• Tag Archives Aspergers and Empathy
  • ASPERGER’S SYNDROME & SEX

     

    WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM SEXUALLY?

    Let me know if the word “wrong” seems terribly “wrong” after you read this explanation of your Aspie husband in the bedroom 

     

    I get a ton of personal emails asking me questions about sex in an Aspie-NT marriage, from both Aspies and Neurotypicals alike. Few people are brave enough to ask the question or share personal stories about this part of their relationship on the blog itself, but I commend those who have. This subject is so important to talk about, but also rarely explored in Aspie-NT articles and blogs.  Discussing the deeply private and personal happenings of a couple in the bedroom is sometimes considered “off-limits” for public view. Sometimes this is because of religious beliefs, cultural expectations, or because of the insecurity, embarrassment, and utter humiliation people feel when they expose this part of their inner world to others.

    While I have promised to give full disclosure about my marriage and thoughts through my writing, I have to mention that I cannot share personal stories about my own sex life. As much as I haven’t any reservation openly talking about the good, the bad, or any changes we have made along the way to ensure this part of our life was kept intact, I have made a promise I intend to keep out of respect for my husband.  

    When I began this blog, I asked John if he had specific things he did not want me to disclose to the world about himself or our life. While he is pretty apathetic in general to this blog and said “whatever you want” (I don’t think he actually realizes people READ IT, lol), he did say he did not want me to talk about our sex life in detail.  There was also one silly behavior he has (unrelated to sex) that boggles my mind (to this day) that he is embarrassed about and asked me not to share.  I’m not going to lie, I’d rather share the peculiar behavior he has than our sex life, but I have already pissed him off about this one too many times, so I have to honor his request.  Unfortunately, in the search for “why does he do that?!?” and not getting a rational explanation from him, I began asking one-too-many people what their thoughts were on his behavior (which I told him) and subsequently learned he did NOT appreciate. It isn’t anything perverse or cruel… think OCD-ish.

    Since I am beyond thankful that John has given me his blessing (or utter indifference) to me openly sharing our private life with the world, I would be a real asshole to not respect the only things he requested I not publicly talk about. Luckily, there are enough commonalities to the Aspie-NT sexual concerns out there that I can keep this post pretty generic and you can draw your own conclusions about whether or not any of these “issues” have occurred in my marriage.  

     

     

    SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

    All of the times NT women say that their sex life is poor or non-existent, or that their husband isn’t interested in sex, that he makes them feel undesired, that he is routine and robotic in his actions in bed, that he is only interested in getting his own needs met, that he is too sensitive to touch, etc… I hear you.  

    I hear you, but I need you to consider this:  there is a 90% chance (*Kara-Stats*) that your husband still desires you, wants to please you, would be willing and wanting to follow your lead, and wishes to God he knew exactly what you expected and wanted in bed… because if he did, he would try to make it happen.

    I know you don’t believe me yet, but that’s because you don’t understand what is happening “behind the scenes” and cannot see something so obvious it is probably going to make you feel pretty bad when you realize it.  Don’t feel bad… I didn’t comprehend anything until I began to fully comprehend cognitive empathy.

    Your husband is not sexually disabled or dysfunctional, he is severely impaired by his own insecurities, fear, and anxiety.  

    It is NOT you, it is NOT because he does not like or need sex, it is NOT because he is weird or selfish or uncaring.  My *Kara-Stats* has a 90% assurance that your husband loves you and wants to have sex with you.  I leave 5% open for the men who really could not care less about sex (at all); although some of the Antidepressants our Aspie husbands get prescribed in their youth (when the diagnosis was missed) can cause a loss of sex drive.  I leave the other 5% open to men who should be diagnosed with High Functioning Autism (not Asperger’s syndrome), because HFA would present with someone disinterested in interpersonal engagement (to include sex). 

    If you are thinking that your husband doesn’t care or want sex at all, but does not fit into my non-scientific 10%… you are not alone.  I am betting a developed aversion to sex is to blame for why he appears to not desire this in his life. What do I mean by a “developed aversion” to sex?  Here I go with a random analogy:

    Let’s say someone is allergic to strawberries.  When this person eats strawberries, (even a tiny nibble of one) they break out in embarrassing hives all over their face and neck.  Now pretend this person REALLY loved strawberries as a child (and had no reaction to them) and would have prefered them to ANY other food if given the option. Since this person did not know they were going to develop an allergic response later in life, the first time this happened to them (when they were in the presence of a person they really liked), they were incredibly embarrassed to see their reflection in the mirror.  

    While this person did not suddenly develop an aversion to the taste of strawberries (Hell No! They loved the way they tasted still) they knew they could no longer partake in eating them without suffering an unflattering facial rash.  If that person is in a social setting and offered to taste a delightful strawberry treat, their response will quickly become, “Oh, no! I don’t like strawberries!” 

    THEY DO LIKE STRAWBERRIES!

    In fact, this person likes strawberries so much they still crave them and dream about indulging in everything-strawberry while they sleep at night.  When placed in an environment where they know their love of strawberries is going to have people making fun of them or questioning what is “wrong” with them (because their hive-infested face cannot be ignored), they would rather starve then consider putting a beloved strawberry in their mouth. 

    Tracking? 

    If not… I am trying to tell you that instead of thinking your husband has an aversion to sex, pretend it is an allergy to strawberries!  He wants them, he craves them, he thinks they are delicious… but he experiences unwanted attention and anxiety about the potential (uncontrollable) physical response his body will have if he eats one.  Since his ability to eat a strawberry like a “normal” person without suffering a physiologic response that makes him look “weird” is impaired… he would rather pretend he hates them then expose how silly they make him look. 

     

    SEX IS NONVERBAL

    Being in-tune with a person sexually is LITERALLY the act of using intuitive non-verbal language with one another to the point of physical gratification.

    Think about this for a minute…. sex is almost entirely nonverbal! 

    Your husband is cognitively incapable of processing nonverbal communication unless it is incredibly obvious and/or something he has learned to associate with a need over time and repetition.  Huh?  If you tell your husband that slamming your bag on the dining room table means you are in a bad mood… eventually he is going to know what that nonverbal message means in the future.  He isn’t going to connect the dots that throwing your arms up in the air or saying, “I need to get out of here” means the same thing (I am in a bad mood) as the bag-slamming unless you tell him that as well.  

    Sex is no different and this connection to the nonverbal messages he “thinks” he has deciphered from you (in regard to sex) are often not complete or correct. 

    Guess what?  You inadvertently caused the very things you are unhappy about in your sex life… but it’s ok, it is not your fault any more than it is his so don’t beat yourself up.  

    It would be exceptionally rare for an NT-e to directly state what they want sexually with clear, unambiguous, simple language before or during the act itself (especially in the beginning of the relationship).  There are exceptions to this, as some NT-e women are more mature and open about their sexual needs in general and tell their partner exactly what they like from the start… but I bet you these women aren’t the ones complaining their Aspie husband doesn’t like or need sex!  For all the other NT-e women, they are going to (by nature) let the man take the lead in the bedroom when the relationship first begins to develop.  

    Aspies aren’t so good at taking the lead in a situation like this!

    Considering sex is almost entirely suggestive, indirect, and filled with facial expressions and body language that tells a person they are doing something right, or they are doing something wrong… Aspie husbands are inherently screwed (I’m funny) from the very start.  Honestly, how could your poor Aspie husband ever figure out what he needs to do in bed to make you happy if he can’t even figure out how to have an emotionally-charged conversation with you (whereby you utilize 90% non-verbal language)?  If you are struggling to communicate effectively, it should go without say that your sex life is going to be the epitome of miscommunication; this is why the majority of NT-Aspie marriages include incredibly frustrating feelings toward their private life in the bedroom. 

    Ironic that no one talks about this openly thought, isn’t it?  Something as important as sexual chemistry and satisfaction gets pushed to the backburner; it is still a taboo subject and NT wives feel embarrassed themselves to expose how miserable they are.

    Let me see if I can help clarify this for everyone out there…. I need you to remember when you had your first sexual encounter with someone you REALLY liked…  

    I’m serious… stop reading this for a few minutes and really try to remember how you behaved before, during, and after you had sex with the person?

     Weren’t you nervous? Giggling perhaps? Sensitive to every touch? Unsure if a noise you made or a facial expression would make you sound or look ridiculous?  Weren’t you going through a playbook in your mind of “how to do it right” after reading, hearing about, or watching the way two people “are supposed” to act when they are being intimate? Didn’t that playbook in your mind distract a little from your ability to enjoy the moment because you were so preoccupied with not doing something wrong (or the opposite)? Weren’t you a little afraid after the whole thing was done that the person would not view you the same anymore?

    Now think about most young men and their first sexual encounter at all.  Isn’t there a running joke in society about how their first encounter “only lasted a second?”  Most NT men will willingly laugh about their early days of sex and how they were a “two pump chump” or a complete mess overall and not think much of the humiliation they actually felt during that time in their life. 

    But, imagine if the mortification a young man has in his first sexual encounter never went away and he was always afraid he would experience premature ejaculation or do something wrong and be a disappointment to women for the rest of his life?  

    Welcome to the life of a man with Asperger’s syndrome! 

    Now combine that fear of personal embarrassment to an Aspie who is already riddled with social anxiety and confusion over the messages he is “missing” throughout his life. Think of the countless failures he endured in his attempts to form a close relationship with his peers, let alone a woman he really likes.  How long do you think it will take for that Aspie to develop an aversion or fear of sex in general if he is repeatedly told he is doing something wrong, selfish, or abnormal in bed?  Imagine how it feels to have it pointed out that he is finishing too soon, or asked if there is “something wrong?” with him after sex? 

    An NT male usually (not always) learns to read nonverbal language in bed and eventually (through exposure therapy) learns ways to prolong sex or adapt to their partner’s unique desires.  An anxiety-ridden Aspie, terrified of screwing up or being labeled weird or abnormal (ESPECIALLY from the woman they have fallen for) only has compounding anxieties the longer they are exposed to sex.

     

    Here is what this adverse reaction looks like:

     

    NO INTEREST IN SEX

    Some Aspie men (after hearing they are not pleasing in bed) forgo sex altogether because the humiliation and worry associated with it are too great to emotionally withstand.  They sacrifice something they really want to avoid the unpleasant emotions and thoughts that sex evokes. 

    Regardless of how you spin it, your husband is still a man, and by nature, he has a fragile ego when it comes to society’s expectations in typical-male abilities.  Some Aspie men are so afraid of ever being called out on their inadequacies ever again in the bedroom they will purposely forgo sex altogether in their marriage (even though they still desire it) and develop an unnatural stoicism about the topic as though they are so “manly” they don’t require that kind of mushy-nonsense in their world to be happy. These men seem to be so indifferent to sex that they unknowingly project their assumed inadequacies on their wives and make them feel inadequate or undesirable themselves. 

    In reality… these Aspie men would rather suffer the loss of something they truly crave and want for themselves instead of risking the loss of their spouse to their “incompetent skills.”

    Well now…

    that’s sad. 

    ROBOTIC OR ROUTINE SEX

    Think about how honest you were with your Aspie husband when you initially began having sex?  Did you openly complain about the way he moved a certain way, or something awkward he did during sex?

    OF COURSE NOT, YOU’RE AN NT-e!

    YOU WOULD NEVER HURT SOMEONE’S FEELINGS LIKE THAT!

    How the heck could he know he was doing something wrong or displeasing if you never told him? I’ll bet by the time you did finally try to tell him to change something, you didn’t tell him directly, did you?  Nope.  You used gentle ambiguous words, you used suggestions, you tried to tell him with nonverbal facial expressions or body language, or you may have even disengaged him in sex for a while when he appeared to be ignoring your indirect requests.   

    Guess what?  All of those efforts were completely pointless because he didn’t pick up on any of your messages at all!  What he did pick up on was that you were “being weird” and he wasn’t sure why.

    Eventually you became irritated or frustrated with your husband “not taking the hint” about what you wanted (or didn’t want) in regard to sex.  I bet you even called him on some of the things you didn’t appreciate about your sex life in the heat of an argument didn’t you?  Unfortunately, if you are like most NT women, you probably clearly articulated angry words of disappointment or rejection toward your Aspie husband’s sexual abilities out of anger, didn’t you?  Your bluntness most definitely got through to him at that point. 

    Ugh… this is such an unfortunate and common scenario!

    So in all of the times you thought you were telling your husband (in nice ways) that you wanted more sex, wanted him to try new things, wanted him to pay attention to your needs more, wanted him to work on delaying his orgasm, etc. he wasn’t hearing you.  The first time he did hear you, it was in the form of utterly cruel rejection that he felt completely blindsided by. 

    He couldn’t have known you had building frustration about your sex life (you never explicitly told him).  When you finally unleashed your frustration with unflattering and accusatory words, like, “You’re like a robot in bed!” or something equally hurtful… the only way he should have been expected to respond was with hostility and anger.  Why wouldn’t he?  To him, out of the clear blue sky, you insulted his manhood and attacked his fragile ego.  As an Aspie man, already incredibly insecure about his sexual performance, you just went for the jugular (to him) and maliciously informed him that everything he feared you would think about him… you did. 

    Ouch… that must have hurt him. 

    Of course, being an NT-e, you felt guilty for what you said to him and have acutely keen cognitive empathy so you had little problem identifying that your words hit him hard and they cut deep.  So what did you do in response?  You compound the routine and robotic sex by doing something so damn typical (and ironic) that it is almost comical when you look at it in retrospect. 

    While your “outburst” of insulting your husband’s manhood may have been very well-deserved from your perspective, it was nothing more than a malicious act to humiliate him from where he stood.  In an attempt to mitigate the situation, you may have apologized or tried to explain yourself (this fell on deaf ears).  You may have a husband who withdrew from you sexually as a result of your words.  If he did this for a significant amount of time, it would have compounded your frustration and hurt feelings. 

    But you were still a silly NT-e and you blamed yourself for “going too far” and you couldn’t wait for a chance to make amends for your hurtful actions. 

    The next time you finally had sex again, I bet you were overly appreciative, complimenting, or even fake claiming it was “incredibly amazing” sex.  You may have done this in an attempt to erase the damage you had done.  You may have just been so thrilled he wanted to be intimate with you again (your self-confidence was also on shaky ground) that you were overly verbal about how much you enjoyed the sex because you were praying he didn’t stonewall intimacy in the future.  You knew what positive reinforcement was, so you were hoping if you praised his abilities the next time you had sex, that it would motivate him to want to continue having sex with you because, NT-e women crave physical intimacy… even if it doesn’t lead to intercourse.  

    Oh man… now you’ve done it!

    By providing your husband with that positive reinforcement after feeling so humiliated and insecure, he is going to make a mental note of whatever it is he did “that time” in bed that left you so pleased by him.  It was at your overly reassuring critique of sex that you unknowingly set the stage for him to repeat that intimate encounter (step by step) in every single sexual encounter to come in the future!  He has to repeat it exactly the same way because he doesn’t want to screw it up again.  You gave him confirmation that he did it right that time, so he is not going to want to mess with that recipe of success by changing it up in the future. 

    Let’s say you never verbally unleashed your disappointment in him out loud. Perhaps you both existed in a relationship where you backed off from sex because you were not having your needs met but were “too kind” to openly tell him this. Eventually, you will feel rejected by your husband even if you were the one who stopped allowing it to happen in the first place.  Tired of waiting for him to initiate an intimate encounter, you may engage him yourself one night while in bed.  Your husband, no doubt, would also be feeling rejected from your withdrawal from sex, so he’d be absolutely ecstatic when you showed signs you wanted to be physical with him again.

    Historically speaking, your Aspie partner really has no idea when you want sex if you do not tell him (he can’t pick up on your hints and body language).  On the night you suddenly act as the initiator, his mind will instantly try to nail down the action “he” made to get this wanted response from you.  He will quickly think, “Ok, what the hell did I just do to make her want sex?”  If he decides it was the way he brushed his face across your neck, or stroked your arm… there is a damn good chance he is going to try THAT MOVE again every single time he desires sex (thinking it is your trigger to respond to his wants).  Since most couples are timid sexually when they are newly together, your Aspie husband (clueless about what actions indicate it is “go time”) will automatically default to whatever he thought worked in the past.  He will also automatically default to doing whatever he thinks pleases you, and do it repetitively unless told otherwise.  

    This is why Aspie husbands are constantly accused of being “robotic” in bed.

    Often, we are so sensitive and attracted to our mate in the early days of courtship that even the most basic sexual acts or touches turn us on.  It is just the act of touch alone from the man we desire that sends us into a heightened state of arousal.   If you had this experience in the beginning, you will eventually realize that what once pleased you, is no longer enough after you settle into a long term relationship.  You’re Aspie husband will not have this same epiphany.  

    Even if you never felt incredibly turned on by your husband in the early days of the relationship, you likely still pretended the sex was sufficient if you were hoping it would improve, or just wanting to remain with him into the future. This unspoken dissatisfaction will eventually cause you to feel frustrated that your needs are not being met.  

    This happens in NT-NT marriages as well for similar reasons.  The major difference is that an NT partner will pick up on the nonverbal messages that something is amiss and has the ability to try to change things for the better… or at least address them openly.  The Aspie husband is not going to ever know things aren’t up to par (in your mind) and will continue assuming you are content in your sex life unless you directly say something.

    Regardless of how you initially behaved toward your husband regarding sexual intimacy, if you do not vocalize that your needs have changed, or become comfortable enough to tell him what you really want… he is never going to figure it out on his own!  If he thinks you are happy or satisfied from the beginning… he is not going to change his behavior because… HE IS TERRIFIED OF LOSING YOU and doesn’t want you do discover that he is not a “sexual genius” in the bedroom. 

    You see… it was never about him NOT wanting to please you… 

    it was about him NOT WANTING TO DISAPPOINT YOU. 

    Your Aspie husband never knew, does not know, and will never know what you want UNLESS YOU TELL HIM.

    He is NOT a robot so STOP enabling him to act like one.

    PREMATURE EJACULATION (PE)

    Let’s tackle this taboo subject once and for all. 

    Premature ejaculation is the uncontrolled ejaculation that occurs either before or shortly after penetration.  PE happens with minimal sexual stimulation and before the person (or their partner) wants it to.  PE causes unsatisfied feelings for the NT wife and embarrassment for the Aspie husband. 

    Going back to the “teenage or young adult” man in his early days of being sexually active, PE is an incredibly common experience and it can create anxiety for any young man… it can create debilitating anxiety for an Aspie who is already riddled with self-criticism and insecurity where interpersonal relationships are concerned. 

    Despite PE being the most common form of sexual dysfunction for all men (NT or Aspie), it will happen to almost every one of them at least once in their lifetime… but it is rarely discussed.  The cause of PE is not clear, but it is associated with inexperience, new partners, or long spans of time between ejaculations.  The general opinion of medical professionals is that anxiety is the underlying psychological cause for the majority of men who suffer from PE.   

    Since it goes without say (I hope) that men with Asperger’s syndrome are plagued with chronic anxiety in social environments, it would make sense that men with Aspergers are at an incredibly heightened risk of experiencing PE over the average man. 

    But let’s talk about other reasons this is so common amongst Aspies.

    Tourette’s syndrome is the involuntary movement or vocalization of sounds made by a person intermittently and seemingly without cause.  These movements or sounds are called motor or vocal “tics” and become more severe when a person is stressed or placed in an anxiety-provoking environment. 

    Premature ejaculation is just like Tourette’s syndrome (ok, it isn’t… but try to play along with my analogy).  Let’s say a person has Tourette’s syndrome and their particular tic is a noticeable shrugging of their shoulders that can often seem dramatic and distracting to those around them.  This person has a unique “tic” that once you become aware of it… you can disregard it as anything “bizarre or worrisome” and may even look past its existence after a while.  When you are in public with this person and realize they are feeling anxious, you may notice they are shrugging their shoulders in an increasing and more dramatic way.  If you are close to this person, you may think, “Ok, that’s their motor tic, they are stressed, no biggie.”  It will be easily accepted by you that increased stress means an increased display of the severity of this person’s motor tic.

    Now think about PE.

    If a young Aspie has the same experience as a young NT in their first sexual encounter, whereby they reach orgasm long before they intended to, they will feel anxiety about the reoccurrence of it in a similar way. 

    While both men are equally embarrassed and afraid they will continue to experience PE in the future, the NT male may read about ways to offset this or delay orgasm and put them into practice the next time.  Relaxation and focusing on other things is one of the most recommended tactics to utilize as a first line of action toward preventing PE. 

    The Aspie may read the same stuff, but they are at a severe disadvantage to the NT the next time they are placed in an intimate encounter.  The Aspie has a profound amount of anxiety JUST BEING in a “one on one” situation with a person they wish to be close to.  They have lived a life of rejection (for reasons unknown to them) and they are going to walk into each “date” or social event terrified they will screw it up or make the woman want to run from them. 

    This fear does not get better after a grace period (as it might for an NT man) because the Aspie is truly not certain what he has ever done (or not done) to cause social rejection throughout his entire life.

    You can’t change something you can’t understand.

    Since PE is predominantly a result of anxiety, the Aspie man is effectively screwed when compared to the NT because he is unable to exist in a non-anxious state long enough to even attempt the suggestions that might help him delay orgasm in the future. 

    If the Aspie man is afraid this will happen to him during sex, he is going to be LESS likely to ever prevent it.  Just like Tourette’s syndrome, the tic is an “uncontrolled and involuntary” action that becomes more severe as stress increases.  PE is an uncontrolled and involuntary action that becomes more likely as anxiety increases.

    That seems pretty simple…

    It sucks…

    But it definitely makes rational sense, right?

    I know there are tons of people who want to claim that the PE experienced by Aspies is a direct result of their Asperger-induced sensitivities.  I have a lot to say on the subject of tactile, audible, visual, etc. “sensitivities” that those with Asperger’s syndrome continuously sight as the “reason” for their behavior (from avoidance to full-on temper tantrums).  Since I have another long post dedicated to this subject, I will only say that while I do not discount the fact that Aspies have an increased likelihood of such sensitivities, I do think they need to stop hiding behind them as an excuse.  I believe strongly that all of these “sensitivities” are modifiable and preventable if the “cause” is looked at closely.  I do not endorse the use of them as an excuse to disengage or inappropriately respond to people or environments.

