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.
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 exposé.
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?
We’ll build a bridge and break down misconceptions together, I tell myself.
Hot damn, did it not go over well.
To tell them that all aspies are not serial cheaters, violent, and abusive; or, to tell them what behaviors were the opposite of Asperger’s was to them an invalidation of their experiences.
It didn’t matter if they were with someone who had the traits of a malignant narcissist with antisocial personality disorder. To them, the distinction was moot. They were with monsters, other people in the group were with monsters, and the name they were using to define all manner of monstrosity was Asperger’s.
I was sent a link to a chart with four columns, the first to note neurotypical development, the second to note autistic development, the third to note how autistic deficits cause dysfunction in adulthood, and the fourth to note how NT partners suffer as a result. I would never make this comparison lightly, but it looked like the propaganda of the early Third Reich contrasting Aryans and Jews. [Note:the segments of the chart posted below have been edited. It used to be even worse. ]
Below are a few snippets of the chart:Undeveloped. Social. Conscience…
Seriously!? There’s a pervasive irony in a chart like this with a fundamental lack of social conscience underscoring the entirety of it. It’s a juvenile demonstration of social Darwinism, as representative of social conscientiousness as a rabid hyena. They ascribe autistic strengths to neurotypicals, too, like honesty, loyalty, faithfulness, and critical thinking.
We socialize for our own ego/narcissism? Manipulate others by fear, anxiety, verbal/physical violence? No social conscience? Somehow, we’ve managed to be completely socially inept, but also cunning manipulators. And inability to laugh at oneself and one’s own mistakes? Really? Have they ever met an autistic person? A good 75% of our humor is self-deprecation and jokes about our own suffering.
It’s true that we have some shortcomings in comparison to NTs, as a generalization. But, this would be hilariously, sadly laughable if it didn’t have such devastating consequences.
But, these women are not with actual aspies. Some of them are, but most of them are with general-purpose assholes, quite neurotypical.
According to their logic, all deplorable traits point to Asperger’s: Sex addict? Must be Asperger’s. Doesn’t want sex? Must be Asperger’s. Screams all the time? Aspie. Never talks? Aspie. Stingy with money? Aspie. Lavish spender? Aspie. Genocidal warlord? Bad tipper? Halitosis? Con man? Serial killer? Liar? Flat-earther?
They have websites and even a non-profit. There’s theNeurotypical.com and, no joke, heartlessAspergers.com. They’re on a mission, and that mission is to tell people that aspies are horrible inhuman beings. They are dedicated to bringing awareness to the suffering partners of these zero-empathy, emotionless, robotic, mind-blind, manipulative, pathologically-dishonest, and just fundamentally evil aspies.
So what about aspies who contend that they aren’t any of the things as described on those sites?
As Aspies will tell you, they might seem like they don’t care about other people’s feelings, but that’s only because they don’t know what others are feeling. If they knew, they say, they would care (don’t believe that! You can tell them how you feel for decades, and they will never understand or care. Ask anyone who has been married or close in any way to one of them. All you will get is invalidation).
-anonymous NT on heartlessaspergers.com
If you look at a toddler with Asperger’s Syndrome, you will realize that they run over other children. They are often abrasive. They bite, punch, kick, push, shove, scratch and pinch nearly anyone who gets in the way or takes their belongings. The wife of an aspie might find herself in an all-out war if she sells her spouse’s baseball card collection without his knowledge.
As the mother of an aspie toddler, this enrages me. There are people out there writing my toddler off, who has never bitten, hit, kicked, or pinched anyone, as a violent nuisance and defective before she’s even learned to ride a bicycle. I’m perplexed by the instant jump in subject matter to selling off a husband’s baseball card collection without his knowledge. Would that not infuriate anyone?
She goes on to suggest that an aspie man might hoard child pornography on his computer because he is a primitive and un-evolved collector like a cavemen, that he will take a mistress when he’s bored, that he will become a sexual abuser when he wants to exert control, and that he doesn’t know what it means to love.
If there was just one example of an aspie man who is none of these things, then this would be a horrible, damning indictment; however, this is a wholly inaccurate account of most aspie men. Knowing hundreds, I have never met one who fits her description. My own aspie husband is the kindest, most selfless, empathetic, honorable, and loving man I have ever known.
Another self-published book isBroken by Katy Ford. Clearly, there was no editor for this one and typos abound while the punctuation is almost non-existent. The real problem, though, is in the content:
I have read on countless sites and forums and can indeed personally verify that the anxiety of living with an AS/NT relationship if you are not aware of the AS will lead to physical illness from colds to cancer.
