NT/AS Marriage Problems – Divorce, Separation or Alone Together?

Divorce is a tough subject, but we can’t ignore it because it’s all too common in “Asperger” marriages. I’ve heard many times people describing marriage with someone with Asperger Syndrome (AS) is like walking on eggshells. Add that to the “normal” stresses of marriage and it can get to be too overwhelming to deal with. To give you one example: A man with undiagnosed AS often feels as if his wife is being ungrateful when she complains he’s uncaring or never listens to her. He knows what he thinks and how he feels, and assumes that she should too. It doesn’t even occur to him to understand her point of view, so her complaints bother him. When she asks for clarification or a little sympathy, he becomes defensive because he knows he has good intentions and he resents the pressure. This defensiveness may turn into verbal abuse (and sometimes physical abuse) because he needs to control the communication to suit his view of the world.

No wonder the wife feels like she’s walking on eggshells and looks for a way out of the marriage. But that can bring other problems…

What can you expect if you divorce an “Asperger” man? Unfortunately, he probably won’t understand why his wife wants a divorce and will become angry. Not knowing how to handle his distress he may turn the energy into revenge. Unfortunately, many high conflict divorces are the result of the negativity and obsessing of the AS partner regarding the wrongdoing he perceives of his NT spouse.

It is likely to be a long, painful, and expensive divorce where all suffer.

On the other hand, some “Aspies” just leave quietly and never remarry because they can’t quite figure out how to rebuild a life separately from their former spouse. Some NT former wives report that their former husband even still refers to her as his “wife” years after the divorce.

Many of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD members contemplate divorce or separation. Even though our group is extremely helpful, there may come a time when the only way to save your sanity is to consider ways to leave. If you’re no longer strong enough to endure the loneliness of being Alone Together, it just might be time to strike out on your own and explore a new life.

I think it can be therapeutic to consider what your life would be like without your “Aspie.” It’s not necessarily that you should get a divorce, but it gives you an opportunity to think about why you’re holding yourself back from the life you’re meant to live. Either way, divorce or not, you should be true to your authentic self, shouldn’t you?

That’s one of the reasons I wrote my book, When Empathy Fails – How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you. The first chapter, “No One Calls Me Mom Anymore” is now available for free download. After you read it, I’d love it if you’d visit my Facebook page and tell me what you think.

23 Replies to “NT/AS Marriage Problems – Divorce, Separation or Alone Together?”

  1. I’m married to an undiagnosed man that I’m sure has aspergers. I’m at my wits end in this marriage. I don’t want to divorce but I can’t seem to connect with my husband at all. He doesn’t communicate is very depressed gets angry and defensive anytime I try to express my feelings. I’m so frustrated. I feel alone in this marriage. He has strict routines and doesn’t like any change . He seems to live in his head with his own thoughts yet can’t express what he is thinking or feeling. Do you have any help for me ? Is divorce the only answer ?

    1. Hi Beth, I’m like you, I don’t want a divorce but I just want to be happy in my marriage and life and it sometimes seems that no matter how hard I try, it can’t really be done for more than brief periods at a time. We’ve now been married for 22 years and together for 24, and I’ve invested so much of my life in this relationship. The marriage was at a breaking point in 2010 and that time it was saved by what John Gottman says about practicing conscious gratitude – we agreed to do it together and shook hands on it. That carried us a very long way if it’s something that your hubby will agree to and follow like a rule. You might want to check that out as a possibility. It definitely won’t “fix” everything but it gave us a huge and long-lasting improvement in just a week or two of practicing it.

      1. It been 32 years and 7 kids for me . I finally left 3 years ago after a violent blow up he had while I was grieving my Dad’s death. Finally I have insight into this behavior.
        I’m doing ok so far managing on my own.

    2. OMG Debbie oh, I certainly understand. Last night was my 18th year anniversary and I was so excited yet I was so apprehensive because I knew he was not going to make an effort to get me anyting. It stresses him out when these times do occur because he doesn’t know what to do. He actually sent me a text message stating please help me I don’t know what to do I’m not good at these things. I told him think about things that I’ve asked you for which was let’s get married again why don’t you propose again. And I really took it for granted that that’s what he would do but there was nothing he sent me a little ecard which for him he thought was phenomenal because he get it himself on the computer and I think I underestimated his efforts. At any rate I saw him being under a lot of stress so I said don’t worry about it we’ll just have a nice evening . However that didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to do so I wanted to buy him some tickets to the OSU Penn State game and give it to him. So instead of coming out our bathroom in a sexy nighty to consummate our 18 year anniversary, I came out the bathroom in my Granny Robe and my Bonnet and the gift bag. I got ready to give it to him and he stopped me and said I thought we weren’t going to give each other anything I said well yes I did say that because you were so stressed out. But I went with my plans. He got very angry at me and could not see that regardless of that my getting you something still went beyond what the rules were a perhaps I was wrong because I understand that aspies take things literal . It seems that my husband finds my complaints as fussing and then he doesn’t want to argue so he shuts down and stares into the sky or just look straight ahead and shuts totally down it drives me crazy I am to the point of separation or divorce because of the abuse the emotional abuse and the mental abuse and even shutting down being silenced is verbal abuse. I see it as disrespectful, discrediting, disregarding, no value totally devalued, and over the years it has really worked on my self-. And I get so angry because of how he mistreats me and it’s got worse as the years go by. I don’t know if it was because of covid that I really started to see it because we were forced to be with each other all the time… I don’t know but I’m at the end of myself I’m 64 and I feel like what’s left now.

      1. Dear woman, please email me
        Johannsenkatie@gmail.com. I am only 5 years in to my marriage to an aspie and I grew up with my parents being fosters to all kinds of aspie children (I know that it is part of the spectrum now). We need to chat. I empathize with and know I am you…only 5 years in.

      2. Heartfelt hugs Patty 💗 I have been living almost identical circumstances for 10 years. I have found great comfort in sharing and caring with other spouses of spectrum partners. My saving grace lies in that I am still working full-time as an educator for young children and have five grandchildren of my own to keep me balanced.

        Living healthfully in my own space has also offered me a reprieve from the painful daily communication exchanges. Being able to sleep well, eat nutritionally, exercise and socialize has turned everything around.

        Another volume that has enlightened my understanding of long-term Complex PTSD from constant criticism is Pete Walker’s book CPTSD From Surviving to Thriving.
        Many jewels of wisdom in a very readable format. I believe as you release the stress and recognize your calm and wise inner guide, you will make choices that are right for you. Blessings!

      3. Hi Patty,

        I am in the same situation you’ve mentioned. I have asked for a divorce after 23 years of marriage I can not do it anymore, it’s had a tremendous effect on my health. I have tired everything for years and years and nothing is working. Then I remembered he told me his sister mention that he has Aspers, I didn’t believe it when he told me.

        As time went on nothing made sense as to why we couldn’t communicate and none of therapy sessions worked not even EFT.

        I feel it’s gotten worse and the verbal abuse.

        All he does is blame me for everything it’s awful.

        My heart goes out to you.

  2. I have been married to the female worker in our family I have gad in my subconscious from my brother traumatized my brain now have IBS take about 200 pills a week and unemployable till I get education my crappy psychiatrist took away my asset of hyperfocusing. Feel neuropathy in my feet now major depression partly marriage block a site that made me happy and a woman that loved me and me her neither sexually attracted to each other I was a momma’s boy how can we cope and do better about the 29th yr

  3. I chose to leave my partner with Aspergers after 15 years. We did not marry although he wanted to. I feared the loneliness of such a marriage. However, I was lonely anyway.
    We are not together (almost 2 years) but I miss him terribly. Or, do I miss what I wished we had?

    1. Peggy, you are very wise to have forseen a lonely life ahead of you if you married him. I’m sorry you miss him even after two years. It’s easy to remember the good things and forget all the negativity he brought to the relationship. Have you tried dating someone new? Church is a great place to meet new friends.

  4. Hello
    I think my 19 year old daughter may have Asperger’s. She has gone to university and cut off all family. Ignores texts, calls and refuses to contact. Extremely intelligent.
    I don’t know what to do. She also cut off friends in a similar way. Can anyone help please?
    Thank you

    1. The pain of parenting a hostile ASD child is more than most know. My ASD daughter cut me off at the same age.

  5. After nearly 30 years of marriage, I have recently come to realize that my husband is on the Autism spectrum, and has what would have been called Asperger’s a decade or so ago.

    The only reason I understand this is that my daughter was diagnosed with ASD 3 years ago. So after nearly 30 years of marriage — and 30 years of conflict — it has only been the last 3 or so that I have really understood my husband.

    We have been and are in therapy but I do believe we need to separate — in our late 50s and with two kids approaching college. I just don’t know where to begin, and I am feeling alone and frightened.

    Any suggestions would be not only welcome but life-changing for me.

    1. Welcome back to life, Rebecca. After 30 years of being wedged in between two on the Spectrum, you may not recognize the Authentic Rebecca. But she’s been there all along, just dying to be set free. Don’t let your fear of the unknown get the best of you. Think of it as an adventure. That’s what kids do. They don’t worry too much about skinning their knees, or if they do, they just bounce back —- scabs and all.

      Divorce may help but it is not the answer. No one is holding you back. It’s an illusion that creeps into a NeuroDivergent relationship. This will make sense the more you wake up and take back your life.


    2. Hi
      I’m basically in the same predicament. I left him but it’s so difficult. He is a great provider. My emotional and physical needs were not being met . I was dying inside.

  6. Hello Ladies n Gents, I’m back! I am still in the same position as before in my statement earlier in 2022
    It was funny because I wa reading my comment smd and wss feeling so empathetic toward the person who wrote it and WALA! It was me almost 2 years ago. Nothing has cha.ged amd I can see I am slowly losing all aspirations of life. OMG! I am so afraid my life, my dreams, my future is over. I have always been a mover n a shaker and now i feel so defeated as if im trying to crawl out of a BLACK HOLE. I find myself believing in the power of Love and Gods view of marriage, but i am alone. WHY ca t i let gp why ca.t i walk away? I ask myself is it because i have lost a brother, 2 sons and 2 parents in one year?
    What am I afraid of? I’ve divorced before and when I married him I vowed that this was it. This was my Cinderella story…to only see it has been Cinderella prince was really the Wicked witch in Hensel n Gretal. I am so angry at myself.

  7. I have been married for 19 years, and during that time, I have experienced the death of my parents and also grand parent, all within 3 years of each other, and also redundancy, and general life experiences.
    After my mum passed away, I noticed that my husband wasn’t very good with empathy and communication, which in hindsight was always the case, but I always spoke to my mum about the things, which I couldn’t with him.
    To cut a long story short, 2 years ago I found out that he went to 2 special needs schools, which were for Autism, which he had never discussed with me, neither his family, other than his sister, as before we got married we had a row, and she said, I wish my brother wouldn’t lie about the schools he went to, but I didn’t think anything of it, back then. I was in my early 30s.
    I met his sister after finding this out, thinking that she would talk to me and put my mind at ease, but she argued with me and denied everything, and walked out the restaurant and left me. His mum then rang me to explain that there is nothing wrong with her son, and that I was rude to have said that there was, when infact I never said that there was anything wrong with him, other than I should have been told about his early life.
    His mum said she never wanted to see me again, and his sister stopped talking to me.
    My husband has now divorced me as he can’t forgive me for saying that he has autism.
    We shared the same doctor, and she said there was help out there for Mark, but he had to ask for it, which he declined to do so.
    I feel so empty and destroyed over all his lies and abandonment, and still can’t actually believe a human being could treat me like this, as I am a kind, caring and understanding person.

    1. Claire, what you are going through is devastating. You trusted your husband and his family with your heart, but they are not worthy of this trust. I hope one day you are free from the repercussions of this abuse. Don’t blame yourself. It is a tragedy that too few Autists get the help they need.

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