Okay, so many people right off are going to say any “Reason to Love an Aspie” are generalizations and these aren’t true of everybody with Aspergers Syndrome. They say, (and with good reason,) “If you’ve met one person with Aspergers, you’ve met one person with Aspergers.” But there are generalizations you can make about why to love an Aspie, and like all generalizations, of course, they won’t hold true for everybody.
I’ve had the good fortune of being in contact with a number of people over the past month who are in intimate relationships with a person with Aspergers Syndrome (AS), a mild form of autism, or themselves have AS. I’ve taken a passionate interest in the subject of Love, Relationships, and AS-NT bonds. Most stuff on the internet tell you about problems with these couples. Here are some of the good reasons to love an aspie.
A lot of Neuro-Typicals (NT’s) have an ambivalent relationship with the truth. We like the truth if it is good news or flattering. We’re less sure if we’re confronted with things that challenge our notion of self or our own goodness. You ask an AS ”Do you like my dress?” and they are going to tell you the truth. If you don’t want to hear the truth, the blunt truth, don’t ask them. If a possible answer is going to send you storming out, angry at them for saying whatever comes next, ask someone else. An AS is going to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly, and will do it without malice, without sly intentions. They’ll just tell you what they think. Like it, or not. So one good reason to love an aspie is that if they tell you something when you ask them, they mean it.
And sometimes AS’s don’t understand that NT’s like to hear some truths over and over like “I love you.” Just tell them. Say “I want you to tell me you love me at least three times every day. It makes me happy to hear it.” Okay. No sweat. Your AS will probably have no idea why it is necessary, but if it makes you happy, fine. He or she will work it into their daily routine.
This is a hotly debated topic in the comments section. Refinements, of course, are necessary but would make up a much larger post. I’ll get to writing another specific post on this topic of lying and truth-telling. Stay tuned, but for now, read the comments below. The readers are very helpful in teasing out the nuance.
Does this mean that no AS ever had a sexual affair?
No, but by and large, having to deal with people, especially intimately, takes a lot of work for an AS. In some ways, it is like your dentist wondering if you’ll be sneaking off getting an optional root canal with another dentist.
”Why?” the AS might ask. ”Why would anyone voluntarily do that?”
It is hard enough having one intimate partner. Juggling two is just ridiculous, from an AS point of view.
Loyalty is really an under-acknowledged virtue and good reason to love an Aspie. If an AS falls in love with you, they will remain as steadfast and true as any canine companion (no insult intended). They can be enormously forgiving and generous in spirit. They have more than likely taken abuse from NT’s all of their lives, so they’ll assume that it’s a thing you, as an NT, do too. Terribly unpleasant, but the natural course of things. This may change as children grow up with the diagnosis, and learn that bullying, teasing, and cruelty is not a thing to tolerate from anyone.
It shames an NT spouse to realize that their past behavior has been what amounts to emotional abuse toward their AS spouse. Most often it was unintended abuse. It stuns a loving NT, once they realize this. There are many, many adult AS’s who are undiagnosed and struggling in their relationship. All of those years of fighting and angry accusations were misguided, and the NT’s expectations were unrealistic, many even fantastically so. It would be like demanding your spouse fly, and being angry at them, as they repeatedly drop to the ground. To truly love an Aspie, you must truly understand an Aspie, and understand their history of abuse. And not add to it.
It is why I have such a strong desire to work with these couples: the unnecessary heartache is enormous.
But getting back to sex, sexual affairs just aren’t too likely. Sex itself is an iffy proposition for a lot of AS’s. Their bodies might work just fine, but it is all the subtle non-verbal stuff that makes it hard to figure out if that person is flirting with you. Educational videos about flirting help the single AS recognize the signs. Their bodies also can be over-stimulation with sexual arousal. They might find kissing too wet or become upset that you’re touching them too lightly, or might need a sheet between you when you have intercourse, so they can relax. Try explaining that to someone you just met in an airport lounge.
This is not to say that an AS won’t get intensely involved in talking to the opposite sex (or the same sex if they are gay or lesbian) online about asphalt or fiberglass boats. It just means if he’s up until 3 AM chatting with another woman, it’s probably about asphalt or fiberglass boats…To truly love an Aspie, recognize that some people will be more engaging and exciting to talk to about asphalt or fiberglass boats. But having sex? You will rank #1. (If sex gets a ranking.)
Unlike the crafty NT’s, who can work out sometimes elaborate ruses to achieve their aims, you can pretty much guess the motives of an AS, once you know them well. If not, just ask.
Behaviors can be confusing, though: “Why did my wife start eating the meal she cooked, without telling us that dinner was ready? Is she angry at us?”
She’s not setting you up to eat a cold dinner, it isn’t a “defense mechanism” against intimate family time, or passive aggression. She started eating because the meal was cooked and she forgot to call her family.
That’s it. End of story.
New lovers say it is sometimes impossible to predict what their intimate AS partners will do next, or how they will respond to something. I think this is because unlike an NT, an AS will probably be responding honestly, in the moment, or to internal stimulus. It may be hard for NT’s to predict, because other NT’s do things out of obligation, or to “please” their partners, regardless of whether it is actually something they want to do or not. Most AS have a hard time predicting what will please their partner, because they can’t take another’s perspective. To love an Aspie means accepting that you are going to sometimes feel “left out” or “forgotten about.” But not out of spite or malice. And if you can be direct, clear, and make a request, and not act out of spite or malice yourself, things will go a lot better.
If you ask “why” as in “What is the deep motivation behind your current behavior?” you may get something as straightforward as “because I wanted to.” It isn’t a dodge. It is the absolute truth. ”Why this and not that?” might bring you a very idiosyncratic answer like “I took the long route because that shorter route has a line of red houses that are very distracting and unsettling for me to drive past.” Loving an AS is learning all the puzzle pieces that they’re composed of, and learning how to live with them. Not uncovering their “true motivations.” To love an Aspie well, try to figure out the quirks. Once you do, you will have a pretty good idea what to expect. But reasons like “I knew you hated me doing this, so I did it to teach you a lesson” is not going to be in it (unless they are mimicking). Because how would they KNOW you really hated it? Why would they spend time out of their day to do THAT? It’s ridiculous. They’d have to plan ahead, keep you and how you feel constantly in mind, and then want to spite you. Lack of spite is a good reason to love an aspie.
One thing that gets a lot of AS’s in trouble with their loved ones is the need to be alone. After a great block party where everyone had a ton of fun, they want to be in their rooms for the rest of the day playing video games, or reading about the French Revolution. No, they don’t want sex. No, they don’t want to invite the Flanagan’s back to the house for an evening of charades. They want to be alone. No offense.
If you want to get into a huge fight with an AS intimate, insist on interaction at this point. Complain about how they never want to socialize (after they’ve spent 4 hours socializing) or how they don’t love you enough because they don’t want to make love. You might watch them explode in an angry tirade.
The goal is simple:
To get you to GO AWAY.
NT’s happily married to AS’s understand this need for quiet time, especially after socializing. A good reason to love an Aspie is that you will have time to yourself.
No, they don’t ‘dish the dirt’ about other people, and they may not even call you on your birthday, unless you specifically direct them to, and program it into their smartphone. But they can talk endlessly about mutually fascinating subjects and can be enormously interesting and fun.
Not every AS is Mozart or Einstein, but every AS usually has intense interests that they know a phenomenal amount about. They can teach you things about these interests that you would never get from anywhere else. They are, by and large, more than happy and excited to share what they know with you when they aren’t overstimulated. A good reason to love an Aspie is when you find a common interest, they probably know much more about it than you do and will be happy to engage with you in it endlessly.
So far, the reason to work with all of the challenges that an AS-NT relationship brings is that you have found a delightful person to love. Like every couple, there will be issues. And like most couples, most of these problems will not change. They will continue to be “issues” between you. What makes loving an Aspie so great is that once you find all of the puzzle pieces and understand how they fit, you both can relax and have a life together.
They’ll be a truthful, faithful, “what you see is what you get” guy or gal who will respect your need to be alone and do your own thing, and will share their passionate interests with you. And they are unlikely to say “No offense,” because it is probably difficult for them to imagine that anyone would be upset about whatever it was that you might get offended about. That would require putting themselves in your situation, and seeing out of your eyes…which is something they CAN NOT DO.
But hey, as spouses go:
You could do worse.
Dr. K is the President and CEO of Couples Therapy Inc. She maintains her Intensive Couples Therapy practice on the edge of the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts.