Empathy is about reciprocal connecting; the ability to step into another’s shoes. The non-Aspie is wired to achieve a mutually satisfying solution. Aspies are not, and they can’t read their partner’s signals, or as I like to say, they have mind-blindness. Therein lies the rub. Aspies are unable to comprehend the meaning of the traditional gestures of love and romance. They don’t set out to hurt their love by withholding a Valentine, candy or flowers.
What are some things you can do to smooth the way to romance?
1. Non-Aspie partners – do not take your Aspie partner’s actions (or lack of actions) as a slight or personal affront, and your life will be sweeter.
Aspies simply don’t ‘get’ why a show of affection is important to their non-Aspie, or neurotypical, partner. They’re out of sync. Expressing love escapes Aspies, because empathizing is foreign to them. Not being romantic isn’t a hurtful decision they make. When the neurotypical more accurately understands the actions, or inactions, of their Aspie loved one, feelings get hurt less often.
2. Help your Aspie create his/her own rules of engagement in order to act in ways that really matter to you. This list that tells the Aspie what to do and when — never mind the “why.”
Aspies need to learn ways to engage with their neurotypical spouse. One Aspie husband explained it to me like this, “I just can’t say or do the first thing that pops into my mind. It might be all wrong. It’s like I need a ‘politeness checker’ running in the back of my mind to remind me to be a gentleman.” This marriage was strengthened when he and his wife wrote down rules about appropriate engagement in a notebook. He keeps it with him and refers to it frequently for guidance. Without that tool, he says he’d be lost.
The Asperger Romance rules might include:
- Kiss spouse goodbye each morning
- Call spouse at lunchtime each day
- Buy “For My Wife” card and flowers for Feb. 14
- Hold spouse’s hand and say, “Thank you,” when receiving a gift or card from him/her.
Aspies may not understand why something is important to their loved one, but learning to make the effort, the gesture, represents good intention and love, just a different kind. If you want to build more romance into your ASP/NT marriage so that everyone feels loved, therapy is available. Please, contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office and set up an appointment.
If you haven’t done so yet, grab your free chapter from each of my Asperger Relationship books: