Are Asperger relationships difficult to maintain? The social skill and communication issues inherent in Asperger's syndrome can challenge some relationships. However, there are ways for both the person with Aspergers and loved ones to successfully work through the issues. A person with Aspergers can form meaningful and close relationships with parents, spouses, extended family and friends.
Common Asperger Relationship Issues
A person with Aspergers and his loved ones may find themselves in conflicts that have root in key aspects of the condition. The conflicts are often misunderstandings that stem from differences in emotional responses, communication and social skills problems, routines and obsessive behaviors. The person without Aspergers or neurotypical and the person with Aspergers may have different sets of expectations and ways of relating in a relationship. Learning about Asperger characteristics can help family members and friends better understand their loved one.
A person with Aspergers has problems understanding another person's emotions. He may not be able to properly interpret facial expressions, body language or gestures. The inability to interpret others emotions is often referred to as mindblindness. This may lead a neurotypical person to misunderstand his reactions to an emotional situation and view a response as inappropriate or negative.
Sometimes a neurotypical person may mistakenly interpret a person with Aspergers' emotional response or lack of response as an inability to feel emotion. This is not true. A person with Aspergers feels emotion but he may have trouble expressing his emotion or find unusual ways to express it.
Communication and Social Skills Problems
Asperger's syndrome causes problems with language, communication and social interaction. A person with Aspergers may not be able to make friends easily and may also find two-way conversation difficult. He may appear to talk at people, rather than with them and fixate on favorite topics even if the other party shows distinct signs of disinterest or distress. He continues to talk about the topic and is oblivious to the other party's reaction. He also may misunderstand language at time and taking many things literally, missing subtlety. In a relationship, the communication problems can easily lead to misunderstandings. In relationships, the neurotypical person often takes on the role of helping the person with Aspergers and others understand each other better in social situations. Some romantic relationships also become strained because the neurotypical person gets frustrated with being the couple's main social connection to the rest of the world.
Routines and Obsessive Behaviors
Routines and obsessive behaviors are aspects of Aspergers that can also challenge relationships. A person with Aspergers may get extremely upset over interruptions in daily routines or any attempt to redirect him away from an obsessive behavior. The neurotypical person may see the negative reaction to the interruption as irrational. However, the person with Aspergers may see the interruption as a personal insult or an attempt to take away something essential to daily functioning. Asperger's syndrome may involve obsessive behaviors or sensory issues that some neurotypical people find disturbing. Examples of obsessive behavior include a fixation on an activity like memorizing sports trivia and talking about it for hours or ritualistic hand washing.
It is important for a loved one show some sensitivity in her reaction to the routines and obsessive behavior.
How to Help Relationships Thrive
The most important way to help a relationship thrive is to never give up hope. Learn about Asperger's syndrome through research and talking with therapists. Since each case of Aspergers is unique, pay attention to a loved one's specific concerns and personality. Figure out what is important to him and try to respect necessary boundaries. Find common ground whenever possible and cherish it. Consider participating in family or couple's therapy for Aspergers and autism. Experts can help families find better ways to relate to each other.
Resources For Family Members and Couples
A number of Asperger and autism support organizations have information on local support groups for people with Aspergers and their families and friends. The following websites provide helpful information on relationships:
- FAAAS: Families of Adults Affected by Asperger's Syndrome (FAAAS)has forums, articles and resources for spouses and other family of people with Aspergers.
- IAN Community: The Interactive Autism Network (IAN) site provides articles and a discussion forum with information provided from people with autism spectrum disorder, families and autism experts. The site has an interesting article on a couple dealing with Aspergers.
- ASPEN: Asperger Syndrome Education Support Network (ASPEN) has helpful resources for families and friends of people with Aspergers.
- OASIS: Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support (OASIS) has detailed articles and support group information.
Hope for Relationships
A person with Aspergers can have healthy and happy relationships with a spouse, parents, extended family and friends. For relationship success, everyone needs to work together. The neurotypical person should gain a strong understanding of both the Aspergers condition and the person involved. The person with Aspergers should be willing to participate on some level. There is always hope when people love each other and have a determination to try to make a relationship succeed.