When You’re Married to Someone on the Autism Spectrum

by | May 1, 2020 | Uncategorized | 93 comments

When You're Married to Someone on the Autism Spectrum
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What happens when you find out your husband is on the autism spectrum?

We used to call it Asperger’s (like what Sheldon has on The Big Bang Theory). But now the correct term is high functioning autism spectrum. And it has a big impact on marriage!
Recently I was putting together my focus groups for our book The Great Sex Rescue, and I reached out to some of those who had taken our survey for more information. One woman shared her story with me, thinking that she was not alone and that others needed to hear this, too.

She writes:

 

In my case, it was a “hidden” disability that we didn’t discover until we were 33 years married – high functioning autism, formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome.

The condition affects my husband in subtle but profound ways. He can understand that a husband should behave in certain ways, but cannot sense when or how or what to do.

Because we didn’t know about the disability, our marriage was so emotionally and sexually dissatisfying to me that I developed severe depression within the first five years. I knew my husband cared and wanted me to be happy, but he never followed through on what I told him I needed. The only way I could interpret that was that he just didn’t care enough.

We would have sex, but I rarely felt that we made love. I wanted to be pursued, but sex usually happened “by accident” – a kiss goodnight in bed would develop into more. Even then, the accidents didn’t happen half often enough for me. And the encounters were relatively short because he can’t maintain a firm erection for very long. So I would often “let” him climax long before I was ready to. He was willing to touch me to climax, but his mental disability left his efforts mechanical and not always effective.

Even with all that, my high libido meant I could achieve arousal easily and orgasm frequently; but as I got older, climax would require serious mental gymnastics – imagining my husband being romantic or more sensual to stir up my arousal.

When my orgasm rate declined, between 25 – 30 years married, sex (when it did happen) became more and more one-sided in his favour, and less frequent because I was fed up with all the effort I had to put in just to feel aroused, never mind orgasm. I didn’t mind that any particular encounter ended without me climaxing, but I got frustrated that my husband wouldn’t make a point to try to balance the scales the next time. Again, I thought that I just didn’t matter enough for him to put any effort into my needs.

So, now that I’ve had three years to learn about high functioning autism and how it affects my husband, I can see how my perfectly normal expectations of a husband were impossible for him to fulfill. Although he understands the concepts, he will never know how to seduce me, make me swoon, how to behave like a “sexy beast”. I will never hear sweet affirmations or ardent desire whispered in my ear, never feel cherished, or needed for anything more than what his mother did for him.

As we’ve learned about his condition, there have been so many “aha! that’s why…” moments. It’s been a relief to us both in many ways. I’ve learned to accept the many things he does do for me as his expression of love.  I also now realize that my role as the helper suitable for him is to be the cheerleader, the coach, the guide, the initiator, in all areas of life. Except sex.

As I already mentioned, it was becoming harder to get myself aroused, so I told him one day (pre-diagnosis) that I needed him to step up and make my sexual satisfaction more of a priority. I was no longer able to keep running the show. And shortly after that, we stopped having sex. That was three or four years ago.  I can see now that he doesn’t know how to “step up”. But I don’t think I can function sexually if he doesn’t. So, we just don’t.

I know that in many ways I have to be my husband’s caretaker, and I can see God’s hand in this because I’m skilled in the areas my husband is not. And my husband is still my best friend, so I’m happy to be here for him. But the depression still plagues me, though not as severely and not for the same reason. I used to believe that I wasn’t important enough for my husband to cherish me. Now I grieve because I know he will never be able to give me the kind of relationship I have longed for. We will never be deeply intimate. Just friends, without benefits.

So Sheila, I’m telling you this story because I can guarantee that you have followers struggling with intimacy because one of the partners has un-diagnosed autism, usually but not always the husband. This level of autism is very hard to notice in children, often because there aren’t the same language delays that can accompany more obvious autism symptoms. That means there is a large group of adults whose behaviour is slightly “off” but no one can quite pin down why. They are dismissed as belonging to the slightly-odd end of the normal bell curve. But even mild autism is a whole different thing than slightly-odd. If my husband and I had known in the beginning what we know now… It’s not that he wouldn’t, but that he couldn’t.

This has been my experience with an un-diagnosed autistic husband. Mileage varies wildly. They say if you meet one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person. But there are enough commonalities to warrant a page in every marriage counsellor’s playbook to discuss red flags, typical issues and coping strategies.  In the meantime, can the TLH&V family have a chat about this?

Like she writes, I imagine there are many who read this blog who are in similar shoes. Can you see yourself here? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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93 Comments

  1. Emilie DC

    I ache for this woman. I have no experience like she has had with marriage, but I can feel her pain. I wonder if instead of asking him to step up, if she could be his “sexual encourager”? She said he can’t maintain an erection for long, but what if she were to help him with that to try to increase their sexual encounters? What if instead of asking him to figure out how to make her climax, she uses his hand and guides him in both intensity and direction, while kissing him to help her arousal? She mentioned that he does want her to be happy, he just doesn’t have the emotional ability to know when that is, or what she needs. I think helping him figure her out would go a long way to him being able to serve her and her receiving pleasure. It sounds like he loves her and I would think he would be up for sex in a new way, especially if they talked about it in depth first to help him with the change in routine.E

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great thoughts, Emilie!
      I also wonder about this: In “normal” (for lack of a better word) interactions, it’s considered rude to tell someone what to do in great detail. That’s considered insulting. But I wonder if in relationships where one is on the autism spectrum, direct and detailed is actually welcomed?

      Reply
      • Rachel C

        I’m a self-diagnosed autistic woman, married 12 years, and I have spent years learning to be sexual. And honestly, my natural curiousity and…umm, some of what I enjoy reading…have really helped me in this area. And, yes, I have gotten a lot of good direction not only from sources like this blog but from him too. It doesn’t always have to be words either; he just moves my hand sometimes. I’m no longer so embarrassed and inept at that area of my life.
        However, where I fail are in words of encouragement. I just feel so awkward and embarrassed, and all my English skills seem to leave my brain at those times. (I do better in writing, but still sappy words feel stupid to me.) But I try because it’s his love language.
        Anyway, yes, directions are good.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Thank you so much for sharing your story, Rachel! Love the confirmation that direct is better, too.

          Reply
      • Married to an autistic man

        Yes, it usually is. The only problem with sex is that you don’t like it the exact same way every time. That is very stressful for many people with autism.
        Me and my husband have tried to work this out for many years. I have to tell him every time that it is not a complaint, that I don’t think he sucks, when I ask him to do something a little different. He would love for me to write a manual he could follow. If I did he would follow it to a T, but I keep telling him it’s not possible since what feels good in the moment has so many variables it can’t be done.
        I think the ability to read body language is crucial to having good sex, as it is a moment by moment assessment and it can totally kill the arousal if you talk too much. Unfortunately difficulties reading body language is one of the things that autistic people struggle with. Doesn’t mean sex has to be lousy for the non-autistic partner, but one must have realistic expectations and see it as a long-term thing. The most important thing is to not judge your partner and think that he/she doesn’t care or is hopeless. That is usually not true and only builds resentment.
        My husband still cringes when I ask him gently to change his touch, but he finally knows that it is not a complaint. He understands it intellectually, but struggles to understand it emotionally as well.
        When I am well aroused it’s less of a problem, I’m less sensitive to “wrong” touches then. The problem is trying to build arousal, as very small things can be total turn-offs during the build-up. For me it works better to do that alone, and then engage my husband. Sure, I can long for things to be different, and sometimes I wish that my husband could be more of a mind reader in bed, but I know that he does the best he can and I know that he loves me and that’s more important.

        Reply
      • AJ

        As a man with ASD, direct and DETAILED instructions are very helpful. Most people with ASD are complete rule followers and will follow directions to a T. The danger lies in expecting a certain outcome when the directions are followed EXACTLY and outcome not occuring as expected. Also it is very difficult and can cause anxiety when the directions are suddenly changed.

        Reply
      • Sue R

        I am just like this woman. It is so hard. I never heard of autism until my grandson was diagnosed and my daughter
        started sharing information. I was like omg, this is my husband! He doesn’t get it no matter how hard I try to get it across to him. I too have never felt that intimacy. He is like 16year old boy that I have to watch over. He has outbursts and doesn’t understand what is apropriate. Now as we are older, He will share personal stuff with strangers and I feel so vulnerable and He is clueless. I am on anti depressants just to deal with the anxiety he gives me.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, I’m so sorry, Sue. That must be so difficult. I do hope to write more on this, and I have contacted some people walking through it to write some posts for me.

          Reply
    • OP on ASD

      Emilie, I want to clarify that in the past, I *have* explained in great detail what techniques “work” for me, and my husband is always willing to try. But as I explained in a further comment below, the problem is more than just technique. When I said I needed him to “step up”, I meant that I needed him to think and behave more proactively about our intimate life — plan for it, help get me in the mood, make me feel wanted. But I now know that ASD makes that difficult for him. He doesn’t have a normal drive to naturally stimulate him to seek out intimacy, and the short-circuit in his brain makes it difficult for him to picture and figure out *how* to arouse me. So, for the moment we’re at an impasse. And as usual, it will be me who has to change if our intimate life is to resume. Sigh.

      Reply
      • Ilene

        I have never seen my own experience explained so well. All I have to say is “ditto” to everything you have said. The depression early on in our marriage. The lack of normal interest in my body and sex in general has been something I have grieved for a very long time. The lack of any understanding of how to woo me, no ability to “read” my body language, and lack of interest in my orgasm – all of it is what I have experienced. I knew something was “off” and read books about sex and went to Christian women’s conferences on the subject, thinking the problem was me. But those only made me feel worse because all the material comes at it from the standpoint of husbands always wanting more sex than you, and how you can become more sexy. Our situation was the total opposite. My husband is a good man with a good heart, but his behaviors and mindset would make you think he is the most selfish person alive. He is emotionally like a 12 year old that I have to help through his life, including running “his” business. When you are married to someone with Autism, you are married to someone with a real disability. Learning that they have Autism validates your experience in your own mind, but it starts a whole new kind of grieving because you know this will never change. They are simply not a full functioning adult. As was said above, my husband really only wants or needs me to do things for him like his mother. Hearing other married women talk about sex makes you want to throw up.

        Reply
      • Sal

        There is no short circuit in his brain, unless something else is going on with him other than being autistic. Autism is just as valid a way of being a seeing the world as any neurotypical way. As long as you see him as less than you or wrong, can you expect or do you deserve anything other than disappointment? I imagine he’s equally disappointed in you, and it doesn’t seem like you’re meeting his needs. Good luck to you, but barring an attitude change on your part, things will probably not get better. Again, autism as manifested in the man you describe isn’t a disability.

        Reply
        • Gara

          I’m sorry, but not all folks with ASD are the same, and attempting to invalidate her experiences and vilify her is both inappropriate and incorrect. I am on the same page as her, and my partner is very similar to hers in action. He is smart, sweet, loving, forgiving, patient, and so very kind. He does not understand how to be sexual with me no matter what we’ve tried. Most of the time, all he wants is oral sex or for me to use my hands. When asking him to help me, the first time he was baffled. He thought I would achieve orgasm because he did. I was equally baffled that he thought his orgasm from my hand did anything for me. The truth is, he simply doesn’t enjoy penetration, and touching a woman “there” seems repulsive to him. I’ve concluded he has issues with bodily secretions. We were open in our desires and feelings, talked freely, and he still doesn’t perform as much more than a robot. It’s not his fault, and I care for him anyway, even though I gave up “getting” in return.

          I have no desire for a different partner, because I love him, but I am horribly lonely at times. I often feel as if I am bedding a virgin teen rather than my middle-aged spouse. However, I have known others on the spectrum who are vastly different. I knew a man with the same diagnosis who had a very intense sex drive, wanted all kinds of things, but had no emotional regulation. He was not kind, patient, or forgiving. But he also had high-functioning autism. So, don’t assume they are all the same. They are not. Hers is one kind, and she even expressed how all of us will have varying experiences. We should always be mindful of that and never blame.

          Reply
    • Lily

      I know that my partner is Uncle head Down syndrome and I often wonder because of this characteristics if you might have some characteristics of it and I wonder more soap for the way he acts sometimes. We met when he took a room down in my mother’s house on the first floor and didn’t end up moving in together for a year after my mother passed away it was great for the beginning months then all of a sudden he had a PTSD flare he says and it’s been no intimacy sense whatsoever not even making out and I don’t even know if he’s capable of it and I’m wondering if that’s all there is to it or is that you’re talking about my fee like coming to play here somehow. But I’m so devastated all the time a lot of the time people yell at me on Facebook please tell me see the troll Mountain I just shut up let me tell you though he is my schedule because I male and financially he’s promised to do a lot of things for me he’s moving to my house and doesn’t pay any of the bills he’s supposed to pay the taxes and they utilities on the first floor because I need to have them on in order to get my rather argue on the second floor and he yells at me all the time for burning gas and utilities and then I find out every year that he’s built up thousands of dollars and back feels he never pays them so how can he do that to me he’s taking advantage of me I pay all bills he has a great income with tells me he’s broke all the time I need to learn more about this Asperger’s Syndrome

      Reply
    • Grazi

      Hi, I appreciate your suggestions. I am married to an autistic husband and my reality is accurately explained by this woman. I also ache for her and understand exactly how this feels. My husband never looks for me to have sex. I need to ask and even then he can barely have an erection. Sex is a rare thing, those moments of closeness before or after sex also don’t exist. No snuggling close in bed, ever. I have been married for 17 years and I don’t have a connection with my husband. I don’t think we were ever best friends… I mean our dating was amazing, but soon after we got married I could tell something was off. He is always busy and when we are together, he has a phone in his hand or talks about how he has all these tasks waiting for him. I feel quite low these days because I am realizing that my reality in my marriage will never change. There is no fixing him. My husband is an amazing person, but he is not able to give me anything I need emotionally. I feel empty and so alone. Sometimes divorce seems to be the answer, but I don’t think its fair for me to do this to him because of something he can’t even control. My oldest son is also high functioning. My husband and son fight so much and I can totally see the disability playing a major part on this. I am not happy inside. My past 17 years have been full of loneliness. It is so hard to be alone.

      Reply
      • Dotty Sarnes

        Hi Grazi,
        Your post sounds letter for letter like my own life. Since suspecting ASD in my marriage, I have gotten a lot of reading material about it. There are some very helpful books out there, as well as some neuro-diverse counselors who can help affirm the emotional torment of being married to a “nice” ASD husband who will never be your best friend or lover. Maxine Aston and Eva Mendes have written good books, and the AANE.org (Aspergers/Autism Network) have many good articles, and even online training for motivated couples. Motivation seems to be the trick with ASD men, as my husband is largely in denial that there’s anything wrong with him. This, too, is a symptom of his condition. I have realized that my future dreams of our happy retirement years are never going to happen, so I’ve gone back to school and will be training to become a MFT who specializes in helping couples where one partner is on the spectrum. There are a FEW out there who have the correct training, so if someone is motivated to get help, please don’t go to someone who doesn’t understand how to work with ASD people. They will just unintentionally waste your money and frustrate you both. Also check MeetUp.com for some support groups for neurotypicals married to ASD partners. Hopefully in the next 5-10 years, more counselors and clinicians will realize how widespread this is in marriages.

        Reply
        • El

          What is wrong with him? He’s different from you, but that isn’t wrong. I feel so sad for all these autistic men who live with judgmental wives who see their husbands as wrong, bad, disabled, etc. From his perspective, aren’t you are just as difficult to live with as he is? Why is he wrong to deny there is anything wrong with him? Do you admit you are wrong and disabled bec you are different from him? Good lord, poor man.

          Reply
          • Gara

            I have to defend her here. Please remember that we as people are all flawed. Maybe “wrong” was not the right word, but listen to what someone means, not just the words. If her partner refuses to acknowledge that there us a difference of mind, that can be a problem. My husband knows what is going on, but only because I realized it and asked him to look into a diagnosis. Had he simply shut me out and refused to meet me halfway, that would be awful, and that’s what it sounds like she’s saying. We should be fair with people who feel this way, her spouse included. Our own personal experiences are not other peoples’, so be wary of projecting your own experiences on other folks. We aren’t all evil women who have no sense of fairness. She hurts. That’s her experience. Please don’t add to her hurt by making cruel assumptions. Sometimes we simply use the incorrect words.

      • Sandy

        Hi, I have had a terrible time with my husband for nearly 30 years. I have never ever felt truly intimate with him, and the only affection has been at my formal request, sex is difficult because he reacts so strongly to any suggestions, and loses his erection easily. He doesn’t pick up on cues, and misinterprets me to the degree that sends him into fury because he thinks I’m lying when I calmly explain exactly what it is I am actually feeling. I cannot begin to tell you how he berated and excoriated me until I begged him for mercy and agreeing to anything he demanded I say. I would always be in shock- his fury would erupt out of nowhere, and he would often threaten me with divorce, while we had 3 uoung children, each of whom had difficulties.
        He lacks a basic understanding of me in every respect- I can’t get any kind of intimate relationship off the ground with him. I gave up for the most part long ago and just provided myself for Him to have sex with me when he was able, and I lived by satisfying myself. I couldn’t get him to parent with me and he created a very dysfunctional situation, because when I tried to teach the children manners, or remonstrated with them about their behavior, all they had to do was to kick up a fuss in front of my husband and he would berate me right there snd then in front of the children. He did not provide parenting; he explained he was not interested in parenting- he had many other things he preferred to do, so he would stand by and criticize me for whatever it was I did imperfectly. My husband has done a chore only several times during our marriage. He holds down a good job but also resents being the major breadwinner even though I have almost always worked as well as carrying on the children and household, and social life. My husband does not think of me- he does not bother to tell me things, to think of things to do with me or to tell me. He never ever came up with or agreed to a family activity. He did his own thing during nonworking hours.
        I could write 100 pages and I have written thousands to myself over the years, most destroyed. I did not divorce him because I was overwhelmed by the situation; I could not imagine trying to support 3 small children with difficulties on my own, and then having to deal with my husband as an adversary. Frankly, he always has the nuclear option up his sleeve- watch what you say because he escalates from 1 to 10 over a simple nudge, or a tease, or a request or a question. It’s like living in a hall of destroyed mirrors- nothing is ever as I expect it- no interaction goes well from my perspective.
        Yes, I have realized he cannot help it, and I always did know he had his hands full with himself; he isn’t able to take care , or even think about another person. If he says, boy I’m tired, etc, and I say, yes, me,
        Too…, he will
        Say, but boy I sure am tired. He cannot change a subject from whatever it is he started with.
        My husband doesn’t keep up with friends or family- he isn’t very interested. He much prefers a life in books. He read a dozen or more books about investing and insisted on doing our investing, after being so angry every time I tried to discuss our finances, I gave up, and left money sitting for ten years. Money makes him deeply angry. It’s completely incomprehensible- it must be that there are no hard and fast rules about investing. He did a terrible job with our money snd I would have increased it over the more recent time period by 40% or more. He kept it flat!
        He’s afraid of so many things.
        He won’t ask for what he s entitled to at work for example.
        He misses the point. He is extremely literal so I have to speak very carefully because he is on the lookout for logical or other flaws. He pauses for a very long time before he makes his response—10 seconds, which is a long time to wait for him to allow you to speak.
        Ive never once merited his fury.

        Reply
    • Sam

      Hi I fell almost exactly the same as the woman who has that husband, except I don’t feel I need to be a mother to mine. You don’t realise these aspies can’t talk about this stuff. You suggest talking in depth, my husband just can’t speak when it comes to emotions or sex. Our first two years was great, then it all changed. He must have been masking. I’m still trying to find out what changed for him. My counsellor says perhaps his oxytocin ran out – the love chemical we all get in the honeymoon phase of a relationship. My husband only got diagnosed after we had been together about 4-5 years and he was 52! It’s so hard but we do love each other and I am considering getting my physical pleasure elsewhere, if we both agree, and if he can’t give me what I do need.

      Reply
  2. Lois

    I can relate. My husband has, what I think, is asbergers. My sister-in-law says her husband’s does also and so does my son.
    I am a very touchy, freely person and my husband hates to be touched and hates to touch me. He says it feels like spiders crawling on him. He mainly thinks about his wants and needs and not of others. I love him but I have tried to excuse him of many if not all expectations because of his disability. It is depressing. I want to be loved and cherished and some days I feel like I am tolerated. He has to have things done a certain way and it must stay that way for a long time, but years later a switch goes off and he will want something else done and that will be the only way for years. His life is a newspaper and computer. He works part time. He sold his business years ago and had not been able to get a full time job. He really can’t motivate himself to get much done. Life is hard but God is good so we look for the good.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s very hard, Lois. I’m sorry. It sounds like you have a great attitude. I’d just say, keep a good supportive group of friends around you as well, so that you do have that social outlet.

      Reply
      • Coors Danielle

        I agree with Sheila, if you want to go do things socially and he doesn’t still go do those things that you enjoy. I have stopped holding my breath and have just made plans to do things that I enjoy. My husband is on the spectrum- high functioning and it has helped me have a good life that is fulfilled with other things than just me taking “care” of him. I’m glad I found this website and blog and will pray for you and your husband for the future. Just go do it girl. Live your life and if he wants to tag a long than he can, if not, have fun.

        Reply
    • OP on ASD

      Lois, I can really relate to your comment “his life is the newspaper and his computer”. Long before we knew about the ASD, I told my husband I would give him a divorce so he could marry his computer. Now that we know ASD is the problem, it’s easier for hubby to accept that some behaviours are unacceptable (hours in front of the computer without a word to me, for example). If your husband is agreeable, I suggest at least taking the tests put out by Cambridge University (Autism Spectrum Quotient and Emotional Quotient). They are available free online.
      Regarding his lack of motivation, you will have to become his caretaker in this regard. Many wives help their husbands develop a To-Do list, and then have to monitor it with them to keep them on track. (Check out the online app “ToDoIst”.) One of the biggest adjustments for many NT wives is to accept that they are the caretakers of a handicapped person, and that can be harder if your husband is unwilling to accept a diagnosis of being on the spectrum. I suggest you look up an online support group for advice. Hope this helps.

      Reply
  3. Nick Peters

    I would be glad to offer my input. My wife and I both have Aspergers

    Reply
  4. Elissa

    I have suspected for a while that one of my brothers-in-law might have high functioning autism. He has wanted to get married for a long time, but has been notoriously unsuccessful at dating. What is the best way we can help him? Should we encourage him to get tested? I think he would be scared to do that, but I would hate to see him get married and his wife not know if there is something like this that will effect their relationship.

    Reply
    • Anon

      Encourage him to get tested – I know a couple of people who didn’t get diagnosed until they were in their 40s and 50s and they found it so helpful (as did their families) once they had a diagnosis – and also a huge relief to realise there was a reason why they are different and it’s not just something they have to ‘get over’ or change. Also, the earlier you get a diagnosis, the earlier you can start learning ways of managing any difficulties that arise between yourself and neurotypical friends & family. There is so much help available now, both for those on the spectrum and for those living and working with them.
      I know a couple of very successful marriages where one partner is on the spectrum, so a diagnosis doesn’t mean an end to romantic hopes.

      Reply
  5. Stephanie

    We strongly suspect both me and my husband have Asperger’s. (I’m sorry, I just can’t call it autism. Too many negative connotations there, for me.)
    I used to joke that I lived the first year of our marriage 10 times in a row. It was awful. The last two years have been getting better. I feel like we’ve gotten through the uncertainty of the early years, and we’ve learned and accepted things about ourselves and each other that make life a little easier.
    People who fall under this diagnosis often think of the world as black and white (ie, get married, buy a three bedroom/two bath house, get a dog, have two kids is just what you’re supposed to do). For a long time, my husband and I tried to keep up with that dream, but it wasn’t working. It wasn’t until we in embraced our limitations in other areas (not related directly to the autism) that things started to click into place for us.
    I want to encourage any other readers in a marriage where both are on the spectrum, that it’s OK to be different. It’s ok to embrace your limitations. Doesn’t mean it’s easy. But making the right choices for your family will make life so much easier.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Stephanie. Wise words!

      Reply
  6. Denise

    I can definitely sympathize with the OP. I have much of the same experience and after 29 years of marriage am just discovering now what so many of our issues are stemming from. My husband and I have been together since our teens and I’ve always believed that he didn’t care enough, find me attractive, put me first, discipline the kids, protect me from his parents… the list is endless. But we are just understanding NOW, after all these YEARS that there are just some things he’s not capable of doing (even he wants to). He doesn’t recognize ‘clues’ or ‘body/facial language’ etc. But in understand this, my expectations have completely changed and I am finding pleasure in my hubby’s ABILITIES as opposed to DISABILITIES for the first time. It has taken so much unintentional pressure off him and I am amazed at the depth of his love for me that I never saw before. I’m grateful in a way I’ve never felt before and am doing everything I can to build my hubby up after years of (sadly) tearing him down. I feel terrible but I can’t change the past….I can only move forward into the future with new knowledge and understanding and loving him for exactly who he is, as opposed to who he isn’t. God bless:)

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s beautiful, Denise!

      Reply
  7. Stephanie

    I have a hunch that my dad is high functioning. I was eager to read this but didn’t realize it would be mostly about their sex life. Thankfully I am NOT privy to the details of my parents sex life. Lol. But I would absolutely love for you to explore this topic further in relation to other aspects of marriage.
    My parents were wonderful loving parents, but they did and still do stink at marriage. My dad is a wonderful man but there are just some things that are just “odd” as another commenter said. It has greatly affected their marriage, my relationship with my dad, and now I see things in his relationship my husband and daughter. I am sure there are others out there who resonate as well.

    Reply
    • Jessica Jackson

      I would also like this topic to be explained further in other aspects than just sexual intimacy

      Reply
  8. Mandy H

    As someone who is also married to someone with aspergers(I knew before we married though), there was so much in this post that made me feel sad.
    I do not mean to invalidate the posters feelings at all. I will say that the parts that really got to me were “I will never feel cherished, needed for anything more than his mother did for him, ect..” and where she explained that she more or less just gave up on sex, even though she recognizes that he maybe doesn’t know how to “step up”.
    I know the saying too, that if you’ve met one autistic person, than you’ve met one autistic person. Reading through this made me even more grateful for the relationship I have with my husband! He is very sensitive to my needs, and puts in the work to make it happen, but that also requires me to communicate with him, and show him what I want/need, often multiple times. Thankfully, he’s very willing to keep trying til he gets it right, and shows me patience too, when I have to learn(and sometimes relearn) something about his needs as well. We work together to achieve what we both want/need in our marriage.
    Marriage, regardless of any unique diagnosis, needs both parties working together to make it work. Communicating(often more than once), patience, understanding, and respect.
    Parts of this post made it seem like she just gave up on him, and that broke my heart. We’re all works in progress, and we all need help to better ourselves as we go through life. “For better or for worse”..even though this might be a difficult season for her(I’m certainly not trying to say it isn’t hard on her), we make promises to our spouses to not give up on them, love them, honour and cherish them.
    Lots of great advice already posted in the comments. BEST of luck to the poster moving forward! God bless❤️

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Mandy. It really does sound like communication is the key, and the more direct, the better. It’s wonderful that you have both managed this together.

      Reply
    • Ragan Graves

      I believe things might be different if the neurotypical is offered the choice to take on this challenge. But when the truth and shock are exposed and discovered long into your marriage it is necessary to go through a grieving process of what you will never have. Not because the person on the spectrum doesn’t want to give it to you, but because the amygdala in their brain is wired in a completely different way. There are circuits that we have that are not available to them. There are dots ( through no fault of their own) they can’t connect. And these connections that don’t and can’t happen are often the very things that make a neurotypical feel loved, valued, appreciated, and fulfilled. I’ve hung in there thus far for 27 years. There are many in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. We are there because we are dedicated and loyal and because we love them. May I ask please how long you have been married for?

      Reply
    • SIZ

      I don’t think she gave up. She’s being realistic. And your experience with your husband “working” on your relationship may not be hers at all. With my husband, we’ve been in couples counseling for 9 months now with a counselor who knows autism. But it’s still one step forward, two steps back because my husband literally has almost no ability to act different the next time a situation arises. It’s soul crushing really. And you need to understand — if she were giving up she would have divorced him. Staying married at all is a huge commitment on her part. Glad your experience is different.

      Reply
  9. Wynd

    I am writing as someone who has quite a number of markers for ASD; based on what many credentialed people have said I am probably Asperger’s/high functioning autistic. I married a woman who had professional experience working with autism, and that has helped somewhat in our marriage, although yes, the ASD tendencies have been a source of friction.
    There are always places, though, where it feels like I am being asked to draw a rainbow and I have all the colors but blue. Should I skip the blue in the rainbow? Should I replace with another (incorrect) color? Blue is primary so I can’t make it from other colors. Should I write “blue” repeatedly where the blue arch should be? I can use purple, or green, but neither is a great substitute for blue and at some point wishing that I had a blue doesn’t make it so.
    For example (in my case), if my wife is angry / shook up over something, I have a very hard time 1) determining if I am at fault 2) determining what the “correct” response should be. That is, if she is angry “near” me (at a situation, at the children, etc.) it is very likely I that I will assume she is angry “at” me. I then go into a “paralysis by analysis” where I am chewing through different scenarios of what I should say to help her feel better (because I care for her deeply), however because the inputs to the mental equation (why she is mad) are unclear it makes me much less confident to act or say something “useful” because in the past I often picked the wrong thing to say or do. Sometimes doing nothing is the right thing, sometimes doing nothing is the wrong thing, sometimes I should say something or do something and sometimes this is wrong also. I am guessing at multiple choice answers but without actually understanding the problem.
    Again, I speak from my own experience – not everything is applicable to every person. When I first started college I spent a lot of time in the food courts observing human interaction. I made a list of things that they did in interactions (example: if someone is talking to me, looking at them communicates to them that I am paying attention – even though I was hearing them just fine). I practiced these lists of rules (very difficult at first) like an actor stepping into a role until they became habit. Following these rules helps me operate in normal society but I am still following a script – a coping strategy – with little ability to improvise if I need to.
    To the original poster in the article, my advice would be to spell out, as clearly and as step-by-step as possible, what the things you are missing / needing for him, with concrete actions. For example, you said “never feel cherished”. “Cherish” is a vague word – knowing what it means, and connecting the dots are different things. It might be something like “I feel cherished if we take a walk together after dinner on Mondays and Wednesdays.”
    All of the emotions are still there, full intimacy is possible – but the drawing of the rainbow will never have blue as long as he is doing all the drawing. Share the crayons (as it sounds like you have been doing) or draw something different.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wow, Wynd. Thank you so much for this. So practical and insightful.

      Reply
    • Denise

      Thank you! Your analogy of what to do/say/think when your wife is upset was perfect for me (my post is above). I have never heard or seen it clarified in such detail and it’s very helpful for me. Blessings to you!

