Our therapists and coaches, led by Dr. Thomas Lucking, are experts in Asperger’s and neurodiverse relationships. They have helped couples from around the world integrate Asperger challenges into their relationships and thrive.
Neurodiverse Relationships are Unique
Asperger’s is unique in the world of couples’ challenges. It is important to work with a coach or therapist experienced with this neurological difference. Many couples struggle with providers who don’t understand the world of Asperger’s and especially the pain of a neurotypical or non-Asperger’s partner who has had years of ongoing trauma. With the right treatment and a motivated couple there is hope. Let us help you navigate the challenging path which can lead to a new way of being in a neurodiverse relationship that is fulfilling for both partners.
What is ASD and Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is a high functioning form of autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is comprised of a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that are characterized by two categories of symptoms: repetitive behavior patterns and social impairment. Some symptoms of adults with ASD include:
- Difficulty making friends
- Unusual or repetitive use of language
- Abnormal intense focus on a topic of interest
- Rigid adherence to routines or rituals
- Difficulty initiating or sustaining a conversation
- Impaired ability to be creative or imaginative
Despite these symptoms, people with AS are gifted in many ways. They tend to have a superior intellect and an amazing ability to focus which may lead to impressive accomplishments in life. People with AS have a different kind of brain. Yet it’s the “best kind of different” as Shonda Schilling writes about in her book with the same name. See the resources page to view her book. Please keep in mind that all ASD and AS individuals are unique and will have different levels of severity of symptoms or possibly none at all in some areas. Your provider will assess the presenting behavioral symptoms and gear treatment and coaching towards your specific case.
Neurodiversity in Relationships – Positives and Negatives
Neurodiveristy is when an Aspie and a neurotypical (NT) person enter into a relationship. When an Asperger adult (Aspie) makes his or her partner their object of obsession it is flattering. A neurotypical (NT) partner can be impressed with the Aspie’s intellect, stability, focus, and accomplishments. Aspie’s appreciate how their NT partner manages social situations and deals with conflict. It can seem like a match made in heaven. Problems with neurodiverse couples surface when the Aspie’s object of focus moves away from his or her partner. It is when this happens that the differences in each partner seem more problematic than complementary. Part of treatment is processing the emotional wounds that have accumulated over the years due to social disconnect. These wounds can be experienced as:
- No reciprocity in communication
- Avoidance of conflict
- Stonewalling and shifting blame
- Unwillingness to compromise and be flexible
- Disregard for family chores and tasks
- Feelings of frustration and loneliness
- Lack of empathy and fundamental disparity in how each partner feels about emotions
Over time these painful relationship patterns can gradually destroy the relationship.
Healing Wounded Neurodiverse Relationships
With proper treatment or coaching and investment by both partners it is possible for neurodiverse couples to have a sustainable, rewarding, and fulfilling relationship that celebrates the good and manages the challenging aspects of their different personality characteristics. It is critical to work with a therapist or coach that understands Asperger’s. For example it is a mistake to believe that AS adults cannot feel empathy. Our therapists and coaches have helped countless neurodiverse couples get to an experience of empathy from both partners. It takes work and practice and depends on the Aspie’s symptomatic acuity but emotional progress is possible.
Communication is Foundational to all Relationships
Communication is harder than it seems. Translating an idea from one person to the next through the use of words is quite a complicated endeavor. Many parts of the brain are involved in this activity. Communication is made of 3 parts: Verbal, Nonverbal, Paraverbal. We will work with you to understand these parts and identify exactly where your communication is failing.
As a basis to all our couples work we use our Island of Shared Meaning Communication model. We are different from many couples counselors in that we start with the process of communication, the ‘how’ of communication, rather than diving straight into the content or issues that are causing distress. We help you find new ways to engage your hardest issues. And with ISM Communication as a foundation along with our social experiments, your progress moves forward at a rapid pace. We now have clear metrics to measure success and to learn. Our mobile app and other online tools enhance this learning in between sessions.
Hope and Change Through Therapy, Coaching, and Psychological Assessments
The perceived rigidity and self-focus of the AS partner can change – there is hope. The therapy work we do together will create hope right from the start. This happens through understanding, awareness, and accountability. The first step is to create an individualized treatment or coaching plan for your specific needs. Immediate crises are addressed up front along with a thorough assessment of your collective and individual histories. From there the work begins as we do cognitive and experiential exercises to create a new way of being in relationship together.
The therapy and coaching work with your provider is not limited to weekly or biweekly sessions. Homework is assigned to keep the progress moving forward outside of session. This is done in a collaborative way so the speed of change is appropriate for each partner and couple. Creating new ways of relating must go beyond the cognitive realm and into real behavior change. For this reason your provider includes many behavioral exercises designed to increase intimacy. Your provider offers an objective, supportive, caring, and curious presence in your relationship. He or she will exemplify the 8 qualities of the self, commonly called the 8 C’s of the self, that is stated within Internal Family Systems theory:
Assessments and diagnoses may also be part of your growth and transformation. Our team includes psychologists and therapists who can provide your with a deeper understanding of the neurodiversity in your relationship.
Medications and Co-occurring Disorders
There are no medications for Asperger’s but there are medications for other symptoms that can be co-occurring to Asperger’s. Anxiety, depression, OCD, addiction, and psychosis are examples of co-occurring conditions that may warrant medication. If hyperactivity or impulsivity are present in an Asperger individual it may mean they need medication to treat an attention deficit disorder such as ADD or ADHD. Behavioral or substance use addictions (alcohol, drugs, porn, gambling, etc.) are also cases where additional treatment or coaching may be necessary. Silicon Valley Therapy providers are skilled in many of these areas and also works with a board certified psychiatrist to assist with assessment and prescriptions for medications.
Diagnoses and Assessments
How do you know you or your partner has Asperger’s Syndrome? As with many diagnoses, Asperger symptoms occur on a spectrum and each Aspie is different. While professional nuero-psychological testing is the most reliable for determining a diagnoses, it can be costly. Another option is to use online assessments to get a reasonable understanding of the presence of Asperger’s. The following two tests are free to take and don’t require any account registration. Your provider will look at your results to help you understand them as an initial step towards determining a diagnosis of Asperger’s:
5 most frequent relationship problem areas: communication (63%), unrealistic expectations of marriage or spouse (62%), finances (60%), decision making (55%), power struggles (51%) (Stahmann, R. F., & Heibert, W. J. (1997))
Do you want to be right or in relationship?
– Thomas Lucking, PhD
Dialogue is not meant to resolve differences. Dialogue is meant to allow differences. – Pastor Clement
If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together. – African Proverb
“Since my partner and I have known each other (about 20 years) I think we’ve never communicated like we did last session. I believe in synchronicity and people showing up in life at the right time. Meeting Dr. Lucking has been a moment of synchronicity for us.”
– Couples client
Get started sooner than later because change is hard and growth is optional...
Change is hard, choices tend towards paths of least resistance, and we get comfortable with habits and relational patterns we know well. This is why taking action sooner than later is the best path forward to build lives that flourish and relationships that thrive. Our team of expert therapists and coaches can help with insight, accountability, guidance, and the right support for your specific needs.