Relationships and Asperger's
"As someone who had a very serious relationship with someone with (undiagnosed at the time) Asperger's and depression , (those unknowns actually caused the relationship to end) and the slight possibility we may again become involved in the future (fingers crossed here - LOL) what advice can you give on loving someone with Asperger's? What does your wife do to support you, what do you do support her, what does she do to support herself?"
Trouble with relationships seems to be very common in people with Asperger's. (Especially when you stack Bipolar and Anxiety on top!!) The biggest thing I personally struggled with starting out (and even still in our marriage) is communication and social cues.
Relationships require a lot of social finesse and understanding, its like swimming in a big grey pool! I wish there was an instruction manual for relationships, clear cut answers; however every relationship is different!
The first thing I recommend is setting healthy boundaries, not just for the big obvious relationship no-nos, but in anything that you feel is a boundary for yourself. Unfortunately though the big things seem obvious, the smaller things are what can slip through the cracks without us even realizing it!
No matter what, everyone deserves to feel happy, comfortable, and safe in their relationships. Setting healthy boundaries on both sides will not only help you two feel safer and happier in the relationship, but it will also help you both to learn more about the other!
Its also okay to take some time apart, do separate activities for a while. We can get overwhelmed and overstimulated, so understanding that sometimes we need space is key! (However, make sure it is a healthy amount, as you also deserve time with them!) My wife is very understanding of my space, but also challenges me to be a better version of myself!
It comes down to the DBT thinking of "I understand and respect your limitations AND I am going to push you to do better!"
Here is an excerpt my wife wrote:
"To say that I have 'loving Ben' in the way he deserves figured out 100% would be a very big lie. As someone who is also neurodivergent but not on the ASD spectrum and also not diagnosed with anything (long story short: it's VERY hard to get into a psychiatrist where we live but both Ben and I agree my behaviour at times is not that of a mentally healthy human being, from Ben and I's perspectives we believe I have BDP, Borderline Personality Disorder) I found a lot of things hard to deal with when Ben and I started getting serious.
He had certain routines and patterns set that clashed with us, mostly me, in our relationship but because he's known and kept up with those patterns for so long he assumed he didn't need to be open or speak with me about them. They put quite the strain on us and because I hadn't had experience with Autism in general much less in a relationship (or at least if I had I hadn't know the person was Autistic because like my mother in law says, "if you know one person with autism, you know one person with Autism.") I couldn't wrap my head around the idea that he never once had the thought to communicate about things with me and because of this I became an awful person to deal with, I was very mean and very demanding and as you can imagine Ben, being a 20 year old Autistic man who, like me, had never been in a serious relationship, had an extremely hard time coping with my behaviour.
Now, that time in our relationship is very foggy for the both of us, we can't give exact timelines or exact facts because we were both very mentally ill; but at some point Ben told me I had to get mental health help first in order to progress in this relationship, and he was right.
Once I learnt how to deal with my emotions and rationalize my thoughts that's when I was able to start to understand how to love Ben and we learnt to set healthy boundaries for the both of us to follow. I now understand there are things that he does or believes that even if I don't understand them that I just have to accept, some small examples are the fact that he doesn't like taking scenic routes while driving he likes the most direct path he can take to his destination "the path with less resistance" he always says; or for a while we had only one pot for our induction burner and he said he wished he could make grilled cheese and when I said, you could make them in the pot, he told me "No pans are for grilled cheese, I'm not making a grilled cheese in a pot." (These are just small things that I can think of off the top of my head there's other things that are more important than how he drives or what he uses to cook but I can't recall them at the moment.)
Things that I may think are silly but are serious to him, you just have to let it go, his brain has told him you don't do things that way and so he doesn't and sometimes it's frustrating and it feels like it shouldn't matter but it does to him and you have to accept it.
Something we've created with the help of his mother is a number scale for how he's feeling, I know this may sound childish to some but it's not, it's just an easier way of conveying his emotions when he doesn't have the vocabulary to describe them. _/10 for how his day went 10 being the best, 1 being the worst; and a _/8 for how depressed and/or suicidal he's feeling 1 being calm, 8 being I take him to the hospital. It saves him a lot of time, rather than trying to put the jumbled up words in his head into a coherent sentence, it lets me know roughly how he's feeling very quickly, which is extremely helpful for the depression scale.
I'll let Benjamin answer how he supports me but to answer your question, how do I support myself, there's times I need to shut down. I need to not be spoken to or touched until I feel my emotions start to level out, I usually lay on my side and scroll away on my phone until I feel close to level headed. That may sound mean to just shut down on your partner but with my mental health it just works for me, it's kind of like when Ben becomes over stimulated and he just needs the world to stop for a minute, I just need to not speak or be spoken to and let whatever emotion I'm feeling ride itself out while not letting it consume me.
I also reach out to my mother in law as well if the time calls for it, she's had Ben's whole life to help him and understand him and she gives us a perspective that we just can't see on our own. She's the one who had the absolutely brilliant idea of putting a white/cork board with a basket on our front door, Ben writes specific things he needs to get done that week and puts anything he needs to take, like his workbook for therapy, in the basket so he can see it as he's leaving the house and won't forget it.
Ben told me to keep this short but I often get carried away when writing, never had an issue reaching the word count on essays, but anyway I hope this perspective I've given you helps you but always remember what works for us may not for you and your partner. Thanks for reading!"
Communication is key, often times despite needing time to myself; its hard for me to accept that she also needs space to herself. Just explaining and talking to eachother about what you need to help you in moments like that ahead of time will make the world of difference!
My wife and I like to say that she speaks English(US) and I speak English(Ben); because despite both speaking the same language, there is still large language barriers between us. Sometimes what I want and mean to say just don't come to me, so I'll start getting frustrated that she doesn't understand me in the moment. Its then important for me to take a step back, and rationalize that she just doesn't understand what I'm trying to say.
The gist of it is, I support her by respecting boundaries, respecting her space, and respecting that my brain functions differently than hers.
Anyway, I hope this helped! Have a fantastic day!