No time is a good time
February 24, 2014 6:33 AM   Subscribe

When should I suggest to my partner that he may have Aspergers?

My partner is an incredible guy. Best partner so far. I am super super happy with him 80% of the time... which is ALMOST enough for me. But we have some major communication difficulties that lead to emotional stalemates... he has various characteristics that have hinted towards something like aspergers.

He has no relationships outside of his immediate family and myself. He is 46, if it matters. (although he deeply longs for having friends, but he tries to make friends by buying meals or entertaining- but he seems unable to make the deeper efforts, like remembering that someone has x going on, and asking about it later, or making sure that conversations are balanced... he lacks the wisdom to know that he's talked too much about himself and when to turn the convo back to the target friend) I tend to make the friends, bring him along, and strategically interject questions to the person we're chatting with- to keep the flow...

And other traits I notice are handflapping, and a very very strict list of dietary needs for various reasons. Some bizarre nighttime routines. He hates bright lights. He has a bizarre and strict routine and diet. He is also super smart and loves planes. Successful engineer.

I can handle ALL of that.

But the stuff with me hurts sometimes.

He has difficulty expressing emotional support if he is not feeling loving to me at that moment. So that is difficult when I have PMS once a month and also when he is travelling. In PMS case, I'm probably not that lovable... and when he is travelling I am out of sight and out of mind. It hurts. He acts like I'm the best thing since sliced bread, but then its like I don't exist when he is travelling or spending time with his son.

I've been able to manage it, I would go to a friends house in a different european city and then catch a 2 hour flight back... and things quickly get back to normal. But today. No.

He lacks the ability to put my situations into context. SO LIKE TODAY- I just got finished with an incredible whirlwind trip from Europe to Iceland to Denver to LA and from LA to Denver to Iceland to Home... 5 hour layover in denver... in 6 days. Huge suitcase. I am so tired. I caught a cold on day 2 in Denver... and he was nice about it in a couple instances.

Then he went off into the mountains for 3 days, so he wouldn't be available on the phone. COOL! fine. I got that. But he was due back in town the night before my return flight and he never contacted me.

I emailed him the night before I was to start my 21 hour journey back and I never got a response (he was a project manager for mobile phones, so its not like he wasn't on his phone, and he managed to post a ridiculous selfie on facebook... so he got online)... but nothing to me.

I got on the flight from LA to denver and was looking forward to hearing from him. I landed and nothing. By that time, I thought- he must be home, he must ring or text or email about how I am getting on and wish me a nice trip. And nothing.

I finally phoned and he had gone to bed. Some travel plans had been scuppered so he had to help someone book an early flight the next day, yadda yadda yadda...

I cried hot tears at Denver International and fumed from Denver to Iceland. When do I factor in?

He has no problem asking me to make changes so that I suit him better. But when I need to be contacted regularly when he's away he just says that he doesn't need to talk everyday and "its just not how he works" "he's not feeling it" "won't give reassurances when he is asked".... but this is from the most critical man on the planet. I get a display of disdain if my smoothie looks to big (even if its half water) or I've eaten foods he believes are bad- like peanut butter or cream cheese. I hate being nitpicked over tiny shit and he can't make a single effort to give me the social niceties that would make me feel so much better. .. I'm used to that crap from him but I've been okay with it... but on a 21 hour journey? I'm his sick girlfriend? Send a text. I never thought he could overlook me like that. When I am not in sight I am completely out of mind.

He won't inform me about changes of plans, or business trips. And I hate finding those tings out by surprise.

I very truly feel that he would be doing these things if it made sense to him, but I don't think it does. But when someone doesn't maintain contact with me then the last thing I want to do is see them for dinner and have sex. I need what I need to give what he needs. If someone has had the ability to speak to me and then for a day or 2 and they choose not to- then they (he) feels very distant and far away and I don't want to have dinner, watch tv, fuck-end of story.

But he is not getting that. At all.

But then the other 80% of our relationship is great... so I don't want to DTMFA.

But he has no manners and I strongly suspect aspergers. We are in counselling.... But when should I suggest that some of this stuff is Aspie.? Is it even worth it?
posted by misspony to Human Relations (37 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
He acts like I'm the best thing since sliced bread, but then its like I don't exist when he is travelling or spending time with his son.

First off, spent with his son is for his son - it's quality father-son time. I do not blame him one iota for not thinking of you much when he's spending quality time with his son, and to be frank it raises some major red flags for me that you expect otherwise. Similarly (but to a lesser extent), travel is often for work or for personal enjoyment; the first exists largely outside of the bounds of your relationship, and even the latter exists partly outside those bounds (even people in relationships need alone time).

That said, it seems like the biggest issue here is a discrepancy in how frequently you each think the other should "check in." For him, it's infrequently; for you, it's very frequently/nearly constantly. Have you tried to bring this up in therapy?

Finally: But when should I suggest that some of this stuff is Aspie.? Is it even worth it? I don't think so. If your therapist thought this diagnosis was likely, wouldn't he/she have suggested it by now? I think you are likely to damage your relationship if you bring this up.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:47 AM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I understand all the travel stuff is fresh so you're upset, but... what's the point of telling him you think this is Asperger's related? To make him feel pathological in some way? These behaviors don't go away just because there's a diagnosis made.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 6:50 AM on February 24, 2014 [19 favorites]

What part of knowing that he's on the autism spectrum do you think is actually going to make this better? That's the thing about telling people you think they have X--you have to think about where you actually want that to go. What do you want to happen at that point? How does knowing that change him? He's 46; his habits are ingrained a lot more than they are in a ten-year-old. If he identified that he wanted to change some of those habits, a therapist could help with that, but a therapist could help with that whether or not he's got that particular label. If he doesn't actually want to change, all the labels in the world will not make this better.

I mean, I don't disagree with you that this is likely, but the thing is, lots of people with these problems still manage to have good relationships because they're putting effort into trying to be good partners. If he is not already making the effort, then putting a label on the problem does not make the problem go away, and there are a million things he could already be doing to make this better if he was so inclined, but at the same time, none of them are such brilliant fixes that a diagnosis is going to lead to something easy he can do that will make this all better.
posted by Sequence at 6:50 AM on February 24, 2014 [10 favorites]

I do not see how any of what you describe would change were you to share your suspicion that he has Asperger's. I'll also opine that this seems within the limits of "normal" couples conflict to me, and it would be unhelpful to ascribe any/all of it to a condition.

The dude doesn't like having to check in when he's travelling or with his son. This is not an unreasonable preference. Nor is yours. Find a compromise.
posted by deadweightloss at 6:50 AM on February 24, 2014

You don't seem to respect this person, much less love him. I suspect that once (if) those things are in place, having a conversation about investigating an Aspergers diagnosis will be the easy part.
posted by 0 at 6:55 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

First; a hug. A big hug. I'm sorry you are going through this.

I have some thoughts that might be hard to hear.

In my opinion, it doesn't even matter what the underlying issue is with your boyfriend. My ex (who was abusive) had a lot a lot of similar traits that you describe, including being hypercritical about what food I ate, going out of town for work constantly without telling me, ignoring me when he felt like it particularly when one of us was traveling, etc. I know he had a mental illness of some kind but I don't know what it was and I can't diagnose or speculate because I am not a doctor. And he did not believe in therapy so he never got diagnosed. He did things like take kitchen knives, heat them up on the stove, and burn his flesh when he was upset about minor inconveniences. He had a mental illness. Sorry, I am getting away from my point, I guess I just want to make it clear that I'm not just bandying about the term "mentally ill."

My point is that ok, he had something wrong and it definitely influenced his behavior and his treatment of me. And talking with him about it did not work. His behavior didnt change. In fact, it got worse.

The critical stuff about food in particular that you describe just has so much potential to do damage to you. And being ignored by the person who says they love you is incredibly painful. And it really is not hard to send a text, and he knows it matters to you - I gather that you have voiced this need with him from your question. It doesn't matter why he isn't doing it - he isn't doing what you need.

