Learning to love with Asperger syndrome

It’s not easy living with a man who will only say ‘I love you’ once a day, max

Learning to love with Asperger syndrome

Getty Images; iStock; Photo Illustration by Taylor Shute

The typical man with Asperger syndrome has many questions. “Why do women exaggerate so often?” he wonders, and “Why does my wife need me to keep telling her I love her?”

For the logically minded Asperger guy, few things are more difficult than living with a woman who needs daily displays of affection. The “Aspie” man, on returning home from work, might prefer to seclude himself in his den where he can indulge his hobby of tinkering with train sets—only to discover his wife angrily banging pots in the kitchen, upset that he hasn’t said, “Hello, I’m home.” As one man with Asperger syndrome explained to British therapist Maxine Aston: “She knows I’m home. She will have heard me put the car in the garage. What is the point in telling her something she already knows?”

Aston’s practice is unique, as she specializes in counselling couples in which the male partner has Asperger syndrome and the female does not. In What Men with Asperger’s Syndrome Want to Know About Women, Dating and Relationships, she covers more than 40 of the top questions. “Oh, crikey! I see people from all over the world. I’ve had couples travel from Kenya, Dubai and Canada, yes!” she said in an interview from her home in Coventry, England.

She tells wives of Aspie men that many do not experience warm feelings when they arrive home from work. “In fact, quite the opposite,” she writes. “He will be leaving his safe place at work and entering his partner’s environment, one which is unpredictable and chaotic and, for him, hard work.” She advises wives to allow husbands at least 30 minutes of alone time before approaching to chit-chat.

To help Aspie men better understand women, Aston instructs them to picture a wristwatch. “Although the watch is obviously a complex and sophisticated device, all it takes to make this miracle of an invention work and keep time is a tiny little spring, wound with ease, by a small wheel on the side of the watch,” she writes. “So, yes, women are highly complex, especially within the realm of emotions; however, they are also relatively simple in what they require from their partner to make them happy.”

She counsels men to have a script ready whenever a woman asks if she looks good, or if she has a beautiful figure or face. “The majority of women do not always want the absolute truth,” she writes. A good way to tell a woman a nice thing without sounding false is to write it on a Post-it note and stick it where she’ll find it, or send a text or email, she advises.

Having Asperger syndrome can make it difficult to understand the difference between an exaggeration and a lie. Tension often arises in social situations when the Aspie man feels it’s his duty to set the record straight. A woman might tell her friends she waited “forever” at the post office, or that “there were hundreds of people” on the bus. “To the Asperger brain, these are false facts and need to be corrected,” writes Aston. She explains, “If he hears his partner being liberal with the truth or exaggerating, he should try to hold back on immediately correcting her.” However, many Aspies find it impossible to control the urge to correct, in which case the wife may have to start telling her stories in her spouse’s absence, or refer to him during the story to confirm the facts.

Most bewildering to an Aspie man is why his wife wants to again hear “I love you” when he’s already said it once. Words of love are like food to women, Aston tells Aspie men. She suggests they think of love as a colour. “They might choose red or pink or green because their visual imagination is far stronger than being able to talk about emotional feelings,” she says. The men are asked, on a scale of one to 10, to describe the depth of colour as a way of telling their wives how much they love them. “With the brutal honesty that some men with Asperger’s have, women can be disappointed if they feel the number is low,” says Aston. On the other hand, “if you get a 10 purple, he absolutely means it! It could mean he’s slightly aroused,” she laughs. “They answer very quickly because it’s appealing to their logical brains.”


Learning to love with Asperger syndrome

  1. I, too, have written a book on learning to love with Bipolar Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. It is a story of my journey to learn to love despite Aspie traits. As it turns out I found a fellow Aspie to love after a generally hellish pursuit of a woman. My book is called “Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things” and is on Amazon Kindle, Nook, etc. Yes, it is hard loving someone with Asperger’s. My Aspie man is short on the lovey/dovey stuff which I never could recognize or, if I did, never could stomach. But we have learned to be more affectionate with each other and our marriage of 23 years has forced us to grow in ways neither of us thought possible.

  2. I thought this might prove useful/interesting, but since apparently “Asperger syndrome” only applies to MEN (there is no genetics research to-date to suggest it affects men more), I’ll keep page-hopping.

  3. Agreed. This type of drivel only contributes to erasure of Autistic women. For every article that equivocates between “Asperger’s” and “male”, the two become all the more fused in the mind of the already-ignorant public at large. It’s no wonder women and girls are suffering.

  4. What about adult women with Asperger’s Syndrome who date or are married to men who don’t have Asperger’s Syndrome?!?!

  5. I have a female friend who has AS, this article is one-sided. ._.;

    But then again, women with AS may or may not have similar traits to men who have AS; it all depends on the person.

