Step #1: Begin with this…
Let’s first identify the “help” you have already stumbled upon
I have mentioned that I have “Found the end of the internet” in search of anything that could help my marriage. This is a very heavy claim to put out to the world, but it is exactly how I have felt after years of searching and coming up empty in regard to useful advice on how to better my relationship with my Aspie husband. There are plenty of places to go to when a person types in, “Asperger Marriage.” You will find tons of websites dedicated to one side or the other, and within those pages you will read hundreds of comments about a relationship in turmoil or someone from the opposite neuro-side vehemently combating the words the previous commenter had to say. There is a lot of resentment, frustration, and anger within the context of every blog or article post that leans heavily on one side or the other.
Then there are the articles published by individuals who have a “title” behind their name lending assumed credibility to the advice they have to dole out. I have yet to discover one of those articles containing anything but vague oversimplifications in lieu of useful guidance on how to make an Aspie/NT marriage happy. The majority of the time they are giving a broad overview to entice the reader to purchase their book or subscribe to their page in order to generate a financial profit while giving nothing substantial in return. I have been a sucker for these self-proclaimed experts and I have put my credit card information in to more of these websites than I care to admit to. I don’t actually know if I am embarrassed to say that, or if there is a part of me that takes pride in knowing I have truly sought out every web-based offering I could uncover. Regardless of how I now feel about the wasted money I have pumped into the pockets of undeserving “professionals” out there, I feel as though it has afforded me the right to tell you not to waste your own money. I can now tell you for certain that the claim that you will find answers after providing a small amount of currency, are groundless. On the other end of the payment screen, you will receive no more than you had before you hit submit and you will regretfully discover you wasted more money on answers that none of these people have.
It is my personal belief that none of them have the answers because none of them actually know what it is like to exist in an NT/Aspie relationship and are therefore guessing and attempting to implement what their cherished professional literature has taught them. Remember that the professional literature in existence on Asperger’s Syndrome is scant, and there are no significant studies yielding successful/proven therapy for Asperger/NT relationships that anyone can passionately stand behind. You have the same access to the tools they utilize to dish out advice if you take the time to look for them, so it is with my strong urging that I implore you to cease your searches for specialized guidance within the context of online articles.
The most important thing you can do for your relationship is problem-solve for yourself
There will never exist a single person who can provide you with the right advice on how to remedy your own interpersonal difficulties within your marriage other than you and your spouse working together. So then the next question is, “How do I get us to work together when he is so disinterested in doing so?”
The answer to this is to utilize a step-by-step process. You must first truly educate yourself on your husband and the way his mind works (yes, I agree with THAT “expert” advice). Your husband is not going to do this, and he is not going to suddenly stand up and proclaim that he is incredibly vested in learning all about you and the way your mind works. Keep wishing, it isn’t going to happen. If your husband does do this you are in a very, very rare minority and you are the envy of every other NT/Aspie couple out there.
If you are in the majority and just starting out, I highly recommend beginning with the book The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood.
This book is and always will be the launching point to understanding your husband and giving you the foundation you will need to begin learning how to problem solve for yourself. While I mentioned that you do not necessarily need to seek expert advice to help your marriage, I would be remiss if I did not tell you that there is zero chance you are going to figure it out on your own if you do not educate yourself first on what Asperger’s Syndrome actually means and how it affects your husband’s daily functioning. It is incredibly important to start at the beginning of his life and comprehend how a child with Aspergers comes to develop the negative behavior patterns that exist as an adult. In this book you will be taken back to the start, and you may even find yourself developing a sobering sense of sadness when you imagine what it must have been like to grow up the way he did, never knowing WHY he was so “different.” This level of empathy is going to help you on your journey to finding the answers you seek, I promise.
Even if you have been married years and have read all about your Aspie husband, if you have not read THAT book… pick it up. You can go through this link (The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome), you can go to the bookstore, you can ask other NT’s to share it with you… however you get it in your hands, you really SHOULD read it. If your husband is not diagnosed, or if you suspect he has Aspergers but are not yet certain, this book will help you solidify and confirm your own suspicions. I recommend you also grab a highlighter if you have the paper version because this is fun (ok, not really fun, but definitely enlightening). As you read, highlight the things that sound familiar or resonate with you in regard to your husband, self, or relationship. I tell you to do this because there is an incredible likelihood that by the time you finish the last sentence, you will realize that you have highlighted far more words than not. You can look at that incredible amount of bold color and realize you have your confirmation and you no longer need to question what you already know in your heart to be true.
Ok, so you have read the book and it is bright pink, or yellow, or whatever color you chose. Now what?
The next thing I suggest is going to the RIGHT webpage for the hard cold blunt reality check you need to determine exactly what you are up against. The book will make you have a ton of emotions and the humanizing of your husband will serve as your base when you go on to the crude truth that frightens you and makes you cry yourself to sleep at night.
Of the many options before you to go to, there is one website that I have always found my way back to because of its genuine accuracy called The Neurotypical Site. I have enjoyed this because there is no ambiguity about who this website was intended for, and there are no hateful words within it (outside of some comments by readers). It was created for an NT partner (predominantly female/wife) who is married to an Asperger partner (predominantly male/husband) and it is a good place to go to after developing a fact-based understanding of your Aspie husband.
