What Makes You So Afraid to Speak Around Your “Aspie?”

Do you fear speaking up around your family member who has Asperger’s, because of how he will react? Do you also worry that others will reject you, if you speak up? I understand. You’re not alone. Many people describe living with someone with “Asperger’s” as walking on eggshells. This especially is true, when speaking directly to your spouse who has “Asperger’s.” It’s so easy to say something that will set them off into a defensive tirade. But this walking on eggshells also extends to when you’re talking with others. You feel like you have to run everything you say through a mental filter of questions like:

  • Will what I say make others think less of my spouse, even though it’s true?
  • Will I reveal too much about my situation and cause others to feel uncomfortable?
  • Or worse, will what I say cause them to reject me or dismissively respond, “You’re overreacting a bit, aren’t you? It can’t be THAT bad.”
  • Will my spouse take offense and bluntly belittle me in front of everyone?
  • Will I face the silent treatment, or worse, once we get home?

After years of running your every thought and comment through this mental filter, you get really good at hiding what you think and feel. Because of your empathy, you still want to protect your spouse from ridicule, even though he (or she) will never appreciate that you’re doing so. You also might think it’s worth it to protect yourself from criticism or open threats and downright terrorism from your “Aspie.” You just want to keep peace in the family. But is it worth it?

Interestingly, within our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group, I notice that roughly half of the members don’t post a photograph or use their true names. This is perfectly fine with me. In fact, when I started our group nine years ago, I made a conscious decision to protect the privacy of our members. If people need to protect their identities for safety reasons, I support you.

However, this phenomenon of being secretive is also indicative of fear, the kind of fear that comes from years of chronic emotional stress that comes with living with “Aspies.” The only way to conquer this fear is to talk about it with others in this group, who really get it.

It’s time isn’t it? Time to take your life back. Time to laugh again. Time to know that the real you is worthy. Time to know that others really want to know you. I do.

If you’re not ready to open up within a group setting and you need to speak with a professional, please contact my office and schedule an appointment. I offer online therapy, if that works best for your busy schedule. It’s time you reclaim your life.

17 Replies to “What Makes You So Afraid to Speak Around Your “Aspie?””

  1. Talking to him is always like we are talking black and white. Saying the same thing but differently. I usually have to adapt and understand him. Exhausting!
    If or when a conversation got more than he can handle, he’d leave. Saying it takes two to argue. Not an argument, it’s trying to solve an issue, I need input or just to express my thoughts/feelings.
    The elephant remains in the room. It’s tired too!
    What’s the use, so no communication.
    Others do not get it, as they don’t live this 24/7.
    Again, what’s the use in even trying to explain so this life does remain secretive and contained within our four walls.
    In just the last six years with counseling have I felt worthy and taking care of me. It feels good to find me again.

    1. It was a relief, for this moment in time, to read your post. Most therapy groups I have attended give me no relief, due to the fact of where one is within in their treacherous journey of cohabitating with a Spectrum person. I could have written word for word, what you said. I’m tittering on the edge of keeping my mental state intact. It’s so fragile . I’m treading to stay afloat with someone that believes the burden is mine to transpose and re-articulate what he says. He freely admits that his thoughts do not correctly come out in his speech. His expectations are that I help him. He does not want to meet halfway or anyway. He shows no remorse and displays only aggression in his comments. He has no passive demeanor in anything he says and everything I say and do is commented as “No, you’re not doing this correctly!” I’ve lived with him long enough to see we are both animals trapped, not in one cage, but two.

  2. About have me in tears here. Not married, but my brother is in charge of our family farm/business. Not diagnosed, but I believe he is an aspie. Just came out of an “intense” discussion about money (aways a trigger for him). Ouch.

    Dr. Marshack, my daughter and I made one visit to you in Portland quite awhile ago. Will again when we can leave home again and can find the funds (see above). Or something…we need the help! (Daughter is in the business, too)

    1. It’s good to hear from you Margaret. Yes, Asperger’s and family business are a stressful combo.

    2. I relate to your post because my spouse and I are also in a family farm with aspie’s. My spouse is a passive aspie while his sister is explosive. She controls the money. After 45 years we are splitting the farm. It’s the best decision of our lives.
      We have another farm business with her. In this business we’ll demand a buy out rather than a split. . We’ve gotten used to the explosions in the last two years over splitting the family farm. I’m no longer afraid of her because she won’t control our purse-strings ever again.

  3. Most conversations I am
    About ready to start end before I start them because after running it through my filter as you say,…. I just realize the chances of me feeling hurt at the end of it
    Is almost always certain. So I have stopped all conversations except for those that are necessary.
    My soul sometimes dreams
    Of what it would be like to have someone
    Answer me in a way that seems like they are glad to be speaking to me.
    This is brutal friends. I sometimes forget that it is because I have gotten so accustomed to it. But my daughter was home from college today and when my husband answered me
    In his usual cold disdainful way she screamed
    At the top
    Of her lungs at him,….”NOW ANSWER HER – answer her nicely right now,.. do it !!!!!!”

    1. You’ve just articulated my experience perfectly, Nadia! Sometimes I think I must be the problem, then I realise no matter what I say I think it will go nowhere and I’m busy running those filters before talking to him (or to anyone about him). Now we hardly ever talk about anything with any meaning. It’s so dysfunctional.

    2. Good for your daughter Nadia!!! Back in 1982 I got in my grandma’s face, after 10 minutes of trash talk about my Mom, and told her to back off. My mom was a victim of horrific physical and mental abuse. I was taught to respect my elders. I told my own kids to behave respectfully-if the adult deserves it. Your daughter is quite the warrior!
      I also identify with you Leas. I really like the counselor I’ve seen on and off through the years. I’m 60 and have retired early. Last year I went back for a tune up appointment stating I had thought working part time would be difficult with the swing shift type schedule that my son and husband maintain. I thought maybe volunteering would be a better option. Her response was “The hell with their schedule, if you want to do something just go and do it.” It’s not quite that simple. What I love doing is substitute teaching-preferably snotty teenagers. When someone just doesn’t completely understand living with an Aspie (or 2) it’s quite difficult to translate it for an average person. It is indeed a treacherous journey.
      Carolynn, I admire your dedication to yourself. Especially without a support system besides counseling. I eventually hit the point of telling my husband to back off from our sons or I would call the police. I meant it but I was also terrified at the thought of having to follow through. A few years later I did call the police on our Aspie son. Also, thank you Roslyn, tonight I’m going to Google International Charter of Human Rights.😊

  4. This is a great topic and very validating. My second husband and I live together alone on a farm, which has some great benefits. However, now I am working from my home office rather than driving to work. It seems that the ‘balancing’ effect of seeing colleagues and chatting throughout each day was pretty good in the past at invalidating his criticisms and negative attributions towards me. Even with colleagues to whom I did not speak about the Aspie difficulties, I got positive feedback about my pleasant nature, my great communication and empathy skills, my ability to set firm and fair boundaries, and my resilience and clear thinking in relationships. Quite different from the feedback at home which is often “you are controlling and demanding”, “I have never met anyone who is so domineering and thinks they are so superior”, “you will say whatever it takes to convince others you are right”, “you just can’t bare to look wrong, you think you are perfect”.

    Perhaps best of all, when I call him out on “domestic abuse” (verbal and psychological) he has said “I don’t want to hear another word about that politically incorrect, feminist bullshit”…….. quite funny when it is written down. And then he will go to watch a 1940’s or 50’s movie where women are relatively submissive, which I am sure is a vert reassuring setting for him.
    He loves my strength, my all-round abilities on the farm, my ability to earn good money, my confidence to travel around the world on my own before I met him…. which may be considered feminist values- until it challenges him.

    Also, (hilariously) “you can’t tell me what I can and can’t say. According to the International Charter of Human Rights I am an individual with a right to say whatever I please” 🙂 🙂 At that point I usually just chuckle and agree with him (the good thing about his very literal interpretations is that he will not realise I am being facetious, which is a win).

    I know he would not say these things when there are others around, but then the emotional download would be worse when we are alone (as it is his release of his own negative feelings and thoughts about himself). Has anyone noticed that the misdemeanours / domestic abuse we are accused of are in fact what the Aspie has done? It is just projected onto us as the knowledge about themselves is too much for the Aspie to bear. What do you think? Keen to hear your thoughts.

    Believe in yourselves.

    1. Just reading that back it reminds me there is some narcissism and some borderline personality traits that have been learnt since birth as a way for my Aspie to cope with a world that has felt as though it constantly attacks him. Let me know if your thoughts, or what your circumstances are.

  5. “However, now I am working from my home office rather than driving to work. It seems that the ‘balancing’ effect of seeing colleagues and chatting throughout each day was pretty good in the past at invalidating his criticisms and negative attributions towards me.”

    This is exactly what I am experiencing and realizing. Because of the pandemic, we are alone in our house in the woods. I am also missing the rebalancing that comes from my encounters with work colleagues, neighbours,siblings, friends, children and grandchildren.

    My husband is calm enough especially since the situation here offers few social challenges and I am with him all the time. He is loving this situation and there is a lot to love since we are very lucky to be in a very beautiful location. We do see people once in a while when we go for long walks.

