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


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.  



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.



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 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.  





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.  


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.





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.  


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.  


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.



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… 



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!!!!






55 Responses to WHAT ABOUT ASPERGER’S SYNDROME AND EMPATHY: Aspie vs. Antisocial Personality Disorder

  1. Avatar Greg Ethridge
    Greg Ethridge says:

    Amazing post. I am recently diagnosed 52 year old Aspie at the 26 year point of marriage. Wife was ready to file divorce right before the Aspergers diagnosis came up. Been reading the books and my wife has been reading the books and after a few days of hope after the diagnosis, it all went down hill because of all the horrible stuff in the books and on the internet about being married to an Aspie. She is dealing with OTRS and feels like she has to get out to save herself. She does not feel like anything will help with her symptoms other then getting out of the marriage. These four months after diagnosis have been difficult as I just don’t see myself as being that bad to cause all the symptoms and thus its been a bit of a battle between us. Your post kind of cleared that up that I can love her well, be a good and gentle husband and still cause the OTRS issues due to lack of cognitive empathy. I always debated the empathy thing as well because I know I’m an empathetic person but had never had it broken down that clearly between the two types. I don’t know if your post will make a difference but am forwarding to her. Do you do any type of conference calls or coaching or just talking with a fellow high-empathetic individual dealing with this issue? I just need to somehow give her some hope that we can turn this around. I really don’t have any other significant Aspie symptoms but clearly see the lack of cognitive empathy. I am a gentle, hardworking, loving husband who for 25 years has missed so much of her communication. Now she feels we have never had an emotional connection and at this point, she is thinking everything is too little too late. Any advice you may have would be greatly appreciated since you have lived it with her. Thanks, GregE

    • Thank you for this response. Feel free to give my email address to her or anyone else looking to talk in private about their current struggle in an Aspie-NT marriage. I would love to connect with anyone who is ready to walk away because they are feeling hopeless. I can tell you that if the two of you made it that far… she CLEARLY loves you. That’s the necessary ingredient (combined with true effort and commitment to change) that you both need to move forward.

      As for your asking my personal assistance (outside of being an empathetic ear and voice of hope) I am no angel myself and my husband and I still struggle in many ways that we are working hard to resolve, so I won’t be a hypocrite and pretend I have the right answers for your specific situation (we are all unique despite my generalizing the common deficits and misunderstandings that plague us).

      I have just put up two posts titled: HOW TO TEACH EMPATHY TO SOMEONE WITH ASPERGER’S SYNDROME (Part 1 & 2). To me, this was the turning point to saving my marriage, so perhaps it would help your wife to read it.

    • Avatar Sarah Victoria Bullock
      Sarah Victoria Bullock says:

      Dont give up…Iam a NT female married to a newly diagnosed aspie for 2yrs.just found this blog today in desperation in the aftermath of a huge row.
      Iam sat in bed crying with …relief….sadness..happiness but most of all hope…

  2. Avatar Hope Swanson
    Hope Swanson says:

    Ok. Think you just saved my (and my aspiemans) life. Three are far too many times I’m more than ready to just run away on a private vacation and forget to come back, although I know he’s “only handicapped” and that things he does mainly isn’t out of some evil side of him. Your writing is comfort to my soul. Please keep it up dear 😊

  3. Thank you for your comment. I go long stretches without posting (working a very time-consuming job at this time) but I have a ton more to share and I truly appreciate your support. It is normal to want to “run” and I am sure he probably feels that way also at times. When fight or flight is all he may know, it really is a testament to his love for you that he hasn’t chosen the easier path (I have to remind myself of this often since I do not readily “feel” the love he says he has for me). It is a different ballgame and I give you both credit. Provided you are both equally open to understanding what has gone “wrong” in your relationship, there is a good chance you are going to find yourself on the path of things going “right” sooner than you think.

  4. Avatar Zanna J
    Zanna J says:

    Thank you from the bottom of my soul for this extraordinary post. We have been living in hell for so long and my cruel, cold, callous torturer is the gentlest, kindest, most beautiful man that I know and he is the love of my life. I am so broken, so distressed, such an empty shell of the person I used to be. Trapped in a horrible cycle of being in pain and then being attacked for being in pain. We are both agreed that this nightmare cannot continue but everything we have tried makes things worse and last week the time seemed to have come to leave. Then I read this.

    I think this article has the potential to change both our lives and maybe even save them. It is very early days but we both have a different understanding now, one that we both share and most importantly, for the first time in a long time we have a glimmer of hope.

    I look forward to reading more about what is working for you both.

    Thank you

    • Zanna,

      Thank you for your comments, there are no words to describe how humbled I feel when someone tells me I may have helped them (even if it is just for a fleeting moment). I know that many people will disagree with my insight and opinions, but the thought that it can give hope to another couple struggling and hurting the way my husband and I were… makes it worth it. I hope you are finding happier days now.

  5. Pingback:ASPIE HUSBAND: WHY AM I SO ANGRY? – Happy Asperger Marriage

  6. Avatar Gemini
    Gemini says:

    Thank you. Thank youThank you. Thank youThank you – for taking out time to write this wonderful post. It has been a very big inspiration!!!

  7. Pingback:WHY IS IT UNFAIR TO SAY ASPIES HAVE ZERO EMPATHY? – Happy Asperger Marriage

  8. Avatar Mauri
    Mauri says:

    This is spot on, it describes my relationship perfectly, except that I am the aspie, and my husband is the highly empathetic NT. I will share this with him, hopefully it will help. I am at a loss as to how to be and give what he needs.

    • Mauri,

      Thank you for your response. Again, I am always beyond thankful when a person with Aspergers tells me they identify with what I am writing! I began this blog with the intention of only reaching those NT women married to Aspie men so I am thrilled to know I can gear everything to both sides from here on out because it reaches across our neurodiversity. I certainly empathize (now) with what you are saying; that you want to give him the emotional connectivity he seems to be lacking, but haven’t a clue where to begin. I did not understand what my sweet husband went through for far too long and kicked back telling him to “change” without having a clue how to articulate what it was I wanted him to change in the first place!

      If you continue reading my posts, you may find the answers you are seeking (I hope). Check out the two on HOW TO TEACH EMPATHY TO SOMEONE WITH ASPERGER’S SYNDROME, and WHY IS IT UNFAIR TO SAY ASPIES HAVE ZERO EMPATHY? Ultimately, the message in these posts is that the change you are seeking has to come from your NT partner more than anything. If you identify with my belief in the cognitive empathy deficit… almost everything else that has gone “wrong” may also make more sense.

      For you to read these things and understand the difference between how you both communicate and interpret nonverbal messages, you are already geared to do what it will take on your behalf. This will hopefully enable you to have more patience, less stress, and more understanding of why he may appear to blame you for failing to respond the way he anticipates. The major work is going to be on his behalf, as he is the one who truly has to comprehend and then alter the way he is perceiving your nonverbal communication incorrectly and then learn to remove this inherent processing ability from your dynamic. This is not easy, but if he also finds himself empathizing with the examples I give… perhaps he will have a better foundation by which he can start.

      Thank you again for sharing, please keep us updated on what is/isn’t working for you.


  10. Avatar Tara
    Tara says:

    Hi, I’ve been searching for quite some time for a meaningful blog for the NT/AS marriage dilemma, and so happy I found a really excellent one. I love this post! I’ve been married 24 years, and have spent about 19 of them with one foot out the door. The last 2+ years I’ve participated in a wives’ support group, have been in therapy (two different therapists) etc. and I could go on. Why do I stay? Every day I ask myself: is it better on this side of the fence, or are the weeds higher over there? I especially related to your description of OTRS. Didn’t know exactly what that was, although I had heard mention of Cassandra syndrome. I know I’ve lived this for many years. Your description of the two types of empathy is very intriguing and interestingly, my husband is and has been capable of responding with affective empathy. Mostly to me, and our two children. To others he is a typical Aspie. We have gone through periods however when he closed himself off exactly as you described, and I behaved as you described (more so earlier in our relationship), when we didn’t even know the word Asperger’s. Why did I stay? WHY did I stay…..hmmm……still don’t have all the answers for that one. Biggest reasons are now 18 and 13 years old. Oldest is also AS, my hope is he was brought up with all the love and compassion that his father lacked from his parents. Thank you again, I plan to read more!

  11. Pingback:ASPERGER/NT MARRIAGE ADVICE: WHERE DO I GO FOR HOPE? – Happy Asperger Marriage

  12. Avatar Johanna
    Johanna says:

    Wonderfully helpful. Thank you for all the energy and passion you put into all this writing!! I am married to an aspie and was loosing hope but now I’m ready for another round to keep my marriage together feeling better equipped . 🙂


  14. Hi – I’m very happy to have found your blog. I was looking for info on aspergers for another reason, though I have been married to a man with aspergers for over 13 years. I am a nt woman, more or less, lol! I consider our relationship to be pretty good, and don’t mind sharing with you if it helps…

    My guy has tics, facial, vocal, sensitivity to touch, the whole shebang. He’s also brilliant, tall and gorgeous. His social skills suck of course. If we go to any kind of social gathering he usually finds a couch or lies on the floor til he’s had enough of the activity. I’m a wild, active, eccentric and outgoing woman. I’m also used to making the world roll the way I want it to. That’s been a difficult issue between us. He doesn’t have a problem with what I do, but he sure seems to find ways of preventing my progress… My friends know that my husband is peculiar, but they love and accept him anyway.

    In the beginning, the troublesome areas were things like his inability to recognize the courtesy of simple compliments. If I asked if he liked the dinner I made, he’d say something like: “It was okay. I don’t like chicken breasts that were frozen.” If I freaked he’d say: I was just telling the truth…

    He’s improved slightly. I answer for him now. I say: Wrong answer! The right answer is: That was the best thing you’ve ever made! Let’s have it again tomorrow! …Sex is the reward for the right answer baby! Guess you got it wrong tonight but there’s always tomorrow!

    He also hated to be touched, especially in public, wouldn’t hold hands or be demonstrative etc. At our wedding I had to tell him that he needed to hold my hand that afternoon. He’s much better now in this regard. I was used to being in very passionate relationships and the lack of overt emotion distressed me at first, but once I understood that this was how it was going to be, I actually felt relieved. Passion can be overdone and overwhelming and so tiring sometimes…

    The way he organizes his world is where we have the most difficulty. I like to get things done, be on time ( or close to on time ) and have a tidy efficient home. He pushes things months past the due date, doesn’t see a mess even if it’s grown and moving on its own and puts my needs at the bottom of his to-do list. I tried hiring other people to do things for me but he ‘d send them away, promising to do them himself. Of course, that would rarely happen. I’d go ballistic. For a while I was depressed. I ran the world and he prevented me from doing that. I gave up and lived in his mess for a while. Then I decided – no. I am queen. He has to make some adjustments in this arena. And he did. We’ve reached a compromise now, though it’s still an ongoing process.

    I do freak on him from time to time, but that’s my issue, not his. He never freaks out. He loves me, thinks I’m beautiful and sexy and smart, and is proud to be at my side. I adore his brilliance, his handsomeness and his difference-ness. We share a lot of common interests and can geek out together on these. We also can do our own things without worry, and I enjoy the peace he affords me.

    Any relationship is work. I don’t think ours is really ‘work’ now, so much as an evolving piece of art. I adapt because I am fortunate enough to have the ability to adapt. He adapts as he can, because he’s trying really hard to. Life is good.

    These of course, are just my experiences and opinions. I hope I haven’t offended anyone unwittingly, and I wish everyone love and happiness… and peace 🙂

    • Kim,

      Um…THANK YOU! Seriously, I have been waiting to get time off to write you back because I was so happy when I read your post the other night as I was falling asleep! For one thing, I could put a checkmark next to every single difficulty you have had along the way and the way you describe yourself, so I loved reading that! I think I am a persistent person as well who simply could not allow my natural self to be pushed into submission (and I am surprised how long I did do it for John). I think I did it willingly (in part) because of every good thing you said about your husband… I can put a checkmark next to those as well.

      I believe the biggest difference in your relationship is that it sounds like your husband somehow escaped the “insurmountable anger” I talk about it a lot of my posts. I would be curious to know more about his upbringing as it might help me to narrow down why some men end up hostile/defensive like my husband did (despite an amazing and loving family) and others grow into adults who are more open to change and less apt to fight every suggestion or plea for communication. I have a hard time really understanding how this transforms differently for some when I haven’t any doubt the social challenges, feelings of being wrongly accused of things, or told their feelings or emotions are inappropriate… are very similar for all young Aspies (when the diagnosis was unknown).

      I just want to say thank you again for taking the time to write even though you haven’t experienced the extreme negative side the way many NT-e wives have. It means a lot to hear women share the unique and beautiful side of their husband’s behaviors and put a positive spin on why we fall in love with these men in the first place! Thankfully, all of the sweet and endearing things you wrote about in your marriage are more evident in my own these days, so reading what you wrote really made my heart feel full before I fell asleep!

      I hope other women who feel hopeless read your comment because I believe they will empathize equally with your words and it may help them remember that innocent and special part of their husband that they haven’t acknowledged in a long time. Please keep sharing! Since you have a positive relationship (despite your differences) the way you two handle conflict will definitely benefit all of us. When the anger is gone and no one is trying to defend their own character, the ability to approach one another’s unique take on the world is handled with more love than defiance… you likely have experiences that I am only beginning to find in my marriage so I would love any advice you have to offer (like what works and what does not work).

      There are not many women out there spreading messages of hope and adoration for their Aspie husband and I hope you inspire others to share their good experiences and love to help the rest to rediscover who both they and their husband once was (and still is inside).


  15. Hi Kara! My guy definitely has a hostile side, but it’s more passive aggressive and never directed at me. He broods over wrongs that have been done to him and obsesses over them ad nauseum. He came from a very small, tight knit family, with an over-achieving mother of forceful personality and a quiet, kind father, and I think one or both of them could have been aspies as well. They both died before I came to know them well. I knew the mom, dad and brother from business dealings and never even knew that my guy existed in this family. They never had him diagnosed, but they kept him busy running family matters and out of the public eye. He has a very loyal attitude about family, and I am very much like his mother, so when he’s feeling hostile, it’s he and I against the world…

    Originally, when I first met him, I had planned on lining him up with my little sister. I thought it would be a perfect match. Same culture and backgrounds, etc. I thought he was too quiet for me. Try as I might, I could not get the two of them together. Then I decided I couldn’t let such a fine man go to waste, so I chased him myself. And chased and chased…. Man! I almost gave up! I never had to chase anyone so hard before. At the time, I didn’t know about his aspergers. I just thought he had old fashioned values.

    I was his first and only romantic partner, so that had it’s benefits. He believed everything I told him 🙂 I’d say: Baby, this is how it’s done… first we make me happy, for forty minutes or so… then we can make you happy… then in 5 minutes we start over and you’ll be ready to go again… And because he hadn’t been ruined yet everything worked out great 🙂

    He thinks of himself as a sensitive, romantic guy, but he’s not romantic really. He doesn’t understand what that means in real life. He forgot my birthday several years in a row. I told him : I don’t care about xmas or valentines day or easter or anything, but you do not forgot my birthday! Then one year on my birthday he stayed out very late working, so I went to the local bar by myself. He came to get me but I made him wait while I necked at a table with a lesbian. Lol! He sat quietly waiting for me, I was punishing him! heheheh!!! When he brought me home he led me to a large screen tv sitting in it’s box in the middle of the floor. ‘What’s this?’ I asked. ‘Your birthday present.’ he replies. ‘Where’s the card?’ says I… He didn’t have time to get me one he says. I started to drag the tv across the floor and told him I was throwing the damn thing into the street where the card-less, insensitive, unwrapped piece of crap belonged.

    He hasn’t forgotten my birthday since that evening.

    When I began to understand what his issues were, things got easier, slowly. I had to be patient and explain things kindly to him in a way that didn’t threaten him or his image of himself. That seems to be very important… his image of himself. We couldn’t get rid of his vocal tics, but we could help him learn to replace them with tics that weren’t so jarring. When I finally decided I would just have to learn to live without regular affection, he started to become more affectionate on his own. It’s still not what I was used to, but I understand the great effort he goes to to be more affectionate, so it means more to me.

    He’s inherited the family business, so he’s in public a great deal now. I kind of wish he wasn’t because it’s so stressful to him. He doesn’t need to work, but he’s worked 7 days a week his whole adult life and cannot stop himself from this routine. We got him a psychologist to try and help him learn how to change his routines and it’s been slow going. But, last week he stayed home 2 days in a row for the first time since I’ve met him. That’s major progress! I generally need to barter with him on issues, i.e., if he does this I will do that… on a case by case basis.

    I don’t want to make him sound like a wimp, because he isn’t. He’s a manly-man. He’s brilliant in a lot of areas too, especially finances, law and construction. Sometimes he astounds me with his brilliance. I get mad that I never knew or thought of some of the things he comes up with.

    It’s helpful that he grew up in a home with such a powerful mother because his view is that women run the world. That doesn’t stop him from trying to ‘manage’ me in his passive aggressive way, but I can address it when he does. Some things I just cannot move him on, and that frustrates me, but I learn something new every once in a while. For instance, a situation was driving me mad, and I wanted something done about it that only he could do, but he kept holding back on taking action. Then he saw the situation with his own eyes and did something about it immediately. I was pissed that he had to experience it himself instead of on my word, but now I know that I have to provide him with concrete tangibles to get him to understand my viewpoint.

    I think the most important thing is that we respect each other. My life and friends and family are unlike anything he’s ever experienced and that amuses him. I count on his stability and loyalty. We’re also both financially independent and have no children, so if we’re together it’s because we want to be and not that we have to be. I think that if I felt like I didn’t have a choice to be in the relationship that I would feel helpless and would become despairing. But that’s just me. I would feel that way in any relationship that I was not equal in.

  16. Pingback:Five Ways to Stay Successfully in Love with an Aspie Spouse – For Crites Sake Blog

      • Avatar Michael
        Michael says:

        Hi, I’m convinced that I have Aspergers, but never officially been diagnosed by a doctor. Here is a little of my life story of current success in marriage.

        Growing up I was diagnosed with ADHD when I started going to school. I was given Ritalin until 8th grade where they switched my over to Adderal. Once I started college I decided not to be dependent on meds and have stayed away from them since.

        I was lucky growing up to have a mother who was a nurse (labor and delivery). She noticed the behavior patterns that were different from said ADHD, but no matter the doctor or psychiatrist I saw we never figured out what I really had. My dad has bad communication skills and my mom seeing them in me wanted to help me not have the same problems in my relationships. She picked up on my inability to read social cues and began working to develop simple signs that I could understand. When I did something wrong she would sit down with me, explain what I did wrong, why it was wrong, how it made her/others feel, what the punishment was, and I accepted the punishment understanding why I was receiving it. She not knowing what to call whatever I had, did her best to teach me tools on how to work around not reading social cues.

        I was taught to explain to adults (specifically teachers and bosses) in my life my inability to read these cues and explain the need to receive direct verbal communication from them. I was therefore able to do well in school.

        I did not choose to enter into the dating world until college. I had several short relationships that lasted only a few months each until I gave up on them entirely.

        About 6 years ago, my mom came across an article on Aspergers and immediately I came to mind. So we began reading up on it and I have grown to better understand how to get along successful in every day life. I have learned to be patient with others and explain to them how to communicate with me better.

        5 years ago I started dating a nice lady Calla who is still a great friend of mine. After a couple dates she new we were not meant to be, but she saw who I was and being a psych major began to help me grow so that I could have a successful marriage some day.

        I met another lady months later which I dated for 3-4 months and things didn’t work out. She read about the aspergers/ sociopath articles and left. Calla and I talked and I learned from that relationship and moved on.

        Summer 4 years ago I met my wife Meagan. We took things slow and decided to wait until marriage (Both Christians). We focused on building a strong friendship as a foundation for our relationship. We fell deeply in love and got married 6/27/15 after 3 years of dating. Neither of us have been happier. We have developed good verbal communication between us recognizing my inability to read social cues. There are days that we struggle like any other couple, but we both do our best to make each other happy in every way each of us are able to.

        There are days she may use nonverbal communication and get frustrated, but I have learned not to react and gently remind her to verbally communicate with me her needs. We apologize for any communication errors and move on in life, fighting for what is important, the love we share together.

  17. Avatar Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Thanks for your very thoughtful post. My husband is not diagnosed, and I had always wondered because he lies so much, even about cheating that I didn’t think it could be Aspergers. I am not sure if I am just bad at telling when people are lying, and he is really bad at it, or if him being good at it made a difference in diagnoses. He has no issues with metaphors nor sarcasm, gets on great when coversation is shallow and just shooting the breeze. He was actually popular and well liked in high school due to being in sports, so his problems only show up in intimate relationships, where you can’t just bullshit yourself through, but he has broken down and told me that he usually has no clue what people are actually talking about.

    My son IS diagnosed, and he fits most ways. Even with a diagnoses for him NO ONE has ever explained how it would/could play out in every day life. You are spot on, and I have always said that he is full of empathy, I just never understood the cognitive piece. I wonder if my daughter is not also Aspie.

    Only thing, as a woman who is in her second marriage and suffers from OTRS, something I had never heard of before your post I find it frustrating to read that I must continue to carry the load. My first marriage caused it, and now my second which has been nine years long has drained my life force. I find it very VERY unfair to continually be told that after being stone walled and left alone to carry the emotional/intimate side of my marraige/relationships for so long that the majority of the work to “fix” things, after trying everything, continues to fall on MY shoulders especially when I would likely be happier and healthier in relationship with another NT. He can not function within an intimate relationship without changes on his part. In this regard it is the responsibility of the Aspie to educate themselves as best they can with the SUPPORT (support not the main person responsible) of their loved ones. Then it is their job to help educate those who love them, not the other way around. I would only be guessing at what he does and doesn’t understand, whereas he can simply state it. As a child, sure my job, but not when dealing with a grown man. I do not have it in me…..and I do not think it is my job to. He can just as easily be the one to take initiative and do the work. PS even with very explicit verbal communication and requests, he still does not engage, what your post has shown is this may be due to his defenses…. of which I am tired from trying to help him with.

    Anyhoo, I greatly appreciate your insight and desire to help others, I just find it unrealistic and unfair that I am still expected to be the one to “fix” it….doubting it is worth it since being with him has drained me and I am not sure I have anything left to give.

  18. Avatar andy
    andy says:

    Such a great ray of hope your blog has created. I’m the NT husband who has suffered and died inside, just a shadow of myself after 5 years of marriage to an aspie wife, who is a lovely person but has no idea how she causes such distress by remaining aloof and constantly withdrawing at any hint of emotional issues.

    I have found that despite going out of my way to accommodate her AS and OCD actions to the point of detriment to myself, she still just latches onto the negative experiences of our marriage and sets them as the way it is, despite the vast bank of loving and kind things done for her. It is as though she has a piggy bank of emotional experiences and only stores the bad ones, and builds walks in our relationship based on these alone.

