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Asperger & Marriage
Therapy Recommendations for Marriages Impacted by Asperger Syndrome


Any relationship – whether romantic, a friendship, relationship with parents and siblings, etc., is subject to ups and downs due to human nature in general and the individual partners, in particular.

When Asperger Syndrome is part of the mix, the challenges easily mount. This is not to say that the Aspie partner is to blame or is at “fault.” However, given that the core characteristics of Asperger Syndrome relate to communication, emotions, perspective taking and sensory issues, the very components upon which relationships are built, it is no wonder that misunderstanding and frustration often crop up in these relationships.

NT Partners Need Individual Therapy
So much of therapy with neurotypical (NT)-Asperger couples is directed toward the Aspie or helping the NT adjust to his or her Aspie partner. But NT partners need individual therapy also, even though they are sorely tempted to put all of their attention on therapy for their partner and family. In order to heal a relationship, two healthy people need to meet each other in the middle.

Although insight-oriented approaches are very emotionally reinforcing for NTs, they are not the only method that NTs need, especially when they are recovering from symptoms reminiscent of PTSD. At times, the lack of empathy demonstrated by their Aspie loved ones leads many NTs to lose sight of their own reality and collapse into agonizing despair. This type of mental and emotional confusion needs powerful therapy to break through the faulty reasoning that is a result of using NT logic to make sense of the Asperger world.

Here are some recommendations:

  • Therapies that are traditionally used for PTSD include EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and thought field therapy (TFT). These approaches go straight for the neurology of PTSD, helping the NTs change the “circuits” in their brain that are so easily triggered.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a very valuable way to crack deep depression. With this approach, your therapist challenges your belief system so that you can let go of dysfunctional behavior that is making you depressed.
  • Other tools that a psychologist may use include hypnosis and a variety of reframing techniques – ways to view things from a different, more positive and healthy perspective. Hypnosis, for example, is a great tool for helping the NT clear up confusion about events.
  • Finally, a wonderful adjunct to individual and family psychotherapy is group therapy. But it is important to seek a group of NTs who are likewise working through the dilemma of living with an Asperger partner. Hearing others’ stories help NTs know that they are not alone.

Finding Help for Yourself and Your Spouse
If you, or someone you know, needs therapy as an individual or as a couple you can get help from a mental health professional. It's best to look for a professional who has specialized training in Asperger Syndrome.

Dr. Kathy Marshack can help you. She is accepting new clients and has two office locations for your convenience. If you live in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington area (or can drive to these locations) please call to set up your first appointment. See Therapy FAQs for more information. Please give us a call at (360) 256-0448 or (503) 222-6678 or email us at info@kmarshack.com.

More information on these unique relationships is available in Dr. Marshack’s new book: Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge?