Why Does My ASD Spouse Mimic Me and Others

What does mimicking mean? There are lots of ways to think about this. People with ASD will copy behavior and words we use because they do not learn empathically. Instead, they hope to connect by observation. With age, they might do it more often.

I’ve written quite a bit about the science behind “Asperger” behavior or why our loved ones on the spectrum react the way they do. Next week, I’ll be talking about this subject, and I’ll also be giving my second, and final video conference on the topic of “Why does my “Aspie” mimic me and others?”

Social interaction requires grace and skill. For NTs, this is something we acquire over time as a result of multiple social exchanges. We make connections. We compare ourselves to others. For our ASD loved ones, this process is very different. Mimicking is good enough because they have no idea there is anything behind our social behaviors. Their patterns of communication are different.

The world is full of patterns, and people on the spectrum also have patterns of communication. Once we understand these patterns, we can understand our “Aspie” better, so our relationships can improve. Once you know their patterns, you have a better chance of connecting in their world.

It took me forever to break the code because I was trying to understand them from an NT (neurotypical or non-autism spectrum) perspective. Once I let go of that notion, I could more easily see the patterns they use to make sense of the world.

Many of our loved ones on the spectrum chose us because we are very socially adept, or we are kind and compassionate, or another quality that makes it easier for them to mimic us, or come to rely on us to carry the social situation.

During my video conference, next week, I’ll be talking more about what this looks like and how to take back your right to your own self-expression. It is hard to understand that we are enough, and our feelings are valid. The very act of making choices, we prove how amazing we are. The freedom to choose is immensely important to our self-esteem. My blog, “Why Self-Compassion Is Better than Self-Confidence,” might be a useful read for you.

If you want to know more about these patterns and how to take back your life, I encourage you to join our MeetUp community, “Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD.” It’s a space for partners, family, and friends of people on the spectrum from around the world. This is a community that understands and can empathize with your daily struggles. 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.

15 Replies to “Why Does My ASD Spouse Mimic Me and Others”

  1. I posted a question re mimicking a while ago. Sadly, I will not be able to join the conference call at that time. Is there a way to hear a playback?

    The mimicking my husband does, is not the same as yours in the example you gave. He imitates my expressions if I am emotional, mostly when I am upset with him. This does not always happen but of course it happens at the worse time and I get so angry because it feels like I am being mocked.

    1. I can’t speak for every aspie since we are all different, but I tend to mimic those I really, really care about as we actually do desire a real connection, but have grave difficulty initiating and maintaining one; we copy others when we are attempting to experience a connection, or at least not feel so awkward.

      1. Thank you David for pointing out that all people want love and connection. Sadly mimicking doesn’t create the connection. The intent is there. The behavior is accurate. But the two need to mesh seamlessly for it to be felt as empathic connecting. On the other hand, more NTs need to understand that your heart is in the right place. To make an effort to connect, on behalf of the other person — well that is a kind of love isn’t it?

  2. I started a message that was sent before I finished it. Here is version 2

    I posted a question re mimicking a while ago. Sadly, I will not be able to join the conference call at that time. Is there a way to hear a playback?

    The mimicking my husband does, is not the same as yours in the example you gave. He imitates my expressions if I am emotional, mostly when I am upset with him. This does not always happen but of course it happens at the worse time and I get so angry because it feels like I am being mocked.

    1. Thank you for this comment. Mimicking is an unusual part of autism. In a way it is similar to echolalia and just as random. Most Autists can’t tell you why they mimic. I suspect it is related to their ability to observe behavior but not interact because they lack empathy and are confused By the context of an interaction. They act as if everything is a transaction. You make an expression on your face; they make an expression too. The problem of course is that merely mimicking is not connecting. Look for my blog on the Empathy Triad.

  3. Hi
    Everything I say, whether it’s a throw away comment or in answer to a question my husband takes the wrong way, if /when he repeats my words he uses such venom, with such a look of meanness on his face it usually makes me want to cry. He just doesn’t hear me or understand me, & I frankly don’t understand him either. In the last few years I have done much research into his hurtful comments & strange behaviour & I’m certain he is on the spectrum, but I dare not voice it because he would say in his calm, low menacing way, of course its bound to be my fault! you are always right & I’m always wrong. Is there anything we can do to help us understand each other, I’m at my wits end.

    1. Sadly your spouse is using verbal abuse to manage his problems. Your first step should be to step away from abuse. Never allow that to continue. Do not confront an abuser, since their agenda is to win at all costs. If your spouse cannot accept that he needs help, then your second option is to leave. However, many on the Spectrum don’t want their lives to unravel, and will cooperate with therapy if you leave them no other alternative. The angry, menacing behavior you describe Can be changed, but not by the victim.

      1. That is good advice. I am experiencing a lot of verbal abuse from my ASD husband. He won’t seek help. I can’t take it any longer. I need to leave, you are right I can fix him and I can’t allow him to destroy me any longer.

  4. I’m reading all of this and thinking how good it would also be if someone like you teamed up with someone like Mark Hutten. So AS explaining from AS who knows how different each one is, and NT from NT, plus the overlap you both have into the “other side”.

    I’m not sure how Mark would process that but I’m throwing it out there as a suggestion for someone, someday, maybe to do, whether it’s with Mark or otherwise!

    Thx for all of your work

    1. Has Mark Hutten said he was AS? Or does it seem that way for the NT? Wouldn’t that duality of approach be great even on a now & then basis?

  5. Hey Kathy, I have asperger’s, 21 years old and single. Can people with asperger’s develop empathy at all for others? if so, how?

    1. Thank you for your question Jeremy. Many people with ASD believe that they have empathy, because they are kind, compassionate people. However, empathy is the ability to read the person within the context of the moment, not necessarily being kind or compassionate. It is this instant understanding that NTs call connecting. Generally it takes much longer for Autists to grasp these moments. Because those with ASD have to process everything at an analytical level, this takes longer. By the time the understanding arrives, the moment is lost and so is the connection. I always tell my ASD clients not to give up on love, but to use “work arounds” to empathy. For example, you might say “I’m terrible at reading between the lines, so sometimes I miss the point. But I really want to learn more about you.” Most people don’t mind that you didn’t connect empathically, as long as you let them know you care.

  6. I’m losing it with a good friend who’s autistic. She is totally reliant on codependency to always have someone around to mirror. I stepped away from being enmeshed with her when I had a tragedy show up in my life and she just couldn’t hold space for me. After that, I told her she’s autistic bc I couldn’t bear to watch her repeat this mirroring w everyone. Down to getting the exact haircut & color as the cat sitter. It’s really hurt my feelings after all the compassion I’ve given her that she’s incapable of showing up for me in a connected way. What on earth is the benefit of having an autistic friend? I feel like nanny to a totally checked/out pretend friend.

    1. It can be heartbreaking to realize that you were the glue that held her life together. She needed yoour compassion but not your life’s blood. If she can’t take responsibility for here own life, take back yours.

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