My Husband Is On The Spectrum. I Feel Guilty Leaving.

Morning friends,

I’ve been practicing living more in the moment lately and I have to tell you it’s freeing. When I can stop worrying about the future or regretting or ruminating about the past, there is a lot to enjoy and be grateful for right now.  

For example, I was taking a bath, something I rarely do, but had played pickleball and was all sweaty. I have a big soaker tub but am usually in a hurry so showering is my go-to. But this night, I thought soaking in the tub would relax my tired and achy muscles. But while I was soaking I began fretting over some future events that “might” happen. I could feel my mood plummet and body tense as my mind was fixed on the “worst-case scenario” about what could happen.  

Then I had this new thought.  I’m here, right now in this beautiful tub with lavender smelling bubbles all around me. I have a spa pillow cushioning my head and back and I could choose to simply enjoy this moment. I don’t know the future. I can’t do or fix anything about what I’m worrying about. But I can right now, be grateful for the relaxing warm water I get to soak in. I can enjoy the pillow that holds my head back comfortably, the soothing smell of lavender, and the silkiness of the soap bubbles against my dried-out skin. And, as I just stayed right there in that moment, life was good.  

I wonder how many of those beautiful moments we miss because we’re looking backwards or forwards with anxiety or regret? Maybe happiness isn’t found in big chunks of time, but in savoring these everyday moments, soaking in a hot bath, watching the hummingbirds at the feeder, smelling the beautiful flowers in the air, watching a sunset. For me, I don’t want to miss the beauty and goodness of the moment because I’m not paying attention. How about you?     

Today’s Question: I want to ask you about an Asperger’s/ Neurotypical marriage.  The damage done “unintentionally” by my husband who has Asperger’s, feels as though it is intentional. The damage feels the same, the PTSD diagnosis is still PTSD.  It did not change because the damage came from an Asperger’s man.

Answer: First, before I answer your question let me give a disclaimer that I am not an expert on Asperger’s or Autism Spectrum disorder as it’s better defined these days. However, I think I can answer your question and refer you to a few other resources that may help you as well.

Asperger’s syndrome (as it used to be called) is a developmental disorder along the Autism Spectrum in which an individual may be very high functioning and intelligent but lacks in social awareness and processing.  The brain of a person with this neurological problem works differently than someone without it, especially how it processes language and social cues.  

He or she processes language literally. As a result, he often misses or misinterprets what someone really means, especially emotional nuances within conversations. For example, if you say, “I’m tired and sigh with a frown on your face” a normally wired person may ask you questions like, “What’s wrong?” Or “What happened?” Or “Are you physically tired or emotionally tired?” Someone on the Autism spectrum would zero in on the literal details of what you said and have trouble connecting the dots to gain a bigger or more nuanced picture. 

Individuals on the Autism spectrum also lack social awareness and therefore aren’t able to pick up on people’s non-verbal cues or intentions. For example, most neuro-typical individuals (NT as they are referred to) would clue in when someone they were talking to was bored or disinterested. A person on the spectrum would not. Individuals on the Autism spectrum have difficulty perceiving people’s intentions, needs, feelings, or motivations and therefore often respond inappropriately in social situations. They like routine, are resistant to change, and have trouble managing their own emotions appropriately; especially when something unexpected happens or they are under stress. Describing or labeling their feelings can become a challenge for them. 

Because a person on the spectrum has a hard time being aware of other people’s needs or feelings, he can be perceived as selfish and uncaring. He often has problems managing anger and can appear rude, insensitive, and indifferent although he is usually shocked when someone accuses him of this because from his point of view he does care. He just can’t see what’s wrong. He is neurologically unable to see things from another person’s point of view. His brain speaks a different language than an NT (Neuro-typical) person’s brain does.  

Being married to someone on the Autism spectrum presents unique challenges and opportunities. But so does being married to someone with cancer, muscular sclerosis, blindness, bi-polar, or a spouse who is chronically unemployed or has a host of other difficulties. Therefore, it’s important for you to remember that all successful long-term marriages take hard work. No individual, no matter how talented, intelligent, or spiritual, has all 52 cards in their deck.  Therefore, all marriages require that we learn some fundamental lessons about acceptance, forbearance, tolerance, forgiveness, love, sacrifice, boundaries, patience, and speaking the truth in love where necessary. Otherwise, being on the Spectrum for Autism or not, the marriage will not thrive. 

The biggest challenge whether or not you and your husband can make your marriage work will not be the diagnosis itself but what your husband does with it. For a moment, let’s put it into a different category. Let’s say your husband was born blind. He will unintentionally do some things that upset you. He may accidentally bump into and break a treasured antique vase that you received as a gift from your grandmother because he miscounted the steps he needed to take to get to the couch. Now what? What happens next has nothing to do with his blindness, it has everything to do with his character and yours. Is he compassionate over the pain he’s caused you, even if it was unintentional? Or does his blindness now give him a pass to not care about the impact his unintentional act has on you? Or worst case, does he use it as an excuse to be cruel and harsh towards you? 

But you too have a part to play here. If you judge his breaking the vase as intentional rather than accidental, that incident feels different for you than if you accepted that it was an accident because he couldn’t “see.”  

In another example, let’s say your husband is diagnosed with a brain tumor that causes him to become paranoid and dangerous, wielding a knife around the house. It’s not his fault and I hope you would feel great compassion for his plight. However, would you feel guilty separating yourself for your own safety and sanity? Is your safety or sanity unimportant because he’s ill?  Or has a neurological problem?  

