In Greek mythology, Cassandra was cursed to see the future, but no one would believe her. In the modern world of the internet, Cassandras are women who have banded together to fight a common enemy: Aspies. Except… Their partners are not aspies, at least the vast majority of them. I would feel confident in estimating that upwards of 95% of them have partners who are diagnosed by no one other than themselves. In that microcosm, they celebrate being neurotypical as if it’s a severely oppressed minority. Trigger warning: there is hate speech against autistic adults and children quoted in this article. Please do not continue reading this article if you are not in a place to process the emotional burden of this kind of expos.

A Hard Truth

It is hard to make a neurotypical-Aspergian (NT-AS) relationship work. Very. The fact is, the differences in the way each is wired are pervasive. Their core identities are rooted in different constructs, which means that their values, perceptions, and even the way they derive meaning are different. Sensory issues, social perception, cognitive profiles, and emotional differences, too, will cause nuanced discrepancies that are nearly impossible to reconcile and difficult to even pinpoint. It is a death of a thousand paper cuts for one or both parties. Almost anyone who has been in an NT-AS relationship will confirm this fact. There is very little available when it comes to helpful literature to explain the differences between autistic and neurotypical people (NTs), and most resources for couples ask one of the partners to do most, if not all, of the compromising. Either way, it’s likely to strangle both people’s spirits unless they are a rare match that just happens to align on the fundamentals. Often, we grow to regard the other as childish, emotionally immature, and selfish, our priorities forever at odds.

Anti-Autistic Hate Groups

As laughable as it sounds, they’re out there. I found out about this one the hard way by stepping into the middle of one… They often hide in Facebook groups for neurotypical partners of aspies. Somehow, I ended up in one after a friend told me that she would like me to lend my perspective to help struggling women better understand Asperger’s. What I read was horrifying: They’re nothing more than empty shells that almost look like humans. They don’t have any empathy. They are all gaslighting monsters. They’re always looking for something more shiny, like an object. When you’re autistic, these statements hurt, and they’re terrifying. They terrify you for your autistic spouse and your autistic child(ren). You want to say something, but you know how it will go over. You are torn between righteous indignation, rage, and devastating sadness. What conversation has ever been productive when one party begins by having to convince the other that she is not the embodiment of narcissism and sadistic evil? This New Year’s Eve, my husband and I both checked our phones at the same time, and we both gasped in unison. We had received a, “Happy Anniversary!” text from my mother-in-law. We looked at each other with that Am-I-in-trouble? face and both burst out laughing. We forgot together, and I was reminded that I was with someone who was perfect for me. As I read through these women’s comments, many of them were complaints about behaviors that would describe my husband. He responds often with only one or two words. He has auditory processing issues which are sometimes worse than others. He totally can’t read my subtle or obvious hints, and his memory can be abysmal. Other complaints describe me. I don’t want to receive gifts on occasions or celebrate traditionally for holidays, I am terrible at keeping up with everyday minutia, and my housekeeping skills are less-than-great. I only drink out of Kerr wide-mouth mason jars at home, I like to eat with spoons and not forks, and hoodies are my winter uniform unless I’m going out. We both agree on the essentials, though. Facts always supersede emotions. It is assumed that nothing is wrong unless we say something is wrong. We feel like we’ve won at the game of life when we’re all alive and well at the end of each day. Nothing is sacred, small talk is a waste of breath, no humor is too dark, and nobody else is responsible for our emotions but ourselves. I feel so fiercely in love with my husband when he challenges me, those times when he wasn’t going to compromise his values or acquiesce. I would be devastated and disappointed if he said, “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” It would feel like the ultimate dismissal, a cloying, patronizing ceding, like I’m not a worthy intellectual sparring partner. The brand of parlance with which we communicate is different and would offend or confuse NTs. If someone neurotypical is with an aspie (or any partner) and is unfulfilled in the relationship, he or she should leave… no guilt, no shame, no being told to compromise or make it work. Anyone in a relationship that is miserable and unrewarding with no reciprocity should not be guilted into staying. No unwilling party should carry 90% of the load in a relationship, which is what happens very often to modern women.

An Appeal to Empathy

If you were unaware that anti-autistic hate groups were a thing, now you know. We autistics have no recourse to combat these kinds of prejudices if people are going to accuse us of being mind-blind sociopaths every time we attempt to advocate for ourselves. In these communities, there are blatant calls for eugenics, armchair diagnostics of everyone who is monstrous as being autistic, and prejudices that have the potential to cause extreme harm to people based on their “look.” Some people even forego he/she pronouns to refer to autistic people as “it.” As soon as I, or any autistic person, attempt to discredit false information based on evidence, either anecdotal, clinical, or academic, it is rejected as “biased” or “self-serving.” I have had people tell me that my “inability to take ownership for how messed up [I am] and my mind blindness cause [me] to have a false idea of having feelings and empathy.” A person being cold, boring, hostile, robotic, empathy-disrupted, awkward, routine-oriented, lacking in intimacy, clueless, rude, or combative is not cause for armchair-diagnosing them with autism. All of those things in varying degrees and combinations can be representative of a hundred different combinations of genetic, neurological, medical, psychological, mood/affective, or personality disorders. We need neurotypicals to use their privilege, as parents, educators, friends, clinicians, scientists, and researchers to substantiate our humanity and condemn this supremacist ableism since we are not given the floor to do it for ourselves.

The Series

This article is part of a series about the many antagonists of Asperger’s, the word and the people with Asperger’s Syndrome. To read other articles in the series, click below: What’s in a Word: Asperger’s and the APA What’s in a Word: Asperger’s and Employers What’s in a Word: Asperger’s and Employers, a case study