It is commonly acknowledged that living with a person on the autism spectrum can be difficult because of the subtle nature of the disability. Outsiders cannot 'see' autism, and it can be hard to explain to friends and family that certain behaviour is unexplainable. It is occasionally acknowledged that the certain behaviour is often deliberate and may be carefully designed to sabotage and side track the events to the favour of the needs of the person with ASD.

This is a summary of, and response to, what is offered as therapeutic advice on how to improve communication and love between the couple when there is a NT spouse and a partner who has functioning autism. These strategies are also used in educational settings with children.

Some suggested strategies

  1. Develop code words to prompt the person with Asperger’s in most situations; give instructions, tell your partner how you expect them to behave in a particular situation.

  2. Explain concepts to your ASD partner through social stories 

  3. Speak plainly in simple sentences; speak very clearly to your partner, even though this may make you feel like you are speaking to a child; do not be ambiguous; use clear language; have a calm, reasoned discussion about any issues.

  4. Give them space; try to help them develop ways of coping, for example to go to a quieter room for a short time.

  5. Clear signals that you are ready for sex.

  6. Decide what kind of learner he/she is, such as visual and use that; draw step by step diagrams and leave them on the fridge…Write down instructions, be frank and explicit.

  7. Problem-solve as a couple.

  8. Talk to your ASD partner about any problems you are having in the relationship and explain your feelings. 

  9. Strategize, drawing up a timetable for certain activities, such as mealtimes, can help your ASD partner to know what is going to happen when. 

  10. Diagnosis may make a difference

  11. Have a 'dates to remember' book for your ASD partner, or a calendar which lists birthdays or anniversaries which you celebrate; add photos of the person whose birthday it is to remind your ASD partner. This can make it easier for your ASD partner to know that they should plan to buy a gift or card or expect a social occasion around those dates.

Disclaimers regarding the effectiveness of the suggested strategies.

In among all the information about the busy work the neurotypical should be doing to enhance the relationship comes the obvious contradictions, inconsistencies in advice, blame and minimising of the neurotypical’s genuine concerns.

  1. Do not assume your wishes or emotions are acknowledged and understood.

  2. Being emotional (even when you have every right) may not be the best way to get through to them, while a calmer, reasoned discussion will work better.

  3. Being constantly on the receiving end of negative, unknown, hurtful behaviour causes great stress to the neurotypical and eventually has detrimental physical repercussions.

  4. The person with ASD can manipulate to have only their needs met via the ‘cold-shoulder,’ bullying and intimidation.

  5. Some people say they feel more like their partner's parent than their partner. The NT partner may feel a heavy responsibility for the ASD spouse.

  6. People with ASD will not pick up on non-verbal signals; remember that the ASD person will not be able to read all the social cues which you understand without even trying.

  7. The ASD person usually does not recognise the needs or wants of others.

  8. When offering advise use a more impersonal approach, for example instead of saying 'You shouldn't do that', say, 'People don't do that in social settings'.

  9. You may need to explain the role of parenting the children, to your ASD partner.

  10. People with Asperger syndrome have difficulties interpreting non-verbal communication, such as body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. Some of the rituals of relationships, for example regularly telling a partner you love them, may seem unnecessary to people with autism. This may be because of their lack of understanding about established social rules.

  11. NT partners of adults with autism should also contact peers, others who have experienced the same issues and problems, and need validation, understanding, support and advice. Learning about functioning autism in adults is the first step NTs should take towards understanding why you feel the way you do. The next, really important, step is for you to get back in touch with your needs.


These recommended strategies require the neurotypical to micro-manage every possible scenario and tie themselves in knots dismissing their own rich, spontaneous emotional life to keep the household functioning. They reduce the relationship to a lock-step, single activity process, such as that which occurs in classrooms: an adult-child association.

The spouses/partners with autism referred to here, often work as professionals in many areas, such as politicians, medical personnel, education, building trades, tech companies and so on. They have functioning autism, formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome. The suggested strategies will most likely not be accepted by people with functioning autism who are able to camouflage their difficulties so well in public life. They will most likely deny any problems at home. The neurotypical will find themselves further embroiled in domestic abuse and possible physical violence if they attempt to instigate these strategies at home.

Coping with varying degrees of distress is all the neurotypical, in that situation, will be able to do. In that case, the lifestyle of the neurotypical will include permanent loneliness, isolation, sadness, grief and anger. Nothing can change the mind of their functioning autistic spouse to convince them there is something wrong with the relationship when all their needs are being met and their life enhanced by the efforts of the neurotypical.

Mixed NT and AS relationships can’t be truly fulfilling and successful. Most counsellors and therapists are not aware of the consequences for others within the camouflaged behaviors of AS adults. They believe what they see before them, which is actually an AS adult ‘acting’ a persona, not the ‘real’ AS adult. After a counseling session, the NT-AS couple leave the therapy room and the AS behaviors revert to what they always AS adult who is upset they had to endure the session, and a frustrated NT spouse who sees that nothing will change.

‘Mental illusion’ is the term for these AS camouflaging behaviors. The AS person uses these initially to attract their spouse. Their play-acting usually works; the NT is reeled in and then when it’s too late, they come to realize the real persona of the AS person. Sometimes the AS mask comes down immediately after the marriage contract is signed, for others it’s slowly revealed. NTs are confused, frightened, dismayed and angry for being so deceived by someone they thought loved them.

This is the beginning of Cassandra Phenomenon (CP). After many years of no one believing what the NT has been saying re their ‘not normal marriage’ CP can become Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome aka OTRS/CP.  NT siblings, NT parents and NT children can experience CP, but only NTs in the intimacy of the marriage relationship with an AS spouse, can develop OTRS/CP.

We hesitate to use the term ‘partner’ because there is no partnership within NT/AS relationships: the burdens of life lie squarely upon the shoulders of the NT. They spend their lives attempting to connect with the person who so keenly wooed them, they bend over backwards to keep the AS person calm, provide a sanctuary for them at home, all the while losing more and more of who they are. They become isolated by the home circumstances. The home becomes a living, dark place where only the needs of AS resides.

The careless dismissal of vital innate mental and emotional needs of neurotypicals, by autism support groups and experts, amounts to mal-practice leading to gross injustice for the neurotypical and a negligent lack of acknowledgement of the complex and rapidly ever-changing landscape of immediate, normal family life.

© 2018 Faaas Inc and J.A. Morgan BEd Grad Dip