Affective Deprivation Disorder and Alexithymia in Marriage

I have written somewhere in here that my marriage has been difficult.  If you’re married for nearly two decades, then I think, at some point, there will come hard relational times.  It’s inevitable and normal.  I am someone who doesn’t like to put up with hard times.  I feel driven to fix them.  I want to know what’s behind the problem.  If I am experiencing what I feel is pointless suffering, then I will do whatever it takes to either end it or, at least, add meaning to it.  I am the opposite of passive.

I seem to be married to my foil.  If I am a hare, then he’s a tortoise.  Nay, a rock.  I run around him.  Over and over again.  This can be good if it creates stability in a relationship, but it has created inertia and so much more.

After a while, one must ask: What is going on? Why am I in such pain? Why am I sick all the time? Why does he say that he’s happy when I feel like a black hole has opened up in my chest?

Let me introduce you to Affective Deprivation Disorder:

Affective Deprivation Disorder (AfDD) is a relational disorder resulting from the emotional deprivation sometimes experienced by the partner (or child) of persons with a low emotional/empathic quotient or alexithymia.

Coined by researcher Maxine Aston, AfDD was first applied to partners of adults with Asperger Syndrome, many of whom showed disturbing physical and psychological reactions to the lack of emotional reciprocity they were experiencing in their relationship. Maxine was later to broaden AfDD‘s applicability to include disorders other than Asperger’s such as depression, eating disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, personality disorder, and substance abuse disorder in which the same low emotional intelligence or alexithymia is a key relational factor.

To qualify for a diagnosis of AfDD some or all of the following indicators in each category must be present:

One Partner must meet criteria for a diagnosis of one or more of the following:
• Low Emotional Intelligence
• Alexithymia
• Low Empathy Quotient

Relationship Profile includes one or more of the following
• High relational conflict
• Domestic abuse: emotional and/or physical
• Reduced marital or relationship satisfaction
• Reduced relationship quality

Possible Psychological Symptoms of AfDD
• Low self esteem.
• Feeling confused/bewildered.
• Feelings of anger, depression and anxiety
• Feelings of guilt.
• Loss of self/depersonalisation
• Phobias – social/agoraphobia
• Posttraumatic stress reactivity
• Breakdown

Possible Psychosomatic Effects
• Fatigue
• Sleeplessness
• Migraines.
• Loss or gain in weight.
• PMT/female related problems.
• ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis).
• Low immune system – colds to cancer.

Similar symptoms experienced by the SAD sufferer, are experienced by the AfDD sufferer. Yet there is an even more damaging effect for the AfDD sufferer insofar as it is another human being, they probably love, who is unintentionally responsible for their emotional deprivation. Emotional reciprocity, love and belonging are essential human needs, if these needs are not being met and the reason why is not understood, then mental and physical health may be affected. Awareness and understanding can eliminate this.

AfDD is a consequence of the relational situation a sufferer is in, therefore it is possible to find ways to rectify this. Just as sunlight restores the balance in SAD – emotional input and understanding can restore the balance in the person affected by AfDD. Relationships when one partner has alexithymia can work if both partners work together to understand their differences and develop a better way of communicating, showing emotional expression and loving that works for both of them.

The following treatment issues can be explored with those suffering AfDD:
• Rebuilding Self Esteem
• Having a voice
• Looking at negative responses.
• Looking at self image.
• Building confidence.
• Becoming assertive.
• Attending a Workshop.

Finding Self
• Identifying Parent – Child roles.
• Changing learned helplessness.
• Rebuilding self.
• Rebuilding family and relationships.
• Rebuilding a social life.
• Finding support.  (Maxine Aston)

What is alexithymia?

Alexithymia/ˌlɛksəˈθmiə/ is a personality construct characterized by the sub-clinical inability to identify and describe emotions in the self.[1] The core characteristics of alexithymia are marked dysfunction in emotional awareness, social attachment, and interpersonal relating.[2] Furthermore, individuals suffering from alexithymia also have difficulty in distinguishing and appreciating the emotions of others, which is thought to lead to unempathic and ineffective emotional responding.[2] Alexithymia is prevalent in approximately 10% of the general population and is known to be comorbid with a number of psychiatric conditions.[3]

Alexithymia is defined by:[9]

  1. difficulty identifying feelings and distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal
  2. difficulty describing feelings to other people
  3. constricted imaginal processes, as evidenced by a scarcity of fantasies
  4. a stimulus-bound, externally oriented cognitive style. (online source)

My husband is alexithymic.  He also has crippling anxiety combined with what looks to be disturbances in his personality.  He has low emotional intelligence to be sure and poor cognitive empathy.  He cannot name his emotions, and he has no idea why he does things.  We are not able to have meaningful discussions about anything.  We have never been able to do this.  When we were in the first year of our marriage, I thought he was being difficult.  I had never encountered another human being who could not name their own emotions.

“How do you feel?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, I understand not being sure about something, but…”

“No, I mean I don’t know what I feel.”

He couldn’t identify or describe any of his emotions outside of feeling “depressed” or very angry.  He had constant feelings of getting sick (somatic complaints).  He lacked empathy, and he didn’t understand why I expected him to be able to anticipate needs or intuit things.  I assumed that he was capable of that.  As an example, when I was pregnant with our first daughter, I was put on bed rest for the last few weeks of my pregnancy due to an inability to walk from pelvic instability.  I had no friends where we lived as I hadn’t lived there very long.  I was, therefore, unable to go to the kitchen and prepare food.  I would have to sort of slither up the hall on my side to make it to the bathroom.  I literally could not walk or stand.  I was famished when he would get home.  He was never able to remember that I was home and unable to meet my needs.  One evening, he came home with food and ate in front of me.  He didn’t ask how I was, talk to me, or even engage.  He just sat there, glazed over, and ate his food while playing computer games.  He rarely greeted me.  I was so frustrated and angry.  He looked at me with wide-eyed innocence and asked, “What’s wrong with you?”  Obviously, nineteen years later I can see the flaws in my much younger self’s hidden expectations.  Just call him and ask him to bring food for you, younger self! He can’t read your mind! The point I am making is that he was completely unaware of the “other” in almost all circumstances.  Pregnant wife on bed rest unable to walk? He just didn’t get it or understand why that had anything to do with him or why he had any responsibility there.  It bewildered him.

That is, however, a typical interaction.  It has played out over and over again in different contexts over the years from him not visiting our baby and me in the hospital when she was thought to have meningitis to his bringing the Lord of The Rings trilogy to my labor and delivery because, “There will be a lot of waiting around.”  It ranges from the comical to the spectacularly hurtful.  For years and years, our daughters and I have observed this very obvious lack of emotional response and wondered why he didn’t like us.  What had we done wrong? My oldest daughter has spent the last six months coming to me in tears over her feelings of loss where her father is concerned.  She has wondered if something is wrong with her.  She has asked the classic question:

“If he loved us, then why doesn’t he try?”

Last night, I sat on the edge of my bed and cried.  I felt like I was crazy.  It is so hard to describe what it feels like to be married to this.  I told myself yesterday that if I could make myself more like him, then maybe it would be better.  If I could remove all emotional desire from myself, then I would be able to do this.  I actually asked God to make me like Spock.  That has to be one of the weirder prayers to ascend.  Like some warped psalm.

“Oh God, make me like Spock.  Purge me of emotion.  Oh my soul, shut the hell up so that only my brain will speak and my heart will sleep a thousand years.”

Poetic but not possible.  I found a better thing to ask.  I asked for a sense of being accepted and validated by someone.  I felt so misunderstood.  Like not one person understood the exact nature of what I was experiencing, and this was so isolating.  This sense of isolation is intolerable to me.  This morning, I found all this.  I just stumbled across the word ‘alexithymia’ and AfDD.  I then immediately found a paper about AfDD.  Read this:

The lack of empathy in these relationships is one key to their impacts. A lack of empathetic attunement disables the individual’s ability to recognise, interpret and to verify subtle emotional signals expressed by intimates and contributes to an impoverishment of emotional interaction. The interaction becomes further compounded when the unverified partner or family member reacts negatively to feelings of being misunderstood or neglected. In this sense the affective deprivation experienced in such relationships refers to the deprivation of emotional-attunement, emotional validation, and intelligent emotional responding. To the extent that people look to their significant other for validation, the lack of such validation can corrode their sense of self and lead to a discouragement of self expression whereby large portions of the individual’s emotional repertoire become deleted from the relationship (Goleman, 1996b). In Asperger’s relationships this tendency to eradicate emotionality and take on Asperger’s characteristics has been labelled becoming “Aspergated” (Stanford, 2003). The failure to understand and validate legitimate emotional experiences or behaviours of the other typically creates or exacerbates negative emotional arousal in the invalidated individual/s, potentially leaving each member of the relationship displaying some measure of dysregulated affect (Fruzzetti, A.E., & Iverson, 2006). (Affective Deprivation Disorder: Does It Constitute A Relational Disorder?)

This phenomenon does not just apply to intimate relationships with certain people on the autism spectrum.  This would apply to other contexts as well.  I cannot tell you how validating this paragraph was for me, and I see just how important my being in DBT with my daughter was.  I was there to learn to self-validate.  The notion was introduced to me two years ago in David Schnarch’s landmark book The Passionate Marriage in which he says that self-validation is the key to differentiation in marriage and, thus, success particularly if there is gridlock.  That struck a chord in me then.  I learned how to self-validate in DBT.  I learned on a much more practical level how to be mindful, how to suspend judgment, and how to be effective in relationships without sacrificing self-respect.

This has been my greatest downfall.  I have slowly given up pieces of myself.  I truly have deleted large pieces of my emotional repertoire in this relationship because of repeated rejection.  How can one not do that? Knowing, however, that I am not the only person to experience this is tremendously validating.  Knowing that there is a white paper written about this very dynamic tells me that there is a common experience out there, and common experience means that I’m not isolated.  I am part of a group.  I may not know anyone else who is experiencing this, but I now know that others know exactly what I know.

The interesting thing about alexithymia is this.  It is a trait that can be comorbid with other psychiatric disorders:

Alexithymia is considered to be a personality trait that places individuals at risk for other medical and psychiatric disorders while reducing the likelihood that these individuals will respond to conventional treatments for the other conditions.[6] Alexithymia is not classified as a mental disorder in the DSM-IV. It is a dimensional personality trait that varies in severity from person to person…

Alexithymia frequently co-occurs with other disorders. Research indicates that alexithymia overlaps with autism spectrum disorders.[8][41] In a 2004 study using the TAS-20, 85% of the adults with ASD fell into the impaired category; almost half of the whole group fell into the severely impaired category. Among the normal adult control, only 17% was impaired; none of them severely.[41][42] Fitzgerald & Bellgrove pointed out that, “Like alexithymia, Asperger’s syndrome is also characterised by core disturbances in speech and language and social relationships”.[43] Hill & Berthoz agreed with Fitzgerald & Bellgrove (2006) and in response stated that “there is some form of overlap between alexithymia and ASDs”. They also pointed to studies that revealed impaired theory of mind skill in alexithymia, neuroanatomical evidence pointing to a shared etiology and similar social skills deficits.[44] The exact nature of the overlap is uncertain. Alexithymic traits in AS may be linked to clinical depression or anxiety;[42] the mediating factors are unknown and it is possible that alexithymia predisposes to anxiety.[45]

There are many more psychiatric disorders that overlap with alexithymia. One study found that 41% of Vietnam War veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder were alexithymic.[46] Other single study prevalence findings are 63% in anorexia nervosa,[47] 56% in bulimia,[47] 45%[16] to 50%[48] in major depressive disorder, 34% in panic disorder,[49] 28% of social phobics,[49] and 50% insubstance abusers.[50] Alexithymia also occurs more frequently in individuals with acquired or traumatic brain injury.[51][52][53]

Alexithymia is correlated with certain personality disorders,[54]substance use disorders,[55][56] some anxiety disorders,[57] and sexual disorders,[58] as well as certain physical illnesses, such ashypertension,[59]inflammatory bowel disease,[60] and functional dyspepsia.[61] Alexithymia is further linked with disorders such as migraine headaches, lower back pain, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, nausea, allergies, and fibromyalgia.[62]

An inability to modulate emotions is a possibility in explaining why some alexithymics are prone to discharge tension arising from unpleasant emotional states through impulsive acts or compulsive behaviors such as binge eating, substance abuse, perversesexual behavior, or anorexia nervosa.[63] The failure to regulate emotions cognitively might result in prolonged elevations of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and neuroendocrine systems which can lead to somatic diseases.[62] Alexithymics also show a limited ability to experience positive emotions leading Krystal (1988) and Sifneos (1987) to describe many of these individuals as anhedonic.[5] (online source)

I’ve discussed personality disorders at length on this blog, but I’ve never discussed alexithymia.  I have never had a therapist discuss this with me either.  Many of us leave families where there has been abuse or trauma with symptoms of AfDD, but those clusters of symptoms have never been named.  It’s all been lumped together under depression, or anxiety, or PTSD, or “Stop whining and get over it.”  I would like you to read this:

Emotional reciprocity, love and belonging are essential human needs, if these needs are not being met and the reason is not understood, then mental and physical health may be affected. (Maxine Aston)

Yesterday, I asked someone if it was normal to want reciprocity and belonging in a marriage.  I didn’t know if that was a normal thing to want.  I felt extremely confused.  Was it something that was bad to want?  Reading this statement this morning has been a powerful validation for me.  It has been the plumb line that I have needed so that I can see where long-term exposure to wrong thinking and unhealthy behaviors and beliefs have landed me.  I also asked these questions when I was emerging from my family of origin.  You will find yourself on shaky ground if you are in a relationship with someone with a Cluster B personality disorder.

If any of this rings a bell for you, I encourage you to look through the resources at the end of this post.  One of my takeaways has been that I didn’t get here riding his dysfunctional coat tails as it were.  I helped.  I participated in creating the current atmosphere, and I will be the one to rebuild my own happiness.  It has always been this way.  Knowing, however, that my experiences have names is powerful.  Knowing that what I want is legitimate is equally powerful.

Validation is healing.  I hope I have provided some for you should you need it.

Post script: This post has numerous comments some of which are very brave and personal.  I would ask that people who comment refrain from judgment and psychoanalysis.  The comment section is a place to share thoughts, ideas, and common experiences.  It is not a place to “concern shame”, judge, and go on the offensive out of a defensive posture.  Thank you for civil and kind discourse.  Remember, everyone is trying to heal.  So, let’s contribute to that process–not hinder it.

Resources:

Endnote: As of 2016, I have been separated from my husband; we are divorcing.  An excellent resource is Lundy Bancroft’s book Should I Stay or Should I Go: A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can–and Should–Be Saved.

Related blog post: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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124 thoughts on “Affective Deprivation Disorder and Alexithymia in Marriage

    • He is highly successful in his job. His job, however, is reflective of his most enduring obsession–computers. He is highly intelligent and sensory-seeking. He is also highly anxious and must always have something to do as in information flooding his brain. He actively avoids all forms of ennui or boredom. He has always been like this. As long as I’ve known him. If stress is higher, then he becomes more “autistic” as in he requires more and more solitude. He will display more meltdowns. He will become hyperational with very poor distress tolerance. This is when you will see passive aggressive behavior peak. Currently, I am not able to hold a meaningful conversation with him. He struggles with change and loss of ritual.

      • If he’s highly successful in his job, then he’s able to determine parameters for that success, and recognize expectations he has to meet to succeed. Would that be correct?
        Has he ever behaved differently towards you (made more effort to converse, show affection, show consideration etc.) even if just for a window of time?
        My husband’s passive aggressive behavior also peaks under stress. Yet even then, I’ll see him hold it together to interact with clients.

      • MJ, this has been tremendously enlightening for me. Thank you for sharing your life. We are very near a divorce. Two young kids. I wonder if awareness would make counseling possible? I wonder if it could ever change? Or, if it just is what it is. I hate how this has changed me. Separation has helped me to find some of myself and rebuild a little. But, my heart longs for him to wake up and feel deeply.