What can I even do with this? Seriously…
From the next chapter entitled, “What is Asperger’s?”
People with AS are incapable of feelings and empathy and because of this their partners and children suffer from extreme emotional neglect which results in significant emotional trauma.
I know I’m not supposed to be capable of having feelings, but this has me feeling lots of ways. The thing is, they believe this. Her ex-husband was not even diagnosed. She diagnosed him. Almost all of them have diagnosed men with any cluster of negative traits as having Asperger’s.
So, what happens to autistic people as these forums and groups expand and all manner of evil people are deemed to be autistic and all autistics are deemed to be evil? Many of these people work with autistic children. Many have autistic children they hate. They are nurses and mental health care workers, teachers and church members. They feel their hate is justified.
And, if it’s hard to believe that they are out there, hating autistics and seeing them as all evil, vile humans with psychopathy and greed and violent rage, then look at their forum, AS Partners. It’s public. There, they conjecture about every killer and rapist in the news, just “knowing” that he is autistic. It’s at this point, I’m seeing the disconnect between our aspie “facts” and their “emotions.” These are definitely feelings I would invalidate.
They claim that autistics have a “look,” and that they can spot them at a glance with their “creepy, soulless eyes.”
If the books and the websites aren’t evidence enough, they have a public forum called AS Partners. You can browse it and see for yourself. Below are some comments from the site that typify what you’ll see there.
After conjecturing that Jamie Closs’s kidnapper was autistic, and that she could tell by looking at him, a woman said:
This social nightmare will NEVER end. The Aspergers/autism population just keeps re-producing.
And then there’s this from a woman musing on how scary it is that we reproduce:
Do you think there are some couples making the descision to have children even though they know at least one of them have Aspergers and they could easily pass it on to their children, I think there must be by now. I don’t think they all see it as a bad thing to have autism, many of them think it makes them special and much better than other people. The part that worries me most is when it’s the mother who has Aspergers, that seems to be the way it is just as often as it’s the father but I think that’s only beginning to come to light now. I don’t think anybody could say that Aspies make good parents, except them of course, how can anybody be a good parent if they don’t have the capability to feel empathy or understand their childrens emotions. You have to be able to read your children’s emotions because they don’t always tell you about their problems but you can easily see if they’re upset about anything if you have the capability to feel empathy.
That kills me. I am an aspie mother with an autistic child and an aspie husband. I’ve never been harsh to my child. We are so connected that we communicate almost telepathically. I breastfed her until she was 17.5 months old, slept on the couch for a year with her in a bassinet right in front of my face. She is cherished, safe, and loved and knows it.
I am not a perfect mother by any stretch, but I am the perfect mother for my daughter. I have the ability to empathize with her because we are so similar. No neurotypical could innately empathize with my daughter. They’re not wired the way she is. That’s not to say that they couldn’t be great parents to a neurodiverse child, but their intuitions would fail them in the same way that my intuitions would fail me with a neurotypical child.
The best thing a neurotypical parent of an autistic child can do for their child is to rely on the wisdom of autistic adults to provide insight and wisdom into the way their children’s minds work. The converse is true for neurodiverse parents of neurotypical children
My husband is the best father any daughter ever had. He takes her out all the time, after working hard labor all day, to parks or indoor bounce houses and playgrounds. There are mothers everywhere, and no fathers… and then there’s my husband with his daughter, encouraging her, making her laugh, helping her to climb on things, playing with her while everyone else is gossiping or staring at their cell phones.
He wears a diaper bag backpack full of puppets and snacks and toys he’s packed. He makes sure she has enough water because she never thinks to ask for any. It’s true he doesn’t always intuit what she wants when she’s upset, but he does try hard and gets better every day. I think he does better than most men in that arena.
But I shouldn’t have to be put in a position where I feel like I have to prove that my family is not made up of monsters based on nothing we’ve ever said, done, or thought. No one should ever be put in that position. No one should ever have the thought, “Are they going to think I’m guilty because I’m trying to prove myself, or will they think I’m guilty if I don’t qualify my goodness and humanity?” This is what racism does to people of color. It is a life forced into defense and uncertainty. It is a life of begging the question, Am I in friendly territory?