You say you have PTSD and want to leave but feel guilty.  First, I hope you are getting your own help for your trauma symptoms and guilty feelings.  There is a newer label for what you might be experiencing. It used to be called Cassandra Phenomena but has recently been relabeled Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome (OTRS).  It describes those who are living with chronic relational trauma, especially identified in the Autism/NT marriage. Would you feel guilty if you were sick with cancer and needed to have your own treatment? Or if your husband was a heavy smoker and refused to quit or smoke outside, would you feel guilty if you moved out because you developed asthma or lung cancer because of second-hand smoke? Taking care of you is important, Biblical, and not selfish.  

I’m curious, however, what is your husband’s response to his diagnosis and the effect his limitations have on you? Does he show any concern, even if it’s hard for him to “feel” empathy? A while back a book came out written by a husband who was diagnosed with Asperger’s who wanted to do all he could do to win his wife back. It’s called, The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch.  I’d encourage you to read his intro on Amazon where his wife asked him to take the test and his response. Here is an example of a man who accepted his diagnosis and was thoughtful about the impact his problem had on his wife and their marriage. He then becomes a student, so he can learn what he can do to minimize that painful impact, even if he will never be cured or able to see exactly what she means or feels.

I can’t tell you it’s okay for you to leave your marriage. That is something you must wrestle through and talk to God about. Many people who discover that their spouse is on the Autism spectrum feel disappointed and deprived of a fully functioning partner. You must grieve these real losses and your desire for the deep emotional connection you thought you would have in marriage. However, there are other women who are married to men who are not on the spectrum who feel that loss also, or never get that connection either.  

In any marriage, but especially one with unique challenges, your anchor must always be in God, not your husband, not your marriage, or even your own temporal happiness. Click To Tweet

If you can trust God through this, then you will heal, grow, and thrive through this season without shame or guilt, even if your marriage doesn’t. I have worked with women who have chosen to leave without guilt and those who have chosen to stay without resentment. Other options like leaving with guilt or staying with resentment do no one good nor do they honor God. 

For those who might be wondering if they or their spouse might have Asperger’s syndrome, there is a free test for it at www.aspergerstestsite.com. You can read more about Cassandra Syndrome or OTRS here.  

Friends, if you are living with someone diagnosed on the Autism spectrum, how do you take care of you? What resources have you found helpful? What encouragement can you give this woman whether she says or leaves?

46 Comments

  1. JoAnn on October 7, 2020 at 10:04 am

    Leslie, I am so thankful for this post. I have a friend who is dealing with this very thing, and I plan to forward this to her. I appreciate your wisdom in advising this woman. Thank you.

  2. Ginger on October 7, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    Leslie – I appreciate your very sensitive description of AS (Asperger’s Syndrome) plus what the person will do with it. My son has AS, and he is very conscious about loving other people and not bringing his own difficulties into his relationships. He struggles a LOT with having close relationships, because of the social difficulties you mentioned. Although he makes a lot of missteps, he is a safe person for me and his sister because he cares.
    It is my husband who is the destructive relationship in our family. He is an NT fully capable of being kind, considerate, etc., but chooses not to.
    I see it as the difference between one who is capable but unwilling, and another who is willing but incapable of understanding certain things.
    My son is willing, but misses the queues. I can talk with him about it. He cares.
    My husband is capable, but ignores the queues. And when I try to talk with him, he pushes back with the destructive behaviors you write about.
    The woman who wrote this letter could be experiencing both AS and destructive uncaring. But it is indeed important to distinguish between them.

  3. Hope on October 8, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    Leslie, thanks for your very good overview of Asperger’s Syndrome. Six years ago I discovered my husband of 30 years fits the criteria for AS. What an epiphany and learning curve it’s been!

    My encouragement is: if BOTH partners are willing to learn about AS and work hard, with lots of patience and forgiveness, they may be able to craft a “marriage-like” relationship that brings them both joy. They’ll need specialized help from a counselor skilled in AS and in helping NT/AS couples. Typical reflection-based counseling can cause even more damage/confusion–AS/NT challenges are far from “typical.”

    An AS partner may not only lack basic relationship skills/abilities. They may lack the intuitive inner context to even understand what a relationship IS, what it’s for, or why they would want it. My husband is his own secret island.

    A huge help is having my own counselor, skilled in AS and trauma. There are big issues (carrying most of the load of family life, his meltdowns/shutdowns, no sex life, being treated like a business partner, info-only communication, etc.) And daily chronic “paper cuts to the heart” (very little comfort, touch, praise, empathy, sharing…and struggles to explain this complex disorder to others, “Well, he seems fine, that’s just how men are, right??”) An empathetic ear in counseling helps keep me grounded in reality.

    Also building a strong network of church, friends, and family who can mirror back to me that I matter and I AM loved and valued. Most of all, drawing close to God and slowly learning how to reclaim my life and my sense of self. I can’t say my marriage is better–but I am better!

    Thank you, Leslie, from the bottom of my heart! Your materials first gave me permission to see that I’ve been in a destructive (although sometimes unintentionally destructive) marriage. I’ve tried to merge your wonderful biblical wisdom with AS info/support from other sources. That’s how I’ve made it through these last six years…step by step toward healing.

