Being in a relationship with an Aspie

All romantic relationships have challenges and require some work, but being in a relationship with someone who has Asperger’s can create an additional challenge... but it is worth it. Because you and your partner experience emotions differently, having an emotional connection can be challenging. Remember that people with Asperger's have a difficult time understanding and identifying emotions, and may show very little emotion or express inappropriate emotions, but this does not mean that they do not feel emotion, nor does it mean that they do not want a relationship. 

There are ways to ensure that you are getting the most out of the relationship and with a little work you can have a wonderful relationship with your Aspie partner. Hopefully, many of these ways will become apparent during the relationship, but to help start the process, here are some examples of how you can foster an understanding and loving relationship. 

Don’t put the blame solely on your partner

If, and no doubt when, problems arise in the relationship, it would be wrong to just blame the Asperger's. Every couple has their difficulties, but with an Aspie your relationship is the blending of two different modes of being. It is not your partner’s fault that he or she doesn’t understand certain social expectations, and often it is unintentional. Remembering this might help.

Learn as much as you can about Asperger's

If you don’t know much about AS, it’s easy to misinterpret your partner’s actions and assume that they don’t care about you. Educating yourself on how Asperger's functions can be a huge help in better understanding your partner and feeling compassion toward them. Aspies don’t process information in the same way everyone else does, and they are unable to pick up on nonverbal cues in interactions and understand people’s emotions. This means that they may misinterpret a loved one’s needs or they may fixate on their own interests and appear self-absorbed without care for others. This is not so, as Aspies do experience emotion, and do care, it's just that they see and experience the world differently, and so experience emotion and love differently.

Putting yourself in their shoes

At times it may appear that your partner knows precisely what you need, but deliberately ignores it or intentionally does something to hurt you. Again this is not the case, but the more this happens the greater the chance that you might come to view all of their actions and intentions negatively. Trying to understand their rationalisations might help diffuse this time-bomb. You might still disagree with their actions and feel hurt, but you may better understand your partner and find a way to move forward. One way to do this, is to create a journal with a table such as the one here. It would also help if your Aspie partner did the same, and you compared.

 Behaviour or Situation How it Makes Me Feel Another Perspective

  • In the first column describe a behaviour or situation that upsets you, such as “when I was sick in bed for three days, she came in only at dinnertime, and left food without asking how I felt.”
  • In the second column, record your feelings and why you think your partner acts this way, such as “this proves how self-centred she is. She didn’t care that I felt lonely and sad because of our lack of connection.”
  • In the third column, try to think of a different explanation for their behavior, such as “she likes to be alone when she feels sick, and assumes this is true for everyone. She also sees no logic in asking people how they feel when they’re sick.”

Be specific about your needs

Many NeuroTypicals expect partners to automatically know what they want, or to know what is wanted after the many hints dropped. In reality this is rarely the case, and especially not with Aspie partners. Rather than expecting your partner to naturally know what you want, or hinting at it, you should communicate your needs as specifically and directly as possible. This can be tricky because you might think that you’re already being very obvious, yet to the Aspie it may not be. Try to see it from their perspective... can it be interpreted differently or more literally?

Talk about how you’d like to connect with each other

Because you and your partner experience emotions differently, having an emotional connection can be challenging. What is important to remember is that people with AS have a difficult time understanding and identifying emotions, and they may show very little emotion or express inappropriate emotions. Additionally, you might also miss displays of deep connection from your partner because you express emotions so differently. Being open and direct with each other will help, though as a non-Aspie this may seem a little unromantic but your partner will respond well and it will help strengthen your relationship. One way to do this is for you both to write down what you do to connect with each other, and what things you want your partner to do. Share and discuss what you have both written. If you do this regularly, there will come a point where you both begin to understand each other.