My new boyfriend is a bit incommunicado at times. I said to him once something like "hey, I like hearing from you every day or two. Just a text or a hello. Nothing fancy." You know what? I can count on hearing from him nearly every day now. He is super set in his ways and doesn't like small talk and is very in the moment and I know this is hard for him to do but, as he said, I am worth it.

You are worth it.

Also, I know you were just kind of throwing out a number, but if 20% of your relationship doesn't work, stretch that out over a year. That's two and a half months of it not working. How about a lifetime? In four years you will have had almost a year of being at best unsatisfied and at worst downright miserable. It's a substantial chunk of your life spent unhappy with your relationship. Not just unhappy, even - of being treated in a way that makes you feel like you do not matter.

You matter. I wish you the best as you figure this situation out.
posted by sockermom at 6:55 AM on February 24, 2014 [29 favorites]

Personally I wouldn't continue to date someone who when I asked for something important to me answers with "its just not how he works" or someone who "won't give reassurances when he is asked" (seriously, WTF is that?) or who displays disdain if I make a smoothie too big or eat something he doesn't like (I mean really?)

Labeling him "aspergers" isn't going to change his behavior. If anything it could become a way for him to justify continuing to behave like this. If you have a problem with his behavior (and I certainly would), address the behavior, not the label for it.
posted by ook at 6:58 AM on February 24, 2014 [27 favorites]

Oh, and I say that in general he might be on the spectrum not because of the communication issues alone, but because, in particular, if you're accurately describing his behavior as hand-flapping, that's something that happens virtually never in normal-functioning adults without sensory processing issues. If you brought it up independently of these other issues, I guess it might be worthwhile to point out that occupational therapy and some changes to his sensory diet might make life in general less uncomfortable. But it will not make him fundamentally more considerate.
posted by Sequence at 7:01 AM on February 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

What do you think is going to happen if he gets an Asperger's diagnosis? He is 46 years old. Change will be difficult at best.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:03 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Even if you were professionally qualified (not mentioned), it would be very unwise to attempt diagnosing someone from inside a relationship (I do say "attempt" because you say "suggest").

You say you're in counseling, so talk about your feelings regarding his emotional unavailability. Explain clearly how you feel about physical intimacy when you feel emotionally neglected.

Please do not continue trying to run interference when out with friends; he will either lose relationships or keep them, but it is not up to you to manage his behavior.

I realize I may sound unsympathetic, but I'm not at all. My husband and I have been through similar issues, as well as having spent much time in counseling), and for a long while I thought it would make me feel better to know his behavior toward me--or too often, lack thereof--was the result of some undiagnosed disorder... that way, I thought, I wouldn't take it quite so personally when his lack of empathy caused me horrible pain. I do understand your inclination to go this route, but truly it will not help as much as you might hope.

Express your needs. Express your frustration (this will go much better if you can do so with few words about how you feel--not many words about what he does "wrong"). If he says he can't change, ask if he wants to. If he doesn't, you need to accept that and decide whether this will work as it is. If he does want to change, and doesn't know how, you could ask if he'd be open to individual therapy, as that could help him become more of who he wants to be (if that includes being a partner to you, express again what you feel you need in order for that to be an option).

But when should I suggest that some of this stuff is Aspie.? Is it even worth it?

Never, and no.
posted by whoiam at 7:06 AM on February 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Some (though not all) people with Asperger's do not excel at social norms. A diagnosis can be useful in helping him understand that these social norms are at play around him and he may be not seeing, dismissing or ignoring them. Knowing you have deficits is pretty crucial information if you've any interest in compensating for them. For example, if you've never picked up on it, it's useful to know that adults do not make faces when they are faced with foods other people are eating. That is obvious and therefore rude to many of us; it's neither to others, including some with Asperger's.

On the flip side, if you are the partner of someone with Asperger's, it's helpful to know that because it can decrease the "if you really loved me, you'd X" and "how can you not see that I need you to Y?" drama evident in the OP because those failures have nothing to do with you.

For a diagnosis to be useful, it would require your boyfriend to be on board with what a diagnosis could mean for him. Personally, I would bring it up.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:15 AM on February 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

But when someone doesn't maintain contact with me then the last thing I want to do is see them for dinner and have sex. I need what I need to give what he needs.

I'm not sure I understand this part of it. Do you have dinner and sleep over grudgingly and think "I shouldn't do this. I'm not feeling it" or do you tell him "No, I am not going to do this. I do not feel close to you right now and I need some me-time"? I know guys who are like your guy (my dad was basically that guy exactly. I date someone who is the opposite of that guy) and it seems like

1. I agree with people an Aspergers diagnosis isn't going to matter
2. A discussion about "I don't care if it's not what you want, relationships involve compromise and I am asking you to compromise on doing exactly what you want in all cases" topics
3. Consider an unromantic but basically functional tool like Romantimatic to basically set outline of what sort of communication you want (you can read the author's thoughts on the backlash he got for this on his blog)

After #2 you need to think about what you want and if you are getting it with the other 80% of the time you spend together.

I am a lot like your guy. I have food concerns, a bedtime routine, I can't deal with bright lights, etc. However in my relationship I am able to have decent back and forth conversations with my partner about what things I need in the relationship, what things I like but aren't necessary and what things I don't care about. If there's a thing that i don't care about that he needs (or wants) then we talk it out. I need to communicate a lot more than he does (we don't live together) so we work out a routine for that. Not super-romantic, but his sticking to that is a way of showing me he cares. Me explaining exactly what I need is my way of showing him what matters to me. Neither of us is psychic and if I wanted a guy who "Just knew" what I wanted, I'd date someone else.

You are upset and stressed because of your long trip and I'm sorry you are feeling crappy that your guy didn't communicate with you in the way you wanted. That feels bad. That said, it's not that you are right and he is wrong, you guys are having a "bad fit" situation and you both need to figure out wants/needs/don't care and find a compromise position that works for you. I think the concern is that you are feeling if it turns out that you are neurotypical and he is not, that might give you some leverage for what you want. I don't think it works that way especially with someone who can take or leave a lot of emotional stuff to begin with
posted by jessamyn at 7:15 AM on February 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

You need to stop trying to control your partner and come to terms with your need and desire to do so. Slapping him with a diagnosis you are not qualified to make in order to gain more attention from him is wrong and you know it. Examine yourself first before you start pathologizing him.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:16 AM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wait, is he feeling some kind of way because you didn't have sex with him?

That's a deal breaker to me.
posted by spunweb at 7:22 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @spunweb- no, I always like to have sex because its a huge part of our relationship.

re: the son- YES YES YES! He doesn't need to check in with me when he is busy with kid. BUT he had 3 days in the mountains without contact. That's enough, and he usually rings after and didn't this time. And this time just happened to be when I was in the middle of a HUGE exhausting journey while I was sick.

But when he has been with the kid in the past, respect doesn't seem to be there. For example: we were on vacation with the kid and I was talking to Partner about lunch plans, nothing heady, and the second my last syllable was out of my mouth- the door closed. Which meant he was closing the door while I was still talking. It was rude. And when kid is around he will actively turn his back to me... and I am not talking deep conversation.

@0- As for respect for him: today, no, I don't have a lot of respect for him.

That's what worries me, when respect withers its really hard to get back. And I guess part of me feels like maybe he isn't outright disrespecting me... maybe there is something more going on.

Okay, I will avoid threadsitting now!
posted by misspony at 7:30 AM on February 24, 2014

I would be sweet if every relationship problem could be put down to a diagnosis. But it can't. At this point, you've got what you've got in this man.

You've asked him to make changes to make you happier in the relationship and he's full-on refused. Yet he has many, many rules for you, which you take to heart and agree to alter.

What's wrong with this picture?

I'm always a bit skeptical when people excuse shitty behavior with a "diagnosis" of Aspergers. For fuck's sake, not every asshole has autism. Some people are just jerks.

Also, take a cue from your couples therapist. Notice how he/she isn't mentioning this as a possibility, nor is this person suggesting that due to this, that your boyfriend's behavior should be excused.

No matter, what it boils down to is, are you willing to remain in a relationship where things are on your BF's terms 100% and you don't get to have an opinion about it? If so, soldier on. If not, start thinking critically about why it is you're willing to put up with some pretty terrible treatment from someone whom you claim to love and who claims to love you back.

No reltaionship is without its bumps, but I'm seeing some pretty serious red flags here. Start listening and questioning in counseling.

It may be that it's time to move onto someone who can fulfill your emotional needs.

I mean, you FLY somewhere once a month because of PMS? Shit, that's pretty extreme. Most people just cocoon in the bedroom, eat chocolate and hug a hot water bottle. That alone should tell you this ain't normal.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:31 AM on February 24, 2014 [10 favorites]

As others have said, I suspect that suggesting he has Asperger’s won’t help much. Even if he agrees, it’s not likely to push him to change.

I may be projecting, but it seems like part of your problem isn’t so much that he isn’t keeping in touch as you want, but that he doesn’t WANT to do that. It might help to recognize that this trait of his doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about you. You feel (quite reasonably! I’m not blaming you here!) that if he loves you, he would want to do those things. But that’s probably not true. The way he experiences and enjoys relationships is different from yours. It may be one that you can’t feel safe in or accept, and that’s 100% valid. But if you are able to internalize that his behavior doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, it might help you find ways to make the relationship work better.

That said, it is more than legitimate for you to expect him to do things for you for your sake even if he doesn’t want to. That’s part of most relationships. What happens if you explicitly say, “I need you to do these specific things for me to feel loved”? It sounds like you may have tried this and he’s refused, but I’m not sure if you discussed it in quite that way.

If you decide to stay with him, you may find that you need to ask for what you need when you need it. Like, if you want to feel some comfort when you’re apart, that might mean you sending a text saying “I’m feeling x right now; please write back and tell me how much you love me” or some such.
posted by metasarah at 7:36 AM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Also- we are in Norway, and having once a month counselling through the state... its not your usual american therapy fare.... BUT- in his defense, he is totally into it... he had hated the idea at first, but after I suggested he attend with his son, he felt empowered and was willing to go with me.
posted by misspony at 7:44 AM on February 24, 2014

For info about how one woman handled this issue with her husband, google "David and Karen Finch" (countless articles and interviews, including a This American Life segment, and he's written a book).

Here are David's opening remarks from the transcript of one interview:

Kristen came up to me in the kitchen and she gave me a big hug and at that point in our marriage we had been married about five years. We had certainly grown apart from one another, our marriage was more or less falling apart, I mean, it was, uh, we didn't feel like we were a married couple, we didn't feel like we were friends and so for her to come and give me a hug was actually a pretty big deal. And she said "Why don't you come down to the basement? There's something I want to show you." So I said "Okay." I just pretty much do whatever I'm told. So, I went down to the basement with her in her office. She's a, Kristen's a speech therapist, she had been working with children with autism and around that time one of the families had asked her if she could try to find some, like, online diagnostic evaluation resources to help determine if their kids had Asperger's before they engaged a doctor and a therapist and everything. And so she said, "Sure!" and she stumbled upon this thing called the Aspie quiz. It was 153 questions designed to tell you whether or not you are a likely candidate, if you fit the profile.
posted by she's not there at 8:10 AM on February 24, 2014

This is something that's probably better to bring up with your therapist, but don't spring it on him in therapy. Tell him you want to discuss the possibility in therapy, and for Pete's sake, tell him you think it's a possibility, not that he definitely has it. This is going to be hard for him to here. Be prepared for him to not take the news well. This is something better addressed in couples' therapy because there you have someone who is trained to deal with both of your reactions. That, and the therapist is more qualified than you are to make a diagnosis.

Let me tell you. It HURTS a lot when someone you love and care about tells you there's something mentally "wrong" with you, particularly if they think you might be on the autism spectrum and you think you do just fine in life and with your friendships.

