In this post, I want to look at the reasons for this behaviour.
Establishing the initial relationshipFor the most part people with Aspergers tend to be more introverted or at least, less comfortable around others. This makes it very difficult to establish the relationship.
Dropping hints generally won't work and person with Aspergers is likely to either completely miss any “signals” or alternatively, interpret literally everything as some kind of signal.
The best way to get the attention of someone with Aspergers is to “say what you want”. State your intentions clearly and concisely, leaving no room for error or misinterpretation. If you find it difficult to be open and honest about what you want in a relationship, write it down.
The Honeymoon StageAll relationships tend to start with a glorious “honeymoon period” which is when everything is new and interesting - and where both partners put everything that they possibly can into making the relationship work.
The honeymoon period is a very important part of any relationship because it lets both partners see what is possible under the very best of circumstances.
Of course, if things don't go well in the honeymoon stage, it's a good sign that the relationship isn't meant to be. Relationships settle but rarely show drastic improvements after the first few months - at least not without significant personal change.
In Aspergers relationships, the honeymoon period is doubly important because despite the “fakery” which is common in neurotypical relationships, this is often the best, and sometimes only, glimpse that their partners get of their “true selves”.
That's not to suggest that there's no fakery involved. The partner with Aspergers is usually doing their best to be as “social” as possible and it usually takes quite a bit of effort. It's not a level of social activity that they can maintain for long periods but it is the time when they’re the most communicative.
When Reality Takes HoldAfter the honeymoon period is over, both partners will usually be deeply in love and the relationship will seem to need less work. It's common for all partners to back off a little and the flaws in the relationship and their partners become more visible.
Often due to the stress of maintaining the relationship, they will lose confidence in their ability to continue. This is mainly because they're unable to find a way to meet their partners expectations due to exhaustion.
One of the big problems here is that they're generally responsible for the unrealistic expectations of their partners due to their “pretense” during the honeymoon period. Of course, their partners might be more understanding if they knew what was going on.
Unfortunately it's rare that people with Asperger's fully understand the reasons for their own defensive responses. It takes many years of experience and inward focus to really understand how Asperger’s affects oneself. It's very unlikely that a partner with Asperger’s could explain these feelings and motivations to someone else.
Solidifying the RelationshipThe way forward in the relationship is via discussion, compromise and understanding but it's a journey that only works if both partners are willing to adapt and change.
One of the first things to do is to establish regular and open relationship communication. There are two important things here;
- Regular communication: You must communicate regularly. It doesn’t have to be daily but it certainly should be at least more than once per week. If you both lead busy lives, then set aside some time when you know that both of you will be available, for example, 7pm - 8pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Make sure that you take it in turns to be the one to initiate a phone call during that time and make sure that you are available. Don’t take other people’s calls or commitments on during your “couples time”.
- Open communication. You must be open to any kind of discussion during your communication period. If a sore topic comes up, you must be able to at least say why it’s a sore topic and why you don’t feel like talking about it. Remember that you can also reschedule topics that you need time to think about, (for example, “can we discuss this one on Friday?”). If you find verbal communication on some topics to be too scary or embarrassing, then agree to write a love letter or email instead.
You need to also be thinking about your partner and your own role in the relatonship and you need to be willing to adapt and change and compromise. For example, if your partner wants more social contact with you but you don’t feel that you can “face the world”, agree to have a “quiet night” where you go to their place (or they come to yours) and you have take-out and watch a movie at home. This is good quality couple time but it’s also low stress.
It doesn't end there though. The nature of relationships are that they are constantly changing as people and their environments change. In order to survive in the long term, relationships need to be re-evaluated regularly. They need constant work, communication and compromise.