  6. What if you don’t need “daily displays of affection”. This makes me as the partner seem needy. What if the last time your husband said “I Love You” was 18 years ago. Doesn’t that partner with Aspergers have some responsibility for meeting in the middle?

  7. The tone of this artcle is condescending to both people with Aspergers and women–the therapist speaks of both groups in the most simplistic terms. When she comments on people with Aspergers, it sometimes sounds as if she’s a biologist observing a different species.

  8. I have Asperger Syndrome, High-Functioning Autism, i feel it hurts guys more than girls because guys are expected to make the first move, to do the chasing, pursuing, initiating, asking out, etc., and A.S. makes us guys socially-awkward by nature

  9. Wow, some women get THREE words a day from their autistic husband? Jealous.

    • @Mrsejfoter. Lol, but sad, too. I was thinking the same thing. Daily doses? We have been married for 6 years and I have heard, “I love you” a few times. He doesn’t say good night or good morning. He doesn’t ask how my day teaching went. He barely speaks to my two children who live with us. He didn’t acknowledge my birthday 2 years in a row. I realized that being his wife is the loneliest job in the world and it does indeed feel like a job.

      • I’m not judging, just wondering how you and others got in the position to even WANT to marry these type of men? Thought they would possibly change? What attracted you all to them? I’m reading all of these posts for a reason, obviously. I can’t say I’m in the exact same position but can relate to a degree. Lonely sometimes, for sure. Don’t know where I stand, usually. Not positive how important I am to him, etc. Yet, my gut tells me he adores me. Well, so does he. He just can’t open up and can’t communicate very well. He does have a bad temper and is very defensive. So, just curious. Thanks

        • Sorry, I didn’t mention that yes, he does get anxiety in social situations, has routines, gets upset when he’s forced off course, touching is not always easy, keeping eye contact for him is hard with me sometimes, but not others, etc.

          • sounds like your significant other may very well have AS, he sounds a lot like my husband of 24 years. Remember, people with AS come in all different varieties just like anyone else. Some with AS have weakness in one area and some in another, some are profound weaknesses and others are barely obvious. For instance my husband is often affectionate, not something you hear a lot about in spouses with AS.

            If enough qualities that interfere with normal functioning in relationships exist and add up to cause significant complications then I would suspect there is an underlying diagnosis that may shed light on the source.

            As for being draw to a person with AS, as with anyone people with AS can have many endearing qualities that include commitment, acceptance of a person just as they are, ability to overlook flaws, and my husband is very low maintenance when it comes to meeting his needs. These are just a few I personally experience, but others may have a very different experience in these areas. However, I will say that AS often poses significant difficulties for the NT partner in particular because usually an NT’s expectations/needs in the relationship are so vastly different than what most partners with AS can meet.

            Since my husband’s diagnosis over a year ago I have had to readjust my expectations of our relationship, and he now must learn how to meet some of my very real needs even though understanding, comprehending and even having the desire to meet those needs may not come naturally for him.

            After 24 years of ups and downs and raising children together the jury is still out as to whether or not our relationship will endure.But if it does not at least we will both have a greater understanding of what has made our union so difficult at times. For me this goes a long way in being able to retain a great deal of respect for both my husband and for myself. These are not easy relationships to navigate and we’ve done it remarkably well in my opinion.

        • My husband was very different when we got married. He has gotten more reclusive and much less interested in anything outside of himself. He lives in his head.

        • We only see a few quirks at the beginning that don’t seem so bad. Once a family is established, they go off into their own world and any affection that existed disappears. We were at a long distance relationship with only weekends together, and those were perfect. After getting married though, the isolation started, and was imposed on me too…to the point of me getting punished with no eye contact for days if I even wanted to see my parents.

  10. It is true that it is quite difficult to live with a man who suffer from Aspergers syndrome and condition got worse when he hasn’t diagnosed as Aspergers syndrome. There is only a single way to lie with people with Aspergers syndrome. You have to manage them with emotional support and let them do what they want, specially there hobbies.

    for more info :- http://cluas.ie/children/aspergers-syndrome/

    • Yes, but I want, NEED, intimacy– am dying inside! He enjoys virtual release, perhaps– and rarely. I ascribed AS behaviors to ED denial. when we were dating. I yearn for a partner, but will not stray. My spouse (NOT a true husband) will always be only a parent/step-parent at best.

  11. important topic. Keep working it. Re daily reminders of love: it actually feels wrong to me. I mean what I say, so repeating love commitments makes them contingent, rather then unconditional. “let your yes be yes and no be no” is a value I understand.

    I do repeat the commitment because I understand how important it is to my wife of 28 years.

    But it still feels similar to being asked to sign my permanent employment contract each time I come into the office. I thought I had that job. I didn’t know I had to reconfirm.

    Now airlines do that “reconfirmation” of a “reserved” seat. But there the intention is clearly to assure that messy reservation systems didn’t overbook. And thus an indication that my “reservation” is actually more a “noted request/initial allocation”. That’s not what “I love you” is supposed to mean – it doesn’t mean I like you right now, i feel good about our relationship in this moment” . Maybe we need a different vocabulary, e.g. I love how we are doing. Or something like that. But i’m quite sure that doesn’t do the trick on the socialite side.

  12. My husband has never been officially diagnosed with asperger but after reading many things about it I am convinced that he is an aspie, he is 55 yrs old, he was in the military 21 yrs, special forces. he has been married twice before me. his previous wives totally used him and some of the stuff he put up with floors me but he still allowed them to do these awful things to him, both cheated on him and carried on other relationship with other men as if he did not exsist. Not sure if his four kids are his biologically because of the the sleeping around they did, but he just believed they were his because they said so. I do not want to keep going on this am just trying to describe this man, he is very different from anyone I have ever met. Why I think for sure he has aspeger. one is this man has been in the military for 21 years and all over the world meeting different kinds of people yet and still he is niave about people and reading them. he does this compulsive thing with his coffee. he uses a big beer mug fills it almost full with water adds 4 tablespoons of instant coffee to it and top the mug off with milk. he stir it exactly 50 things as it clanks against the glass them he taps the spoons takes the spoon and rinses it off and put it back in the dish rack for the next time. I want you to realize he drinks about six of those mugs a day and each time goes through the same routine never out of order. one day i told i am going to get him a plastic spoon to stir with but i know he would not use it. I said to him I bet you know exactly how many times you stir your coffee, he said yes 50 times, 50 times mixes it well.
    I have been with him for seven years and he has never deviated from this routine one bit. he is constantly messing with computers even builds them, he took up the violin last year and learned to play it well enough to play for members in church, this year he wanted the guitar for christmas, i got him one. One day he was looking for a particular flashlight he could not find it. I said here use this one he said no I want the one that was in this drawer he sounded just like a kid. I said to him this flashlight is the same as the other one, he said he did not want that one he wanted the other one. you do not move anything of his out place where he put it. You guys were talking about affection my husband in a since smothers me with affectionate words, I love you, how was you day, you have a good sleep, it just sound so routine or programmed. He also always walks on his toes when his shoes are off but not when they are on. he wiggles his toes a lot i noticed it more when he is interested or enjoying what he is watching on tv. when he watches tv he is zoned in on it. I have seen do this thing with his hands in a repetitive way. like rub his eyes then touch his ear then repeat it, when i look at him he stops, this usually happens when he is watching tv.sometimes i know i have been not so nice but it seems to not bother him. as if it did not happen. some times people take him as mean or cold, i noticed this even more with his older sister, the way he acts socially and how he responds to people somtimes they are offended by him, then he says i did not mean it in a mean way. I know some one would say nothing is wrong with him , remember i have been with this man for 7 years and he does not deviate from his routine. He raised his two young children who were 3 and 4 when i met him, he has custody because his second wife abandoned them. he keeps them on a regiment, doing the same thing daily never to deviate. this is just some of the things that makes me think he has asperger’s. What do you all think of this man, am i on th mark?

    • I think it’s sad you keep referring to him as “this man”, it’s as if you’re talking about a weird roommate of yours not your husband.

  13. living with a partner wither Asperger’s can be hell- it can make you question your sanity and perception on the world to the point of doubting yourself and all that you are and could be. My life is limited and governed by the behaviour of my husband, I am forever covering up his social inaptitude and the dangerous situations that he finds himself in because of his lack of social skills.

    So if you are prepared to have your life moulded by the dysfunctional behaviour of another who is unaware the hurt they cause you- their complete lack of comprehension and ability to feel and communicate go ahead stay with in your relationship.

    By the way my partner although he thinks outside the box is not brilliant or particularly clever.
    I compare this relationship with an abusive one, it is extremely hard to spot the difference at times

    • I totally agree. I only found out about AS a year ago, after 18 years of hell with my husband. The psychiatrist I consulted to help me first told me my husband was a manipulator = abusive. i agree that it is often hard to spot the difference. They have a LOT in common, but the AS have the withdrawal, silent treatment, need to be alone and explosions for no reason we can understand, plus the totally irational reasoning.

      • each person with aspergers is a unique individual. Some are awesome sweet people, some are jerks. Each person is different. The aspie I know is really sweet.

  14. Verbal displays of affection are an individual thing, rather than a neurotypical vs asperger thing. Different people have different ways of showing or recognizing affection.

    One person might rely on words, another shows affection by spending time together, another (usually men) relies on showing affection by providing financial support. Anyone here familiar with Gary Chapmans books about the five love languages?

  15. Women aren’t *quite* like wristwatches — their faces are a lot harder to read. On the plus side, they can do a lot more than give you the time of day.