Aspies aren’t nice to have around???

While browsing through recent blogs on Asperger’s, I came across a review of the novel, The Rosie Project, about a man on the autistic spectrum who creates a list of criteria for a spouse and sets out to find that woman. The reviewer felt the social aspects of the novel rang false, and said, “Asperger’s is a disorder. . . An inability to connect emotionally with others means that Asperger’s sufferers . . . are not nice to have around.”

Moment of stunned silence. WHAT?!? I raced down to the comments, ready to defend the Asperger’s community against such a cold-hearted statement. Not nice to have around? How mean can you get? The comments had been closed. No chance to respond.

My world is filled with people who have Asperger’s and this statement seemed so heartless and so cruel and, as I thought about it further, so true, in many sad ways.

Fiction wants happy endings. I’m a huge fan of “The Big Bang Theory,” and of Amy, in particular. Though everyone talks about Sheldon being a classic Aspie, Amy is a classic female Aspie, with some of the significant – and occasionally tragic – differences that occur in women.

Amy is very aware of social norms, yet rarely experiences them. She’s with Sheldon because she genuinely likes him, but also desperately wishes he was more “normal” at times. She has misunderstood her level of friendship with Penny on numerous occasions, most notably in the episode where she commissioned that huge, awful portrait of the two of them.

The episode that stands out to me, though, was the one where Penny and Bernadette went shopping for bridesmaid dresses – without Amy. She found out, and was crushed. This is where the “(Aspies) are not nice to have around” comment comes in. Amy wasn’t welcome. She was deliberately left out. In the show, Penny and Bernadette apologize and draw Amy back into the group, but in the real world, in a world not controlled by comedy writers and actor’s contracts, that wouldn’t happen.

More likely Amy would have discovered the rejection, sadly accepted it, and left the group entirely.

So, my heartless blogger was correct, in a grain-of-truth sort of way. People with Asperger’s experience a great deal of rejection due to their quirks, because other people don’t want them around. I counted the birthday invitations that didn’t come through, the dates that never happened – and how many Aspies ever attend their high school prom? These are direct rejections by peers, and they hurt.

However, Aspies CAN have successful friendships! They can get married. I know of one couple closing in on 50 years, and another going 24 years. They can have long-term friendships. In fact, to have an Aspie friend is to have a loyal, die-hard friend who will do almost anything for you – as long as you are clear on what you need. Aspies do not see friendship as disposable, because friends are precious and rare.

If people can get past the “not nice to be around” concept, past the quirks and oddities that pop up, especially as young Aspies are learning to navigate the world of friendship, people can find companions who will stick with them through the most difficult of times, who offer genuine friendships. So maybe the idea of a happy ending isn’t so far-fetched after all.


18 thoughts on “Aspies aren’t nice to have around???

    1. Yeah, I was a little worried this was unclear… my point was to go after the comment in general that people with Asperger’s aren’t pleasant to be around. I just mentioned the novel, The Rosie Project, because that’s where I found the reviewer’s quote. I used Big Bang Theory as an example of how Aspies are portrayed in fiction with generally happy outcomes, then I touched on personal experiences in my own family – those heartbreaking times when you know a birthday party is being held but an invitation wasn’t sent… Aspies are rejected a lot by their peers because the peers don’t want them around and it’s a sad situation.

  1. Beautifully said, Carol. Brought a tear to my eye. I have a dear friend who’s husband is an Aspie. I’ve known them both for nearly fifteen years (they’ve been married for over 20). He is loyal and true and generous to a fault. He can also be self-absorbed, rigid, say hurtful things (though not meaning to) and be generally annoying. I have been married to my husband for 25 years on Monday. He can also be self-absorbed, rigid, say hurtful things without meaning to and be generally annoying. And he’s NOT an Aspie. People are just who they are. The world would be a boring place without quirky, unique people, like Sheldon and Amy (and even me). Accept people for who they are, warts and all, and you’ll be astounded at the amazing relationships you develop. Thanks for this great post, Carol!

  2. I appreciated your comment over on Debbie’s blog so I’m following you here now.

    We recently discovered that my wife is an Aspie so I’m trying to learn all I can. There is a dearth of information on female Aspies, as I’m sure you know, but I have found some good blogs so far. She and I have been together for 25 years, married for almost 21, so yes, it is possible to have a lasting friendship. I’m pretty certain I fall somewhere on the spectrum also, so that probably helps me understand her better than most.

    I hate that so many people just don’t “get her” and can’t see past the “not nice to be around” concept, as you say, to the incredibly wonderful, beautiful, thoughtful, loyal and loving person she is.

    I’m in the process of starting a new blog highlighting the ups and downs of our relationship also. All I have so far is an About page but I hope to get some posts up soon once things slow down at work and school. Not sure when that will be.

    1. Congratulations on being together for so long! Yes, being a female Aspie I think is a particularly lonely business, especially since there is such a strong awareness of what is supposed to be “normal” – and there are so many stories about really intense female friendships that we just can’t attain ourselves. Good luck to you, and thanks for following me.

  3. If you think that’s mean, you should see this website:
    Trying to tell everyone the “truth” about asperger’s. Apparently we’re all heartless monsters and incapable of empathy. Apparently we should come with a warning label so people don’t have to go through the “pain” of having a romantic relationship or even just a friendship with us. Apparently we think we can feel empathy, but actually we cannot as it’s just part of the disorder that we don’t know what we feel. I think it’s odd that a non-aspie thinks they know how aspies feel.

      1. Isn’t that ironic? They get mad at ASD folk because we can’t read their minds – but they can’t read our minds, either. Hypocrisy at its finest.

