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Life on the Autism Spectrum

Love & autism

Although some people on the autism spectrum enjoy fulfilling relationships, there are others for whom emotional attachment can be difficult and this may affect intimate relationships, family relationships and friendships. Here we present the views of people on the spectrum and, in some cases, their partners.

Some people in long-term relationships, married or living together, sometimes with children, talked about positive and difficult aspects of their relationships. One woman thought that people with Asperger syndrome enter into relationships with people who are very caring and “they pick someone who compensates for what they lack”. 

A few partners said their husbands were very focused on them when they first met which they thought might be a characteristic of Autistic Spectrum Condition. For example;

“He fell for me and he wanted me and nothing was going to stop him… I am afraid he was so kind and thoughtful and loving and giving when we were courting but it changed the moment we were married.”

“It is definitely something you have to work at”
Some couples, where one partner was on the spectrum said they worked hard at their relationship and supported each other.

 

Luke describes how he and his girlfriend work at their relationship.

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Age at interview: 18
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 8
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Difficult, especially at the moment. I have been I have been going out with a girl for a year and three months now, and whenever we have an argument or something it is always to do with that because even though there are good points, like you can focus, you know you focus on things a lot better, things that you enjoy, like more than a normal person would, like a normal person, like somebody else would have a few things they like and they do a little bit of this and little bit of that. But way I could spend a full, you know, like fourteen hours taking a photo and then spend another six hours or so taking a photo and then eight hours getting it right on photoshop. So I think that is a plus side, like you can look at any people, you know any of like the greats in history, like Beethoven, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates and you can see there is obviously plus sides to it.

If you have any sort of fallings out it tends to be because you can be quite focused on something?

 Yes.

 And not see her point of view may be. I mean do you manage to sort that out between you?

 Yes. We just talk like, we talk a lot, because you have to when you have to be completely honest, like all the time otherwise it’s hard enough to understand at the moment, but like if we didn’t tell each other and stuff and like help sort it out then we wouldn’t have a chance really because there is so many things that just look like you were being selfish or just look like you are not communicating properly, that you really do have to work at it because it does get in the way of relationships. It does. But it is not impossible, but it is definitely something that you have to work at.

 

Simon's friends helped him understand his feelings for a girl who wanted to be his girlfriend.

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Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 5
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Yeah, I try to yeah. And I also have a girlfriend as well. Who I see and that regularly and stuff like that. She pops down and says hallo and stuff like that, which is another thing that I could mention.
 
About what? How’s that been, having a girlfriend?
 
Very strange, it’s taken some getting used to. Once again because my social system, you know, developing you know, to someone that becomes a friend, becomes a girlfriend, that whole process really. You know, and loving someone and stuff like that. You know, it’s a whole big thing really for me. And it was slow at first. Half the time, I had to get people to tell me, that, you know, this girl really, really liked me. She wanted me to, you know, go out with her. But for me, I don’t click onto that sort of thing [laughs]. Because like the emotional side of things. And someone actually had to tell me that, you know, my feelings were the same, because obviously I don’t know that myself half the time, and it just started off from that really, good support from friends really. And it just started off like that really, just gradual process really.
 
 

Catherine and Neil were pen pals for a few years before they moved in together.

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Sex: Male
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Catherine' We were pen pals [laughs]. We wrote to each other for what was it, about a year?
Neil' Hm.
Catherine' Before we got together. And I mean Neil’s got a lot of problems as well. At the time, undiagnosed. But, you know, we kind of related to each other, because we had a lot of similar problems. And his brother has got Asperger's. So he knew. Although when we first started writing we didn’t know I had it. But now, you know, he kind of knows a lot about how to deal with it and stuff.   But yes, we met up. I came up here to visit, because I am from [county] originally. Came up to [town] and yes, we just got together basically from writing to each other and, yes, we have been together, for what, four years?
Neil' About four years.
 

Steven talks about how much he and his son value his wife.

