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In May 2013, the DSM-V combined Asperger’s syndrome with other disorders along the autism spectrum to create a single diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Today, Asperger’s is sometimes referred to as high-functioning autism. However, many experts continue to use the older term. Whatever you call the condition, Asperger’s syndrome has a profound impact on all areas of life, including love relationships. Expressing your love to someone with Asperger’s requires empathy, strong communications skills and the willingness to enter that person's world.
Theory of Mind
According to AutismSpeaks.org, autism sufferers have difficulty understanding the emotions and thoughts of others. This deficit is sometimes known as mind-blindness. People with Asperger’s also struggle with executive functioning, or the ability to organize, plan and formulate appropriate responses. These twin struggles make it highly difficult for your Asperger’s partner to understand and relate to your messages of love. This individual might be unsure of personal feelings, your feelings, or exactly what a declaration of lifelong love means for the present and future. Keep these limitations in mind when expressing your love.
People with Asperger’s are sometimes described as child-like. They see the world very differently from people without the disorder, and often have unrealistic expectations of themselves and others. Rigid thinking, a common symptom of Asperger’s, is applied to all areas of life. On his Life With Asperger’s blog, Asperger’s parent Gavin Bollard explains that people with Asperger’s often expect love to be all sunshine and smiles. When the relationship matures into a quieter, more realistic partnership, your partner might interpret the change as a loss or withdrawal of love. When declaring your lifelong love, discuss both partners’ expectations and definitions of sustainable, long-term love.
Many people with Asperger’s find emotions messy and confusing. They struggle with expressing their emotions appropriately and often come across as unemotional or uncaring. In a piece for "Psychology Today," Asperger’s sufferer Lynne Soraya notes that people with Asperger’s have trouble with emotional regulation. They are often able to detach during a crisis situation, but might express their feelings explosively later. They often get stuck in their own heads, swimming in a pool of deep emotions that they feel powerless to express. To avoid triggering an extreme or inappropriate emotional reaction, keep the discussion logical. Focus on the facts surrounding your love rather than presenting an emotionally laden declaration filled with innuendos and hidden meanings.
Communication is the key to a successful relationship with someone with Asperger’s. People with the disorder normally struggle with communication, but often get better with practice. They are often literal and have trouble distinguishing body language. Get your partner’s attention and then clearly say what you want to say. Explain what you mean by love, how your declaration will change your behavior now and in the future, and what you want from your partner. Whether you want to get married or just want to let your significant other know that you are dependable, spell out your intentions. Focus on defining your love through a set of clearly articulated facts and expectations.
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Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer specializing in disabled adventure travel. She spent 15 years working for Central Florida theme parks and frequently travels with her disabled father. Fritscher's work can be found in both print and online mediums, including VisualTravelTours.com. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Florida.
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