        • I understand these feelings. These longings. I lived many years in that place. Wondering and hoping. What I can tell you is that alexithymia is a symptom. It is not just a “thing”. It’s a bit like anemia. When people are anemic, there is always a reason. Blood loss is often a reason for anemia which is why women are often anemic. Low ferritin stores contribute to anemia, but then why would someone have low ferritin stores? The body not producing enough red blood cells would cause anemia. But then why would a body not produce enough red blood cells? Diseases like celiac disease would cause chronic anemia due to an inability for the body to absorb nutrients. So many causes for one symptom. It’s the same with alexithymia. To bring about change in this area, change and healing have to be brought about at the source–that which causes the alexithymia. And that requires willingness and desire in the person.

          Does this makes sense?

        • I still hope he will “wake up”… he wont. it has taken me 2 years in therapy to finally understand that he will not ever change and that if I want to spend my life with him, it will be the way it has been. I would have to accept that this person would never emotionally and financially support me or our child. I said, “no thanks.” I am so much happier and freer now than I was with him. I backslid for a few months… but I’m doing better than ever now. I gave myself the time to process ALL my feelings while I kept looking forward, and keeping strict boundaries with him. I think for me, that was step one.. knowing that I was entitled to my feelings, there was nothing “wrong” with me having feelings and putting up boundaries to protect them. He was VERY angry with me at first and things got worse before better.. but it did get better!

          • It sounds like you are doing better. That makes my day. I hope you really enjoy your holidays, however you celebrate them. Shalom…MJ

  1. MJ, I’ve still rather new’ish to your blog, so I’m probably asking questions that you may have answered along the way in posts unread yet by me. I’m unsure if you’re communicating that your husband can’t behave in other ways, or chooses (even if by default of not trying) to behave in ways that are hurtful to you.

    I’m also one to pursue understanding. I remember explaining a light bulb epiphany to my husband years ago about a particular dynamic in our communication style, and fully expecting that with understanding would come (mutual) change. (It didn’t.)

    Your article was fascinating in the way that validating information can be. I didn’t think deeply about why I asked until you asked me why. I think the answer to your question is that I was trying to understand more about you.

    • Well, as you’ve explained, I, too, have had myriad conversations with my husband about dynamics in our communication style. I have shared, shared, compromised, tried, pushed, backed down, gone under, over, sideways, and stood on my head…and he has not changed. He…can’t. He, in fact, told me this week that he already knew that he had Asperger’s. Our daughter has Asperger’s. I was surprised to say the least, but, in many ways, he has viewed this as a way to be excused from the relational table. “See, honey? I don’t have to learn cognitive empathy or try because I have an ASD.” Many people have this picture in their head of what autism looks like. They think of Dustin Hoffman in Rainman. The man upon which Rainman was based didn’t even have autism; he had microcephaly. But, many, many HFA individuals are highly successful in their careers. Think of Dan Aykroyd, Bill Gates, Temple Grandin, Steve Jobs most likely. I know screenwriters and writers who are inordinately successful, and they are far from neurotypical.

      The relational aspects of their lives, however, can be a bloody mess. I am raising an ASD girl. I write books for ASD children. It is such a complex spectrum disorder and no ASD looks the same. If you’ve met one person with an ASD, then you’ve only met one ASD. Every person who meets my husband says the same thing: “He’s so affable and kind. He has such a great sense of humor!” It’s true. He can be those things, but the toll it takes on him to direct all his emotional and intellectual energy into that sociable persona is great. When everyone leaves, he hides. He does a lot of work from home which is good for him. When he has to go out, he needs a lot of ritual and time to come back to himself. He is brilliant at his job because he is a brilliant guy on many levels, but he has little to no social drive which is not uncommon to ASD folk. So, that desire that many of us have to emotionally connect with others is not high in him. That need to bond with someone else? Not really there. A sexual drive? Meh.

      Communication is key, but if you have nothing to say outside of discussing esoteric Python scripting methods combined with governance, risk, and compliance in the larger corporate context…why bother expanding your cognitive empathy? If emotional connection isn’t meaningful to you, then everything is fine, right?

      Parallel play is the name of the game here, and that’s as intimate as it has ever been. It is essentially playing next to but not with. I am laughing out loud as I write this because the first thing that comes to mind is my sex life. I am amusing myself to no end. “We have sex next to each other.” How does that work? Honestly, I have no idea, but that’s exactly how it feels. His idea of a good time is putting his laptop on the table across from me. We are now together. That’s parallel playing.

      I don’t know if this comes close to answering your questions. I know that he doesn’t try to be hurtful. Some of the rage is actually ASD meltdowns. I call him Lizard Man when he does this. Early intervention during childhood is what mitigates a lot of this in adulthood, but he didn’t get any of that. So, I am now dealing with what feels like ASD childhood issues in an adult which makes me feel parentified in the relationship. That provokes very yucky feelings in me. This is why I have been pushing for therapy and meds for so long. Anxiety is an ever-present problem for him. It’s crippling. The only time he has ever seemed human and the most himself was when he got drunk. Not that I want that either, but it was the only time I felt I could make an emotional connection with him. His anxiety fell away and he actually talked freely.

      • Do you believe that the ASD is entirely genetic? Has there been any research that would explore how the child of an ASD is impacted if entirely raised by non ASD parents in a healthy environment? What results have early intervention looked like for adults? I’m wondering how much the answers can apply across the board for other disorders, even if the methods applied to intervention are different.

        Parentified in an adult relationship. Yes, it’s rather repulsive, and I even remember the first strong moment that I recognized it. I was a newlywed, and we were just semi napping one weekend afternoon. He sort of sidled, cuddled up to me, laying his head on me with this sigh.. and I jolted away in a fast recoil away from him and said, ‘Ick! What was that! Don’t ever do that again! I’m not your mother!” I was twenty years old, entirely unfit to mother a twenty two year old man.

        Parallel play is a great description In its proper time and place, it sounds like it could just be comfortable companionable, and familiar. And I just realized that I’m on the verge of tears.

        Here is another question then. Do you feel that your husband could significantly change his behaviors with you, even if not his feelings? From past experience, I can see that my husband can behave in more caring ways if he tries, although it often seems to tire him at some point. Should I laugh or cry now? I feel like doing both.

        I hadn’t come across your term of cognitive empathy before. I read it as ‘thinking empathy’ at first. I think my husband ‘feels’ to a degree, but his feeling has a stop limit; i.e. the feelings hit a hard wired wall and then he becomes uncomfortable. Can he feel past that point? I really don’t know. Is his hard wired wall genetic? From being raised with abuse, mental illness, and dysfunction? Some of both? He cries at movies more than I do. He cries at a sentimental or tear jerking movie… but he can be entirely unmoved by my weeping. I can see him attempt to behave in caring ways, but my gut tells me that he’s not feeling sorrow with me. (I’m looking it up now.)

        Good old wikipedia. “Cognitive empathy: the capacity to understand another’s perspective or mental state”
        I think my husband understands in a cognitive way.

        Affective (emotional) empathy: “being affected by another’s emotional or arousal state (emotional contagion)”

        This same article references personal distress: “self-centered feelings of discomfort and anxiety in response to another’s suffering; There is no consensus regarding whether personal distress is a basic form of empathy or instead does not constitute empathy”

        Bingo. I don’t think the pain and sorrow of someone else is ‘contagious’ to my husband, wherein it causes shared feelings. Well… not past the surface. I do think he recognizes and understands cognitively when he’s seeing pain, sorrow, fear, hurt etc. I think he can even ‘feel’ sympathy, but it often looks (to me) like he’s experiencing discomfort and anxiety in his response. He’s most easily sympathetic to animals, babies, and young children. He has a strong childlike aspect to his nature, although he’s in a profession known for the non-emotional types.

        I also found this subdivision of cognitive empathy fascinating:
        “Perspective taking: the tendency to spontaneously adopt others’ psychological perspectives”

        This might explain how my husband can assimilate some of my likes/dislikes/perspectives/feelings/preferences/convictions in a kind of Borg like identity theft or assimilation.

        You said that you know your husband doesn’t try to be hurtful. I think that mine can occasionally definitely intend to be hurtful, but that’s not the status quo m/o. My experience has been often that my hurt/distress/need seems irrelevant to him. More the narcissistically driven kind of thing (if he’s not feeling it, it’s less real or relevant).

        • There are studies being done that correlate activation of specific genes to ASDs. It is inherited. It’s on the same genetic spectrum as schizophrenia spectrum disorders which is very interesting to me because I have another daughter with childhood-onset schizophrenia (COS). We hit the genetic lottery. What has just been recently discovered is that it’s not a certain gene but how certain genes interact with each other that cause SCZ to manifest creating 8 types of SCZ which is probably why it’s a spectrum disorder. My guess? This is what they are going to find with ASDs as well since ASDs and SCZ share genetics.

          My husband has done the same thing with me! Sidled up beside me, curled in, and behaved much like a child. It was repellent. I felt very weird. I didn’t like it. I would just lie there and feel sick. I wouldn’t understand it at the time. Now, of course, I look back and see that he needed mothering. I wasn’t going to meet that need, but when there’s a void there’s a void.

          Well, my husband does indeed try very hard to change his behaviors, but he can’t sustain it. Behaviors are fruits of thoughts and beliefs. Ideally, behaviors change for good when what we believe changes. I act in a loving manner when I love someone. It’s really hard though to behave in the long term like I love someone if I don’t. It’s this dynamic that exists here. It’s hard for him to cultivate true intimacy and a bond when he’s putting the ‘aut’ in autism.

          Another way to think of cognitive empathy (theory of mind) is this: I know what you are thinking. In autism, the general belief is: You think what I think. You want what I want. You know what I know.

          So, communication issues can be a real pain in the ass if it’s always assumed that I know what he knows. This can be learned! But, this is a classic statement. I had this conversation with him in the first few weeks of our marriage:
          “Why do we only do what you want to do?”…”Because what you want to do doesn’t interest me.”

          1) He assumed that what he wanted to do interested me more.
          2) He had no sense that what he said was hurtful.
          3) He wasn’t engaging in perspective-taking as in he could not put himself in my shoes and see it from my perspective.

          And there’s that ever-present entitlement. Entitlement is a big issue. That is a narcissistic tendency, and we’ve got that in spades. I’m on crutches. I can’t do much of anything. He’s had to do more, but he isn’t THAT put upon. But, when he’s had enough, then he’s had enough. Even if the needs of his kids haven’t been met. “I’m taking a break. I need time to myself now.”

          That’s just not how it’s done! But, in his mind, his needs supersede theirs. He doesn’t see that as a problem. I could go on, but this is another dynamic, and I’ve been overcompensating for this for years to the point that it’s made me sick. If I try and address it, then it leads nowhere good. There is a very unpleasant, tantrum-like wall there that I just don’t want to deal with anymore. So, I’ll compensate.

          Does this make sense?

          • I’ve been reading this page and those comments because I am highly alexithymic (quite possible have a mixture of ASD/borderline disorder), and I can very much relate to the portraits painted here. I’m not as extreme, thankfully, and I want to get therapy so my couple life can get better and so I can hopefully qualify for parenting.

            My interest here was piqued by the mentions of childlike behaviors however. I am childlike too, and I’ve found out thanks to my partner that I am a Little, which is to say, an adult with a child personality. Littleness can cause age regression in certain individuals, which, in more extreme cases, can cause a temporary inability to perform adult tasks such as driving or cooking. In better cases, Littles may be capable of separating the moments when they choose to behave as responsible adults, and the moments when they allow their childish side to be expressed. This expression can be necessary, with the guidance of a caregiver/parenting adult in order to revisit childhood trauma and overcome them in a therapeutic way.

            This topic is very largely undocumented and unstudied, so I try to gather information as much as I can (with hopes to start a population study). So far, the elements I collected give me ground to form a hypothesis that Littleness is more likely to occur in adults who had higher levels of stress during childhood, possibly due to parental abuse, sexual abuse or other traumatic events. I was also starting to hypothesize that my sample of Littles had a rather high representation of ASD, SCZ and some other disorders. At first I wanted to tone it down over the assumption that those profiles tend to function better on Internet social media than real life social media, and are thus more likely to show up in an online population sample than in a real life sample. But given now that alexithymic people seem to be more prone to PTSD and anxiety issues, including in childhood, I wonder if alexithymia could be a correlated factor in Littleness.

          • Thanks for commenting and contributing to the conversation.

            My first question is: Where are you getting your term “Little” from? I know that it exists in the BDSM community and in other role playing communities, but, in terms of a DSM 4 or 5 term, what is its equivalency? It sounds like is a term that is a criterion or a descriptor for criteria that fit under the heading of a cognitive and/or social/emotional issue. The topic is actually not largely misunderstood, but the terminology that you are applying to it might be. Playing as a “little” in role playing is viewed as a kink in many circles, and there is research, although niche research, that has gone into the psychology of kinks and their origins/etiologies, if you will.

            In ASD-HFA, what you describe is actually a delay in social and emotional development based in a lag in theory of mind development, and there is a plethora of research done on that by Simon Baron-Cohen out of Cambridge.

            In SCZ, which is a neurodegenerative, biologically-based brain disorder, a regression in social and emotional function would be caused by loss of white matter in the brain, and this particular set of behaviors, when displayed, would be a manifestation of that. It would be called a “negative symptom” in some cases or “cognitive symptom” as SCZ is described by positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms. It is important to know, however, that SCZ is a spectrum disease so what one patient experiences will be different than another.

            ASDs and SCZs, both heavily researched BBBDs), aside, socially regressing without intention without the presence of neurological problems and/or mood disorder or even a TBI, would be personality based. And there are many personality disorders including factitious disorders that would manifest in something like social/emotional regression .Even something like selective competence in which people intentionally act incompetent either socially or emotionally to avoid doing something is a personality issue. The idea of “littleness” in the context of a personalty issues sounds, primarily, like a very effective albeit highly maladaptive avoidance strategy based in very poor distress tolerance. And that avoidance can also be a function of dissociation triggered by perceived distress.

            I can think of one time that a regression would possibly be healing–a deliberate regression to return to the emotional age at which a trauma occurred in order to begin to heal from the age of trauma and emotional stunting in order to begin re-development and continue to grow.

            Alexithymia, however, is a symptom, and it can’t only be explained with cognitive deficiencies. A person lacking a vocabulary for their emotions isn’t the same thing. Knowing how you feel but lacking the words to express is different.

            But, dissociation? That would cause alexithymia..

          • A nice thing, that you do know about Littles in relation to the BDSM community. There is no DSM equivalent to Littleness. The closest to this would be that Littleness involves regression. However, the way regression is approached in scientific literature doesn’t angle very well with all it encompasses to be a Little. I am interested in studying this population in particular, so to figure out what about their regression is so particular, in which condition it can be harmful or therapeutic, and whether inner age might be an identity component alike to, say, gender identity –less or more fluid in individuals, with specific comfort zones in the spectrum. In this regard, I find it important to account for co-morbidities in the profile, so to evaluate if this population has higher statistics in matter of representation of certain experiences, traits or disorders (well, it does have higher statistics, but refining them is what is interesting).
            Considering that children aren’t mature yet in matter of emotional intelligence, I think it would be interesting to see how the adult Littles perform both in and out of Little space, and if the representation of alexithymia (especially secondary alexi) among them is normal or higher. I am also interested to study the couple dynamic in Littles.

          • Well, the first thing that jumps to mind in the context of Littleness and BDSM is the role of the Little which is usually that of the sub. And “subspace” would play a role in this case in terms of regression and the overall Little experience. This is niche research to be sure but, nonetheless, interesting.

            In terms of a legit study, i would think that you would need to find a specific population where the Little phenomenon is more prevalent. And, in the BDSM community, which is wide and varied, there will no doubt be co-morbidities. The question that I would ask is: When a Little is in a regressed state, are they alexithymic? If s/he is able to identify their emotions and name them in a regressed state, then you are dealing with a co-morbidity rather than what the current DSM likes to label a “personality trait”. EQ doesn’t determine alexithymia necessarily. Young children can often name their emotions. So, clearly, something else is at play, but what is it? Is it unique brain formation when alexithymia is present but absolutely no co-morbidities and no past trauma? Alexithymia is not uncommon in people with certain forms of epilepsy, some stroke patients, and even after TBIs. So, this is a complex issue broadly, but, in studying a very specific demographic, it could be very, very interesting.