    My marriage has been on a steady spiral downwards and my heart breaks for the future of it and what week happen if we break up and the effect out will have on our 5 year old son.

    I so want our marriage to work, and I hope to be able to put the brake on the downward spiral which is now at the door of divorce.

    I have shared your post with a friend who is going through exactly the same situation.

    Please keep the posts coming, there is such a need in this world for understanding of this issue, there is so much suffering that could be avoided with your knowledge.

  19. Avatar Sarah L Martin
    Sarah L Martin says:

    Thank you…..6 years in with an As husband.
    Such helpful words…

  20. Avatar Charis
    Charis says:

    It’s my Dad who is the aspie, but I agree with (most of) the essence of this page. He’s a great Dad, so I don’t have any horror story – but boy, can he be clueless beyond belief! And when he’s not doing that, he’s being ridiculously unaware. Well, most of the time – he’s probably a mild case, and I’m in a funny place where I’m not quite an aspie, but not part an NT, if that makes sense – so it was actually him who understood me best of all in the family, up to and including my insistence, at the age of 15, that surely it was easier for everyone if I didn’t make eye contact in school interviews.

    I really think you hit the nail on the head, Kara. It’s not that aspies are cruel and unfeeling (that depends on the person), it’s just that they’re not always aware how NTs happen to be feeling – or if they are, what’s appropriate to the situation (I’ve been in Category 2 a number of times, and I have decided by extrapolation that listening in, hugs, sitting down, and cups of tea are the best starting point, in that order of importance). Sure, Dad (and I!) need things spelled out to us *with words* – but it doesn’t mean that we’re cold and unfeeling, or that we don’t care – or even, if I may say so, that I am unable to vicariously feel someone else’s emotion. Provided it’s in my frame of reference, that has happened (I can’t speak for my Dad, since he doesn’t talk about His Feelings to me. He’ll discuss mine, though, if he thinks it’ll help me, LoL).

  21. Avatar Nicole Boxer
    Nicole Boxer says:

    Spot on analysis and life-saving for a NT like me. My husband self diagnosed 20 years ago but has since found a stable career and friends and now prefers to think he just has social anxiety disorder, ADHD, of and hypersensitivy syndrome…however, he is absolutely aspergers he is just very bright and learned how to imitate cognitive empathy and has a high natural level of affective empathy. Our marriage has been he because he never mastered the white lie and is honest to the point of damage to our relationship. He is defensive when I read him this article because he does not like being labeled as aspergers. He at least has traits and I am going to try everything you say.

  22. Avatar Melissa
    Melissa says:

    You may have just saved my marriage tonight. My husband was just diagnosed less than a week ago. I am one who questioned if he was a bad guy and was mean and uncaring on purpose. My marriage has been hell since his defenses went up when he didn’t know how to fix the pain he caused to me years ago. He changed and I felt I lost my best friend and he didn’t love or even want me around anymore.

    Anyway, it’s been less than a week since diagnosis (which happened accidently during marriage counseling by one who happen to specialize in high functioning autism!) so we are both still going through the raw emotions of it all and what it means. He’s not too noticeably aspie so he evaded this diagnosis which could have helped us years ago not have so much pain. But what I read is to a “T” of the hell I have experienced and the behaviors he has displayed.

    Your article blew my mind wide open just as it was trying to close and throw in the towel. Literally…tonight I told him I wanted a divorce because I couldn’t take the pain anymore….and of course he confirmed he didn’t give a shit by ignoring me. So I am likely eternally grateful I Googled your article this night. I’m sure my husband will be relieved when I share some info with him. I have a greater compassion but will definately need time to settle my deep rooted anger towards him.

  23. Avatar cagednomore
    cagednomore says:

    Honey, you’re still young. If you are still with your aspie husband in your late 50’s, I doubt you would write the same sentimental messages. Asperger’s gets worse with age. Get out while you’re still young, or you will grow old regretting you never did. I lost 10 years of some of my best years. Aspie’s do not belong with NT’s in marriage; an NT will never be truly happy, and what is the point, otherwise? No adult is obligated to be the caregiver of another adult while sacrificing their own life doing so.

    • Thank you for your words of caution and I certainly have taken the same warnings into account throughout this challenging relationship. I do believe that the dynamic will inevitably get worse if significant changes are not made in any Aspie/NT marriage; that is why I began this post. I often look at those women in their early twenties and think the same thing of their age as you must with me being nearing 40. While I am in no way refuting what you say and certainly want to send my love to the clear anguish you have endured… there is not a soul alive who will convince me that my marriage has to, or will, end up the same way. We have already defied the “guaranteed misery” I feared years ago and every single day our relationship and emotional connection gets stronger.

      This is NOT an easy task and you are correct (100%) when you say that “No adult is obligated to be the caregiver of another adult while sacrificing their own life doing so.” This blog is about opening the eyes of the women currently in the midst of the seemingly impenetrable misery they currently find themselves in. It is about realizing that marriage is a choice and it is a 50/50 process; although sometimes it does require 20/80 to get to that point. I want people to know what they are up against and I want them to understand that while difficult, their aspie husband is not incapable of change (nor are they). I have seen it, I am living it.

      I have been on a break from blogging related to work (not my marriage, which is growing stronger each day) and hope I will be able to shed more light on why your common belief that “it is going to get worse” is not the end-all/be-all.

      Thank you for reading.

  24. Avatar Betty
    Betty says:

    Thank you for this – just found it after a really bad couple days with my Aspie husband. We have been married over 35 years, separated at times and struggled terribly but in a better place than we have been in a long time. I too have felt like I am absolutely crazy and that the life is drained out of me. I have looked in vain numerous times for help, support for the wife. Friends don’t understand. We have been in counseling for many years with many different counselors. It is a relief to hear about your honest struggle and what helps, as well as the positive attitude that you plan to stay and be happy. Other blogs are so discouraging – “run!”. I tried, but I truly love him, I know he loves me and I want to work it out. I have found some things that help as well, and maybe I will share them at some point. As I have time I will read some more of your articles. Thanks so much!