     

    Dammit…

    Now I have opened that can of worms and I haven’t put up that post yet to back my “inconsiderate” opinion.  

    Ok, I feel compelled to offer a few examples to offset the anticipated onslaught of defensively angry Aspies who will chastise my words…

    I am a nurse and I have seen countless examples of how the human brain causes automatic physical responses to protect itself from a perceived threat.  For example, if a person has had their leg broken, they may have excruciating pain when someone touches that extremity.  They may have damaged nerves that compound the sensitivity and a seemingly gentle touch may feel as though a person is squeezing, stabbing, or crushing their poor broken limb. 

    While this person’s sensitivity is the direct result of a traumatic injury, their brain will begin to create an automatic response to any degree of physical contact with that leg to tell them they are in danger… to the point that if a person even comes close to it, or they “think” the nurse is “going” to touch their leg… they will shriek out in pain as though they have been severely hurt. I do not doubt they are actually feeling the very pain causing them to cry out, even though the nurse hasn’t even touched them!  Why?  Because the brain is telling them they are going to be harmed and it is causing the physical manifestation of discomfort to thwart further injury to their already compromised leg. 

    The brain is incredibly defensive of the physical self. 

    Here’s the thing… this same patient won’t even flinch when the nurse is actually touching (and sometimes with pain causing actions) their broken leg if they are in a deep sleep and have no knowledge an “attack” is approaching.

    Fear of pain causes actual pain.

    Want another example?  Ok, let’s say there is a woman who was physically abused by her uncle at a young age.  Every time this abuse took place, it was in the uncle’s kitchen, where fluorescent lights were overhead.  Without realizing it, this child may have had neurological synapses connect themselves to the parts of the brain that process both light and fear. In an attempt to protect the physical self from further assault, the brain has now made a connection that the young girl is completely unaware of. 

    As an adult, this woman may find herself stricken with paralyzing anxiety and fear the moment she is placed in an environment with fluorescent lighting.  She may have no idea why this occurs, since she did not consciously connect fluorescent lighting with physical abuse as a child… but it doesn’t make the trauma she experiences when placed in such lighting any less profound.

    Fear causes actual physical responses to a threat.

    Tracking?

    Going back to the idea that PE occurs at a higher rate for Aspie men because they have all of these debilitating sensitivities… “caused” by Asperger’s syndrome itself, is not really true.  The sensitivity to touch that causes PE is because of ANXIETY, therefore, the brain connects the sexual act of touch as a perceived threat to their physical self and how their body suffers when it is in an anxious state.  This connection between touch and anxiety can cause an unconscious aversion (sensitivity) to it. 

    Aspie men are fearful they will experience PE and their body may become hypersensitive to touch in general… this can turn into a husband who tells their wife they don’t want to be “touched” at all.  Naturally, the reason for his words are not understood and make the wife feel unwanted and rejected.  He is not going to be able to articulate why he has this sensitivity and he is most definitely not going to realize that thwarting physical contact makes his wife feel unloved. He can’t make this connection unless she directly tells him how it makes her feel.  

    Once again, if a man is afraid of reaching orgasm too soon and disappointing his wife or being viewed as inferior or abnormal, he is going to become anxious about it.  If he is anxious, the likelihood of ever preventing it from happening becomes an impossibility.

    It all comes down to using direct language to express what you are thinking and feeling to the person you are married to. 

    If the Aspie husband knew that his wife understood WHY he had this problem and that she did not think less of him for it… she might help ease his anxiety (which could slowly begin to fix the problem).  If the wife were able to verbalize to him that there are other things he can do to “compensate” for it that will make both partners feel loved and sexually prioritized, the feelings of anxiety and self-criticism can begin to wean as well (over time). There are ways to improve and work on these issues but they require direct communication and willingness to listen.  

    Don’t expect your husband to joyously engage in this discussion with you.  Actually, you should anticipate an impressing show of hostility at first.

    Remember that anger masks all of his other emotions.  If you remain calm and allow him to speak (and do not overwhelm his mind with flurries of words he has to decipher) you will see other emotions lurking behind his seemingly “hostile” behavior. 

    While your husband may continue to speak with a loud, nasty, or angry tone; listen to his actual words… you will usually find a wide range of other emotions and feelings being expressed like fear, embarrassment, anxiety, stress, rejection, etc.

    It is absolutely imperative that an NT spouse understands that her husband cannot receive her nonverbal messages because he does not have cognitive empathy.  It is even more important to realize that lacking cognitive empathy means her husband has NO CLUE how his own nonverbal messages are being presented to the outside world. 

    Your husband does not know he sounds angry, he does not know he appears irate, he does not know his tone and pitch sound accusatory or cruel.  He is not intending to do this (sometimes he is) but more often than not, he has as much awareness about how his words and behaviors appear to you… as he does about what your words and behaviors should mean to him.

     

    YOU HAVE TO START LISTENING TO WHAT HE IS ACTUALLY SAYING, NOT THE WAY HE IS SAYING IT!!!

    Oh, by the way…

    Your husband suffers from Premature Ejaculation because,

    HE IS AFRAID HE WILL SUFFER FROM PREMATURE EJACULATION

    (Enjoy that irony!)

    IN CONCLUSION

    Stop assuming your husband is not interested in sex. 

    Stop assuming your husband doesn’t find you attractive. 

    Stop assuming your husband is selfish in bed. 

    Stop assuming your husband is an asshole in general. 

    Start taking a step back and looking at this entire dynamic from outside the box.

    The answers you seek are just lurking behind your ability to communicate with direct language.

     

    Still think your husband has something “wrong” with him sexually?

    Think maybe there is just something “wrong” with the way you communicate instead?


  • HOW TO TEACH EMPATHY TO SOMEONE WITH ASPERGER’S SYNDROME part 1

    Part 1: It can’t be done, can it?

              Ok, so I know you NT wives wish there was some easy method of getting your husband to think the way you do.  Hell, I think every couple out there wishes they could get their spouse to just “grasp” what they are thinking sometimes. 

                    We think we want this but honestly, it would probably suck royally if our spouse DID know everything we were thinking on any given day.  What we really want is for our husband to be able to empathize with us a little more; or in an Aspie-NT marriage… at all.

                    Why can’t our husband ever empathize with us?  We have tried everything we could think of over the years (and decades for some) and yet we still come up short.  They just don’t appear to comprehend or care how we are feeling. 

                    As I have said before, there are two types of empathy we are waiting for; cognitive and affective (emotional) empathy (if you have not read that post, stop here and read THIS first).  Nine out of ten times you need cognitive empathy to be able to feel the affective kind (Kara-Stat).  The good news is your husband already has emotional empathy.  So you don’t have to teach that one; sweet, we’re halfway there… unless the Kara-statistic is legit, then we’re only 10% of the way there.

                    Yeah, yeah, I know.  It doesn’t always “feel” like he has even 10% of his empathetic ability functioning.  I get it.  Remember, affective/emotional empathy is when you are aware that someone is hurting, it makes you feel hurt, and you want to alleviate that emotional anguish for the plagued person.  Since your husband is very rarely AWARE that you are hurting, he can’t exactly respond appropriately or give a crap about feelings he doesn’t know exist.  Your husband does not have cognitive empathy; the ability to pick up on facial cues, body language, and underlying meaning behind words that indicate what someone is thinking/feeling.  No matter how hard you try to get your feelings across to him, unless you verbalize them in a clear, non-threatening and non-accusatory way, he isn’t going to be able to ever give you the emotional empathy you need to feel better and move forward in a happy marriage.   

                    It is vitally important to comprehend the difference between the two types of empathy if you want your marriage to be happy.

                    Most professionals out there will dismiss my claim that those with Aspergers are entirely absent of cognitive empathy.  Actually, I think almost every professional would tell me that I am not correct in this blanket assumption at all and there are so many other factors involved.  I will also bet that these professionals are not neurotypicals married to an adult with Aspergers who went undiagnosed well-into adulthood.  It is easy to say “No way, it isn’t that simple” when you are not actually living with this dynamic.  These professionals can counsel, provide therapy for, or study hundreds of thousands of people with Aspergers, but until they are intimately involved and see what we NT wives do… they are just not in a position to discount something that really is so simple.  They are definitely not in a position to do so when there is about as much information out there to back my theory as there is to refute it. 

                    Neuroscience and genetics are still lacking in the study of empathy and those who have made it their life’s work to study empathy (Simon Baron-Cohen being one of the few) tend to lean more toward the idea that cognitive empathy IS entirely absent for aspies.  Baron-Cohen also seems to lean toward the idea that affective empathy is also so far removed that he struggles to commit to the fact that Aspies DO have this ability.  Again though, most professionals are studying those with Asperger’s syndrome and their interpersonal relationships from outside the box.  If they don’t know what it is we NT wives saw in our husbands that made us fall for them in the first place, it is easy to dismiss that we DID see emotional empathy in the beginning.  We knew the man we loved was different (and certainly not cunning enough to be a sociopath) but we felt loved by him once… and that kind of love cannot exist without emotional empathy.  Due to misunderstandings and a lack of knowledge about what Asperger’s syndrome actually meant for our communication abilities within the marriage, we watched the feelings of love and security that come from emotional empathy fade to the point we began to convince ourselves we imagined it in the beginning.  Even Baron-Cohen suggests that our husbands had a mimic-like behavior of “normal men” in the initial days of dating but did not actually possess empathy toward us.  I disagree with this and I will bet that a large part of your pain came from questioning those early days and wondering how you could have been duped into seeing something that did not exist.  You were not duped, you just behaved a little different back then as well, and your husband had not yet build up a defensive fortress to keep you out.

                    So here is it:

                    Your husband does not have cognitive empathy and you really cannot teach it to him in a useful way (perhaps someday).

                    IT IS THAT SIMPLE

                    It makes me sad that everything is so over-complicated and I will say for the millionth time that lumping Asperger’s syndrome into Autism did NOT help this.  Instead of focusing on therapy that could help make sense of everything that snowballed from this ONE cognitive deficit, we exist in a society that has no practical advice to give adult men with Asperger’s syndrome or the NT women who are married to them. 

    (Don’t hate me Aspie women or NT men… I know you exist just the same)

                    So why should you believe what I am telling you when I cannot scientifically prove my theory either? 

                    For starters, I have seen the changes I prayed for occur in my marriage when I am patient enough to turn off my own instinctive style of communicating (for a second) and utilize the language my husband can comprehend.  

    Humor this analogy for me:

     

    Imagine that English is your first language and you took a few semesters in French at school and enjoyed it enough that you decided to go on a study-abroad trip for a semester to solidify what you had learned.  While in France, you met an incredible man in the grocery store who took your breath away and gave you an instinctual feeling of comfort. To your complete joy, this French man was equally smitten by you and the two of you could not deny the magnetic connection you had made in such a chance encounter. You spend the entire semester with this man and by the time you are supposed to return to the U.S., you had both fallen passionately in love with one another. Even though you barely spoke his language, it had been enough to communicate the words required to solidify this magnificent bond… but neither of you realized HOW MUCH French you still had to learn if you were going to keep this magic from fading as fast as it appeared.

    Now imagine that you and this man cannot stand the thought of being apart and you make a bold move to take your love to a new level and get married so you can stay in France with him.  You know that this is risky, but you also know in your heart that you cannot walk away from this gut-feeling that you have to take this risk!

    At first, the transition to a new world is exciting and you embrace the new culture and your new love’s environment with incredible enthusiasm. Eventually though, you find it more and more challenging to acclimate to this foreign land and even more difficult to communicate to your husband how you are feeling.  Sure, your French has improved a bit, particularly when you were highly motivated to learn as much as possible in the initial days of romantic infatuation… but now you need to be fluent in the language if you want to express your needs and feelings to your new spouse in a way he can comprehend.  It is not until you try to talk about the complexity of your emotional feelings that you realize how very limited your communication ability actually is in his native tongue.

    Imagine if every time you tried to get your feelings across to him, he looked at you with indifference because you weren’t making any sense. The more frustrated this failure to express something so important (to someone so important) becomes, the worse you become at articulating your needs in French.  Imagine if everything you tried to convey came out as confused messages to your new husband and you become so overwhelmed you begin defaulting to English.  Regardless of how hard you try to explain your feelings articulately in English to him, he is unable to comprehend a word you are saying.  Your French husband does not know a SINGLE WORD in English and he has less comprehension of your communication attempts than when you were using poorly-constructed French.

    You want to step in here and say that if your new husband LOVED YOU, than HE would try to learn ENGLISH and the two of you could meet in the middle… right?!?!?

    Well, try to imagine that he has a neuro-deficit in the lobes of his brain that control language and he hasn’t the neurological ability to EVER understand English… despite how much he wishes he could (for your sake).

    What do you do?  There are really only three options to consider:

    1. Do you leave this man you fell in love with? A man that you “could” learn to communicate effectively with, but it requires your efforts to learn a second language as fluently as your know your first one?  

    2. Do you stay in the marriage and defiantly continue speaking English and praying he is going to magically comprehend your words someday? Do you staunchly refuse to learn French better because it “isn’t fair” that you have to be the one doing all the hard work?

    Or…

    3. Do you accept the things that you cannot change, remove blame and fault from your husband (who wishes more than anything that he could understand and speak English for your benefit, because he adores you)… and do you just try like hell to learn to speak French every single day until you can communicate with the same ease you do by utilizing English?  

    #3 is the option required of you to apply the cognitive empathy deficit your husband has to effectively bridging the gap of communication in your marriage.

    YES, IT IS THAT SIMPLE. 

     

                    Simple does not mean easy.  This is no simple task to ask of someone… not at all! Not by a long shot and HOLY CRAP do you have your work cut out for you if you want to take on such a challenging endeavor.

    Is it worth it?

    If you consider that analogy, what would you tell that woman?  Would you tell her to just suck it up and work hard to learn French because it is something that she “is capable” of doing, and he is not? Would you tell her that if that is ALL that truly stands between her and the love of her life’s potential for effective communication and a happy future, she would be a fool to not at least TRY?  

    The thing is, even in a dynamic like that (which makes more sense to people than this cognitive empathy deficit often does), no one is thinking about the incredibly justifiable resentment that woman is going to feel as she puts forth the majority of initial effort to bridge the communication gap in the marriage.

    If someone could promise that woman that at the end of her seemingly one-sided and exhaustive efforts; her husband would be on the other end ready to join her in a mutually beneficial marriage with equal effort for the remainder of the relationship… would it seem like an easier choice to make?  If there was proof that relationships like this can and do exist (there are), then wouldn’t the many examples of failed relationships of this nature seem like less of a threat?

    This analogy is very appropriate for an Aspie-NT marriage… the problem is, no one ever identified what the language barrier WAS and therefore, no one can provide examples of proven success for an NT reluctant to take on such a profound effort.  

    I understand that you all want “proof” before you will buy into such a daunting task, but this is something you have to learn to apply on an individual level because not everyone has the capacity to invest the type of commitment it would require (particularly after years of failure that make any further efforts on your behalf seem unworthy). All I ask is that you pick #1 or #3 on that list… you’ve been stuck in #2 for so damn long that you have to realize THAT option is never going to yield success.

    My husband and I are far from perfect and this is not smooth sailing by any means… but we are both genuinely happy, both trying, and both beginning to finally understand one another and fall in love again.  When we have misunderstandings now… they STILL turn into silly fights that are ridiculous and unnecessary (again, I am not claiming this is easy).  The difference is, my husband John and I are learning to put ourselves in check (on our own) and come back to the other person with a calm and effective use of words to clear up our communication breakdowns now, instead of letting them spiral out of control.  What would have been a stupid fight that led to a week of hostility, tears, and ignoring one another is now a stupid fight that leads to a few hours apart and one of us initiating the peace treaty.  In all honesty, my husband is the one reaching out to resolve conflict first these days, and I am beginning to realize what a stubborn jerk I can be and finally learning how to correct some of my own negative behavior patterns. 

                    No one made this light-bulb go on for me.  After years of searching for help in person, online, by reading and communicating with others in my shoes… there was never any magic moment that helped me finally discover what was broken in our marriage, and why.  What it took was years of reading everything I could find about Asperger’s syndrome, emotional abuse, toxic relationships, couples therapy, mental health diseases and disorders, personality disorders, brain development, successful couples and overall family dynamics.  I wrote down everything that seemed useful.  I read advice from religious counselors, psychologists, sociologists, psychiatrists, spiritual gurus, other neurotypicals, and those with Aspergers.  I wrote down anything that seemed beneficial.  I searched for people in terrible relationships and how and why they got out, and I wrote it down.  I looked up everything I could about people in happy marriages from those that were young to those that had been married for sixty years, and I wrote it down.  In the end I was left with endless notes, highlighted articles and books, and a ton of bookmarked web pages that got me no closer to saving my marriage than when I began. 

                    Useless on their own, these compilations of information served to isolate what was really going on in my marriage when I went back to them as a whole.  

                    The hardest thing for me to ever accept was that my husband did not have empathy… toward me or anyone else.  Equally hard was that he did have empathy, just not for me.  This concept caused me more agony than anything else along my journey for answers.  No one could ever really pinpoint what empathy meant to them though.  I decided that if John could not have emotional empathy… if he had no capacity for it… than I would not stay with him because that would mean he was akin to a psychopath. I saw no world in which a human was completely devoid of emotional empathy and could be considered a good person, so there was no way I could stay with someone that was inherently evil.  When I tried to apply this concept, I knew it did not fit.  Outside of not being calculating or smooth enough to manipulate anyone (like psychopaths can) he did not appear to derive any pleasure at all from my negative emotions, quite the opposite of the only other identified humans without emotional empathy.  When this rationale for ending my marriage failed, I tried to apply the opposite to it.  If John did have emotional empathy, that meant he was just an asshole who didn’t love me or care how I was feeling.  This didn’t fit either since I knew that I was the only person (besides his parents) that ever meant anything to him or that he ever really invested any interest or attention in.  I wasn’t entirely smart enough to go full steam into the field of neuroscience, but I put enough effort into trying to decipher what was going on biologically with my husband to realize that avenue was just as hopeless as the rest (at this time). 

                    I wanted to leave my failing marriage because I had no understanding of why we were so miserable and no direction to turn to for a brighter future.  I just didn’t want to leave until I had some tangible answers in my hand to tell me there stood no potential for happiness.  As much as the statistics on failed and/or miserable Aspie-NT marriages confirmed we were screwed, I still wanted something that would alleviate my future feelings of guilt for “giving up” on us.  Call me selfish, but that was one of the major things that kept me in a miserable marriage for so long; I did not want to walk until I knew for certain it wasn’t my fault and I tried everything I could.

                    It was only going back through personal accounts from those with an Asperger diagnosis that I began to really focus on their childhood and recognize a pattern in all of my years of searching.  I really honed in on this pattern and turned back to the writings of parents who have Aspie children and realized they were confirming what I thought, day after day, writing after writing.  I opened up all of the books I had read (with NT and Aspie authors) and saw the same thing within the subtext.  I went back to the “beginning” accounts of NT-Aspie marriages and how they came to be… same thing.  I looked at the psychological profiles and diagnostic criteria… check.  Neurological imaging that had been done and compared it to what is known about empathy to date… yup.  Then I began to apply this to my husband, and to all of the Aspies I interact with professionally and it all seemed to finally make sense. 

                    Despite all of the behaviors, deficits, comorbidities, and other “connections” made about those with Aspergers, the only constant that accounts for all of it is that there is no cognitive empathy.  They all had affective empathy in their youth, every single one (but seemed absent of it in adult relationships).  The only common link in every example I have ever seen regarding Asperger’s syndrome that can be applied across the board is this lack of cognitive empathy.  When you really start picking apart an Aspie’s social experiences from the beginning, the lack of cognitive empathy can be attributed to damn-near every manifestation of negative adult behavior.  Obviously we are all unique individuals and everyone’s life experience shapes who they are.  I’m sure that some adult Aspies really are just assholes, as are their neurotypical counterparts.  In giving the benefit of the doubt to those out there with enough heart to be searching for answers, I would have to say most of the people I have gleamed this insight from really are good people at their core.  Honestly, I am a little inclined to say that the adult Aspies I have met and learned from tend to be a little more decent than your average NT.   

                    With all of the things I had tried in my marriage to “get through” to my husband, nothing worked until I applied the knowledge that he did not have cognitive empathy.  When I told him this, he got defensive as though I was telling him once again why everything was his fault and why he was broken and I was not.  Having never heard this very simple explanation about his processing abilities, it was completely understandable that he denied it.  I didn’t have a shred of evidence to back what I was saying to him and there was no way he would entertain my stack of literature and highlighted connections.  After so many years of being told different things by “professionals” who had it all figured out (including the pills he could swallow to be normal) he just didn’t have the openness left to humor one more theory about his life of social injustices.  I don’t blame him.  By that point I had tried to apply a million other theories and methods to improve him and our life (never realizing the change was predominantly mine to make). 

                    I spent a few weeks trying to get John to listen to what I was saying to him about cognitive empathy and getting angry and frustrated that he would not.  I still had not fully realized the personal changes I had to make in order to alter the path we were on so I was doggedly focused instead on making him understand what cognitive empathy was (not sure how I expected HIM to fix anything if he had listened to me).  The more I tried to strike up conversation about this, the harder the door slammed in my face (because I was trying to explain it all to him in a foreign language, rather than one he could comprehend!).  John was hell-bent on avoiding any communication that might evoke emotion from me so despite this enlightened epiphany I had, it held zero practical value in salvaging our dying marriage.  

    Going back to that foreign language analogy: despite grasping the difference between cognitive and emotional empathy, I had very little skill in applying it to my marriage.  The problem was… I couldn’t see that.  Each and every time I attempted to speak to John about “what was wrong” in our relationship, I began speaking to him in French and he was willing to listen for a moment.  Without ever realizing I was doing it, I rapidly defaulted to English (my natural language of communication) within minutes of his initial willingness to hear me out. The INSTANT John heard a single English word come out of my mouth, he was DONE TALKING! Since I had no idea I was still failing to accomplish something I thought I had a firm grasp on, I continued to think it was John who was failing me.  

