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.

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 hope you will join our discussion in our private MeetUp group, “Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD.” 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!

21 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.

      1. Kathy Marshack – then ignorance is no excuse also applies to my abusive narcissist sister, who claims that “if they don’t know they’re lying, it’s not lying”. Well it’s wilful-ignorance to not check carefully enough to know if it’s a lie, that’s for sure!
        Of course, her being ‘just a woman’ means that sexism is alive and well, and our family likes sexism when it profits the women, but is Feminist everywhere else… Yeah. Another one of those hypocrites.
        What you fail to realise is that the AS position is one of disability, thus as with disempowered minorities, a “by any means necessary” mentality has to develop.
        Of course, that’s dangerous, morally, but when one grows up with an utter lack of morals shown by NT people, who literally spit on you because you won’t fight back (because you are confused and like a rabbit in the headlights, and innocent), then I think it’s an Empathy Gap, not an AS issue. I take responsibility for myself, make a point of it, because I was narc-gaslighted so much but ALSO NT-gaslighted so much. Told (due to being a naive AS ‘mark’) I was wrong, or bad when I wasn’t, including when manipulated into taking drugs to make me vulnerable. They were just toying with me and enjoying the power-trip. So I won’t be like my abusers if I can at all help it. The strong moral code is a reaction to knowing or seeing the horrendous results of a lack of empathy, and sure, that’s been me doling it out on occasion, but only AFTER I was ‘severely’-abused. I could write a book.

        1. I am so sorry you had to endure this abuse. Lack of empathy and the desire to harm others is characteristic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). It’s hard to protect yourself from narcissistic abuse, but it is possible to survive and take back your life. I wrote a book on this subject, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those Hell-bent on destroying you.”

  3. Dr Kathy– every time I read your blog or participate in a video or teleconference I always learn something new that is vital for my survival. I feel like, as you mentioned above, after a very long marriage it’s so difficult to know which end is up. What I have learned so far, thanks to your explanations, is that empathy is crucial to healthy relationships, and the lack of it is so very pervasive and destructive. I did not, until today, connect his lack of empathy to him blaming myself, our children ( even as little babies) and others for everything that goes wrong, and because of that lack, he naturally blames others! THANKYOU for this. It has been so distressing and confusing to me, now I get yet another thing. It’s been a slow process for me and although his behaviours have confused me and I sensed there was something very wrong all these years, I kind of reverted to a state of denial, hopelessness and giving up because I had no confidence in myself and could find no help. In the past few years after discovering your books, tele and video conferences, and your blogs I see more clearly, but there’s a lot of grieving. I went through stages of being angry with him , with myself for marrying him but most of all my narcissistic parents who were abusive and did not nurture, show love or teach me about being an adult or in a relationship. Now I know my parents were who they were for whatever reason and could or would not be what loving parents are, my husband is an aspie and can’t help it and I would have married someone else similar or worse given my early days!
    I agree with Sharon’s comments above that she doesn’t believe a counselor who has not experienced living with an ASD partner could comprehend the relationship — I believe that is completely impossible.

    1. The one good thing I got from living a lifetime with “Aspies” is that I know more than most people. Not just about these relationships but about myself.

  4. Because my 30+ undiagnosed years of an Aspergers marriage drove me to an affair, my children take their father’s side always. They don’t really know what he’s like, and even when he exploded in one of his frequent rages at me in front of my son, my son felt he was justified.

    It is brutal to be marginalized and unheard by those closest to me.

    1. Sadly our families do fall apart when the underlying problems aren’t taken care of. Never give up on yourself. Keep reaching out for help.

  5. U r so wrong, i am an aspie female who has an nt partner of 16 yrs. There will be mos. Where he stays to himself and i will go get food for him and our son. He has 2 past relationships that didn’t work out. I habe dealt with his mood swings and even paranoia. I have even moved 4 states ending up homeless to try and help him. I hate when everything is blamed on the aspie in the relationship. So unless you are an aspie. Dont be a jerk. We already spend our whole lives dealing with people like you and that is why there is such a high rate of suicide.

    1. Dear Cassandra. I am so sorry that you are suffering. Codependency comes in many forms, but none of it is healthy. Going homeless to help your spouse is an example of codependency. Blame is another. Wanting desperately to help someone you love is understandable, but to truly be helpful, you need to look at yourself and your motives. Codependency is not a symptom of Autism. Nor is it a characteristic of NTs alone. It is the result of trying to fix another person so that you can feel better about yourself. Whether you are rescuing, or blaming, or accepting the victim role, you are codependent. Isn’t it time to let go of your spouse and let him find his own way back to health? Isn’t it time to take back your life and be the real you, including the autistic part?

  6. I’m so glad this topic is being addressed. I’ve been living in shame for years. My aspie spouse thinks he can intrude on other people when we are out places. I’ve been yelled at by strangers because I suppose they think it’s my fault for allowing him to intrude and get too close to them. I stopped going out with him for about a year. He seems to not have any memory of anything. It is completely imbarrassing when he thinks he can do anything he wants and not be able to see the consequences of his actions. I’ve taught Cause and Effect to my 3rd grade students but my adult husband has no idea what I am talking about. Why doesn’t he understand anything I try to teach him? Why is it like talking to a brick wall?

  7. Its very sad that in most cases we are unaware that he has ASD.

    My „relationship” started like a fairytale and ended after 1 year (half of this was a totally horror which caused my depression, mental breakdown, loss of hair, anxiety, and 1 year later Im still dammaged/ he didnt hurted at all…)

    He is programming engineer (44yo) and Im a lawyer (37) We were totally in love, many plans for future, he was loving, gentle and caring and suddenly after ca. 5 months he started to show really weird and hurtfull behaviours. He blamed me and punished me for everything, even small things were problematic like mountains.

    He was very judgemental but he reacted almost HISTERICAL for even small innocent critique. Once I stated that he’s shoes are dirty and it look bad (even cleaned them for him) he took it as big insult (!) remembered it and was vindictive about it many times.

    But he had No problem to insult me with HORRIFIC bad words (w@ore, stupid idiot, „disgusting fraud, etc) after disagreements for things blowed out of proportions. His behaviours turned unexpected & quickly in to heavy EMOTIONAL ABUSE

    Examples: he SPITTED on me !!!! Just because I was bit sulky and offended after some disagreement we had and we went to his friends for a party, I scrolled most of the time on my phone and was sad and sulky (he ignored me) his friend took it as Im negative, after party he said that I showed big disrespect for him and his friends (…) and spitted at me in big rage.

    He threw away my belongings on my doormat ca 4 times after disagreement.

    He ran away and left me alone crying after he done or said something hurtfull.
    Ev. he just stared at me and waited for me to just stop crying. No emotions, NO PROPER REACTION, nothing. When I started calling him out, why he is so cruel while im crying, he stated that „the fact that I stopped crying and calling him out on his behaviour is an evidence that I faked crying just to manipulate him” (…)

    He is very succesful programmist but in emotional& life area behaved like someone who starts learning basics (he is 44 yo!). Often he searched in Google for „knowledge” about daily situations or „rules” and showed me that something is right even if that was a quote and I could easilly find similar quotes for opposite opinion (…) delusional

    Despite of the fact that Ive done everything in his house (cooking, cleaning, decorating) he refused to help me by Putting heavy vacuum cleaner in the closet as I wanted to dry my hair (!!!) He said he will not do such things and leaved my house, I cried… DEMAND AVOIDANCE? In this time I was shocked to the core, that man can refuse such basic minimal help for a woman who did everything in his house.

    He GASLIGHTED me and reinterpreted facts in crazy ways. He was always right even after insulting me, he still saw himself as authority in area of good behaviour and mannerism, just because he was extreme nice to other people (that was evidence that he is respected and right). He leaved me in really hurtfull situations (looked like abandoning or even breaking up) and then came after 1 day without any remorse expecting that I will „not talk about the past” and „be positive” ( he was positive and calm…)

    My first idea was Asperger but I excluded it because of his high competence to gain friends and contacts, so I „diagnosed” heavy NPD. All traits from Narcisstic disorder matched ….. I refused his 4months„hoover” thinking that he is a narcisst.