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Sex: Male
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How long ago did you meet your partner?
About fifteen years ago. And she is really, really good. I couldn’t do a lot without her. Well I couldn’t do anything without her really. And then she has got not one but two of us on the spectrum, to consider, so it is you know. … It is a good thing that she is there. I mean she thinks that we don’t value her but we do really. We just like to keep her working a lot - if that makes sense - we would be … she is really, really supportive. And it would be nice to do some things for her sometimes, I think, because she is always doing things for us, which is good.
 

Daniel and Margaret say that Daniel has learnt to argue back effectively and now holds his own...

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Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 11
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Margaret' Well I mean we have some fantastic arguments. Fantastic shouting matches. I don’t know what the neighbours think. I know what the kids think. [laughs] But we do, we fall out big time, and I mean it is always really verbal. I know it is. Screaming pitch from both of us. Not just me. [laughs] He is just as bad as I am.
Daniel' And I used not to be able to argue with her, and most couples, well in the last year or so I have improved slightly so...
Margaret' [laughs] It is not an achievement.
Daniel' I can almost hold me own ground now. Because it is just like well… You know.
Margaret' I don’t know, I think …
 
Daniel' She has this really good knack of she can have a massive argument with somebody and not swear once, and it is just….
Margaret' Unless it is you.
Daniel' And it is just, she doesn’t get personal or anything like that, she does not get….
Margaret' Unless it is you.
Daniel' Unless it is me.
Margaret' Unless it is him. And then it all comes out. Everything.
Daniel' But I have sort of, I have almost, the idea with the theory of mind, is because I have listened to her arguing so much, that I have almost learnt, I have almost learnt back what she is doing, and basically that’s …

Margaret' That’s how he can argue, because he knows.

Daniel' Basically, it's just like, it's basically I have learnt response from listening to her [laughs] argue with me and argue with other people and everything. So it is sort of

 

Catherine and Neil talk about how they support each other and they have both learnt a lot through...

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Catherine' No, we, at this time we were still actually writing to each other. We kind of just, for the first few years that we were together, we were still writing. We just kind of visited each other which was actually quite good, because I mean Neil as we know now has got bipolar and I have got Asperger's. And it was just a big thing of like we both need our own space a lot. I couldn’t conceive of living with anyone because it just made me feel ill. I mean with living with my own Mum and Dad I actually had to get a council place on my own on medical reasons because I was starting to feel that I couldn’t live with my Mum and Dad any more. Even though I love them and everything, I get on fine with them. I just can’t bear being around people. So for a bit, I actually lived on my own. So we were still writing to each other. Visiting each other a couple of times a month, you know, but not actually living together, but you know, we were still together.
Neil' Hm. It helped in that way, because it kind of help like, you know, we weren’t both defined at that moment so we didn’t know what was going on, so when we actually met up each other, it was kind of we didn’t have to see that side of each other.
Catherine' Hm.
Neil' And, but then obviously when you moved closer, then it is kind of okay, I start, right, okay, I get it now and seeing different sides to it.
Catherine' Yes. I mean when you are around someone more, you start to see … what they are like, you know.
Neil' But then it kind of, you know, then you know how to deal with it, because you have got like a label on it, and you can go okay this person’s got this. They are acting like this. This is what I am going to do for them rather than they are acting like this. Why? What am I am going to do? Oh go away or, you know, then, or you get frustrated really or whatever. I mean it is same with like, you know just, Cathy has got to deal with me as well.
Catherine' Yes.
Neil' So it is kind of, you know, we are both just equally as bad, so it is not a case of you know I have got to deal with you all the time.
Catherine' I mean in some respects it is a nightmare. In some respects it is good because we can help each other, because even though we have got different things, there are a lot of crossovers, a lot of similarities, because at one point it was thought that he had Asperger's because his brother has got it and there’s a lot of traits that are the same. But then you know looking into it more. It is, you know, and finally he has got diagnosed as well in the last year, which is amazing. But yes, I think, I mean say up until a point, it was only my Mum who knew really what I was like, because she had seen me in distress. She had seen me through everything I did. You know, she pretty much had to go everywhere with me. She had to go to appointments with me. She had to accompany me places like, because I couldn’t sort of go anywhere where I hadn’t been before on my own, because I would just get lost or something, you know. 
And so she was the only one who really knew before Neil what I was like because my Dad, we have a strong suspicion that my Dad has got Asperger's as well and it was a big problem, sort of growing up with my Dad because he is so distant and sort of he basically used to lock himself in the garden shed all the time and it was this thing where both me and my sister went through a period where we just hated my Dad because we thought he didn’t love us. We thought that he didn’t care. We basically felt like we had just been brought up by my Mum because my Dad was so not there. He was just in the co

