Shaming in “Aspie”/NT Relationships

Shame in “Aspie”/NT relationships is a sign of codependency where you mistakenly take on responsibility for your “Aspie’s” misconduct.

Kathy Marshack I’ve written before about “The Shame of Being Married to Someone with “Asperger”, where I’ve talked about the stigma of being labelled “Asperger” or “Autistic”, that “Aspies” may fear losing their standing in the community or their business relationships, so they don’t want anyone to know of the diagnosis, if indeed they consent to being diagnosed at all. 

This puts pressure on the Neuro-typical family members to hide what their lives are really like. In fact, Neuro-typicals are terrified to come out and talk about their lives. NT family members work so hard to please the person on the spectrum that they aren’t able to live their authentic selves. A blog with great resources on this topic is “How to Explain Asperger Syndrome to Others”.

However, in this blog, I want to address the “Aspie” blame and shame. I believe this topic needs to be addressed, to be talked about openly so we can start healing ourselves from all past wounds. This is the reason why I’ve decided to turn this subject into a video conference for January, the time after December holidays when people tend to stop for a minute, reflect on their lives and try finding their way to normal. The video conference is entitled “Ashamed?” and members of our private community, “ASPERGER SYNDROME & RELATIONSHIPS: Life with an Adult on the Autism Spectrum”, can register for it on our website.

I define “Asperger Syndrome” as an empathy disorder and because of this lack of empathy, people on the spectrum are naturally blaming others for their troubles. It’s hard to take responsibility for a misunderstanding when you don’t have empathy to put yourself in someone else’s shoes or understand someone else’s point of view. As a result, people on the spectrum can become manipulative, narcissistic and engage in gaslighting, unless they develop a strong moral code. 

Neuro-typicals can also be blamed for overreacting to our “Aspies”. I know I used to be called on the carpet for not “controlling” my “Aspie” daughter’s public meltdowns. I was accused right on the spot of being a “bad” mother.

That’s where the shame comes in. If you are blamed long enough, and you have made a mistake or two in the relationship, you might take on responsibility for too much and feel shame. Shame is also a natural byproduct of living daily with a blaming spouse or partner or acting out “Aspie” child.

We take responsibility for the harm our “Aspies” are doing, whenever she/he is unintentionally rude to our neighbor or having a meltdown — because somebody has to. But we shouldn’t take responsibility or the blame for someone else’s actions.

I’ll be giving a video conference entitled “Ashamed?” (repeated three times on January 21st, January 23rd and January 29th) to talk about how to stop the shame dead in its tracks, and walk away from codependency. This video conference is available only to members of our private community “ASPERGER SYNDROME & RELATIONSHIPS: Life with an Adult on the Autism Spectrum”. If you are not a member, you can register here.

I hope you will join our discussion. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, it’s not enough to understand what’s happening to you. You need strategies to take back your life and to know how truly wonderful life can be!

7 Replies to “Shaming in “Aspie”/NT Relationships”

  1. Dear Kathy, I like you to comment. 45 years ago I was married to what I now know was an ASPIE man. His lack of empathy almost killed me especially when our youngest was killed (age4). I had to leave to keep my sanity. Now I’m struggling with the fact that I am dyslexic, have auditory processing deficit and and I am hearing impaired. I am struggling to forgive my former husband and myself, so much shame!

    1. Valerie, I am here for you. Forgiveness has nothing to do with right or wrong. It has to do with realizing that life is treacherous. Every moment we are asked to make choices, given the resources we have at the time. We don’t always choose the best answer, but we choose the best we can at the time. If we can forgive ourselves for doing the best we knew how to at the time (even choices made in anger or selfishness), then we can do better. I found myself in a state of self forgiveness when I realized that my estranged children struggle to forgive me for making mistakes. They are not looking at their own mistakes, only mine. Good grief, that is a huge burden for me to carry. Your grief is intense, Valerie, but you survived. That is important. Now take that survival to a new level, and show the world what you can do with such love and strength.