      Reply
  10. Susanna Musser

    I could not believe my eyes when I opened your email and saw the title of this blog post!!! I literally yelled, “What??!!” Lol
    My husband has undiagnosed autism, which we didn’t figure out til one of our children was evaluated and diagnosed at age 12. Two of our other children are also on the spectrum.
    I would LOVE to be part of a private discussion group for wives of men on the spectrum. I am not comfortable discussing our struggles publicly, though. Do you know of any such group?

    Reply
    • AJ

      This is very common for a child to be diagnosed as being on the spectrum then one of the parents realizes they have many of the same characteristics and the parent then seeks a diagnosis. This is exactly how I was diagnosed as ASD at the age of 38. According to the research I have done, I believe autism is highly heritable and is passed through generations of families. I look at both my family and my wife’s family and see many ASD characteristics.

      Reply
    • DS

      Thanks to so many of you who just wrote my story too! The grief and frustration [just to name a few of the emotions] have had me in depression most of our married lives. We just “celebrated” our 50th Anniversary and though we both now understand why there were so many questions and seemingly odd behaviors, I still struggle. As I try to come to grips with the grief of accepting that I will never have that romantic, sexual, heart to heart connection, the tears form easily. I have been able to pray more now that I am not as angry. It still hurts but I believe Jesus has had a Purpose in our lives that will only become crystal clear on the day we go Home. I am grateful to Him because He was the only One Who understood and could stand by us during these bleak and trying years.

      Reply
      • OP on ASD

        DS, we are in the same boat, you and I. The diagnosis *does* help, but there is that grief that you will never have the intimacy you crave. I imagine this is similar to the experience that parents of long-term-disabled children experience. Or perhaps, spouses whose partners have become physically disabled, or have developed some version of senility. There is an on-going grief, in spite of the “normal” partner’s willingness to be a caretaker. I wish I could say that I’ve learned how to keep that grief from keeping me down, but for now, I’m still troubled with depression.
        Two things keep me going. One, I love my husband and I want to help him as best I can. He is family, and my friend. He can’t help the way he is, Perhaps I would feel differently is his ASD made him more confrontational and indifferent. But for us, I have learned to see his love in the good qualities he has.
        Two, as you mentioned, we have the peace that passes understanding, and we know that in due time (maybe not till eternity?), God will reveal His purposes. Psalm 27 comforts me: “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. ”
        May God continue to uphold you both.

        Reply
  11. Lindy

    I’m crying reading this. My husband and I are both 35, and he was diagnosed just a few months ago as having adhd and ASD. Our marriage is extremely Challenging, we are polar opposites, and I never feel connected to him anymore. He is an extreme
    Introvert and his version of adhd is the introverted type. He doesn’t have friends anymore. Doesn’t ever go out. He doesn’t believe he has ADHD or ASD though and has stopped taking any meds. But it is SO apparent to me. It affects every facet of our marriage. Our sex life is so different now especially after children. I’m also 40 pounds heavier after 2 kids and not losing the youngest’s baby weight. He doesn’t care about that but I sure do. I’m not comfortable in my own skin. I used to be the higher drive spouse pre kids and now I have no drive At all. He has drive but it’s so last minute. Like she said, oh a kiss that just leads somewhere. He doesn’t understand that I just want a kiss To be a kiss sometimes. But also, send me a flirty (not gross) text in the morning, but some feelers out there..or just send me a few sweet short texts just because. I’ve communicated that SO many times. He says he doesn’t remember But because of the lack of emotional
    Connection with him, I have no drive now, and my brain has turned any type of physical affection off because I’m worried it will turn into him initiating…and sometimes, maybe a few times a year, the sex can be mind blowingly AWESOME. And for those few minutes afterwards I feel connected to him. But that’s it. The last time I Didn’t want to but I tried to just be in the mood and hope hope for the best and just try to Enjoy it, I bawled in the bathroom afterwards. I felt awful. I have a hard time climaxing as it is, and there’s no foreplay. It’s awkward. I’m not in the mood so when it does happen (maybe once a month), It requires a great load of mental concentration for me not only to climax, but to feel comfortable. I don’t have any libido so I don’t feel like doing anything…I have to think “okay can I somehow will myself to want to do x and y?” , which sounds awful. And usually it’s no. We used to have such a great time and now it’s so awkward for me because I have no libido. He says “I know this sounds awful, but I wish there was a guaranteed thing for me to do that would result in sex. I just never know when you’ll want it.” In our day to day life, he has no emotions (his words) and he says he doesn’t know what to say to me. I’m an extrovert, very chatty person. But I feel I have become a shell of what I used to be. I long for a connection with him. I feel I have tried everything. I try to kiss and hug him but I feel nothing. It’s almost physically painful to me. He doesn’t even hear me when I say compliments. I said what do you hear when I say “wow babe great job!” When he organized the garage. He said “ I hear you did an okay job. Could be better.” I was shocked. I said how can I get you to hear what I actually said?? “Well, if you gave me a hug and a kiss.” So yes obviously his love language is physical affection but then my brain says “I reeeeeally don’t wanna do that because any kind of affection = sex apparently.
    Everything is so backwards. He doesn’t understand why I need conversations to feel connected and he doesn’t feel comfortable talking to me about things – he says he doesn’t know what to say. He is so wrapped up in his own world in his head, and is like a fantasy thinker. He is constantly daydreaming or not present or on his phone.
    I wish we had a good sex life. I am
    Working with my dr to get my
    Hormones tested. I miss feeling happy and comfortable and I wish he and I could communicate.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry, Lindy. That does sound really difficult. I hope your doctor can help, but I also wonder about your husband stopping the medication. Has he said why?

      Reply
      • Lindy

        He says that he doesn’t want to take them anymore and they weren’t doing anything. Partly true – they were from another dr months ago and our new dr has said they aren’t the right ones. I noticed a big increase in his focus, energy, awareness and memory in the beginning when he stated taking them….but it quickly wore off. I have heard awful stories of people stopping meds “cold turkey” and the horrible after effects that could happen since they didn’t wean from them. My husband hasn’t had any luckily but it’s very frustrating to have him just shut down about it completely. When he stopped taking them, I didn’t even have to ask. I could tell from his body language, speech and now constant distractedness. I already have told him many times that I had already guessed that this was going to be his diagnosis and I completely want to help and support him in any way I can. But he insists that nothing is wrong and he’s fine. That’s all I hear. We’re fine. I’m fine. But he’s not – he’s very depressed. Won’t admit it.
        After this Covid stuff is over I plan on contacting his doctor again- she wanted to put him on new meds anyway (the old ones were prescribed from another dr months ago) and wanted to do some personality testing and a sleep study.
        I just feel like it’s really unfair for both of us. I admit I lean more toward the naturopathic side of medicine, but meds could really help him. He is just denying all of it.
        And, when we got married, he wasn’t like this. Granted I was a bit different too as I wasn’t a mom yet, but he was more happy, he had a few friends (now none), and he and I would have some good conversations now and then. We had a few things in common. It wasn’t super easy but it was easier compared to now. I almost asked for a separation last year because of how hard it has been. I feel like a solo parent. He and I feel like roommates. It’s exhausting, especially because he feels none of it…literally. He’s “fine.”

        Reply
        • AJ

          There is no medication for ASD. There are some meds that sometimes help with the symptoms if ADHD.

          Reply
          • Anonymous

            No, I completely agree with everything you are communicating here. I was unaware that ABA has been used in a self-serving way and am sad but not surprised to learn this. All I know about ABA, I have learned from the staff at the center for autism that evaluated, diagnosed, and provides therapy and other services for my children with autism. This center is stellar in every way. Every staff person we have met over the years is invariably respectful, gentle, encouraging, empathetic, and has a positive approach. They listen carefully to the issues that arise and help us brainstorm solutions to help us all gain the skills we need to thrive. What they have taught us has made a night and day difference in our home.

      • Ragan Graves

        Speaking from the same experience as above and many from below; being married to a high functioning autistic husband of 28 years… with 2 HFA adult children diagnosed and 1 HFA step child who chooses to live in denial,.. I feel confident that she has attempted everything in every-bodies wheel house including the above kind suggestion.
        Emotional Intimacy in any form in this type of Couples Neurotypical/ Autism Spectrum marriage is very difficult to achieve,… or in my case I believe impossible. I have struggled with the depression in the severest forms. It has almost killed me a few times. Autoimmune disorders and stress related illnesses are manifestations of the relationship we are living. I don’t leave because of my children and because I feel that it would be like leaving a disabled teenager…..my husband who is forever stuck in that place. This is with 26 years of therapy all over the world.
        I just wanted to say to those who are suffering typically in silence: I feel your pain, your loneliness, your hopelessness and ongoing frustration. I feel your isolation, the feeling like you are invisible, with no value , acknowledge, respect and or consideration. I get how even many of the people around you can’t understand it., and often therapist and Psychiatrist This is called the Cassandra Phenomenon with Austin’s. Google it and see if you see yourself as a Cassandra. You are Angels with tremendous perseverance, love, dedication, loyalty and goodness. Remember who you are and who you used to be before different painful and emotional Perpetual events sucked the joy and life out of you (in my experience) with little to no acknowledgement, appreciation or memory of it from your significant other. I would love to start a positive group To share our experiences and to support each other. Would anybody be interested?
        And for those not living the experience let me ask you a question that brought me to years. “ If a tree falls in the forest and their is nobody there to hear it…..does it still make a sound?

        Reply
    • OP on ASD

      Lindy, I hear so much of my own experience in your description. It sounds like your husband wants to achieve a mutually satisfying sex life with you, but doesn’t know how. I too would ask my husband to try to “prepare” me beforehand, with messages, etc., and he too would “forget”. I used to think I was just not important enough for him to remember, but I now know that he genuinely does forget, or simply can’t picture/imagine/think of what to say.
      It sounds ridiculous to Neurotypicals, like “how hard can that be?” but in truth, for someone with ASD, it is like the commenter Wynd described — painting a rainbow without the colour blue, and not even knowing what blue looks like. An ASD person won’t even know that blue is missing.
      For myself, I’ve found that I have had to change most of my expectations about marriage to this ASD man. The NT spouses are more caretakers than partners. We need to be the initiators and planners in most areas of life, as if we’re looking after a child. This can be a hard role to accept, but spouses with partners who develop any form of senility or other long-term disability also have to adopt this mindset, so we know it can be done.
      The problem with caring for an ASD partner is that *they* may not accept that they are disabled and in need of help. It may be possible that in severe cases, the marriage may need to end. I don’t know how accepting and cooperative your husband is. It sounds like he does want a good intimate relationship. And again, I’m in the same situation, of needing my husband to be an active part of my arousal, which he is not fully capable of doing.
      For you, I think at least getting him to address the ADHD with medication is important. If he is actively pursuing sex, perhaps you can help him to learn just one thing, such as ASK you, with a warm hug, if you would like to be intimate. (Remember, clear communications help.)
      As far as your feeling closed off and unconnected to anyone, I recommend joining a hobby club where you can get out and interact with NTs. It would be nice if you could get the mental stimulation you need from your husband, but that’s probably not going to happen. “Not wanting to leave him behind” kept me from my own personal growth. But, you need to protect your own mental health, so go find someone to talk to aboutanything that is of interest to you.
      I’m a long way from finding all the answers to living with an ASD partner, but I hope this little bit helps.

      Reply
  12. Wild Honey

    A few years ago, wondering what was “wrong” with me, I started doing research into Aspergers in women. What I remember reading is that it often presents differently in girls/women than boys/men, and so much started to click.
    In many ways, my husband and I do not fit traditional gender assumptions. He is definitely the more sentimental of us, as just one example. For this reason, marriage classes in church or reading Christian marriage books are, 9 times out of 10, unhelpful because they describe “the wife feels this way so the husband needs to do this,” and vice versa. This formulaic approach is often frustrating for both of us. In addition to being simply unhelpful, it leaves me feeling like less of a woman because I don’t feel wooed by a candlelit dinner at an expensive restaurant, and it leaves my husband feeling like less of a man because he doesn’t really feel the need to “conquer” me (metaphorically speaking), as just a couple examples.
    This is why, Sheila, I appreciate your reminders that often what you’re writing can also apply to the opposite gender, because generalities (while “generally” true) only go so far.

    Reply
    • Wild Honey

      Sorry, on second thought, “conquer” is a poor choice of words; I haven’t encountered anything that extreme yet. More along the lines of “rescue,” like Prince Charming coming in to save the day. Yes, he does help and “rescue” me periodically, but I do the same for him. It’s just not something that defines his specific “role” as a husband or man to make it distinct from that of a wife/woman.

      Reply
  13. Autistic woman

    I am a self-diagnosed women on the spectrum. I made that discovery in the last year and it has explained a lot of the problems in my marriage, in sexual and non sexual matters. There is so little out there from a Christian perspective, especially for asd women and the neurotypical men they are married to.
    I’ve been wondering lately if a disproportionate number of your readers are autistic, whether they know it or not (I started reading this blog before the idea of autism ever occurred to me). As an autistic Christian woman I have been so lost in the area of sex. And so after years of struggle in our marriage I found this website which provides clear guidance on communication and sex.
    I also think because of my rule following nature I was more susceptible to the bad teaching in the church of “men just want sex”. Without having experienced many healthy relationships in my life because of autism, it is harder to recognize the awful soul destroying message of those books.

    Reply
    • OP on ASD

      “Autistic Woman”, I agree that through this website, Sheila has opened our eyes to the Biblical, beautiful thing sex is meant to be. I am curious to know if you have been able to implement any of Sheila’s advice to improve your intimate life with your husband? In general, “typical” marriage counselling, even with advice as good as Sheila’s, doesn’t work well for ADS/NT couples, because of the difficulty the ASD partner has in following (sometimes even understanding) the advice.
      My ASD husband can grasp the concept that “when A happens, do B.” But he struggles to recognise when A is actually happening and then forgets that he should do B. Or he gets paralysed because he might also have to do C or D, and he can’t figure out which one is appropriate.
      But if you’re going to get good advice anywhere, it’s here. Does your husband read the blog also? It would help him to know what you’re learning so that you can discuss how it work in your own circumstances.

      Reply
  14. EOF

    This definitely hits close to home. I’ve long suspected myself to be on the spectrum, and one day I was reading a book about Asperger husbands because it was the only Aspie marriage book I could find. I was shocked to find that I was reading about my husband – he is definitely un-dx Aspergers. I’ve spent over a year in a FB group with other wives of Aspies, and it’s such a relief to not be alone! And I feel even more camaraderie reading the comments here.
    One thing about Aspergers is that it’s often one extreme or the other. I’ve noticed from the stories of other Aspie wives, the Asperger husbands are either all-in when it comes to sex or they want nothing to do with it. They learn everything they can about it or they ignore it. They either want to please only themselves or they are obsessed with making sure their wife is happy. In my case, my husband wants to make me happy, but he has a really hard time understanding that what I like is different from what he likes/wants.
    Thankfully with this blog and your book, I’m learning to get a healthy view of sex. And with my learning about Aspie husbands, I’m gaining more understanding of him and the way he thinks. It can still drive me totally crazy at times, but it happens far less than it used to. We used to have screaming matches every weekend when we first married 20 years ago. Now, we’ve had one argument (no screaming) throughout this whole quarantine.
    Thanks for covering this topic! I’d love to see more.

    Reply
    • OP on ASD

      EOF, I’m glad you’re finding Sheila’s advice helpful. One comment you made struck me: “but he has a really hard time understanding that what I like is different from what he likes/wants.”
      This is caused by a problem with Theory of Mind, which helps us to understand what another person is probably thinking/feeling/wanting. Because we can only really know our own minds, through experience, we assume that the minds of others work similarly. However, an NT person can learn that other minds can be different. Someone with ASD can struggle with that. A typical ToM test for children is to show a child a room with two people. Person 1 puts a ball in a box, then leaves the room. Person 2 puts the ball into a bag. The observer is then asked where Person 1 will look for the ball when he returns to the room. A child with ToM issues will say “in the bag”, because if the observer knows where the ball is, then Person 1 will, too.
      In a sense, an adult with high functioning ASD can think along those lines. I can’t advise how to cope with this, as it hasn’t figured too much in my experience. But knowing it’s an issue can help with the frustration, I hope.

      Reply
  15. OP on ASD

    I am the OP on this post. First, thank you, Sheila, for posting my letter. I am glad to see that a discussion is opening on the subject.
    Based on some of the comments, I’d like to clarify a few things.
    I do agree that with a person on the spectrum, clear, literal and precise communication is key, Hints and innuendo don’t work. Learning to speak this way to my husband has improved our relationship immensely. Learning to have different expectations is also important, as Denise mentioned. I see my husband demonstrate his love for me in many ways other than sex. I do keep looking at his positive qualities (of which there are many).
    However, there is a certain depth to the relationship that simply can’t exist because my husband can’t see the blue of Wynd’s rainbow. Like Lindy, I have (pre-diagnosis) tried to help my husband understand what I need to build intimacy. A word, holding hands, thinking of sex before the lights turn off, seeking out my company, my thoughts, my opinion. No matter how simple I tried to make it (like, here are 3 simple things to do each week), he would forget, or not know when to do whatever.
    His conversation is mostly just an exchange of information (I need to get XYZ when I go shopping). He has an underdeveloped sense of self and doesn’t experience want or need like Neurotypicals. So, he *can’t* cherish me. I have no doubt he loves me, but it’s on a very basic level. Please don’t get me wrong when I say this, but in many ways, his thoughts and feelings are as sophisticated, or even less so, than a child’s. This is not me being disparaging, but describing the reality.
    I focused my letter to Sheila on my sex life because that’s the subject of her blog, and yes, it looks like I’ve given up on that. But I haven’t given up on my husband. However, I am more of a caretaker than an intimate partner. His lack of motivation means that I have to keep track of his responsibilities and sensitively direct his actions. I have to ignore many of my needs in order to help him with his. But we are best friends, and we are family, and I am happy to help him for the rest of my life.
    Regarding our lack of physical intimacy, It’s not just about technique. We have tried many positions and techniques. But as Sheila often points out, the best techniques won’t work for a woman if she doesn’t first have arousal. My high libido did the trick for many years, but as that lessened with age and health problems, I needed more — seduction, his desire, that intangible something that lights the spark in a woman’s belly, makes her catch her breath — and that’s just not going to be there from him.
    This apparently is where I still have to change some of my expectations.
    One of the commenters asked about how ASD can affect other areas of marriage. My husband and I have been working on a document that explains his experience of ASD, so I’ve included a link here in case it might help others. Again, remember that every experience has its own variations. https://anonfile.com/P8D2e7vbo2/What_ASD_Looks_Like_on_Me_-_Anonymous_gdoc
    Regarding testing, I would recommend it, as knowing for sure allows a person to begin learning about ASD and how to better cope with it. If you can’t get an official assessment, search for the Autism Spectrum tests produced by Cambridge University in London. These are tests that professional clinicians use, so the results are reliable.
    Let’s continue the conversation.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      OP on ASD, what you describe here about your sex life resonates so much with me. I am in the midst of coming to terms with the fact that while my husband is not unwilling to try, he is actually unable to learn the higher level of romantic and erotic nuance that I need in order to build that tension and become aroused. I was not sexually attracted to him when we got married, and I have never experienced more than the very beginnings of mild arousal with him. We have tried everything, including watching romantic movies and analyzing the breathless parts. Lol! He does not get it. I have a feeling that I don’t need to spell anything out or explain or otherwise defend this concept to you; I can tell that you completely understand. I have to own the problem and make the best of it. Knowing he is putting his best effort in goes a long way with me feeling loved rather than unloved, but combined with all the other ASD-related issues we have, it doesn’t physically turn me on. What has worked best for us thus far (I’m in the same stage of life you are) is for me to stay positive and use a vibrator and fantasizing (like you mentioned) as part of our lovemaking.

      Reply
      • OP on ASD

        Anonymous, I do get where you’re coming from! And it sounds like you have a great attitude to coping with the circumstances you’re both in. All the great advice and teaching on To Love, Honour and Vacuum can help you, as the NT, to develop a healthy mindset about sex. As you’ve realised, with an ASD partner a lot of the contribution to intimacy will have to come from you. And as you’ve mentioned, you help yourself along a bit.
        I would caution you to be careful with this, however. It is very easy to let “fantasizing” or imagining a different scenario to blur into unbiblical thoughts. Instead of just imagining your husband whispering words of desire, imagining him *making love* rather than just having sex, you could end up fantasizing about a fictional, but completely different man altogether.
        The vibrator also should be a part of your lovemaking, and not something you do separately to start your engines, or satisfy yourself after he’s fallen asleep. I have often touched myself to climax when hubby has been there helping in one way or another. So, in other words, don’t let your sexual experience be something separate to your interaction with your husband.
        It sounds like you’re already following these guidelines, but I want to put this out there for any other NT spouse who thinks these “aids” might help.

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          Thank you for your thoughtful and wise reply! I completely agree with and am already following your advice here, as my goal in everything sex-related is to build up a healthier, closer, stronger, more intimate, and more mutual marriage. ❤

          Reply
    • Dotty Sarnes

      Hi OP, really appreciate the in-depth information you’ve been sharing on this long running blog string. I wanted to mention that when an MFT recently gave my husband the Cambridge Autism Spectrum Quotient test to take, he totally GAMED it. Meaning, he knew what answers would make him look autistic and he answered dishonestly (in my opinion). We are now seeing Dr. Stephanie Holmes, who is a certified Biblical counselor AND a certified autism couples specialist. She confirmed that giving an ASD person a self-evaluation test is not going to be a reliable gauge of their ASD traits. They are often not self-aware enough to answer correctly. What it really comes down to is this: am I humble enough before God to trust Him to work in my impossible situation (meaning, to help ME be the Godly wife I want to be, within the limits of what is possible), and is my husband willing to humble out and accept his deficits and leave his posture of denial behind? In order for marriage to be a partnership, it takes both partners to be willing to give and take. If only one is giving and the other is taking, it may be a relationship, but to expect an NT to be able to have sex, constantly be taken for granted, and still be an enthusiastic cheerleader when her husband believes he is perfect and she is the trouble-maker, is not what God had in mind for marriage. I agree, that some of these marriages can not work in a way that fully honors God unless both parties are committed to doing so. It would mean the world to me if my husband could (or would) say, “Honey, I appreciate your patience with me, since I know I am not able to give you what you need. I’m grateful for your sacrifice and I want to learn to do my best. Thanks for coaching me…” My husband resents coaching, feedback or any kind of communication that implies he needs remedial direction. His pride is what is damaging to live with. The ASD stuff is no where near as poisonous as the pride.

      Reply
  16. KJ

    This is good! As a mother of a high functioning child on the spectrum this concerns me greatly. Thankfully she will know long before even considers marriage that she has this diagnosis. But I have cried and prayed over her future as a wife. I’m thankful that this is being talked about and that there are resources on this very real and important topic. Most people dont want to talk about this stuff with their parents. Just knowing its possible for her to have this work well as some have expressed gives me hope! Thank you all for sharing even those struggling but desiring to see things get better.

    Reply
  17. Anon

    I worked for 10 years in an educational centre for adults on the autistic spectrum, and the thing that was probably hardest for me to learn was the need to be very direct in communication. People with autism do not get hints or asides. “It might be helpful if…” or “I would like it if…” are likely to be ignored because they don’t realise you’ve even made a request. “Please do…” will be heard, understood and accepted. At first, I felt impolite being so direct, but then I realised that communicating with someone in a way they can’t understand is the really impolite thing. You wouldn’t speak to someone in French if you knew they couldn’t understand French – that would be just rude. So speaking in a vague or ‘tactful’ way to someone with autism is equally rude, because you’re speaking a language they don’t understand.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      This is brilliant! “communicating with someone in a way they can’t understand is the really impolite thing. ” Love that!

      Reply
  18. DL

    I have a 16 yo son on the autistic spectrum. He has had one girlfriend (on again/off again) and he is also a strong believer. I often wonder how to help him through the dating process and pray that he can be in a successfully fulfilling marriage. Learning to communicate isn’t easy and the gray areas of communications are the most difficult. I wish there was more out there about “how to be in a relationship when autistic” so that I can guide my son there.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      DL, having spent many miserable years of marriage to a “strong believer” on the spectrum, I would strongly urge you and him to educate yourselves thoroughly before he gets to a marriageable age. My son has many good qualities and is extremely intelligent but has enough skill deficits and quirks in areas essential to a healthy marriage, besides the innately different way he reasons and approaches life, to drive a previously unsuspecting woman to drink, crime, or a psyche ward. To give just one example of many I could give, the most effective, evidence-based treatment for those on the spectrum is ABA. This is all about finding the function of the individual’s behavior and figuring out how to motivate appropriate behavior. To the uninitiated wife, this approach feels just like the husband only does what he’s supposed to in order to get something for himself, and that she has to play some sort of juvenile mind game to get out of him something resembling what she wants. My husband had downright narcissistic tendencies, he had gotten so good at playing the system to get what he wanted. Now we understand it was an Aspie attempting to decode the rules of his confusing world with little or no helpful upbringing from his parents who spoiled him. He was, if you will, an accidental narcissist, but not a true one, because he has worked hard to change once he was convinced it was the right thing to do. He first had to have boundaries set and feel how it would benefit him long enough to form new and healthier habits. He is now much more internally-motivated, after more than two dozen painful years of marriage.
      I’m going to apply this to marital sex, since we’re talking in the comment section of TLHV. 🙂
      If you look at many sexual problems in an ASD-affected marriage through the ABA perspective, it’s all about functional behavior. Let’s say he’s lacking motivation to put the effort in toward a mutually satisfying sexual relationship. The main thing that helped my husband work on issues was that I had to learn to set boundaries. Beyond that, he needs pretty immediate concrete rewards for his efforts in order to hang in there until the desired behavior is a habit. Before boundaries were part of our marriage, he didn’t take time to learn to satisfy me (he satisfied himself by using me while fantasizing about other women). When he knew where my line was and what the consequences would be for habitually crossing it, that provided the motivation he needed to work at our sex life as well as other areas where he was mistreating me. He needed to experience the positives of successfully helping me become aroused and orgasm in order to put the needed effort in for me with a loving rather than complaining attitude. Learning to set and hold healthy boundaries was the gamechanger in our marriage. It stinks that some of us unknowingly married boys in men’s bodies, because it feels a heck of a lot more like parenting than wifing. But in our case, holding the boundaries has provided my husband with needed external motivation until he himself became convinced of the benefits of the change in behavior and inwardly wanted the outcome of an emotionally intimate marriage.
      I hope this makes sense. The more you and your son understand ASD and its potential impact on a marriage, and the better prepared a future prospective wife is, the greater the chance that the marriage will be a success–friendship-based, mutually loving and satisfying.

      Reply
      • unmowngrass

        When you first mentioned ABA, I was ready to get angry, because what I have heard about it is that it is designed for the comfort of the people around the autistic person, but not for that person themselves. So they may eventually learn how to, say, go to the grocery store, without causing any kind of scene, but the impulses within them that want to exhibit behaviour that other people would call “making a scene” — eg. hand-flapping, having a random scream — those impulses are still there and repressing them only means that a bigger meltdown is coming later, and in that sense it’s downright cruel. For an analogy, think of the film Happy Feet. Mumble can’t sing. Trying to make him sing is humiliating at best. He can dance. But trying to make him not-dance is heartless and cruel. So his dancing is the same as the singing for the other penguins. They need different “permissions” to get to the same point, to be happy and free in who they are. The other penguins need to be able to sing, Mumble needs to be able to dance. And being autistic is a lot the same way. And everything I had heard about ABA prior to this made it sound like trying to turn Mumble into one of the other penguins, from the perspective of the autistic person. (Which, ftr, I probably am one.)
        But the way you explained it… I could relate a lot to that, too. Sounded incredibly helpful, actually. Really surprised me. For example, I have tried, and I just can’t stick with running, because it’s sooooooooooooo boring. Not enough positive reinforcement until I get to the point where I actually like it. Too steep a learning curve. But, I could dance all day and all night, because the process itself is fun, and also mentally engaging. (“What move are we going to do next?” “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!” “Hey, this is a cool song, can I remember all the lyrics?” Etc.) And there are some times I wish I had some additional support going through that process, that learning curve, for things.
        It’s still very very important, though, to make that end goal that they need extra support for, to be a goal that the autistic person actually wants, and has chosen for themselves. Not something that someone else wants from them for the other person’s comfort or desires. That’s manipulative. It’s one thing to want a goal but flounder in trying to reach it. It’s something else entirely to NOT want a goal and still be trained like a dog or used like a puppet to get there anyway. (Like, I’ve heard that going running is great for clearing the mind and that a runner’s high is amazing, and different from general exhilaration from exercise, so I wouldn’t mind getting better at running if I could, and I had the support to help me. But there are lots of other things I don’t want to do, for example, martial arts, so I don’t want someone else deciding that I ought to learn it and trying to make the learning something I keep coming back to for a reward, because that’s demeaning. I’m not a child. My own personal aspirations are not less valid than someone else’s.)
        … I suppose you can tell I’m close to getting angry again, eh? I have learned something. But I hope everyone else has too.

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          No, I completely agree with everything you are communicating here. I was unaware that ABA has been used in a self-serving way and am sad but not surprised to learn this. All I know about ABA, I have learned from the staff at the center for autism that evaluated, diagnosed, and provides therapy and other services for my children with autism. This center is stellar in every way. Every staff person we have met over the years is invariably respectful, gentle, encouraging, empathetic, and has a positive approach. They listen carefully to the issues that arise and help us brainstorm solutions to help us all gain the skills we need to thrive. What they have taught us has made a night and day difference in our home.

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    • SB

      I have often been angry at my mother-in-law for not teaching her son better social skills. I never expressed this to her and it would not have been beneficial. My husband tells me that he would come home from school and talk and talk with his mother – I think talk and talk to her. His conversations with me and others are usually monologues about things that he knows or feels strongly. He rarely pauses to ask about the other person and is difficult to interrupt. He has learned to ask about me occasionally. He doesn’t like to listen to my random chatter about my day.
      We have had very few dates in our lifetime, and I have received very few gifts. He doesn’t understand the value of a gift.
      I think a mother could practice theses skills with her teenage son. Go on a date with him: give him the words for a back and forth conversation. Try to explain how a person shows non-interest in his monologue and when to stop. Teach him that sometimes relationship triumphs being right. He may not internalize these concepts, but he will at least be informed.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Those are really good points, SB. I’m sorry that you’re walking through this with your husband. That must be very lonely.

        Reply
    • VJGearring

      These women are experiencing the same as I have now for 46 years of marriage. It’s comforting to hear I’m not alone!
      I’m married to a wonderful person in all aspects of marriage except sex.
      I had always wondered what was wrong with him. He desires or needs no physical connection and when we’d try it always left me wondering why he was so juvenile about sex. Cold and clumsy, I just couldn’t figure it out..as he is a grown man! He’s never kissed me romantically or with any kind of feeling involved. About 3 years ago I finally just gave up trying.
      But here’s where my story departs from others as to what I did to try and meet my needs.