    • R on October 8, 2020 at 8:44 pm

      Thank you, Leslie, for covering this important topic, and thank you, Hope, for sharing your experience. I suspect that my husband is on the spectrum. My experience sounds almost word-for-word like yours. It’s so complicated and hard, and there aren’t many counselors out there who get it.

      • Lioness on October 29, 2020 at 12:18 am

        Ditto like these last two comments.

    • faith on December 6, 2021 at 1:12 pm

      key word there “willing”. Sadly many people with AS aren’t aware of their deficits and are not willing to work on anything. Many of them are emotionally immature and childish and extremely self centered.

      • Wallace on May 19, 2022 at 10:18 am

        Thats called making Generalisations, stereotyping and very judgemental

      • JH on June 24, 2023 at 8:32 am

        There is an awareness there-I have seen almost a spirit that is working through them that is very deliberate. Some of them are aware of the spirit and others are not, but because there are deliberate actions there, there has to be some kind of an awareness—the person with ASD knows on some kind of level what behaviors they’re choosing to do and if they reflected, they would know the behaviors are harmful to themselves and others. The evil that is working through the ASD knows.

      • HJS on November 11, 2023 at 2:27 pm

        If a person with AS decides to marry and take on a husband/wife, he/she has the responsibility to the marriage-to care for their spouse the way that God calls to, no matter whether certain things come naturally or not. Just because someone on the spectrum or someone with any kind of disorder has to work harder, does not mean that they relinquish their responsibility.

        So many relationships are being redefined now-homosexual marriage, AS/AS or AS/NT marriages, (I am going to include this). God has defined what marriage looks like and if this falls markedly short of this, you are supposed to go towards God’s vision, no excuses. Do what it takes to make it like God intended or it is not a marriage and it just one person being a caretaker, which is not right

  4. Connie on October 9, 2020 at 1:55 pm

    I have a question for those married to someone with ab. If he is so unsociable, how did he court you? Whatever he was capable of then, he would be capable of now, right? I just wonder if at least some of it is a handy excuse. I just thought that would be a small hint as to what to expect or not.

    I have two grandchildren on the spectrum. His dad spends a lot of time going over things so that they can be as aware as possible, not using it as an excuse for bad behaviour. They loved the screens, but when dad removed access to them, they immediately became far more aware and social. When they have a meltdown, he says “Look at daddy. Repeat after me, Life happens…it’s ok…oh well.” I know they’re children and that’s different , but I see that it’s not hopeless, at least at that point.

    I took a counseling course at Elijah House. The director has ab. He’s been married a long time, has three children. He needs to be very humble and ask for continual input and reminders from his wife and children, but he does very well and is very strong in Spirit and sensitive to God’s direction. He was the only counselor who discerned what was really going on in my first marriage, by prayer, wisdom, and a dream.

    I don’t know much about this topic, but I wanted to share what I’ve seen. Blessings to all who are dealing with this.

    • R on October 9, 2020 at 3:32 pm

      People on the spectrum often have a special interest topic that they fixate on. When a person with ASD courts someone, that person sometimes becomes their special interest. The person with ASD can seem intensely devoted if a bit socially awkward. They also can have the ability to gin up lots of sociability for short periods of time (like going on dates) but then their true colors show at home. If you read Journal of Best Practices, the book Leslie mentioned, you’ll understand.

      • R on October 9, 2020 at 10:48 pm

        (I should have added that once the girlfriend becomes the wife, she’s no longer the special interest.)

        • Connie Burgess on October 12, 2020 at 1:51 pm

          But that is exactly what narcissists do.

          • R on October 12, 2020 at 6:33 pm

            There’s a lot of overlap. The difference, I’d say, is that the narcissist is malicious, whereas the person with ASD is clueless. (Although once he’s clues in, he will need to be willing to work with you if repair is to take place.)



        • Stephanie on October 24, 2022 at 11:20 am

          This has been my experience completely. I know my husband pursued me heavily when we were dating. He knows the ‘right” things to do. It was normal but there were still signs. They seemed so small at the time. Saturday our therapist suggested spectrum issues. It fits 100 percent. I have been trying to figure this out for 14 years. I want to leave but feel extreme guilt. He is a good father and the kids love him. It has been so damaging to me though. It is the antithesis of what I need in a relationship. We could not be more poorly paired. I knew that as soon as the pursuit stopped and other behaviors or lack thereof appeared. After years of this I was in crisis. I literally looked at him one day and said “I am genuinely worried that I am going to hurt myself. i think I need help.” Nothing. No response. I think this revelation and the stupidity I feel for not having figured it out (I had entertained the idea but not seriously apparently) has taken all of the wind out of my sails. I had hoped with therapy we could have a normal relationship. He will never be able to achieve that so I feel bad even asking. I do care about him but cannot call it love at this point. Deep concern? Responsibility? Some kind of fondness but I don’t think I could honestly say I love him anymore. There has been so much pain over the last 14 years. Our first counselor completely missed it and told me my needs are too great and I need to adjust them (trust me they aren’t or I never would have made it this long). I wish I could re-do that moment. That compounded the damage. For years I have prayed to be a different person. I have lowered my expectations relentlessly. My son is on the spectrum as well. I wonder if any of the attachment parenting did anything to help. Years of breastfeeding due to weight issues, keeping him from hitting his head when people would say “Just let him learn” and I knew he would hurt himself. I intuitively knew he could not regulate his emotions. He was so frustrated. Did it matter at all? I love him of course but I feel daunted and worry about his future. I just wanted the same thing everyone else had. Kids, a family-I was in a hurry and made bad choices for all involved…myself, husband and kids. I feel too much responsibility to him. I don’t think he would make it sufficiently alone. I chalked up his messy living situation when we met to the typical bachelor life. What man wants to do laundry at 23 or cares whether the dishes are clean. I just don’t know what to do moving forward. I mean I know the things to do…i have an appointment with a counselor, I’m being kind to myself as much as possible, keeping things stable for the kids…same as always but I want out and as soon as I say that I feel like I am betraying my family. I definitely don’t want to be me today.