        • Oh, as for the ASD child raised by NT parents? Yes, they can do exceedingly well depending upon the functionality of the child. I know a guy who has Asperger’s, and he is getting his Master’s Degree in ESL. He’s in Mexico now. I would have never known had he not told me. His parents did right by him for sure. He had early intervention and was given a lot of opportunity to learn. So, it’s not a curse!!

        • “Parentified in an adult relationship. Yes, it’s rather repulsive, and I even remember the first strong moment that I recognized it. I was a newlywed, and we were just semi napping one weekend afternoon. He sort of sidled, cuddled up to me, laying his head on me with this sigh.. and I jolted away in a fast recoil away from him and said, ‘Ick! What was that! Don’t ever do that again! I’m not your mother!” I was twenty years old, entirely unfit to mother a twenty two year old man.” – What the hell?? Unless I’m missing something, you sound like the autist here. Or just a jerk.

          • “Unless I’m missing something”…I’m going to go with that self-assessment. You are missing something. It’s too easy to accuse and judge a complete stranger sharing their pain on a blog that either they are 1) autistic or 2) engage in an ad hominem attack while choosing to remain anonymous. Don’t judge what you don’t understand. You *are* missing something, and you had the insight to suggest that before you engaged in highly judgmental behavior bordering on trolling. If you took the time to post the comment, then take the time to ask yourself why this comment bothered you enough to cause you to engage in such behavior. From what you’ve written here, you are not sincerely attempting to gather information to gain better insight into another person’s experiences and, thusly, expand your own empathy and worldview. You wrote what you did to accuse and judge. Why bother to write anything at all then unless you like being inflammatory in which case then you really are missing something.

        • “Parentified in an adult relationship. Yes, it’s rather repulsive, and I even remember the first strong moment that I recognized it. I was a newlywed, and we were just semi napping one weekend afternoon. He sort of sidled, cuddled up to me, laying his head on me with this sigh.. and I jolted away in a fast recoil away from him and said, ‘Ick! What was that! Don’t ever do that again! I’m not your mother!” I was twenty years old, entirely unfit to mother a twenty two year old man.”

          I do not qualify this as parentifying someone, though I understand why in the context it might come across as such. However, I think one should be very careful with categorizing behaviors and crediting them to a diagnosis, when they might also just be normal behaviors from a normal person.

          I am a woman in a relationship with an Alexithymic man, and I know very intimately the pain that it can cause. However, I think one should be very cautious about ones own analyzis of various behaviorisms – in your case, why did the curling up disturb you? Because that is not something I understand at all, for me it is entirely normal for a partner of either gender to curl up and look for safety and intimacy. Is it because he’s a man and not socially expected to display this kind of attention seeking? A type of attention seeking that, by the way, is considered to be normal for a woman in a heterosexual or gay relationship. If that is the case, then I would rather see it as a bit of sexist or normative thinking, because a behavior that is not frowned up in women, should not be frowned upon in men either. I am not sure if you wanted to come across like this, but it is the impression I have been given.

          Please do not misunderstand me, I’ve been in abusive relationships before, and I know how difficult it is to, once you start really disliking someone out of defense of your own sense of self worth, to bundle up all things you dislike with them and blame them on a specific diagnosis or personality trait. Perhaps you have not healed to the point yet where you can distance yourself in a manner where this kind of self critical thinking is relevant yet. You can hang onto these ideas for as long as you need to – as I have with ideas in the past that I have later come to re-evaluate and discard.

          I personally feel like there is a danger in ascribing negative experiences and negative flaws to a diagnosis, when those might in fact not be linked. But I understand the temptation and the tendency, it is human nature, after all.

          • As moderator of the comments, I would like to observe:

            1. Alexithymia is not a DX. It’s a symptom.
            2. Looking to establish intimacy isn’t attention seeking behavior, but both people within a partnership must be comfortable and feel safe within the constructs of how that intimacy is asked for and gained, and no one can judge another person’s reaction or response if it is unfavorable.
            3. What the cited comment elucidates is “fear of engulfment” which is far from gender bias and social stereotyping.
            4. The comment left here, while well-meaning, is just as judgmental, heavy-handed, and leaning towards ascribing “negative experiences and negative flaws” towards the person who wrote the cited comment as the commenter feels the writer of the comment in question has done.
            5. The comments left on this post are all entirely experiential in nature. Common experience is validating. People are trying to figure their experiences out in order to reorganize past and present emotional experiences. It takes bravery to share very personal information because fear of judgment on the Internet is very high, but all the people who have left comments on this post have done that. And for that alone, I admire their courage.

          • You are incorrect though, my partner IS professionally diagnosed with Alexithymia, it does exist as a stand alone diagnosis, he has no co-morbidities. Maybe your standards are different from where we live, I don’t know, but here it is absolutely a viable diagnosis. And while you are correct on point two, I must say that unless a couple discuss what they are comfortable with, you can’t expect the other to know your limits, NT or not. Being personally uncomfortable with the way someone else wants intimacy is one thing, being hasty to pin it on the other’s condition can however be dangerous.

          • The ICD-9 only codes alexithymia under “other somatoform disorder”. The DSM defines it as a personality trait and not a mental health disorder or diagnosis. So, I am not incorrect in terms of where I live. A clinician is certainly free to diagnose, but, as far a standards go, that’s where it’s at, and the international community can do what they will. Personally, I do not think that it’s a personality trait.

            I understand your points, and they do have merit. You are talking about perspective taking. Partners often fumble about quite awkwardly with each other learning what works and does not. However this: “being hasty to pin it on the other’s condition can however be dangerous” while true, is what you engaged in towards the commenter as well. That was my final point. Attributing her comment (her negative experience) to sexism, gender stereotyping, and fear of intimacy which is a “condition” often rooted in greater ills is what you are telling her NOT to do. That is my ultimate point.

          • I was not saying she was sexist, I was just sharing that from my perspective it could potentially come off that way. I apologize if it came off as an accusation, it’s not what I meant for it to be. If I was sure it was sexism, I would not have asked for a further explanation. I do feel like you put words in my mouth that I have not said – at no point have I implied she doesn’t want intimacy. Where do you get that from? People are diverse and prefer diverse ways of intimacy, that is normal. That she wouldn’t want his kind of closeness because it disturbs her on a personal level is also normal, but not necessarily linked to Alexithymia. For instance, my partner, while childish, does not curl up next to me that way when we sleep, he never has, we sleep an arms length apart (and in different rooms when he snores). One of my exes of five years, who was not Alexithymic (they were an extraordinarily empathic and compassionate person), had the habit described above. Hence my reaction.

            I get the feeling that you’re being defensive, which honestly is making it a bit difficult for me to uphold a good conversational level, because I get a bit anxious and I don’t want to hurt people or come off as a jerk. So this will be my last post here. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.

          • I’m not personally defensive at all. I am defensive of my commenters because this particular comment has been viciously attacked in the past. I am not trying to put words in your mouth at all. Moderating blog comments is difficult because it’s not an in-person dialogue; so, it is very difficult particularly because there is no tone or facial expression to decode.

            I did say that your observations have merit. You observe something important. Why respond so viscerally to someone else’s reaching out for closeness? That is the issue at hand. Or, is it two questions? The potential harm of projecting one’s own struggles with something onto another person using their DX as a scapegoat? That happens quite frequently.

            From what I can tell, she felt, in that moment, like a mother rather than a partner, and that she herself named as feeling “parentified”. Attributing this to her larger experience in her relationship with alexithymia? I can’t judge that because I don’t know the whole story. And I don’t feel comfortable suggesting gender stereotyping even if that’s a possible issue simply because I do not have enough information. But, sexism and gender stereotyping are almost synonymous terms, and that was something that was insinuated. Also, that is a possibility. There are all sorts of possibilities because humans are complex.

            It can be important but difficult to discuss the topic and just how complex all the perspectives are. How can it be done while making sure everyone is validated? That is my largest concern. That is why I defend the people who disclose so much in the comment section.

            As for you being an inconvenience? Not at all.

  2. I’m wondering what spectrum of behavior there is for people who are autistic or have Asperger’s, and if the lack of emotion is really a common lack of feeling, or just a shared gap in expressing it. I have a friend whose son is autistic, quite brilliant, yet he shows empathy and caring in how he behaves with his family. He definitely relates differently, but he’s definitely caring.

    When I said I was trying to understand more about you, I’m trying to understand more how you view your husband and marriage. My husband often seems unaware of his emotions, feelings, why he does things etc., but I’ve learned over the years that he has more awareness of his choices and their impact than I thought. Still, it’s an area that I find myself constantly wondering, checking, and second guessing in the moments of interactions or attempts to communicate with him.

    • There are two forms of empathy when we’re discussing ASDs. There is cognitive empathy and emotional empathy. Social cognition and, hence, cognitive empathy is classed as ‘theory of mind’, and that’s what we’re talking about when we discuss empathy and ASDs. That is where there is a breakdown. Emotional empathy, however, is usually present.

      My daughter has no problem with emotional empathy, and my husband, when he’s mindful and present, can be emotionally empathetic as well. Emotional empathy is that knee-jerk response to suffering. Someone is crying and you can respond to it. It affects you. You want to make it better. Children have this. Little children have this. They bring other children a stuffed animal. They go over and pat a crying child on the arm. My husband isn’t a sociopath. He definitely has emotional empathy. Combine emotional empathy with cognitive empathy, and this is where there is the breakdown in the relationship.

      For example, when I was pregnant with one of my daughters, I went into the basement and found a mountain of laundry. I was so overwhelmed I started sobbing. He heard me sobbing and came to see what was wrong. That’s emotional empathy. He asked me what was wrong. I pointed to the mountain of laundry and told him how overwhelmed I was. He patted me on the arm and said, “I’m sorry. That’s a lot.” And then he left.

      See? No cognitive empathy. He could not imagine what I was thinking then which is “I need help with the laundry.” That’s a theory of mind failure. Theory of mind asks: What do I think the other person is thinking? That’s first-order belief. Second-order belief asks What do I think that person believes that person over there is thinking? Third-order belief asks What do I think John believes that Sally thinks that Jane thinks? For an ASD person, these questions are HARD! You have to look at contextual clues, read social cues. It requires intuition that is not a skill that ASD people have. They don’t intuit. Neurotypical people absorb social skills through intuition and observation. ASD people do not. They memorize the skills and learn them as they go often through skills classes (now) and social thinking groups.

      And often, if there is a comorbid anxiety disorder, which there often is, combined with a Sensory Integration Disorder (SID/SPD), then you’ll have sensory defensiveness or sensory seeking plus anxiety in an adult! That throws a spanner into the works. So, if you have an emotionally empathetic adult with SPD and anxiety, OMG…who is untreated? In a relationship?

      Uh…huh. I’m ready to laugh…or cry.

  3. (I started typing more before I read your last response. Unholy cow… too much to resonate as you explained. I’m going to post this, and head back to reread your comments, because it just raised more questions in me.)

    My questions weren’t really rhetorical. I had to sit and think of my responses and I realized that when you responded that I was trying to communicate something, it might presume that?
    Your post stirred up more questions for me. How much could my husband ‘help’ or determine his behaviors? Where is he accountable, and am I possibly lacking the love I vowed, to accept what he can’t help?

    When you recorded your husband’s comment, “What’s wrong with you?” or your daughter’s comment saying, ‘if he loved us’, those were eerily familiar. Your article was full of information that seemed to be about people who possibly shouldn’t be held accountable because they lack the basic tools that accountability asks them to use. Question after question started up inside of me. The fact that I was starting to wrestle with the questions (which is fairly typical for me falling on the neurotic end of the spectrum) probably felt (in hindsight) disturbing somehow.

    • Oh, I’m a big believer in accountability because of skills training and tools. There are TREATMENTS available!!!! I know people in mixed marriages (one NT/one non-NT). And they are working their asses off in therapy. They are addressing their psychiatric disorders. They are learning HOW to communicate properly. They are seeing exactly where they are screwing it up, and they are keeping their promises. An ASD brain doesn’t have to produce abusive behavior or alienation. We all have our limitations. That is true in every person, but those limitations should never limit someone else’s ability to flourish through abuse–even if the abuse is neglect and perpetuating an invalidating environment.

      Everyone can learn validation. Everyone can learn to be more mindful. Even ASD people can develop cognitive empathy. You can develop better ToM. True emotional empathy? They already have that. It’s just a lot harder for them. IT takes enormous commitment.

      It takes passion and desire. That is the bottom line.

      Their marriage/relationships/family have to become their obsession. Hell, yes, accountability applies here, too.

      • I’ve been interrupted a handful of times in big chunks to navigate conversations with himself here. My mind kept leaning back to this conversation, but I think I’ll try again in the early hours tomorrow when I’m up usually alone.

        I saw the words passion and desire above. My brain almost fainted with futility and fell with a thud. Back to business here, but I wanted to quickly add that I appreciate this conversation, and your time to explain and share.

        • I understand. And you are more than welcome. I understand that sense of despair that comes and go particularly when you think about your relationship. It feels like if any sort of meaningful change has to come through them, then settle in for a long, cold winter. It ain’t gonna happen.

          I understand that.

  4. I’m going to add a small comment to your long, interesting thread- my (ex)-pah was capable of a degree of empathy, I saw him express it with his friend and he would get angry on other’s behalf. But he knew the lack of communication distressed me so it was an effective way of punishing me for expecting him to take responsibility. How can you tell how much of this is deliberate distancing?

    • That is a great question. My other half is capable of empathy. He gets angry all the time being the bleeding heart liberal that he is. That is emotional empathy. Cognitive empathy isn’t about emotions per se. It’s about thinking. There are theory of mind tests that are done in neuropsychological testing. The most basic ToM test is the Sally Ann test. I suppose the first question to ask is: Is he trying to punish you? He might know that you find it distressing, but does he take the leap and do it with intent? I am the first to admit that I have accused my husband of punishing me. “You hold our relationship hostage, you won’t talk to me for days, you hide in the bedroom, and I feel all alone! You’re punishing me!” And he just blinks at me with confusion as if he has no idea. It is mind-bending.

  5. Pingback: The Other Side of The Story | Out of the Mire

  6. Oh. My. Gosh. Only yesterday I cane across Alexithymia and finally could put a very relieved finger on ‘it’. Finally, a name to the curse of our marriage! I immediately sent it to my husband and he agreed it was all too familar.
    Today, I’ve come across your post and especially all of the commentary that followed and I cried. It’s all there. All of it. All of those experiences! What I have been going through with him has a NAME and I’m NOT alone. I cant express in full my gratitude for your sharing and eloquent depiction of life with these experiences. I feel like I can breathe!! ♡

    • Well, I am beyond pleased that you found validation and relief in coming here. You are definitely not alone. Common experience is so affirming, isn’t it? This post is one of the most read on my entire blog. So, I would say that many people are looking for an explanation to whatever “it” is. There’s fresh air out there. Keep breathing! Shalom, MJ

  7. Finally after 16 years of marriage my husband was diagnosed with
    Alexithymia. The pain still exists for me. Thank you for making me feel that I should not be placed in a straight jacket and left to rock alone in a chair. For everyone thinks that I have a problem. I share with you words in times of complete despair……….

    Ask me what I want and I shall tell
    I may cry as the pain is sharp and raw
    I promise myself I won’t yell

    How do I voice what I feel
    When I have done so many times before
    Before I finish, long before my words are out
    I’m silenced in my heart by your look of steel

    My words become angry my yelling starts
    I’m no longer in control of me
    Your comments show no empathy

    They don’t make sense not even in the same context

    It infuriates me to the core
    Why can’t you see? Why can’t you see?
    Why can’t you see what you are doing to me?

    I start screaming I’m now enraged
    I’m like a wild bird placed in a cage

    I feel trapped by something invisible to all except me
    Why can’t they see, why can’t they see
    Why can’t they see what your doing to me

    I now know I’m in flight or fight
    I’m willing to fight
    My anger and fist bear all that I feel
    I’m sobbing I’m hitting I wish it weren’t real

    You mock me now I’m so low
    To make me feel worse is all you know

    You show no comfort just disgust
    I’m begging pleading telling you how I feel

    I’m tired I can’t keep pretending I’m ok I’m not
    I talk with you about how I feel
    Well do something about it! You yell back at me
    Of course with no empathy

    I’ve given all that I can
    I given it all to my man
    My husband, my soul mate
    He made a vow to be there for me in sickness and in health
    His broken that vow too many times now

    You see the answer seems to be that he can’t find the words
    The words to tell how he feels
    But he uses words that cut like a knife
    Words you would not say to your wife

    I need words from him that shows he cares
    I need it as much as I need air
    I’m near the end my last breath is near
    I’m suffocating without the air

    Why oohhhh why can’t you see what your doing to me..

    • Your words are so brave. So authentic. Thank you for sharing them here. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it to you. Of all my posts, this post is the most widely read. It is the most popular one. It is read every day by so many people and few comment. What you share is uniquely yours, and, at the same time, it is part of a common experience. You are not alone, dearest. I offer you a warm hug and encourage you to do whatever it takes to care for yourself and know that you are worthwhile and worthy of love in both action AND words. Shalom, MJ

    • Hi,
      Been reading these comments and your poem struck many past experiences for me.
      I would like describe my relationship and any I sight would be wonderful.
      I found love of my life truly. I love her in ways I never knew possible. You know, just staring at her makes me smile. Sitting at table not talking is enjoyable..in good way! Get pic.
      I write her love letters which she doesn’t have time to read or never comments on. Not acknowledged.
      When I tell her I love her she says she loves me but is not in love with me. We don’t kiss when we make love. If I ask her what feels better or what do you like she won’t respond.
      She does say I have nice body and she sexually attracted to me but does not love me.
      She lives with ex husband who is in love with his first wife. He is fifteen years older than my gf. They don’t communicate fight all time. She spends more time at my house than his but lies to him about her whereabouts. But don’t lie to me supposedly.
      She gets mad easily and its over this time and usually followed by silent treatment for couple weeks.
      I begged her say something nice to me and she couldn’t. Later she said I have told u that u have nice body.
      Never initiates touching or cuddling etc.
      Its always about past and love her life 25yrs ago no future no plans no hope.
      Doom and gloom.
      No social life.
      I got so desperate I lied to her said I had tumor inoperable in brain had six no this to live. Not once did she touch me or say any caring words..not one. Always about her. I would tell her I was picking out my gravesite and she would go off about her day. Then told her truth and got silent treatment. Later I did go to Dr and he saying g I was showing early stages of ms. I told her and said I could fight and beat it. She said people that fight it die too. I said geez thanks.
      Her excuse was she knew I was lying.
      I have cried and cried in front of her and not once has she cried but says she does alone.
      Always always about her no matter what event has happened.
      Claims to have a big heart and cares so much. But never verbally.

    • My Aspie spouse is incapable of expressing his feelings beyond frustration, stress and excitement and I am so done it’s not funny.
      It’s kind of like living with a perpetual 14 year old boy.
      Years of wondering how to connect with this man who likes to speak in monosyllables, rarely makes eye contact and is mostly focused on his needs and his needs only. I am so thankful for my therapist, my children who don’t seem to resemble him emotionally and the fact that he has consented to a divorce. Not to therapy mind you because he would have to expose himself emotionally and that is his Fort Knox of highest value. I am so glad I never put the house in his name and funded my own retirement before I got married. I’m sure he will figure out how to make getting divorced as nutty as possible because he hates when he is not in control. If I ever meet another Aspie again I will run in the opposite direction.
      I have paid dearly for my children in the form of sacrificing my needs to get along with this man. So much loneliness and crying myself to sleep.. Life without him cannot come soon enough and I’m sure it will take years to get him to remove all his stuff. Everything I read tells me that an aspberger has a knack for a high conflict divorce. Hopefully my attorney will shield me from him and hang tough on my behalf. With any luck I will be divorced before the end of the year!
      Something to hope for…

      • I’m sorry it took me so long to approve this! I was on vacation! I hope that you are on your way to a bigger and better and HAPPIER life. Thank you for contributing to this ongoing conversation. I think that every comment added helps broaden understanding and increase validation. Thank you again and all the best…MJ

  8. Wow. That’s all I can say.

    I divorced my ASD husband 10 years ago after 16 years of marriage. I just couldn’t take it anymore. The problems in the marriage were hard enough (as described well in all the previous writing). What was hardest for me was the lack of validation. To the world he was smart and funny and kind. That was the man I married. But then the honeymoon ended. He was also anxious and clueless and sometimes just plain mean — in that laundry pile kind of way. He desperately needed me to “mother” him — translate the world for him and talk him down from panic attacks (the first one scared the daylights out of me — I though he was having a heart attack). But when I was diagnosed with a potentially serious complication during my second pregnancy, he not only hung up on me when I called from the doctor’s office to share the news, he then pretended that it wasn’t happening at all. For three weeks. When I told him he HAD to attend a surgical consult with me (both for emotional support and to make some potentially tough medical decisions), he told me he didn’t want to take the time off work until he knew for sure how ill I was. I made him go, the appointment was terrifying, and then he tried to leave me — sobbing my heart out in the hospital parking lot — because he wanted to get back to the office. We lived 5 minutes away — he told me to catch a bus or a cab home.

    No one outside our home would have believed him capable of such behavior. At the time I never told a soul what was happening. I was embarrassed to be in this predicament and I protected him. But I was really protecting myself. I didn’t think anyone would believe me because he seemed like “such a great guy.” Before this happened I used to say “I know it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck, but it CAN’T be a duck.” But once this happened I KNEW it was a duck. Quackers for sure. But there I was with a 3 year old and, god willing, another on the way. (Yes, baby 2 made it.)

    Everyone who writes about this talks about the isolation. I felt like I was losing my mind. How could my husband seem like such a decent lovable guy to the world, but be so “cruel” to me? How could he do such mean things and not even realize they were mean?

    Now our two sons are 24 (AS) and 21 (bipolar). Raising them has been harrowing because their father, who really does love them, refused to participate in their diagnoses or treatment. If something was wrong with them it was a failure on my part to parent them correctly. After all, they are his sons and they couldn’t possibly be imperfect. And anyway, if I was right about them . . . couldn’t it be possible I was right about him, too? I begged him for years to get help or go with me to do so, but he refused. It wasn’t until he knew I was leaving that he finally sought help — he was on the verge of a breakdown. But it was too little too late. Ironically his therapist told him he lacked empathy and he made me invisible in our marriage. Which he came home and dutifully reported, but he lacked the ability to do anything meaningful with that information. I get that now, but it was pretty weird at the time.

    The day he moved out he said three things to me:
    1. “My family says you pathologize the boys.” So much for speaking for himself or acknowledging his sons’ needs.
    2. “I assumed you were sleeping around during most of our marriage because I knew you were unhappy and I figured that’s what you would do.” God, I would have hated being married to that woman, too! Of course, she didn’t exist. But HE did sleep with a good friend of mine while we were in marriage counseling. (My therapist introduced me to the concept of “transference.”) I get now that this is part of that cognitive empathy problem, but it still hurt. A lot.
    3. “I expected you to fix me.” I had pretty much figured that out along the way although I was surprised that he admitted it. Especially because he expended a lot of effort saying that he didn’t need help and that I was the unhappy one.

    Sometimes I wonder if I had understood more about him, would we have stood a chance? But the boys needed so much of my time and attention — there just wasn’t enough of me to go around. I needed a partner. He resented that I stopped mothering him when I had REAL children who needed me to be both mother and father to them. At the very least, I think the information would have made it possible for me to stop beating myself up for not making our marriage work. Because, after all, we NT spouses are the project managers of our marriages. It was my job to solve our marriage problem.

    Anyway, I can’t tell you how much it means to know that other people understand what this is like. I have spent most of my adult life trying to keep my head while those around me are losing theirs (add my sons to the list now). I’m exhausted. I feel like I have used up a lifetime’s worth of energy and I’m still a fairly young woman. I compare it to carrying a heavy rock everywhere I go. When I was married and the boys were such a worry, I wanted my husband to help me carry it. His response: What rock? Now that I’m doing it on my own (because divorce has not made him a more responsive parent) I can’t put the rock down. So I go through life carrying this rock. Reading all of this made the rock seem a little lighter. Thanks.

    • Boy, did this hit home for me. I could have written this. Your husband and my soon-to-be ex husband are cut from the same cloth. I am amazed at how similar the stories are, and it just drives home the point that we need to tell our stories. What you said about fearing disbelief from others really resonates with me. That was something I felt very recently. “Who is going to believe a word I say? He’s so awesome publicly.” I relate to that so much. Needing a partner. Craving intimacy. Needing help. What you enduring during your pregnancies and the lack of support. ::raising hand:: I so want to see people struggling with this coming forward into the light for support, but this will drain a person of life and bring illness in its wake. That rock you carry you needn’t carry alone. It would get a whole lot lighter with other people there to share the burden. I firmly believe that this is how it is supposed to be. We were never meant to walk alone. Thanks so much for your honesty and willingness to speak up. I am hoping that it encourages and validates others. It certainly encouraged and validated me. Shalom to you, MJ

      • I could write my story, and it would so closely parallel that of Wordlass’s. I’ve been dealing with all of this for almost 10 years now, feeling like I had unrealistic expectations of my husband because the rest of the world thinks he’s such a “nice guy”. Reading all of this has been so validating, and it’s a relief to put a name to the madness and know that I’m not the only one who deals with this in their marriage. Thank you SO much for putting all of this out there!!! Now where do we go for support?

        • You have asked the magic question. Where do we go for support. A reader asked me to start a Facebook page so that others could start a dialogue there. Some kind of online forum/online support community. I actually did do that. This is a hard one to answer. I ended my marriage about a year ago, and healing from almost 20 years of this has not been easy. It’s on-going. There are therapists who have never heard of any of this which shocks the hell out of me. I guess I will keep posting resources. They exist. And let people know that the FB is open for online discussion. Connecting people together who can start supporting each other is really important. That’s where it starts. Building supportive relationships. That’s my first suggestion. Knowing that you are not alone. And connecting with others.

          • Thanks, MJ! May I ask the name of the FB group? I sometimes wonder, if I ever extract myself from this loveless marriage, if I’ll ever be able to open myself to being vulnerable to another person again. For now I know I just need to take care of me and take care of my kids. One day at a time! And connecting with others in similar situations would help too!

          • There’s a link for the FB group on my blog. It’s very new so there’s not much action. I completely understand the fear of being vulnerable again. Boy, do I! It’s possible. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. With an empathetic and kind partner, so much is possible.

  9. Thank you Shalom for your lovely response and your hug believe me I felt it and I need as many as I can get! I met my Hubbie at 21 I’m now 44. I just thought his behaviour was a male thing for most of the early years. Then came along our first child who is now 12. I dreamed of the doting Hubbie asking if I’m ok, rubbing my feet protecting me during my pregnancy oh no none of that. However he is a good father just not on an emotional level. Along came our second child 6 years later and by this stage our relationship was far from normal. I was working, pregnant and just not getting any emotional support, zero. Two days before our daughter was born I was advised of complete rest due to an unstable pelvis. Hubbie comes home from work and asked me what I’ve done all day? This led me to tears of complete disbelief. This was really the start of the realisation that this was not normal. A few years later I ended up breaking my ankle and really needing support. It was during this time that I was sent to the depths of despair by his total lack of empathy. My son 9 at the time showed me more caring and empathy than his father could. He refused to take time off from work to look after me when I was upset he would just leave he just had no idea how to deal with the situation. During this time I ended up very ill and was then subsequently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I sometimes wonder what caused the rheumatoid the accident or my emotional state from the complete lack of empathy from my husband which I may add at the time was soul destroying.
    Last year enough was enough I said to Hubbie that I felt he may have Aspergers and to see a physcologist. I said I would leave if he chose not to as I could take no more.
    After 4 sessions and a barrage of behavioral assessments he was told that he struggles to identify the emotions in others, he finds it difficult to find the right words to express his feelings or what to say if I’m upset. We were told that in physiological terms they call this Alexymthia. This word stuck in my head and left his within a second. I have googled the hell out of this word desperately trying to comprehend and or understand maybe more about me and my sanity than his diagnoses.
    Thank god I persevered as finding this site was finding my prescription!
    We were told that his was a learnt behaviour due to parents that did not express their emotions or have their children explore their emotions when they were young . His sister who is 60 was interviewed as part of the assessment. She explained to me that she could only ever remember their mother saying she loved her twice and that she has struggled also In relationships.
    Since his diagnoses I feel I’m still in mourning. Mourning the words I crave for i won’t hear, the random cuddle I won’t get unless I ask. Conversations about our future our dreams, plans and so much more. If I’m strong enough to stay knowing what I now know we will have dreams and plans and cuddles and laughs. As long as I have the strength to continue to start the conversation create the plans give the cuddles we may make it…….

    • Your situation is familiar to me. It seems that there is a pattern of behavior where there is alexithymia. Alexithymia seems to be a symptom of a much larger problem because it sounds like there is impaired empathy present. This is the same here. Your grief is healthy. And you have such great insight into yourself and your own process. That is such a strength even though it probably doesn’t feel like it right now. It all just feels like pain. But, that is what is going to save you. Have you been able to take care of yourself at all? See a therapist for yourself?

  10. Yes albeit only a couple of sessions with a counsellor. These sessions focused solely on me and controlling my emotions which is extremely difficult. We have been advised that Hubbie should have individual sessions to help develop more effective communication skills his had a couple so far. We should then continue with marriage counselling to work on our relationship together. Then if I can fit in some sessions alone for me would be most beneficial. There are lots of moments where I feel I just don’t have the energy, time and support to keep fighting for what should just come naturally. A recent post mentioned how old they feel even though they are relatively young. This is how I feel. Today is a new day only I have the emotional power to make it a good one. Some days this is tough really tough. Thank you Shalom I will continue to read your posts and really encourage others to share. It took me a long time to post my feelings I am so glad I did. Emotion is a feeling just is support and your comments and those of others have given me a comfort of not being alone. Alone in terms that you can be surrounded by friends and family they don’t understand they don’t see it. It can take years to find out that everything you feel is normal and that your not a complete nut case you just haven’t been given the love that we so need. Your a beautiful plant that gets a sprinkling of water every so often but is that enough. It’s enough for me currently his done everything I’ve requested to save our marriage. I just need to keep topping up the water can.

    • This is not an easy journey. I am glad that you are seeing a therapist even if only a few times. It is so easy to become so focused on the other that we forget who we are. That we were once people, too, before we met them. But, we are. We have dreams, hopes, and the ability to make plans for a future that has the potential to bring us joy even if our feelings tell us otherwise. We can build a life for ourselves outside of our marriages that is rewarding and fulfilling. That is what I did, and that is what helped wake me up to myself.

      Keep going. Life is all around you.

  11. I’m wondering, for all of you following this thread: How is it that our (ex)husbands are unable to understand our emotions, but seem to have no trouble doing so out in the world?

    Mine would come home from work and tell me all about everyone in his office. He knew more about his coworkers’ personal lives than he did about mine. And we lived together! I could have told you what they ate for lunch, where they were going on vacation, who was having marital difficulties . . . My husband NEVER once asked my how my day was when he walked in the door (including when I had a full-time job out of the house). I finally told him that as long as the appropriate amount of money was deposited in our joint account every two weeks, I could be walking the streets to earn my paycheck. He’d be none the wiser. He had no idea who I worked with, what I worked on, or who I worked for. One night I came home very distraught after a difficult day and I tried to talk it out. He fell asleep sitting in the chair across from me. Talk about soul crushing.

    How was he able to absorb, retain, and share (at great length) the details of other people’s lives yet not see me at all? I always found this very confusing and it just seemed to prove how little he cared about me. The world revolved around him.

