People with Asperger’s syndrome do marry but communication problems are common. There are ways of improving this and most spouses with Asperger’s are willing to work at their marriage. Here are some tips on how to talk to your Asperger spouse.
What to talk about with an Asperger Spouse
A spouse with Asperger’s syndrome may be proficient at relaying technical information in a work situation but will flounder when presented with small talk or romantic dialogue at home. This can cause problems with their husband or wife unless the issue is addressed. They can be encouraged to converse normally in the following ways:
- Ask the Asperger spouse about their special interest or hobby but keep a time limit on this one and explain that you need to have a chance to speak as well
- An Asperger husband or wife may only speak when necessary. Their speech is often concise as they say what needs to be said and nothing else. They may need encouragement to talk about everyday happenings and personal feelings
- Explain that it is important to show interest in the household and family and that it is good to talk about these
How to talk with an Asperger Spouse
It is a process to learn how to talk to your Asperger spouse. They often have little understanding of social and relationship rules but can improve in these areas with gentle coaching. Here are some practical ideas of how to develop a conversation:
- Try not to interrupt when a spouse with Asperger’s syndrome is speaking. He or she will lose track of their thoughts and will probably start again
- Explain that a conversation works two ways and each person needs a chance to speak and be listened to
- Asperger spouses often shy away from making eye contact. Help them understand that this is an important part of conversing with a husband or wife as well as with other people
- Role playing can be helpful. Write a list of suitable questions for an Asperger spouse to ask about your day and what you have been doing. Then show them how to ask these with facial expressions and interest in their voice
Understanding how an Asperger Spouse Thinks
A characteristic of Asperger’s syndrome is to repeat a question that has just been asked. This is often an attempt to fully grasp the meaning before trying to answer. Here are some thoughts on how your words may come across to an Asperger spouse:
- Everything is taken literally and metaphors and figures of speech can cause great confusion
- Be straightforward and direct as they don’t understand sarcasm or innuendos
- Too much information and requests for decisions may cause “I don’t know" answers
- Body language is not understood and they are not good at nonverbal communication
So what else can you do?
- Drawing pictures or diagrams can help an Asperger spouse to understand more fully what is being said verbally
- Look for alternative ways to communicate such as hand signals, text messages and email
Communication with an Asperger spouse may always be difficult but with perseverance and work from husband and wife, they can learn to understand what each other is saying and feeling.