          • Cynthia on March 14, 2023 at 10:26 pm

            Wow, your story is almost word for word identical to mine.



          • Miranda Anderson on July 20, 2023 at 8:41 pm

            I so feel this. Diagnosis is a month old and so much betrayal trauma already – I feel like I’m going under for the third time



          • Emily on November 14, 2023 at 1:09 pm

            This is also nearly identical to my story, except I’m only 5 years in, and my husband is not a great parent. We have 2 young girls (4 and 1) – my husband yells a lot, and cannot handle the stress of parenting. He once hid in a closet. He has often walked out of the house or the room. He’ll put his hands over his ears and start moaning. He cannot set boundaries or issue consequences. He can’t supervise them properly (multiple near-accidents that would’ve been catastrophic if I hadn’t intervened). I hate leaving my girls alone with him. I’m desperate to leave but don’t know if I can get full custody and I’m convinced that if they have to live with him even 20% of the time that they will be emotionally destroyed (or perhaps even injured or worse) by him. I am trapped.



          • MS on January 28, 2024 at 9:36 am

            I wish there was a way to contact you! This is so very similar to my life right now. I wish there was a community to connect, no one really understands unless they are living it…



          • Ashley on March 13, 2024 at 8:33 am

            Same -we have the same life , I’m just earlier in mine I think. And I figured this out one year into marriage in 2023 with a new baby – I was not aware and he (to this day) “is not aware” but has dropped many hints. Bringing the baby home from hospital I started to get the sense that I was going to be taking care of myself and the baby while healing …maybe he’d make an elaborate breakfast for us but he would disappear for 8 hours into his office…or be really loud after the baby was out down (seems sacrilegious to do that to a new mother!!) but it was like he was totally oblivious and I started reading when I should have been sleeping while the baby was. I thought it was narcissism for about 24 hours I watched videos and read medical articles and people’s accounts I was convinced. Then a friend (female friend) with autism came to visit and meet the new baby. She hadn’t met my husband yet either we realized – when we immediately realized upon meeting her that he didn’t have his cell phone and must retrieve it immediately and that was most important upon meeting her – she turned to me and said “you didn’t tell me your husband was autistic!”

            Cue the lights!!!!

            It has been 20 months and there is not a single time when he has gotten the baby in the middle of the night. It doesn’t even wake him up – now what that knowledge did for me was to make me a super parent, I went into over drive and tried to kind of make my life more tidy or modular so I can swoop up the baby and leave if he gets crazy which happens now and then. I thought it was scary when I was pregnant but it is a lot more terrifying when I have the baby with me. He doesn’t have any problems yelling equally as loud when there is a baby crying at the screaming and who doesn’t know if the person is yelling at him or me or what. That is truly heart breaking so when he gets angry I have my stuff near the door and I grab the baby and our bag (which includes stuff to spend the night away and cash just in case, extra set of car keys he doesn’t even know about). We leave temporarily or we go for a walk or in very extreme cases I give the keys to my husband and kind of push him out our front door saying “go”. He should know that means he needs a reset.
            So basically it’s not perfect by any means and other people would be appalled and probably call the police on him. But I feel I am truly in charge of our house whether he knows it or realizes it or just accepts it or not – and I felt super empowered to take on this role because I want to protect my son. Let me say too – I mean emotionally. For example; i see my husband pacing and talking to me (adult talk not appropriate for 1 y/o but my husband doesn’t have that filter) so after saying hi to the baby – something he’s learned is important upon first entering the room because I taught him – then I help him out by gently saying “baby is trying to get you to chase him – he would love one trip around the house!” And you’ll usually spring to it and they have a blast. I do not ask him to do more than 3 minute tasks (change a diaper, put baby clothes on oh and here are the clothes!) get the milk, buy diapers.

            Other things I could see would make others think he doesn’t care…like our power went out so he left to go have a cigar because there wasn’t anythiing else to do, it doesn’t dawn on him to spend time with his wife or son. I would have expected that in marriage – but if I schedule a date for us he has a great time and if I say “we are taking the baby to the park sometime today what time is best for you?” He’ll give me a time and he’ll come along. So I have seen him care A LOT but I can also see where others might consider it absolutely neglectful. I’ll tell you I do not EVER leave my son alone with my husband – not to go to the grocery store- nothing . the babysitter is aware that even if my husband says “you can leave I can take the baby” the babysitter knows to stay until I’m back. My husband loves our son but there is no certainty he won’t leave the back door open for just a second while he grabs something from his office that we converted from our garage …we live near a busy street. I feel like I warden somedays. I love them both so much and this knowledge about my husband – I guess I keep it his secret for him. Deep down I feel bad that he has to go through life like this too, maybe not feeling all the love we get to.

            God has helped us and going to church as a family always feels good.