“I don’t play social games”
Some people were single but hoped to have a relationship at some point. Others were single after relationships had not worked and they had decided they were better as friends. A couple of people talked about the intense emotional difficulties past relationships had caused them which had led to a form of breakdown. John L said he was not sure he wants to tolerate the level of pain he experience after breaking up with his partner.

One man said that all the girls he had been involved with had “cleared off and married someone else” and he always thought it was because he wasn’t really “husband material”. 

 

Damian tends to go out with 'odd ball misfits' and relationships have been very intense.

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Age at interview: 37
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 36
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I’ve had good friendships with people. I think I struggle with kind of long term relationships a bit. I don’t know really [laughs]. I just have. I guess it’s relationships are tricky when people have different wants and needs and things or expectations. I find usually friendships with certain people easier in a way. The kind of people I’m on, I’m on the wavelength with or have a similar interest to. Although I’ll happily talk about one of my interests for hours on end so if there’s a... or a similar temperament to me, then I tend to get on with people okay. I have some good friends, I think who I’ve been in touch with for a long time. It is mainly through interests I think sort of musical, or table tennis, or study or whatever. And you occasionally meet someone you get on with. I’ve only ever tried living with one person in a relationship and that didn’t really work out. I think I’m quite an intense person and I tend to attract people of a similar nature. 
 
A lot of the people I’ve been out with in life have had sort of mental health difficulties [small laugh] or traumatic pasts or sort of odd ball misfits. And some, sometimes I’m the more kind of stable, together one but it kind of fizzles out for whatever reason on their side of things. It’s hard to sort of explain why it, relationships have been tricky, it’s kind of oh lots of reasons. Partly to do with the way I am, and partly to do with the way people are who like me. It’s hard to explain, probably the intensity of the thing. I don’t know. I guess I’m quite stuck in my ways as well, I don’t play social games so it takes a certain kind of person to like what I’m about I think, and it tends to be that they’re a bit that way themselves. It’s starting to sound like I haven’t been that successful in anything [laughs].
 
 

Richard needed the help of support staff to end a relationship

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Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 2
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 So you’d like to start your own business in the future. What about relationships? Have you had any relationships?

 
This one girl who started [housing organisation] a few months ago... I have never been ready for love. I’m still not ready for love. At one time this girl just kept pressuring me into being her boyfriend. Bombarded my phone with texts, and I felt had no choice but to just give in and be her girlfriend, be her boyfriend rather.
 
Yes.
 
But, but fortunately I was able to let her down gently two nights later, with some help from the staff.
 
And now you still live with her, but she’s not your girlfriend?
 
Yes.
 
Yes, and that’s okay.
 
Hm, hm.
 

Other people also talked about wanting a relationship but finding the social interaction involved in trying to begin a relationship too difficult. This was partly to do with communication difficulties but also to do with a desire to talk about specific interests that may not be shared. One man said that this was an area that he would like some training or support.

 

For Russell socialising is like 'going into a battle of tongues unarmed' though he would like a...

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Age at interview: 21
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 12
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Have you had relationships in the past? Do you want relationships?
 
Never in my life had I had a relationship. I would like very much to have one.
 
Do you anticipate having one?
 
