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Dealing with a spouse who thinks very differently


Mars and Venus are bad enough.  But Asperger’s Syndrome and non-Asperger’s, or adult ADD and neurotypical?  That requires REAL leaps of understanding.

Over the years, I’ve run into more than one couple where one partner is differently abled.  Notice I say differently abled, not deficient. People who are “wired differently” often have tremendous strengths.  But they also have challenges, and their spouses have challenges until they learn to deal with them and love them as they are.

One idea is to become students of each other’s “culture”.  Neurotypicals and people with Asperger’s or ADD need to learn as much as possible about how each other function.   For example, the person with Asperger’s likely has challenges predicting the consequences of their behavior on others.  The neurotypical person, especially the neurotypical female, wants their spouse to understand them and empathize with how they feel. This can lead to an emotional minefield, as one partner feels misunderstood and unsupported and the other may feel harshly criticized and close down.

There are more males than females with Asperger’s Syndrome – perhaps as many as four times as many.  People with Asperger’s may do very well in math, science, computer-related and engineering disciplines, where attention to detail and single-mindedness are great strengths.

ADD and ADHD are also more common in males than females and likewise have advantages as well as disadvantages.  Along with symptoms of inattentiveness, people with ADD often have the capacity to hyper-focus on a narrow area they find of particular interest.   This can lead to great success in that area.  On the other hand, the general forgetfulness and sometimes irritability associated with untreated ADD can be hard on relationships.

Marriage between neurotypical and differently-abled spouses can improve when the focus shifts from what is “wrong” with your partner to what is right.  Try to understand the other person’s position.  Especially if you are differently-abled, try to meet the complaint with curiousity instead of defensiveness.  For the neurotypical, try to see your partner as different but not uncaring. Building on strengths works better than blaming each other. 

Threatening to leave whenever you are frustrated is also incredibly destructive.  Rather than resorting to threats or name-calling, concentrate on going forward and working on finding solutions you can both live with.

I have other specific tips for couples struggling to understand each other.  Call or text me for an appointment and we can see what works best for your situation.





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