Partners and Autism Maintaining a relationship with someone who has Autism or Asperger’s can come with its difficulties. It isn’t always obvious that someone is on the autism spectrum and this can make it difficult when trying to understand or explain to family why your partner behaves in a certain way. For example, it may be harder for someone on the autism spectrum to feel sympathy or empathy, and if you need comforting for some reason, it can be hard to cope with this behaviour even if you know that your partner didn’t intend to hurt or upset you. People on the autism spectrum will often have trouble recognising cues such as body language, tone of voice or facial expressions. This can cause friction if you have had a bad day or some distressing news and your partner doesn’t notice that anything is amiss. It may be that you have to make it clear to them in terms that they can understand that you are upset or hurt and what you need them to do. Your partner may not understand the need for certain things that are usually part of being in a relationship, such as saying “I love you” or holding hands and things like maintaining eye contact or physical contact, may make them uncomfortable. Partners of people on the autism spectrum can feel like they have a lot of responsibility. This may be due to their partner having difficulties with social skills which can mean they need support when doing certain things. It may also affect their ability to work which could create financial difficulties. Ways to Help If your partner doesn’t already have one, getting an official diagnosis can be very beneficial. It can help you both to understand why you have the difficulties you do and will open lots of doors for you in terms of support and advice. Please see our Getting a Diagnosis page for more information. When talking to your partner about your feelings or difficulties in the relationship, it is important to remember that they may not understand or pick up on your emotions. Having a calm discussion about your issues is more likely to get through to your partner than becoming emotional. Try to use clear language and provide solutions to your problems, whilst remembering to ask them what they think. It is also a good idea to try and avoid personal criticism, for example, instead of “you shouldn’t do this”, try saying something like, “people don’t usually do this.” It is important to remember to address your understanding of your partner's needs as well as trying to improve their understanding of yours. It may be that things like routine and consistency are very important to your partner and it would help to have some kind of diary or timetable in place which sets out the week ahead. Remember that they may not be as adaptable to sudden change or spontaneous decisions as you. For example, if a family member asks you to go round for dinner at short notice and your partner refuses, try to see it from their point of view. Before becoming annoyed with them think about the fact that they haven’t had time to process the change or prepare themselves for a social situation which may be uncomfortable for them. Useful Contacts National Autistic Society https://www.autism.org.uk/ Asperger Syndrome Foundation A small charity that promotes awareness and understanding of Asperger syndrome. www.aspergerfoundation.org.uk FAAAS A discussion list which deals specifically with issues concerning the partners, family members and friends of people with Asperger syndrome. www.faaas.org Relate Relationship support for everyone. https://www.relate.org.uk/ For further advice and information please see our useful services webpage.