Telling him what you think is very likely to make him feel worse than he does already about not meeting your emotional needs. It causes a lot of self doubt. "I just go about my day, I try to make her happy, and she's not, and I don't know why." That sucks, man.
posted by tckma at 8:26 AM on February 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

He just sounds kind of mean and inconsiderate to me, I mean, you say he's great 80% of the time, but then you also say he's highly, constantly critical and nitpicky, and won't inform you about plans and business trips, which is really highly inconsiderate and relationship-sabotaging. I don't know how you can feel emotionally safe in that setup.

The stuff about contact during trips, I don't think is a deal breaker. If you miss him, call him. You shouldn't be keeping score on who calls who. (If he won't pick up the phone or return a text though, then, again: mean and inconsiderate.) And I'm not clear if you're saying that you leave town every time he leaves town? If that's true, that kind of sounds like you have a higher-than-normal aversion to being alone, and maybe are needier than average. But the rest of it sounds like a perfectly understandable resentment of someone being mean and inconsiderate.

Maybe you want a diagnosis so that he can be told "your wiring makes you incapable of making the right choice on your own, so just do what your girlfriend is asking you to do" and he'll do it? Not sure if that is realistic.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:27 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I dated someone that I suspected had some version of Aspergers (his friends had also independently suggested it to him).

He was not mean and dismissive.

He was emotionally tone deaf - couldn't see in times of crisis that I needed support. Not one to give me a warm hug for no reason. Never said "I love you."

He was absolutely consistent in terms of phone calls, following through with what he said he'd do, meeting his friends & family etc. If I brought up stuff that bothered me or that I wanted, he was able to provide (excepting emotional stuff which he always needed to be told exactly what to do even if it seemed 'obvious' to me). I had a special diet and he worked it in. No problemo.

That would be my bar in terms of what I'd tolerate out of a relationship with someone with Aspergers. Very good otherwise, but a little emotionally deaf. Don't mistake Aspergers for a caustic personality. They are not the same thing, though they can be co-current.

For me personally even though other things were working, I was unable to handle the lack of emotion and I had to call it quits. It just wasn't enough for me.

I could not handle your guy, I would have lost it long ago. You're doing all the work here.

If you want to bring up asperger's diagnosis, leave a book on the table or something.

If you want to bring up the relationship stuff, do it separate from a diagnosis.

Good luck.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:10 AM on February 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

His behaviour to you does not sound very pleasant at all. It would be nice to have a diagnosis that explains this behaviour but please consider that he may just not be a very nice guy or a rather selfabsorbed guy. By all means try to pursue some kind of discussion with your therapist and throw the possibility out there. But even if he was diagnosed there is a very good chance that you'll still not get your needs met. So work out what you need and want and what your dealbreakers are and if you can't get what you need from him move on.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:14 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

He sounds like a jerk, and you aren't getting what you need out of this relationship. You are doing everything right, communicating your needs, and he isn't listening. I know you don't want to break up, but this is just how he is. An Asperger's diagnosis isn't going to change him. You can't even count on therapy to change his behaviors.

If you can accept things how they are, right now, and live with and grow and be happy in a relationship like this, I think that's great! But if you are counting on anything to change--with or without a diagnosis--I fear you are in for a lot of pain and disappointment with this man.
posted by tippy at 9:15 AM on February 24, 2014

If he isn't interested in changing how he behaves, then I don't see how a diagnosis would help with that.
posted by rtha at 9:17 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds like the subject of Asperger's could be a very sensitive one, and a potentially important one too, so I think it needs to wait until you're calm and collected. While you're feeling hurt and offended by him is not a good time. If you want to bring up the subject of Asperger's, I would wait for a time when things are going well between you two, and when you can be sure that you're doing it for the right reasons. Maybe you could speak with someone in the mental health industry, and get their advice on the best way to bring this up.
posted by sam_harms at 9:21 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Asperger's isn't a disease. It's a neurotype. So whether he can be labeled or not is really sort of beside the point. Unless there IS some mental health issue or disease going on, which it doesn't sound like there is, that's just his personality, so your issues need to be addressed the same way you'd address any other personality clash.

You have rules, so just tell him what they are. Don't turn away from me when I'm talking. Don't just disappear without telling me where you're going. Make yourself available to me in these circumstances. Don't criticize my diet. Compromise and negotiate, and see if you two can come up with some clear guidelines for what you want out of your relationship. He probably has some too. Work on those from equal footing, not from some right vs. wrong angle.

This may work or it may not, just like any other relationship. But the way his brain works is fundamental to who he is as a human being. He is not inferior and he doesn't need to be fixed or 'diagnosed'. If some of his behaviors are unacceptable to you in a relationship, it doesn't make him wrong or broken or inferior. It just makes you two incompatible.

If you really do want to make this work, which it sounds as though you do, maybe try writing your question from his perspective. How would you feel if he were seeking some sort of diagnosis for you to cure you of your personality?

He is a human being too. He has preferences and needs of his own, which are as legitimate as yours. You're not going to resolve your differences by pathologizing him and then trying to mold his personality into something you find acceptable.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:34 AM on February 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

*If* you have clearly communicated your needs, and he is not meeting them and yet expecting you to change your behavior to suit him, then you are not equal partners. To me, this is a giant red flag and something that is unlikely to change for the better. In my experience it usually worsens into neglect/abuse. It is certainly a form of disrespect.

Acting disdainfully toward you for eating peanut butter is also disrespect. It's none of his business. Why does he think it is?
posted by jessicapierce at 9:42 AM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Personally, I think a diagnosis could potentially do a lot of good. It might give him a way of understanding himself better, and lead him to find methods of dealing with the more negative aspects of being an Aspie. For example, he seems to have a hard time keeping friends, so maybe understanding how Asperger's plays into that could help him figure out why that is and what he could do to change that. I just think that the topic needs to wait until it can be done the right way, i.e. not in the middle of a fight.

(I also agree with the folks who are suggesting that this guy might just be a jerk, and that the Asperger's issue is a bit of red herring).
posted by sam_harms at 9:44 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Most of what you describe, when you give concrete examples, is behavior that is consistent with controlling and manipulation - so, emotional abuse - not aspergers.

At the very least, your boyfriend is an asshole who treats you like dirt fairly often.

You're not married and you are already in couples counseling? This is not a good sign.

You deserve so so much better than this man is providing you, for whatever reason.

posted by jbenben at 10:08 AM on February 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I know a lot of men who behave like this. Picky eaters, emotionally distant, do not consider it very important to communicate or keep in touch, stubborn, judgmental, etc. It's almost exactly the standard Norwegian-American Grouchy Old Man stereotype! Especially with anyone 60+ from rural areas.

As an engineer, I also know a lot of people on the Asperger's end of the autism spectrum. They do not really behave like what you describe. They are often quite the opposite, going overboard with texts and email. It's probably a gross generalization, but the guys I know are inattentive and oblivious... to people they don't know. To their significant other, they are hyper attentive. As a close friend, it's usually harder to get them to shut up, than it is to get them to talk.

What I'm getting at is that aside from the hand flapping, I don't think anything you describe sounds necessarily like "asperger's" to me. Not answering the phone or responding to texts is not really stereotypical "aspie" behavior. The bedtime rituals and food stuff sound more like OCD. The rest of it just sounds like he's being a jerk.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 10:47 AM on February 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Mod note: This is a response from an anonymous commenter.
My husband was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome before we met. While he does exhibit the traditional symptoms (especially with loud public places or abrupt changes in routine) he doesn't act like a jerk to me. Honestly, he treats me like gold and if there is something that I require emotionally, he delivers. Even if it makes no sense to him. And even if he has to schedule it in his phone, like "Anon has stressy morning meeting on Thursdays - don't forget extra hug" he'll do it.

On the flip side, I do my level best to make sure I extract him from situations when I feel he's starting to become overwhelmed. It takes two to make any relationship work. So with or without a diagnosis, if he's unwilling to give you simple things like a response to an email then I don't think he's a good fit for you and your needs. That 20% is going to overshadow the 80% really quickly.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:47 AM on February 24, 2014 [8 favorites]

In my experience with someone on the autism spectrum, the resistance to change is quite strong, so that suggesting change engenders anxiety and resistance. My ex wants very much to be polite, friendly, generous--but when asked to change a habit he resists. The reasoning is not all that important when it comes to his reaction. Much more important is his overall stress level and cognitive load.

If he does have an ASD, I suspect that when he's with his son your boyfriend's cognitive load is high because he's navigating a relationship that is important to him. He doesn't have the cognitive power to spare on your feelings. He's ruder and more abrupt. Travel ups his stress load and again, he doesn't have the brainpower to spare to figure out what you might like.

The criticism is also familiar. It is a sort of almost disgust at things outside of the familiar, or outside of his routine. Most of us don't care if someone likes a smoothie we don't like. Most of us can accept that other people have reasoning that makes sense even if we don't follow the same line of reasoning. People with ASD often have trouble accepting that on a visceral level, so even if they know intellectually it is fine for people to do things they would not do, it feels bizzare and discomfiting. Ultimately, since their behavior is highly constrained, this leads to frequent clashes like with the smoothie.

Ultimately, the ASD diagnosis was what led me to stop trying, because the underlying issues weren't going to change, and I got tired of feeling lonely and feeling like there was no flexibility in my life.

Anyway, some hopefully helpful stuff relating to your issues.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:50 AM on February 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

That was a bit of a ramble. What I am mostly getting at is that if he does have an ASD (and your anecdotes sound familiar to me), and he accepts that he has it--it isn't necessarily going to change these problem behaviors.

Also, regarding making it work--again, it is about external factors as well. My ex and I, with lots of effort on both our parts, did well until the numerous changes of pregnancy, birth, and baby. Then it was quite impossible to make it work because he had to do an enormous amount just to deal with everyday life stuff and had zero to spare on my feelings. It was not because he didn't care, or because I wasn't flexible enough. ASD can't be solved by you being better somehow, or by awareness on his part.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:57 AM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

BUT he had 3 days in the mountains without contact. That's enough

Says who? Obviously he didn't think it was enough, but you did, and that's really the main thing here: you expect a certain emotive, contact-heavy set of behaviors in a relationship, and he expects a certain stoic, contact-independent set of behaviors. Based on my own experience, I'd even suggest that you two are feeding negatively off of each other's needs; his stoicism and distance make you feel needier, and your warmth and presence make him feel more controlled.

Point being: it doesn't have to be some kind of mental problem. It can simply be that you two want and expect different things in a relationship. Talk about each thing directly, reach a compromise, and if you can't (or you do but it isn't actually satisfactory or achievable for one or both of you) then break it off.

You already say you don't respect him, and you obviously don't trust he cares about you, and he doesn't give you fundamentals you need in your relationship. That's what matters, and better to confront it directly.
posted by davejay at 1:22 PM on February 24, 2014

You're in therapy together, is anything getting better?

I very truly feel that he would be doing these things if it made sense to him, but I don't think it does.

I disagree. Sometimes, there are things that people do for each other because the other person needs or wants them to be done. Frankly, it sounds like this is a situation where what you need in a relationship is belittled. You're even making excuses for why you needed reassurance and how you don't mind putting up with his nitpicking and criticism, or that you're probably not that lovable when you have PMS, in your own question.

I'm wondering if there is a part of you that is hoping that he does have Aspberger's, because then you can tell yourself that it's not his fault that he's not meeting your needs and that he's a jerk to you sometimes.

This sounds like a difficult situation and I'm sorry you are going through this.
posted by inertia at 1:38 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

He sounds like a total narcissist. My response to him would be that if he is unable to cultivate some loyalty from you by doing some of these things you like (and calling and checking to see if you are okay while are traveling may be optional, it is something you like) then it is not going to work. If telling him this does not remind him to make you more likely to adore him...he is a lost cause.
posted by OhSusannah at 10:04 PM on February 25, 2014

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