      Reply
  19. Jamie

    I am in tears. The letter written by the OP could have easily been written by me with the exception that my husband has not been diagnosed. Now I’m left wondering if I should have him tested.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      Jamie, if he is open to the idea, I would encourage you to get the testing, as in our experience, a diagnosis opens doors for getting the help that is needed for him to thrive. Recognizing that any potential struggles affect those in his family, good treatment involves the people who closely surround the individual on the spectrum.
      I’m going to give you an example.
      My husband crossed the line into mental/emotional abuse. I unknowingly enabled it for two dozen years due to commitment to the Christian teaching of a submissive wife. I felt I was going absolutely crazy many times. It can present as narcissist personality disorder. My husband was coddled and catered to as a kid by his mom until he married me at age 26.
      Lack of empathy reads like total self-absorption and insensitivity to others, the desire to reduce his own anxiety by controlling his environment reads like, well, being controlling, and the need for extrinsic motivation reads like self-centered manipulativeness. Those three habits combined with the defensiveness and hair-trigger sensitivity and endless rabbit hole arguments that can come with a high-functioning asd diagnosis reads like gaslighting.
      No matter what the cause is, true narcissism or spoiled brat autism, the trauma can be real. I call what my husband did “accidental gaslighting” and what he was “accidental narcissism.” The reason I don’t believe it was ever true narcissism is that he has changed.
      Two things have made a huge difference. The first is that I learned to set and hold healthy boundaries from someone outside the conservative evangelical circle. I never would have learned this by reading the Bible, because I had been indoctrinated to surrender all my personal rights to God like Jesus did on the cross, and I resisted the idea at first. Back then, I even felt guilty that I had dishonored and been disloyal to my husband by telling someone else the truth (after two dozen years of misery) about how he was treating me.
      The second is that I learned my husband had autism and began applying the strategies to him that I’m using for my children with autism. They work.

      Reply
      • Zing

        I am sorry you went through that. It sounds like whoever was teaching you about the Bible, submission and marriage was teaching in error. The Bible has a lot to say about healthy marriages and about abuse. God does not expect nor does the Bible promote being abused and enduring abuse in marriage. That is a false teaching. Abusing your spouse is a sin. The Bible teaches that when one person sins against another that we should go and confide in one person and bring them to confront that person, if they won’t repent then we are to discretely being more accountability into the situation… if there is not response to that then a break in fellowship should occur with a level of church discipline. The point of this is reconciliation and restoration. Jesus talked about people abusing their wives and how much he detested it. He even use Moses is an example of the fact that God was trying to protect wives from abusive husbands. The Bible does not condone divorce but God tolerated divorce because of harden hearts and also to protect wives from being taken advantage of by husbands who would divorce them and try to remarry them. Whoever was using the Bible to teach you to be quiet in enduring abuse was ill-informed and had wrong understanding about marriage as well as the Bible as well as God intentions for marriage and wives. They may have been a Pastor but they misunderstood. I’m sorry that you were counseled incorrectly and I want you to know that the Bible does not teach the things that others told you it does about abuse in marriage. There is biblical submission in marriage but it does not look like that.

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          Zing, the one who taught me the Bible inside and out was my father, who was more faithful and consistent in teaching his children the Bible than any other parent I have ever known in my half century of life. He was an expository Bible teacher and a teaching elder for most of my growing-up years. Many others looked up to him as a wise teacher. I memorized many chapters and even some books of the Bible. Between my dad and the other Christian influences from books, church, conversations, sermons, seminars, etc, that saturated most of my life, not once were boundaries explained to me, either shown from the Bible or outside the Bible. I was completely indoctrinated, however, with the teachings that a woman should learn in silence with all submission, that wives should be like Sarah in obeying and calling her husband “master,” even when Abraham commanded her to lie and put her in harm’s way to protect himself, that it is a judgment on a nation when it is ruled by women, that sin originated with women, that women were more easily deceived than men and therefore should not trust her own judgment, that menstruation makes a woman unclean, that women are saved through the self-sacrificial act of child-bearing and child-rearing, and so much more. Additionally, the messages from Scripture to honor my husband, that our hearts are evil and not to be trusted, and that God intended men to be the leaders of governments, the church, and the family, plus my personal experience over almost 50 years of being considered disobedient, dishonoring, and unsubmissive for questioning the decisions of my male authorities, plus going from a controlling father to a controlling husband, caused enormous mental confusion. I of course believed my father and church leaders. I would never have had the clarity of mind to even understand that it was abusive. Taught to see myself as inherently evil, all I had to do was to look at my failures to know that I needed my father to “love me enough to discipline me,” a very Christian theme, and believe my husband when he told me that I was failing to be the godly wife he needed me to be. Even had I not been brainwashed to agree that their mistreatment of me was warranted, I had no inner courage to speak up for myself. I was taught by church culture that godly women remained quiet. There is ZERO chance I would have gone to a leader of the church, etc, etc. We all know what would have happened if I had. I would have been blamed and shamed. I was held to an ideological ideal, a “Biblical model,” which left me completely open to abuse, with no frame of reference or tools for knowing where the boundary line should be drawn, what it looks like when the line is crossed, and what to do about it. I had been taught the very Scriptural concepts of laying down my life, treating others as more important than myself, yielding my rights rather than insisting on them, carrying my cross, generally knowing how to suffer wrongs gladly, as Christ did. As my mom did, as all the godly Christian women I knew did. If God allowed violence and mockery to happen to me, was that any different from what He had decided for His own beloved Son? Jesus went willingly to the cross, and the early church was urged to gladly endured persecution and see it as a privilege to share in Christ’s sufferings.

          Reply
      • Faith

        Anonymous,
        I realized my husband is most likely autistic after our son was diagnosed. I too have suffered some severe emotional abuse from him as well. We lived next door to his parents the first 13 years we were married. They gave us the property they owned next door to the house they lived in and raised my husband in his entire life. So he lived on the same street for 32 years. Just last year we finally moved away, the changed triggered a melt down in him. He’s struggled with depression and substance abuse, and after we moved his alcoholism increased. He also bought a motor cycle that year too, after we had agreed we would be more responsible and not take out any more loans or credit cards. He would drink and do cocaine and stay gone all day and night on his motorcycle.
        When he would show up randomly I became the target of severe verbal abuse.
        I really struggled last year. We’ve had problems our whole marriage , but he had never treated me that horribly and I didn’t know how to process it. During that year, I ended up pregnant with our 6th child, because I gave in when he demanded sex, and I was not ready to be pregnant at the time. Our youngest was only one and a half. So I was being verbally abused, ended up pregnant and to top it off he had a motorcycle wreck in which he somehow how came out with only broken ribs. We also moved a second time that year. I suffered so much from the changes and the oppression of his verbal abuse, that a random Christian man in the middle of the grocery store stopped me and said he felt the need to pray for me and against the spiritual oppression I was under. I will never forget that man ever. It was a reminder of God looking out for me even though it felt like He was far away. Things have calmed down the last 6 months and my husband has stopped drinking, but I’ve pretty much told myself if the abuse happens again I am done. We’ve been getting along lately, and he has not been tearing me down so I have hope maybe we have a chance.

        Reply
  20. Zing

    I love that you started a dialogue on this topic. It would be great if there was a place, maybe on Facebook to connect. My husband also has Asperger and I have been looking for a group of positive minded people to fellowship with and talk to about their experiences and advice.
    I have seen my husband make great strides and changes but it does take a lot of energy. I find doing marriage devotionals, reading marriage books together and sharing really helps both of us to understand each other. I struggled with depression for a little while thinking about all the things my marriage would never be, but I also don’t completely accept that it will never be those things. I believe it just takes more energy and more support.
    My husband is seeing a counselor now to help him process through his emotions. We also are starting to establish a relationship with an adhd coach who is also experienced with Aspergers. We are trying to build a team of support for my husband to help him on his journey. Maybe we will bring a relationship/marriage coach into the team at some point… I have thought about that for over a year now… but one step at a time. my husband has also been talking to his friends about his challenges and struggles with Aspergers; they asked him how they could support him and so they are looking for ways to be accountability for him too. I think we are heading in a good direction and I do see that he is learning to become more flexible and adaptable; it just takes more energy.
    We have a limited budget so we’re trying to get a lot of things put in place using our health insurance and just slowly going through the process. It is a marathon and not a sprint. I find sharing marriage and other kinds of articles with my husband to be helpful for us both being on the same page. I haven’t really talked to him much about learning to read my body language in the bedroom but maybe we can read a book about that and that might be helpful for us both. People who have Asperger’s don’t find things as intuitive as people who don’t have Asperger’s but that doesn’t mean that they can’t learn. I also believe with practice and repetition over time things start to feel more natural and more normal for them… At least I have seen that to be true for my husband. He has become much more affectionate, thoughtful, and physically expressive with gentle touches throughout the week. He said it first it took a lot of energy for him to do that but now it feels much more he has become much more affectionate, thoughtful, and physically expressive with gentle touches throughout the week. He said it first it took a lot of energy for him to do that but now it feels much more normal to him and less effort.
    As far as sensory type of things, it’s helpful to pull an OT into your team. We have found a good OT and hope to start up with her soon for consults. I think it’s important to just keep calling and looking for good people for your team and knowing what you need. I think having a team is important when dealing with any kind of disability… Aspergers is no different.
    Shiela… would you be open to initiating an online Aspergers marriage group?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’ve had another author reach out to me who has a spouse on the spectrum, and she’s writing another post for me now. I think if anything were done in a group, it would be best if she did it, because that’s her area. I’ll ask if she’s willing to start it, and then, if so, I can link it!

      Reply
      • Zing

        Ok. Thanks Shiela. Sounds good. I am looking forward to that post! I have thought about writing on this topic as well. I hope to share our experience one day in a book. There is not enough positive information out there and there simply is not a lot of information out there period. I really appreciate you starting this discussion.

        Reply
      • Courtney

        This post any others that result from it will be such a blessing. I too am in a 17 year marriage where my husband and I just became aware that high functioning autism is a probable diagnosis for him. My experiences are echoed throughout these comments: His low sex drive, verbal and emotional abuse for a season, my grief and difficulty accepting his struggle with empathy. We had been working with counselors for several years and had a therapeutic separation for a number of months because of the verbal abuse. The lightbulb moment came when my counselor suggested Autism as a possibility just at the end of February.