    Regarding fear of talking or expressing myself. I am a person who does not use my name or photo. The last thing I want is to loose this group where I can be free to speak. I realize that there are times when we just need to let off steam and might say things that are hurtful. It is not my intention to harm but to learn from other people’s experiences,

    When I spontaneously talk to my husband I am often either
    interrupted very soon by some random thought that my H has,
    told that he is too overwhelmed (by his own self) to listen, that it’s too much for him, answer questions about what I am about to say, I often have to stop after a minute and ask if he was listening to anything I said, then I have to start over. It’s exhausting so I think that I avoid talking unless I really have to. I feel like I am retreating into myself to avoid the frustration of trying to have a conversation that will go nowhere. The other day I spontaneously shared something upbeat, which is few and far between these days. I turned to look at him and he was completely “zoned out”. In retrospect, I should have just thought “Asp moment” and stopped talking but instead feeling brave I said “what is going on?” He said, as he has done many times before that my face was triggering him or scaring him or something weird. I got up and left. He came to see me and asked why I was upset. For the next hour of me screaming and crying and bemoaning my fate he heard why I was upset.

    He knows that he has these limitations and that he just blurts our stupid stuff. He does make an effort to do better and leave my by myself to get time on my own. He went biking which is the only reason that I can get all of this off my chest…

    We are able to talk about practical things , house stuff etc, if it interests him that is. If I bring up a new idea regarding the house he will most probably say “It’s too much to think about.”

    I noticed that his “strongest” communications are criticisms. He is very clear and very capable of pointing out what I have “done wrong” or a problem that “we”(aka I) should take care of.

    A big problem for me is not trying to correct him in public. I am pretty good at it now and if what he is saying makes me cringe, I walk away. If I have a knee jerk reaction to “shush him” because he is saying something inappropriate or he is complaining about the same thing for the gazillionth time, he gets angry, looks at me with a very stern face and says something like “don’t do that”or “don’t edit me”.

    Yesterday he came in the house and said ” I have something that I really need to process, to talk about” I said, “OK I will listen” he said “I am not sure that I want to talk about it with you.” I walked out of the room and went to bed for an hour. I was feeling sad and told him on our daily walk. If I say that I am upset, his reaction is to “feel bad”. There does not seem to be a place where he feels “ok I will do better”

    thanks for reading this….

  6. Thank you Dr Kathy, Carolyn, Leas, Margaret, Joanne, Roslyn, and Karla. Everything that you shared is very familiar. My perpetual dilemma is this: Should I say nothing and suffer in silence, or speak up and then regret opening my mouth, for the rest of the year.

  7. My daughter was with her husband for 6 years who was never diagnosed as a high functioning aspie, the skills he has are amazing, she loved him unconditionally and although it seemed that he loved her the same way, on the inside of their marriage was very different. The anger that she has inside her is so painful for her. She constantly says she has wasted 6 years of her life. She says to any NT either in a relationship with an aspie partner, or married. Run and never look back

    1. To realise in the last few years what’s going on here, why I have been the scapegoat lifelong. I was born to two Aspie parents, it seems. And I am partner to another who has two Aspie parents and three Aspie brothers. I am finding there is so much cognitive disfunction, I am so distressed by the ongoing trauma that I can pick up on it in many people, so many people. Anyone else find this? It certainly does seem prolific.
      I either cop the silent treatment and/or the talking over – knee jerk before I’ve finished my point, constantly, around these family members. Lifelong. It’s living hell. Does anyone else find that they cannot finish a sentence due to the projection assumptions and sensitivities? I can’t breath.

      1. Yes Sarah
        I do find that I see it in many others now I understand more.
        I am always being talked over & interrupted & assumptions made of what I am thinking instead of the hearing of what I have actually said.
        So exhausting & frustrating & always critical first. Communication is so difficult it is easier to be silent.

        1. I too see it in others
          My daughter and I Iook at each other and comment ” he’s definitely on the spectrum “.
          My husband is so difficult to live with, blowing up each what should be a minor topic into a huge issue. It’s exhausting. I can’t be close to friends or family because of his character and feel frustratingly isolated. It is so relaxing when I’m not with him.

  8. Thank you all, I recognise the above comments & it feels like I’ve written them myself. I have wondered all my married life what I was doing wrong, why I wasn’t considered, why I was invisible, why when I was upset I didn’t deserve a hug? This is a lonely place to be I really don’t know what I would do without my children & grandchildren, they are my life, they help to fill that empty void, but then I get accused of putting him last! Thing is love is a two way street if you don’t get how can you return it, I have now stopped giving because it’s to a blank wall. I’m allowed a hug before work or bed but that’s it because he’s “not into public shows of affection” even if we’re alone inside the house! It feels good to let this out but then I worry someone I know will see it & for as much as its good to know the reason why I don’t want anyone else to know or judge him.

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