    We had gotten to a point where he was fearful in discussing anything with me other than trivial small talk.

                    After some time, I resolved to give up.  I really believed I understood what went wrong in John’s life and in our marriage.  I tried very hard to disprove my new theory, but the more I tried (by way of continued reading) the more I solidified my belief that it was at the heart of everything.  Of course, none of it mattered because John wasn’t open to the idea that there was anything wrong or different between he and I and laughed off the suggestion that he was missing “nonverbal” messages everyone else could readily see, as though he was not aware of “another language” even existing (he wasn’t). If we could not move forward with this new understanding, then we could no longer stay in the same place, we had to move apart.  I got John a flight back to his home state and prepped for the end.  At least I finally had the answer I was looking for, and I would know that it wasn’t my fault our marriage ultimately failed because I could blame John for refusing to communicate with me.

                    One evening, with bags packed and a flight the following morning, John broke down.  This time it was for real.  He sat on the floor between our bed and his closet and just sobbed.  He cried in a way I needed to see… the way I had sat on the floor and cried so many times before.  I wasn’t kind or empathetic toward him at all.  Instead, I spoke firmly without any degree of emotion and I gave him one alternative to staying, one option that would make me believe we had a shot at fixing our marriage.  To my surprise, he agreed to do anything I asked.

                    The next morning, we went to the store and purchased a GoPro HERO Session(which was the smallest camera I could find) to begin my plan of attack.  24 hours a day, 7 days a week I would wear a camera on my head and document our life as I saw it.  John agreed to willingly allow this to happen.

                    If I could get my husband to literally walk in my shoes by seeing life through my eyes (or through the lens of a camera) I could get him to finally understand where I was coming from.  I thought I had discovered a way to teach empathy to my husband.  I ended up teaching myself a whole lot more…

     


  • WHAT ABOUT ASPERGER’S SYNDROME AND EMPATHY: Aspie vs. Antisocial Personality Disorder

    MY ASPIE HUSBAND IS NOT A PSYCHOPATH & NEITHER IS YOURS

    There is a lot of information out there alluding to the fact that aspies are psychopaths or sociopaths, or at a minimum, behave the same way as someone with Antisocial Personality Disorder.  One of my favorite posts on this controversial comparison was written by a woman who took a lot of flak for her opinion (http://psychopathsandlove.com/psychopathy-or-aspergers-syndrome/)

    This author predominantly writes about psychopaths, but I must say, her article specific to men with Asperger’s syndrome struck a chord with me.  It struck a chord because it was so disturbingly accurate to what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a relationship with an Aspie partner that I wanted to commend her for bringing it to light in a harsh but unnervingly truthful way.  The only thing I would have to disagree with in her article, is that she alludes to there being no hope for the Aspies she is referring to; I submit that the reason behind their behavior is a little more innocent and heartbreaking than she is willing to consider (although I haven’t any blame for that).

    There is a reason that the women in relationships with adult Aspies have so much negativity to put out to the world (or anyone who will listen).  It begins with the very simple fact that the men in their lives either lack a formal diagnosis for Asperger’s syndrome, or, they have opted to do nothing constructive with the diagnosis to improve their relationship (like acknowledge it at all).  The wife or girlfriend, in contrast, doggedly searches for help, advice, and knowledge.  She has no idea she is receiving useless information along the way.  All she knows is that she is investing all of herself in making the relationship better, and her partner is completely disinterested in joining her efforts.

    The resulting effect on the devastated and desperate woman, who continues to try to make things “better” is the so-dubbed Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome (OTRS) or Cassandra Phenomenon (http://www.faaas.org/otrscp.html), or any other name by which these ill-effects have been titled.  If you don’t care to check out what those “non” diagnoses are, I can sum them up by telling you they are the negative physical and emotional distress experienced when the person you love fails to regard you in a compassionate and empathetic way… day after day.  

    If you are an Aspie husband reading this, you either have to consider your wife’s crying and constant demands for attention and love (combined with the complaints she is not getting it from you) means she is truly an emotional wreck (through no fault of yours) who imagines things… or there is something else going on that it may be time for you to consider.  

    While this may initially sound like another bashing of those men out there with Asperger’s syndrome, please read through the post before deeming it as such and closing the page (this is different).  

     

    So I believe in this diagnosis (OTRS), speaking from the experience of living in it, and I believe it should be acknowledged by the medical community.  On a side note I find it disturbing that the mental health community embraces PTSD but chooses to turn a blind eye to those still in the midst of what will inevitably become that diagnosis!  I also believe I fully comprehend how and why OTRS has come to exist.  I also believe I know how to make it go away… and it is as simple as grasping exactly what empathy is and how it has managed to adversely affect the lives of almost all (ok ALL) Asperger adults and their neurotypical loved ones.

    Ok, here it goes… try to keep up with me if you can because this is going to be a doozy….

     

    If you are a highly empathetic neurotypical, then you grasp empathy fully and completely, right?  You may or may not have read my rants about how the only thing lacking in an Aspie from birth is empathy… not another damn thing other than the completely absent and all-encompassing necessary life force that is empathy.  I have said that everything else that exists (sensory issues, absent ToM, preoccupation with special interests, ADHD, OCD, ODD, Tourette’s, etc.) are all secondary manifestations of this lack of empathy. 

    I hold strong to this.

    I have to rescind my previous statements though that male aspies have ZERO empathy.  I was not really clear in what I meant by this so I am going to clarify it once and for all.

     

    Male Aspies have ZERO cognitive empathy

     

    What the hell does that mean?

    Cognitive empathy is the ability to read facial expressions, body language, tone of voice and other nonverbal messages, as well as inferences that aren’t directly stated.  All of these (alone or combined) enable a person to decipher what someone is thinking or feeling.  I realize this concept may be incredibly challenging to grasp for a person with Aspergers because they can look at someone and identify that they are smiling or frowning, happy or sad (for the most part).  They can also make many inferences within verbal communication by the time they are adults and learn to “read between the lines” to some extent.  Aspies are not “dumb” as my husband John always wants to point out when I tell him, “you can’t see what I do.”

    What they do not realize (and nor do their loved ones) is that there are about a thousand other messages that come in the form of nonverbal communication that someone with Asperger’s syndrome will never be able to pick up on and even though they can learn to identify some of these with a great deal of assistance, this ability will never come naturally.  They will never be able to develop their cognitive empathy to that of a neurotypical individual, or even come close.

     

    Cognitive Empathy Development

    I am not going to tell you I know the cause for the disconnect with cognitive empathy, but I lean toward it actually being a complete absence of synaptic neural pathways to the lobes of the brain that control it from the time this person is developing in utero.  Not that they have synapses connected but lack enough neurotransmitters to send the messages across them… I think the synapses simply do not exist, at all.  In fact, I think the absence of these neural pathways that connect cognitive empathy are utilized elsewhere in the brain (same overall numbers, connected in different regions).  For instance, the Aspie without the neural pathways for cognitive empathy got a few more connections elsewhere… maybe in the lobes that control mathematics, or art?  This certainly accounts for why so many Aspies have gifts in one special area (talent) at a higher rate than their neurotypical counterparts though, doesn’t it?  I strongly suspect that this also accounts for all of the other deficits, heightened sensory or tactile issues, and behavior manifestations that people lump together as “characteristics” of someone with Asperger’s syndrome. 

    After exhaustive research, I have concluded that a child born with Asperger’s syndrome lacks connectivity in those parts of the brain that control cognitive empathy.  

    They simply are NOT talking to each other… AT ALL.  

    These are all just *Kara-Facts* and cannot be proven or disproven with what currently exists in neuroscience.

    Since the brain develops at a rapid rate in our early childhood years through interactions that enable environmental and social awareness, it would make sense that certain areas of an adult Aspie brain also become less developed than their neurotypical counterpart who did not encounter the same horrific social alienation an Aspie child does.  

      Outside of the absent neural pathways for cognitive empathy, I do believe that the underdeveloped neural pathways for all of the other social awareness abilities (to include emotional empathy and Theory of Mind) can be improved upon at any age.  I am not entirely convinced that cognitive empathy could not be created for an Aspie at a VERY early age either, since the study of neuroplasticity suggests it might be possible to rewire synaptic pathways that don’t exist if it is caught before those lost connections are cemented as permanent.  Even with a remote chance that this were possible, without the studies confirming my personal belief existing, there is no hope of accomplishing such a profound thing.

    Let’s consider that cognitive empathy cannot be had in a child born without the connections in their brain to ever have it.  This would not mean that all of the other synaptic connections that are incredibly weak (areas like Theory of Mind) cannot be strengthened, regardless of the individual’s age.  In regard to neuroplasticity, the science suggests that as long as there are neural synapses in existence, call them thready or weak, they can be strengthened at any time.

    The brain is an incredible machine.

    I get that I am oversimplifying something that is incredibly complicated.  I get that there is a whole lot that goes into empathy in regard to neurology and that science is still unclear of what’s connected to what, etc.  At this time, I am just going to simplify it and say:

    Adults with Asperger’s syndrome = ZERO cognitive empathy

     

    So what can those with cognitive empathy do that Aspies can’t again?

    We Neurotypicals can and do communicate with one another nonverbally to the point that we can generally tell what another is thinking without any words being spoken.  I am not suggesting we are psychic or telepathic, and holy shit do Aspies (especially the female-type) want to bash anyone who suggests they can “mind-read” as being the claims of egotistical narcissists with delusional ideas they can defy human possibility.  Some Aspie bloggers take it a step further and suggest that an NT’s claim they can read minds shows just how un-empathetic neurotypicals actually are (snidely giggling to myself as I recall these posts).

    By now I will bet a ton of the NT women reading this post have stumbled on the news that “Studies have found those with Asperger’s don’t lack empathy, in fact, THEY HAVE TOO MUCH OF IT!”

    Yeah, if you are like me the second you read any suggestion of this you wanted to vomit, or perhaps you did a little?  I don’t think any article about Asperger’s syndrome ever made my stomach turn and a bitter vile anger burn inside of me more than when I first saw that load of garbage.  Here I was, crying my eyes out for the millionth time over my husband’s cold and cruel behavior and some asshole out there thought it would be great to tell me I am obviously just as insane as my husband says I am because he has a ton of empathy… just not for me?

    Oh please add some more salt in that wound and twist the knife in a little deeper if you would

    Those with Aspergers were all over this one as well, so much so that countless bloggers out there have highlighted this brilliance as their #1 defense to the evil neurotypicals who are ruining their lives.  One blogger I follow regularly (and gain a lot of insight from) blogged on the subject:(https://seventhvoice.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/new-study-finds-that-individuals-with-aspergers-syndrome-dont-lack-empathy-in-fact-if-anything-they-empathize-too-much/). It is not so much what her post said, but the many, many responses that made me realize how clueless everyone seems to be about what empathy is.  Most of the comments go on and on explaining sympathy in the mistaken belief they are describing empathy. 

    This is common. 

    The reason it is so confusing is because the majority of the information out there is often so incorrect about what empathy actually is that people are regurgitating false definitions every time one opens another article.  I can promise you that any search on Autism and/or Aspergers in relation to empathy will yield you a whole lot of misinformation and angry people fighting a word that they hardly comprehend.  

