Why Your Partner Says “NO!” To Therapy When You Suspect Autism

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You’ve been to other therapists, you’ve been to other counselors, and it’s just been a disaster.  You think your partner is autistic (some people still use Asperger’s) and you want to see a neurodiversity specialist.

Your partner’s reaction, though, is “Nope, I’m done. We’ve tried this. I’m not doing it again.” 

You feel frustrated. You feel angry. You feel hurt. 

I know why your partner is digging in their heels – and it’s a valid reason. 

You’re probably thinking, “I really need them to understand how much I’ve been hurt,” – and your feelings are valid, too.

To your partner, though, it feels like standing in front of a firing squad. They have been identified as “the problem.” Many autistic partners say to me something like “Now my partner believes that it’s been me. I am the source. I am the cause of all the problems.” 

Who wants to go into counseling or coaching under those premises? I wouldn’t. Unfortunately, a lot of counselors who aren’t familiar with neurodiversity do approach it that way.  It is called having an “identified patient,” who is the primary problem in the relationship. The entire focus becomes about autism and how it is contributing to relationship issues. 

Neurodiversity is not “THE” problem.

It is absolutely a big part of the relationship dynamic, but it’s not “the problem.” 

Each of you are different in what you are each bringing to the relationship:

  • How your brain works
  • How your sensory system works
  • How each of your personalities has its own unique quirks, strengths, and weaknesses

Both of you have different ways of using language and handling conflict and you are both bringing personal and relationship baggage to your relationship. If one of you is autistic, then it has contributed to the confusion and misunderstanding, but not because autism is “the problem – because you have each had vastly different expectations and ways of thinking and feeling …AND you weren’t aware of these differences. It’s a two-way misunderstanding. 

Neither of you is solely to blame for the problems in the relationship. 

Blaming one person for the problems in the relationship is dysfunctional and will drive a bigger wedge in your relationship.  Both of you are responsible, though, for learning about yourself and how your personal traits and preferences affect your partner and the relationship.

Past hurts and previous issues cannot be resolved until you can clearly see your differences without judgment and learn to hear each other in order to understand each other. It is pointless to address things that have happened in the past if you don’t know how to have a meaningful conversation that brings clarity. It’s like trying to have that conversation in two different languages. This contributes to rehashing over and over again, which is not helpful and not useful, and leads you to where you are now. 

To get clarity about yourself and your partner, start with learning how to communicate in a way that fosters connection instead of conflict and resentment. In my communication program, Crack the Communication Code, I have two courses:

  • Battle Busters – Discover a tool to drastically reduce the volume and intensity of conflict.
  • Relationship 2.0 – Discover 4 stages of communication, and how each stage contributes to confusion and misunderstanding. Develop critical skills for interacting in a way that connects.

About ME

Although my professional training and experience have provided tremendous insight, my own neurodiverse relationships have been my personal training ground for understanding and embracing neurodiversity. In over two decades, I  have helped thousands of individuals, couples, families, students, and colleagues in over 13 countries as a THERAPIST, PROFESSOR, COACH, and GLOBAL EDUCATOR