    • I should do a post on this. This is the case with my husband, and, in fact, one of the reasons I held on for so long. My therapist and I went round and round on this. My husband is not autistic, and the tell was this. In an ASD, lack of skills are generalized. An ASD doesn’t show up in one place fully functional and skilled and then in another not. My husband is a secret schizoid with a comorbid anxiety disorder. The alexathymia fits well here. Looking at it from this angle, it comes down to skills learned. Where are the investment of skills? In the job. Not at home. So, all of the energy is put forth into an investment of a persona which is high functioning, skilled, and perceptive. This is the Nice Guy persona. At home, there is no need for a persona. The lack of interpersonal skills is evident. The utter cluelessness, entitlement, and dysfunction is also evident.

      This is often what a secret schizoid personality looks like. It’s what my husband looks like anyway.

  12. Pingback: Alexithymia and the Secret Schizoid | Out of the Mire

  13. I relate to all of this with my husband of 40 years. I don’t know if it is Asperger or Alexithymia or both. There is Asperger Syndrome in his family. He is dyslexic, can’t read or write. I suspect one of my sons may be Asperger but he is very intelligent especially at Maths. My 5 year-old grandson is also super intelligent. My husband isn’t. One thing that hasn’t really been spoken about is the sexual side of the relationship. Twenty years ago I found out my husband had been having an affair. I was devastated with the cruel things he said to me at the time. Could not understand that this would upset me. He said things like “She was breaking up with her partner so what’s wrong with it”. He is impotent with me, we haven’t had sex for 10 years, in fact, no form of intimacy at all, which I’ve read can be a part of Alexithymia. There are so many examples that agree with what I’ve read. When I try to talk to him about my feelings about it, he gets angry and goes and sleeps in another room. He has got violent too. I have a very serious chronic illness and suffer depression. Life is getting harder and harder. He says he can’t go and get help because he works long hours (at a very low paid job). I am too sick to work and no longer drive.

    • Thank you for sharing your story here. I am very sorry for what you have been through and what you continue to endure. You will find other women here who can empathize with you and, hopefully, comment and offer you validation. I know from experience how hard it is to live within the parameters of these circumstances and a resultant physical illness. My thoughts are with you. Shalom…MJ

  14. This sounds a lot like my ex. Living with him became progressively more and more unbearable; still he would never communicate with me. He was humorless and always was occupied, not at making money, but at projects like taking his VW buses apart, cleaning every tiny part with a toothbrush and then reassembling the whole thing. He spent every waking moment on this kind of stuff. He wasn’t very interested in sex. He never never communicated anything resembling a feeling. He was very passive aggressive, also abusive in many ways, always punishing me and the kids for imagined minor infractions. I’m so happy to be free of him, but the entire road has been so long and so hard. He deliberately kept us in the poorhouse, although he has many talents and abilities, he basically refused to work or to give anything whatsoever to me or the kids. He took up all the space to himself in the house, the garage, in the yard. My daughter and I had to park our cars elsewhere since his collection of vehicles took up our 4 parking spaces. I could go on infinitely about his refusal to give anything to any of us, even down to a smile or a hello. For the last 7 years, I believed I was dying, finally I had to run away from my own home and my own children to save my own life and my sanity. While he sat in his chair on his computer for 7 years, never lifting a finger, I had to come every day to the house to do all the work and take care of everything for all of us. I have been struggling with not enough money the entire time. Yet, as you said, the outside world perceives him as normal. that’s all for now 🙂 gotta do stuff

    • The stories are strikingly similar. I’m sorry that you and your family have suffered. You do not deserve that. No one does. I hope that you are in a better place now. Perhaps getting there? Best to you, Lili. Shalom, MJ

      • Thank you for your kind words MJ. I am rereading this blog and I just noticed your response to me and it brings tears. Yes you are right, no one deserves being stuck in a marriage or in a family home with a person who brings nothing but misery. Sometimes I used to think he represented all the misery in the world: miserable, miserly, miser, misery. I didn’t deserve this and I didn’t deserve my other relationships with men who seem to be emotionally blocked and abusive, yet looking at my relationship history, that is all I see. For now, I plan to stay out of relationships, try to find myself, try to move forward with work and self-sufficiency. It’s nice to be out of relationships altogether. Very nice.

        One point I might make is that I think both my mother and my father may have had this emotional problem that you describe. My mother, to this day, and she is now 83, is always positive. She is much better now, but in the past, it felt like she was unable to be there for me. Especially since I suffered from depression and trouble pretending to be positive. I think my dad was narcissistic and abusive…. My 3 oldest kids are basically grown and doing well. My 4th is16 and lives with me. He is doing pretty well too, but I see signs of Asperger’s in him.
        One final note: you are a wonderful writer !! Do you know that ?!! 🙂

        • How do you find it moving forward? Do you find it exciting, or is it difficult? Or a bit of both? I think it’s bittersweet. I am so thrilled to be moving out and on, but, at the same time, it’s not easy. But, I like it. The hope is such a welcome change. Thank you for your compliments. Very kind.

          Do you have any passions in life that light you up? That really fuel your inner fires?

          Relationships are not easy. The good ones are so worthwhile. I really love being in relationships. But, even the great ones require a lot of us. Trust is hard to give, isn’t it? It’s a crucible, yes?

          Best, MJ

  15. Well, I’ve been separated from my marriage for 8 years and had 2 boyfriends in a row since. The first was abusive and the 2nd was emotionally absent. But I was madly in love with each one, which was exciting and fun. Recently I broke up with #2 since all along I was in torment. He is always positive like my mother. If I would break up with him, he’d say, “Okay well have a great day !! Are we still friends? :)” and he’d be off that night enjoying himself at a rock concert or a party. I realized I needed time and space to heal from all of these relationships which date all the way back to the abusive boyfriend I lived with when I was in college and only 18.
    Yes I have many passions. I love to write and can spot great writers. I am a thinker who reads philosophy. My favorite philosophers are all French: Foucault, Simone de Beauvoir, Simone Weil and of course, JP Sartre. I love to walk, jog, bike. I love making love. I love coffee & beer. I love travel. I’m adventurous. I love flowers and trees. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
    …Bittersweet yes. But I’ve barely ever spent time being “single” or out of a boyfriend relationship, so I’m enjoying it and discovering myself which is actually very enjoyable. I’m 54 and as I mentioned the end of the child-raising road is just on the horizon which is nice. I’m really enjoying my adult kids and feeling good about them.

      • Do you have passions? Probably while i was still with x passions were suppressed. I worked on finding joy after realizing I’d felt none for 20 years.

        • Thank you for giving me hope. I have felt so little preference for anything other than making sure everyone else is ok. I hope in the future I will find some passions.

          • Oh, this I completely understand. Being so other-focused that the idea of even thinking about yourself is utterly foreign. If you can find one thing to do that pleases you, then do that. No matter how small. A nice smelling soap in the shower. A hot cup of something that you love. A certain meal that you have always liked. Or, something very personal maybe? A nice pair of underwear that only you know you are wearing but that makes you smile. Starting small is very meaningful AND it is sustainable. Plus, once you have built the habit of doing something small for yourself with just one thing, you will find that you like it. This is what I did. I found it much easier to add to it from there. There is no rush. When changing a life trajectory, every little change no matter how small makes a big difference. I don’t know if this will speak to you, but it might. xo

    • Your post gave me alot of hope. I seem to have lost connection to all the things I like and enjoy, but I have a little more faith they may come when I get out of this rabbit hole (I’ve been down for nearly 20 years). My youngest two are 9 and 13 and the eldest two have already left home. I can see the top of the hill now. If I can survive until they are adults or almost, I will make a bid for freedom then x

  16. Pingback: Therapy Tuesday: Rewriting History | Out of the Mire

  17. I am currently dealing with a 5 year relationship where my partner seems to have every single one of these traits. I was wondering if there was a way I could message you privately for more knowledge on alexithymia?

  18. I know exactly how it feels. Thank you for validating!!! I have been seeing someone for 5 years with Alexithymia and couldn’t bare it so I tell myself and others its 2 years and 3 as friends for my self respect. I think to myself that I would rather give birth 4 times back to back than to go through the deprivation. I don’t even know how I keep functioning. Thank you for validating!!!

  19. Pingback: Alexithymia and the Sexless Marriage | Lady J Revisited

  20. I’ve never taken part in a group like this but after reading this article, I feel compelled to contribute. I’ve been with my boyfriend for a little over a year now. I’ll start by saying that he is the most kind and generous person I’ve ever had in my life. He’s highly intelligent and has enriched my life in a way I didn’t know possible. With that being said, for the duration of our relationship I’ve always felt something was “off”. I don’t feel like we connect on a deep level like I’m used to having in previous relationships. Any time there is an argument, no matter how big or small, he seems to completely shut down. He’s unable to share personal stories and feelings with me. At first I thought this was because he had been hurt so badly by all the other women he had dated. He was afraid of being vulnerable again. But the more time passes the more I realize that it’s deeper than just being insecure. When I do try to have conversations with him about serious issues or beliefs or really anything, I often walk away feeling confused and dumb. He seems to have a complete lack of emotion and empathy. I too am the type of person that is proactive and needs to fix things, which is how I discovered this blog and also Alexithymia. We had a discussion a few days ago and I expressed my concern for his failure to feel his emotions and avoidance of all confrontation. He believes that these are not negative traits. I have not presented him with this information about this disorder but I believe this is what the issue is. I’m unsure what to do next. I don’t know how to tell my boyfriend that I believe he has a personality disorder. I love him too much to leave without trying to help but I’m beginning to feel neglected and lonely in our relationship. I guess I’m just trying to get advice on what I can do to help him.

    Thank you for listening.

    • Your story is familiar, and it takes courage to tell it. My first comment regarding what to do would be, for yourself, to find a therapist. Diagnosis of a personality disorder is serious, and that needs to come from a licensed therapist. That’s a pathology that needs long-term treatment. But, alexithymia, if that’s what he has, might very well be related to something else like generalized anxiety disorder or simply shutting down his emotional processing from a past trauma. Honestly, my advice would be to find a therapist for yourself first. Address your own issues. That feels counterintuitive when it feels like your partner is the problem, but it is not possible to change or fix another person. We can only change ourselves. I was on that “If only I could get him to do x, y, and z, then everything would be so much better” treadmill for years, and, in the end, I was the one who needed to change. I needed the healing. The reason I say this is: Why would I be willing to stay in a relationship where I continually lowered the bar on acceptable treatment until I felt hollowed out, miserable, and desperately lonely? Yes, I loved him, but I needed to love myself, too. You must follow the 51% rule in relationships particularly if there is a dysfunction present–take care of yourself 51% more than you take care of them or consider them. This helps prevent codependency. This may not be the advice you were looking for, but, from my own experience, I can tell you that when you start wondering how to fix them because you’ve hit the “I’m not happy anymore,” then it’s time to bring your focus back to yourself. Once you are seeing a therapist and figuring out what happiness means to you, THEN you can bring them into a session with you and start addressing those questionable behaviors that started causing you to feel dumb or crazy or made you question your reality. This is the best advice that I can give you based upon 20 years of experience with a man with alexithymia (and slew of other issues). I wish you all the best on your journey, and please don’t hesitate to keep in touch. Shalom, MJ

      • Thank you for your quick response. I had a feeling that the answer would be to get help for myself first. Unfortunately, disfunction is not new to my life. This is, however, the first time I’m dealing with someone who possibly has a legitimate illness or disorder. My relationship seems in many ways to mirror yours, right down to the occupation of choice. He’s a software engineer who works from home. I think all the similarities are what compelled me to write in the first place. I know our relationship is very important to him and he, on his own, has mentioned seeking counseling. The next step is to get help for myself. Thank you again for your help. It’s very comforting to hear that other people have experienced what I’m going through.

  21. Hi. Thank u so so so much for writing abt all u hav faced. I can’t write so much o may b I have forgotten to express too. I’m 23 and he is 28 years old… All I now do I cry b cry my heart out. Where did I do wrong? U ppl are so brave n been still going through it and married. All I tell him n beg him is pls express pls express everything I wil not judge u. I love u pls tell me. There are many guys, friends, colleagues who does tremendous things for. They have that fear to loose me nd is scared if I stop talking even. Few of them r still waiting for me n few of them loves me for 8 to 9 years BT I have never felt ne thing for them. BT the man for whomn I feel the whole world of emotions doesn’t feel any thing abt me. I have pushed myself started behaving like him nothing works, all he tells me is ‘ its not that long only 9 years n we r not married if u r not happy pls forgive me, u torture me mentaly so much what u want from me is I can’t give u . all u do is complain n same nagging OK u will stop this n that, u will change urself n blaa blaa, u try techniqs to seduce me, are u horney all the tym? I dnt understand’ I still can’t typ, I thought god has made the most emotional fool on earth. Our discussion doesn’t continue, all his answers end with I dnt know. I’m tired of fighting n changing myself. We never had sex n still he thinks I’m horney.. Pls help me how should I behave wid him

    • This is very heartfelt and sincere. So, I’ll just ask you a question to make sure I understand. Are you in a relationship with this man? A romantic relationship?

  22. Wow. All of you have written my life story in one way or another and yes, it’s good to know I’m not the only one going through this. My husband of 44 years is very kind, very patient, and very emotionally absent. We have together read the book “Alexithymia: Emotionally Dumb” and we both agree that he has it pretty severely. We’ve been to 2 therapists though that hadn’t even heard of Alexithymia, and all the information we can get about it has been online and in books, which, while informing us has done nothing to help us. We are at a stalemate where he insists he can’t change (it’s like being color-blind, he says…I wouldn’t expect him to see green or red, would I?) and I need to accept him the way he is, and I’m ready to separate so my “alone-ness” isn’t so lonely.

    What kills me the most is my expectation of emotional support and intimacy and his expectation that I accept the “what is” which is that it’s just not there for him. I know for a fact that he totally accepts me with all my flaws (read, he doesn’t really care that I have them) but I can’t accept his emotional distance. It came to a head about 4 years ago after another of our periodic discussions, where it’s usually me doing all the talking, when I asked him if he loved me. He said “with my mind I love you” and I know exactly what he meant because that’s exactly what I felt. It was crushing to realize I’d been married for 40 years to a man who loved me with only his mind. It was like I had some kind of scales over my eyes that dropped off that day. That’s when we started therapy.

    Intellectually, he knows things aren’t right but emotionally and experientially, he has no depth of feeling to draw from to make sustainable changes in himself or, frankly, to give of himself. He’s tried and it’s almost kinda sad to see his efforts. He’d come up to me and say “oh, I need to hug you today, don’t I?” and I’d get what I call the mechanical hug, still from the mind and not from the heart. One therapist told us that he could create new neural pathways by doing the actions and the feelings would eventually follow. Didn’t happen, whether because he couldn’t sustain the actions for long enough or whether that assessment wasn’t accurate, I don’t know.

    In 44 years I have never once seen my husband angry (this is not an exaggeration and believe me, I tried), I’ve never even seen him upset, I’ve never seen him enraptured with anything, and I’ve seen him cry once for about a minute when his father died. No tears for his mom. He loves our 2 adult children in his own way, but has no real relationship with them or anyone else in his family of origin. It’s my job to do the relationship building. Everyone sees him as kind, funny, patient, wise…and he is those things. But he’s also distant, emotionally unavailable, totally blind to my emotional needs, passive, self-centered, and not willing to fight for our marriage. When I tell him I’m ready to leave he says “OK, I just want you to be happy” and I know he means it but it’s infuriating that he won’t even try to keep me.

    So now I’m thinking I’m the idiot for putting up with this for so many years. Obviously I’m committed to my vows or I’d have been out long ago. It’s just recently that I’ve come to realize that yes, this is the way it is. I don’t think therapy is going to change his fundamental nature and I’m not really interested in mechanical hugs anymore. I totally identify with feeling crazy about this. Totally. We now have separate bedrooms at my insistence since I will not lay with him anymore with him refusing to touch me as he no longer needs or wants sex. It’s kept me semi-sane but I’m surely settling, not thriving, and I need to decide if this is what I’m willing to take for the rest of my life but it’s so hard. So hard. I do love him, but that doesn’t mean I want to suffer for the rest of my days.

    Sorry this is so long but it’s a mini-purge to people that actually understand. I’ll just leave you with this. Within the first month that I met my husband back in 1972 I had a dream of him sitting on the other side of a maze. I kept trying to get to him but I couldn’t get through the maze, and he just sat there watching me. I never did reach him. I think now that I knew even then what was coming but I didn’t know how to interpret it. I do now.

  23. Steps to take when dealing with a spouse or loved one with Autism Spectrum Disorders or other disorders that are not just weaknesses, but bondages in life. They need to be dealt with. If you want true peace first within yourself, you need to become a child of God and ask Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior. This is a free gift, not to be earned. Repent of sins, and turn to God and ask God to help you obey Him. We won’t be perfect, but if we love God, we will try to obey Him, though we will mess up because we are human. Once you’ve become a Christian, and you want healing for your loved one’s here are some steps:

    1,) Seek the Lord. “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34:4).

    2,) Study the Word of God concerning healing. “Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

    3.) Pray and fast for NAME OF THE PERSON deliverance and healing. “He said to them, ‘This kind cannot come out except by prayer and fasting’ ” (Mark 9:29).

    4.) Obey the Lord. “His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it’ (John 2:5, emphasis mine).

    Stand strong, and do not give up. Ephesian 6:13- 13Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

    • An autism spectrum disorder is a biologically based brain disorder. Is this the kind of advice you would give to someone with MS or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease? They not only have a weakness but also a “bondage in life”? Furthermore, if they choose not to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior but choose a different path, are you suggesting that they would be denied “healing”? What about those people who do, in fact, follow the formula you have lain out here but who never receive any kind of healing and continue to suffer until the day they die?

      What you have done here is proof-texted. I’ll be honest here. This is poor exegesis, and it’s an example of Christian gnosticism particularly if you are going to imply that autism is a form of demon possession. It is highly judgmental and lacking in compassion and love. The next time you sit down to comment on the pain and suffering of people you do not know, spend at least an hour in 1 Cor. 13. It does not matter what you think you know. Without love, it’s meaningless.

  24. I can’t express my amazement at how liberating and harrowing today has been for me. Thank you to everyone here who has shared your stories on here.

    From a few months into my relationship i realised my partner had autism, and he confirmed this and told me about his past. Anger issues, being sent to a school for Autistic children, his mother sending him to live in a mental health facility for 4 years. I couldn’t believe half of it, as to me he seemed so well adjusted despite it all.

    From everything he has told me over the years (emotions related to it were extremely limited), i honestly believe he was shaped by his parents to be how he is. His mother is a textbook psychopath, incapable of feeling empathy for others or love, yet she is incredibly charming and is surrounded by friends. His father undiagnosed and untreated is clearly on the ASD. I feel possibly with my partner being on the ASD and that combination of parents led to incorrect labeling of behaviour and over diagnosis. He spent his childhood being told what he felt was crazy and his actions always wrong, sent away to be corrected.

    He is a strange mix and hard to keep up with, my keen interest in mental health, being a registered nurse, highly intuitive and having a high emotional intelligence i feel has aided me in helping myself understand him more. I am an extremely deep emotional person and seek richness in life through it, my partner is incredibly logical in his actions and decisions, though he “conducts social experiments” where he says certain things to other people or sets up situations with other people just to see how they react. He constantly observes other people, even while we go on a date, he finds it hard to maintain eye contact, yet will eyeball someone else while we are out. It took me a long time to understand that his attention elsewhere is just him attempting to make sense of all the emotionally fueled actions and conversation around him. He was comfortable with me and “figured me out” to some degree that his attention was more strategically placed elsewhere. Only issue with that is myself being so emotionally driven…unpredictability!

    Don’t get me wrong, he cares deeply for me in whatever way he knows how. He wants me to be safe, and finances whatever that takes and wants me to succeed and supported me through university. He asks how my day is, he tries to cheer me up when i seem ‘off’, he goes through all of the motions because he wants me to be happy. Though as genuine as they feel and seem, i can see that they are learned behaviours, that he knows they are the right things to do, as once he finishes the action he disappears to his computer or book, then an hour later be so confused as to why i’m not a blinding ray of sunshine.

    He has quite good insight into it all at times, explaining how he gets frustrated at times not being able to know what he feels, knowing he should feel things but doesn’t and cannot understand why people feel certain things or react in certain ways and struggling to feel empathy. This especially happens when we argue, he is logical and outcome focused, i want to know the why and have him understand WHY i am upset. Yet other times he will blindly refuse that his ASD and my emotions have anything to do with any disagreements or his actions that upset me vice versa.

    I am very lucky in the fact that he has this insight, as when he struggled with naming his emotions one i told him i worried if he felt love and what it was he felt for me and he said he felt for me what he thought should be love, which was he wanted to protect me, provide for me, see me happy and doesn’t ever want to see me go. Which i see as a great expression and probably at its base couldn’t describe love more logically 🙂 He mostly struggles with understanding what emotions are and why anyone acts on them and what others are feeling.

    Today i came across the term Alexithymia. I had never heard it before, but reading its definition i had tears in my eyes. It made so much sense to me, i sent the link to him and asked if he had ever heard of it. He seemed quite affronted, which i understand, and said oh i fit a few categories but do you need a label for me? I told him no, it just helps to make sense of things. He replied you know me, you don’t need to make sense of it. I replied that i do know him, but it helps to understand certain cognitive behaviors and reactions as behaviorally we compare others reactions and emotions to ours to understand them and we are chalk and cheese in that category.

    After finding out about Alexithymia i came across Affective Deprivation Disorder which is where i think most of our issues have come from. I have a very high need to be validated in everything i do. For lack of a better description he is lower on the spectrum of autism and Alexithymia, but due to my high emotional intelligence and demand, i need more than he can give or comprehend. As heart-wrenchingly devastating as some parts of our relationship can be, others are absolute bliss. I believe despite how terribly we are matched, we can be the perfect “cure” for each other. We have become better at fighting, in that he now reflects afterwards and often apologises, and i am learning to reign in my emotional drive for everything and be more understanding to his limitations.

    At times i can feel quite alone, i love him more than life itself and want to spend my life with him, there is no doubt about that. But at times i worry are we going to get better at this? I have spent weeks depressed due to inattention and need to feel validated by him, infuriatingly jealous of his inattention to me but his curious investment in conducting social experiments and trying to figure out other people including women.I came from a history of being cheated on while blissfully naive and over trusting, which turned me into a suspicious, untrusting, snooping horror. Which made our first year an absolute nightmare, bad bad mix ha ha ha.

    Does anyone think it is possible to get better or even stay the same for life? We have only been together for a couple of years, i want to ensure i can nuture this for life. I am becoming better at recognising when he is struggling to make sense of things, and when to drop something. My main issue is self validation. I have always struggled with it, and to begin with i researched it before i knew about Alexithymia, i knew i needed to take better care of my own emotional needs and couldn’t rely on him to, though at the time i thought it was because we were failing as a couple. Now i feel it can be something that makes us stronger and helps us.

    I’m sorry this is so long winded, but i’ve never had the chance to get any of this off my chest before! Such a relief! I have quite a lot of hope for us and he does make me feel loved and deep down i’m pretty sure he does feel some semblance of emotion, he just doesn’t yet have the tools to understand or utilise them, they seem….useless to him after all this time.

    Anyone who can make sense of my ramblings or my situation i welcome your advise, especially those who have lived with it for so many years.

    Thank you all again for sharing your stories, it’s truly humbling to read and finally have a sense that i’m not alone in this 🙂

    • Thank you for taking the time to write things out. It’s good to do that. And, it’s helpful for me or anyone else who has commented if you are looking for common ground. You will most likely find it. What you describe is very familiar.

      What I want to say is that 1) something like alexithymia is not the root issue. It’s the fruit on a tree. Sort of like hearing voices is not the root issue for someone with a biologically-based brain disorder. Hearing voices is scary, distracting, and confusing, but it also points to a larger problem, and it’s that larger problem that must be addressed. It is the same with alexithymia.

      Alexithymia has been best understood within the autism community, but I have a daughter with autism who is not alexithymic. Alexithymia can be overcome through education and therapeutic intervention. These social experiments that your partner is doing intrigues me. Can you elaborate? Typically, an adult diagnosed with an ASD who has not received any early intervention will not succeed at social experiments due to a deficient theory of mind. If his social experiments or even social thought experiments are successful and he is successfully anticipating what people are thinking and, thusly, going to do, then I genuinely question his ASD DX. Keep in mind, thought experiments are safe because they are done in a vacuum. There is no element of anxiety. The most common comorbidity with an ASD is anxiety. Anxiety activates the limbic system shutting down the decision making parts of the brain. So, you end up with a reactive person in social scenarios who is no longer as functional as they wish to be. People with insight overcome this in different ways (social drinking is often their choice). Is your partner anxious?

      I was married to a man who sounds eerily a lot like your partner. Too much. Many people thought that he was perhaps autistic. He was not (I write books that serve as resources for parents and professionals serving the ASD population so this topic is in my wheelhouse). What is a tell? My husband was amazing at his job. Stellar actually. His social skills on the job were fantastic. People would try to lure him away from his current job to work elsewhere. He was sent in specifically to work with difficult customers. A person on the autism spectrum would NOT meet that description. It was when he would come home that he would dump that persona and disappear into our bedroom with his laptop. He had invested himself for the day. He was done. When asked why he refused to interact with me or his children, he looked confused: “You mean I have to be ‘on’ when I get home, too?” I once asked him if he felt like he was punching in a timecard when it came to spending time with me or his children. His response? “Yes.” We were a formula. Variables in his life.

      Connection? Emotional? Sexual? Anything? No. He was not interested. He did not know how to do that, and he really didn’t care. Or he did care but only to the extent that it would exacerbate his anxiety.

      Yes, he, too, financed my life. He was a great patron. That is how I would describe him. If I was sad or upset, he would suggest that I go out or do things to make me happy. He did care, but he did not see himself as part of that. This is not autism. Autists feel empathy. That is a misnomer thanks largely to the media.

      What I believe was present in my ex-husband is a personality disorder. What you describe? No matter the diagnosis of your partner, I would encourage you to think in terms of connection. This is where the AfDD comes in. Removing talk of pathologies like ASDs or anything else, we all need connection. When we are with someone who does not need or want it, then we have a problem. It’s really that simple. And if we spend an inordinate amount of energy and time within the relationship overcompensating for our partner’s lack of desire for us, then we create a codependency within the relationship. We reinforce their lack of desire by our enabling of it. We seek them out. We build the bridge to them, plank by plank. We reinforce their insular relational habits. Sure, we love them.

      But, in any relationship that looks at all like this, you have to adopt the 51% rule. You must put 51% of your energy into yourself and your well-being. Not them. Why? Because your focus is not on your own well-being and development. It’s on his. And the only time in life when our focus is more devoted to the well-being and development of another human than our own is when we are parents. Your partner is an adult. I was not my ex-husband’s mother, but I sure played that role stupendously in terms of attempting to nurture him and care for him. And he took me on the ride of my life. He used me as his emotional crutch to function, and I did not see it until after we separated.

      You are right to expect connection. You are right to expect his being able to discuss his emotions. You are right to expect his choosing you. You are right to expect getting your needs met, too. You are right to expect feeling like you’re wanted and special. If he is deflecting his failure to perspective-take, empathize, and meet any of your needs for intimacy (which is why we are in relationships in the first place), then take note of that and be careful. That is gaslighting behavior. It’s manipulation, and it’s wrong. If his first response to you after your sharing your emotions and heart with him is to blame you or defend himself rather than to meet you where you’re at and comfort you, then this is your tell.

      You cannot fix that. You cannot bridge that. He is the only one who can do that.

      So, take care of YOU. Put your focus back on YOU. David Schnarch’s book The Passionate Marriage is very good. It’s about relationships and individuating and differentiating in relationships. I highly recommend it. Start there. Differentiate. Ultimately, this will save you and throw a lifeline into the relationship and prevent any further codependency.

  25. I am so glad I came across your blog!! It describes my 3 1/2 year relationship that recently ended with my boyfriend almost exactly. I tried so hard to make sense out of the relationship and his reactions, emotions (lack of), inability to connect emotionally, inability to recognize my emotions or my needs (big or small), his canned inappropriate responses to anything negative (large or small) of usually “That’s a drag”. I grew more and more confused, depressed, upset, and desperate to figure it all out. About 2 years into our relationship I figured out he was on the highly functioning autism scale (Asperger’s). It was like a light turned on and it all made sense. He wasn’t doing what he did to be intentionally mean, he just didn’t see that there was anything wrong with it. It made me able to be happy in the relationship longer than I would have otherwise and not feel as bad about what he would do/wouldn’t do, say/wouldn’t say. The term and your description of Alexithymia and what it does to the partner in a relationship describes the emotional aspect in him so much better than the generic ones I found in the autism articles. It was like I was reading about my relationship and experience. We have broken up, which was upsetting but something I knew (for years really before it happened) had to happen, but it is so good to see that I was not alone in this type of relationship and others understand. Friends I tried to explain it to and seek advice from really couldn’t get it. It also shows me that I could not make it work and I could not have been happy had we stayed together no matter what I did. I could not have continued to endure it, and I was loosing parts of myself trying to. It also tells me that he will have the same problems in future relationships (and helps me make sense of the failed past ones more easily too). He is a very exciting, interesting, highly intelligent man I still care for, and I feel badly that he is unable to his emotions or those he is close to or be able to see that this is a problem.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and thoughts and helping those of us out here not feel so alone in struggling to make sense of it all.

    • It is a privilege for me to write and share particularly if it helps anyone make a leg of their journey. This is a tough thing, too, and you are not alone in it. I had no idea until I wrote this post. It was so enlightening. And so validating. I’m glad you found that here.

  26. I happened to click on a link to your blog from another article two days ago and have been unable to stop reading. For the first time in my 33 years of married life, I UNDERSTAND. I have been desperately seeking answers after so many years of not having any, no one understanding, being told by my husband how I am the cause of all the misery in our lives, how I caused pain to my daughter when (as some say here) I raised her single handedly from the day I became pregnant to now that she is 28. I went to every doctor appointment by myself, was left by my husband after I delivered her because he wanted to go to Home Depot, to the first night home from the hospital when he told me, “get her quiet, I have to go to work in the morning” and on and on and on for all of these years. The only thing is that I considered his behavior and comments so terrible that I never told anyone about them. Not my friends, not my family, not his family. Aside, I am very close to his family and truly love them and they say they love me also. In Feb 2015, husband saw divorce attorney but never told me he was going to do so. In April of 2015, he filed for divorce but never told me about it. I found out when I got served! I couldn’t understand how he could divorce me when I am the one who does EVERY thing. How would he do all that I do? In fact, in my stupidity, that is the reason I thought if there was going to be a divorce, it would be at my initiation because he could never talke care of all that I do and work the hours that he does. My husband is highly functional (physician), loved by patients and colleagues alike. In fact, even today if anyone I knew needed a good doctor, I would recommend him because he is so dedicated that if a patient presents with a problem that he does not understand, he will read and research until he figures out what it is and than seek out the best treatment. It was about 3-4 months ago that I started reading about narcissistic personality disorder and then alexithymia. All of that reading helped me understand why my husband said and did the things he did over the years that I could not understand. I always thought, why is he hurting us (daughter and me) so much? And I always thought it was intentional on his part. Then I thought it is one thing if he hurts me, but why is he hurting our daughter? I couldn’t understand why he hated me so much, why he could never spend anytime with us, talk to us, etc, etc. If I ever said that I wanted to do something, go somewhere, whatever I wanted, I could rest assured it was NOT going to happen unless I did it on my own. There is so much I could say about things that happened over 33 years that I could not understand but also I couldn’t understand why I had become the way I had. I was not always a bitter, angry, quick to yelling, etc, etc. person. Over the years I even told my husband that very thing that I was not always this way, I became this way because of you. But I didn’t understand how his NPD, alexithymia, detachment, etc. made me the way I am today. Reading your article, and additionally all of the comments, validate what I have been feeling and going through all of these years but could not put my finger on. Thank you so much to all of you. I hope you realize how helpful it is to those of us out here living this life and then also made to think we are crazy and at fault. It is such a relief to have the validation that I have never had in my marriage for anything I have done. Even my own family doesn’t understand me. They keep bringing up all of the things that I did wrong over the years (to which I admit and regret) and how I caused certain problems. I know now how my behavior also caused my husband to behave in a more hurtful manner but I never understood how I was contributing to my own pain. For the first time in many years, my shoulders are a little relaxed, the knot in my stomach is a little loose, I feel I can breathe, I feel I can smile! Thank you so much for validating that my hurt and pain also mean something. That I am not crazy. That, even though I didn’t understand it, I was acting out in self defense as a response to my husbands actions/comments and I was not just a bitch! I wish I had understood some of this years ago because it could have saved my marriage if I hadn’t allowed myself to be hurt by some of the actions/comments as I did. We are at this time still in the process of divorce and don’t know what will happen. Sometimes, now that I understand some of this, I feel guilty about going through with the divorce. Maybe I should stay and continue to take care of him, his family, the household, etc. the way I have all of these years? Maybe I won’t be as hurt now that I understand why he does what he does and it is not intentional? But at the same time I feel so suffocated and lonely in the marriage that I am not sure I should continue living this way for whatever amount time I have left on this earth. I am just very confused but feel lighter by being validated. Thank you to all of you.