    I have described cognitive empathy for you.  It is as simple as I described it:  Cognitive empathy is the ability to read facial expressions, body language, tone of voice and other nonverbal messages, as well as inferences that aren’t directly stated.  

     

    What I have not really clarified is that people with Asperger’s syndrome do have empathy.  

    THEY HAVE AFFECTIVE EMPATHY!

     

    Ok, so what does THAT mean?

    Affective empathy (or emotional empathy) is the automatic desire to respond appropriately to another human being’s emotions.  This is the contagious part of empathy; when you know someone is sad and it makes you feel sad inside (you FEEL what they must be feeling) so you want to alleviate their sadness.  

    Some people break apart empathy into one more term, “Compassionate Empathy.” They describe the affective side as “feeling that person’s emotion” and the compassionate side as being “spontaneously moved to help them.”  I do not see a difference in the two, as I have yet to uncover an incidence where a person has emotional empathy and does not want to then act out compassionately.  They are co-existing as far as I am concerned, therefore I only differentiate between affective and cognitive empathy in my writings.

     Affective empathy is what it is all about when we are talking about humans and love, and this is the part of empathy NT wives want the most from their husband’s but don’t seem to get (leaving them feeling unloved and unacknowledged).  This is the empathy that Aspies know damned well they possess and find themselves enraged or heartbroken over when someone suggests otherwise.

    So if Aspies have affective empathy, why don’t they utilize it?

    Don’t worry, I will get to that…

    For now, let’s get back to the cognitive empathy that is absent and this idea that a neurotypical person can look at someone and read their mind enough to know what they are thinking and/or feeling.

    Saying that a neurotypical has the ability to read someone’s mind… is a tad delusional (I’ll give that one to ya). Guess what though?  We can get pretty damn close, and the more developed a person’s cognitive empathy, the closer we are to accurately “guessing” what that person is thinking or feeling at any given time.  Give us some background information or a close relationship with a person and that accuracy gets a little more on target each time. 

    Having highly in-tune cognitive empathy within a relationship enables a strong intimacy between partners.  When you can look at your partner and get a general sense of how they are feeling about something, you can respond accordingly without them having to ask.  This becomes an unspoken language between the two and enables a deeper comprehension of how the other person thinks… leading to a heightened sense of trust and security in one another and a bond that they do not share with anyone else.

    Unfortunately, no level of “closeness” develops this intimacy with an Aspie-NT union because the disconnect and defensive walls built by the Aspie make it impossible for the NT wife to implore her cognitive empathy toward her husband. Actually, she RARELY has a clue what her husband is thinking because there has lacked validation for it from day one.  The most bizarre part of an Aspie-NT relationship is that the longer it goes (without knowledge and/or therapy to improve communication) the more the NT and Aspie share similar deficits in cognitive empathy toward one another.  

    The NT does not lose cognitive empathy abilities for anyone else, but becomes devoid of it for her husband (but she doesn’t know this so she keeps incorrectly “guessing” what he is thinking or feeling each day).  This inconsistency in the application of cognitive empathy on behalf of the NT wife leads to a whole lot of assumptions that are harmful/hurtful to her husband.  He is not able to articulate this to her so he responds to her incorrect assumptions with hostility.  It is important to realize that despite responding to her assumptions with hostility, she is never proven wrong (by way of him expressing calmly what he WAS thinking) and so she continues on thinking that her cognitive empathy is correctly identifying her husband’s thoughts and feelings.  BIG PROBLEM.

     

    I know this is difficult to keep up with, but bear with me as I try to make it easier to comprehend…

     

    While the whole concept of cognitive empathy is still going to seem foreign to an Aspie reading it, the neurotypical reading would have to agree that this is not really a conscious or difficult thing to do, as we do it every single day with family, friends, and even strangers.  While it still sounds hokey, one only needs to consider the fact that there is scientific data to back it up.  The data is so prevalent that it is now common knowledge across the globe that most humans communicate with nonverbal means more than verbal… a LOT MORE.

    We (NT’s) learn how to utilize our cognitive empathy from such a young age (because it is intuitive and natural) that most grasp enough to do it effectively and without any effort by the time they are in kindergarten.  It is not a big secret that by the time someone is in grade school they comprehend that the mass majority of information they receive from others and in social settings comes from nonverbal communication.  75% – 93% are the best scientific guesstimates out there, but since Aspies (like my husband) love to disprove things (much the same way I do) here is the best link to go to from a group of people who have dedicated their life to the subject: http://www.nonverbalgroup.com/2011/08/how-much-of-communication-is-really-nonverbal

    If you are willing to just trust my summation of the data from that link, here is their opinion: “The fact of the matter is that the exact number is irrelevant. Knowing that communication is specifically 75% nonverbal or 90% nonverbal holds no practical applications. The important part is that most communication is nonverbal. In fact, nonverbal behavior is the most crucial aspect of communication.

     In other words, lacking cognitive empathy meant that while everyone else was communicating with one another from early on in their development, without ever using verbal words, the young Aspies were missing the majority of the communication taking place.

    If everyone is now on board (or at least humoring me) that cognitive empathy is non-existent (and the defining characteristic) for those with Asperger’s syndrome… then let’s look at how it snowballs from youth to adulthood into everything that goes so seemingly wrong.

     

    A VERY LONG LETTER TO MY HUSBAND TO EXPLAIN THE COGNITIVE EMPATHY DOMINO EFFECT:

    Being unable to understand what people were thinking, meaning, intending, etc. without directly saying it; a billion misunderstandings occurred at an age so young you could not have possibly known what the hell was happening (nor did anyone else).  You missed all of the nonverbal messages being sent to you because you were neurologically incapable of receiving them.  Let me give you a few examples:

    Example #1:  Try to take yourself back to when you were young.  Let’s say you are in kindergarten and there is a little boy named Peter sitting in a corner playing by himself.  You want to play with him, but he seems content playing on his own and he did not ask you to play, so you continue to play by yourself.  A few minutes later Peter is playing with other kids and you feel all alone now because everyone else is playing together.  You go to join in and Peter is not very nice to you and says he doesn’t want to play with you and nor does anyone else in the group, so you go back to your corner and play alone. 

    You have no idea why the kids don’t like you and it hurts your feelings a lot.

    What you missed was that when you were looking at Peter thinking about asking him to play, Peter gave you a nonverbal message that he was sad and wanted you to come talk to him.  You missed that message, and you kept playing alone. 

    Peter felt like you did not like him and ignored how sad he was and decided you MUST be a mean kid.

    When you weren’t looking, another little girl picked up on Peter’s nonverbal expressions and welcomed him to join the play group.  Now Peter (being an innocent little kid) decided that this little girl is kind and a good kid (someone to be friends with) and you are a big jerk (someone to avoid).  Peter tells the other kids in the group that you are mean.  Before you know it, the whole group thinks you are mean and you end up isolated the rest of the year.  

    Not a good or fair start for a kind young boy who just wanted the same thing every other child does… to have friends.

     

    Example #2:  You are two years old and you go to touch a hot burner on the stovetop and your mom snatches your hand away, makes a really odd face and says, “John! NO! NO! HOT!”  You heard her words and you now know not to touch the burner again because it might be hot… makes sense, ok, got it!

    You are now four years old and you go to touch an expensive vase on a shelf and your mom makes another odd face at you and says, “John!”  Only this time she doesn’t say, “Don’t touch that or it will break!”  She doesn’t say it because by the age of four parents naturally stop using words the way they did when you were little and they express nonverbal communication with their facial/body language and tone of voice to send the SAME messages they did with words when you were younger.

    Parents (and NT’s in general) do not even realize they naturally begin deleting clear dialog when conveying their thoughts as children grow up.  

    When you hear your mother say your name, you turn in her direction assuming she wants your attention for something.  She assumes you received the message not to touch the vase again despite only calling out your name and making a stern face at you. Uncertain why your mother said your name and then turned away to talk to guests in the adjoining room, you go back to touching the vase… which falls and breaks.

    Your mom is pissed and spanks your butt and sends you to your room.  All you can think is, “It was an accident, I didn’t mean to break it.” Your mom, and the guests are now all wondering to themselves why you were being purposely defiant.  The thing is… you were not defying anything, you were never told NOT to touch the vase.  You missed the nonverbal message and now those guests are all thinking you are a brat.

    These scenarios go on and on and on from your youth (although obviously I made up those specific stories) and it was all of those missed nonverbal messages (clearly no fault of your own) that made people misunderstand your personality and intentions.  They thought you were a trouble maker, defiant, a brat, didn’t listen, rude, uncaring, etc.  You had no idea what the hell you ever did to upset anyone and you felt very isolated and singled out and treated unfairly (and you were).  If anyone knew you couldn’t read nonverbal messages like the other kids, you would never have suffered all of the snowball effects that came from it the rest of your life.  If you had known that, perhaps you would not have developed all of these defensive behaviors that served to protect you from pain (isolating yourself, being ready to defend yourself at the drop of a dime, being verbally aggressive to make people leave you alone, etc.).

    YOU DO HAVE EMOTIONAL EMPATHY

    You have the ability to care deeply about how someone feels and want to help and make them feel better when they are upset… you just could never do that unless someone told you how they were feeling. 

    Back to Example #1.  If Peter or the teacher told you, “Hey John, Peter is sad and thinks no one wants to be his friend and play with him, you should ask him to play.” You would have instantly felt badly for Peter and gone over to ask him to play (affective empathy).  If they had used words toward you in such scenarios, then the resulting response from you would have been to utilize affective empathy and you would have been treated differently (like the other kids) and your affective empathy would have gotten better and better and compensated a lot for the cognitive empathy that was lacking.

    The problem is that you never had the chance to develop your affective empathy the way others do because 75-93% of the messages being sent by everyone around you were nonverbal. 

    Having this cognitive empathy deficit also made you unable to readily know how your own facial expressions, body language, and nonverbal communication was being depicted to the outside world.

    Without realizing it, you may have had problems regulating your tone and pitch when you spoke (that made you seem meek or overwhelming), you may have made facial expressions that gave the opinion you were feeling a certain emotion that you were not (or at least didn’t want people to know), and your body language may have been extremely telling of how you really felt about something (like being annoyed when someone was talking, or bored, or disinterested). 

    Since you unknowingly gave these inner feelings away through expressions to those in your presence, the ability to develop the social etiquette behaviors (like pretending to be interested when you are not so that you do not upset someone and can develop friendships) were impossible for you to achieve (even if you thought you were doing it right).

    This is part of the reason that aspies have difficulties with eye contact and physical manifestations of stress or discomfort… they wouldn’t have these if not for the lacking cognitive empathy.  This is also why aspies make terrible liars. 

    Most male aspies learn at a young age to never lie because #1. They suck at it and always get caught and #2. They do not pick up on the nonverbal communication that someone is offended or upset when the truth is spoken to them, so they never learn how to rephrase their opinions in a way that is not offensive.  An example of this would be the child Aspie who tells another child, “Your eyeglasses make you look like a bug.”  A neurotypical child may say the same thing, but immediately identifies the other child’s nonverbal expressions of being offended or hurt and therefore learns to not verbalize observations like this in the future. The Aspie child (lacking cognitive empathy to identify the reaction to being compared to a bug) does not see the negative response to his honesty, and also never connects the dots to why the “bug-eyed kid” never wants to talk to them again, or is mean to them in the future.  They do not learn to “lie” or withhold their immediate thoughts to protect the ego and feelings of other people, and therefore, they become “brutally honest” adults.

    A simple search of aspie characteristics will yield you, “Honest, sometimes to a fault” 99% of the time.

    For some reason (that I am beginning to understand) a select few aspies (who likely encompass the majority of those lending to the psychopath stereotype) took the whole, “Sometimes it is ok to lie or not be honest all the time” a little too far.  Rather than always being honest, these aspie adults always seem deceptive (even when they are only withholding something silly). 

    I believe for these particular Aspies, they likely had a neurotypical adult that was close to them and frequently scolded them when they DID vocalize honest observations and opinions that might offend someone.  In the example of the “bug-eyed kid” the Aspie with an acutely aware neurotypical parent (perhaps an NT-e) would have been rapidly admonished for their words and told, “That was NOT nice! You don’t say mean things like that to other children! Go apologize!”  Since this scenario is still going to include an NT parent or adult who is unaware of why the Aspie child made such an overt remark, they missed the opportunity to explain to the child that they were able to observe facial expressions of being sad in little “bug-eyes” that the Aspie missed, and how that did hurt the “bug-eyes'” feelings unintentionally.  They also missed the opportunity to then teach the young Aspie the appropriate way to apologize or make light of their unintentional and innocent error; something that would have enhanced the use of emotional empathy and also taught invaluable lessons about social etiquette that may have prevented a lifetime of alienation from their peers. 

    For the Aspie children that had an NT stepping in to always criticize their words, yet ZERO knowledge about “what” words were ok to say out loud, and what words were not… they developed an unusually high frequency of intentional and focused internalizing of their thoughts so they would not accidentally get spoken aloud.  

    If they did not say what they were thinking or feeling, then no one could get angry at them for saying the wrong thing, right?  

    These are the Aspie children that grow into Aspie adults who withhold their thoughts and feelings and, more frequent than not, appear deceptive.  

    The NT spouse (who has keen cognitive empathy skills), is able to pick up on the fact that their Aspie mate is withholding their thoughts and incorrectly assumes that the thoughts MUST be negative ones.  They incorrectly assume that there is a purposeful withholding of information that must be “self-preserving” in nature.  

    In other words, us butthead and often paranoid NT’s tend to associate this misunderstood silence with lying.

    In general, male aspies are incapable of lying without giving it away to the NT’s in their life through their facial expressions and body language (although only someone who knows them closely can pick up on this once they reach adulthood).  This sets the stage for “little white lies” during the courtship days in a relationship (when there existed no reason for the NT to question her Aspie beau’s honesty).  Once the day to day existence together sets in, many of what the Aspie may have said (due to insecurities or trying to say the “right thing”) begin to raise questions for the NT partner.  Once a few white lies are uncovered, everything from the initial dating stage begins to become questionable and the perfect beginning turns to shit rapidly.  

    Lacking the ability to modulate your own nonverbal communication or interpret other people’s is also why Aspies are considered gullible or they misunderstand that something is a joke, or a person is being sarcastic.  When all you really have to interpret messages are the literal words spoken to you, those missed facial expressions and “hidden messages” that say “I am totally being sarcastic” or “this is a metaphor and didn’t really happen” get taken at face value instead.  

    When a five year old NT proclaims to a lunch table full of kids, “I am so hungry I am going to eat this whole table!” The five year old Aspie may respond, “You can’t eat a table!”  The other kids may also be acutely aware by this age that no human is going to ingest a lunchroom table, nor do they really intend to, but the Aspie child is likely to believe that this NT is not very smart and thinks they could really achieve this.  By five, it wouldn’t be uncommon for that Aspie child to also launch into an informative dialog (ad nauseum) about why it is physically impossible for a human to eat a table. 

    It is this very use of figurative speech that neurotypical children learn how to decipher early on through the utilization of cognitive empathy.  They read body language and facial expressions to decipher that while someone is speaking literally, they are contradicting their belief in the literal meaning with their nonverbal expressions. Since the Aspie child does not learn how to do this, they find themselves in a position to correct the naive words of their classmates very frequently.  This makes them appear gullible or stupid, all the while, they are thinking the same of their NT classmates who keep saying ludicrous things.  The Aspie child almost always learns by young adulthood that neurotypicals say stupid things they know are impossible or ridiculous a lot.  While they may still have no clue why they insist on doing this, they learn not to always “point out the obvious” when it happens.  

    Unfortunately, this does not translate to an adult Aspie married to an NT-e.

    For instance, when their wife is crying or angry and says, “I hate you, you never listen to me and don’t love me!”  All they are hearing is that they are being blamed for “never” doing something (listening), which they know is not true because they obviously DO listen. The Aspie husband hears that they are “hated” by the person who is supposed to love them the most and that erodes their sense of security.  They are being told they also don’t “love” their wife, which they know damned-well is NOT true, so they feel an intense urge to vocally combat something so hurtful.  They are completely inundated with a sentence that attacks them, threatens them, and calls them a liar and they have NO IDEA why.  The Aspie husband LOVES his wife so it emotionally harms them to hear such things.  They cannot always just blow off the insanity of their wife’s words the way they learned to with other stupid NT comments throughout their life. Something so cruel, hurtful, and untrue warrants an equally cruel response, or an incredible amount of passion to disprove, right?

    What is missed is that while their wife said, “I hate you, you never listen to me and you don’t love me!” what she actually meant was, “I feel like you are not understanding me and because you are not acknowledging what I am saying and I love you so much, it is causing me a lot of pain and anger… this anger feels like hatred sometimes because I can’t believe the man who is supposed to love and respect me the most, does not seem interested or concerned with how upset I am right now.”  

    If you do not have cognitive empathy, there is ZERO chance you are going to decipher that woman’s non-threatening plea for attention and the words she used to articulate them as one in the same!  You are not going to ever understand her “hidden meanings” and she doesn’t even know they come across as hidden.  She has learned to communicate her whole life with predominant NON-VERBAL means and verbal words that convey thoughts in a very obscure way to someone who does not share her language.  

    Unfortunately, the majority of society DOES easily (and without any effort) process this ambiguous dialog.  Your wife is unconsciously processing and delivering information that you cannot make sense of setting you up for failure in almost all communication attempts to resolve conflict.  All you have to work with are the literal words she is speaking (she “hates” you), while she blindly assumes you are getting the message that she loves you and is just upset.  

     

    THIS IS NOT FAIR

    THIS IS ALSO NOT HER FAULT

     

    Neither of you understands how debilitating an absence of cognitive empathy is in one partner, when the other one has it.

     

    Going back to your childhood…

    As a child, all of these cognitive empathy misunderstandings made you seem difficult, mean, uncaring, aloof, naive, etc. to those around you at a very young age.  Quite often they made you seem like you just did not care what someone was saying, or feeling…which was NEVER TRUE.

    The ONLY deficit you have, the ONLY thing that makes your brain different from the average person is that you do not have connectivity in the lobes that process cognitive empathy.  THAT IS IT.  You were always just as kind, compassionate, and wonderful as everyone else; you were never broken.

    Unfortunately, with the way you were treated and the desperation of your parents to figure out what was “wrong” and make your life better, they unintentionally (and by NO fault of theirs) made you feel like you were broken each time you were scolded or taken to another specialist or doctor for therapy or medication, etc.

    So what happens to a kid who grows up like this?

    They become isolated, depressed, self-conscious, anxious.  They do not trust people because they are constantly being told they did something wrong or they are a bad person when they know they are not.  Kids like this act out or they hide (or do both).  Kids like this want nothing more than to develop close interpersonal relationships and be loved, and to love (like everyone else) but they just can’t seem to get it right.

    As these kids get older, they have solidified all of these defenses that are so extreme they further hinder their growth and ability to function the way other teenagers and young adults do.  Being so used to personal attacks on their character for no reason (and never knowing when they are going to come) they become ready to defend themselves at all times.  The slightest clue that someone is about to blame them for something or say something bad about them and the defensive guns are out (over-the-top nastiness) or the wall goes up (isolating and tuning out).

    These are the common responses for most male Aspies out there (defensive guns or wall) well into adulthood if they never received a diagnosis as a child; and they had every right and reason to respond that way.  It must have been hell to always have to defend yourself or avoid communication so you don’t have to.  It had to be awful to rarely have a clue why someone was upset (you didn’t listen to me, you don’t care about me, you’re being an asshole, etc.) because 75-93% of what the person said, wanted, asked for, questioned, directed, etc. came in the form of nonverbal communication and the message was missed.

    It is important to bear in mind that in all of those miscommunications along the way, the person (NT) who was angry or frustrated or upset was NOT wrong for feeling that way.  If they did not know about Asperger’s syndrome (and they didn’t), then they could only assume that the behavior was purposeful and therefore their accusations, valid. 

    But they were never valid because they just didn’t understand, and neither did you.

     

     

    The Catastrophic Consequences

    I cannot begin to imagine the pain a child (like my husband) must have endured feeling like the whole world was out to get him or prove he was a bad person.  I am only beginning to really comprehend the pain I inflicted on him despite years of feeling like he was the torturer.  I am sorry for what he had to go through.  When I separate myself from our relationship and reflect on why he is the way he is today… my heart breaks for him beyond any words I could articulate.  

     

    Into the teen and young adult years….

    Fast forward now to being an Aspie teenager who has notoriously been hurt when he attempted to make social connections as a child.  Remember that as a child, he did not recognize the person who was making facial expressions that said, “Stop talking please” or “I am sad can you please make me feel better” or “Stop playing like this I am getting mad” or “Can you please share your snack with me?” or “You are interrupting me and I don’t want to talk to you anymore” or “Seriously, lower your voice it is so loud” or “Your shirt is on backwards and you look ridiculous” or “Stop talking about what you like, it’s my turn” or ANY OTHER facial expression that went without words that led to embarrassment, harsh admonishment, being teased, being isolated, etc.

    This teenager now has little to NO self-confidence in their own social intelligence and is probably pretty depressed or angry that he is always treated so poorly even though he tried so hard his whole life to be good.  This teenager is going to enter adult life soon and is going to be afraid, because they have no idea what anyone is thinking… ever… and they have gotten it wrong so many times it is easier for them to just stop trying in general.

    By young adulthood this same Aspie is living in a world where their peers are utilizing non-verbal communication at a 90/10 ratio over verbal communication and they are now completely and royally screwed. 

    They feel like a disappointment to their family (and rightfully so at times), they feel disliked and compared against their siblings (who are the “perfect” ones and usually take the brunt of the Aspie’s frustration and anger growing up). All of the feelings of safety and security that an NT child and young adult gleems from a loving family… they just don’t exist the same for an Aspie teenager.  Even if they know their family loves them and will not abandon them… they still feel like a failure and disappointment more often than not.