  25. Avatar Marie
    Marie says:

    Thanx you for writing this…The last years I have been trying to understand why my boyfriend who started out as perfect for me has turned into some coldhearted monster. Last night I finally put all the pieces together… I feel relieved in a way but there is also sadness. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to make him understand that it’s not a problem, we could have a great life together if he wants too but all he hears is blah blah feelings and critique and then he refuses to listen. I wrote an sms instead and hopefully he will read it in the morning and use logic thinking. What you are saying gives me hope that we can work this out.

  26. Avatar Andrew Benjam Befus
    Andrew Benjam Befus says:

    Need to set up website for NT/Aspie couples to trade spouses so everyone wins. This article is dire.

    • Wait… do you mean that the unhappy Aspie spouses should trade for an Aspie spouse and vice versa with the NT’s? Lol. While the Aspie couples might find some calmness in doing so, I think they would be lacking that yin/yang thing that led them to love their NT mate in the first place. We have the love and acceptance they have been deprived of… we can fill that void if we get that damn line of communication open! As for NT-e/NT-e spouses connecting.. oh dear that would be a disaster and a half! I did that in my first marriage and there is no yin/yang there… just two people who will instigate one another’s extreme emotions… that isn’t a good recipe most of the time. If only it could be so easy. 🙂 Interesting thought though. I still stand by the absolute perfection of balance in an NT-e/Aspie union if/when that balance of open communication finally occurs.

  27. Avatar Andrew B
    Andrew B says:

    This article is dire. Need to set up website for NT/ASPIE couples to swap for the benefit of all, if it’s really that bad.

    • Eventually I plan to. This poor blog hasn’t been updated in some time despite all that I have to post. Work is eating up all my free time. Three more months and I move on to a job where I will have time. Hope everyone continues to be patient with me and knows I am not done writing… far from it!

  28. FANTASTIC post! One that ALL parents of children in the spectrum should also read. I went through university training that helped me understand my children so much better then I might have without it, but it hadn’t really been properly organised into the true understanding until I read this! Thankyou so much!
    On a side note, you may wish to look up the true definition of “negative reinforcement”. It is actually the ‘removal’ of a negative stimulus when a behaviour occurs. What you describe is punishment. I’m not sure if it should be changed though, as the vast majority of the general populous understand it to be as you describe. At least I remember SOMETHING from University. LOL!
    Let me say again. FANTASTIC! What a brilliantly articulate but understandable explanation.

    • Agreed; I will try to re-word it so I am still making sense using a term most understand in the way I described it (but I know, you are completely correct that it is not the true definition!). I will leave this comment up for now so the readers are not given false info from me and I thank you. Please, for yourself and others, continue to point out things like this along the way. There is still SO MUCH learning to be had all-around and I love it! I am so thankful and happy to hear that this post made sense to you; maybe someday I will figure out how to break it down in a more simple/articulate way so it can reach more parents early on (or someone can). Thank you!

  29. I think you just saved my life with this post.

  30. Pingback:HOW TO TEACH EMPATHY TO SOMEONE WITH ASPERGER’S SYNDROME part 1 – Happy Asperger Marriage

  31. Pingback:ASPIE HUSBAND: WHY IS MY WIFE LEAVING ME? – Happy Asperger Marriage

  32. Avatar Superkates
    Superkates says:

    Can you please write something about how to know when to give up? Thank you. All this optimism and resilience that I have makes me feel I’m just setting myself up to fail and die.

    • Message received for sure; I am working on it. For now, please read WHY SHOULD I KEEP TRYING because I definitely wrote that to those who should strongly consider giving up in the face of all my optimism.

      • Avatar Superkates
        Superkates says:

        Thank you very much! Ive exhausted a lot of websites trying to find helpful websites aside from the forums. Doesnt matter if you are happy in a working NT-AS relationship or not, what matters is all that you write hits home to us NT partners. It reflects so much honesty and accuracy. Im sure a lot have planned or tried to make a blog or express themselves like this but thank you for the effort of actually executing it. If its okay, can i send you an email?

        • I apologize for not responding, of course it is ok for you or any other reader to send an email if they are not comfortable posting on this forum. Unfortunately I am unable to reply to the emails I receive right now for the same reason I have not updated the blog in some time (work!). I do read them all though and I absolutely will reply to you once I move back to the states. Thank you for sharing and commenting on here… I think the comments help others more than the posts do a lot of the time.
          – Kara

  33. Avatar Marilyn
    Marilyn says:

    Twenty-seven years. Ups and incredible downs. For ten years, I thought my husband was just absolutely cruel. Tell me, please, if anyone knows, why we need emotional responses from other humans to feel whole or happy? I walk into a grocery store, somebody smiles at me, somebody holds the door open for me, the cashier tells me that she just had a bad mammogram. I tell her, “I am so sorry, but you know that there are 40 percent false positives on those things.” She smiles back at me. I feel better. Why do we need these interactions? Why do people in solitary confinement in prison go insane? Is it because they are not getting the neural stimulation one needs to feel apart of the world? I tell you right now that living with someone on the Autism spectrum is like living in solitary confinement. I get neither the benefit of being consoled nor the benefit of feeling needed when I choose to console. It is absent all human conditioning. And what about lying? My husband can get caught in a lie and never feel one iota guilt about it. He doesn’t feel shame or guilt or empathy or sympathy. Never looks at something beautiful in awe. He only sees things as a curiosity. He is never proud of his children, never boasts about anything, never realizes when he is in danger. I have one question for anyone who understands what I mean. What does it mean to be truly human?

