The Need for Real Communication

It’s a fact – lack of effective communication is a leading cause of divorce or permanent separation. Communication is an important aspect in all parts of our lives, from our relationship with our children and family to working with coworkers. Today, I’m focusing on the need for an active communication between spouses.

Newlyweds seldom think of separation on the day of their wedding. We want and hope for a strong emotional connection with our partner. Yet, these connected intimate relationships don’t just happen. They require hard work at commitment and maintenance, from both partners.

Autism is defined by a lack of social reciprocity. What does that mean? Our “Aspies” lack the empathy to understand your need for a hug or a kind word at the end of a hard day. You will need to be the bridge between your world and your partner’s world, where everything is straightforward. It’s tough to explain empathy and Empathy Dysfunction (EmD). I also wrote a couple of books to explain this more in-depth (“Out of Mind – Out of Sight” and “When Empathy Fails” – you can download a free chapter).

I briefly explain and add clarification in this blog post, “Empathy: “Asperger’s” Style”. Empathy is much more than sensitivity and “Aspies” often miss the subtle nuances of communication. This can make communication with them harder, like talking to a wall when you need a comforting hug.

People on the Spectrum can learn rules of engagement, but they can’t be taught empathy. That’s why it’s on neurotypicals to be the bridge in our relationships. . . between the empathic or interactional world of NTs and the transactional world of “Aspies.” Once we NTs understand that our “Aspies” are not using empathy to understand the world and the people around them, we neurotypicals are in much better shape to slice through the communication hangups.

What is one side-effect in not having effective communication between partners?

I have heard many neurotypicals complain of experiencing psychological invisibility. What they mean by invisibility is that they feel ignored, unappreciated and unloved, because their context blind “Aspie” family member(s) is so poor at empathic reciprocity.

We come to know ourselves (I wrote about this and Dialectical Psychology, in my book “Out of mind – Out of Sight”) in relation to others. This doesn’t just apply to children. Throughout our lifespan, we continue to weave and re-weave the context of our lives, and our self-esteem, by the interactions we have with our friends, coworkers, neighbors and loved ones.

This is why it is so important for an NT to get feedback from his or her spouse. A smile, a hug, a kind word, a note of encouragement – these are messages that reinforce our self-esteem and contribute to healthy reciprocity in the relationship.

Without these daily reminders from loved ones, NTs can develop some odd defense mechanisms, like becoming psychologically invisible to others and themselves.

If we learn to know yourself and others in relation to those we have grown up with such as our families and friends and teachers, then we don’t really have the tools to know our “Aspies” do we? “Aspies” need a different matrix for understanding themselves and their loved ones. 

If you want to know more about his matrix and how to explain it to others, I encourage you to join our community, “ASPERGER SYNDROME & RELATIONSHIPS: Life with an Adult on the Autism Spectrum”. It’s a space for partners, family and friends of “Aspies” from around the world. This is a community that understands and can empathize with your daily struggles. Additionally, you will also have access to weekly video conferences to help you navigate through your highs and lows and reclaim your life. 

I hope to see you there!

8 Replies to “The Need for Real Communication”

  1. You have helped me to understand my aspie partner of 42years and I thank you. Its been a tough journey but things are now falling into place. X

    1. Thank you Jan. I couldn’t put the pieces together for you without the many women and men who shared their stories with me.

  2. Dear dr, Marshack,

    53 years ago I was married to a man I now know and understand is an ‘aspie’. The world and certainly I did not know what we know now! An after 14 years of marriage, the death of my youngest son, physical and emotion abuse , left him. I was a very confused! My other 2 boys over the years wanted to be with their Dad. It has been a heart breaking time. I am now 75, and have had a very difficult life, being dyslexic and hearing impaired. Years of depression and anxiety due to a very abusive childhood , and religious indoctrination . I never gave up wanting to understand my husband and my family problems. In the past year it is evident that my former husband is an ‘aspie’ and I mostly likely I am ADD and suffering from PTSD. . In the last 6 months I have sessions in brain training and the whole world has changed for me. I’ve got my life back after so many years of deep depression and anxiety. The brain is a wonderful thing. Are you familiar with this healing modality? Known as NEUROFEEDBACK.
    I thank you for your website, your empathy your knowledge and expertise and of course your books. Your service to mankind is gratefully appreciated, your love, understanding and compassion shine thru so.oo brightly. I only wish I had know half of this when I was married. I thought I was a crazy woman and that leaving that husband has scarred my boys.. it would seem that on a spiritual level we each have a journey. I now understand my former husband and have forgiven him completely. He is still bitter and will not communicate with me.

    Thank you Dr. Kathy, the above article is so important!

    1. I am so pleased that you have found some healing Valerie. Yes neurofeedback is a promising technique. I have a colleague who uses the technique and swears by it. I can also relate to the grief of discovering too late what you might have done differently had you known about ASD during the marriage. I hung onto that grief much too long. It finally occurred to me that my life matters too. I’m not hiding my light ever again and neither should you.

  3. Hi Kathy, I’m the daugther of two asperger parents, just realised this year because my partner (boyfriend) realised he is on the spectrum and then I started searching from the best sources I could to understand it. I suffered horribly in my childhood, adolescence, twenties (now I’m 31) didn’t know how could I feel so a ubused without being activelly a used, just knew that my mother’s tantrums were not normal but a constant (I was also only child, and they separeted when I was 10). My father I believe is on the spectrum too, but he is not childish as my mother was, he is very intelligent, but emotionally immature. What are the effects of ongoing traumatic syndrome when that is almost all you have known, of being invisible for your parents as a real person? I’m in Chile, terapists here had not and still don’t have any idea of this type of family dynamics, so the results are devastating for the child and adult child of an asperger couple. Adult children of aspergers need to know what happens to them.

    1. Those of us with Asperger parents can spend a lifetime wandering and wondering. That is my personal experience. No therapist or friend ever understood me and I always felt alone and isolated. But God didn’t give up on me. God sent me an Asperger husband, and we adopted a child with Asperger’s. And when I still didn’t wake up, God put Karen Nelton’s book in front of me. As I read the chapter on an author’s recollection of her Asperger mother, I felt a profound shift. This was the missing piece. It was after this I started to reach out for others like me, through my books and Meetup group. This has not been an overnight transformation Catalina. It has been years of stumbling in the darkness, but you get the benefit of my exploration in the wilderness. Even though there may be no therapist in Chile who gets you, I do. . .and so does the rest of this group. I’m glad you are here.

  4. It seems to me that my aspie gf of 70 yrs will await me to initiate almost everything. She will not initiate any activities for us until I have done that a few times first. Then she might initiate once and then a seemingly await my initiation and the process starts again. We have been together for the last 4 yrs with some breakups with reconnecting in between. It might be she is reluctant to put herself on the line in case I might refuse what she proposes? Is this process a transactional approach to our romantic relationship? If not what am I seeing? Thanks

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