            It makes me sad when my husband has such a hard time just getting ready to take us to the park to play, or to go to a stressful place like the DMV, I try to do as much as I can for him. And I know he will never ever return the favor – but that is what we NT do for the AS people we love.

            He did not wake up one time with our infant after I had a C section, and we live in a 2 story house. There have been moments of abuse. This has been no sunny rainbow – the comments became damaging. Water thrown in my face…spat on. Losing myself and my identity because of his AS (and the effect THAT downfall on me would have on my child) that gives me infinite strength and power and energy. I will go across the desert carrying my son if I have to, I can certainly handle every sleep deprived night of his infancy – and I have. And I should not and do not expect my husband’s admiration for this but this week for the first time in 20 months now he said “I don’t worry about our baby when I’m gone because I know he’s with you and I know that’s much better than I could ever be for him – but I chose you and that’s also the best thing I could ever do for my son or any child of mine is to give him you to help make up for me.” I think sometimes they know more than we give them credit for and they find ways to cope just like we have to.



    • Barbara B on October 12, 2020 at 12:30 pm

      How wonderful that your grandchildren have a dad who understands how to parent these special children! Praise God for that. I think they will do well. An early diagnosis is so wonderful.

      In addition to R’s comments I would like to add that AS has degrees; there are obvious cases but some cases are subtle. People with subtle cases can function fairly well during the day in public, but my goodness they unravel at home! All the pent up anxiety comes gushing out. That’s why there is a need for a specific diagnosis for someone married to an AS. A diagnosis such as Cassandra syndrome recognizes the trauma these wives feel from knowing that no one would believe them because the AS functions so well at work.

    • Momof3 on March 3, 2023 at 12:01 am

      Anyone can mask. No one pretends to be ASD someone might be able to rehearse social phrases and cues and patterns for a reward they want. What gets hard is as they get older those children can find forced masking for what brings them joy and comfort exhausting. A child copying your voiced expected behavior pattern is just that-copying it. masking techniques can cause longterm distress because it becomes their full time job to not be themselves.
      This same pattern behavior applies for adults. An ASD adult sees around them patterns of how to date, how to get into a marriage. So after that goal is complete it can be viewed as literal. I told you I loved you. I married you. Maintenance and emotional maturity and flexibility though is needed in any longterm companionship. So what you see at courtship is mimicking to get an out come-even though they have a genuine desire to be with a person.
      I have seen in my own kids people say-they look so normal I would never know. Yes, because they may not grab so social cues, but are excellent parroters for short term. I used to fight screen time and although it does have limits I have see. How gaming for mine with ASD do learn problem solving and community while gaming. Socially, however, for ahem older did not grow up with game systems-it seems lazy. Games have rules, predictable outcomes and you get to try again-just like in life. Technology can also another means of communication (digital) which can enhance engagement. Depending how your child with ASD processes. Mine can give full sentences digitally, but responses in person (though practiced for 15 plus years verbally) take a lot longer to communicate.

  5. Karen on October 9, 2020 at 8:06 pm

    “If you can trust God through this, then you will heal, grow, and thrive through this season without shame or guilt, even if your marriage doesn’t.”

    Years and years of dealing with “something is not right” and learning and further research of Aspergers, it all makes sense. Sometimes too late. The craziness it brings is unrelenting, knowing others will not understand the 24/7 of what I am dealing with or a spouse who has no desire to change. The Cassandra Phenomenon is a definite. Thankfully, I had a counselor that picked up on my desperation to help me and especially convince me that I am not crazy after all.

    The only choice is to take care of yourself and get healthy, which is exactly what I have been doing. It feels right and it feels good to have joy once again. Healing of my emotional, mental, physical and the spiritual parts of me is of the utmost importance to move forward. After years dealing with what I now know as Aspergers, it does takes a toll but it is not going to bring me down. I still have a life to live.

    Thank you Leslie for this blog and for all that you do for us (me).

  6. graceiscome on October 19, 2020 at 2:17 pm

    When I saw the words “feel guilty” — I felt like this was going to be a much-needed question and answer to read. The parts that hopefully rightly resonated with me were more generalized — thoughts that I have been thinking but wondering if I am being selfish. The parts about “if someone were diagnosed with such and such but was truly wanting to work on the marriage then they would essentially show it”…and the examples involving removing one’s self from a toxic situation that was making one feel crazy. I don’t think my husband is on the spectrum, but does have other issues which I didn’t help (which was pointed out to me a lot) and which contributed to some pretty bad situations between us. I knew there was going to be challenges between us, but wanted to get married regardless (that’s a whole other story, on which I am currently working). Almost immediately, I saw that our issues were just going to exacerbate one another, but tried to swallow some of his issues that caused me anxiety because “I was married now and should try to make it work”. I did try. He minimizes that. I hoped that it would work (but probably for selfish reasons). When it seemed like things overall were not changing, and I was constantly disappointed that he didn’t seem to be responding to what I thought were simple pleas for what might help me be able to function better in the relationship, I still clung on but now for very selfish reasons (fear of leaving, not wanting to lose a home…). But that led to a bad incident which forced me to separate. After the separation, he seemed to start working harder and wants me to come back. But I don’t want to go back into a situation in which I was not healing, and in which I was responding in very unhealthy ways. But I also feel guilty (he frequently reminds me that I never was fully committed to the marriage…but I wanted to be…wanted to be committed to a healthy marriage). . But I also don’t trust that he is really looking to be my “husband”…and I can’t put my finger on why I feel like this. But in the past when I didn’t seem to agree with or be what maybe he wanted me to be, I would be met with sarcasm, rebukes, and verbal/sometimes physical abuse. Bottom line is that I didn’t feel loved for just me; and I’m sure he didn’t feel loved for just him. But “just him” sometimes was kind of abusive. Did not feel safe. I can’t go back into that. I know he wants to change (I think), but I’m terrified it will be the same and I can’t deal with that. I hope this reaches out to others that may be in this type of “feel guilty” situation that perhaps extends beyond the post here. I so appreciate it. I do feel guilty looking out for myself, especially since I did “commit” to this marriage, no matter how hesitant I was (as I am so often reminded).

