Do you consider your partner to be uncompromising, unreasonable, inconsiderate to your needs regardless of how much to explain how they are affecting your relationship?
Are they just being horrible to you or could there be another reason why their behaviour is somewhat outside of what you consider ‘normal’?
Are you confused as to how the same person who is kind and loving also seems to be uncaring and set in their ways which puts you at a disadvantage in the relationship?
Could somethings that are normal to them, but not to you be ruining your joy and putting you at your wits end?
My ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ work has taken me into understanding many situations and working with diverse clients. I was learning from some colleagues who are in the psychology field and mental health. We were talking about ‘difficult partners’ or partners who don’t get it.
A client of mine who I will call ‘Mary’ is married to the man she loves for five years. All seemed excellent at the beginning until she started noticing what she calls some specific patterns of behaviour and characteristics.
As I sit in coaching sessions with Mary, I hear some of her complaints which include;
“He doesn’t care about the future”.
“He is very pedantic about food, which way his coat hanger is facing, shoes, etc.
“He excessively reacts to the smallest things and blames me for being loud.”.
“When there is a problem, he doesn’t even look at me; it is like you are speaking to yourself, he shuts down”.
“I have to make all the important family decisions, what is the point of having another grown up in the house?”
The relationship is suffering because she gets more and more frustrated for being the only one who cares how they are going to pay bills, where they are going for holidays and what the kids are going to eat at the nursery. Her partner seems indifferent or unbothered about bigger plans the family should be making together.
James, Mary’s husband, is a super intelligent man. He is very educated and appears to know a lot on really unique subjects. He can keep you engaged for hours on a topic such as philosophy or political history. However, when it comes to social life, he struggles in unfamiliar environments. Sudden changes in family schedules seem to confuse him. He doesn’t seem to get the social cues of when to take action, stop or start. He is a bit of a recluse sometime and has a fixation on computers. She almost has to make an appointment to speak with him. He struggles with building and maintaining friends, and at times struggles with connections at work and doesn’t get certain jokes. He has a daily ‘before bed routine’ and will not deviate from it. His wife finds it annoying because the thought of any spontaneous intimacy doesn’t come easy. He can also be very defensive over smallest issues.
Now for many, this scenario may seem like it is just man or woman ego or being stubborn, but what if there was another reason?
This man is a loving, caring husband who loves his children, in his job he excels and almost everyone at work throws projects at him because he works without complaining. He does not seem to know when to say no or enough, which sometimes has led to occasional meltdowns and anxiety. Statistics show that Asperger’s (High functioning autism) can be so difficult to diagnose because on the face of it everything looks fine. So, what is this condition? I found this definition which I will share with you:
“Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger’s, is a developmental disorder characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests. As a milder autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it differs from other ASDs by normal language and intelligence. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and unusual use of language are common. Signs usually begin before two years old and typically last for a person’s entire life.” Asperger syndrome – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asberger
If you have been in a relationship or are in one, you will agree with me that as to how complicated they can be at the beginning. The guards are down, the true colours of each partner start to show themselves. Two people who grew up in different environments come together and begin to find their new way as a family. Situations where one-party show symptoms of Asperger’s can go through add complexity to this new way of life as a family. Especially if it is undiagnosed and both partners are just getting to know the other. It can often cause immense rifts, loneliness, and adverse effect on the relationship and in many cases lead to divorce.
So how do you tell the difference between someone who is just being a total undeserving sadistic partner to one who thinks differently from you or the prescribed ‘norm’?
Certain characteristics will show you that their behaviour is not by choice and may be worth checking and you may need to seek help from professionals. But how do you set the process of discovery up?
Before I go any further, I want to put out a disclaimer that I have no mental health formal training nor am I a psychologist. I am an interested Diversity and Inclusion professional who has carried out many years of research on this and other subjects and the links to what is normal. As a dyslexic myself I have my issues with reading and writing, and I was always intrigued at how I can be called dull, yet I am the most creative in my group. Anyway, that is for another day.
So that cleared, these are some of the characteristics you can notice with the aim of seeking help from professionals. I am not saying you make the diagnosis yourself. I think it will help you to look at your partner differently and start to understand what could be going on with him or her and looking for the right help for both of you. Those first steps are clear, and you may have already noticed them but not sure if you see things right. You may even be struggling with Cassandra syndrome. You look at the issues as the closest person, yet the world thinks you are the crazy one for making up what they can’t see. You are not crazy, neither is your partner (male or female).
Only 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time employment, according to the National Autistic Society. However, their research also shows that a significant majority say they do want to work. It may be the reason why a partner who is highly intelligent would struggle to find a job or settle in one. They can fail to navigate the interview questions or ‘think on their feet’ which we need to do sometimes in a work environment.
So, what are some of the characteristics:
- Does your partner go off topic and turn any small conversation into a long lesson and doesn’t seem to know when to stop despite the social cues showing that the listeners may have moved on?
- Is it too much of an effort socialising, making friends or even and sustaining friendship?
- Do they seem to have an inability to infer the thoughts, feelings, or emotions of others;
- When you argue do, they gaze too intently in one direction avoiding eye contact?
- Do find it hard to be spontaneous, are they too dependent on routines; and stereotypical habits, and overly repetitive patterns?
- Do they seem to struggle with comprehension of gestures and can’t easily tell or participate in a joke or sarcasm?
- Do they struggle with eating certain foods or insist on preparing, serving and arranging foods in a particular way?
Of course, you cannot make a diagnosis only by answering the above questions; I hope they may help you start to look at life differently. You may decide to adapt to the situation now you are a little more informed of what could be going on with them. Alternatively, if it is a source of conflict and frustration, ask the difficult questions, talk about to your partner about seeing a professional. The professionals can rule out Asperger syndrome or find that it another condition. Most importantly the professionals can get both of you to support to manage the condition.
Let’s aim for a world where we do not exclude people because they do not see things according to the so-called normal parameters. Let us celebrate the diversity among us.
Useful sites about
National Autistic Society, UK – https://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asperger.aspx
Asperger’s Syndrome. Me. UKhttp://www.asperger-syndrome.me.uk/about.html
Action for Asperger’s https://www.actionforaspergers.org/
Asperger Works Inc… http://aspergerworks.org/why-asperger-works/about-aspergers-syndrome/
Asperger’s Syndrome (Asperger Disorder): https://www.medicinenet.com/asperger_syndrome/article.htm