    1. Wow – I just glanced at that website and it does look remarkably cruel! I’ve been fortunate to see several Aspies in healthy relationships – and some are just fine on their own. Of course, this is part of the Autism Speaks way of looking at autism – as a horrible condition that destroys families. You seem smart and sensitive and are a good and worthy person. Carry on!

      1. Thank you. I just hope this website gets brought down, because I felt nauseous and awful after reading it. I’m not normally very that sensitive to stuff like that, so if a more anxious and sensitive person were to read it, it could be really bad for their mental health, I think. I know that sounds a bit snotty, I don’t know how to phrase it any other way.

        The person says they were in an abusive relationship. They could have taken something positive out of that negative experience, by making a blog with dating tips for aspergians, or making one on how to get out of an abusive relationship with a man regardless if they have ASD or not. Instead they made a website telling people we’re evil and should be avoided. They should have stopped to think about how it might have made other aspergians feel – male, female, adult, child, single or in a relationship.

        I mean, it’s awful that they had to be in an abusive relationship, but I don’t think that justifies making such a mean site. Two wrongs don’t make a right, know what I mean?

      2. Sadly, the web allows for all kinds of people to post all kinds of things … tolerance is so important and we need to support each other as best we can.

      3. And one of the links there was to this website, which I think is in German (I might be wrong). Aren’t there really strong laws against hate speech in Germany?

      4. One of the nicest people I know has ASD too, a little more severe (sorry if that’s politically incorrect, I don’t know how else to phrase it) than mine. She isn’t anything like how the site describes it.

  4. I am an NT woman and have taught many youngsters and adults on the spectrum for twenty years. In this capacity, I found everyone adorable and have always been able to communicate well. However, over the past five years I have had relationships with two men, both undiagnosed when we began our relationships. The first man treated me abominably (details too awful to disclose) and after discussing what he had done with a psychologist, was immediately diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. The second man, who did not speak English as his first language, also undiagnosed, after meeting me face to face twice, moved the friendship to email where he kept me at arm’s length for two and a half years although he lived twenty minutes away from me. Recently, he began saying ambiguous things, being negative and when I kindly enquired if I had done something to offend him, he maintained silence for three months until I emailed him apologising for my part in the misunderstanding and being very conciliatory. He replied kindly adding an ambiguous comment about the future of the email friendship. I asked him to please clarify. Silence. Four weeks later, randomly in conversation with someone, his name came up and she said . . . you know about his new job. He is moving 400 miles away. I emailed him to congratulate him on his new job. He emailed back sounding his usual self. Pleased that I knew. And he had not needed to tell me his news. Meanwhile, he had allowed me to think all sorts of things as he implied that I had done something ‘wrong’ and therefore deserved, in some way, to be ‘dumped’. I felt confused and dehumanised. I have all the time in the world for people on the spectrum. But in these two situations, I was not treated respectfully and in the most recent situation was kept in the dark and
    allowed to think all sorts of things. While he got on with organising his new job in a new location. It was easier for him to ‘dump’ me as a friend than tell me what was going on. And when I told him I knew and was happy for him . . . he was back to normal. Is it possible to see how hurtful this sort of behaviour could be to someone who is a friend? I do not give up on people. Perhaps some are not able to tolerate the hurt I have been subjected to by 2 Asperger men . . . and they are not all the same. Asperger’s does not make a man or woman horrible in the first place. But some behaviours are deeply hurtful and intolerable. Instead of deeming the website a form of hate speech . . . perhaps it is the only place women can vent about how deeply they have been hurt in relationships. Not everyone is able to understand Aspies. I understand them only too well . . . and it has not prevented me from being dreadfully hurt by behaviours which cannot be changed. Sensitive people who are easily hurt cannot cope with the Asperger mind and behaviours. It works both ways . . . Aspies, maybe cut NTs who love you deeply and really are trying their best . . . a bit of slack. More mutual understanding, compassion and dialogue might go a long way . . .

  5. For the NT, all relationships are transactional. NTs are hard wired to expect reciprocity, give and take. Perhaps not 50-50 but certainly 30-70. And when the balance of giving, or making allowances for behaviour which might be construed as hurtful . . . the NT will begin to feel hurt. The NT expects to be kept ‘safe’ in the relationship. Often the unequal balance of give and take begins to feel ‘unsafe’ for an NT. Or exhaustion sets in . . . the NT may not have too much more to give and may be ‘running on empty’. The NT needs some love and compassion for their Aspie friend. If this is not received, the NT may begin to feel very hurt, unappreciated, unloved and if this state of affairs continues, the NT may begin to perceive abuse. Or be so unable to bear the pain any longer, that they may withdraw from the Aspie . . . to recover from the pain. NTs and Aspies feel the same things. NTs may be able to express in words how they feel and nay become quite vocal in describing their discomfort. NTs are in just as much discomfort as the Aspies. Patience. dialogue, mutual support, understanding, compassion and love are required. Give and take as equally balanced as possible, ideally. When AS/NT relationships have achieved this sort of dynamic, then happiness is possible. NTs have many quirks also which make them sensitive. Aspies need to recognise that the NT may be struggling just as much as they are. Love, patience and a will to make things work out. Patience and determination. Willingness to try again. Willingness to try to understand one another. It is difficult. Many NTs cannot commit to this type of vulnerability in a relationship, they are too sensitive . . . and prefer an easier time. All relationships are hard work. NT/NT relationships are hard. The blended relationship is hardest of all. We all deserve to love and be loved. Tolerance and understanding. Allow love to grow . . .

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