a lady and a man sitting on a sofa, the lady is reading a book and the man is using a laptop

Welcome to Different Together, for a better understanding of Asperger Syndrome

Different Together is a safe, supportive and understanding community for the partners of people affected by Asperger Syndrome (AS). If you’ve found us, it is likely that you either know or suspect that your partner has AS and are wondering … what now?  We are here for you!

Portrait image of Tony Attwood"For some people, it is very easy and enjoyable to fall in love with someone who has the characteristics of Asperger syndrome. After the initial intoxicating romance, there can be a gradual realisation from both partners, that the relationship is not as fulfilling as anticipated and adjustments and compromises are needed. This website provides valuable information and advice on many aspects of such relationships and is a resource that will change lives."
—  Tony Attwood

To hear Tony’s thoughts on other questions about having a partner with the characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome click here.

Different Together was borne out of my own search, as the Neurotypical (NT) partner of someone affected by Asperger Syndrome, for information and support. More than anything else I wanted to find other people in the same situation who would understand.

I first heard the term ‘Asperger Syndrome’ in late 2010. My internet searches kept leading me to similar lists of traits which seemed to explain many of my husband’s behaviours. What the searches did not tell me was what to do with this information. Where to go from here?

In mid 2012, with the same miscommunications bringing our relationship to crisis point, we were referred via our GP to the area mental health team for assessment and diagnosis.  My thoughts were that if we got a diagnosis, support would follow.

Six months after being referred, we still had no appointment date.  When I rang to ask why this was, I was told there was a two year waiting list.  Two years!  I felt it unlikely that our marriage would survive the wait.

In February 2013 we had a private assessment and diagnosis – a huge relief to us both.  Now we both knew what we were dealing with.  Desperate for information and advice, I looked for support groups to find others in the same situation.  Unable to find anything, I set up Different Together to meet that need.  

Difference can only feel threatening if it exists in the absence of acceptance and understanding.—  Maxine Aston

There are many excellent books written for couples and several specifically for partners.  These can be found on this site under ‘Resources’.  My hope is that this site will become a valued resource in its own right to cover these areas that need addressing; 

  • Connection with others in the same situation – whether by discussion threads, face to face or social events
  • Workshops and conferences for NT partners
  • Training for counsellors and professionals in recognizing if a couple’s problems might be related to Asperger Syndrome

My story

The problems of living with someone on the autism spectrum crept up on me. The issues were invisible to begin with, indeed, neither my husband nor myself were aware of the condition and so they remained unnoticed for many years. After all, I wouldn’t consciously have chosen to share my life with someone so demanding, so selfish, so undermining, so debilitating, so emotionally destructive? Would I?

The truth is, much of what makes my husband so hard to live with now, were attributes that were so very attractive in the beginning, it’s just that over the years, life’s stresses and responsibilities and his unique relationship to those influences, have turned wonderful characteristics into, at times, monstrous configurations of themselves.

His sensitivities to the world around him used to be the inspiration that drove his wonderful, unconventional imagination and his "live life for the moment" attitude. Now, those very sensitivities corner him, make him aggressively self-protective, fuel his perfectionism and express themselves through anger and frustration onto the people nearest and dearest to him.

The problems crept up on us because life was easy and stress-free for our first few years together. Once AS started to reveal itself, we were both committed; married, young children, a mortgage. It was those very responsibilities that caused the stress, which in turn, brought out the negative and challenging behaviour in my husband. For myself, I was bewildered. The stress seemed to be caused by very “normal” conditions and yet I was not witnessing typical responses and behaviours from the man who was supposed to be my equal in parenting and all things "grown up".

I became quite depressed. My marriage was under terrible strain. I was not happy but nor was my husband. The children were beginning to express signs of anxiety and insecurity. Repeatedly it came down to me alone to seek help, for myself and the family, from a variety of sources. All this time my husband refused to acknowledge we needed support, until, by some serendipitous intervention, the penny dropped for us both and we recognised the symptoms of Asperger’s.

We don’t have an official diagnosis, but together we recognise some of the causes and some of the effects. We try to live life more alert to the triggers, enabling a calmer environment, one in which we can grow as a family, strengthened, not weakened by Asperger’s.

Anonymous 2014

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