Calling all Aspies
June 25, 2010 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Dear Metafites who have been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, If you are in a romantic relationship (or hope to be in a relationship in the future), what would you like your girlfriend/boyfriend to know about AS? Are there any books on AS that you would want your girlfriend/boyfriend to read?

I am a neurotypical, geeky, introverted, somewhat shy (but highly sociable) woman.

My boyfriend of two-and-a-half years (who is witty, sweet, intelligent, geeky and quite shy) was diagnosed with AS mid last year.

I love him dearly (and vice versa) but it has become apparent through several misunderstandings on my part or his that I really, really need to learn a lot more about AS in order to understand where he is coming from better, and give our relationship a better chance of succeeding in the mid to long term.

So far, I have read the following books:

Unwritten rules of social relationships: decoding social mysteries through the unique perspectives of autism by Temple Grandin

The complete guide to Asperger's syndrome by Tony Attwood

Social skills for teenagers and adults with Asperger's Syndrome by Nancy J. Patrick

Asperger Syndrome and social relationships by Genevieve Edmonds

Love, sex and long-term relationships: what people with Asperger Syndrome really really want by Sarah Hendrickx

Survival Strategies for People on the Autism Spectrum by Marc Fleisher

I am looking for recommendations for further reading (there are 625 books about AS on Book Depository, I can't read them all, so I need to narrow it down!), and also general hints and tips on dating a man with AS.

Internet resources (websites, discussion forums) would also be very welcome! ^_^

Throwaway email:

Thank you! ^_^
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (6 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

Mary and Max.

(I don't have AS but I'm close to a person (relative) who almost certainly is.. autism is stigmatized and very poorly understood where I am and an AS diagnosis is both rare and invariably late. The above resources, in addition to making me more sensitive to the varied manifestations of AS, have also helped me cope better with the two main challenges of interacting with an AS individual: understanding their needs and accepting their reactions. Also, the book is amazing in its own right, and the movie is great as well.)
posted by mondaygreens at 9:25 AM on June 25, 2010

Thank you for making the effort! (That sounds condescending, but I mean it from the heart.)

-- abrupt-activity transitions are tough. If my wife say, "Hey, let's go to a movie," it's almost like I can feel a series of steps taking place in my head: recall info on "movies"; recall procedure for "going to a movie"; plan what you need to bring; think about what will happen while there; think about what will happen when it's over...

If she suddenly says, "Naw, forget the movie, let's stay home," I may have shifted deeply into movie mode, and it may take me time to switch to another mode. I am a grownup. I can do this. Just give me a minute. I need to stop one routine running, take a breath, and then start another one.

-- Especially don't spring socializing on me! I like being around people, but it takes a huge amount of mental processing, and it gets tiring quickly. I need to marshal my forces. So "you wanna get dinner with Bill and Michelle tomorrow night?" is fine. I'll have trouble with, "Oh, I forget. Bill and Michelle are coming over in five minutes."

When I go out, I always need an escape route. That doesn't mean I don't want to go out. It means I don't want to be TRAPPED out. I am not ever going to want to be at a party without an pre-specified ride home.

-- I can't multitask. If I am reading metafilter and you suddenly start talking to me, I may miss the first sentence you say. I have to get out of metafilter mode and into listening-to-you mode. I would RATHER listen to you. But I can't instantly switch to it. This hurts my wife's feelings sometimes, because she likes to throw off-the-cuff comments at me, when we're both doing other things. She can instantly switch from what she's doing to talking to me (to back to what she was doing). I can't.

I hate that this hurts her feelings, and I try to change. I will keep trying, but honestly I just don't think I'm built for that sort of fast switching.

So say, "hey" or something, wait for my full attention, and then go on. Or don't, but realize I'll be transitioning while you're talking, and so I'll probably miss the beginning of what you're saying.

Sometimes it's not obvious to me that I missed anything. My wife says, "were you even listening to me?" I say (and mean) "yes." But she's right, I wasn't. I am so confused during the transition time, I can't introspect very well.

-- When things are chaotic (especially socially chaotic), I feel panicky. I am good at dealing with it and can do so on my own. But at those times, I need space. If we're at a loud bar, I may need to go outside and walk around the block. It's not a big deal. It's just me quieting my mind down. Let me do it.

-- I am VERY sensitive to stimuli. If I say that the TV is too loud (or too quiet), it's probably not just a slight irritation for me. The "bad" sound is building up something in my head that feels like it's about to explode. Please let me adjust the volume (get the wrinkles out of the sheets, whatever).

-- don't put up with my shit. If I go on and on about something you're not interested in -- or if I behave in a socially-unacceptable way -- tell me. I may not get it on my own. Don't make a big deal about it. Just say, "I'm sorry. I can't really hear more about Iambic Pentameter (or whatever) today." It's your job to communicate this to me calmly, without irritation. It's my job to deal with the problem.
posted by grumblebee at 9:28 AM on June 25, 2010 [31 favorites]

woops, rather than writing only 'k' i meant to write some others things as well.

but then i thought i shouldn't write them.

and now i don't know.

there are just many delicate balances on this issue. try not to see aspergers as a deficit, just as a difference.

and try not to make it a huge issue in the relationship, and don't take it on as something you need to manage. he should be working just as hard to understand you and your responses as you are.

personally, i feel that as someone who has been diagnosed with aspergers myself that i am a very independent person, and need to deal with this independently. as soon as i realised it was my problem and no one elses everything has been smooth sailing

all the very best
posted by frequently at 11:43 AM on June 25, 2010

You could go with The Other Half of Asperger Syndrome and then check out this page on Amazon.
posted by bolognius maximus at 3:40 PM on June 25, 2010

Echoing everything grumblebee said above.

Your research (and desire to understand!) are commendable.

I'll add an additional suggestion to keep those things in mind but also see him as an individual; although we tend to have some common traits, the degree to which we have any given "symptom" can vary greatly. For example, I cannot stand crowds such as a mall or big event but don't have much of a problem in bars/clubs. If I know someone there, that helps but I can usually go to a club by myself without incident. That might be unthinkable to another. Some of us really dislike physical touch, some of us have grown to appreciate it.

The key thing I battle with daily is overstimulation. I can deal with the social misunderstandings and always saying the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time, but I cannot handle too many things going on at once. It just short-circuits me.

Noise volume is a very contentious issue in my household; I live with a part-time couch potato who won't admit he has a hearing problem so the volume is AT ELEVEN ALL THE TIME. And apparently every tv show in the 70s and 80s required heavy use of horns in their theme song FUCKING TRUMPETS MAKE THEM STOP CHRIST CHRIST!

Shrill noises, whistling, flashing lights; these things are not an annoyance, they actually, mentally, physically hurt me.

Downtime is critical. I need a few hours a day to myself to recharge and assimilate the day's experiences. If he's the same or similar, the best thing I think I can tell you that will help is that you are probably not an exception, but don't take it personally. I love my accomplice to bits but a constant sore spot is when I'm having a bad day I need to be alone in a quiet room with as little stimulation as possible. He firmly believes that hugs and cuddling and talking about it makes everything better. It doesn't. Needing to be by myself for a while means exactly that, it does not mean being by myself with you. Try to see it as self-preservation and not as rejection.

All that said, try not to focus too much on the diagnosis, if possible. You're living with the same person that you were before he was diagnosed. Don't let it define your perceptions of him, and don't let him use it as an excuse (see grumblebee's "don't put up with my shit" suggestion above).
posted by geckoinpdx at 3:47 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm an aspie, my husband has also some of the traits of an aspie.

The big, big thing is: when I say 'leave me alone' what I really mean is that I want to be alone. I don't think that you're a bad person, or that I don't want to be around you in general, it's just that right now, in this minute, I desperately need to be alone. A lot of aspie-partners have trouble with this, especially depending upon the level and time of alone-ness needed. I'm a bit extreme in that sense; I need about 2hrs/day of absolute solitude. That means no seeing or hearing other people in my space. My husband needs an hour every couple of days, and it just means not talking at him (as opposed to being visually and aurally totally absent).

Another thing. Feedback and debriefing can be very important. I like to have calm critique of how I act, and have asked my friends that if I start acting in a way that isn't socially right, that they tell me, there and then, exactly what it is that I am doing incorrectly. I'm not going to get upset about it (although some aspies might), but I may ask for more data, examples, and suggestions for replacement behaviour. An occasionally totally inappropriate trait of mine is to start analyzing behaviour clinically and dispassionately, which upsets a lot of people, even if it's just my own behaviour I'm doing it about. It is vital that I get to discuss that stuff in the presence of normal people on occasion, because well, I'm not going to learn what I'm doing wrong if I can't get suggestions on what to do right. It's not like it's going to come naturally to me.

There is, of course, a lot more, but that's what springs firstly to mind.
posted by ysabet at 12:43 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

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