I cannot say that The Neurotypical Site is an overly positive or motivating website because it is not filled to the brim with happy stories and inspiring words to keep the NT in their relationship and fill them with hope. It is quite the opposite of a place to inspire hope in you, it is more of a place to find like-minded people who will offer the incredibly important sense that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. When you are married or in a long-term relationship with an Aspie, you are going to feel like you are alone A LOT, and this sense of isolation can and does create an NT who begins to aspergate themselves without realizing it (See: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ASPERGATED). <—- this post is still pending (I am working on it diligently, I promise)
No, this website will not make you feel happy, and it is not meant to. It is not meant to offer the same insensitive advice that professionals dish out telling the NT partner to adapt and adjust their thinking patterns and behaviors to their Aspie mate in order to create a harmonious home. That is the worst thing you can do if you want to make your marriage successful and mutually beneficial to both parties. The author/s of the website tell it like it is, straight up, without mincing words. They are not nasty or cruel in their depiction of what an Aspie/NT marriage or relationship is like, they are just honest and unapologetic and what they say is both accurate and comforting to the NT woman who stumbles upon their words.
With all of that being said, I can appreciate how someone with Asperger’s Syndrome would read the pages within this website and think that it is both unfair and incorrect. I can certainly see why they would think it spreads hate-filled words to the world about their disorder. This other side, comprised of individuals with Aspergers are not wrong to perceive it this way. From their perspective, the things said within this website are inaccurate and bigoted because they are unable to see how their actions or words are received on your end. Without the natural use of Theory of Mind, their intentions are all they know to be real. If an Aspie had no intent to cause you harm in their words or actions, there is no chance they are going to believe you when you tell them they did.
As you navigate through this website I would like to highlight two very important pages that I have copied and gone back to many times over the years. I would love to copy and paste these into my post but I will refrain from doing so without permission of the author/s. I will discuss the content to some degree because I think it is important for the NT spouse to go back to these often when you find yourself completely paralyzed by the compounding frustrations of your failed attempts at communicating.
The first is The Bottom Line which lists the somber and upsetting truth of what you will or may already feel is your life and the role you currently play in your relationship. I completely agree with this list and I absolutely believe this WILL be your future if you are unable, unwilling, or unsure of how to alter this dynamic. It is important to read this because I want you to know you are not alone in how you feel, and while you may not want to readily admit that this is your current world, at some point you will come back to it and find yourself submitting and accepting it as reality. The only thing missing from the list is number 13, the author says that if there were a number 13 it would be to “Give it up before you get involved.” I disagree, I think it should say:
This is going to be your Bottom Line unless you radically shift your perspective and think far outside the box that’s been set before you.
The second page on The Neurotypical Site is a table called the Effects of Differing Neuro/Developmental Levels on Neurotypical/Autism Spectrum Adult Relationships. I cannot stress enough how imperative it will be for you to keep this table close by at all times if you want to REALLY begin to understand how your communication attempts go awry, you need to have this readily available to you. Each and every time you find yourself faltering in creating or maintaining a meaningful discussion with your husband, every time his words, actions, or lack thereof cause you grief… look at this table. Find yourself on the left and follow the row to the resulting feelings you are experiencing. This is going to give you a greater understanding of the cognitive processes at play on both ends directly AFTER a misunderstanding or negative reaction occurs. Having this tool is also going to be vital to you in immediately validating the resulting feelings you are experiencing.
I will disclose that looking at this table and the The Bottom Line list at this point in my relationship with my husband, I no longer view those black and white words as concrete and unalterable.
I have felt and agree with everything printed within these two pages, and I recommend them to you as your secondary launching point after reading Tony Attwood’s book. It was absolutely imperative for me to utilize both of these tools to get to the place I am at today. I cycled back and forth many times reading the book and that website and found myself falling down a rabbit hole of other damaging articles and blogs along the way (that served no purpose outside of created resentment and utter despair in my search for happiness). Eventually, I was able to re-ground myself. In the end, going back to the book, re-reading it in its entirety, and then keeping that list and table close by and continuously referencing it for nearly five months, I found the inspiration to begin shifting the dynamic that those two reference points suggested were my definitive future.
I am not bullsh*ting you when I tell you that your life does NOT have to play out this way, it CAN be different. Your husband can learn to behave empathetically toward you, and although he will never see the world through the same eyes, you can help him see through yours and vice versa once all the defensive coping mechanisms that are keeping you separated get broken down. This can happen. There exists the potential for you to be more than a caretaker to your husband, and there exists the potential that your husband will begin to WANT to take care of you as well. I know, I am living it as I type these words.
Start with those two recommendations and I will lead you on to Step #2
If you really follow them, this is the very first and most important step you can take toward discovering and developing your own problem solving skills to better your marriage.
I would not tell you this if I did not believe in my heart it was going to work. I came back to Step #1 many times, and it was not until I actually did these two things and avoided all of the other options out there (to fix my relationship) that I began to see a pathway before me that had not previously existed.
If you have not already read this post, it is my STEP #2: