• Tag Archives Asperger’s syndrome Cognitive Empathy
  • ASPERGER HUSBAND: WHY IS HE SO ANGRY?

    BECAUSE ANGER WORKS!

    OK, yeah… LET’S DO THIS!

     

    FIRST AND FOREMOST

    Is your Aspie husband angry?  My common sense dictates that if you clicked on this post, the answer is yes.  My common sense also tells me that this would be a “Yes!” answer for the majority of neurotypical women married to a man with Asperger’s syndrome (diagnosed or not).  While not every husband with Aspergers is angry to the point that it dominates every other emotion, there are many who are.  For these men, anger was a learned response toward those around them as a means to protect themselves against emotions they were unable to express or unable to comprehend (due to their cognitive empathy deficit).  Angry husbands are angry because somewhere along the lines (as children) they decided it was the one emotion that managed to effectively get them relief from frustration.  Their frustration stemmed from misunderstood emotions of their own and those they were close to, and these misunderstandings caused them internal pain.  When anger was identified as a potential relief from their pain, it solidified itself as the dominant “go-to” response to any emotion-evoking communication in their adult years.

    How this looks for an Aspie child:  A child is feeling hurt that their friend is not playing with them.  The friend keeps giving nonverbal reasons why they won’t play that the Aspie is not understanding. The Aspie child is unable to effectively express their hurt feelings and is growing frustrated with the friend, who continues to give ambiguous reasons (not clear direct ones).  When this Aspie child begins to feel overwhelmed with their frustration, they want their friend to go away from them for a little bit or at least stop talking.  They try to say this out loud and get a response filled with more ambiguous rationales from their friend that do not make sense to them.  Finally, the Aspie child becomes angry and says, “Get away from me!” with a loud and hostile voice and… the friend goes away from them.  The use of anger just became an effective way to manage emotions that feel overwhelming.

    Another example:  An Aspie child is feeling unloved because their sister is constantly getting praise about her good grades and talent playing the guitar.  The Aspie is feeling rejected that his parents don’t seem to notice the good things he is doing, or talents he has (like building a near-replica of a car he loves out of clay).  Despite his hard work, talent, and accomplishments, he hears his parents scold him for his poor grades and tell him to “Stop playing with his model clay and focus on school more.”  After a while, the inability to express why he is upset to his parents turns to resentment toward his sister and sadness that his parents aren’t giving him as much attention (as it would for any child).  The Aspie child then gets into an argument with his sister (as siblings do) and breaks one of the strings on his sister’s guitar while yelling that her “Guitar is stupid!”  The parents become aware of this hostile argument on behalf of the Aspie child and begin to shift attention and focus on him instead.  The Aspie child may not like being the focus of negative attention, but as children go, he is still finally getting what he wanted in the first place; his parent’s attention.  The parents begin to focus on their son and why he behaved in such an inappropriate way and (after scolding and punishing him) begin to pay more attention to him in an attempt to promote positive behaviors.  This Aspie child just learned that Anger can yield effective results… even if they initially bring about negative ones.

    Care for one more?

    An Aspie child is trying to repair his broken RC car and is frustrated because everything he has tried will not get it to start up again.  His mother comes out to help him (she knows nothing about RC cars) and keeps kindly asking what is wrong, how it broke, or what he needs to do to fix it.  His mom is attempting to deescalate his growing frustration and “help” him, but the Aspie child is not reading her vocal tones and facial expressions that say, “I’m sorry you are frustrated honey, I would like to help you if I can.”  All he is hearing is his mother asking him questions (that he obviously doesn’t know the answer to or the car would be fixed) and distracting him further from the task at hand.  The more his mom tries to offer her assistance, the more frustrated he becomes.  Unable to see her actions as thoughtful and kind ones, he gets so mad he throws the car at the wall and stomps off.  His mom yells at him for his behavior and takes his car away altogether as punishment.  After a few days, the mom feels a little bad her son’s favorite hobby has been taken away and brings him to the store to buy a new RC car to replace his broken one (or finds someone with the ability to fix his old one).  This Aspie child just learned that even if he acts out in anger, sometimes he gets positive results to the original source of emotional frustration.  The Aspie child just learned that his anger was effective in making his mom go away, as well as yielding something he wanted in the end, even if he had to endure a week-long punishment first.

    I could go on and on with examples of how these behaviors occur in a child’s social and emotional development, but you get the point.  If anger is not handled appropriately and better communication skills taught, some children grow into adults who use anger as a predominant means to resolve their emotional frustration before they consider any other option.  This happens for both NT and Aspie men alike, and these men grow into very angry and difficult adults that become very angry and difficult husbands.

    This post is meant to offer the cause, thought-process, and challenges associated with this level of dominant anger in a relationship.  The next post to follow will address how to manage an angry husband, how to begin teaching him to stop using anger as a means to get results, and how to begin building communication to prevent it from reoccurring in the future and damaging a marriage.

    If you are unsure if you live with an ANGRY ASPIE HUSBAND, put a mental checkmark beside the statements you have personally thought or said aloud:

    1. I am tired of walking on eggshells to avoid his hostile behavior
    2. He is so selfish about… (insert your own response): money, sex, time, housework, childcare, etc.
    3. He’s so negative, there is no way to get through to him that will make him change.
    4. I have been nothing but patient and he hasn’t gotten any better… in fact, he has gotten worse.
    5. I am so sick of being treated with disrespect.
    6. Every time I attempt to talk to him about a subject that has emotional content (of any kind) we get into a fight or he ignores me for days.
    7. Everything pisses him off, I can’t even exist in our own home without feeling uptight.
    8. He treats me bad and when I try to tell him it hurts me, he gets angry and nasty until I stop talking about his actions and have to internalize my pain.
    9. I know he has to be as miserable as I am or he wouldn’t seem so angry all the time; so why doesn’t he want to work on fixing it like I do?
    10. I don’t even think he loves me or wants to spend time with me anymore.
    11. When I cry he calls me horrible names or completely ignores my tears.
    12. All he does is blame me for his negative moods, why can’t he see that he causes his own negativity (and everyone else’s)?
    13. Maybe he was born mean and I just didn’t see it in the beginning?
    14. I keep searching online for why Asperger’s syndrome causes anger and nothing accounts for my husband’s hostility.
    15. The more I try to prevent his anger and fail, the angrier I become. I wasn’t an angry person before I met my husband and I am so tired of being angry all the time.
    16. Every attempt at fixing our marriage leads to more hostility from him, maybe I should just stop trying.
    17. He doesn’t seem to have any emotions other than apathy or anger.
    18. I don’t know what else to do but leave/divorce him.

    Once again, I can keep going all day with a million other examples or quotes I have said both aloud and to myself in regard to my husband’s chronic and escalating anger… but you get the point.  My husband is mad; he is mad at the interruptions in his routine, mad at the dog, mad at the way people attack him, mad at the poor internet connection in the house, mad at the person who drank the last bit of coffee creamer, mad at the things that prevent him from progressing as an adult, mad about his past, mad about his perception of the future, etc.  My husband is mad AT ME.  My husband is mad AT THE WORLD.  My husband doesn’t have a clue what he is even mad at… he just knows he is mad and he wants to make damn sure I know it too!

     

    BUT WHY IS HE SO MAD?

    My husband grew up thinking the world was out to prove he was a bad person.  Despite growing up with an amazingly loving and supportive family, the absence of cognitive empathy made it impossible for him to see all of the nonverbal messages of love that he was given day after day.  My husband only heard the literal words that were spoken to him and they never felt like love in his mind, they felt like chronic criticism.  Without cognitive empathy, my husband was unaware of the nonverbal messages he was personally sending to those he interacted with.  He could never see that he came across as angry or dismissive and therefore, was responded to with equal anger and dismissiveness.

    All of this confusion that gets generated into feelings of internal pain, created by the perception that those around him had unfairly labeled him a bad person.  All of this injustice made him respond outwardly with anger… and that anger protected him or yielded desired results.  Even if it was only effective 1 out of 10 times, it was more effective than any other emotion he learned to utilize in response to his social interactions, so it became the one that ruled.

    ANGER BECAME MY HUSBAND’S DEFAULT EMOTION

    Does my husband have the self-awareness to identify and openly admit to how mad he always seems to feel?  Nope.  Does my husband know he is taking his anger out on the women who are trying desperately to love him and prevent him from feeling so mad?  Nope.  Does my husband think he is behaving in a way that even indicates he is feeling angry?  Nope.  Does my husband realize that he has caused his wife and stepdaughter to feel angry in response to him? Nope.

    Does my husband’s anger serve as an outlet for ALL of the other emotions he experiences as an adult (sadness, guilt, fear, anxiety, jealousy, rejection, blame, etc.); the emotions he does not know how to identify or even begin to deal with?

    YES!

     

    HE’S BEGINNING TO OPEN HIS EYES

     

    My husband said something very powerful to me a few weeks ago that really got me thinking about how to tackle the topic of anger and how it is ruining marriages that could otherwise be successful.  It is difficult to express to an outsider what it is like to live with a constant threat of hostility from your husband, or to try to explain how his use of anger trumps every other human emotion neurotypicals experience in a given year, month, week, or even day.  Since I haven’t any doubt that “Asperger’s syndrome and Anger” is a subject matter that begs of answers from those in marriages like mine, I am going to take a crack at explaining what is happening beneath the surface for you.

    Less than a month ago, I was attempting to clean my messy closet for the hundredth time in weeks and despite struggling to have enough energy to tackle this cluttered disaster, I managed to find the drive to attempt it.  I had been throwing loads of clean clothes onto the floor for days, where a blanket served as the buffer to keep them “clean” enough to put them away when I finally got around to it.  I had been working long consecutive shifts at the hospital and daunting as it seemed, organizing my closet felt like an accomplishment that might make my mind feel less disordered, so I knew it was important for me to do this.

    Midway through the job (surrounded by clothes and stacks of random documents and books) I was caught off guard by my husband John (who sat on the bed near my closet) vocalizing a muddled remark about our daughter (his stepdaughter) before he abruptly walked out of the room.  I felt a twinge of angry poison spilling into my bloodstream and followed my husband out to the back porch to challenge the snarky comment he had just made.

    My husband had been impenetrably antagonistic with me for days over a topic that I wanted to resolve… so that our family could move forward as a functioning unit.  Every attempt I had made at bringing this topic up with John (in the previous week) had failed miserably and led to a backlash of venting rage (directed at me).  The topic was about positive parenting and how he and his stepdaughter had lost the ability to enjoy one another’s company.  I desperately wanted to see that change for the better, so I kept working at it.

    Despite John making a snide remark while I was attempting to clean, I opted to approach his clear desire to engage me on the issue once more, in the hopes I could spin it into a calm and meaningful chat.  I even had a split second thought that a solution or plan could come out of this new attempt.  As I sat down on the porch to engage my husband, I intended to share positive suggestions I had to help rebuild the damage that was inadvertently done (by him mostly), that severed the relationship they once had.  I did not assign blame to him alone (for obvious reasons) but that did not stop John’s knee-jerk response of bitter anger.  John perceived my thoughtful advice as an attack on his character and a list of reasons he was to blame for everything my daughter had ever done to misbehave or dodge accountability and household responsibility.  I do not believe my daughter is anything but a loving and kind soul who has gone out of her way (and beyond her expected level of maturity) to be patient and understanding with her stepfather, so despite agreeing that she has been complacent with personal responsibility lately (she is only 16-years old), I found his synopsis of her general behavior to be unwarranted and unnecessarily cold.

    I am not bullshitting when I say that I have an extraordinarily mature and compassionate daughter (“B”) whose empathy and grace astounds me daily.  The more aggressively John came at me, suggesting his stepdaughter was an irresponsible spoiled brat, the more aggressively I defended her.  Since John fails to see the phenomenal woman she is becoming, I feel resentful toward him each and every time he criticizes her without ever acknowledging her remarkable character and strength.  All of my efforts to help them rebuild a positive relationship have always focused around convincing John to give her acknowledgement first, so that she will feel motivated to respond to him with love when he points out a flaw or poor behavior she has.  John staunchly refuses to do this, so each time he responds to me with such a defiant stance of refusal to show B love, I lose the ability to entertain anything else he has to say about her.  Actually, the more he does this, the more I want to jump across the room and jab my fingers into his eyeballs… but that is just an internal thought I do not openly share.

     Moms can be psychotically protective of their children, and I am no exception.

    I could sense my own “mom-rage” escalating, so I quietly returned to my messy closet to distract myself from the failed communication attempt we just had.  I was unable to disengage from the resentment I felt toward my husband for his words and I was heartbroken that my efforts, meant to bring closeness and love between my daughter and husband, were dissected and deemed irrelevant by him instead.  I sat in the middle of my closet and felt the tears welling up in my eyes and a knot in my throat.  I could literally feel the acid in my stomach climbing its way upward toward my esophagus to remind me how physically impaired I am becoming these days in addition to my diminished mental capacity (from being overworked and sleep deprived mostly).  It is hard to describe the feeling of energy draining from your body, but I felt mine was literally leaking out of me.  It felt like my core was hollowed out rather quickly and my entire body felt useless.  My butt was planted on the cold tile of my closet floor as I attempted to continue weeding through months of documents (bills, work stuff, personal writings, etc.) hoping to bring a small bit of tangible order to the chaos of my life.  With my chest burning (from a likely ulcer I have yet to do anything about) and an overwhelming sense of impending doom, I fell to my knees and clutched my head in my hands as I dug my elbows into the cold, hard surface beneath them.

    I was tired, my body was tired, my brain was tired, and all I could think about was how much John breaks my heart when he comes at me (or my daughter) with an anger that only he seems to possess.  I began to quietly sob (I did not want John to hear me).

    To my surprise, John appeared behind me and hovered behind my body for some time… silent.  He stood there for several minutes and finally asked me what “was wrong?”  He asked me to get off the floor, and eventually… he asked me to stop “being ridiculous.”  I did not have the desire or energy to even respond to him, so I remained lost in my own sadness and did not move.  I did not move for well-over ten minutes, but John remained upright behind me in the closet doorway.  He continued to ask me to get up every minute or so with no response from me.  He continued to ask me what was wrong, with no reply on my part.  In a soft and gentle tone of voice, my husband began to speak with words that mattered.  He said, “Kara, I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know what you want me to say.  I know that you know what I should say… but I don’t. I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing and making it worse.”

    I remained in the same position (not purposely, I just truly felt too weak to get up) and did not respond.  My husband then stepped into the closet and closed the door behind him, shutting out the light from the bedroom so we were enclosed in a tiny space together, in total darkness.  He remained silent for a few minutes, as did I.  Then John did something I would have never imagined him to do; he sat down on the cold floor behind me and scooped up my fragile statue-like self and pulled me in close to him.  He held me tight in his arms and put his head on my back.  He told me that he didn’t want to see me hurting and that he just didn’t know what to say.

    For what felt like an eternity, John held me close and tried (with all his ability) to communicate with me.  I remained silent with only pathetic sniffles to offer in response to his effort.  A year ago, my audible sound of crying (meek as it was), would have sent John into a terribly cruel flurry of words suggesting I was a “dramatic mess” who needed mental health counseling.  John did not do this.  He just sat on the floor of my closet with his arms wrapped snuggly around me.

     

    BUT WE HAVE COME SO FAR… 

    John and I have come a million miles from where we stood less than a year ago, but we still have a ton of “unresolved” issues that continue to rear their ugly faces; they come without any warning of their impending visit and always ruin a day that could have been wonderful.  Actually, the only residual glitches that still threaten to destroy our otherwise happy marriage belong to John’s surface personalities, Mr. Mean, Mr. Rage, Mr. Defiance, Mr. Antagonistic, and Mr. ANGER.  No matter what I try to do to protect my husband’s wonderful personality from being temporarily morphed into one of these bastards, they always manage to arrive with more power and attitude than the time before.  Despite John holding me close and behaving in a way I was NOT used to, (it stunned me into silence… I am not even kidding), I still found myself bracing for the arrival of one of those body-snatching jackasses to begin talking on my husband’s behalf.

    John’s evil exterior personalities never showed up that night.  Instead, John began to talk about what was wrong, without me requesting anything from him.  He told me he knows “exactly what is wrong with our relationship.”  Despite his next words being an understatement of the obvious and something I had easily identified around the six-month mark of our union, John spoke with an odd sense of pride that he had stumbled on something valuable.  He said, “We don’t know how to communicate with one another” and “I am the one who fails at this the most.”

    It never occurred to me that John had never shared his thoughts on why we struggled for so long until that night.  Maybe he did not grasp what I meant when I kept throwing similar statements out there for half a decade… maybe it finally made sense to him?

    John continued to talk openly (often with excessively long pauses in between words or thoughts).  He reflected on how hard he had been trying lately by saying, “I know I do not have a job right now, but I have been trying SO hard to make our home “my job” and to work really hard at making it nice, the way you always asked me to, so that I can show you that I care.”  I let him talk.  He continued on to say, “I know it is not the same as the responsibilities you have to make money for our family, but it is all I can do right now on this island.  I have been trying to show you that I can put my effort into compensating for what I cannot do… until I can begin working when we get back to the states.”

    Where John’s words would have felt like an excuse in the past, they were not this time around because he truly had been working his ass off to change the previous lazy behavior he displayed when it came to basic adult responsibilities.  John had been in Michigan doggedly working all summer (from refinishing a basement to working in heating and cooling with his father) and he brought home more money from those three months of true effort than he had contributed in our 5.5-year long relationship.  When he returned to the island we live on, he continued his efforts and began to finally do all that I had asked of him for so many years.  I used to beg him to just try to match some of his efforts working in the home to the effort I put forth working outside the home, but he never would.  John has really made me feel both acknowledged and valued with his physical labors lately (and when he was working this summer).  Because I did not want him to ever think his efforts went without notice, I broke my frozen silence and said, “I know you have and I am so appreciative of everything you have been doing lately.”

    To this, John seemed to soften a bit more and push the conversation a little further than he had ever before.  He began talking about our daughter again; I felt like the party-crashers were on the way in, so I quickly asked him if he could stop talking about that subject right now because it would only fuel anger that I find too difficult to dial back.  I told him that discussing B got us “nowhere fast” in the end anyway.  He replied by telling me that he was not “angry” he was “hurt.”  Without intending to sound like a bitch, I softly (but firmly) fired back, “Maybe it is hurt you feel inside, but all I see is anger.  You are always SO ANGRY about everything John.  You are so angry I feel like I cannot get past that emotion enough to ever address the real ones you are feeling.”

    My husband then validated something I had long-believed to be the real reason behind his constant state of hostility.  He said, “I don’t know what to say, ever, so I say nothing.  I feel so many things inside, but I don’t know how to explain them to you, so I get angry.  It is so much easier for me to be angry all the time than try to explain the other things I am feeling.  I don’t know how to talk about those things Kara.”

    What an INCREDIBLE thing to hear my husband finally articulate to me in words, as he held me in his arms on the floor of my dark closet.  I paused for a few minutes to make sure John was finished talking and then gently asked him, “Why?”  John continued to try to explain his anger by telling me that when he was young, he didn’t understand why people were always accusing him of things or telling him he was wrong (mind you, John has NEVER read any of the posts in this blog that talk about my thoughts on his childhood).  He said that because of his inability to understand the emotions other people directed at him, he became angry in response because it was just, “So much easier.”

    I found myself crying again (quietly) as he spoke these words to me and mumbled, “You can’t like feeling angry all the time John, it has to hurt.”  John replied, “Yeah, I guess it does.”  I figured this was my best shot at getting “buy-in” from him to begin changing his anger, so I asked, “Don’t you want to stop feeling angry all of the time?”  John told me that he did desire the ability to replace his anger with appropriate emotions, but due to his difficulties sharing them, or even making sense of them in his own mind, he often preferred to take the “easy road” and default to anger because it was an instant defense to shut people out and ignore the real emotions he had.

    Getting angry gave my husband the smoke and mirrors he needed to get the hell outta dodge…

    before anyone noticed how “screwed up” his mind was.

    John held me in his arms for over 30-minutes that night as we spoke in a near-whisper, with his face pressed up against the back of my head; on a closet floor; in pitch blackness.  Weird but… maybe this is just the kind of thing Aspie-NT couples have to do to engage one another in a conversation that does not involve anger?  Maybe they need to be boxed into a confined space in the darkness where yelling or running seem like less viable options?

    Eventually, I was able to peel myself off the floor and take medicine (that John brought me) to soothe my burning gut.  By the time we stood up to attempt normal human functioning, we both felt calm and closer to one another.  We both felt heard, we both felt loved, and we both agreed to work harder at communicating better.

    Our daughter B had been watching movies with her boyfriend “A” during the entire exchange John and I were having outside of their awareness.  It was getting late and A had to be driven home (school night) so I began to tell them it was getting close to “go” time.

     

                    B’s boyfriend lives across the island and because of the limited availability of reliable used vehicles here, and the challenge in getting a teenager a driver’s license for the first time (if their parents do not hold a license for the island), neither he nor B have the potential of driving themselves to and from social engagements with one another.  Unfortunately, a simple trip to one another’s home takes a solid 90-minutes out of the parents day/evening to accomplish.  John bitches about this often, but it is usually something I feel worthy of committing my time to because A is just as freakishly kind and compassionate as B is; as teenagers, the typical fear a parent would have of allowing them social engagements (outside of school) does not apply to these two.  John often starts arguments with me about our daughter’s “teenage crush” and attempts to squash her “fantasy” of marrying A someday.  While I would have agreed with this fantasy-future under most circumstances of teenage love, I have surprisingly viewed my daughter’s first boyfriend as an actual possibility for her future. 

                    I truly appreciate the relationship B has found at such an early age and often pray that she and A will defy the odds of building their high school love into a life together.  They are both more comparable to old souls who would rather concoct a plan to save the planet then engage in a make-out session.  They just seem to be meant for one another in a way few mothers would be willing to consider and A’s mom has shared the same sentiments with me.  In fact, just the other night she and I were messaging one another and she commented that she used to wish B was a “little asshole” so she could find fault in her that deemed her unworthy of her son’s love.  Ultimately, she said she just couldn’t find a single reason to feel anything but love for the incredible child I have been blessed with and that she too, embarrassingly hopes they end up together because she cannot fathom her son would ever again find a girl so perfectly matched to his empathetic and delicate heart.  Our children both had father’s with suspected bipolar disorder and while B’s dad killed himself, A’s dad theoretically did the same with substance abuse; they were both abandoned by their biological fathers for life.  Despite raising two emotionally fragile and deeply caring children, the path of sadness and loneliness we thought they were destined to travel, seemed to veer off into happiness and passion for life when they met one another.  It helps that they are both unapologetically honest with their mother’s (almost to a fault); there are some things a kid just doesn’t tell their parent and these two don’t seem to grasp that concept. 

                     John gets angry when I talk about how much I like A or how much I think they are different from typical teenagers.  He seems to want to prove this theory wrong or convince me that B is not the honest and responsible teenager I know she is (I tried to consider myself naïve and doubt her maturity… but she has proven me wrong to date and now warrants my continued faith in her).  John and I have had many arguments over my willingness to support our daughter’s ability to see her boyfriend outside of school and calls me “stupid” a lot for trusting her to make good decisions in regard to sex and safety.  I have tried to tell John if he took the time to talk to A, he would realize what a phenomenal young man he is and that he may even enjoy being a mentor to him, since A has a passion for cars much the same way John does.  With cars being one of John’s special interests, I know that A would be delighted to learn from him and fascinated by the amount of knowledge he has to share.  I also know that it would bring my husband an incredible feeling of pride to be able to teach a young man like A everything he knows, both because he loves when he can share his interests with others, and because we will never have a son of our own that he can share the typical “father-son” activities with that I know A would be thrilled to have (A does have a wonderful stepfather who raised him and shares these things with him).  Whenever I bring up the suggestion that, “You should talk to A” with John, he immediately shoots it down and tells me he “doesn’t like him.”  I accept that John is applying logic to the whole teenage-relationship dynamic, so I usually stop the urging immediately after he dismisses it. 

                     It has long-since occurred to me that if John and A could spend a little time together working on cars, talking about them, or watching car-focused shows; it might enable a closer relationship with John and his own daughter.  Since B is smitten by A, if John would willingly accept his presence in our household (even if he believes he will be a distant memory after we move), the four of us might be able to go out together for a day of fun activities.  As it stands, the three of us cannot make it through a single outing without John saying something offensive to B that I end up admonishing him for (the very second I recognize her nonverbal expressions of sadness or anger).  I believe John instigates this common dynamic because he feels alienated by the bond B and I have with one another and the way we are constantly communicating with nonverbal messages he does not hear.  I haven’t any doubt that the words we DO end up saying out loud get lost in translation without the words we are not vocalizing, and this leads to chronic misinterpretations from where John stands, causing him to make snarky comments in our direction.  This happens without fail every single time we try to go out with one another as a family, so we rarely attempt it these days.  Because of my desperate desire to still be able to leave our damn house as a family, I believe that adding A to the mix could enable this to peacefully occur.  If there was one more person to offset John feeling like the third wheel in our outings, he would undoubtedly behave in a less threatened manner (experience has proven this to be true).  To be able to have fun outings together without the incessant intrusion of hostility, B would get more time to see the wonderful side of her stepfather that has been invisible to her in the last two years. 

    Of course, all of this was only wishful thinking for me…

    until the night I became a paralyzed disaster on my closet floor….

    As I was getting dressed to take A home, John volunteered to do it himself, something I found very thoughtful since I did have to wake up at 4 a.m. and it was already almost 9 p.m.  I graciously accepted his offer and spent the remaining two hours alone in my house with a sense of peaceful calm.  My husband had openly communicated with me and physically showed me he was willing to drop himself onto the cold ground in darkness, if that was what he needed to do to show me I was not alone anymore.  There were few words that could express how much this meant to me.

    B would later reflect on this car ride and tell me that John had engaged her boyfriend A for the first time that night and the two of them spent the entire drive across island talking about their love of cars.  She shared how John even expressed to her that he liked A very much and was “impressed” with his knowledge.  I could tell by the light in my daughter’s eyes that John’s willingness to connect with someone she found important, made her feel equally valued by her stepfather for the first time in a long time.  B also said that the remainder of the car ride back to our house was filled with John being silly, kind, and compassionate toward her and she felt like he “actually liked” being around her.  I did not know this experience ever transpired after the “closet-incident” until last week, when B was crying about John’s insensitivities once again (how she felt deflated by his anger) after he had just given her so much hope things were improving between them.

    UH OH…. Our daughter is beginning to respond to John’s anger with the same level of personal devastation that her mother has felt….

     SHIT… SOMETHING’S GOTTA CHANGE, AND IT’S GOTTA CHANGE FAST!

     

    WHAT HAPPENED?

    Despite John stepping outside his comfort zone that night, enough to perfectly respond to my pain, and despite John abandoning his opinions on B and her boyfriend long enough to give my suggestion a chance (making B feel loved) …. John’s anger still proved to be insurmountable within a few days of that amazing night.  It was only two days later that he and I were right back at square one, as he aggressively vented about B’s behavior to me and then viciously yelled at me when I attempted to offer suggestions to bridge their communication gap once more.  It was within a week that John’s anger boiled over to the point of verbally screaming at B and calling her “AN ASSHOLE” while I was at work (something that took all of my willpower to not physically attack him for).  It was inconceivable that despite all of the incredibly difficult effort he put into finding the words to express his feelings and love that night on the closet floor… he had once again been absorbed by his incessant need to act out in anger.

    WHY??????

    While there are “specific” causes that my husband would point out for what fueled his “justified” anger once again, I realized that I was doing something terribly wrong this entire time in the way I responded to it.  My husband disclosed to me that he used his anger to gain control over his confusing emotions and to take control back from me when I expressed emotions he had difficulty processing.  Why didn’t I break down the simplicity of this a long time ago?

    IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT CONTROL!

     

    CONTROL

    Most NT-e women are bright enough to realize that inappropriate expressions of emotions have an underlying purpose… to gain control over one’s own feelings.  We know this.  This makes perfect sense.  Despite being cognitively aware of the root cause, we continue to allow our Aspie husband’s to control our emotions and feelings.  We give our husband’s the very thing they are seeking to obtain when they aggressively come at us with anger.

    We give them power and we give them control.

    We continuously validate their actions as being effective ones and we enhance their use of them to acquire greater power over us in the future.

     

    IN THE BEGINNING

    When we first met and subsequently fell in love with our Aspie husbands, they treated us well.  They may not have had the skills of a neurotypical man to identify our nonverbal messages and desires (and be able to appropriately respond to them), but they were generally loving and kind men who made us feel valued.  Even if there always lacked the intense emotional connection and deep understanding of one another’s feelings that NT-NT relationships experience, there was an emotional connection in our Aspie-NT union, and it was just as real and warm as we thought it was at the time.

    So what happened then, if our husbands were once able to show us attention, respect, interest, attraction, love, and kindness?  What happened to that gentle, intelligent man we fell in love with?  What happened to the man we were utterly convinced lacked the capacity to ever cause us emotional pain or inflict malicious displays of anger toward us?

    SERIOUSLY… WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THOSE MEN?!?!?

    They got us; that’s what happened. They secured our love and commitment, and they no longer felt the threat of losing us.  This absent “fear of loss” enabled a complacency in the effort it took for them to gain our affection in the first place.

    Is it that simple?

    If it is… then doesn’t that make them assholes?

    No… not at all.

    This same change in behavior occurs with many NT husbands who go from seemingly perfect to shockingly selfish, withdrawn, and angry men… somewhere in the midst of the relationship arriving at a monotonous daily existence.  This happens for the same reasons with both NT and Aspie husbands.  The difference is, Aspie men are far more internally focused and oblivious to the wants and needs of their partner than the NT men are.  Aspie men did not begin with exceptional communication skills, nor did they ever have the cognitive empathy to identify the nonverbal messages they were receiving or putting out to the women they loved.  Aspie men were always missing the majority of information that NT men were capable of receiving, so this caused their dramatic shift to appear a billion times more severe and intolerably cruel than that of the equally angry NT man.

     

    IT ALL STEMMED FROM SECURING OUR LOVE?

    Most men are inherently similar in the sense that the majority of them have fragile egos (call it nature or nurture, this is an unarguable fact that no amount of research will ever disprove).  Men hate the concept of being rejected by someone they desire; they hate this thought far more than they hate the concept of living in an unhappy relationship.  Of the men who possess this instinctive drive to protect their ego, there are men who are exceptional communicators.  These men tend to form healthy and happy relationships and their ego is suppressed in favor of mutual respect and appreciation.  Then there are the men who are so incredibly inept when it comes to social skills (think of the “nerd” stereotype given when someone first hears the term Asperger’s syndrome), that they rarely make it past the second date with a woman to form a long-term relationship (although sometimes they are lucky and find a woman equally challenged in social function to co-exist with).

    Finally, there are the Aspie husbands like my husband John, and all of your husbands.

    These men fall somewhere in between the other two, but almost in a parallel universe despite having the common bond of a fragile male ego.  Men like our husbands have learned enough social etiquette (be it from family, friends, casual observations, failed attempts at forming relationships, watching movies, reading books, etc.); they have learned enough to effectively start relationships that appear emotionally healthy and positive in the beginning.  These men put all of their efforts and energy into the early days of “securing” the woman they want to be with, and it is just enough for the women to miss the cues that something will be terribly lacking a few short steps down the road.

    For men like this (most of our Aspie husbands) … the duration of their relationship will be entirely dependent on the tolerance and endurance the NT woman is able to manifest along the way.  By the time the relationship evolves to legally joining as husband and wife, the NT spouse knows damned-well her husband once had the capacity to communicate in a non-hostile way, and she knows he is more than capable of interacting with her without utilizing anger in response to every communication attempt she makes… she knows this because she has seen him do it!!

    What she does not realize, is that her husband (and those like him) are thoroughly exhausted from their previous efforts to secure the relationship; it was the greatest social challenge they ever took on in their entire life.  Once these men no longer feel threatened that they will lose their wife, they succumb to the level of effort they really “want” to put forth in their social exchanges.  They might still respond to the fear of losing their wife intermittently, when they feel threatened by another man for instance (that ego is still there).  In rare instances like this, their efforts may be combated the way they initially tried to secure their wife.  Considering these men miss most nonverbal messages that even indicate a potential threat on the horizon, and they certainly do not have a clue they are in danger of losing their wife by their own poor behaviors, they do not respond to them with any degree of urgency to step up and protect their prize.  Aspie men are a million times less likely to ever identify that their negative behavior is a looming threat to the relationship because they lack the cognitive empathy to identify the nonverbal messages their wife is sending them to sound the alarm bells of potential calamity.

    The entire time the Aspie husband begins to slowly withdraw his exhaustive effort to “secure” his wife, the NT wife is enacting the worst possible means of responding to his withdrawal.  The NT wife will try to push more love, more effort in communicating, more verbalized feelings of disconnect, more displays of patience and understanding, and way more submissive behaviors… all in an attempt to nonverbally scream to her husband that their relationship is in danger.  All the NT wife wants is to have her husband GO BACK to the man she fell in love with.

     

    CHANGE BACK TO THE WAY YOU WERE… PLEASE CHANGE BACK!

    NT wives want their husband to return to the gentle, calm, kind man he once was; the man who put effort into treating her like a valued and cherished prize he was lucky enough to win.

    Aspie husbands are not going to do this on their own!

    Once they feel they have secured the relationship, they will exert only the bare minimum amount of effort needed (in their mind) to maintain it.  This is not because they do not love you, it is because the sheer magnitude of debilitating energy it took to obtain your commitment (in the first place) surpassed all of the combined energy they ever exerted in their lifetime toward any interpersonal relationship (about 100X more).

    Ultimately, the real reason Aspie husbands show lessening efforts as the years dredge on is because…

    YOU LET THEM GET AWAY WITH IT!!!

    Your Aspie husband’s declination in expending emotional and physical energy to show his love for you is inadvertently your fault because you allowed him to do this.  As he began withdrawing effort (because the threat of losing you was gone), he was NOT met by a wife who refused to tolerate his unwanted behavior.  Instead, he was met with a bewildered woman who did not understand what the hell happened and went out of her way to stick it out as she tried to uncover the reason.  As the NT wife searched for answers for her husband’s changing behavior, the husband realized (consciously or not) that he could sustain the marriage without having to exert any more effort than he was currently offering.

    Why would he exhaust himself proving a love that he no longer had to prove (in his mind)?

     

    WHY MESS WITH A SYSTEM THAT WORKS?

    How many times have you watched men fix up a broken piece of machinery, from an old car to a junkie lawnmower, and insist that they will not purchase a new one because the old one “STILL WORKS”?

    When bad behavior or minimal effort is “working” to keep their wife in the marriage…

    there is no reason for an Aspie husband to mess with their “functioning” system by adopting new behaviors.

    Eventually, I am going to take the lawnmower example to the extreme to show you how Angry-Aspie husbands will continue using something that works (anger) at the risk of time, energy, frustration, money, or quality… if they believe it still works for them.  I am going to show you how it does not matter if their lawnmower (anger) only yields results 10% of the time they use it… they will continue to use it and ignore any other lawnmower (positive emotion) that could replace the broken one based on their 10% success rate.

     

    THE ASPIE LAW OF CHANGE

    Let’s say an Aspie husband has an old junkie lawnmower that he has had (and fixed up) for many years which drives his wife insane.  Even if this man knew he could easily purchase a brand new, state of the art lawnmower that took fractions of the energy to mow the lawn that his old one did… he is not going to abandon it until it is completely broken and unquestionably useless.  Even if this lawnmower loudly screams down the yard while emitting noxious fumes to the entire neighborhood, the Aspie husband is going to keep on using this beast until it catastrophically fails for the last time and he has absolutely NO OTHER CHOICE but to find a new one.

     Remember, like this lawnmower, your Aspie husband’s anger has nothing to do with the overall functionality of success it yields (and this is the most bizarre part), he will willingly accept the ONE time that his angry behavior accomplishes its intended purpose over the THIRTY times it does not.

     To your Aspie husband, that ONE time his anger yields the desired result he was seeking,

    is enough validation that his behavior WORKS;

    and when something works, it is worth repeating.

     

          TRACKING?

     

     

    If not, let me try to clarify:  If your husband has to deal with 49 intense, aggressive, and emotionally debilitating arguments with you before you willingly concede to his side being the RIGHT ONE… he will do it.  If your husband tries to use anger as a means to thwart or stop an emotionally-charged conversation with you, and 1 time out of 50 times you break down and cry or run away instead of fighting back or pushing the subject matter… he will continue to do it.  He will always willingly endure the 49-shit storms that do not end with him being proven right or you abandoning a topic he does not want to discuss, for that ONE TIME he gets you to back down and allow his angry behavior to dominate your better judgement.  Even if it is wreaking physical and emotional damage on him personally to go through those 49 other fights, it will not matter.  The effort and collateral damage is worth it to him because the idea of changing his behavior is FAR MORE daunting than going with the one he is acclimated to using as a default to get his way, avoid confrontation, or prove a point.

    You can spin yourself in circles and try every single possible means of altering your husband’s angry behavior, but you will fail overall if you allow him to get away with it…

    even if it is only 1 out of every 50 times.

    Maybe you disagree with this concept.  Perhaps you have been imploring the new knowledge you have about cognitive empathy and you are finding your marriage slowly (but steadily) improving.  Maybe you once had a 95% failure rate in meaningful communication and now you only have a 15% failure rate.  While that would be amazing (and I am super stoked for you) … if that 15% failure rate is because of your husband’s anger… you are nowhere closer to success than you were when communication failed 95% of the time!

    I am not talking about abolishing angry feelings in general, you are both human and you are both going to get angry from time to time.  Being angry on occasion is perfectly acceptable.  Vocalizing anger can also be accepted and/or forgiven by both parties in the future (and should be), because anger is a natural human emotion.  What I am talking about is your husband’s use of anger to achieve, avoid, or justify something in the marriage.  I am talking about a husband who responds with anger over any other emotion, even if he can later identify the true feelings he had and apologize for his initial response of hostility.

    I am talking about a husband who uses anger as a means of obtaining power and control.

     

    If you allow your husband to do this… ever…

     from this day forward…

    you will not make a single step of progress in your marriage.

     

    Sorry to burst the bubble of happiness you had going for you after years of sadness, but this is important.  I know it feels like progress now that you have a better understanding of “why” he acts the way he does, and it is a step in the right direction, but it is not actual “progress” until he changes the behavior that is the most toxic to your marriage.  If your husband has learned to use anger as a dominant means to respond to conflict, your husband is always going to default to this instinctive behavior, even if he has grown enough to begin reflecting on a fight and apologizing after the fact.

    You may be thrilled he can now acknowledge and apologize after he has handled a situation poorly with his anger, but again, this is not “progress” toward a happy marriage.  It is not progress because each time he defaults to hostility, you will feel the same level of disrespect, devastation, and pain that you felt when he never returned later to apologize.  If you continue to feel that your husband does not value, love, or respect you… even if it is once in a blue moon… it is still ONE TOO MANY TIMES and has no place in a marriage.

    Think about it like this…   If an abusive husband beats his wife daily and then attends counseling (which motivates the wife to give the marriage a second chance), would it be acceptable if he only beat her once a year, perhaps on New Year’s Eve?

     

    FUCK NO IT WOULDN’T BE!!!!

     

     

    Why wouldn’t it be?  Because that behavior is destructive to ever having a mutually beneficial marriage based off of love and respect.  It is not acceptable, in any regard, even “once in a blue moon.”  The wife who convinces herself that it is alright to take an “annual beating” because she is so thankful she no longer has to endure them daily… she needs to wake up.  The wife that convinces herself he will get better because he has come “so far” in his efforts… she is going to be sorry.  If a physically abusive man claims he has changed his ways and defaults to physical violence ever again, the woman in his life can count on the fact that at some point… the stress in his life will bring the daily beatings back.  They will return, and they may return at a more lethal level, because he has not learned that this violent response is NEVER acceptable and never going to yield him the result he was seeking when he unleashed its fury. Accepting a return to violence even once is equivalent to accepting it 100% of the time because it reinforces the knowledge that when all else fails… THAT WILL WORK.

     

    If your Aspie husband believes that anger can effectively get the results he wants: to prove he is right, his opinion is correct, his actions, or method of doing something is just…  he will continue to default to it every time…

     UNTIL IT NO LONGER PRODUCES ONE SINGLE DESIRED RESULT!

    HOW COULD THEY NOT GRASP THIS?

    Aspie men have endured a lifetime of being told they are wrong, their thoughts are incorrect, and their behaviors or emotional responses are abnormal or inappropriate.  They grow up in a world that does not know they lack cognitive empathy and therefore, they grow up in a world that treats them like an alien from another planet when they openly express their perception of reality (which may vary greatly from the majority).  Aspie men have been groomed by a society of “naysayers” and social injustices that had them fighting “their” take on reality every step of the way.

    Some boys and men with Asperger’s syndrome submit to the masses and isolate themselves from social interactions altogether….

    These are NOT the Aspie husbands we are married to!

    We are married to the special group of Aspie men who have such an internal belief in who they are as a person (that they are a good man without mal-intent or insane perspectives), so instead of withdrawing from life, these men became FIGHTERS!  These men are amazing.  They are strong-willed and they can move mountains with their innate resilience and brilliance, especially if they join forces with an equally strong-willed NT-e.

    These men are fighters unlike most men in society, and they do so with pure and selfless intentions… they do so because they strongly believe in the knowledge they have and the inner battle to triumph over injustice and/or ignorance.  These men have a fighting spirit that comes from deep within their soul… and they will stop AT NOTHING and on NO ONE’S ACCOUNT to prove their worth in a world that has devalued them their entire lives.

    THAT IS THE ASPIE MAN YOU ARE MARRIED TO!

    Your husband’s strength of character is a gift and something to be marveled at.  It takes an unbelievably magnificent human to defy all the world’s hurtful and negative energy and absorb it enough to transform it into an energy that gives them the will to keep fighting.

    Think about that (from outside the box) for a moment.

    Your husband is a fighter (as are you) and for that… you should be in awe.  Unfortunately, these are the men that will fight 9,999 battles to win 1.  These are the men that possess the stamina to argue their point to the death and beat their opponent into submission if they believe in their core, that their truth is the only one that is correct.

    These are not men who ever set out to inflict harm, pain, sadness, injury, or misery to anyone else.  They are not even aware that their unwavering believes cause those resulting feelings for anyone else (particularly their NT wife).  They don’t have the cognitive empathy to recognize that their own actions are causing their wife to suffer, unless she manages to tell him this with direct, logical words.  Even then… if the logic for hurt feelings she expresses is being pinned on something they did not intend to do (and fail to believe they are responsible for), they will dismiss it with the same passion they do everything else.  They will fight you.

     With the same breath I took to tell you that your husband’s strength of character is a gift,

    a real marvel…

    it is also his Achilles Heel.

    Your husband is willing to suffer unimaginable amounts of misery and withstand countless negative consequences to stand his ground and get his one belief across to you until you accept it as correct.  Your husband will unknowingly ignore all of the unnecessary risks and negative outcomes possible in order to prove the validity of that one thing he stands behind.

     

    HOW THIS LOOKED IN MY MARRIAGE

    In my marriage, the internet search for “Relationship Advice” is a perfect example of my husband’s unrelenting fight to the death.  My husband independently went online to learn about Asperger’s syndrome after receiving his diagnosis and came across articles that suggested he was an “inherently evil man from birth” and “could never be a good husband or love me”.  He read a few (too many) hate-filled blogs filled with rhetoric that begged and pleaded with NT women to get the hell away from the toxic sociopaths that ARE Aspies.  My husband read these things and he was DONE.

    He made up his mind that there would NEVER come a day he would EVER AGAIN CONSIDER READING A SINGLE THING ONLINE ABOUT ASPERGER’S SYNDROME!

    I spent years begging him to read articles I found beneficial.  I emailed them to him, printed them out for him, attempted to read them to him… he refused.  I could have listed 100,000 happily married Aspie-NT couples who read just ONE short article with the secret to changing their marriage into a successful one; that promised to do this overnight without effort, and my husband would have STILL REFUSED TO READ IT.  When I brought up the subject, I was met with nasty aggressiveness to make me stop trying to force something on him he had zero intention of doing.  When I came at him with gentle, soft, kind words about it, he responded with anger.  When I demanded he do it to prove he loved me, his anger boiled over to the point of verbal abuse.

    The only time my husband ever responded the way I wanted was when I threatened to leave him if he did not “educate” himself (by way of the internet).  Despite pacifying me with promises that he would read (when he thought his resistance might actually threaten our relationship), he still never did.

    His actions were out of the inner belief that he was a good man, I was a good woman, and no one else on the planet had the potential to define our relationship other than the two of us.  That was the reason John refused to ever listen to my pleas for him to read a single thing on the computer over the 4+ years I begged him to.  My husband did not intend to hurt me with his refusal (quite the opposite, he thought it was going to protect our relationship).  John did not believe this was a good idea and he held strong to it… against any possible consequence his refusal to do so might bring upon him.

    That’s the thing about our Aspie husbands. 

    They have a damned-good reason behind the majority of their hostile and defiant behaviors.

    When they use anger to get their point across,

    they render us incapable of ever comprehending their reason.

    Our husbands are good men and our husbands do not secretly conspire to bring emotional suffering unto us.  Every seemingly cruel behavior that comes at us as angry words or actions… they are based off of an internal belief that they are going to be beneficial to us.  Our husbands do not have malicious or entirely self-serving purpose behind the mass majority of the arguments they engage us in.

     

    STOP THREATENING, START DOING

    I literally threatened our entire marriage if my husband did not take the time to research online information about his diagnosis and the impact it had on our relationship.  I spent countless hours looking for ways around his refusal and ridiculous amounts of time searching for an opportunity to sway his defiance into one of open consideration.  My husband held strong to his belief and there was nothing that could convince him otherwise… unless… I actually did end our relationship because he would not consider my wishes.

    Every time I threatened my husband or promised a negative consequence for his anger and/or refusal to change negative behaviors… I remained by his side.  By not following through with my words or actions, my husband lost respect for me.  The more I swore I would respond to his anger (and failed to do so), the worse his anger grew and the more he treated my words as the empty threats of a weak woman.  By warning my husband that his behavior was not going to be tolerated “one more time,” I gave him permission to do it one more time. The only way I ever would have maintained the respect my husband initially had for me, would have been if I walked out on him or kicked him out the very first time he came at me with hostile anger.  Could I have given him a second chance at that point?  Sure.  This may have prevented him for doing it again and solved the problem right away; I will never know.

    I like to tell myself that this would not have worked (because it makes me feel better).  I tell myself that I was not dealing with a man who knew how to handle confrontation of any kind without aggressive anger, so I had to get to this place in order to understand how to prevent it from occurring again.  Regardless of what I tell myself now, I should have followed through on my words the first time if I wanted to be respected by him and feel respect for myself.

    I have no doubt that you have also gone against your word and remained by your husband’s side despite swearing his most recent angry outburst would be the last.  I have good news… you can still regain respect for yourself and have your husband respect you by choosing to be a consistent woman today and to never again make a threat or promise you do not intend to keep.  How do you do this?  You learn how to stop your husband in his tracks so that anger is no longer accepted by you… not even one more time.

    Does that mean you have to leave him the next time he defies you?  No.

    In retrospect, I know that if I had actually divorced John because of his defiance to stop using anger as a means to communicate, I would have given him NO CHOICE but to submit to my demand.  If his defiance NO LONGER WORKED and threatened the very thing he wanted to avoid, he would have had to either chose a future without me, or change his behavior.  My husband has always loved me.  My husband has always wanted to make our relationship work.  Because I know this, I believe that if I had left him and told him the only way I would take him back, would be if he read 100 articles and then talked to me about them, in depth (so I knew for certain he read them), he would have done it.  I believe he still would have pushed my threats as far as he could go, and he would have required my follow-through to “end everything” before he did it… but in my heart I think he would have ultimately done it.

    It would have required my husband having ZERO alternative to changing his behavior for him to finally relinquish it in favor of saving the relationship he really wanted.

    It would have had to come to that.

    I know now that reading 100,000 articles wouldn’t have made my husband change his use of anger in our relationship, but I didn’t back then.  I rolled the dice on not following through on any threats I made and our relationship suffered as a result.  I always believed there was another way to reach him and being as defiant as my Aspie husband is… I wanted to prove myself right.  As it turns out (thankfully), there is a far better way to stop your husband’s anger (that does not involve threats), but this doesn’t mean it is an “easier” way.

     

    I KNOW YOU ARE NOW FEELING READY TO BEGIN MAKING PERSONAL CHANGES TO PREVENT HIS ANGER IN THE FUTURE…

    NOT SO FAST…

    I AM NOT CERTAIN YOU FULLY GRASP HOW DIFFICULT CHANGE IS QUITE YET

    Before I share the simple method you can use to begin teaching your husband to change his anger… I need to really drive home the point (as I enjoy doing) that this is NOT going to go smoothly.  As it stands, you have taught your Angry-Aspie husband that he does not need to change.  You have taught him that if he fights long enough… that if he is willing to go the distance to be proven right… that if there stands a remote chance that he could avoid a confrontation, get attention, gain satisfaction, make you go away, or ultimately… obtain CONTROL

    then it is worth the battle each and every time.

    You have taught your husband that his defiance WORKS… even if it is only effective 1 out of 10 times. You have taught your husband that he stands the chance to win, even if the odds are stacked heavily against him.  For a strong-willed and hardened fighter like your Aspie husband… those odds are going to continue to be worth his efforts and any negative consequence his efforts yield in your relationship.

     

    BACK TO THE PIECE OF SHIT LAWNMOWER

    Go ahead and try to tell your mechanically-gifted Aspie husband that his old lawnmower that only works 1 out of every 10 times he tries to cut the grass is “no good and he should consider buying a newer, more effective one.”  Go ahead and tell him that the poorly-cut lawn his machine manages to leave in its wake, the potential for eviction you both face if you are cited for an unacceptable home-appearance in your neighborhood one more time, or all the lost time between you both (that he spends trying to make it work) … go ahead and tell him why these reasons justify dumping that old piece of shit grass-chewer.

    And then go ahead and watch him throw his middle finger up at you in return.

    Watch him as he spends hours using an old mower to cut the lawn when a new one could get the job done in a fraction of the time, with a fraction of the energy, and with far more effective results.  Watch him as he defies your suggestion with unreasonably hostile anger.  Watch him as he loses weight in the blistering sun trying to prove the effectiveness and worthiness of his equipment.  Watch him as he wastes an entire day fixing it when he could have spent it enjoying the afternoon with his wife instead.  Watch him as he endures any negative consequence and sucks up countless hours of frustrated energy, to power through with his terribly defective machine.  Stand back in astonishment as he spends five times more money to fix his hunk of junk than it would have cost to purchase the best lawnmower on the market.

    WHAT AN IDIOT!

    Your Aspie husband believes his lawnmower is fully functional and has purpose. So long as his it serves its purpose every once in a while, it will be kept.  It has worked for him in the past and he believes with all of his stubborn might… that it will continue working in the future.  He will stop at nothing to prove himself right (not you wrong… but himself right).

    You may initially wonder why you are fighting with him over a lawnmower in the first place and willingly allow him to waste his day and energy on it if that’s what he chooses.  That is how you will respond until his “lawnmower efforts” begin to ruin your plans, mood, sense of security, and overall happiness because you never spend quality time together.  When your husband begins to ignore everything else in your marriage to “use his lawnmower” instead… it is going to really frickin matter to you at that point.

    You are going to try to buy a new “better” mower and put it in his direct line of sight so he opts to use that one the next time he cuts the grass.  When he ignores you, you are going to demand he use the new one.  When he ignores you, you are going to demand he stop using the old one.  When he ignores you, you are going to threaten to destroy or throw out the old one.  When he threatens you back and becomes more hostile, you are going to find yourself becoming angry, resentful, and hostile in return.

    You might even begin to beg him to stop using the old mower, plead with him to consider your feelings, or try to rationalize how a new mower could improve your time together.  When he ignores you, you are going to break down in tears and feel like he doesn’t even love you enough to change out an old stupid lawnmower that is causing completely unnecessary misery… even though there is a perfectly beneficial one right in front of his selfish eyes!  When you cry over it, he is going to tell you that you are being ridiculous.

    You may find yourself bouncing between a million different ways to get through to him, day after day, only to find that your husband has not ever stopped to even consider dumping his old mower or bothered to look at the new one… not even once.

    He hasn’t considered it because as far as he is concerned…

    the old one works, case closed.

    You can go toe to toe with this kind of Aspie defiance all day long but in the end, you will be left with exhaustion and a desire to just submit to his will and hope for a better tomorrow.  When you finally submit and he manages to get the lawn cut with his defective yard tool, he will consider his fight a victory.  That is how the Aspie husband solidifies the idea that his battle was a worthy one.  He will go on using his busted up shit-mower again next week, regardless of the negative impact it has on you.

    This is what you have been doing, and you can keep doing this… if you want the same outcome. Or… you can walk into the garage, gut the entire engine of the lawnmower and throw it away where he can never again find the parts (because guess what? The parts needed to build that machine long ago… they are no longer in existence to rebuild it again in the future!) and place a sign on the shell that remains that reads: BROKEN!

    Your husband is going to be really pissed off at you and he is going to rage on you.  Is that really going to matter when the end result is that he has to come to terms with the fact that his lawnmower is NEVER AGAIN GOING TO WORK and it can never again cut a single blade of grass for the remainder of eternity?

    Provided you make sure he can never figure out a way to make that stupid machine fire up again, EVEN ONE MORE TIME, he is going to have to let it go.  Once he accepts that his beloved lawnmower stands ZERO CHANCE of ever again working for him…

    HE IS GOING TO HAVE TO CHANGE IS METHOD OF CUTTING THE LAWN.

    He isn’t going to want to use that brand new super-mower that you purchased him because he is going to be angry at you.  Eventually though… when he comes to terms with the fact that he has to cut the lawn if he wants to remain in his home and have any quality time with his wife, he is going to give that new mower a second glance and consider using it.  He is going to rationalize why it is worth it to “give it a try” and he’s GOING TO USE IT.

     AFTER SEEING THE AMAZING RESULTS AND MINIMAL EFFORT IT TAKES TO ACHIEVE THEM,

     HE IS GOING TO CONTINUE TO USE IT…

     BECAUSE IT WORKS!

    You are not the lawnmower.  Your husband’s angry behavior is.  His anger has worked for him, albeit only a percent of the times he has used it, but it has still worked enough times to consider it functional.  Until you make it unarguably clear that his anger will NEVER AGAIN WORK FOR HIM to achieve a single positive or desired result…

    He will always default to it.

    It’s time for you to replace his old mower with a brand new (effective) one.

    I promise you, there is ZERO chance your husband will EVER change his current behaviors and learn to use more effective and positive ones until you make it clear to him that he has NO OTHER OPTION. It does not matter how angry, hostile, defensive, pathetic, dismissive, defiant, argumentative, lazy, or indifferent his behavior may be; he will not change it if it CONTINUES TO YIELD DESIRED RESULTS.  He has to comprehend that his anger is no longer working and will never again work as a means of control in your marriage.  Once he has expended every amount of defiant energy imaginable to deny that he is losing this battle, that his fight is a futile one because he cannot win and faces ultimate demise if he continues trying, that his method of obtaining control is a BROKEN METHOD…

    At that time your husband will be ready to make the changes necessary to replace his angry responses and approaches with more effective and positive ones. 

     MY HUSBAND TOLD ME WHAT TO DO, I JUST WASN’T LISTENING

    John told me what was happening this month as we sat on the floor of my closet in the dark.  He told me that we were failing, and we were failing because of his ignorance about how to respond appropriately to me (without anger).  He told me that we were failing because he was defaulting to anger as a method of control because he deemed it the easiest path to take… because it was familiar to him.

    It isn’t easier to get angry in response to feelings and emotions he does not comprehend, but he could not see that at the time.  It isn’t easier because in the long run, his anger puts up a wall to communicating with his wife.  In the long run, his anger leads to a wife who is angry, sad, hurt, afraid, exhausted, defeated, and ready to give up on the marriage.  In the long run, his anger has led to all of these feelings for himself as well.  In the long run, his anger has prevented the happiness both he and his wife could have been sharing for years… had he learned to change his use of it.

    When push came to shove, what John had convinced himself to be the easier path to trudge…

    had made his life (and his wife’s) pure hell.

    My husband was not alone.

     

    WHY PEOPLE DON’T CHANGE FOR THE BETTER

    People choose to take the road they think is easier (because it is what they are acclimated to) all the time.  If our society did not do this, everyone would be wealthy, highly educated, and the advancements made in our communities each day would be mind-blowing.

     People get by with “just enough” to keep telling themselves it is easier than trying to accomplish what they are actually capable of in their lives.

    Consider a woman who graduates high school with grand intentions of going to college and obtaining her degree and license as a physical therapist.  While she is in between high school and her wishful future, she stumbles on a fantastic opportunity to work as a clerk in one of the city’s top Sports Medicine Clinics, and the pay is impressive for a high school graduate to come upon.

    You might think this young lady is on the path to success and has the capacity to accomplish the goal of becoming a physical therapist in no time… if she just keeps pushing herself forward.

    Now consider this young lady meets a strikingly handsome and magnetic man who is interning at the clinic and “falls in love.”  Within a year, when she is just about ready to begin the college program she worked hard to get accepted into… she discovers she is pregnant and going to have a child at a young age with her new love.  Suddenly plans shift.  This motivated and determined girl is feeling fearful of the future.  Fear comes from wondering if she is ready to meet the demands of motherhood and the awesome responsibility it will bring.  Fear comes from wondering if she will be able to financially support her child’s needs, pay for college, and afford the larger living space the baby will require.  Suddenly, all of her thoughts will be filled with fear; fear that there will never be a feasible way to manage the time needed to attend college and study, work full time to cover costs, and have enough time with her new infant.  She begins to fear the stability of her new relationship as she and her new love begin arguing about the responsibilities their new discovery will entail of them both.  Fear is overriding every other emotion this young woman had a month ago… when she did not know she was pregnant.

    This woman is very religious and her religion does not allow for abortion to be considered.  This woman comes from a family that values children and is culturally against adoption.  This woman is firm in her childhood upbringing and the values it has instilled in her and she will not waver from them, not even long enough to consider an alternate option to having and raising her child.  This woman begins to break down and her stress ultimately becomes an intolerable and undesired weight on her new love.  Since he can “make a clean break” and not look back; the relationship was pretty new anyway and he has BIG PLANS that cannot be sidelined for a woman he wasn’t even certain he wanted to commit to…. he makes the choice to run… and he runs fast.

    Now this young lady is faced with emotions so intense she has a hard time making sense of them.  She decides to sideline her aspirations of attending college with the plan to return to it once she is “more stable.”

    Fast forward a decade and this woman, still a single parent, still working at the same clinic, considers a return to her initial dream of becoming a physical therapist; which has remained in the back of her mind all those years.  She feels like a failure and she feels like life is passing her by, so she wants to make a move before it is too late.  She can do it.  She can feel the fear and step through it and accomplish the life she knows is possible.

    She doesn’t.

    She doesn’t do it because the same fear that caused her to submit to taking the “easier road” a decade earlier still becomes the identified easier path this time around; the others lead to an unknown journey that carries unknown results.  The sad thing is, the easier path she is choosing is one that will definitely cause her to feel resentful or like a personal failure.  The easier path could never be the path that will always end with negative emotions that cause her harm, but she is blinded by fear.  Even though the decision to pursue school might be a challenge to undertake initially (as all major changes are), in the end it would likely bring less financial worry, less concern about her future stability and that of her young child, more possibility of finding a desirability relationship, less self-criticism, more pride in her accomplishments, and far more opportunities to uncover that may open new doors and paths she never thought possible.

    All she had to do was desire a change, abandon the old belief systems that paralyzed her life, and take a deep breath as she stepped forward into the unknown with an optimistic drive to succeed against all odds placed before her.  All she had to do was believe that a better life could be realized if she took the steps toward it.

    Do you think most people leap at the opportunity to change their lives for the better?

    No, of course they don’t or we would be living on a much happier planet.  People stay in the same spot even when it is making them miserable or it makes their life more challenging than it needs to be.  People thwart change and remain in unwanted relationships, careers, families, social circles, and environments, and they do it only because they are “used to it” and it has “gotten them by” until that time.

    For most people, that’s enough to not risk changing their life.

     DO YOU REALLY THINK HE WAS THE ONLY ONE THAT CHANGED?

    So where do you and your Aspie husband fit into this theory of change?  Well, for one thing you have likely read to this point with a feeling of motivation to tell your husband that his angry behavior is no longer going to be accepted as a behavior that “works” in your marriage, right?  You believe that if he were to change this one chronic emotion, your lives could change for the better.  You are probably even struggling to comprehend how he cannot see that he is enduring so much pain and negativity and there is a simple solution to changing it all.  It is probably very difficult to understand why he would be willing to risk losing 9 out of 10 times (by utilizing anger) when he could turn that into a 90-100% success rate instead.  This doesn’t seem so hard to grasp, right?  So why can’t he see this?

    I DON’T KNOW…

    MAYBE FOR THE SAME REASON YOU CANNOT SEE YOU ARE DOING THE SAME THING AND PLAYING THE SAME TERRIBLE ODDS?!?!?

    You and your husband were happy together once.  You were happy or you never would have opted to move forward in the relationship.  The time for him to develop a sense of security in his “bare minimum” efforts would never have been afforded to him.  You identified early on that you did not like being treated like a doormat, right?  You knew pretty quick your husband was treating you with disrespect and you did not like the way it felt.  You told yourself that “Something has GOT TO CHANGE” or your life was going to remain miserable… or get worse.

     But nothing changed because you weren’t willing to make the same change you have been expecting your husband to make…

    to abandon an old behavior that DOES NOT WORK!

    You have 90-100% odds of improving your relationship, or at least your own feelings of self-worth if you immediately choose to STOP your husband’s ability to treat you like a doormat ever again.  You have a 0-10% chance at finding happiness if you DO NOT CHANGE your own behavior.

    Why are you still trying to rationalize odds so stacked against you?

    Is it because you have become equally complacent in your effort?  Are you afraid of the changes that are absolutely going to occur (one way or another) when you finally do draw an unsurpassable line in the sand?  Are you afraid of the immediate changes you will be forced to make the moment you make it clear to your husband that his anger will NEVER AGAIN be accepted as a means of control in your marriage?

    You are getting 0-10% of the love you deserve and only 0-10% of the love your husband has to offer. Why are you still asking yourself if that 0-10% is a high enough return on your investment to stick around when you could be getting 90-100% instead?

    It’s what you are used to… isn’t it?

    You have “gotten by” with less than 10% all this time, haven’t you?

    It’s ok, you can admit it. 

    When the final ruling of “who needs to change in your marriage” is handed down,

    you are going to get a unanimous verdict.

    YOU BOTH DO!

     

    Suck it up buttercup.  You are no different from your Aspie husband.  Your behaviors may be different, and your comprehension of “what” needs to change may be more readily identifiable to you than it is to him; but long ago the two of you equally chose to cement your feet into a foundation of disappointment and resentment all because you were both afraid of change.  That fear of change has sent both of you into a desperate fight for power and control that neither of you could ever win.

     

    STOP BEING SUCH A CHICKENSHIT

    You do not need to be afraid of change.  You do not need to fear this, because you already know your husband CAN CHANGE his behavior.  You know this because HE HAS CHANGED ALREADY (and so have you).  He wasn’t the man that stands before today you when you first fell in love.  He was a better version of himself, a complete image of what he is capable of being AGAIN in the future (if not way more).

    If he changed once to become the angry man you currently share a bed with…

    he can change back to the man you couldn’t wait to share a bed with!

    Your Aspie husband is not mentally ill.  Your Aspie husband does not have a brain injury.  Your Aspie husband does not have a personality disorder.  Your Aspie husband does not have a physical ailment preventing him from changing back to the man you fell in love with.

    Yeah, you finally comprehend something you didn’t know back when all those awful changes were beginning to occur… you know a little something about cognitive empathy.  You know that your Aspie husband cannot read nonverbal messages.  Do you understand fully that that is the ONLY thing he cannot do?

    Guess what?  You don’t need your husband to comprehend nonverbal messages to be happy together because YOU are more than capable of using verbal words to clearly express what you are thinking, feeling, and desiring from him; you are equally competent enough to make sense of the verbal words he is saying to you.  Guess what else?  Your Aspie husband did not have cognitive empathy when you met him either.  Your Aspie husband couldn’t read your nonverbal messages back then any more than he can today, but that did not prevent you from falling deeply in love with him enough to become his wife, did it?  You fell in love with that man so much that THAT MAN is who you want him to transform back into.

    Asperger’s syndrome did not cause your marital difficulties,

    defaulting back to his previously learned behaviors and resistance to change did. 

    Your husband was the same Aspie the day you fell in love with him that he is today,

    he just needs your help to let those broken defenses go.

    GOT IT… SO NOW WHAT?

    So what are you going to do?  Are you going to put your damn foot down and tell your husband that the angry behaviors he used in the past that “worked for him” are no longer an option?  Are you going to tell him his old method is BROKEN and will never again function to control you in any regard?  Are you going to tell your husband that it is time for CHANGE or he is no longer going to have a wife to change for?  Are you going to admit that it is time for you to begin changing what you will and will not allow to occur in your marriage from this day forward?  Are you going to stop blaming Asperger’s syndrome for his anger and stop allowing his anger to define your daily existence?  Are you going to stop letting him control your emotions and start regaining the power you both should have to live fulfilling and happy lives?  Are you going to stop considering that you are in ANY WAY responsible for causing your husband’s anger, you are only responsible for allowing it to continue?

    You didn’t cause your husband’s anger any more than he caused your response to it.  Your husband’s anger-response was learned many years before he ever met you.  His anger is a default reaction to fear of pain; it is a default attempt to gain control in situations where he feels powerless. It worked for him in his youth, it worked for him as an adult, and it works for him with you in your marriage. You must completely comprehend why he has anger, why he uses anger, and that his anger is a modifiable behavior before you will be ready to do anything about his anger.  You must be ready and willing to never again allow it to work for him to gain control and truly understand that if you allow it to work, even 1% of the time, you are allowing him to continue using it 100% of the time.

     

    IT’S ON YOU NOW.

     WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?

     

     

     

    Look for the pending post: WHAT CAN I DO TO STOP THE ANGER?


  • 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?


  • YOU DON’T HAVE TO FORCE AN ASPIE TO DRINK ONCE YOU LEAD THEM TO WATER

    MY ASPIE HUSBAND WAS THIRSTY

    My posts are all created from years of random thoughts, insights, experiences, compiled lists, and references already on paper or my laptop that I weed through before narrowing down a specific topic.  All of this information comprises what led me to my current opinions on Asperger’s syndrome and the happy marriage my husband and I now share.

    Before I feel content bringing these incredibly long and thoroughly researched subjects to all of you, I rigorously fact-check everything I have to say (I do not want to lead anyone down a misguided path… ever).  I put a great deal of effort into re-reading, reviewing, and trying to disprove or solidify my own theories with new information in existence before I feel confident I am providing all of you with factual information (like statistics and scientific data) or proven/disproven behaviors attempted in my own relationship.  Since this obviously takes time to accomplish, and I work 50-80 hours every week, I began feeling very frustrated with the gaps between my posts the last nine months.

    I remember reading things about Asperger’s syndrome over the years and having questions about what I read or wanting more in-depth information from the writer, but most of the time the articles or posts were closed for comments or so old no one ever replied to me.  I do not want to do this to anyone, especially since I am incredibly inspired and appreciative of the time people have taken to read and comment on my posts, share their own stories, or ask for more information.

    This is not meant to be a blog only about my life, it is intended to be a source of information and insight gleaned from all of our lives to offer hope instead of what we keep finding when we go in search of it.  I want to play whatever role I can in opening the doors to understanding, communication, and bridging the gaps that exist in Aspie-NT relationships.  I want to offer hope to those who are currently in, or newly embarking on this challenging dynamic themselves.

    I wish I had someone tell me the things that took over five years to realize before my husband and I almost destroyed one another!

    In an attempt to promote this information-sharing the best I can, I have decided to begin taking reader-comments that spark lengthy responses from me and turn them into “interim” posts everyone can read; that may have otherwise gotten lost beneath posts of lesser interest.  I hope this helps to fill the gaps of time in between my excessive rants about topics I am passionate about and inspire everyone to keep commenting so that their experiences, knowledge, and questions can be explored in further detail.  I also truly hope that by doing this, I will offset the chance that I could become another blogger who leaves people wanting more information.

     

    So here is my first “short” post addressing a comment I received yesterday from a reader.

    The author of this comment (HJH) gave a familiar snapshot of the common feelings many neurotypical wives have about their Aspie husband’s capacity to change.  I do not know if HJH identifies themselves as a neurotypical, someone with High-Functioning Autism, ASD, or Asperger’s syndrome.  I do not know if they are male or female, married or single.  All I know is that they expressed sentiments remarkably similar to those I held for many years so it prompted a long reply from me:

     

    (WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS BLOG?) 

    HJH wrote:

    There are a lot of variables to ASD and I do agree that Aspergers is different than regular autism. It was grouped together because of many shared similarities, but unlike classical autism, people with HFA and ASD can control some of the characteristics of the disorders. It comes down to choice. If a person is capable of making a choice, he or she can change. It may be harder for some than others, but it can still be done. Empathy is a trait that can grow in every individual if the person chooses to allow it to grow. Empathy is a God-given characteristic that can be fostered. When you plant a seed, you have to water it consistently for it to grow. I don’t care if people with ASD have lower empathy levels than others-it just takes more work and a willingness to make sacrifices for the one’s you love! Many people with ASD have been given excuses because of their weaknesses, but weaknesses don’t have to stagnate and not be remediated. If you have ASD and you enter into a marriage, you have to make sacrifices. For the things you can’t do, lay your pride aside and ask God for help if you really care about the other person more than yourself. If you are going to put self-first, you really don’t have the right to enter into a marriage. This goes for anyone who is self-absorbed-aspie or not! If you have enough of a cognitive IQ to make choices and know that your behaviors are affecting others negatively, then you have enough of a mental ability to change. Most people can make choices.

    HJH,

    Thank you for taking the time to read this post and offer your thoughts.

    I do agree there are a lot of variables to someone with Asperger’s syndrome and Autism, much like someone without; there are a lot of variables to each and every one of us. I try to not speak about Autism in general because I don’t have first-hand experience with it. I realize that sounds like denial with the generally accepted blanket term: Autism Spectrum Disorder, but as someone who strongly opposes that term I have to address that first in my reply.

    If you are identifying the term HFA or ASD to simply describe someone with great difficulties navigating social intelligence, then I am in no way trying to conflict with what you are saying.  I would prefer to default to the previously used: Developmental disorder instead as an all-encompassing term until the mental health clowns can come up with something better than eliminates the word “disorder” entirely.  I hold strong that Autism and Aspergers should be teased out because of the damage caused when it is not. I am sure that anyone who had a child with “classic” Autism would have been angry if they deemed all those with social deficits to fall under “Asperger’s Spectrum Disorder” (I know they did not like the term High-Functioning Autism because it was degrading to their child who was thought to be low-functioning). While ASD is just a “label” it has had (and will continue to have) incredibly profound ramifications in how society perceives those who now fall under this broad group.

    I intend on exploring the term “high-functioning” Autism (HFA) in the future in more detail because I think it is an unfair label and it discounts the struggles an individual with Autism or Aspergers experiences in their life. I also strongly suspect that many of those HFA individuals are really Aspies and they need to be pulled from this currently “interchangeable” label.

    Now, on to your thoughts on making conscious choices. I absolutely agree with you that those who have Asperger’s syndrome are capable of making choices. They are capable of changing many things about the behaviors that cause damage within their relationships. Neurotypicals are also capable of making conscious choices to alter the behaviors that are causing damage (even if they do not see them yet).

    The concept of choice is something that causes great pain to both sides because those with cognitive empathy believe those without it, can process information the same. They believe that their partner is able to make the same conscious choices they can. The problem comes with the fact that a person with Asperger’s syndrome cannot consciously choose to use cognitive empathy to identify and use their emotional (affective) empathy. They cannot do this because they do not possess the neurologic capabilities to do so.

    When a neurotypical does utilize cognitive empathy but not very effectively, they can “choose” to pay closer attention to the nonverbal information and messages others are sending them. If they put forth this degree of effort, it is very likely they will improve their emotional empathy and strengthen social relationships. Someone with Asperger’s syndrome does not have the option to just “try harder” or focus more on nonverbal messages. How can they be held accountable for appropriately responding to someone’s emotions if they are unable to identify what those emotions are in the first place? That is simply unfair; it is something we neurotypicals keep demanding and hanging the future of our marriages on.

    I wish everyone understood that Aspies cannot do this. They cannot identify our thoughts, feelings, and emotions unless we tell them what they are! Every time they fail to respond appropriately a neurotypical’s feelings, the NT views it as a lack of effort or regard for them; this is not true.

    You are absolutely correct that emotional (affective) empathy is an inherent gift we are all given (less those with actual brain damage/anomalies and sociopaths). It is just like you said, a seed that requires watering to grow. Consider this: affective (emotional) empathy is the seed. Cognitive empathy is the water. If both sides could grasp this simple analogy, perhaps they could better understand that Aspies need NT’s to show them where the water is. If they cannot read nonverbal messages (and the majority of human communication comes directly from nonverbal means), then they are never going to be able to water the seeds of their emotional empathy.

    Until neurotypicals learn to use direct language to communicate their feelings, wants, and needs explicitly to their Aspie loved one, they can sit back and blame the Aspie all day long for not choosing to “grow” their emotional empathy seedlings and it will still never be the Aspie’s fault. When an NT refuses to believe this, or does not yet realize that the only true (shared) deficit that defines Asperger’s syndrome is absent cognitive empathy, the neurotypicals are essentially thwarting the Aspies access to water. It is never going to matter how much plant food, prayer, or sunlight you throw at that seed; if you don’t give it water, it will never grow!

    To sum up this idea of choosing to “water” the seeds of empathy:  Verbally articulating your wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings directly (without the hidden language we NT’s love to use) is how you provide the water needed for the Aspie’s emotional (affective) empathy to grow and show it to you.

    HJH, you sound like you have been frustrated and hurt by someone who has failed to meet your emotional needs for so long that everything now seems like an excuse? I may be wrong, but that was how I felt for a long time. I kept pushing my husband to TRY HARDER and when he did not, I viewed every rationale for his failure to do this as an excuse. I became angry at the Aspies out there in general for a while. I used to think, “These are highly intelligent people capable of comprehending everything else in their life, so it is complete BULLS#*T to say they can’t comprehend how to treat someone with emotional reciprocity!”

    Aspies are intelligent, they are equal to their neurotypical counterparts in every way except the ability to use cognitive empathy. The inability to use this important method of understanding the nonverbal communication from those around them causes the unjust and hurtful ways they are perceived by peer groups and loved ones. It is the absence of cognitive empathy that leads to the negative impact on intimate interpersonal relationships and it is something those with Aspergers want to avoid when they enter into a relationship.

    Aspies want their relationships to succeed just as much as the neurotypical does.

    You say that people are “excusing the weaknesses” of those with ASD. I am going to once again separate the ASD term and address only Aspergers because I do not want anyone with Autism (of any “spectrum”) to think I am speaking on their behalf. Again, I only write about individuals who have Asperger’s syndrome and their neurotypical loved ones. I passionately oppose the suggestion that Aspies are given excuses or that their neurotypical loved ones ever opt to just “accept” their behavior. I hope that you do not think I am writing this blog in an attempt to offer up an “excuse” as I began it to offer the polar opposite of that. Excuses are made in an attempt to mitigate blame. Blame should be non-existent in an Aspie-NT union. Blame serves no purpose and compounds the profound misunderstanding about causation (cognitive empathy). It causes both parties to incorrectly focus their energy on proving who is at fault in lieu of working toward effective and open communication.

    I cannot say enough times that there is NO blame to be awarded here.

    Very few neurotypicals accept the differing ability to process cognitive empathy that an Aspie has (or I should say, does not have) from their own abilities. In fact, the majority of people are cruel and horrifically judgmental toward those with Asperger’s syndrome and choose to simplify their “inappropriate” social communication as a conscious choice. This misperception causes most of society to fault Aspies, make fun of them, bully them, get angry with them, admonish them, and ultimately… avoid them.

    Cognitive IQ is not the problem, emotional intelligence is. Emotional intelligence is a problem; not because Aspies are incapable of being or becoming more emotionally intelligent, but because they cannot identify the emotions of others easily and truly need the NT in their life to directly state what they are. Once they are told what the emotion is, they are more than capable of understanding and appropriately responding to them (affective empathy). Neurotypicals have just as big a challenge believing someone cannot readily pick up on nonverbal messages (facial expressions, tone/pitch of voice, context of words, body language, etc.) to identify a person’s feelings, emotions, and thoughts as Aspies have believing someone can do this. Aspies may be able to sense extreme emotions radiating from those around them (some to an incredible or even debilitating degree), but they notoriously fail at accurately identifying the source of what caused them, or what the specific emotion even is.

    While it seems like those with Asperger’s syndrome are selfish or only put their own needs first, this is not what they want to do! At this time, I believe that this assumption stands as the greatest difference between a person who has “High-Functioning” Autism and someone with Asperger’s syndrome. Those who rightfully fall under HFA do not have the desire for social interaction that Aspie’s do; they are centrally-focused and are not bothered by their alienation from peer groups.

    Aspies are devastated by the alienation they experience.

    Aspies are internally-focused on self only after they are made to feel like chronic failures in social settings throughout their youth; they never set out to become as isolated and alienated from their peers as they do. Detachment from others is the last thing Aspie children want to experience, they have the exact same desire and need for human interaction and closeness that neurotypicals have.

    With that in mind, it should pull at the heartstrings of anyone (who knows the value of friendship, acceptance, and emotional warmth) to consider that the majority of Aspie children, teens, and adults are grievously deprived of this magnificent human experience throughout their lives.

    When an Aspie and NT fall in love, both are focused on one another equally when the relationship first develops. Men with Asperger’s syndrome are accustomed to being shunned (without a comprehension of why this has always occurred in their life) and they are almost always terrified of losing the woman they have fallen in love with. Having found someone they want to be with more than anything else in the world, these men frequently stand on guard, in a heightened state of arousal that the ground is going to drop out beneath their feet at any moment. These men are not able to open up and let themselves be known fully by their partner because they do not know what it is about them that causes people to run away. They walk on an imagined (but often painful) bed of nails in a desperate attempt to keep the woman they adore from running away from them. These men live in an unrelenting state of fear that they will experience the same rejection they have endured throughout their lives by the woman they now love with all of their being.  By the time they begin to feel whole and finally accepted enough to open themselves up to such vulnerability, they are quickly reminded by their NT mate that they are standing on shaky ground.  This constant reminder (by NT accusations about their “incorrect” behaviors) inadvertently shuts their willingness to be open off in favor of being trepidatious in their future actions and words .

    Between the missed nonverbal messages the NT is sending her Aspie mate and the guarding she senses from him, inevitably she equates it all to a lack of love. The NT wife begins to assign blame toward her Aspie husband and the more she expresses this to him or faults him for not meeting her emotional needs, the more she creates a disconnect. The Aspie husband, fearful of losing his wife, defaults back to the internal focus he needed in his youth to protect him from social rejection and pain.

    If there is anything I can get you to consider in this response, please let it be that someone with Asperger’s syndrome is not self-absorbed by choice. They do not know what to do to fix the relationship any more than the NT who is blaming them does. They do not know what they are doing “wrong” any more than the NT does.

    In a marriage, both partners need to equally commit themselves to one another with the same degree of acceptance, love, and willingness to change. That means the NT needs to learn about cognitive empathy so she can stop misinterpreting her husband’s behaviors as conscious choices to cause her emotional harm. The Aspie husband needs to learn about cognitive empathy and realize that their wife is misunderstanding their behavior, not because they are “crazy, delusional, or overly-emotional,” but because they are receiving false messages from him based on an inherent communication ability that the Aspie never learned, cannot learn, and isn’t really using in the first place.

    Both need to drop the fear from their daily communication and actions and make a conscious choice to open themselves up again as they wanted to do when they first fell in love. Both need to work their asses off to start using actual (unambiguous) words to express their needs and feelings (even when they don’t want to) and be willing to do so without the fear of rejection from the other.

    It all begins with both sides accepting that there is a completely different use of emotional expression and perception taking place because one has cognitive empathy and the other does not. This is a comprehension that (as you said) may take a lot of prayers to God (or whatever someone believes) to be able to accept. It can be done if both parties are equally committed to one another and choose to put the other above themselves.

    While your thoughts are incredibly similar to the ones I held less than a year ago, I hope that you can consider my current opinion on the “choices” most Aspie husbands really have available to them. Until I applied the knowledge that my husband could never “choose” to identify or appropriately respond to my nonverbal messages unless I directly told him what they meant, I was setting both of us up for withdrawal, inappropriate blame, and utter failure.

    Taking the expectation that my husband should choose to “work harder” at deciphering my nonverbal messages off the table was the #1 thing I had to do to begin changing our marriage for the better.  Navigating around his absent cognitive empathy (by learning to utilize my verbal messages at an equal capacity to my nonverbal ones) has been the only tactic uncovered that ever really benefited us.

    There is no other tool needed to begin changing the level of love, emotional empathy, affection, understanding, and appreciation for one another that will ever come close to the importance of utilizing that one.  It is easier said than done, but as mentioned, marriage is about selflessness and commitment and it takes a lot of mutual effort.

    Ultimately, you nailed it when you said, “It comes down to a choice.” It really does. It is just imperative we comprehend what the “choices” really are.  Choosing to learn about cognitive vs. affective (emotional) empathy is the most important choice an Aspie-NT couple has to make if they want to find a happy marriage.

     

    See: WHAT ABOUT ASPERGER’S SYNDROME AND EMPATHY for a clearer understanding of how these different types of empathy impact one another.


  • HOW TO TEACH EMPATHY TO SOMEONE WITH ASPERGER’S SYNDROME part 2-2

    Part 2: You can only teach yourself 

     

    I always wondered what it would feel like to have cameras rolling every day, documenting my life as it played out.  With all of the insanity in our home, I used to tell John that if we had a camera crew following us around, the ratings of our reality show would be through the roof.  I imagined if I ever had that opportunity I would be able to show the world how my marriage was only failing because of John and his behaviors, and that only then, would he feel sorry for the pain he had inflicted on me all these years.  I also thought it would awaken the world to what it is really like for an Aspie-NT marriage and perhaps draw light on Asperger’s syndrome in general. 

                    Since I am no one special and that clearly was not going to present itself as an opportunity for us (I am so lucky it didn’t), I decided to at least create reality tv for John. 

                    The day we purchased the Go-Pro camera and I strapped it to my forehead like a coal-miner, was the day I had to stop pretending it was all his fault. 

                    I had already been dancing around my bedroom singing angry love songs and writing the secrets to a happy life on my walls in the weeks before John and I almost officially called it quits (lost a lot of airline miles on that cross continental flight he never took). I felt empowered when I put that camera on my head.  I felt like I was finally doing something to fix us instead of searching for help that didn’t exist. I felt like I was finally taking action!

                    I was bound and determined to capture everything I experienced in our home and then play it back for John to see.  In the past, when we would fight John would always reflect on the exchange in a completely different manner than I perceived it.  He would deny saying things that I clearly heard him say, or making facial expressions that told me he was annoyed, angry, or not telling me the truth and then tell me I was imagining things.  He would accuse me of being nasty first, or an emotional basket-case.  He would tell me I never told him something that I thought I had clearly stated.  Our conversations would shift from one important topic to a million other small ones that had no bearing on the initial issue.  Asking about what we should do on my day off could easily snowball into how he doesn’t clean the house or I alienate him from my life on purpose and my day off would be spent scouring the internet for help and crying.  Neither of us ever appeared to be on the same page when we did try to talk with one another, so I prayed this personal documentary would help explain why. 

                    At first John was uneasy with the camera rolling and it was evident he was annoyed and wanted me to stop filming.  He spoke with a softer tone and was very selective about his words.  This lasted all of one day.  By the second day he was avoiding me and asking me to take the camera off my head.  After reminding him that he agreed to this and what the alternative was, he stopped asking me to remove it.  I made it clear to him that this camera was going to remain on every minute that I was awake and he and I were interacting with one another.

                    By the fourth or fifth day, the camera was ignored entirely and John and I were having the same blow up arguments and fights we had before he packed his bags.  If you really want to know if your husband is doing things on purpose or can control his behavior… a camera is a sure way to get answers.  Since I believed that John was truly unaware of his behaviors, I knew that after a few days of trying really hard to behave accordingly, he would continue being himself even with the camera rolling.  If someone is really a manipulative and purposeful ass, they will never let it show with a camera in their face.  