    • I am just floored by your comment. Such courage in your transparency. I would like to encourage you to keep going. Life is fuller, brighter, more peaceful, more hopeful, and far more joyous on the other side of a relationship like this. Keep going. You are not alone. You made it this far. I’m walking this road, too.

      Keep going.

      Shalom….

  27. I can never adequately thank you for the article and the subsequent feedback from bloggers. I ended a relationship of roughly 5 months following a conversation with by boyfriend who could not verbalize that we were in a relationship that had the potential for a future; however he wanted me to spend all weekend evenings nights and daytime hours with him while he worked on his activities at his house. He made me feel great but when I asked him about his 8 year relationship with his ex-girlfriend he responded with it was not a serious relationship, just long… WTF. I expressed that he was high risk as I want a partnership and marriage. He stated very clearly that he was open to marriage but just never felt like he liked someone enough…. I decided that loving him was enough if he loved me back even if he could not show it…. I felt like that was enough for me as long as I know he loves me just as much. After reading the article and blogs, I have a thorough understanding of the importance of loving someone who has the capacity to be in a loving and giving relationship. My love for him does not matter if he cannot find a way to let me know he loves me back. I am heartsick for everyone on this site who has had to endure a loveless experience as I know most people who choose to love ASD guys are simply rare and remarkable women who love too much and give too much. Keep your side of the street clean. Maintain some hope in your relationships but be open to the world and know that handing over your power to compromised individual is insanity. I loved all of your posts. I feel that my life has changed from gaining this insight. You are all in my hopes and prayers. ME

    • All I can say is: I am so glad I wrote what I have written. If it helped you, then it’s all been worth it. I’m so glad…

  28. One of the themes I explore in a forthcoming novel is how and why people break up , and why it’s so painful. But I must say I don’t understand how you’ve remained sane. If ever a person needed to leave another — now, no excuses needed — it’s you. A pet rock would have been more fulfilling. I sincerely hope you find love and many hours of stimulating conversation about history, the arts, anthropolgy, literature, the elections — anything and everything outside the black hole. The world awaits you.

    • I laughed out loud when I read your comment. Most unexpectedly, I did find love–when and where I wasn’t even looking–and the waiting world is indeed glorious. O, the things I now know…

  29. I have been trapped in a marriage for seven years, never knowing what was wrong with my husband. I had never known anyone who was literally devoid of emotion and who could see my pain and anguish and yet look the other way to watch TV, completely unaffected. I have never felt loved or validated and when asked why, his only response has always been a shrug of the shoulders while watching a show on his phone. I am a highly intelligent person and I have literally thought that I was going insane. Every single thing you have written here is an absolute mirror of our relationship, even down to your daughter wondering why daddy doesn’t try. I am completely floored that there are people who can identify with me. None of my friends or family truly believe he can be “that bad” and that I must be contributing to “making him that way.” Thank you so very much for writing this. I know he will not change, but it has done wonders for me to know that at least this silent struggle is not mine alone. I know now that there are others in this dark pit who know the indescribable darkness, loneliness, and decimation of self-worth that come from living with an alexithymiac.

  30. Pingback: The Up-cycler | Serve Him in the Waiting

  31. I appreciated the description of the differences with empathy. I sat crying after the death of my mother and he never looked away from the computer. Our seemingly normal sex life died just a few weeks into my first pregnancy. Later, I realized our sex life had always been related to his interests and never mine. Never once a moment of post-coital anything. He would just get up and walk away. He was very able to pay attention to me while courting but that ended after marriage. The concept of parallel play has played out for 24 years. We have two kids that he has never even remotely tried to parent or influence. The entitlement has been astounding. He won’t take care of his vehicle and gets mad if I try to, which has resulted in 2 blown engines over the years. Which of course he didn’t have the money to fix or replace so it fell to me.

    Much to his chagrin, I have started reclaiming my time, money, energy, sexuality, life, personal interests and self-esteem. He has also commented that he thought I was cheating on him during our entire marriage (paranoia?) yet never acted as such or even mentioned it until I mentioned leaving him. Every time I’ve ever asked how do you feel or why did you do that the answer has been, “I don’t know.” His money has been spent strictly on himself over the years. We’ve never had couple goals (including buying a house!) EVER. He seems completely puzzled when people show concern and actually angry when I show too much empathy for others. The list goes on!

    This blog post has been such a relief. Something has always felt “off” about this nice, quiet, loner. I look at him sometimes and think I have no idea who you are. I am unbelievably relieved to find others like me. I can feel the winds of change coming as I just can’t be 100% responsible for a clueless individual any more. I’m exhausted but recovering. The lack of empathy, help, or support over the years has been crushing.

    Of note, I don’t think the anxiety /depression causes the digestive issues. I think that it all goes hand-in-hand. My hubby has what was termed as “probably IBS” in his late 20s. Anxiety and depression set in over the next 5 years then a severe porn addiction along with semi-impotence and the paranoia/distrust/suspicion issues. The lack of empathy has always been there. He finally admitted that he didn’t think he was like other people. He also said that he has never felt like a parent or that our house is his house. It’s almost as if he is disassociated from literally everything.

    After some research, I think there may be a gut dysfunction that causes some of these problems as a cluster, rather than as a cause/effect relationship. The gut has important functions related to several neurotransmitters.

    Best of luck to you with your new beginnings. I am in the process of reimagining my future to save my sanity. I have begun the process of raising the bar back up off of the floor. Yay!

    • Your description of your experience of your marriage is starkly similar to mine. I am so glad that what I wrote resonated with you, and I wish you every wonderful thing that is surely well deserved. All the best, MJ

  32. I am so happy to have found this information, to feel validated. I am at a crossroads in my 14 year marriage, husband suffers with PTSD from childhood trauma, and depression. I cannot thank you enough.

    • I’m so glad to know that you’ve found something helpful here. I wish you all the best on your journey. You aren’t alone even as you figure it out. Best, MJ

  33. I came across your blog after someone told me my husband may be suffering from alexithymia. I had never heard of it, but I immediately recognized my husband in the descriptions. This is actually our 4th reconciliation. I have broken it off with him three times in 15 years. I would last about a year or less, get sad and frustrated, try to get him to work it out with me, of course he wouldn’t, and I would leave. He’d always want to get back together and for some reason I did too. This last reconciliation was a decade in the making. We broke up for good in 2006, but started to reconcile in 2009. I ended up meeting someone else and we lost touch until 2015. He seemed so happy to have another chance with me after all those years. So was I. He really did seem like a changed man, but as soon as he moved in about six months later, the same troubles started.
    I guess our main problem is communication. He literally has nothing to say past what happened at work and what is for dinner. I can not get him to talk about anything personal. He has no childhood stories. Good lord, I have hundreds, maybe thousands of stories and also opinions and dreams, etc. He has NOTHING. The man even told me that baby animals do nothing for him. I am an animal freak! I love them all. They do nothing for this man. The second big problem is that he isn’t interested in intimacy or sex with me. He doesn’t get aroused unless he wants to be aroused. He is the only man I can think of that has ever rejected me. He was all over me while we were reconciling, so I feel tricked. The third problem is that now when I try to work out problems with him, he gets super defensive and gaslights me right into the ground. He used to just look at me blankly and maybe would blurt out “you do it too” as his only (weak) defense. Gaslighting is like his weak defense on steroids. He probably picked it up after so many failed relationships. It has been a full year of me constantly trying to fix our communication and intimacy problems. I have tried everything I can think of. If he doesn’t get defensive, he still doesn’t actively listen. He just looks at me blankly. According to him, he has no opinion or needs. I have asked. I have also asked what he needs from me. He says nothing. He will look at me blankly while I sob hysterically about this. He may even ignore me. It is crazy making. The weird part is that he is a really nice guy. This isn’t a narcissist or sociopath. He is genuinely nice and quite thoughtful.

    I am finally done this time though. This is the last time I’m going through this with this man. I have moved into the guest room and I no longer touch him or let him touch me. I don’t really talk to him, but I’m not rude. He doesn’t enjoy intimacy, but really enjoys patting my knee or giving me a couple quick pecks every day. I hate it. I shut that down without a word.
    I have emotionally withdrawn and it feels great! The kicker is that he hasn’t said one word about any of it. Not one question and it has been about three weeks. He mostly acts like nothing is wrong, but he is definitely withdrawing too. I guess we’ll keep playing this game forever because I refuse to be the first to communicate the problem. I’ve done it for a year and it fell on deaf ears. This should be interesting.

  34. I have been married for 16 years, my husband fits every single description here. I thought I was crazy, needy and unreasonable. I gave him excuses and always put the extra effort to keep it together. I eventually broke down in the middle of a party and asked him if he was ever happy. He said he doesn’t know what that is. He doesn’t love me but doesn’t love anything else. He feels nothing. He wasn’t sad when his dad died, he doesn’t care about his mother he doesn’t feel anything. When I asked him why he chased me for 18 months to get married, he said he wanted to, but he has never felt anything for me! I don’t understand, why do they want to be with anyone, why do they seek a relationship if they don’t feel anything? This is the part I’m not understanding or able to reconcile. Also a few years ago, he decided he wanted to read to (I’m an avid reader and he was not), so I was reading the outlander book and he started it, finished the series and during the 18 months it took him to read all 7, he was the emotionally connected I’ve ever seen him to be. He was finally intimate and at that time I was seriously considering leaving him then I thought maybe it was all in my head and he was just stressed. But the moment the books ended, he switched back to robot mode. I am so confused. How can a book make him behave like he feels and then he tells me he doesn’t have a single happy memory with me.. not one in 16 years. Despite all the effort I put to make a home and have friends and go on trips and do all the things I know he enjoyed but he says he didn’t. Does he feel and repress them so he does t recognize that he feels or does he really not feel at all. He promised he would get help once I stumbled across the alexi personality trait but he is only doing it because he has an acute sense of morality and he thinks it’s the right thing to do. There is no desire to anything. Should I wait and see if the help will make a difference? He’s a good person I just feel so incredibly abused – I fail to see it like you do that I allowed this to happen. I am also a good person and refused to believe that I couldn’t fix this, or I couldn’t work with his personality issues.. I stayed because I loved him and cared and tried – how am I an agent to my own misery?

    • There is a lot in this comment, and I don’t want to add to your pain. I have experienced similar confusion, questions, soul-searching, and the rest of the spectrum of emotions. On occasion, I still do. I don’t say this with any pity so please understand that when I say I’m sorry for what you have and continue to endure, I say that with empathy and from a place of common experience. No one should experience this kind of relational alienation and sense of, well, crazymaking.

      That being said, I do not mean to imply that you or I or anyone else is the sole agent in their own misery per se. If that is what I implicitly stated, then perhaps it is a failure on my behalf to communicate well. What I do believe is that I have a responsibility to understand my role in a relationship with a person who is in no way interested in relating to me in a way that builds mutuality.

      Looking at this from a logical standpoint (and sometimes that is the place to start), if I were to continually try to engage a person in meaningful and mutual relationship who has no interest in me or in relating to me with reciprocity BUT I placed all my hopes for a life-giving interaction on that exchange, what could I expect the result to be (knowing that this person has zero interest in relationships in general and probably zero interest in my well-being and details about me in specific)? Well, the result would be suffering and enormous disappointment for starters.

      Does it matter if said person is a “good person”? Can a “good person” shun relationship and see no point to them? Can a “good person” simply not like people? In other words, can a “good person” engage in misanthropy? People love the character of Sherlock Holmes, for example, and he is a classic misanthropist. Can a moral person dislike being around people or engaging in the messy business of relationships? Well, yes. It is not necessarily conventional, but they can.

      And, from what you describe, this sounds like where you are. Your partner is a moral man who simply doesn’t want relationships. And, you want love and relationships and reciprocity and all that goes with that. That’s normative and healthy.

      So, how does one resolve that? How do you get your needs met then because these are totally legit needs that can and should be met?

      1. You can’t change your partner. He is who he is.

      2. You should not change yourself in these terms. You deserve to be loved and cared for, and you deserve to be a part of mutual relationship in which you flourish and grow and your growth catalyzes growth in your partner.

      So, logically speaking, if your partner cannot and will not change yet you spend all your time, emotional and intellectual energy, beliefs, hope, and physical energy attempting to morph into something who you are not in order to meet his needs while ignoring yours believing that he will change or you can change him in self-sacrifice, then, yes, you are an agent of your own misery to a degree because you already know the starting premise: your partner is not interested in you. Your energy is wasted. Your needs are not met. He is the receiver of your best self, and you get nothing in return but further invalidation simply because you believe that you can change him or if you try harder something will give (BTW, that was me for most of my marriage).

      So, if you changed your belief to “Nothing I do can change him. He is who he is. I will now focus on loving and supporting myself,” then what might change for you? Simply change this belief. That’s it. All change starts with a change in belief and thought. Make yourself the focus rather than him. (and read Should I Stay or Should I Go by Lundy Bancroft. It’s a book about what good relationships should look like. Changed everything for me.) It will feel awkward and strange. Foreign. But, if we are responsible for our own well-being, then it is a good place to start. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, easy about this. I know that. You, however, are so worthwhile. SO worthwhile. You deserve a partner who is utterly caught up in you. Transfixed. In love. Willing. Present.

      You deserve reciprocity. We all do.

  35. WOW! As so many commenters before me have mentioned, this post has blown my mind, completely validated my experiences, and brought tears to my eyes. THANK YOU for sharing and for your extraordinary wisdom and compassion.

    Right now I feel fragile and broken, as my partner of 15 years (married for 9) has just left me. It’s only in the aftermath that I began googling “no empathy” and came across the definition of alexithymia and now, this extraordinary blog post.

    I would like to tell my story because others’ stories have validated my experience so much. And also, I would love insight if anyone has any. To be honest, fragile and broken is an understatement, I feel decimated and destroyed. I am an intuitive person with a lot of connection to my own emotions and those of others, and although early on in our relationship I had “gut feelings” of anxiety and even despair over not fully connecting with him emotionally, I always thought that we were nevertheless a good match because of our compatibility in other ways. We share a very strong and unique sense of humor, and intellectually connect marvelously. We could spend every meal together every day and not run out of things to talk about… lively discussions about politics, culture, opinions about the world, all very academic but highly engaging for both of us. Many shared activities, including sports and outdoor trips. Mutual friends. But I never really got the emotional connection from him I craved… I can see now that I suffered from affective deprivation disorder over the past 15 years, but I always interpreted my suffering, which was occasionally debilitating, as originating solely from my own severe anxiety disorder and depression. Surely these things are very conflated anyway.

    Why did he leave me? I do not truly know, and I am in agony trying to understand. He had an affair, which I discovered almost a year ago when that woman contacted me. It turns out that he had been having this affair for years. I was devastated, but we both were completely forthcoming with each other about wanting to try to work it out. We began couples counseling immediately. He was quite game to participate in counseling, and we each got our own psychiatrists at the same time for weekly talk therapy (and meds, for me, for my anxiety). But the couples therapy was like spinning wheels. I got an enormous amount of validation from the therapist, who was brilliant, but… my husband was simply devoid of empathy. He was able to express regret over the affair, and while he could not say he “felt” shame, he was clearly very pre-occupied with having fallen from grace. He agonized with this identity of being “bad” now. It felt good to me that he exhibited this sort of tortured remorse, but I was completely uninterested in labeling him as good or bad. I wanted empathy. I wanted him to understand how deeply he hurt me, and feel regret for hurting ME, I wanted him to use words to apologize for his betrayal and use words to describe how and why he loved me and what he wanted for our shared future.