    • Avatar Superkates
      Superkates says:

      I feel you, Marilyn. I also started questioning life as well. It feels like we adapted to his Aspie life, becoming Aspie, too. Its easy when you dont have children but its extra painful when there are kids. Is it wrong to want basic things? I feel so alienated most esp when meltdown starts and the blame is pinned down on me wanting simple, normal things. And even if i started to wanting things, meltdowns still happen. We’re still on our 9th year, boy, how i was still feeling positive and strong years ago. Now its becoming too much and in the edge of my seat. What more if 27 years!

  34. Avatar Matteo Vukoja
    Matteo Vukoja says:

    I am now 20 years old, googling ‘I have trouble expressing empathy’, trying to find a solution to my problem, thinking it could be fixable, since I had a chaotic childhood, probably borderline traumatic, and that every one of those events influenced the degree of my emotional detachment. I come across a forum mentioning Asperger’s, and I thought I probably don’t have it, since the symptoms did fit me, but some of them not as much. I googled it to gain more knowledge about it, just to confirm that’s not whats wrong with me. There was a mention the symptoms can have a varying degree of intensity, going down to almost non existent. I thought that might still be it. I went to search more, and found the article ‘Asperger’s and the Problem of Empathy’ or something along those lines, read through it, and then found your comment and went to check out this article (or I guess book in your vocabulary, lol). I didn’t want to believe it, but so much makes more sense now, that it’s astonishing. I know I’m diagnosing myself here, without any professional consult, but everything that mentioned the childhood of your husband resounded within me. I knew those feelings, the alienation, the struggle to show empathy amd understand the non verbal language, the lack of desire to try to understand them after a certain while, but somehow, I never lost the hope something will change, even though at times it was dangerously close to being eliminated forever. 5 years was the time my step-mother took to try to teach what I couldn’t possibly understand. I would always stare blankly at her, trying to make it seem like I understood just so she would step yelling I’m doing something wrong. I felt like a failure each time she would repeat the same words to me, trying to teach me the same concept for days, and weeks. I felt like I was just a lost cause, like she was doing it in vain, because my mind just connect that. I cried my eyes out when I read this. I’m gonna see with a professional if this is really what I have, but I’m not too sure anymore. I will hope for the worst, and maybe, just maybe I’ll be lucky. If not, explaining what I have will be a hard thing to do to my family. Anyway, thank you for this article. I will bookmark it, and hope to use it in the future to help someone understand what it’s like to live like this. Best of luck to you, and to your husband as well.

    • Thank you so much for your comment!!! I wanted to let you know right of the bat that even if you warrant a diagnosis for Asperger’s syndrome, your environment almost certainly had a profound impact on the struggles you have had to date. I say this because you should know that if environment (family, trauma, etc.) played a role in your past, then your future is going to be determined on the environment you choose to create for yourself. Please do not allow for your past to dictate the positive and happy future you deserve because that is entirely in your hands. Too often we spend our adult years anticipating and/or suffering from residual effects of our upbringing and fail to realize that the past does not have to dictate the future life we create for ourselves; we have choices. I wish I realized this a decade ago.

      If you do go in search of answers by way of a professional diagnosis, I hope that you will keep in mind that the mental health profession is not the end-all, be-all for, “what’s wrong” regarding what makes you feel different from those around you. I say this because it is likely you will come upon a professional who utilizes the new diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder and this might leave you feeling just as confused as you were going in. I am hopeful that bookmarking this post will enable you to come back to it if nothing else seems to make sense but these words still resonate with you. While all people are different and have fluctuating levels of empathy and social intelligence, the deficit in cognitive empathy that those with Asperger’s syndrome have is very black and white (to me). Of course, there are a ton of other variances to the personality and behavior of someone with AS (like anyone else), but the one common link that I firmly believe defines the diagnosis is that those with Aspergers do not have functioning cognitive empathy and are unable (not unwilling… unable) to process the nonverbal information that those around them can readily do without much effort.

      When you said you will “hope for the worst” I am assuming the worst would be an Asperger’s syndrome/ASD diagnosis? If I am wrong, I apologize for interpreting your comment that way. If I am reading that correctly, it’s important to acknowledge that AS is not a disease and it is not a label that should carry feelings of inadequacy… it truly is a variance in the way the brain processes information. It does not change the capacity for emotional empathy, love, compassion, or every other human emotion that we experience. AS does not mean a person is “less” than their neurotypical counterpart in any way; in fact, most individuals with AS have superior talents and skills that are far more valuable and incredible than their neurotypical peers. The big difference is that you would have to learn to navigate around the cognitive empathy roadblock and that is (as you seem to already know), remarkably challenging. Once armed with this understanding though, it should become easier each day; provided you continue to openly express what you are understanding and not understanding within a social context to those you are close to (and that is hard to do).

      I guess what I am trying to say is that if you go in search of answers and still find that this simple explanation about cognitive empathy seems to account for the majority of your struggles, it is probably because you have Asperger’s syndrome and not the many other “spectrum” diagnoses that professionals may explore for you. It’s unlikely you will come upon anyone else who simplifies the diagnosis the way I have chosen to. It is not because someone with AS is simple, it is because we are all unique in our own way, but those who have AS share ONE common thing: absent cognitive empathy. That deficit inadvertently causes almost all of the common struggles that Aspies face in their formative and later years. I know I am still on my own in this belief… but I want that message to be clear in case you become overwhelmed with the “complexities” thrown at you in the future. I just don’t think it is as complicated as the spectrum-pushers claim.

      Thank you again for writing and I wish you nothing but happiness and understanding in the future. Please come back and let us know how things are going for you; there are not too many young adults commenting on here (although I receive emails from a few).

