A personal story on coping with life in a non-autistic world


I have discovered a new spectrum - should I be true to myself and speak the truth as I see it, or play the diplomat and tip toe around people's feelings? I've been working on this for some years, wondering whether to be myself or adapt and save my relationship before it was too late.


I was diagnosed with Asperger's in my twenties, partly due to a lack of public awareness, and also because I am a pretty mild case. It helped me understand why I had a philosophy of life’s too short to put up with the bullshit - in other words, I should speak my mind so that all concerned understand exactly what I thought. If I don't like a situation, I am the only one who can take responsibility for my own happiness and make changes. Unfortunately, I was not aware of how asserting my views was negatively affecting the relationship with my partner, friends and family. I thought everyone was just over sensitive and approaching life in an illogical way.


RElationship problems with Asperger's

As in previous relationships, my boyfriend was naturally concerned and attentive to my needs, but then I started to feel as if he was distancing himself from me. His job requires him to spend a lot of time away from home, and consequently I was often left alone to brood on my thoughts. I've always felt that to live my life with integrity I needed to be honest, even if it were confronting or resulted in making me unpopular. And it did - I often had trouble hanging on to friendships, but figured if they can't handle the truth, then they aren't real friends.

My boyfriend really opened up, and claimed I was rude and how everything I discussed was about me, me, me. He said I was the distant one, and he was only reacting to me. This was all news to me, I'd only been in one serious relationship before and that person had taken off without even saying goodbye.

Being analytical (something that runs in Asperger's!), I'd read up on the need for communication so always stated my ideas clearly and succinctly to him. It was difficult to see at first, but I could understand how my no-nonsense communication style was causing more grief than good, even though rationally this is an efficient way to communicate. I was increasingly becoming angry and frustrated with my partner’s lack of understanding and respect for my views, while he was claiming the same about me.


a big decision

If I acted with integrity, my partner would probably leave. If I put on a Pollyanna smile, and pretended everything was okay, I felt unhappy. Was there something in between? And if so, how could I integrate both my integrity and needing to play the diplomat into the “new me”?

To cut a long story short, I saw a neuropsychologist for a while and finally got a clear picture of what my boyfriend was feeling. I admitted how ashamed I felt not having had a clue as to how my insensitive words had hurt him. But I did explain that this didn't mean my 'Asperger's identity' was necessarily at fault. We just had a big chasm between us and some compromise was needed if we were going to continue our relationship.


I told him how I was determined to work on a more polite but still truthful style of communication. I let him know that I was 100% committed to improving our relationship and I would not give up just because some things seemed too hard. I went on to explain that there are two things to consider: there is the Asperger's syndrome, and there is me. I am not the syndrome, and it is not me. I am still a person, and I have a condition called Asperger's syndrome. If someone with cancer were feeling depressed and sometimes snapped at loved ones on down days, people around her would not demand that she “get over it!” nor tell her “you have no idea how selfish you are!” The cancer is not the person, it is a condition the patient has.

Just because people can’t see my Asperger's doesn't mean they should be any less understanding. If I were in a wheelchair and had tubes coming out of me, people would treat me with more tolerance and understanding. I knew my partner had been listening not just with his ears, but with his heart. The look of love and compassion in his eyes affirmed my decision to take the step of changing my ways. He even agreed that my honesty was a positive trait, when expressed with tact.


living with Asperger's is like running a marathon

My big challenge is to continue being aware of my words and their impact on others. I need to be vigilant in my conversational style. This will take time. Like training for a marathon, one can only take one step at a time; but know that every training run is one more brick you are laying down on the road to achieving your goals. Difficult as this will be, I am determined to incorporate these new skills into my speech. Furthermore, making honest statements should not only include the things we don't like, but also the things we do. Praise and compliments go a long way towards healing old wounds and creating good relationships.


Of course there are heaps of other issues we face, but I'll leave those for another story.


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Personal story of an adult with Asperger's syndrome on handling relationship issues and the autism spectrum - social interactions, compromise, and being true to one's self