    When you do something good as you age, a child in a healthy environment receives positive reinforcement.  When you do something bad, you receive negative.  Both of these responses determine how you proceed in your daily actions as an adult.  The aging Aspie receives negative reinforcement (for being insensitive, uncaring, disruptive, rude, etc.) each and every day.  They are absolutely unable to ever connect the dots that it is because they are failing to acknowledge a nonverbal cue to behave a certain way (something they CANNOT SEE) so even innocent and/or non-actions receive negative reinforcement.

    There is no learning from this level of relentless negative reinforcement to better tailor their behavior to meet the demands expected of them in society or their family.

    There exists only a world where they are damned if they do… and damned if they don’t

    Affective/emotional empathy is disintegrating as each day passes because the feelings of living in a just and fair world are non-existent for the Aspie teenager.  They are so prepped for everyone to perceive them wrong or they’ve learned to assume someone is sad, unhappy, or angry because of something they unknowingly did, that they lose the ability to separate themselves from why someone is feeling a particular emotion even when it is directly stated.

    Conditioned to believe they will be blamed for every negative emotion those close to them display, they truly begin to lose their ability to feel empathetic for other’s feelings (and this is where the Aspie vs. NT internet arguing begins).  

    Imagine always being fearful that a person’s emotions or feelings will inevitably be blamed on you.  Wouldn’t you stop trying to alleviate their hurt as well?  Wouldn’t you respond to most emotional displays with defensive hostility or choose to run away instead?  

    This is not actually what the adult Aspie is doing despite the NT’s seeing it as such…

     

    On to adulthood…

    After a terribly cruel and unfair childhood filled with unacknowledged efforts, the Aspie teen gets further beat down by the harshness of their peers.  Now there exists a young adult who still has no clue about having Asperger’s syndrome who is just worn down by people and has established his own way of handling situations to protect himself (that work for him). 

    This adult frequently avoids getting jobs, pursuing school, looking into a career… because they are afraid of how people will treat them and they do not want to fail.  They are so convinced everyone will call them a failure no matter what they do (even if they do not realize this feeling is the underlying reason for stagnation and being unable to initiate things) that they don’t even try.  In fact, most Aspie adults are unemployed and will do almost anything to avoid initiating or taking chances where social communication is involved.  For those who have found their niche in a solid career, there is a good chance they aren’t budging from the spot they have comfortably cemented themselves in (this includes daily activities and ritualistic behaviors that rarely venture out into the unknown).

    Most misunderstandings from youth were in regard to nonverbal communication.  Because of this, the Aspie has (consciously or not) identified keywords and trigger points in interpersonal communication with people that signal danger to them and an internal dialog to defend or run; fight or flight takes hold. 

    While someone with Aspergers still possess every single emotion and desire for communication that everyone else does… it does not appear that way to those who love them because the moment someone verbalizes anything that sounds like feelings or emotions, subconscious alarm bells begin to sound in their brain that tell them to start aggressively fighting or hauling ass immediately or else they are going to be attacked.  

    Once this defense is triggered, all constructive communication is effectively shut down.

     

    On to marriage…

    Despite all of his best sense telling him that the world he lived in was not going to get any better… some men with Asperger’s syndrome put themselves on the line for ultimate rejection when they fall in love with a neurotypical woman. They take a chance that someone is going to truly love them for who they are and see what no one else seemed to their entire life.  

    What a feeling that must have been.

     

    Despite a love that began with such pure intention…

    Without the knowledge and comprehension of how cognitive empathy existed (or did not) in their marriage…

    They were doomed to beat one another and themselves down physically and emotionally.  

    Why there was NO WAY around this…

    When someone has perfectly functioning emotional empathy, but lacks cognitive empathy, their emotional empathy can sometimes become heightened in a way they cannot make sense of.  This is one of the reasons that parents of Aspies and Aspies themselves scream about the fact that they do not “lack” empathy, they have TOO MUCH OF IT!  

    Without the ability to use emotional empathy in a functioning manner (because the cognitive deficit disables the ability to accurately identify someone’s feelings without being told of them), a person with Asperger’s syndrome develops misplaced emotional empathy or they are forced to internalize all of the incredible feelings that it carries.

    Someone else with the same functioning level of emotional empathy who also has cognitive empathy (neurotypical) has the gift of an outlet for their intense emotions.  They can verbalize them or act out their compassion with others appropriately AND receive it from others in return.  

    Since the Aspie notoriously fails at this throughout their youth, all of those emotions become bottled up.  While they find their way out via manifestations of “meltdowns” or other misplaced emotions of anger and frustration in childhood, the young adult Aspie usually learns that these manifestations only bring more alienation or negative responses from their peers and family members.  

    In order to prevent the psychological exhaustion that causes inevitable burnout from all of these emotions brewing within, the majority of adult Aspies learn to purposely detach themselves from other people’s emotions in general.  This is not merely a defensive mechanism, it is a survival skill.

    When the Aspie-NT union that began so beautifully begins to derail and emotions pile up… the married Aspie begins to utilize the same survival skill that protected him before his marriage.  

    HE DETACHES

    This detachment becomes the indifference that destroys an Aspie-NT marriage.  

    I have long believed that the opposite of love is not hate; you need to first love to be emotionally invested enough to develop hate.  

    The opposite of love is INDIFFERENCE.

    Since one of the only protective mechanisms an adult with Asperger’s syndrome instinctively has to protect themselves from their overwhelming emotions is to become indifferent to other people’s… the NT wife becomes grief-stricken when this happens to her.  She may know that her husband does not “hate” her, but placing what he is doing to make her cry out, “You don’t love me!” does not come easily.  

    She is sensing his indifference to her emotions and that feels like THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE to her.    

    The husband DOES love his wife, but since he lacks the cognitive empathy to identify her feelings without her speaking them… and she is NOT doing this in a way that makes ANY SENSE AT ALL TO HIM… he has no other option but to become indifferent to her chronic display of emotional turmoil.  

    If he continued to absorb all of the feelings she is hurling at him day after day, he will inevitably be faced with emotional collapse himself.  

    She has no clue that the horrific agony of his indifference is actually the only way he knows how to not lose her.  

    If only both of them could see how they were agonizing over the same thing.  Love.

    Tracking?

     

    IS ANY OF THIS SOUNDING FAMILIAR?

     

    Asperger’s syndrome vs. Antisocial Personality Disorder

    I originally began this post by discussing the misinformation out there that those with Asperger’s syndrome were akin to sociopaths (or psychopaths). 

    Now that you have a better understanding of cognitive empathy (Good GOD I hope you do, I wrote a frickin book about it!) let’s talk about why the two are entirely different.

     

    Asperger’s Syndrome

    Someone with Asperger’s syndrome may behave in an abusive manner toward their spouse.  They have no intention at all of doing this (if they do, get out because they are almost certainly NOT an Aspie).  

    They appear apathetic to your pain because they do not comprehend it in any way.

    They are unapologetic and lack accountability because the last thing they would ever do is knowingly or purposely inflict harm on you.

    The more you cry over something, the more they may think you are looney.  

    I always wondered if this was comforting in a way to my husband… like, if I am bat-shit-crazy, then maybe I will not leave him for someone more “normal?”

    Your husband CANNOT change his ability to cognitively empathize with you, but HE CAN CHANGE the negative defensive mechanisms he built along the way once he understands fully why he built them. 

    Your husband CAN CHANGE the level of affective empathy he has for you and treat you with more compassion once he lets his defenses down and you learn to effectively communicate using words that actually convey what you are thinking or feeling.  

     

    Antisocial Personality Disorder

    For someone with Antisocial Personality Disorder, i.e., psychopaths, narcissists, and sociopaths (which it bears mention that in diagnostic testing APD is usually the differential diagnosis for Asperger’s syndrome), they are as opposite from your aspie husband as could be (neurologically speaking).

    Someone with APD has behaviors that can never be corrected and will never get better.

    They have very good cognitive empathy skills, but they possess ZERO affective empathy, the EXACT opposite of your husband.  

    THEY ARE BAD PEOPLE  

    I know that no Aspie out there wants to hear this, but it is true and something that needs to be understood:  The reason loved ones have strongly considered that they are living with a psychopath or sociopath is because they outwardly manifest the same way.

     

    The Aspie husband is avoiding his crying wife because he truly does not understand why she is crying or what he should or could do to make it stop.  The psychopath husband is avoiding his crying wife because he just doesn’t give a shit about her.  

    HUGE DIFFERENCE  

    Understand that the NT wife… she is STILL being abandoned/ignored by her husband when she is crying and in emotional pain.  Since neither the Aspie nor the psychopath husband is going to ever address why she was crying once she stops, or stop it from happening again… SHE CANNOT TELL THE DIFFERENCE.

    Tracking?

     

    People with Asperger’s syndrome are GOOD PEOPLE, it is the defensive behaviors they develop that present themselves the same way as those with APD (as well as the resulting impact on behalf of those close to them) that make living with an Aspie in defense mode and a sociopath disturbingly similar.  

    Sadly, the majority of people out there have this misunderstanding about Aspies & sociopaths. They lack the knowledge that the two could not have more different brain deficits that profoundly oppose one another; despite having similar initial appearances because they both deal with a form of empathy.  

    Sociopaths have the empathy to interpret nonverbal messages (in fact, they are so good at it they are disturbingly skilled manipulators) … but they absolutely DO NOT give one damn about what any of the messages mean for the people in their lives (because they do not have the empathy that controls that).  

    Aspies do not have the empathy that enables them to receive the nonverbal messages, but in no way does that inhibit their ability to experience the empathy that gives them a profound compassion for people.  

    This misunderstanding causes unfathomable torture to Aspies every single day and causes NT women who love their husbands to consider leaving them.  If there is ONE THING I can beg of you to do from this day forward it is this:

    Every time you come across a blog post, article, or other media source where someone is proclaiming there is NO DIFFERENCE between those with Asperger’s syndrome and psychopaths… 

    BE THE ONE WILLING TO EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENCE!

     

    So what’s my immediate advice?

    So where do you go from here now that you have a better understanding of what empathy actually means and how this word has impacted your life?  

    Well first, know that demanding your husband read more online (which doesn’t work, TRUST ME) may have an adverse outcome to what you want. Unfortunately, the horrific misunderstanding that Aspies are all sociopaths or psychopaths that plagues the internet will likely (if it has not already) turn your husband off to independent research into his diagnosis the moment he attempts to read his first few articles.

    YOU have to keep reading… mostly about cognitive empathy.  

    Keep searching with the knowledge you now have so you can begin to recognize the misunderstandings taking place in your marriage.  You have to learn to communicate in a whole new way if you want to help him break down some of those defenses (SEE: HOW TO TEACH EMPATHY TO SOMEONE WITH ASPERGER’S SYNDROME).

    Work on yourself.  Love your husband.  Forgive your husband.  Ask him to forgive you.  See if you can agree to place the pain on the sideline in an attempt to begin again with the knowledge you now have.  

    None of this is going to be easy… but it hasn’t been thus far and you have chosen to stick it out, right?  Compared to the hellacious journey you were struggling to navigate before (alone); this will be a walk in the park… maybe with some exhausting hills to climb… but at least you will be climbing them together.  

     

    You deserve an award for making it through this post!!!!

     

     

     

    MY ASPIE HUSBAND IS NOT A PSYCHOPATH & NEITHER IS YOURS