS to repeat
these small intimacies that are frequently
part of a relationship; the fact has been
stated once, and that is enough’ (p.99)
• To frequently re-state the obvious or
known is illogical.
• “We feel and show affection but not
enough and at the wrong intensity”.
• Overly attached or detached.
• In the early years of the relationship, not
expecting the partner with As to know
what the person is thinking or needs.
• The NT can imagine the As world but the
partner with As can have great difficulty
imagining the NT world.
• Recognition of Asperger’s syndrome can
be the death of hope for the NT partner.
• Intuition he can’t rather than won’t is a
reason to continue the relationship.
• “He doesn’t know who I am”.
• Does your partner love you? (50% replied:
Don’t know.
• He needs me as a house keeper.
• “You never show you care”
• “I fixed the fence didn’t I?”
• No degrees or graduations in friendship as
there would be with most couples.
• “My pleasure doesn’t come from an
emotional or interpersonal exchange”.
• “I experienced none of the proverbial
sexual chemistry with anyone”
The Cactus and the Rose
Marguerite Long
Soft and vulnerable inside
Prickles to protect them from
predators
Happy in a desert
Can withstand long periods of
relationship ‘drought’
Do not understand that roses need
rose food
Keep a distance from other plants to
survive.
A cactus in full bloom is magnificent
and very difficult for a rose to resist
The roots must not be allowed to dry
out
Needs to be in a rose garden to
connect with other roses and be
watered, fed and mulched.
Need intimate emotional connection,
communication and love
Can a rose survive in a desert?
Mental and Physical Health:
Man with Asperger’s syndrome
• How the relationship has affected the
person’s mental and physical health.
• Most men with As felt their mental and
physical health had significantly improved
due to the relationship.
Mental and Physical Health:
Man with Asperger’s syndrome
• Often described feeling less stressed.
• Would much prefer to be in the
relationship than alone.
Mental and Physical Health:
NT partner (women)
• 98% replied that their mental health had
significantly deteriorated due to the
relationship.
• Emotional exhaustion and neglect.
• Depression.
• 92% replied that their physical health had
deteriorated.
Intimacy
Intimacy
• Romance, sensuality and foreplay.
• Tactile sensitivity.
• Frequency and value of intimacy.
• Self disclosure.
• Sexuality.
• Response to counseling.
Intimacy
• Romantic and passionate relationship with
someone you often have to look after as a
child.
• Love making script.
In love with the special interest
What Strategies Strengthen the
Relationship?
• Recognition of the diagnosis.
• Motivation of both partners to change
and learn.
• Support from other partners
(www.faaas.Org, newsletter, internet
groups, local support groups).
What Strategies Strengthen the
Relationship?
• Support from other family members and
one’s children.
• Having good friends (soul mate).
• Having an independent social life.
• Not to feel guilty about having an
alternative social life.
• Relationship counseling.
• Literature.
What Strategies Strengthen the
Relationship?
• An occasional escape.
• A mutual understanding of two different
cultures and ways of thinking.
• Emotion management strategies.
• Guidance in social skills.
• Open and effective communication.
Female Partner With Asperger’s
Syndrome
• “A part of me that my husband
expects is missing.”
• Searching for an identity.
Female Partner With Asperger’s
Syndrome
• Not good at characterization.
• Vulnerability to abuse.
• Understanding a neurotypical
child.
• Affection, touch and intimacy.
Resources:
• Partner support group.
• Sydney support group, ASPIA
• Asperger’s Syndrome Partners Information
Australia
• www.aspia.org.au
• www.faaas.org
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Asperger Syndrome and Relationships