  35. Hi, Kara. l haven’t read the entire post yet (I will), but wanted to thank you (middle-aged aspie married female here). It is brave of you to face your feelings and needs that weren’t and maybe aren’t met, with honest, heart-open assessment of asperger’s people instead of demonizing us. With your attitude and vulnerability, I see hope for people like us meeting in the middle and being kind to each other, growing in understanding. Some suggestions to readers married to aspies… speaking your specific needs/wants in a brief, calm manner can be very successful. Calmly answering questions that you wouldn’t need to ask if the situation were reversed is advisable, and treating your partner with basic human dignity and respect (because things have probably already escalated, and the aspie spouse probably already feels like their deepest needs don’t matter and you don’t like them, too). Reasons for my suggestions, personalizing them about me some to hopefully increase understanding…Words/language are foreign and draining. Think of me as an alien or as someone with a totally different language and culture. Just listening, trying to translate what I am hearing into something I understand a bit, is incredibly exhausting, and looking you in the eyes while “listening” makes it all impossible. I can probably look at your mouth, helping me doubly process your words by seeing your lips form the words (like a deaf person) and seeing if you are smiling, frowning, etc. The eyes are way too much, especially when combined with “negative” emotions, trying to translate words into something I understand, and understand “foreign” visual and cultural cues. Looking down, into space, or even at a game can greatly help me process spoken words. It doesn’t mean I am not listening. Looking away is much easier than watching a person’s mouth. If I didn’t give a *”-‘, I would walk totally away (which an aspie may rarely do, if they feel treated horribly, and have about given up on you treating them decent, am throwing that out there because even extreme reactions arent usually a desire to be mean.) Strong, non-aspie emotions are often communicated in a different volume, which means we have to do all the translating while a “trombone” is loudly “playing” in our face, or strain to hear or bring out the words at all. The offended person is often an unusual and uncomfortable distance from us, and we don’t know why they are angry or hurt, because it was nowhere in our intentions or expectations to hurt or offend them. It is draining to listen to words for long. I don’t know why, it just is. Words feel so foreign and exhausting. A concept that can maybe lead to understanding in that area is “parallel play,” which is a great way to spend time with me and many aspies, doing something near each other with occasional words, trading, sharing instead of constant, direct interaction. OK, still trying to explain why brief, calm, direct requests for specific things you need works… why not try it? With no snideness or sarcasm or “you-did-this”? Maybe say, like, “I would feel really special if you walked beside me and held my hand sometimes.” That allows your partner to choose to make you feel special, and to not have to remember to do it every time, and to not feel attacked by “why don’t you’s” or “you never’s”. It is brief, so they can focus that long, simple, so they can do it, calm, so they don’t panic or get overwhelmed, and you have promised that it is a win-win thing that isn’t a constant, forever-demand that they will be “punished” for not doing sometimes. You could be rewarded by seeing that your spouse listened and cared enough about you to change a behavior in order to help you feel special. The spouse might ask questions. Don’t jump to take offense. Jump to think that they want to know how to successfully help you feel special. They might ask things that annoy you, like “which hand do I hold?” If they “protest” doing what you asked, listen. I don’t often cuddle with my husband in bed. When I have cuddled with him all night, I literally got zero sleep, and suffered in pain for at least a day. What you think of as an expectation, them neglecting you, may be incredibly sacrificial and draining for them to do. Encourage their communicating with you by assuming that they have good intentions and want you to feel good and have your needs met. If they offer an alternative or say that something is difficult, see it as an invitation to communicate and find a win-win solution. Listing a simple, positive result to the changed behavior is good, because it offers a reward. Your feeling good is something that a true aspie spouse wants, or maybe used to want, if they feel abused. If you have been “attacking” the spouse in any reactive way, just work toward simple, communication that leads to understanding, like… “Honey, when I yelled at everyone, i was exhausted from “x”, and I would love for you to notice things like that I’m slouching, my hair is a mess, and the kids are fighting. I’m overwhelmed, and it would feel great for you to come make dinner and do the dishes with me. Then I could get a nice bubble bath, enough sleep, and fight life better tomorrow.” That has all the right components for communicating with an aspie like me and working toward an improved relationship. Aspies tend to be loyal, innocent at heart, honest, intrigued by things, and to suffer with many conditions that frequently co-exist with asperger’s. My coexisting things include extreme painful joint dislocations all over my body, my heart racing when I stand or am hot, multiple autonomic functions not working “right”, not sleeping much/well, and being falsely accused of things and bullied, … YHWH bless your hearts and relationships. Susan

    • Susan,

      AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME COMMENT!!!! First, thank you tremendously for sharing your struggles and for also taking the time to provide realistic and effective means to work on communication. You did a phenomenal job of helping the readers look through the eyes of someone with AS and I sincerely appreciate that (and am certain others will as well). I am already in a good place with my husband because “I” learned to shift the way I was attempting to communicate and am acutely aware now of all the things you spoke of. I can attest to the fact that once an NT truly grasps what the cognitive differences are regarding nonverbal communication… all of the things you mentioned to begin fostering a healthy relationship are valid.

      I had actually tried damn-near everything you suggested and at first… they yielded little positive response. The reason they didn’t work was because I was still communicating ineffectively while intermittently trying to implement some of the practical tips to bring my husband and I closer. When I finally understood what had to change, all of those things worked perfectly.

      I just wanted to note that the same way you say you have felt bullied and falsely accused of things (and no doubt you and most Aspies are throughout their formative years and beyond); the neurotypical married to someone with AS feels the exact same way. Both sides are chronically sidetracked with attempts to thwart the bullying, have the other party admit to being the instigator, and staunchly defend themselves. The irony is that neither one has intention of doing the harm they do, and both people are seeking the same validation, support, respect, and love from the other… yet they fail to see how easy these things could be realized.

      I have many posts to come that dive further in depth with how to begin shifting the way we perceive the world around us, so our guards can come down and effective communication can begin. I am two-months out from my job/location change and I will be posting again on a regular basis. I anticipate 2 posts per week with the way my new schedule looks.

      Your insight is priceless and I truly hope you will keep reading and give your take on the many posts to come, so we can look at everything from both sides. This blog is meant to bring healing, enlightenment, and hope and I truly believe that the two personality types that end up in an Aspie-NT relationship… they are equally valuable and special individuals who have the potential to shape the way future couples communicate.

      Thank you again!