I have lived with with my husband for 20 years. It has taken a long time, but I have come to the conclusion that he has Aspergers. This came to me in a lightbulb moment whilst trying to shed light on a couple of similar traits in our teenage son.
My husband has often said he feels he is different, but been unable to say how. He presents to the outside as fairly 'normal' (I hate than word!) He has held down a job for most of his life - although it was a job with a high degree of autonomy for the most part. He has had two 10 year relationships prior to me, one of whom he was married to, both of which broke down. He appears very sociable, although I have come to realise that this is largely superficial. When socialising he can be very intense, although romantically he was quite nervous from the start and in some areas remains so even now.
From a couple of year after living together I noticed problems many of which were in themselves quite minor and so they didn't bother me too much to begin with. I can't move furniture in the house. I can't choose furniture in the house. My choice is usually restricted to a choice between the things my husband likes. He struggles, really struggles to see anyone elses viewpoint on issues he feels emotionally connected to. 'Compromise' to him means everyone else coming round to his way of thinking. He can identify unacceptable behaviour in others, but cannot see that same behaviour in himself. He will say horrible things sometimes and he doesn't know why - he is only able to say that he doesn't mean it. He struggles with what I call routine affection and reassurances in our relationship and also the intimate aspects of a long term relationship. He doesn't see the need and has told me this. I used to think he was selfish and uncaring, but that is at odds with other areas of our life where he clearly does care and loves our family very much. When I get upset over something he has said or done he is upset that I am upset. He wants me to feel better. But he seems blind to his role in the upset. He finds saying sorry difficult - I assume because he a) can't see what he has done wrong or b) didn't mean it so theres no need to apologise. On occasion I have tried hard to explain and he says he understands, but his understanding seems akin to telling a blind man what an apple looks like. He can take in the explanation, but he still doesn't SEE it. I could also write pages about his relationship with pets - one of whom I think he has loved more than any human in his life. Our problems would be solved instantly if he could treat me like he does our cat!
We have discussed the possibility of Aspergers. This also coincided with the Chris Packham TV programme about his experiences and my husband recognised that this may be the problem. I also identified with the things Chris's girlfriend said.
We have talked about this together and we really want to make our relationship work because we do love each other. In lots of ways he is a wonderful person and a great partner. I have never met anyone like him and he supports me daily in so many ways. The problems areas are all connected to what I understand as Asperger traits. He has been trying very very hard to give me those moments of affection I need and to see things from my point of view. But I can see the struggle and cost to him. It just doesn't come naturally. For my part I am trying to recognise when he needs time out to recharge. That is hard for me too, but we are both trying.
I have been looking for books on the subject which may help, but I am at loss where to start. So much seems focussed on children and isn't relevant to my husband who is now in his 60s, having lived with this for all his life.
And this is the main reason for my post - sorry it has been so long! Can anyone recommend any books to read for couples like us where the realisation of Aspergers has come late in life. Perhaps something that could help both my husband and I understand our different needs better so that we can move towards a middle ground and communicate more effectively.
Thanks for reading. Sorry it has been so long!
First of all well done for reaching out for support and guidance on the matter as I know some people would just throw the towel in, so you clearly love your partner and want this to work.
Let me reassure you that although your partner may not express love and affection in the ways you recognise, he probably loves you dearly, he just doesn't know how to show it. I find it very difficult to show affection or even speak how I feel about someone. I don't think my partner realises how privileged he is that I tell him I love him, as I have never even said that to my mum and dad. It sounds harsh and cold, but I really struggle to tell and show people how I feel in the conventional sense.
Animals can provide immense comfort and sanctuary, as they don't judge or expect anything of us. Looking after and caring for pets can also be very rewarding and it provides a sense of purpose, well-being and routine in our lives.
Like your husband, I am very controlling over my environment. I don't mean to be a *** about it, but the level of stress and emotion that is caused by things not being where they should be or how the way I like it is indescribable. My partner is slowly moving into my house and it has been a massive struggle for me. I can't cope with things being in the wrong place or things not having their usual order. This causes me to become irritable, agitated and all round grump, which can come out at my partner if I am not careful. It also makes me become more detached and withdrawn, where I don't want my partner to touch me or show me affection. It kills me to know that this hurts my partner, but I cannot deal with it and it is very hard to explain that to someone who expects affection in that manner.
You have lived with your partner for 20 years, so you already know him well. It might be worth trying to understand what stresses him out and what helps him to relax. I am a lot more affectionate when I am relaxed and not worrying too much. Also, think about how you communicate to each other and how he might be interpreting things. I take things more literally than my partner realises sometimes and I am left stressing over something insignificant as a result.
We don't mean to be miserable tyrants. Maybe set some quiet time aside when it suits you both and try and address what you both can do to make things easier and more enjoyable. Try and find what areas can be compromised on and what areas are no go zones. There might be more no go zones to start with until you start to work on things and see what can be tolerated and what needs to be avoided. ND people appreciate honesty and getting to the point. So long as you are open, non-judgmental and understanding, I'm sure you will be fine.
Thankyou for the reply Starbuck - that's been a very helpful reassurance for me.
The need for words of love and shows of affection is a strange thing. I know logically that he loves me, but I find it hard to feel sometimes. And when we talk about it, sometimes I feel quite shallow for seeing a simple 'I love you' as being so important, when my husband sees our long relationship and the things we actually do as better indications of love.
I love him for trying, as I'm sure your partner loves you. To have someone try like that when it clearly doesn't come naturally purely because they care about how you feel is really wonderful. And it's one of the reasons I want to change some of my behaviours in order to make his life easier.
All of us can improve the living environment - I hadn't really appreciated the impact it must have on him living with a wife and two teenagers who are not the tidiest of people by a long way!
Thanks again for your help - I'll take on board your suggestions. And definitely try to be tidier around the house!