No. The reason being is I’m looking for someone who understands and accepts me for who I am. And the only way it’s going to happen is if by some fluke chance I manage to meet an Asperger's suffering female. And the chances of that are somewhat reduced by the fact that autism hits boys and girls by a ratio of 4 to 1. So that’s, that knocks it down for a start. Secondly, you have to actually go and socialise in order to kind of make any impact. That stops, that stops me dead quite a lot of the time, and thirdly you’ve got to, you’ve got to think on your feet. Any of the questions that are given to you, you must expect. I mean they could be, you know, your bog standard of, you know, where are you from? What do you do? Age? That kind of thing, up to more bizarre things, you know, they go off into their… they go off into what they like to do, their hobbies or interests. And for the normal person who doesn’t suffer from Asperger's Syndrome they can, they can blag it. They can kind of talk their way through it. For Asperger's sufferers there is no blagging. You go, you in there, you go unarmed in a battle of tongues. If you don’t know something then you just draw a blank. That’s all there is to it.
 
 

John finds his difficulties socialising are magnified when he is with women.

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Age at interview: 47
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 45
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Do you anticipate have a relationship in the future?
 
Yes, probably, yes, yes. I mean I think there’s only really been one serious relationship down the years, you know, which in itself only lasted about six to seven months. You know, so it’s a very difficult area.
 
What’s difficult about that?
 
Well that’s difficult to put your finger on really. I mean I think it’s a communication difficulty that you have so… well that again is just very, very pervasive in the field of relationships. I mean it, I mean you know, the fact that you’ve got an understanding problem on a social level, I mean it is perhaps, it is perhaps magnified when you’re dealing with a woman, because I think women are more communicative, more social if you like. And if you’re considerably less communicative, less understanding of communicative issues than the average man, you know, that’s pushing you out to the fringes of the spectrum really, so it’s very difficult to establish a rapport in the first place really. You know, that is the main problem I think.
 

“Having a boyfriend would mean having to get on with someone”
Some people were single and did not expect to have a relationship in the near future. 

 

Miranda is happy to be on her own after some unhappy relationships in the past.

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I mean in the future are you happy not to have a relationship then?
 
Possibly yes, because I find that and I think, I think it’s the biggest worry. You see all these people out there, and how there are people out there that… because I do see myself because I suppose really, that there are people like myself who probably might be vulnerable and that lot, and I wouldn’t like to be taken in. So really I wouldn’t contemplate on going on these websites or anything like that because there are a lot of con men out there, you know. I mean they con you out of very little. Whatever depends whether you’ve got owt or nothing. So I am quite happy to sort of be on my own, because, I find it better because, I find that you don’t have to answer to anybody, you can do what you want or whatever. So really I’m not contemplating anything really. Although, I do tend to get on better with men than I do with women, I have found it sort of very difficult in the past to work with women, but I do find it easier working with blokes, because I suppose with a bloke, I suppose it’s just say what they say and then that’s it. With some people like women, that they can be, they can be nasty and they can sort of drag it on for ages, and sometimes I suppose they can make your life hell. So, but, yes, I am quite happy I think to be on my own, it doesn’t really bother me, really. I’m quite happy I’ve got college. 
 
 

Close relationships are Alex's idea of 'hell'. She can cope well with relationships on the internet.

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Age at interview: 28
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 3
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Ach no, my idea of hell, [laughs] I’d have to share my laugh with someone. No. I don’t, I couldn’t care for a child. So having children’s out of question. Social Services would whip me off them with two seconds flat. So kids are out of the question and I mean, when my friends lived with me, we were good friends, and we still are good friends, you know, we talk at least two or three times a week and stuff, but to actually have to do things with someone and feel obligated to do things with them, and I know it sounds absolutely awful, but to share an interest in what they’re doing and what’s going on in their life is good fun, but it’s a lot of pressure to have to do it every day. 
 