So when I read this website and see mothers talking about how love shouldn’t be wasted on autistic kids because they can’t appreciate it anyway, and how autistic people can’t have empathy, how all aspies are totally self-serving and abusive, how neurotypicals need to come together to “defeat” and “abolish” us, how Hitler and all the Nazis were aspies, and how aspies shouldn’t be parents… I feel a lot of things.
I feel fear that someone who has these prejudices will maybe one day be a teacher in my daughter’s classroom. I weep for my friends’ children. I am broken for the autistic children of these women. I fear for adults who are going to be judged by these standards in custody hearings or by employers. I fear that these stereotypes that are based on nothing but internet propaganda are going to make life harder for people who don’t deserve it. It is a fundamental lack of empathy that I fear, and not from autistics.
The Real Issue
The following is another comment on that site that I think really speaks to the underlying issue fueling all of this antipathy:
Yeah the innocent Aspie bullshit is a huge lie that’s really hurting a lot of kind empathetic people and wasting years of their lives. Why does nobody seem to care about all the victims of their emotional abuse, their parners and their own children ?. I think quite a few of the partners of people on this site should be added to that warning list. My nonpartner isn’t a sexual predator but he still preys on women to get what he wants. They have nothing to give back to us but constant carping criticism and all the blame when anything goes wrong.
This is the core of the problem. Many of these women are with abusive men. I was with one before, and he was neurotypical. He never complimented me. I could do nothing right. He compared me to everyone, yelled at me, isolated me, scared me to the point I feared for my life, and even became physical towards the end. He didn’t care about anyone but himself.
I read what these women are experiencing, and I empathize. I relate personally. Nobody should ever be treated this way, but I stayed more years than I should have. Everyone in a situation like that should be encouraged to leave. I stayed because I thought I was supposed to, because I felt sorry for him, because I feared he would be homeless without me, because my therapist said I would leave when I was ready, and because I worried what would happen to me when I told him I wanted out. These women, many of them, are in the same boat.
But, in the same way that it would be wrong to scapegoat Catholics, Brits, artists, neurotypicals, or multi-racial people for my ex-husband’s behaviors, it is wrong to paint autistics with such a broad brush.
But these greedy, violent, abusive monsters without empathy aren’t aspies. Aspies don’t lack empathy, but they don’t empathize the same way. Neurotypicals don’t know how to empathize with us, either. It doesn’t come naturally to them. We (aspies) empathize with each other quite well… naturally. We’re graceful together.
Some of these women are with actual aspies, and they are being emotionally neglected. Whether their partners can’t do better because they don’t know what to do, or they refuse to do better because they are stubborn is inconsequential.
Relationship and family supports are needed for this demographic, but it’s possible to put supports in place without demonizing all aspies. Even if a neurotypical woman is with a selfless, kind, giving aspie, he is still not neurologically in-sync with her. She’s not in-sync with him, either. They need to understand that they speak different languages. The right supports could help them both to interpret the other better. Then, they can make an informed decision about whether or not it’s worth the effort to stay.
If there were any hope for these relationships, there won’t be once someone has accepted that their partner is a broken, inferior, sub-human monster. A group like that thrives on confirmation bias, just like any hate group.
There is nothing lovable about Autism/Aspergers. It is a life sentence for the one who’s got it and everyone they come across. [ . . . ] No. These people are reptiles pretending to be human as they don their people costumes and recite their memorized words. They are predators. They do not feel empathy. They do not understand emotion; they cannot truly feel.
A woman says in this AS Partner forum, and no one challenges it. In fact, it’s a frequently-repeated maxim on the site. I have seen anti-Semites say the same thing about Jews. This brand of supremacy kills. Literally.
This is why therapists won’t support the “Cassandra Phenomenon.” Because it’s based on the false premise that autistics are inherently abusive, without empathy, and a terror to those who have the misfortune of being in their company.
We’re not always a good match. I’d imagine that we’re not usually a great match. This is a serious issue in relationship health that needs attention.
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.
Terra Vance is an industrial and organizational psychology consultant specialized in diversity, inclusion, multiculturalism, and poverty dynamics. She founded NeuroClastic, Inc., a nonprofit organization led by actually-autistic individuals and showcasing autistic perspectives and talents. Parents, service providers, educators, employers, and autistic individuals will find a wealth of information and resources at NeuroClastic for self-advocacy and supporting autistics. To contact Terra via email, click here.
Vance, T. (2019). What’s in a Word: Asperger’s and Hate Groups, or the Cassandras. Psych Central.
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