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Married, with ASD: Main Point

In comedies, it's a common trope for two people to have a pivotal discussion and discover that they're talking about two different things. It's funny to watch them slowly realize this misconception and then awkwardly try to work it out. This type of interaction is common in the couple's therapy I do, but the difference is that rarely does the couple spontaneously discover they're talking about two different things.


This intervention doesn't take any special skill on my part. The couples usually agree on the situation they want to discuss with me. Often it represents an inflection point in their relationship. Each tells their side of the experience, like they're talking to a jury to see who I'll agree with more. Early in my work, I realized that these situations' problems were not procedural (i.e., who's right). Most of my clients present two equivalent opinions on perceiving a situation and behaving. Strangely, even though they are talking about the same situation, they are not talking about the same central point. Their "in conclusion" statement reveals this.


Of course, couples can have different opinions about what's most important in any situation. The problem I discover is that the couple often believes they are on the same page about the main point. Neither thinks to confirm being on the same page because it is so obvious to them. The simple intervention I do is to have each spouse summarize the main point of the other. More often than not, I also need to highlight the distinction between the main points. With flexible and willing couples, this is sufficient to start the compromise and reconciliation process.


For all modern marriages to work, each spouse must be interested in the perspective of the other. For most neurotypical couples, this often involves some appreciation of the differences between men and women. In some ways, the differences between autistic and non-autistic people are almost as profound as that between the genders. Successful marriages where a spouse is on the spectrum require a shared interest in and appreciation of the worlds of the autistic and neurotypical person. Successful couples don't assume they're talking about the same thing when there's an issue; they verify and double-check.

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