                    During the first two weeks of filming, I did not play back a single second of the footage to myself or John.  Since I was in control and knew I would not be showing this to anyone else, I had no difficulty being myself (I forgot it was on so often I would forget to turn it off when I used the bathroom).    

                    After filling up two data cards, John and I sat down one evening to look at some of our interactions with one another.  We went right to the footage of an ugly argument that had led to typical harsh words, yelling, and crying.

                    John, for the first time, was able to hear the way he sounded when he spoke to me and look at his own facial expressions and hand gestures.  He was able to see how he appeared, which was in stark contrast to how he thought he appeared.  This was still not easy for him and I had to point out some of his facial expressions and how I interpreted them at the time.  He was able to point out what he was thinking when he was making those expressions.  I think it really bothered him to see himself in that light and he asked if I could please erase the footage.  He never watched much of it after that evening, as seeing only small bits seemed to be enough for him to realize he DOES respond defensively and with hostility the moment I speak of anything pertaining to emotions… even when they are small things or important things for a husband and wife to be able to talk about or share. 

                    I watched most of the footage over the next week (I kept filming as well during this time).  I was absolutely dumbfounded when I realized I rarely ever use clear words with my husband when I am attempting to communicate something that is important to me.  I use so many hints and colorful descriptions and a ton of other nonverbal methods of communicating.  When I watched that footage I had finally identified that despite being COMPLETELY aware of John’s cognitive empathy deficit, I was still continuously using 90% nonverbal language to communicate overall.  I learned that whenever John tried to speak to me in a calm way, I was often the one to turn the conversation hostile (more than I realized) because I was reading too deep into his nonverbal language and could not process that it was not reflective of what he intended to communicate 90% of the time.

    When John does try to “hear me out,” I interrupt him or start talking a mile a minute every time he is silent for a moment and I try to force the conversation to keep going.  I never gave my husband a chance to try to decipher what was happening “in the moment” so he COULD communicate effectively.  Instead I came at him with machinegun fire dialog that he couldn’t keep up with causing him to instinctively defend himself.  I could have been ranting about wonderful things, but my words came at him so rapidly he couldn’t take them in fast enough to see that I was not attacking him.  With his quick-fire retaliation, I turned any good or meaningful attempts to talk into disaster.  I had no idea I was doing this (in the moment) until I was able to see it for myself.  All those years I thought I was communicating effectively, I realized I was failing miserably.  I had no idea how awful I was in communicating with a man who lacked cognitive empathy and finally understood that without intending to, I was the one causing most of the breakdown.

                    I felt like a real dirtball. 

                    I felt embarrassed. 

                    I apologized the best I could to John, but I don’t think he really understood all of what I was apologizing for.  Armed with this new insight I had to sit down and focus on all of the things I would need to fix if I wanted to effectively communicate with my husband.  This was not an easy thing to do. 

                    The very first step was to take all of the years of anger, frustration, and sadness and put them away to address at a later time.  This meant being willing to start over fresh and pretend nothing had been a failure in the past.  I had to be willing to do this or I was not going to be emotionally prepared to take the baby steps required of me to alter the way I communicated. 

                    Step two:  I had to stop mincing words!  When I did this (and I always did this) they were not getting through.  I also knew I had to learn to walk away.  I am an emotional person and my feelings really did (and still do sometimes) get in the way of ever being heard by my husband. When I was feeling a strong emotion at any time when I was interacting with him, I had to immediately prevent myself from vocalizing them.  I began to walk away and dissect what I wanted to say into the simplest language I could come up with. I had to watch the speed by which I said things, because if I did not, John was going to latch on to the first thing that made sense to him and use that as his focus and gear the conversation back to a place he could participate in (and not in a good way).  I had to learn to suppress my immediate desire to fire back if he didn’t seem to be listening to me, or said something I found hurtful.  Once I had a grip on doing this and found the right words to say, I began to say them… and then immediately walk away.  I would give him time to process what I said.  Within a week of working really hard at this, John began addressing what I said to him shortly after I said it.  In the past, he would never address anything I said and pretend we never spoke.  Mainly, I realized, this occurred because he really had no idea what I was ever trying to say to him so he had no ability to address my words. Eventually John began to acknowledge things I said, tell me how he felt, or that he understood what I was saying, sometimes apologize for inadvertently causing me to feel hurt, and work on resolutions with me. 

    Holy crap… my husband was beginning to show me emotional empathy! 

                    I had to work incredibly hard to not use my body language or facial expressions to send messages to him (I still do).  Of course I continued to use all of those nonverbal means because I do it naturally, but I became aware that they were not assisting in my communication and were effectively useless with my husband without the right words being said.  I had to work even harder at not using any hidden language to communicate.  It took a while to realize I had expended so much energy in the past using hints and indirect means of getting points across when I could have just said them with simple words.  I began to say things like, “I am feeling angry with you right now for A or B” and then say, “Maybe we can talk about it a little later so I won’t feel angry anymore and we can have a good day together?”  Then, you guessed it… I would walk away.  I got my points across without being mean or sarcastic, and I gave my husband time to process them without standing in his face forcing a response.  The more I did this, the sooner he would return to talk to me about things.  My husband never wanted me to be angry or upset, so when I told him I was (with a clear non-accusatory reason) and then offered a solution to fix it, he always took advantage of that opportunity.  My husband never wanted to fight with me all these years, he just did not understand why we were fighting or how he could prevent or fix any of it.  He is not perfect and still irritates the snot out of me, and I’m sure I annoy him as well.  We are still a married couple and are not about to agree on everything or have perfect communication by any means. 

                    Cognitive empathy and nonverbal communication are not functioning abilities for my husband and the moment I began to understand what that meant (and work around it) was the moment things began to improve. 

                    This concept doesn’t seem very difficult, right? 

                    IT IS! 

                    It is beyond difficult to learn to communicate without using nonverbal means. I promise you, even if you think you are doing this… you are not. If you were, you would already be on the road to an improved marriage. I truly believed I was accomplishing this basic means of communication with my husband and he just wasn’t responding appropriately to me. It took watching actual recordings of myself to realize how far from this I was. Even after watching a specific argument or failed attempt to talk with John, I STILL had to go back and watch it several times to pick up on all of the ways I tried to talk to him through nonverbal means. 

    I begin to express how difficult it is for me to learn a new language. I cannot accurately guess how challenging it will be for you to do it. Just as everyone is different when it comes to their capacity to become fluent in one or more foreign languages, everyone will be different with this. 

                    I am not suggesting you are the cause to all of your problems, as I was not the cause to all of mine. The cause was a lack of knowledge about cognitive empathy. With the majority of our communication toward our husbands being nonverbal, or verbal but with a whole lot of words that came out fast and obscure… our husbands weren’t hearing us.  When you compile that over years, you get two people on two different pages with so many misunderstandings and subsequent shitty behavior that everything turns to misery.  You get a wife who feels unacknowledged and unloved and a husband who feels attacked and afraid.  The wife than attempts to communicate with even greater emotion and confused/mixed messages waiting for her husband to just “get it” and the husband builds up more fortified walls and stops all efforts. 

                    Communication is the key to any successful marriage, and quite often, using simple words works to begin fixing NT marriages.  In an NT-Aspie marriage, it is the only way to communicate.  Your husband is not going to suddenly get to know you so well he can pick up on all of the nonverbal ways you communicate, he hasn’t the ability to do so. 

    So you have to make the change. 

                    I still do not know if John is sold on the cognitive empathy theory and he still shows zero interest in discussing it with me.  I am fine with this because it does not matter if he agrees or disagrees with me, or simply does not want to think about it, he is trying now and it doesn’t matter if he comprehends why.  I think to John, I am just being more rational and finally communicating effectively with him.  He likely has no urge to figure out why I am suddenly a happier person, he is just happy with the changes. 

                    Since I am now applying this knowledge daily, I am seeing positive changes in every aspect of our lives.  John is more motivated than he has ever been and I am finding myself more accepting of his quirky behaviors and more encouraging and supportive toward him than I had been.  The better I get at this new method of communicating, the better we get.  He is in a happier marriage because he is finally able to begin talking more and getting a response out of me that shows I care how he feels.  He is willing to approach a conversation if he senses I am upset or angry or he may have inadvertently said or did something that upset me.  Sometimes he overthinks things now because he is finally aware that he does not always come off the way he intends and tries to explain himself (something he did or said) without my saying a word.  He is trying so hard to identify feelings I have before I say anything to him so he can show me he cares and this is something I always prayed for.  Every day that I watch my husband try harder to communicate with me, I feel motivated to try harder myself. 

                    That is how this marriage thing is SUPPOSED to go, right?

                    To date, John and I have not gone back through the years of miscommunication and hurt feelings we both had.  I initially thought I would someday want to hash out all of the years of pain to be able to finally let them go.  A strange thing happened as things began to improve… I began to understand all of the circumstances and instances that led me to be angry and hurt before and they didn’t hurt so bad when I reflected on them.  I no longer saw a cruel and insensitive man who was selfishly and purposely causing me pain.  I stopped feeling the need to address any of the past because I realized they truly were all caused by a series of unfortunate misunderstandings and fear.  With a better means of preventing them from reoccurring, they no longer weighed me down.  We both know we hurt one another, John may still not understand how or why, but he is no longer causing that hurt in me so it doesn’t matter if he ever understands how I perceived things when they were at their worst.  He used to get so angry when I brought up the past and say, “How can I begin to get better if you won’t stop bringing up the past?  I can’t win with you!”  I would then respond that I couldn’t stop bringing up the past because he kept doing the same crap in the present.  Now, the past is in the past for the most part because the worst parts are over.

                    I doubt if your husband is going to agree to the Go-Pro experience, so it may not benefit you to suggest it.  Perhaps if he was willing to read these posts he would see that it served to wake ME up to start changing my ways.  I think the reason we hit a dead end when we try to get our husbands to make changes for the betterment of our marriage, is because everything comes out as blame and finger-pointing in their direction (who wouldn’t want to fight that?).  To be able to tell them (or show them through an example like mine) that the fault is on both ends, as are the solutions, perhaps they would be more willing to entertain the idea of change. Afterall, this is not going to be an easy thing for you to do and your husband will need to be patient with you as you begin to shift the way you communicate; he will need to back off himself when it comes to firing back when you are coming at him with intense emotions.  John was able to do this because he saw the footage of himself, but I imagine it would have been more challenging for me to begin communicating better if he was still dodging all attempts at trying.  If John and I were not truly calling it quits, I doubt if he would have agreed to me filming our daily lives, so don’t be discouraged if your husband says “Hell NO!” to the idea.  It is not easy to wear that sucker on your forehead every day either and it got a little uglier before it got better; I almost hurled that camera at the wall a few times.  Not everyone is in a position like I was, whereby I am the main financial provider for the family and could afford to risk ending our relationship if it came to that.  For my marriage, the camera was a necessary thing because neither of us would have believed our own actions until we had them shoved in our faces (especially me).  It gave us the time out we needed to experience humility and desire a personal change.  That’s the hardest thing about our dynamics… neither of us want to change ourselves, we want to blame the other person for what is going wrong.

                    If you are unable to get a Go-Pro type of reality check, that’s ok.  Try to really become more aware of yourself.  Read everything you can about cognitive empathy and how much of your daily lives are focused around this ability.  Try to put the hurt on hold.  Learn to speak slowly and clearly.  Learn to walk away until you can communicate effectively.  Be patient.  It may take a while for your husband to begin trusting your new method of communicating.  He may be suspicious of your motives at first, or instinctively put his guard up anticipating hostility or a meltdown on your behalf.  He is justified in being leery of your new behavior.  Don’t get discouraged.  Eventually, if you really make an effort at doing this every day… you are going to get a positive response out of him. Even if you think your husband is the most stubborn of all Aspies, I promise this can help.  I still believe John was the very worst example of what can go wrong for an adult Aspie (as far as negative behaviors are concerned) and if you don’t believe me, go back and read some of my other posts (See: WHY AM I SO ANGRY?).  The very first time your husband comes to you to resolve a conflict or try to make you feel better, you are going to have an “Ah Ha” moment and feel a little more inspired to keep trying. 

                    Give it time, and give it your best efforts.  You might be very surprised with the outcome…  I was.

     

     

     

     

     

    This is the size of the camera I actually had strapped to my head for weeks!


  • 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