How Not to Communicate with your ASD Partner

You have been doing it all wrong in your relationships if you have been following the usual advice on improving communications with a loved one on the Autism Spectrum. Listening to your heart – being direct – using a “soft” startup to a conversation – active listening – all will bring the wrong outcome. 

 

Connecting with your ASD loved one requires so much more than you realize. You will be frustrated if you use these standard approaches, just as these folks below. Can you tell which comments came from the “Aspie” and which the NT?

 

  • “I don’t get small talk. It seems like a waste of time to me.” From a puzzled “Aspie.” 

 

  • “I am very direct. I mean, what’s the point of wandering around and not getting to the point? I like to get right down to business and explain the little things later. Like the time I was trying to explain to my partner that the way he talks to me is hurtful.” From a well-intended, but indirect NT.

 

  • “My partner likes small talk. I guess it makes her happy to gab and gossip. So, I politely wait until she is finished.” From an ill-informed “Aspie.” I wrote a blog post entitled Why is Small Talk the Bane of “Aspies”? to talk about this specific topic.

 

  • “You know, I have needs too. So, I am direct about them. It’s just that he doesn’t think my needs are important.” From an NT who is drawing an incorrect conclusion.

 

  • “My wife accuses me of not listening, but I am an excellent listener. I hear every word she says. It’s just that she wanders around so much, that I lose track of the point.” From an “Aspie” who thinks listening is documenting word flow. Understanding Context Blindness in our ASD partners is important.

 

  • “Why doesn’t he listen to me when I tell him how I feel? He’s such a robot!” From an NT who wants an intuitive understanding of her inner process.

 

  • “She thinks I have no feelings and yells at me over nothing.” From an “Aspie” who recognizes the anger but has no idea what to do with it.

 

  • “I don’t deserve to be treated this way by my own spouse!” Both “Aspie” and NT feel this way, and so the tragedy unfolds.

 

I am sure that most of these comments sound very familiar to you. You’ve been there; done that. Tired of the same old, same old? Confused, hurt, angry? There’s a good reason. If you are NT you have been approaching your partner expecting Empathy, using Context Sensitivity as your matrix, and waiting for your partner to recognize You, the You who is talking.

On the other hand, if you are “Aspie” your distress is justified because you are being asked to operate as an NT, but without the skill. Furthermore, you’d just like to be taken at your word, instead of all of the innuendo thrown your way.

Relationships are hard. Throw out all empathy from one of the partners and you get a whole new mix. Because people on the spectrum lack empathy, they inadvertently cause others to feel ignored, unappreciated and unloved. Many cope by coming up with an explanation of why life has turned out the way it has. But these explanations change nothing. 

Everything you talk about should be about what you’re feeling or hearing or seeing or smelling right now. Don’t analyze. Don’t blame others or yourself. Don’t judge either. No complaining. No explaining.

If you are part of my MeetUp group, Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD, let’s dive into these communication problems and find solutions. In this post, I’ve been giving examples of daily talk with your ASD spouse and why using an empathic approach won’t work. Join me for video conferences and join our small group to discuss these serious issues. If you want a 1-1 session with me, I also offer video conferences and teleconferences every week to discuss and make a plan on how to improve and move on with your life. Check my Contact page to schedule an appointment.

13 Replies to “How Not to Communicate with your ASD Partner”

    1. Hi Shannon. Thank you for asking. During Covid I am only doing video, but I do have clients all over the world. Just go to my page on the website for directions and fees. Or you can call my assistant Kathleen at 503-#22-6678, Oregon USA.

  1. Hi Dr. Marshack–I’m writing just to say how much I appreciated the one video conference I’ve attended of your MeetUp group–the discussion was extremely helpful. I hope to be able to attend one or more meetings in the future. –Lisa

  2. Hi Dr Marshack,
    I really enjoy reading your blog and find it interesting as well as helpful as I navigate life with my aspie spouse. It’s great to know I’m not alone and it’s made our relationship stronger.
    Take care,
    Kate

    1. It is so rewarding to hear that my blogs are helping you and your partner. My heart is especially warmed when our “Aspies” find a benefit too.

  3. Hi Dr Marshack, thank you for your blogs and links. Have been to a few of your teleconferences. The one on Empathy dysfunction was enlightening since learning that Empathy is a 2 way street. Have started Couples so your information on what makes a good one the an ASD/NT marriage is helpful!

  4. Dr Marshack,

    To me you are a breath of fresh air. Your website is very informative and I am interested in getting Attending your video conferences.

    After spending just two days with my ASD. partner, this morning I am not even able to get out of bed I am so depressed. He was in such a foul mood, Would not talk to me, gave me dirty looks, and was just disagreeable overall. Just two days ago I had a conversation about him about Smalltalk. His answer was that it was superficial. Similar to another ASD Who said he didn’t see the point of it. Help me please. I am not able to leave this relationship for financial reasons. I do have a Plan B but it would take up to five years to implement it. So how do I live the next five years in a 33 foot airstream With my partner who has autism, high functioning I presume. He is a nuclear and gas and oil engineer.

  5. Dear Dr. Marshack,

    I am a bit confused with the terminology. I was under the impression that they don’t use the word Asperger’s anymore since it is now on the autism spectrum disorder. Is it one in the same?

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