At the moment, you know, I mean all my friends on the internet, we’ve got very like you know, 50/50 relationships. You know, they’ll ask me stuff about their kids or they’ll tell me what they’ve done. I’ll tell them what I’ve done. You know, it’s just a normal every day friendship. But if I can’t cope with it, I just turn my laptop off. If you’ve got someone living with you, you can’t turn your laptop off. You’ve got, you know, you’ve got to be nice, and you’ve got to engage with them. You know, if I’m having a bad week I can shut myself away and watch DVDs and don’t have to worry. But if somebody was living with me in a relationship I couldn’t do that. And I need to be able to do that. To de-stress otherwise I would just end up exploding.
 

Daniel found living away from his parents’ house difficult; “I don’t know why, I just felt uncomfortable… I didn’t quite know what it was but it was some need for me to be at home. I just feel safer at home”. Another woman said she was asexual and while she had tried relationships in the past, because she thought she ought to, she had realised that she had no sexual desire and was happy on her own.

 

Duncan prefers a night in, wearing a baggy tee shirt and jogging bottoms, to going out.

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Age at interview: 17
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 13
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I am single. I don’t know, I guess that is because I am not particularly outgoing with girls. Yes, very sort of... rather you know a night in, rather than a night out, sort of … I don’t want to… I guess involvement…. I guess going out involves being sort of all the hassle of thinking what to wear and how I should have my hair or something and it is a bit too much, that is all. I would rather sit at home watching a movie you know, jogging bottoms and a baggy teeshirt, whereas going out means having to, you know, put my hair in styles and …. Put nice clothes on. And just finding nice clothes would be a good start. I mean I don’t really have any. This is the nicest thing I have. It’s you know, it is cleanish I think. It is good it is clean.
 

Mark is not sure if he could deal with the 'level of intensity' involved in an intimate relationship

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Age at interview: 27
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 26
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I think that is particularly why I have always kind of steered away as far as possible from any sort of more intimate relationships, you know, sex is fine, no problems there. You know, lots of random one night stands. [town] is a town full of slags. I mean it is quite atrocious. It really is. But you know, that is something true, but anything more than that. I mean there was a person a couple of years ago, made it quite clear that they did want something more, and actually at one point after diagnosis I got back in contact with this person and randomly they were in a hotel in [town], and sort of went round, you know, to sort of apologise and say look basically, you know, I always got the impression that you wanted a sort of relationship to take place, and well, you know, I have Asperger's and so you know, I really sort of don’t get it. I really don’t deal well with this sort of thing, and basically it was my way of apologising, because in many ways I sort of wanted to have a relationship because that is what really you are supposed to do. That is what normal people do but being in that situation was just something I felt so uncomfortable I didn’t want to have that sort of level of intimacy, you know, I do not want to share every detailed aspect of my life.
 
You know, like sharing a room with somebody. My God that would drive me nuts, you know, it would not be happening. And, you know, we ended up having, well sleeping together and stuff but you know it was always very much…. I think sociologically everyone is very sort of programmed. You know, you are supposed to have a sort of formal, you know, steady permanent relationships, that is the goal. That is what everyone is sort of after but the reality is, it is very sort of an unknown quantity and I always just sort of avoided it and steer away from it. And even sort of at the age I am now, I am sort of not entirely convinced I would actually be capable of dealing with that sort of relationship or whether it would just drive me nuts. I mean sharing sort of, you know, entirely every aspect of your life with somebody. [intake of breath] I am not sure I could ever be truly comfortable with that.
Are you quite content on your own then would you say? With your one night stands and stuff?
Well I wouldn’t necessarily say content is the correct word. I think from a very long time ago accepted, well that is probably how it is going to be. Realised years and years and years ago that I was probably very likely to be sort of single, my entire life and for a long, long time it did bother me. I don’t think it particularly does now, but I can’t be certain whether that is simply I have just accepted the fact and grown accustomed to it that it doesn’t bother me any more. But [2 sec pause] I think there is an element that I would like to, but there would be certain elements involved in that, that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with. Certainly not at least, initially, you know, things, I think it sort of goes back to aspies not being terribly good with dealing with things they haven’t done before and dealing with the unknown and there would be such an enormous level of unknowns. And it would be sort of very intimate, very personal, you know, somebody sort of knowing huge amounts about you and I wonder whether I could ever be actually comfortable being in that situation.

Some women talked about feeling vulnerable and not being very good at judging characters. Two women were divorced after being in abusive relationships, one of the women had had a few abusive relationships before deciding to remain single and bring up her children alone. 

Partners’ perspectives on relationships
Some partners of people on the spectrum had difficult lives because their partners often couldn’t understand how they felt about things or didn’t want to talk things through with them or make joint decisions. Some partners found it difficult to cope with their partners’ special interests; some felt isolated and depressed. 

 
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Sue has had a difficult relationship; she is cautiously hopeful about Richard's attempts to...

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Age at interview: 58
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 51
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You know, I have been on the internet and been in chat rooms and heard a lot of women complaining about their husbands who have got Asperger's and their behaviours and in many ways been quite thankful that he is not like that. You know, I think if you have a more extrovert sort of personality with Asperger's you would come over as somebody who is very dominating, very opinionated, nobody else can see things the way you can see them, but you are the one who is right and I have not met that sort of behaviour form Richard very much.
 
There are times when he is opinionated and he can’t understand anybody else’s point of view but he is not somebody who would… after I have spent say five years getting the garden looking right come home one day and decide he doesn’t like those rose bushes under the window and so he would dig them all up, simply because he doesn’t like them which is the sort of behaviour of have heard from women with Asperger's…. Having said that, he has manipulated the family quite a lot as much by his absence rather than his dominance. Does that make sense? In the sense of you know there are things that have to be done within a family. You have to make decisions. Things have to be done for different members of the family and if he will just not take part in that decision making or he won’t make himself available for doing this or doing that then myself or eventually as the children have got older, other members of the family have to shape their way of doing things in order to take up the slack and step in. And that certainly before we had the diagnosis, that was a big area, sort of the big bone of contention; that he wouldn’t make himself available in the way one would expect of a husband or a father in terms of making decisions or being interested in children’s education or being involved with holidays or all sorts of things like that. 
 
So it is good that he now wants to be involved to some extent in those sorts of things. I find myself, though, I do find myself stepping back a bit and thinking, right well let’s just see how far he can manage it. There is very much a wariness within me, that I have to over come myself, like, you know, in that I don’t want to throw myself wholeheartedly into saying, “Oh this is fantastic. Yes, you are doing really well,” because I have been disappointed so many times in the past. I have that within me that says, let’s just see how well he can manage this. Is he actually going to do what he says? And that is a problem that we have at the moment. I think Richard feels that I am not supporting him enough…
Richard' Yes.
Sue' … in what he expresses and what he says he wants to do.
Richard' I do feel that. But I do also recognize that there is a lot more work to be done and I have made a start, but it has got a long way to go and it does happen that I get tired and discouraged and give up on something. It is not a continuous upward climb. I do have setbacks. And that is the most difficult time. That is when you would be tempted to think, well this is not worth it.
Sue' Yes to some extent.
 
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Julie is better able to let Tim do what he wants to do, now they have the diagnosis.

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Age at interview: 39
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 39
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Julie' I think it were useful for me to know that it weren’t your fault, if you like. Because at times I used to go ‘why is he like that?’ And you know, he had this idea that maybe if I put a bit of pressure on him I might be able to change him a bit you know, but no, that clearly, clearly was never going to happen. And I think to know that you’ve just got to work with what’s there and you know… because we’ve had our difficult times haven’t we, there’ve been times when we’ve nearly thrown the towel in to be honest, but we’ve, we’ve sort of kept going haven’t we. And I think it’s just reaching a level of acceptance in us lives where this is how it is and you make the best of it. Whereas I spent many years, sort of fighting trying to change things, and make us lives different, but you know, this is what we’ve got and this is what it is, and it’s not that bad, if you just sort of find that level of acceptance and get on with it really.
 
