All happy and successful relationships require compromise from both parties. Often in an Asperger's Syndrome (AS)/Neurotypical (NT) relationship it is the NT partner, whose nature tends to be more empathic, who will bend and adjust his/her needs to fit in with those of their partner. This may work well in the short term or initial stages of the relationship. However, the result of giving and compromising to such an extent over a long period of time can lead to feelings resentment and loss of identity.
It is crucial for the happiness of both parties that the Neurotypical partner recognises the need to take time out and care for her/himself. These steps will be different for everyone. Take time to recall those things you enjoyed doing and make some time to do them again. Know that you are not alone (although it may feel that way).
Find what works for you, the things that lift your spirits, re-energises or calms you. Take time out or join a class or course that suits you.
Please write and share with us what works for you.
When partners first make contact with ASPIA, either by attending a support group meeting or phoning me, they are usually in quite a state of distress.
Energy is gone, frustration is through the roof, hope is in tatters, tears flow unchecked.
Amongst many sentiments, almost every partner expresses great sadness at the realisation they are no longer the person they used to be. The change that causes the most concern is anger. Most partners did not start as angry people.
Most partners are, or were, quite calm, patient and caring individuals. It is very distressing to wake up one day and recognise the change, feeling powerless to dissipate or contain one’s anger while personal circumstances remain unchanged and, for many, intolerable due to unresolved conflict, constant miscommunication and much anxiety.
Anger drives us to behave in ways we are later ashamed of, and guilt makes us feel even worse. Being in this state is agonising.
By the time we have reached the point of no longer feeling like the person we once were, we need help for ourselves. It will be virtually impossible to remain objective within a couple counselling context, unless and until we have had an opportunity to de-brief our own stuff, and find some clarity in the fog.
This is why ASPIA pushes the idea of self-care so strongly. If we’ve lost who we are, we need to find ourselves again. Attending a support group or meeting with others is very important and life changing, but we mustn’t underestimate or play down the importance and value of having personal counselling for ourselves, particularly around issues of loss and grief.
Partners need to focus first on finding a pathway back to who they were. Only from that place will we be able to be true to ourselves once again and find the calmness, strength and courage to make decisions and constructive contributions to ours and our family’s futures.
Carol Grigg (December 2009)
Extract from ASPIA’s Handbook for Partner Support