        Reply
    • OP on ASD

      Zing, it’s fantastic that you and your husband are making such great progress in adapting to his ADS. You mentioned that hubby is improving in demonstrating intimacy, which is so encouraging. However, I do want to caution you about depending on marriage advice designed for two NT people. My husband and I attended a marriage counsellor for a year (pre-diagnosis), and while he seemed to understand the concepts the counsellor talked about, he was rarely able to put them into practice. That further convinced me that I wasn’t important enough to him.
      Now post-diagnosis, I can see that the autism hindered his ability to apply the advice. Every person’s experience of autism is unique to them, so your husband’s abilities are different than my husband’s. But just be aware that often, general marriage advice doesn’t “work” in a mixed-marriage.

      Reply
      • Zing

        I have found that general marriage advice is very hard for my husband to apply initially or immediately…. or without a bit of feedback, reflection and gentle coaching over time. He needs very specific and explicit examples and I have also found that gentle feedback during a situation is very helpful. If I try to talk to him about something later, it won’t make sense to him and he can’t process it much of the time; it’s best to give immediate feedback in the moment for him to remember the situation and comprehend what the feedback is. It also usually takes going through that situation several times over time before he internalizes it. Just simply reading a book or going to counseling alone isn’t enough. It’s the active, in-the-moment feedback, that happens as we live life after counseling or reading a book that helps him connect it all together. It’s a lot of energy and a very “systematic” approach, but it has been working. We still have miles to go but we have come many miles. We had been married now for 12.5 years; I began to suspect that my husband had autism In year two of our marriage. However, he was not officially diagnosed until yeah 8 or 9 of our marriage.
        This approach of taking in information on skills, having active feedback experience over time with encouragement does take a lot of time and patience but the fruit it bears is exciting! I agree that everyone on the spectrum is different; however, I have seen this same approach/practice to be effective with children who are on the spectrum… patience, time, a lot of energy, active, explicit but gentle feedback with encouragement equals growth and change.
        My husband was not always so open to feedback. However, we have worked on trust and trying to create a guilt-free, shame-free zone where we can be candid and open on a daily basis… still working on it, but it is helpful to be able to give feedback and he listens without becoming defensive 95% of the time. I do believe that is important in order to see consistent progress. I also think you have to have a healthy, realistic view of what progress and the rate of progress looks like for your spouse or it is easy to get discouraged and give up on pouring energy into making progress. There are many days I feel that way, but usually a good nights sleep and praying help me get back in the game. I think also reading encouraging literature… love Shiela’s blog. And focusing on your own self improvement as a spouse… learning how to support your spouse, praying for yourself, having a good support network and a close friend or two who you can confide in and is pro-your marriage. All part of a good support team and support plan. 🙂

        Reply
  21. On the spectrum

    The article and some of the comments break my heart. Both because these women spent so long feeling unloved/tested and because they describe some problems I’ve had with women. I don’t know if god made people like me this way but it sounds like that lady from the focus group doesn’t seem to think so. I normally don’t post here because I have a complicated relationship with god…I think…but this hit a little closer to home than usual.

    Reply
    • Zing

      God loves you and I bet you are amazing! No one is perfect at relationships. We all have to work at it… or none of us would be on this blog and the thousands upon thousands of relationship blogs and counselors would not exist. 😉
      Just keep working on learning, growing and improving your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on God above all. And never doubt that you are made in His image!

      Reply
  22. Christy

    Wow is all i have to say. So much to chew on…. so many comments sound exactly like our situation. I cant even form a comment right now, just wow.

    Reply
  23. anonymous

    I have been married for 29 years this year and I also suspect that my husband has Asperger’s – we’ve joked about it sometimes and maybe I have some of those traits myself. I don’t feel we have real partnership and emotional connection although we started off as great friends and that is still there somewhere. But like the OP, I have felt very frustrated over the years about how it is always me that has to take the initiative for planning much of our shared life. Conversations about how I’m feeling and what I need generally go badly; I’ve often felt there was a lot of “throwing the blame back” if I told him something he had said or done had hurt me. He rarely truly apologises – it’s generally a justification of why he did whatever. He also seems to very rarely call me by my name, which my children have also noticed. He just finds me and starts talking to me – is that an autistic thing? I yearn to feel pursued and desired, and end up feeling that it’s because I’m actually not really worth pursuing. I haven’t always behaved respectfully and kindly because of my frustration, so my behaviour is probably part of the problem. You know those trust games where you let yourself fall backwards, trusting that the people behind you will catch you? It’s like I’m always putting one foot back to make sure I don’t fall because I’m not confident he will be there for me ….but I think it’s just because he genuinely finds me too unpredictable and likely to be cross if he gets things wrong (not without reason). He has an encyclopaedic memory of dates and places of family events and holidays, highly intelligent engineer with very passionate special interest, and his conversations tend to be recounting facts, and very early on in our marriage, when I asked him how he felt about something, he said he didn’t know, and I was amazed. But apparently not having words for feelings is a”thing” and tends to go with autism? So I too would be very pleased to find some sort of support group. Thank you to the OP and to you Sheila for highlighting this.

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  24. SB

    I noticed this thread only a month ago and just now took time to read the whole thing.
    I can relate to many of the experiences described. I have been married 32 years to an undiagnosed aspergers. He is a successful engineer who is always right. Conversations are like a debate; he needs to correct, or fix most topics that I bring up. In reflecting back over our sex life, I realized that I was usually the initiator by dressing up in something cute and sexy which would indicate I was ready and that would turn him on. For many, many years I was unfulfilled. At first I did not realize what I was missing, so what we were doing was working.
    I also was being the dutiful wife and mother, and because of upbringing did not know what my own needs and wants were, especially emotional needs.
    I knew that my husband had an active fantasy life and finally realized that I could not compare, so I reduced the amount of trying to entice him that I did.
    Three years ago I learned that throughout our marriage he was actively feeding his fantasy and doing self gratifying activities in my absence. I sought counseling, he had some counseling. In couple’s counseling I read a impact statement full of my feelings. He couldn’t get it. Was that his Aspergers or sex addiction? I do not know. I am at a point of doing very little to promote the re-integration of our marriage. This makes me realize how much I did before – initiate conversation, initiate reading marriage books, initiate feeling activities, initiate sex. A counselor pointed out that we are missing the intimacy piece, which is common for sex addicts. We have done a good job raising our children and can make day to day decisions, but there is a huge gap between that and sex. I have in place some boundaries of what I will and won’t do but my husband seems to be making no effort at all. Sometimes I think that he thinks this is how our life is supposed to be. He stays very very busy with his job, or with projects , or at the computer and occasionally asks for sex. And that seems to be good enough.
    BTW, I should mention that I have had counseling and done 12 step programs to deal with my own issues of co-dependency.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, SB. I’m so sorry. Are you seeking out individual counseling now, too? It sounds like you need some support as you figure out what to do. That is really sad. I hate hearing about people who damage their marriage like that and then aren’t invested in fixing it. Why are people like that? I will never really understand. I’m really very sorry.

      Reply
  25. Faith

    I’m really beyond happy that this subject was posted. I’m almost 100% sure my husband has Aspergers though undiagnosed. I figured it out after our son was diagnosed with it. He finally out of the blue said one day that he thought he was autistic, but as of now he still has yet to get help and be evaluated for it.
    There were so many times we were having problems and I would look for advice on how to be a better wife because I thought I must be the problem. All the typical advice would be general marriage advice about submission and respect. It also didn’t help that he grew up the baby of the family and pretty much got whatever he wanted. He grew up with virtually no boundaries set. If he wanted money or new video game, a car…….. anything he mostly would get it. He also seems to have the opposite of problem of some of the other posters. He seems to want sex all the time.
    I would be busy being a full time registered nurse working 12 hour shifts, and he would get angry with me for not wanting to have sex when I was tired. I thought I must be the problem and found the typical advice that sex is what men need and I needed to be more available. Finding this blog a year or two ago has been a blessing and helped me to realize my freedom to set boundaries and not be trampled on. I’ve just now been able to get up the courage to comment and talk about my experience.

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  26. Julie

    Thank you! I’m annoyed that the diagnosis of Asperger’s is now being lumped in with autism. Autism has a negative connotation; Asperger’s was more a positive “We’re the next stage in evolution” label. As for the lack of sex, the mechanical implementation, and the focus on him, I have grieved over this for a decade (married 30+) and finally realized the sex is just not worth the effort. What has helped is to lie in bed naked with no expectation whatsoever; at least I’m being touched, even if not as intentionally as I’d like. Before marriage I had a previous NT partner who couldn’t get enough, so I guess I’ve had my share. When stacked against all the GOOD parts of being married to a NeuroDiverse, it’s definitely worth it.

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  27. Tami

    I believe that I might be saving my marriage here. My husband started our relationship with proposing on the phone and well it has stayed right there. Because this is my second marriage I feel so confused. There are up sides to him, he never cheats, reliable, dependable and extremely trustworthy. Sex is ok but never has been over the top. Reading this has put me in a different area to explore instead of leaving, but I am resentful, living with someone, not able to show all the emotions has left me physically and emotionally warn out. Seriously, the stress of never feeling connected, but connected has left me with serious physical issues. Who can help more, I have more questions?

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  28. Tom

    Really you are having some autistic person playing with blocks. What an insulting misrepresentation

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  29. Jill

    I am 37 and just celebrated 7th year of marriage this week. From day one something has been off with my husband. Everything I have read here hits the nail on the head. He told me long ago that he was sent to a therapist as a young child and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. I believe in my heart he is high functioning. We had a huge fight tonight, which has been frequent lately, and over the most unimportant things. He went to bed and I’ve been up crying alone. I feel so alone bc no one seems to understand or they think I’m crazy. We haven’t had sex for 12 years and been together almost 14 of those. I’ve never cheated but thought abt it bc I feel so alone. I know he loves me and is faithful and he’s been good to me but there is barely any physical touch. He can be sweet and loving but there are some times when he completely melts down for no rhyme or reason. He can be very verbally abusive and then the 30 minutes later or the next day it’s as if nothing happened. It’s like he snaps out of it. He’s exceptionally smart, can remember everything, and is good at everything he does. He is a great provider and works very hard but then there is this huge black cloud hanging over us. I’m not depressed as I feel pretty resilient, but the more time goes on the harder it gets. He almost alienates me from loved ones bc he hates social interaction and finds fault with every one. I’m tired. I’m not looking to divorce but also don’t know how much longer we can keep this up.

    Reply

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