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Wow!  Think I may have found the root cause of my marriage failure.  But is it too late???

Nov 26, 2008 - 8 comments
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Autism

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I've just come back from a (solo) counselling session.  During the session I mentioned to the counsellor that I realised a few years ago that I have some symptoms of Aspergers Syndrome (AS).

For those not aware (most people), AS is like a mild version of Autism.  Autism isn't a you've-got-it-or-you-haven't thing, it's a whole spectrum that starts at the stereotypical computer geek, stretching to Rain Man (and beyond).  Asperger syndrome describes a mild variant, people who are mostly average to above average intelligence, can get on OK in the world, but are socially awkward, a bit geeky or inept, a bit of a loner, don't communicate so well (particularly face-to-face or by 'phone), have few if any real friends.  The kid at school who was bullied 'cos he just seemed a bit odd and different and didn't really stand up for himself?  He had AS.

A few years ago, when my daughter started school and was having some problems, we looked into things and realised she exhibited some symptoms of AS.  In the process, we realised that I did too (it's often hereditary).  Possibly not strong enough to be officially categorised as AS (despite it all being different shades of grey, professionals still like to define you as either having it, or not), but quite a few of the typical symptoms are undoubtably there.

Anyway, I mentioned to my counsellor in passing that this was the case.  She picked me up on it and we discussed it for a short while, and she suggested I check out some publications by this guy Tony Attwood.  I checked out his website, it recommended quite a few books, and so I checked those out on Amazon.  Wow!!!  Just reading the excerpts, and the reviews, it is already abundantly clear that the issues we face, the exact reasons my wife gave me for falling out of love with me, are the same issues faced by almost any relationship between a man with AS (it's far more common in men) and a woman who is NT (neuro-typical, i.e. normal.  People with AS, and their families, like to have a label for "normal" people, it makes us feel like they're the wierdos, not us!).

Given that I already had an awareness of AS, and the descriptions my wife gave of why she wants to separate, it's amazing I didn't really make this connection earlier.  I knew it was because of who I was, my inability to give her the emotional support she needed at times, the way she felt like I didn't always understand what she was saying to me or I responded inappropriately, everything she said ties in, why didn't I spot that these are all symptoms of my AS?

I've ordered a couple of the books and will read them assiduously, and I'll give them to my wife and hopefully she'll read them too.  From the summaries it seems that plenty of AS/NT relationships do work and survive and thrive, but there is no real magic solution, the main thing is that each partner needs to understand the differences and allow for them.  But this may be what my wife feels she's already been doing for a number of years, and has had enough of, so there may be nothing new in there for her.  What the hell, it can't hurt to try.

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by mami1323, Nov 26, 2008
What has your wife said about your new findings?  Is she willing to try to work through it?  I really hope the best for you sammy.  It would be such a major triumph if your marriage went on to succeed after this.  I will pray for you and wish you luck.

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by sammy73, Nov 26, 2008
Well, I only had this realisation at lunch-time today when I had my counselling, and my wife is out this evening, so I haven't had a chance to mention it.  I was planning not to say anything until the books turned up from Amazon (and I've had a chance to look at them), so she has an opportunity to read them right away.

I am not pinning huge hopes on this making a difference.  She may feel that her mind is already too made up and she's not prepared to change it.  She may feel that the compromises and understanding that the books say are necessary are what she has already tried, and has had enough of.  But if there's a chance, it's worth trying - right now I have very little to lose.

Thank you mami for your wishes and prayers - they mean a lot to me.

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by LetaB, Nov 26, 2008
   I have met several people that have Asbergers and am quite likely related to a few! Knowing them it surprises me that you are so charasmatic and free with your feelings as you show in this post. I like what you say about shades of grey - I see a world of the diagnosed and the not yet diagnosed, the more sane who admit that they are imperfect, those that think they are perfect and are actually more insane and others who fall imbetween.
  What a beautifully conceptualized and well written post - is writing your occupation? May I hazard to say that the Asberger driven men I've known are not much for introspection or self accusations - maybe they've got a variant of what you may have.
  Let us know how this thing progresses - I pray it's not too late.

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by sammy73, Nov 26, 2008
LetaB - thanks for your comments!!  And thank you for the compliments about being charismatic and free with my feelings.  Like many people with AS, I find it easier to express myself in writing than in speech (hence, like many, preferring e-mail and IM to the 'phone), I'm not always this eloquent in talking.  Also there is a certain freedom to expressing myself on a forum like this, where I am not face to face with the people I'm communicating with, I'm dealing with strangers I'll never have to meet directly (although some are not such strangers any more, with the to-ing and fro-ing of messages!), it makes it easier to come out and express myself.  No, I'm not a professional writer (I'm actually an engineer, a profession with more than it's fair share of those on the Aspergers spectrum!), but I benefitted from an excellent education so I know how to string words together!

