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Asperger Marriage

man_and_woman_angry_and_conflictingWhatever happens when children with autism grow up? Do they function well in society? Can they find and maintain a job? What about romance? Do they care for relationships, and can they sustain them?

If you are reading these series of articles for the first time, welcome! We have been studying what autism looks like and how it might affect us daily. We have now arrived at adults with autism and one of the most vital topics; keeping our homes and therefore our societies together.

Children with autism grow up to become adults with autism. The most severe cases may remain severe. The advantage that accompanies the severe cases is that it is clear to all that this person has special needs and their needs are usually catered to by loved ones. However, as someone once said, there is no autism "light."

The so-called mild cases like Asperger Syndrome (AS) or Aspie for short are the ones that will suffer many a challenge ahead. Remember that Asperger Syndrome is high functioning autism with an average to above average IQ. They look normal, talk normal, even can learn to act normal, to the point where it is even argued by professionals that Asperger should no longer be considered a diagnosis!

Why then discuss it? Because the hidden diseases, like a serpent in the grass, are the most lethal ones! Always remember a diagnoses is not a label to judge, but a ticket to aid. Asperger marriages do exist but unfortunately do not last! 80% of Asperger marriages or romantic relationships end in divorce or breakup. The normal figure in these parts of the world for breakup is 40-50%.

Love scientist John Gottman Ph.D has been studying couples for over 40 years and can predict with an over 91% accuracy which couples will stay married or eventually get a divorce. He has written great books on the subject and has helped thousands to restore their love. I will name seven principles that Dr. Gottman discovered based on sound decades of research that healthy couples use to maintain a strong bond. Then I will compare them with how Aspies relate to the world around them, and together we will discover why eight out of 10 of these relationships fail.

Principle 1

Happy couples enhance their love maps. They know what is happening in their partner's world (stress on the job, favourite song, how he/she is feeling)

Asperger couples are often so hyper focused on their own special interest (job) or hobby, that they spend most of their waking hours talking about or working on this interest. Their partner's world becomes second or third place, thus breaking the first rule (principle) to a happy relationship.

Principle 2

Happy couples nurture their fondness and admiration. They respect and admire their partner for who they are and show it.

Asperger couples might admire their partners but – remember – they have difficulty expressing themselves with words and they struggle greatly with social skills which makes principle two hard for an Aspie to maintain.

Principle 3

Happy couples turn toward each other instead of away. They know that romance is not in doing the big expensive things but in the little everyday things: helping to make a bed, leaving a voicemail to ask if all is ok, seeing to it that there is gas in the tank, small acts of caring.

Asperger couples, as we have learned, have much difficulty understanding what their partners are feeling and how to respond adequately to them. To be able to turn toward each other, one must be able to empathize with their partners needs. Principle three poses a challenge for someone living in the Asperger world.

Principle 4

Happy couples let their partners influence them. Being a team player and allowing your wife to also have "a say" in the decision-making of everyday life.

Asperger couples have communication problems. Again, to empathize is to understand each other's needs. If Asperger is part of your reality, you will struggle with communication. Aspies often see their partners as illogical and irrational when the partner voices their feelings and needs. It is not an easy task to influence a person who just cannot see things your way.

Principle 5

Happy couples solve their solvable problems. Some problems cannot be easily solved, while others can. Happy couples determine the difference and make a plan to work on the workable ones.

Asperger couples have difficulties with communication and understanding someone else's point of view – both very important ingredients in problem solving. If Alexithemia (see last week's article) is added to the mix (85% of Aspies suffer from this) then there is also a severe lack of imagination and creativity. Principle five is also crushed!

Principle 6

Happy couples overcome gridlock. Gottman says there should be dialogue. One of the partners might have an unfulfilled dream that is not being addressed. Our dreams should be shared, supported, and respected by our partner.

Asperger couples find it near impossible to dialogue. To see the dreams of a partner calls for theory of mind or the ability to understand what is playing out in someone else's mind. They just cannot understand without help.

Principle 7

Happy couples create shared meaning. They create a family culture and sweet memories together which include both partners' dreams. This too calls for oneness, intimacy and communication.

Asperger couples often lack intimacy and communication, causing a dysfunctional home and making principle 7 very hard to accomplish, but not impossible.

The gender rate for AS is one female to nine males!

Although I used the term "Asperger couples" it is usually (not always) the male partners that suffer from "mind blindness" and just cannot see where their neurotypical (NT) partners are coming from. Aspies can become very angry and/or depressed, trying to navigate a world that is strange to them and they can consider the partner who makes her needs known as the enemy, as any form of feedback is taken as severe criticism.

Your homework for this week is to study Dr. John Gottman and his seven principles. Also research David Finch's Journal of Best practices. The latter is worth an entire article so I will do my best to transpose it into one in next week's segment.

Happy studying!

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Saturday Oct. 17, 2015
Friday, 16 October 2015
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Friday Oct. 16, 2015
Friday, 16 October 2015
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