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My husband and Asperger's

Sue HepworthDo you think it’s possible to learn something new about someone, when you’ve been living with them since the beginning of time?

I’d always thought that my husband Dave was eccentric and awkward (if lovable) but it was only when a family member was diagnosed fairly recently with Asperger’s Syndrome, that we realised that Dave had it too.

In our early years together, I found him stubborn, inflexible, pathologically unsociable, addicted to routine, with inconvenient food fads and obsessive interests. He would not eat with the family, but ate different food at a different time. He refused to go to parties and he wouldn’t go on holiday. He will go away with me now, but not abroad.

I’ve always valued his unwavering honesty, even if his "compliments" meant my strong self-confidence was necessary for survival.

Dave:    "From this angle, your nose is rather reminiscent of the twisted spire in Chesterfield."
Sue:      "Can’t you say something nicer than that?"
Dave:    "But I like the twisted spire. And don’t forget it’s a tourist attraction."

I find his unusual take on life refreshing, challenging and interesting, as well as funny…

Dave:   "I’ve conceived a strong antipathy for my dark blue underpants"
Sue:    "But they’re exactly like your light blue ones. M&S. Exactly the same design."
Dave:   "The dark ones seem sinister, ideological, repressive. They’re less willing to negotiate than the pale blue ones. I don’t want to be bullied by my underpants at this age."

Yes, we have problems. He misinterprets my emotions, thinking I’m angry and hostile, when actually I’m upset. Often he can’t grasp that I’m sad unless I cry. He finds patterns visually disturbing, so we have plain furnishings. He has an unusually sensitive sense of smell, so narcissi, hyacinths, blue cheese, parmesan and fish pie are banned from the house because their odours make him nauseous.

Other things you might like...

"Any other smell?" I ask.


Thanks, Dave.

It hasn’t been an easy marriage. And I know that Dave would say the same. But after huge difficulties, especially early on, we’re still together, still good friends, and I’m happy. Very happy.

All marriages, with or without Asperger’s, have their difficulties, irritations and frustrations. It boils down to is this: How much do you love this person? and How much do you want to stay married? Each person has to decide for themselves whether the balance is right between what they are putting into the marriage, and what they are getting out of it. Dave is honest, loyal, caring, supportive, incredibly helpful, a wonderful home-maker, reliable, creative, engages me in fascinating conversation, and best of all, he makes me laugh.

Last Tuesday morning I overslept. When I eventually came downstairs, he said: "You’ve been asleep for so long, I was beginning to think you were dead."

"Were you worried?" I said. "Why didn’t you come up and check?"

"It would’ve been fine. I know how to get rid of a cadaver."

He was serious. Fortunately, I found it hilarious.

You can read more from Sue Hepworth in her new book Plotting for Grown-ups and leave your comments on the thread