People with AS, in order to make their way in the normal world, use intellectual methods to try and teach themselves the skills that neuro-typical people just have naturally (conversation, eye contact, for example) - I guess for me being able to examine myself and identify my own faults is one of those skills I have taught myself.  Also a self-help book I downloaded when my marriage first ran into trouble encouraged me to look inwards for my own contribution to the marriage difficulties.  As my symptoms put me at the mild end of AS, I may be better at this than other cases.

The problem here is, knowing what the cause of the difficulties is, and being able to fix it, are two very different things...

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by butterflyfuller, Dec 05, 2008
Good Luck with your quest for self understanding and coping.  We all work with that in varying degrees. I  always felt that my social skills were my best asset. I have been told that I have a high believability factor.. that does come natural. However, that being said, after my recent divorce and the horrible way my thirty year marriage ended, I have started to doubt my instincts. You do have a good knowledge of written language skills. Maybe this forum is exactly what the doctor ordered for you. Practice looking in a mirror when you are talking. If what you are feeling is showing on your face,, that is good.I can not do math very well, but I can look you in the eye and smile and talk my way right into your heart... or listen to all your problems... and help you.. or most people feel at total ease. I think I have always worked at it a bit. As a child, I was very shy. Like most teenagers I wanted a lot of friends, so I read self help books and learned how to be popular.  My favorite thing to do is to meet new people and learn about our similarites and differences.  We all like attention.We all need to be listened too and feel needed and loved.Sometimes a dog or horse is a good place to learn how to show affection and unconditional love. I think we get too comfortable in long term relationships and stop courting our mates. Some people stop taking care of their physical bodies. Women love men that smell good. We like meticulously clean mouths and bodies.  Men tend to not really care about these issues.  It is a good place to start. Washing dishes and cleaning the house is the way to some womens hearts.  It is important to ask your partner what you can do to make her life better. I think little things go a long way.  Start her car on cold mornings. Make her some coffee and take it to her in bed.  Read up on how to give really good massage and practice on each other. Play nice music and turn off  the tv sometimes.  Never leave the seat up.. Try to find romantic and special gifts for her. Love means caring more about her than yourself.  But I believe you must care for yourself and develop your own personal style and self esteem before anyone else can love you. It is ok to be a geek.. Just be a squeaky clean geek with a nice smile. Learn how to hold her hand lovingly. If you truly have AS you will need feedback along your journey. Consider it a challenge and keep us up on your progress. Good Luck to you and we are all hear cheering you on..

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by sammy73, Dec 06, 2008
Hi butterflyfuller - thanks for your kind words and all your useful advice.  Much of the stuff you mention I've already been doing, such as helping in the house, doing little kindnesses etc. (which, while I wouldn't quite say she takes it for granted, means it's not exactly unexpected either), but I'll bear in mind what you say about cleanliness, about talking and listening and so on.  For her I think the issue is really the talking and listening and feeling truly understood, feeling deep empathy, that isn't working for her and is the cause of our problems - but the other stuff all can contribute too!

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by butterflyfuller, Jan 17, 2009
keep up the good work.. and How is it going.. .

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by sammy73, Jan 19, 2009
Hi butterflyfuller,

Thanks for popping up again!  As you'll see from my two subsequent journal entries, things are going MUCH better.  We are pretty much back to being a normal, happy, contented married couple again!  We are sharing a bed, we are going out together and having fun and able to relax and enjoy each others company, there is affection and moments of loving physical contact - holding hands and snuggling together on the sofa.

I can't be sure what exactly prompted this.  Whether it was the realisation that many of our problems were related to the Asperger symptoms I show, and us both reading books on the subject.  Whether it was me deciding to STOP trying to rescue the relationship, which may have eased the pressure and expectation I had been putting on my wife, making it easier for her to come back to me.  Whether she just had a change of heart on her own, unrelated to these things, or for some other reason I'm not aware of.  Whether she just made a New Year's Resolution to give us another try?

I'm not sure, but whatever the reason I'm really happy with the way things are going and I'm determined to make the best of it to give it the best chance of being a lasting recovery.  Equally, I'm being careful not to try TOO hard, if I put too much pressure and come on too strong that could work out badly.  While I may genuinely want to express my love and closeness and affection, because of they way I am it is more of a "learned response" than an instinctive behaviour when I do something that expresses affection - a behaviour I've trained myself to do, or am copying from something I've read or seen.  That comes across (to my wife at least) as rather false and phoney, like I've learnt a script for what I should be saying and doing and I'm acting it out, rather than it being genuine.  That, to her, is off-putting, it makes things worse not better.  So I have to watch myself and make sure I'm not doing that.

Anyway, things are going well, and I'm feeling relaxed and content and happy deep down inside for the first time in a very long while.

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