    He claimed that he loves me all the time, milion words about love and told me that we should reingage to sory things out, but he didnt changed his behaviours. at all.

    He STALKED me and send many hurtfull vindictive mails , even throwed my belongings in front of my door (I cried till getting fever).

    He stonewalled me and gave me SILENT TREATMENT milion times after he done something hurtfull

    As I was devastated for many months he started to partying and „recruited” new girlfriend in a 1 month (….) without any remorse, nothing.

    Im still trying to recover since 9 months and still feel depressed after all the hurt he caused. My therapist suspects it was 99% ASD because of his weird blindfull behaviours. I regret that I didnt stayed by my first „diagnosis” and thought he is a narcissist.

    His behaviours were often weird inadequate and really cruel and it looked really intentional, sometimes it looked like he doesnt know What he is doing. I loved him so much and now Im killing myself with thoughts that it could work out if I would react differently (I was hyperemotional cried loudly etc).

    The thought, that he will not hurt the next partner (that I was some kind of „training girl” for him and now he will behave properly with next one is killing me inside.
    I feel used and abused.

  8. Asperger’s and Narcissism may be different diagnostically, but the abuse feels the same. The explosive rages, silent treatments, dragging our children into “siding” with him, months and months of fighting because I said the kids should go to bed and he wanted them to stay up late on a school night because the Yankees were on. Baseball is his special interest. When the kids didn’t want to play little league, he blamed me (everything was always my fault, he is incapable of taking any self responsibility) and eventually I filed for divorce.

    I was a stay at home mom without access to marital assets. I went into debt 300,000 in legal fees. He fights every word. He can’t communicate with me, only through lawyers. He is preoccupied with fairness. It isn’t “fair” that I get to keep 100% of my salary ($4,000/ month) while he has to share his ($48,500/ month). A perverted sense of justice and faulty logic has made me want to die. Or give up custody. Or both. Just to escape his constant harassment and abuse. Which, of course, he doesn’t recognize. He’s a great guy, he tells everyone.

  9. Seperated now from my undiagnosed aspie husband when we were married unfortunately I lied for him to everyone family friends my kids my kids when young would ask me does dad love me I’d say of course he told me yesterday which the words love have never come out of his mouth another time when I had my heart attacks the dr would ask me wheres your husband I’d say he’s not well he’ll be to see me when he can there’s a lot more but I think you understand he had an affair and then turned around said it was my fault because I was never around I even begged him to see a marriage counsellor with me because I did love him and there’s 2 in a marriage but it’s always I’m the one who needs help he won’t acknowledge that he could have a problem I was married for 43 years took so much lied so he wouldn’t be looked upon as strange geaky or silly I knew there was something wrong I just thought he was shy quiet reserved but after all these years of trying and I won’t say abuse but mental torture for me and probably him but he just won’t even try to get help so like I said 12 months ago I left and let me say it was horrendous first of because I’ve lied for him to everyone everyone sees him as a quiet nice man and he is but he has no love no empathy no responsibility he does nothing I’ve done it all and taken all the abuse from our kids as he just stands there while I’m crying not one bit of support so I’ve left with no one no family not even my grandchildren will call me no one believes what he did to me and how I did everything in our marriage no friends no help no one it’s so lonely so hard yet after 12 months that marriage of 43 years is fading at first I fought that I didn’t want to lose memories as toxic as they were and 4 children and grandchildren but now I’m starting to smile starting to live don’t get me wrong the tears still fall when I see couples together with kids but there getting less I miss my family that we made together he’s got the favour of them and friends but now I see that life does go on and as time goes by it has to get easier tears will be less and I’m praying for someone to be apart of my life again to just go out enjoy a meal I don’t think I’ll wanna marry again but yes I’m missing human contact very much but to stay in that marriage for a human to just be there no thankyou I’m 64 and I’ve still got a few good happy years left I hope with someone you never know

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