      1. Dear Kathy, thank you so very much, you are a beautiful compassionate woman, a kindred spirit, so I know that I am not alone! Your books and website have helped me so much. Warmly Valerie canada

  2. Dear Kathy
    Your blog gives me strength.l live in an area where there is little help for adult Aspies or their families. It is also difficult to find counseling in ASD for either the Aspie or the NT partner. I dont believe a counselor who has not experienced Living with an ASD partner could fully comprehend the relationship. I still make mistakes after all this time (50 years together but only 10 of being aware of the ASD cognitive delay or disorder).I have a lifetime of habit of believing my amazingly brilliant and funny husband knows better than l on some topics. I have a lifetime of deferring to his judgement and do not act when l should.l am an assertive intelligent and capable person yet l have been the good wife in certain situations and let his opinion veto our choices.Example is on purchasing a car and l wanted to keep as well the older car which seemed just fine to me and l liked it,he chose to trade it in.i regret that ; l should have insisted on keeping it. It was not logical as it was in good working order and l would have had independence with a second vehicle. Why l keep thinking he is wiser and l let his decisions prevail is a lifetime of habit yet l know he can not process all the information nor use executive functioning to make good choices. I need to remind myself that his choices are not so well thought through nor is he capable of understanding that. His
    cognitive functioning in more practical things in life fall quite short. I need to find a way to let myself take the lead without appearing to discredit him. We became involved in a very long estate legal dispute even after l had sat down with him and explained that yes there was some merit in our position but it was not really worth pursuing as these things can go on a long time and be very stressful. My thought was we should just not pursue this and move on. He however wanted to pursue this and l had to do all the work. He does not remember the discussion to pursue this legal issue. Why l let him make the decision to go ahead is that l still admire his intellect, in the practical matters in life l should not. He is not capable of analyzing and predicting as well he is easily confused and quite often does not remember things.His memory is quite terrible and he gets angry if l call him on that. You can see it is like walking a tightrope for me- knowing when to insist and be assertive as he can be quite brilliant. Unless a counselor has experienced living with an Aspie 24 -7 l dont think they can appreciate the complex world an NT lives in. I am dismayed that l let him take the lead; it is a lifetime of conditioning,a habit of women deferring to men as the wiser stronger partner. I have come to accept that l will make these mistakes of letting my husband make decisions that affect the two of us and that the outcome will not be the best. I am only human l will strive to be assertive in our relationship but a lifetime ( 50 years) of habit and thinking is difficult to change. If we had only been together 10 years and l discovered he was ASD l might have been able to break this pattern of codependency.

    1. You know Sharon, one of the reasons we get “snowed” by our “Aspies” is that they use the same tools with us that narcissists use. They manipulate and gaslight and act confident even when they don’t know anything. What the con man does is takes away our own confidence and substitutes his/her own. Once the con man (or woman) thinks we are fooled, they go for bigger stuff. After 50 years of this, it isn’t surprising that you may not know which end is up. Further just because your “Aspie” doesn’t intend harm, is no excuse. Ignorance of the law is not a defense in our legal system, and it shouldn’t be in a relationship either. So I’m glad you have started to trust your intuitions and your own conscience. You know the practical stuff of life, so take the lead — always.

  3. I’m on the spectrum. And this resonated with me.

    So I ran this piece by a friend who’s a neurodiverse-affirmative therapist. Here’s part of his response:

    This article basically says, “So there’s stigma and invalidation of autistic people making them rigid, irritable, and defensive. So instead of accepting them and being out and proud, lets just double down on the stigma!!!”

    I’m sure some of my early partners would agree with your analysis, doc. What I recall from a number of those relationships was consistent emotional abuse, causing me to withdraw and ultimately to leave.

    There are times, like all humans, when I feel for others intensely. It took me many, many decades to realize that I couldn’t express those feelings with most NTs without triggering either complete misunderstanding or a desire to control me in unhealthy ways if the depth of my compassion was understood and felt.

    With other spectrum folk this doesn’t seem to be an issue.

    But I’ll share one thing us spectrum folk like to share among ourselves … from our perspective, NTs indulge endless projection and act out accordingly. They seem to frequently indulge dishonesty in their daily doings and when analyzing interpersonal issues. Left unaddressed this can threaten catastrophic results on a global scale.

    cf: Trump vs. Thunberg

    This does become a huge turn-off … at which point I’d imagine one person’s lack of empathy is another’s entirely healthy boundary setting. We see ourselves telling it like it is, rarely being heard, and responding accordingly.

    1. I think you summed up the dilemma very well. How to be respectful of our differences is exceedingly difficult. It shouldn’t be. My goal is to address these differences so that we can get past the accusations, shame and animosity. It seems to me talking about it is better than taking sides. But I do understand how difficult it is to find the language to discuss these differences, without it sounding shaming. Thank your for your thoughtful response.

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