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How to Deal With a Partner Who Has High Functioning Autism

Updated on May 28, 2020
MPG Narratives profile image

Maria is a marketing writer and published author. She writes about topics she is passionate about like mental health, travel and food.

Children with High Functioning Autism can develop healthy relationships as adults. These relationships require some nurturing and patience from their partner
Children with High Functioning Autism can develop healthy relationships as adults. These relationships require some nurturing and patience from their partner

Your Partner has High Functioning Autism. How Does This Affect Your Relationship?

There are many articles written about children with High Functioning Autism; either by those with Autism, parents of children on the Autism spectrum as well as therapists and specialists. These articles all give a wealth of information on the condition and how it affects people who deal with the condition on a daily basis.

Dealing with HFA can be challenging for the person with the condition but what happens in relationships where the condition was not known beforehand? Was your partner diagnosed with the condition later in life and it is now causing issues in the relationship? Was your partner ever diagnosed?

When you met your partner everything was wonderful at the beginning, you fell head over heels in love and the honeymoon period was just perfect, but as the relationship develops one partner feels something isn't quite right, a dominant force is taking over and the actual issues become blurred.

Even in relationships where both partners don't have a mental condition, it isn't always smooth sailing. It is important to understand that having a relationship with a person who has HFA, you will need a lot of understanding, nurturing, patience and tolerance. Many relationships don't survive the tough times but there are many that do.

What happens to a relationship when all the nurturing is one-sided? One partner does all the giving to make the relationship work. It's quite a dysfunctional situation and one partner finds themselves exhausted from doing all the emotional work. Can such a relationship survive if the problem is diagnosed? Can change happen for the good of both people involved?

One of the biggest issues of the person's character is the resistance of (or dislike) for change, they can find it difficult to compromise. Change is an uncomfortable thing, they want routine because routine helps to keep them calm. When their significant other insists on change, the person with HFA resists without realising the hurt they cause.

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's
Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's
See how a diagnosis of High Functioning Autism later in life helps John Robison to understand himself and his relationships. This book helped my partner to understand how I felt.

Falling in Love with Your Partner and Then Finding Out They Have High Functioning Autism

The feeling of falling in love can be the best feeling in the world and I defy anyone not to enjoy the euphoria that comes with the first taste of being in love. Love develops and changes as a relationship grows but for anyone who has been with a person who has High Functioning Autism, and lived with them for some time, they will know the challenges.

People with HFA have a certain way of looking at life, they tend to worry about things that seem quite trivial to others. These traits tend to become quite ingrained and when and if they do find a partner, they find it difficult to see another way of living. They tend to expect their partner to fit into their life rather than the other way around. They can dominate the relationship in a way that can be quite daunting for someone who wasn't prepared for the obsessive behaviours that accompany this syndrome.

Tantrums, misunderstandings, mood swings and generally non-acceptance of their partner's opinions can be issues being dealt with by partners. Some neurotypical partners say living with their HFA partner can sometimes seem like they are living with a spoilt child who only wants things their way. Frustrations can be a way of life in a relationship of this type, and for many, it is too much to bear and the relationship doesn't last long.

It is unfortunate when breakups happen but they can be avoided if you take the time to learn how to speak to your HFA partner in a way that is not confronting to them, the relationship will be easier on both of you. Once you understand that logic, routine and an orderly life are an HFA person's best friends the relationship will find an even balance that suits both of you.

Tony Attwood and Michelle Garnett

Tony Attwood and Michelle Garnett present a video about understanding your HFA partner and how to deal with relationship problems. They discuss a variety of issues such as maintaining long term intimacy when feelings are not in tune; dealing with different neurology and personality traits, feelings of one partner always doing the changing; accepting what an HFA brain can achieve when it comes to feelings.

People with HFA are not comfortable discussing feelings, many find it confronting and confusing to see someone crying or reacting angrily towards them. Dealing with their own feelings can also be a challenge, a source of stress for many.

Relationship counselling comes in many forms, however, when dealing with this type of relationship it is advisable to seek psychologists such as Tony Attwood and Michelle Garnett, people who have the expertise of dealing with the issues surrounding Autism.

One of the main issues you need to understand when dealing with a relationship that involves a neurotypical partner and one with HFA is the problems you are experiencing are not ALL due to your partner and their quirks. Try not to put all the blame on them.

If the neurotypical partner can appreciate and accept what an HFA brain is capable of, or more importantly, what is it NOT capable of and learn to speak to their partner with compassion instead of criticism, the relationship may survive. People with HFA do not intentionally set out to hurt their partners, there is no malice in their actions.

This is not to say that the HFA partner doesn't have to bring anything different to the relationship, they have to bend and compromise as well. How far they will go depends on how comfortable they are with change.

For anyone dealing with an HFA partner, it is advisable to seek support from websites such as and from books specialising in this special type of relationship. Many good books are available from

A Parent's Guide to High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, Second Edition: How to Meet the Challenges and Help Your Child Thrive
A Parent's Guide to High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, Second Edition: How to Meet the Challenges and Help Your Child Thrive
Understanding the High Functioning Autistic brain gave me clarity into how my partner thinks. I needed to have a feel for what it was like for him growing up. I recommend this book for parents dealing with a child with HFA.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Maria Giunta


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    • MPG Narratives profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Giunta 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      You are NOT the one that needs therapy, you don't have Aspergers. You have needs just like anyone else and he cannot provide those needs. As an adult you have every right to do the things you enjoy, and if he doesn't like it then it's his problem not yours. Take him to get therapy.

    • just helen profile image

      just helen 

      7 years ago from Dartmoor UK

      Thank you! I try to take care of myself, but he has rights too and I try to respect that. Sometimes I just want to walk out but we can't afford to separate. Sometimes I think I love him, sometimes I utterly loathe him. But do I loathe him or the Aspergers, that is the big question? He worries over every little detail. He watches out of the window at what the neighbours are doing. He seems to have acute awareness of every sound or smell,things the ordinary person would not detect. He moans continuously. I am not allowed to have friends, or go into town without his permission. I enjoy swimming, but am not allowed to go. He has to have the car outside the house at all times. If I go out in it without him he is in a state of high anxiety. If I am 10 minutes late getting back he shouts at me bcause he thinks something has happened or that I have tried to leave him. He accuses me of unreasonable things. He has fussy eating habits. He has no respect for my feelings or needs. Indeed he has admitted he cannot understand them or knows what love is.I could go on and on and on. Mostly I accept all this. But lately I have been getting angrier and angrier, sometimes with him, sometimes I vent my anger when his back is turned. I need support. I need therapy!

    • MPG Narratives profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Giunta 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      @epbooks, yes children with aspergers grow up and unless they are diagnosed at an early age they can be quite difficult adults. Thanks for commenting epbooks, and I appreciate the vote and share too.

      @ just helen, I fully understand how you feel about sometimes accepting it and then other times being so frustrated by the tight control. One of my friends who was partnered with an undiagnosed Aspie has the same issues. Her partner is in total denial too. I wish you well and please take care of yourself first, remember, you are the important one in the relationship.

    • just helen profile image

      just helen 

      7 years ago from Dartmoor UK

      I was married to someone with asperger's. we divorced and I accidentally married another!

      "Tantrums, misunderstandings, mood swings and generally non-acceptance of their partners opinions can be issues being dealt with by the non-Aspie partner. Some neurotypical partners of Aspies say living with their partner can sometimes seem like they are living with a spoilt child who only wants things their way".

      This is SO true. I feel all my rights have been taken away at 57. Everything has to be under tight control, including me. He is petulant and neurotic . Sometimes I cannot cope; other times I just tell myself he cannot help it. I tried broaching the subject with him, but he is in total denial.

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 

      7 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I found this hub very interesting because in the past three years, I've known about four or five children who have been diagnosed with Asbergers, but I've never seen any articles on the affects of an adult or an adult relationship. This is great information. Voting up and sharing!

    • MPG Narratives profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Giunta 

      8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      @akirchner - Hello Audrey, nice to hear from you. Yes we are all human and understanding goes a long way.

      @beadreamer247 - Thank you for sharing your personal experience. This type of relationship is very dysfunctional and it is hard when a family of the sufferer won't listen. Mental illness cannot be seen so many people just put their head in the sand hoping it will go away.

      @davidlivermore - more and more is known about this condition now, there is help out there if people want to seek it.

      Thank you all for commenting.

    • davidlivermore profile image

      David Livermore 

      8 years ago from Bakersfield, California, United States

      I dated someone with Aspergers once. It was a difficult relationship. I was too young to understand how hard it was for that person. Very insightful hub, wish I had access to it years ago.

    • beadreamer247 profile image


      8 years ago from Zephyrhills, FL

      Well, I was married to an Aspie, he never noticed and his family just grew up with him being the way he was. I didn't know him for long when we got married, but it didn't take me long to notice something is different. I met his 3 boys who were living with their mother, but spending the weekends with us....One was diagnosed with hyperactivity, but I noticed it was not just that. Yet, the entire family was stuck and just stuck to how it was...the second son had bipolar traits, but never taken to a doctor and the third one was strange in some appearances and had very strange other traits. I pointed out that I suspected he was for example hard of hearing, but it was downplayed by the entire family that I was just picking on the kids. When he got to school he flunked the hearing test 3 times and had to see a specialist...who noticed that he was missing a bone in his ear and that his ears were shaped slightly abnormal (which I had noticed already) and because of the missing bone he was deaf on that ear! He had surgery.

      So I had to deal with 3 abnormal children and my ex-husband, with no true support. My ex-husband was not able to handle the kids and they were like wild animals. He himself was at times like a child and he still calls me now and then to get my help after all.....when he doesn't know what to do.

      Based on what I heard about his mother, I think she had Asperger Syndrome and that my ex-husband gave it to his oldest son, who was misdiagnosed but nobody did anything about it. It was a nightmare that I lived for 4 years......It took away my own life and there is a point where you also have to think about yourself, before you drown.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      The answer is "very carefully~" Great information about such a hard thing to cope with.

      I think in most cases too we forget how hard it is for other people involved in the relationship to cope. It's very exhausting--but then as you so wisely point out...not everything can be blamed on the disease or the other person--we're all just human and trying to relate.

      Great info from someone who knows the syndrome and how to deal with it!


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