I want to share a portion of an article I wrote recently about communication difficulties with neurodiverse couples:
The non-Asperger’s, or Neurotypical (NT), partner typically communicates his or her desire to be understood, validated and cared for by the Asperger’s partner through various instructions, explanations and requests. These are referred to as prompts, much like the instructions used by classroom teachers to encourage and guide the learning process.
The Asperger’s partner, on the other hand, is in the role of a learner. The difficulties he or she has with social understanding and social interactions, the core features of Asperger’s, make it hard to communicate with, and respond effectively to, the NT partner’s need for intimacy. They are skills that are lacking and in need of development.
The result of prompting, on the one hand, and skill building, on the other, has been termed a “communication roundabout.” One person pulls for an emotionally connected intimate relationship by requesting certain behaviors and responses from the other person who is often confused, frustrated, anxious and/or angry with these requests. The negative reactions of the Asperger’s partner then lead to more prompting by the NT person, which generates even greater resistance by the Asperger’s partner, creating a downward spiral in which many couples find themselves alienated, discouraged, and exhausted.