“The Other Half of Aspereger
Maxine Aston, UK (2001)
Published by the National Autistic Society
by Edgar R. Schneider
Copyright © 2001
All Rights Reserved
I am a man with Asperger’s Syndrome, who has, in his wake,
a failed marriage with a non-autistic woman. Given that, I found this to be
an excellent book, well-written and easily
read. It covered
the topic thoroughly and was correct in what it said. If the non-autistic
partner were to follow the advice contained therein, I would imagine that
the probability of a successful union could be as high as it gets. Ms. Aston
does write almost exclusively for a union in which the man is Asperger and
the woman is non-autistic, but she readily admits that this is because she
herself has been in such a liaison; for a case in which the genders are
reversed, she refers the reader to the autobiography of Liane Willey.
The author correctly stresses the fact that Asperger’s (as
with other forms of autism) is a permanent condition that will not go away.
Furthermore, it will not be susceptible to change by any form of
psychotherapy. What you see is what you get, and it is essential that other
partner thoroughly understands what it is that she sees.
Ms. Aston also, quite correctly, tells the other partner
about the need to avoid ambiguity and to be explicit and specific in her
dealings with the Asperger partner, because of the literal nature of his
thinking regarding personal interactions. To do otherwise is to cause him to
be unable to sort things out at all, and makes him feel as though he has
wandered into the middle of a mine field.
The adjustments that a woman would have to make are
neither glossed over nor minimized. On the plus side, she describes the kind
of qualities an Asperger man would have that would, at first, cause her to
be attracted to him, and, later, to have a rewarding and fulfilling union
The only thing that keeps her book from being perfect,
instead of merely excellent, is that it did not go far enough. While the
author describes the condition quite accurately, and prescribes a list of
thou-shall-nots and thou-musts, she does not go into the reasons why this
should be so.
For one thing, I refer to the deficit in intuitive
emotions caused by that part of the brain either to be improperly wired due
to a genetic defect, or to become unwired due to damage caused by physical
trauma or infectious disease. (In my own published autobiography, I go into
this in no small detail.) This bit of insight brings her discussions of the
Asperger personality into high relief. Another book, "Through The Eyes of
Aliens," by Jasmine Lee O’Neill, explains such things as eye contact and
repetitive behavior in ways that a non-autistic person would not think of.
When she discusses those traits that might cause a woman
to want to be married to an Asperger man, one is that he will, to the best
of his ability (which can be considerable), be a good provider for his
family. One pitfall is not mentioned. Because autistic people tend to be
neither ambitious nor competitive (both emotional motivations), and because
they are not adept at politics (requiring adeptness with emotional game
playing), they will not be corporate pyramid climbers. If the woman is a
social climber, and she sees much of her own worth on his place in the
pyramid, there will be lots of trouble. This would also explain "unusual"
attitudes toward sex, because emotional bonding would be missing. There can
be intellectual bonding which, even in this context, can be just as strong,
if not more so.
In addition, in her depiction of some of the traits of the
Asperger partner, I believe that she tends to blur the line between this
syndrome and high-functioning autism. However, a deeper appreciation of the
nature of the autistic spectrum should clear that up.
A final comment is that, in discussing ways to resolve any
disagreements, the author gives short shrift to the use of e-mail. It is the
principal method used by me and my current wife, who is high-functioning
autistic. It furnishes a level playing field in which one can directly
comment on what the other says, can ask for clarification of specific
points, and neither can interrupt the other.
© Edgar R. Schneider - September 12, 2001