Issues for partners of people with Asperger syndrome or ASD

Some people with Asperger syndrome can successfully maintain relationships and parent children. However, like most relationships, there are challenges. 

A common marital problem is unfair distribution of responsibilities. For example, the partner of a person with Asperger syndrome may be used to doing everything in the relationship when it is just the two of them. However, the partner may need practical and emotional support once children come along, something that the person with Asperger syndrome may not be fully able to provide. 

When the partner expresses frustration or becomes upset that they are given no help of any kind, the person with Asperger syndrome is typically baffled. Tension in the relationship often makes their symptoms worse.

An adult’s diagnosis of Asperger syndrome often follows their child’s diagnosis of ASD. This ‘double whammy’ can be extremely distressing to the partner who has to cope simultaneously with both diagnoses. Counselling, or joining a support group where they can talk with other people who face the same challenges, can be helpful.

Some common issues for partners of people with Asperger syndrome include:

  • feeling overly responsible for their partner
  • failure to have their own needs met by the relationship
  • lack of emotional support from family members and friends who do not fully understand or appreciate the extra strains placed on a relationship by Asperger syndrome
  • a sense of isolation, because the challenges of their relationship are unique and not easily understood by others
  • frustrations, since problems in the relationship do not seem to improve despite great efforts
  • doubting the integrity of the relationship, or frequently wondering about whether or not to end the relationship
  • difficulties in accepting that their partner will not ‘recover’ from Asperger syndrome
  • after accepting that their partner’s Asperger syndrome cannot be ‘cured’, partners can often experience emotions such as guilt, despair and disappointment.