  7. Christina Brode on October 21, 2020 at 11:14 pm

    It’s not just the differences between neurotypically normal and on the spectrum. Because my husband is a genius he is often distainful when presented with a different opinion. He assumes he is right, and superior. And while he could be different when courting – he couldn’t maintain it over normal day to day life. During courtship he had his own place to go retreat to. He has said he thought relationships were just that hard for everyone. Now after 23 years – the kids are raised and I go out with friends – to do interesting things. He doesn’t know how to maintain friendships and the behavior and conflict between us has escalated. I know God hates divorce – and he may or may not leave me or divorce me – but I don’t think God expects me to not be a full person for myself just so he will stay and be happy.

  8. Cynthia Coppage on October 30, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Leslie,
    To answer your question, “Is my husband accepting of his diagnosis?”
    NO!
    He lives totally for himself! EVERYTHING he does is from a mindset of SELF.
    He never knew anything was wrong and he still doesn’t, according to him It is ME! It’s me that causes everything that is not good that happens happen. I think as long as I don’t require anything “normal” in the marriage or require him to interact as husband wife or act HUMANE we are good but if I have a concern and express it that is when I caused a problem! If I don’t want my kitchen scissors used in the garage and I say to leave them in kitchen I am causing a problem! If I buy a new pair of curtains I didn’t need them, if the dishwasher breaks it’s not really I am supposed to drain out the water with a cup, it’s not really broken I just want to spend money or my car is stalling on me making horrible sounds and it finally stalled on me and a wrecker had tow me to garage, I did something to tear it up because I said a FEW YEARS AGO I think it might be time to get a different vehicle! I can’t have bathtub fixed because it isn’t broken, if I put a wash cloth in drain hole the water will stay in long enough to get a fast bath besides I can use the shower!
    I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say anything nice specifically about me or anything I’ve ever done. He is not a talker unless it’s with somebody he can talk to about something he’s interested in. He has eye contact, his facial expression changes, he smiles, laughs and he knows a little about everything, never lost for words. When they leave he goes back to the silent nice guy that watches tv in his own world and without expression then goes to bed at 9:30!
    Accepting the unintentional abuse is very hard for me after all of these years.
    I don’t believe I have ever known a person that is so nice and friendly that could tear your heart out throw it on the ground and walk off and say it was my fault and have people who know him agree!
    I am a little afraid to file for divorce because I am feeling like I might not be protected in court.
    He has lived like everything is his and somehow he’s convinced me it is too and if I want to leave I can if I don’t then I can stay, doesn’t matter one way or the other.
    People say he’s a nice guy!? 🙄

    • margaret Henc on June 3, 2021 at 11:24 pm

      I understand you completely. Most things in my home are blamed on myself or our ASD adult son. It is very cruel.

    • Joanna on March 27, 2023 at 11:22 pm

      Cynthia
      This is my story in your words.
      My husband clean his bike ( he used to be professional cycling and he can talk about bikes for hours) with old toothbrush but he would never notice that garbage on the floor. Garage door are falling apart , but he would not fix it since IT WORKS .
      No nice world , no complement , no intimacy. Even I want to leave I am scared and unsecured and feel guilty, because he is here where I need him ( like lift up something or help to the car) I want to go and believe I can, but I am not there yet.

  9. Deb Svoboda on November 18, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    Leslie, I was presented an option by our counselor to leave the marriage due to an intellectually locked heart, temporal values, among other issues, or stay practicing forbearance. I read the article ‘My husband is on the spectrum…. so is mine. I do not fully understand what all forbearance is or what it looks like practiced by the wounded spouse. Are there any Christian books clearly discussing this? Thank you! Deb

    • Leslie Vernick on November 18, 2020 at 6:06 pm

      I’d encourage you to look for some video’s by Dr. Stephanie Homes (www.counselorstephanieholmes.com) I just did an interview with her and she specializes in working with people who are on the autism spectrum and also helping their spouses understand the impact and what to do.
      Forbearance is a Biblical term meaning – learning to accept a fault or a weakness without resentment or rancor. We are not married to perfect men – nor are we perfect. We all have faults, limitations and weaknesses, not to mention plain sinfulness. So having forbearance is understanding that we are dealing with imperfect humanity in relationships and not expecting or being surprised at one’s weaknesses. However, there are some “deal breakers” as I call them in marriage that if they aren’t addressed or accepted or owned and changed they will ruin a relationship because forbearance would be dangerous to one’s soul, spirit and body and then it’s time for a big ol NO WAY!

  10. Lynn on May 11, 2021 at 7:14 pm

    No, he doesn’t not agree with his ASD and bipolar Dx.
    No, he does not feel concern or the need to read about it or adjust anything.

    Instead he continues to be verbally abusive, gaslight me and his children, invalidate all of our feelings all the time, and run off to be a work addict or TV time. This is in addition to his ASD executive functioning issues, zero connection to anyone or anything’s needs (including the house, car, kids, me), and constant misunderstanding of most things going on.

    I am planning a divorce. I am very fearful of how incapable of caring for the children he is. He loves them, but cannot take care of their needs. He ignores them, neglects them, treats them like 2 yos when they are beyond that, gaslights them, puts them in dangerous situations, makes them late, forgets their basic self-care stuff (hair, teeth, homework, eating healthy).

    • Dorothy on May 30, 2021 at 8:54 am

      Sending you a hug and understanding Lynn.

    • margaret Henc on June 3, 2021 at 11:36 pm

      Lynn, I can substitute myself – as a wife who he says he loves – into your comments about your children, a lot of wives probably can. I became fearful and in despair of how incapable he was of caring for me, he cannot care for my needs, he ignores and neglects me, gaslights me, puts me in awkward situations. As Dr Kathy Marshack says, it’s a profound disability. There is no reciprocity and I exist alone, and previously in deep despair , in a so called marriage.

  11. Patrick on December 4, 2021 at 8:05 pm

    I thought this was great until “biblical” was brought in. Biblical is very subjective. It has also been used to shame and control others, especially in Evangelical and Fundamentalist traditions. Using this, with a capital B even, shows either lack of understanding or awareness of how those who do not interpret your assesment of Biblical the same way may receive your advice. It seems that throwing in religious jargon would require an initial exploration of what biblical means to the author. Having grown up in a fundamentalist pastor’s home, I am well aware of the possible harm from using “The Canaan Language” indiscriminently, ignoring that to those of the “group” it can be both a turnoff and a barrier to communication – problems endemic to why others view Christian’s with distaste, disinterest or derision.

    • Leslie Vernick on December 5, 2021 at 9:23 pm

      You’re right Patrick. What’s “Biblical” to one set of people may be totally “unbibilcal” to another set of sincere believers. I will be more careful next time I use taht phrase.

  12. Non-Aspie on December 28, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    Cured?

    It is not a disease.

  13. Linda on January 1, 2022 at 3:49 pm

    I am a RN in a pandemic. My husband has Aspergers. Not a good combo. He will call my work in a panic insisting on talking to me. Even if I tell him i have a dying patient and can not talk he won’t/cannot shut up. His response: Oh don’t worry I won’t talk long. He will talk. I will hang up. Reason for his call? He wants me to cook him steaks for supper. Keep in mind i have just been on my feet non stop for a 14 hour shift, not to mention I am in lockdown in a Covid unit.

    He was a computer person and often states how much harder his job was than mine. Yeah. He took 2 hour lunch breaks and slept in is car most days. All though I will admit he worked from home most evenings.

    He was not diagnosed until after we were married. I knew he had problems but choose to stay with him. After 10 years of marriage I want out. I feel guilty and scared. He refused to put my name on the house. He has access to my 401k. He took my sister off as my beneficiary and put his son down (my step son)as my beneficiary if we both should die. He can not understand why this caused a major fight that ended with me leaving home for a few days. Thank God we do not have kids of our own. My step son is loaded. He and his wife make 300,000 K plus a year. My sister is in bad health and broke. My 401k is only worth about 300,000…

    At any rate money is an all out war in our home. He is obsessed with counting our investments on a daily basis. We own nothing. No house or car payments 1.4 plus million estate…yet if i buy a pair of work shoes all hell breaks loose. He will follow me around sometimes for hours reciting his budget strategy. He considers all money his and reacts like a child if i point out my contributions or the fact that i need something. He threw such a fit when i had 400.00 a month from my check deposited in my checking account that i finally relented and let him have control of all the money because he litterally would not shut up and let me sleep.

    I am clinically depressed and on antidepressants. I want to go to part time at work now that i am 62 and you can imagine what kind of a fight has ensued.

    He has told me the reason he does not want my name on the house title is so I can not get half if there is a divorce. He owned the house before I came along. I am afraid i will somehow be forced to walk away without my 401k , let alone any other monies.

    I do not know if there is a way out of this mess for me?

    Just saying between nursing and Aspergers my life has been crazy. Sometimes i wonder if earth is a living hell?

    Beware and read everything you can before becoming entangled with Aspergers on any level.

    • Ginger on March 3, 2022 at 12:20 am

      Linda, please please please listen to me as a clinician. Get out now. You have given enough. Do not leave any clues to your departure just give yourself a month to plan and get gone ( change 401k and joint accounts on the day you walk away) Nurses give so much and hard times are around the corner for ALL of us. You have carried the emotional burden long enough. Controlling your fianaces regardless of disability or motive is still abusive. You are 62. You don’t have as much time left as you did when you married him. Please choose yourself Linda. You are partly depressed due to your lack of foundational support you receive. There is no need to feel guilt. You had a good run with him. Now find a vacation somewhere. Please be well

    • Liz on April 2, 2022 at 7:55 pm

      I’m so sorry for all the women who are suffering in this kind of a marriage. I have decided to leave my husband and sell the house. I am a Christian and believe divorce to be a sin. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with separating in order to avoid more physical and emotional abuse. There is no reasoning with these men, don’t get tangled up with trying to get them to see a different opinion, they never will. They are always right and will be harsh, rude, mean, gaslight you, selfish, cruel and in their minds you are always to blame!

      After the wedding he informed me that he didn’t want to be married but we would pretend in front of our friends and family so he wouldn’t look like a loser. He told me I was not his type. He let me know he was only attracted to short blond and young women. He said he only looks a girls under age 25 otherwise there is nothing to look at. He also let me know that he is not capable of empathy, passion, touch, affection, reciprocal conversation, my boring opinions, compromise, meeting my emotional or sexual needs and has never felt any real love for me. He let me know he would not be home after work but he would be at the bar 5 nights a week and not to make dinner for him. The marriage never really started and there was never any home life. My dreams for a Christian home and family never materialized. But, it’s never too late! I may be 65 but, I am taking back my life and am going to be my best friend, since he never was.

  14. Carolyn on March 25, 2022 at 2:41 pm

    I really found the comment on Asperger husband and NT wife to be very helpful and informative. Thank you. I have been married to an Asperger man for 34 years and cannot go on another day without searching for HELP! I am suffering greatly. I have tried to subscribe. But I Do Not understand why I am having to identify something(?)and that wasn’t enough. Then I’m asked to identify palm trees, not enough again.Then it was motorcycles. And all this “whatever it is” without the reason WHY. It really feels just plain creepy. I gave up.

  15. Wallace on May 19, 2022 at 10:21 am

    its easy to find excuses or pretend that ASD can be controlled, but ASD is a real condition.

  16. Bridget Muir on May 27, 2022 at 8:21 pm

    My husband abandoned me emotionally, and physically when I was just 50 years of age. I went through menopause, without affection nor support. Our youngest were 12 and 10. He went to work EVERY DAY without touching me. We existed like this for 6 and a half years after which I told him to move out of our bed. Five and a half years after that, he had been in another room in our house without any attempt to reconcile. So almost 12 years without intimacy. I’m now a nun and I want a lover. My youngest is now 21. No need to stay!

  17. Janie on October 17, 2022 at 11:31 am

    Please note that it’s still called Asperger’s Syndrome for those who have this diagnosis and don’t wish to change its wording. Thanks.

  18. Carol on January 10, 2023 at 8:46 pm

    Im rand new to reali,ing that my husband may have aspergers. After reading about it, I have no doubt he does. The problem is he has no idea. How do I get him to recognize this??

  19. JH on June 24, 2023 at 8:10 am

    ASD/ASD (even differences there) marriages and NT/ASD marriages don’t work on a healthy level because an evil spirit works through the ASD, just like through any behavior that causes destruction. There is a spiritual element to this, and if you read the bible this is true as God created people to be relational with Him and with others. Ironically, many people don’t care to have a relationship with God so the very thing we complain about with the ASD is what we’re doing to Jesus. The only difference between ASD and NT is that the ASD struggles with relationships overall whereas the NT might have more relational relationships with others but not with God so much…the ASD lives a life of not caring enough to change-a lack of relationship on different levels and a defiance against God’s system of relationship unwittingly and/or wittingly-You notice that “special” isn’t in the equation for most on the spectrum. Also, the more that you embrace an ASD identity, the more it defines you, so even using these labels can cause the spirit to have more of a stronghold. Really what people need is to repent of sin and have faith in Jesus and then the process of breaking these strongholds can start to happen as you build a wonderful relationship with the Lord. However, the person has to be willing-with and without ASD. I notice that most people with ASD don’t hunger for God or for meaningful relationships with other people enough to CHANGE. Even if it is harder, the fight to have something real is worth it. Taking the lazy way out or giving up because it comes harder for you, is not an excuse. If that doesn’t happen, nothing can happen to break the spirit that causes autism-a spirit oppresses or possesses the person either through some type of trauma or generational curse. The trauma can be a brain injury of some kind and the spirit will take over from there. On another note, this life isn’t easy. If you serve Jesus, you will be peresecuted and if you love Him enough, you will go through the persecution, no matter how tough. You can apply this to ASD behaviors. If you love enough, you will change, no matter the obstacles and it can be done with Jesus’ help.

  20. Elisabet on April 6, 2024 at 10:05 pm

    Is it better for ASD folks to marry other ASD individuals? I am 67 years old and have been married for 37 years. Obviously when we married we had never heard of ASD or autism. I have no intimacy with my husband or trust. His intense special interests led him to illegal behavior. I was horrified. The things that attracted me to him- honesty, generosity, spiritual life- it was as if he were two different people. I had thought we had shared values but we did not. To this day I do not understand it. He came from a very nice family and was well educated. He can still at times be a very considerate, well mannered gentleman. The man I loved and married. But he is ‘ missing a chip’ when it comes to ‘adulting” and looking at the big picture- raising a son, retirement for himself, etc. When people meet him they love him- like I did. He can confuse people with his charm and polite behavior. Sometimes it still confuses me! Truth be told I am lonely. I must take on all of the adult decisions and responsibilities of my family. He can be bossy and cold. He does not apologize for any of his behaviors. He can be harshly critical. He enjoys cooking and makes beautiful meals. When discussing his special interests he can be very interesting. I think we married the wrong people. I think he would be much happier with someone else who truly loved and accepted him the way he is. He deserves that. I am not that woman. I want freedom to truly be myself. I gave the best I could but I am exhausted. I have made the best of it for many years. I would like the few remaining years of my life to find intimacy with friends and even find a bit of spontaneous fun?

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