There was no empathy

As a young woman I was in no rush to get married. I focused on my
job in social work and had lots of different interests. The years
passed and there seemed to be no one I wanted to share my life
with. Although an extrovert, I liked to be quiet at home and hoped
to meet an easygoing person. Then I met an ideal man. He was
intelligent, had a very good professional job and was even tall,
dark and handsome.

We lived some distance apart and he wrote the most engaging
letters. I wondered why he was still on his own in his late
thirties and had never lived with anyone. He was confident in his
job but very reticent in our relationship. He explained it all by
saying he had looked after his parents before they died and had had
a strict religious upbringing. He told me he needed the security of
marriage, so we married.

The longer we were married the more desperate and isolated I
became. I tried to create a good relationship and encourage
responses from my husband. There was neither companionship,
compassion, empathy nor reciprocation. I lost friends because I
could not invite them to our house or tell them about the problems.
Affectionate physical contact was totally unwelcome and my
self-esteem reached a dangerous low.

The only time he was happy was when he was eating his dinner or
watching his football team win. If we did go out for a meal, he
stared at me without expression. On the rare occasion we invited
people over, I got into the habit of prompting him to ask them
questions. Otherwise he would have remained totally silent, only
answering questions with a long silence then a lengthy answer. The
most puzzling thing was when I complained about his behaviour he
said he “didn’t want to be like this”.

It was only hearing a radio programme by chance that led to the
diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, which my husband refused to
accept. By then the stress of trying to be in a close relationship
was too much and he wanted to be on his own again. I was sad but
very relieved. At the time of our marriage he was sincere and,
although mostly silent, said the right things and believed the
right things. But he could not do the right things. My husband went
to see a counsellor but he had defined his problem to her as “anger
management”. The result was that he uncovered his repressed
feelings and became verbally aggressive and potentially

Since the condition was recognised in the mid-1990s many children
have been diagnosed with Asperger’s. Most of the adults with it
have not had a diagnosis. There is a lot of upbeat talk about the
ability of people with Asperger’s to make a marriage work. I doubt
this. The non-Asperger partner has to know about this condition
before she (and it is usually the woman) can make an informed
decision about marrying. Unlike most other disabilities it is
invisible but has a very serious impact on the heart of the
relationship. She will have to make all the adjustments and will
effectively be a carer. It is a very lonely and traumatic state to
live in.

Jan Winster is a former social worker and now a freelance

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.