You know, I think knowing sometimes that yes, when he’s getting a face on because he hasn’t been able to go out and run twenty miles is probably him being awkward to a degree but maybe there’s more than that, and it helps me accept it a little bit and at one time I’d have been, you know, he’s been out every night this week, can’t you just come and sit with me for one night, you know, I am important as well. And we’d have had them sort of arguments, but now I know it’s just not worth it. Just let him go, just let him go and have his run and do what he wants to do. And that’s how we get by now. I just had to let go. So I think it’s done me good really to know that. The only think is, it can be irritating at times because they’re all good at it, and they know how to use it to their advantage. You know, though don’t you, you know you do. If there’s a situation you don’t want to face, you know you’ve a card out of it, whereas before you probably wouldn’t have had.
 
 
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Sue describes how her husband could never relate emotionally to anything happening at home and...

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Age at interview: 58
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 51
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Before you read this newspaper article did you know about Asperger's?

 

Sue'  Didn’t know about it as such no, but I mean I had been very aware, all through our marriage, that there was something, there was a lack of connection. We weren’t able to communicate in what to me was a meaningful way and that, in and of itself, caused a lot of problems and a lot of stresses. And I have even described it to friends, as it’s as if he is not wired properly. And it's, you know, in describing Richard’s behaviour to people, I would sometimes get the response of well it is just that men are different from women thing. Obviously to some extent that is true with Asperger's. But it is a much more extreme difference then people think of when they use that sort of language.
Richard' Or that is just a man on a bad day.

Sue'  Yes, but when people say that sort of thing, they have their own mental image of what they mean by that. But it still didn’t match up with what our experience was.

 

Can you give me some examples of the kinds of things you are talking about in terms of not being able to communicate.

 

Sue'  Richard could never recognize when I was upset about things. He couldn’t relate emotionally to what was going on in the home with me or with the children and if the emotional ambience became quite obvious he literally switched off, went completely blank and he was in that state. It didn’t matter what you said to him, it was as if he just never heard it and then he would go away and then he would re-appear a couple of hours later and behave as if absolutely nothing had been said. So I could have been very worked up about something, trying to get a point across that this is what had upset me or... this was why I was frustrated about something and it would be as if he had never heard anything of what I had said, and there would be no comeback on that at all. I understand now that that is a very autistic reaction; that they get to a certain point, they will overload and beyond that somebody with Asperger's or with an autistic condition just literally cannot hear anything that is being said. And that can be very difficult to cope with, to feel that you are just not being listened to and to get no feedback from what you are concerned about. What you are upset about.
Sue'  Yes, I mean on a number of occasions we tried various forms of counselling which hadn’t really had any effect at all because the general aim of most sort of relationship counselling is to try to get both sides to appreciate the other person’s point of view and that is something that Richard just couldn’t do. He couldn’t put himself into my shoes and see anything from my point of view.
Richard' I remember, the counsellor was saying, “You should take more account of your wife’s feelings.” But even then I think I knew the problem was that I didn’t know what her feelings were and that was why I wasn’t taking account of them, so it wasn’t helping. They were telling me to do something that I knew I wanted to do but I couldn’t.
Sue'  So for example, if I became upset and it became obvious in the home that I was upset, you know and I would eventually may be stomp upstairs and slam the bedroom door and just shut myself away to try and cool down over something. Richard would make remarks like, “Oh, she is sulking again.” And that was the only label he could put on it, which didn’t help anyway, because I didn’t f

One woman had been taking sleeping tablets because her husband’s behaviour had so distressed her over the years. Life became much more difficult when her husband retired because she had “the full volume of his personality”. She said:

“You know, people can do the most terrible, terrible things and I don’t think it is possible for people to know. I’m fortunate enough to be able to chat away and get on with people. There aren’t many people left now but he has done the most damaging things to both of us, really to me.”


 

Last reviewed July 2016.
Last updated July 2016.

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