    But of course this extremely articulate man, the best writer I’ve ever known, a phenom at his job (which is entirely based on social interaction and verbal and written communication), and a heralded academic in his student days, literally (ha ha) had no words. I would have breakdowns of grief, sobbing hysterically in front of him, and he would become immobile, stony, leave the room. Even with our therapist giving him actual scripts to say to me, like “you are crying, what do you feel right now?” he couldn’t do it. He confessed to being nearly unable to stand it when I got upset (and often my tears were gentle, as I asked him to talk to me). He said in those moments he wished the world would swallow him up and he would disappear. I know now he was utterly unable to tolerate this “emotional arousal” given his alexithymia.

    I have never seen him angry. We’ve never had a “fight”. I’ve never seen him upset. I always thought he was the most stable, good-natured man and I cherished that. Now I am re-interpreting everything with my newfound understanding of alexithymia, and my head is spinning.

    It turns out the woman he was having the affair with was blackmailing him, she threatened his work life, stalked both him and me, and repeatedly declared to him that she was going to “get him” to divorce me. I discovered later that he had broken up with her many times, only for her to manipulate him back into the affair. (She is a piece of work.) I was dumbstruck by the initial revelation of the affair, because he has an extremely low libido. He has said many times that the affair was “not about the sex” and in fact that he hated the sex. He said he found her physically unappealing (she is well groomed but not conventionally attractive) and her personality off-putting. I do not know why he, a grown man with autonomy, engaged in this affair… but there is something deeply dysfunctional and disturbing in the dynamic between him and this woman. My husband is extremely passive, and this woman is extremely socially aggressive, manipulative, and extroverted. I am also aware that the stories he’s told me about the affair may be lies or twisted truths, but from my own observations it is true that he is profoundly passive and that she is pathologically manipulative.

    But it ALSO turns out that my husband had been hiding from me the fact that he has completely ruined himself financially. Apparently his financial irresponsibility long predates the affair. I don’t suspect any chemical addiction (though alcohol was an excessive and unhealthily part of his affair) or of a gambling addiction. Or any other addiction, though he shows obvious signs of compulsive behavior that I interpret as avoidance. He has managed to utterly destroy his credit and lose a massive amount of monetary investments through sheer passivity and avoidance behavior. This is not unlike other behaviors he routinely exhibits in our domestic life, including extreme procrastination and the ability to fully distract himself from any anxiety and engage in pleasurable activities and hobbies. (This is something I struggle to understand, because when I am anxious my world stops on its axis.)

    During the course of our incredibly difficult, exhausting, what-I-thought-was-committed counseling, he restarted the affair. I’m embarrassed to admit that I continued to try to work things out, because after the revelation of the Affair Round 2, our interactions changed dramatically. I thought we were finally breaking through somehow, making an emotional connection. He was was no longer distant, he sought my company and was cheerful. He said he was profoundly relieved to have escaped her again and not to have to maintain the affair (she was requiring him to “check in” with her every couple of hours when he was in my company—in our shared home!—which led to some incredibly toxic, gas-lighting behavior and inane social media shenanigans, all to avoid her spilling the news to me again). Things did get better, it seemed like we made some progress in couples counseling, but after she stalked our home again I had more tears, and he became withdrawn, and I became more upset, and… A few days later, after nearly a year of couples therapy, of weekly affirmations that he was utterly and unequivocally desiring of a committed future with me, he decided, within the space of a few hours, that “he didn’t love me, was pretty sure he never did, definitely wouldn’t in the future, and was ending the relationship”.

    Within a week he had decided to move to be with the other woman. He left me for her, someone that I am pretty sure he can see is a highly destructive, personality-disordered, awful person.

    It’s only in the aftermath of the past couple months, after I had a breakdown and am now recovering, that I have begun to understand with such clarity that he has extreme alexithymia. I can see that his skills for understanding his own emotions and motivations are non-existent, but this is still pretty brutal. What is he seeking from her?

    He claims to never have had dreams. He was unable to articulate any kind of imagination of a future we might build together. I almost feel as though he has no imagination at all. He says he has trouble with memory, making or recalling memories. He is not passionate sexually, and has admitted he might be asexual. We have always had a very physically affectionate (though not highly sexual) relationship. Yet he claims to be disinterested in physical touch… all the hand-holding, cuddling, hugging that I craved so much and received so much pleasure from he claimed to “not really mind…” (This blew my mind!) He said he has never been in love, never had an infatuation, never had butterflies for someone.

    But alexithymia does not make someone have an affair, ruin themselves financially, self-destruct. I think all his behaviors might be interpreted as self-destruction or self-sabotage via extreme passivity. I was especially fascinated to hear your opinion, MJ, that alexithymia is a symptom. I wonder what his root cause is. Anxiety seems a likely culprit though I’d guess there are a lot of things going on with him. I wish I understood whether he is capable of either emotional or cognitive empathy—these are fascinating questions that this post has raised for me.

    I no longer crave to be back with him. In my head, I’ve known for weeks that he was profoundly destructive to me and that I’m lucky to be out after 15 years. This extraordinary blog post, and the extraordinary stories of so many commenters, helps my heart to begin to feel this too. My life feels like it is in tatters, but it also feels, for the first time in ages… possible? fresh even! maybe one day I will be alive again.

    Thank you so, so much for this post, thank you other commenters for your stories, and forgive me for this novel!

    • Thank YOU for posting this. I am so sorry for what you’ve endured. It’s too much. I think what I’ve told everyone who has the “a ha!” moment after reading this post is, “No, you are not alone.” I think that your story will speak to people as will your process and kind honesty.

  36. I’ve been thinking about what I wrote in my previous post and I want to acknowledge that my story might be upsetting to some people if they think I’m conflating alexithymia with infidelity. I don’t mean to do that! Although I’m very new to exploring and understanding these things, I think it’s pretty clear from the brave truths that have been posted here that many people’s experiences of a partner with alexithymia, while terribly painful, do not share any of the deception and deceit that was part of my experience.

    For me the whole nightmare has been a mish mosh of ugly revelations. It seems parsimonious that my husband’s alexithymia is rooted in the same issues that have caused his self-destructive behavior, which is the lens (is it warped?) through which I see his affair. But maybe there are a lot of separate, individual pathologies. I may never know. I think his lack of emotional skills injure him as much (MORE actually) as they wounded me, as his inability to understand his own desires and motivations has surely contributed to his terrible decisions.

    • I was going to comment more here as this was the addendum to your first post. I found your first post very sensitive, and, personally, I related to it. It was very validating. There was deception in my marriage, emotional abuse, and domestic violence. And a possible one-night infidelity. What you describe, however, is very similar to my husband’s behavior. I don’t think your experience is unusual. How you got along. Great intellectual connection. Shared activities. We could hang out at restaurants and talk about any manner of things but no emotional connection. No sexual connection of the kind that I craved. We also did not fight. He was too passive for that, but it was when I pushed him for more in terms of intimacy of ANY kind that something would quickly emerge. Just a quick snap. That’s when I would get hurt. Mostly when alcohol was in use. He would never remember or claim that anyway.

      There is a foundation of dishonestly in this kind of relationship because, from what I’ve seen, there is duplicity at the beginning in terms of emotional capacity. They have appeared to match you in emotional capacity. They seem to be able to empathize. They seem to want what you want in terms of sexual intimacy. And then when the partnership is settled in some way be it a certain measure of time passes or marriage occurs, the glamour fades and the true capacity emerges i.e. there is no capacity. I felt very tricked, and I was a wreck for a few years. I kept thinking that if I just did X or Y, then he would come online. It only got worse. The things I thought about myself. It has taken meeting someone who is very kind to see that what I went through for 20 years is in no way normative.

      I am fairly certain that he has a personality disorder. My father is also alexithymic (I’ll let Freud have at it…) and he, too, has a PD. My ex, however, behaved nothing like my father. Weird dynamic.

      Narcissism, schizoid PD, and borderline PD could all have alexithymia as a symptom with comorbid anxiety. My ex is extremely anxious but also narcissistic/”secret schizoid”. It manifests as someone who appears highly competent, sought after in his field, socially gregarious and very witty, well-versed in all politics and geo-political current and past events, etc. That is his social and/or external self. At home? He was avoidant, passive aggressive, neglectful, preferring solitude, begrudging to give up his time for anything that inconvenienced him, cultivated a well-developed fantasy life through gaming and fantasy fiction and various esoteric reading, cynical, and malicious in use of humor aiming it at me and his kids. He was judgmental, and, in spite of his bleeding heart liberalism, he holds racist, misogynistic, and, anti-Semitic attitudes that emerge through his humor. He would never admit to feelings of anger even when he brandished a knife at me. He did not like participating in family life if it meant “working”. He wanted the beautiful house and yard, but I had to do it. His idea of support means money. He also knows more than anyone else (grandeur) particularly doctors.

      That was the most confusing thing to me. He was and is two people. That’s why I lean towards “secret schizoid”. (https://thrivingisthegoal.com/2015/06/04/alexithymia-and-the-secret-schizoid/)

      All this is to say, I think that your situation is so very relatable EXCEPT for the mistress stalker. I am just speechless over that. Margie, I am just so sorry for what you have and continue to experience there. I desire that you move into a place in your life where you are showered with inordinate love, affection, and adoration to such a degree that the next half of your life obliterates the first half. That what you have known becomes like gossamer web in the wind, slowly drifting away leaving only a memory of a once crafted web that no longer exists. You will be so fascinated and full of wonder at the life and adventure surrounding you that, in a moment, every step you took to arrive at that space in time will feel like something to be grateful for. That is my wish for you. Shalom…MJ

      • This response has me dripping tears. Thank you!

        Thank you especially for acknowledging the craziness of the mistress stalker. Yes, it is bonkers! I did understand it to be bonkers when I first learned of her, her behavior, and his unfathomable behavior in response. But… so much has happened since that astounding revelation many months ago. I had multiple breakdowns. We had much therapy. My life churned with madness. Often I questioned whether I was just… too emotional. Maybe this was just a typical midlife snag. Even since he left me, sometimes I catch my mind slipping away from any grip on a fixed point. Maybe this is just a normal breakup! It’s not illegal to fall out of love with someone, and fall into love with a new person…

        But no, the mistress stalker situation was truly, utterly bonkers. That was some crazy shit and moving out of that toxic flotsam debris, into the calm clear waters ahead, feels so very, very right.

        MJ, I’ve begun exploring some more of your blog and have learned of some of the unconscionable violence (figurative and literal) you have experienced in your past. I think it is rarely helpful to tell someone in great distress, “At least you don’t have it so bad as so-and-so!” However, coming across others’ stories of more extreme suffering can provide such relief. Your stories do that for me. Not because I think the crimes I suffered were “as bad” (and such a comparison is not helpful anyway), and not because in the face of yours my problems seem petty. I think it is more like, hearing your clear voice, and seeing your path of healing, connects us. That’s where our shared humanity is. That is so powerful, and empowering.

        Just read that you’re going back to school for a new degree. GO GET IT, SISTAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Aaaw, thank you! I honestly didn’t think I could manage my household and daughters AND go back to school, but then i thought, “What the hell…” There’s no time like the present. There will never be a good time to do what I really want. So, I’m doing it now. It’s not easy. I’ll say that.

          I’m still in a state of shock and awe over your story. I try to remember that everyone I meet has a story, and they are living it in front of me even if they are hiding it. Last year must have just been a brutal narrative for you. Sweet Moses…

          There is a shared experience here. Common experience is very bonding, and it encourages. It encourages me. When I see someone get up again after a terrible fall, I want to know how they mustered the energy and courage. How do we take the hits and still keep going AND create a life that WE want to live?

          I am so rooting for you. What might be next, I wonder, for you? The story that is yours…it’s like you are on the cusp. There is greatness here woven into the narrative of the dramatic one act plays that have been so painful for you. There is something very positive approaching, and I don’t often say that for people. But, I can feel something very good. By the pricking of my thumb something…wonderful…this way comes. Take heart. Life is opening up, and you deserve it.

  37. I think I am experiencing this also, my boyfriend seems no empathy most of the time. Everytime he says sorry I cant feel any emotions at all. He will say that he is really sorry, however he is aware that he don’t sound like he is. He is aware that he find it difficult to express and verbalize his emotions. Everytime he will break up on me, he will cry, but he doesn’t know why tears is coming down on his face. He seems decided when he is breaking up on me, but after we fixed things, he will say that he dont feel any emotions doing it and he is getting frustrated to himself why he is saying such things. we really don’t share the same level of emotions in anything. Yes, we are very happy, we are good together, its just that we lack in emotional connection. He acknowledges that there is a problem on him. I want to leave but I love him very much. It’s very hard that its hard for him to feel my emotions as well. He said that he needs me and asking me to help him change. what should I do??? 😔

    • Hi, Fhey. I’m sorry that you are experiencing this. Well, I am not one to give out quick advice (at least I don’t think so) because your situation is probably complex and unique. That said… Were I you, I would ask myself: 1) What do I really want?

      And, the answer probably isn’t “Stay.” My guess is that you’d like to experience a meaningful change in the relationship. So, if you list that out, then you would have a solid list of what changes would you like to see. Your emotions start to feel less ethereal, and you start to feel less confused. For validation for this list and a sense of what to do next, I’d refer you to Lundy Bancroft’s superb book “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” It’s not at all a scary or confrontational book. It helped me very much. I’ve written about it on this blog. This kind of soul-searching and validation work can give you a much more solid sense of self and what you want which prepares you to talk to your BF.

      Your BF has said that he needs you and has also asked for help in changing. That’s a big deal. If he is really sincere in this, then he needs to find a therapist who can help him do that. YOU cannot do this. Only HE can do this with the help of someone who can teach him skills. Truthfully, if your BF lacks empathy in a real way, then there isn’t much point in having a relationship with him. BUT, if this is an interpersonal skills issue in which he 1) lacks interpersonal skills 2) doesn’t know how to perspective-take 3) has character issues at play like selfishness and entitlement and 4) needs to learn emotional regulation and distress tolerance, then he could learn these things over time and with healthy support from other people who can hold him accountable. Deep change in adults takes time.

      In the meantime, based in my own experience, I would suggest that you start building out your own life so that you feel more healthy and whole as an individual. This will build your self-esteem and sense of resiliency and make you feel less dependent upon his choices for your happiness. That’s what I would do because that’s what I actually did when I was in a similar spot. I don’t know if this is helpful, but maybe it’s a start. Best to you…MJ

  38. Hi MJ,

    You have such a powerful voice, and I just want to thank you for sharing your story. As an outsider, it can be so easy to say, “Why didn’t you…?” or “Couldn’t you just…?” But looking into someone else’s life it can be so easy to forget the perspective of “you.” Lack of validation in a close relationship affects your self-image. It’s different being on the inside.

    I think that you are incredibly strong and brave. Even though your daughter may have a similar diagnosis, I feel so excited for her and for you. I feel like everywhere I look, autism is being researched and treatments are being developed.

    And lastly, though I didn’t read all of the comments, I did come across some scripture verses. The Christians I know would be offended by that comment; so one behalf of a few thousand of us, I’d like to apologize. I should disclose that I’m an epileptic Christian; so, my apology may mean nothing.

    Be well!

    • Thank you….i really appreciate your comment. Btw, an epileptic Christian? As in having epilepsy? Well, I was born with temporal lobe epilepsy and have complex partial seizures. So…it is all good. 🙂

  39. This post has stunned me. And is the first time in my life I have felt less alone. I met my partner 12 years ago. We seperated 4 years ago, but are still very closely intwined in each others daily life, both of us have had other relationships, but neither of us have seemed to properly move on. Because of this, I am still trying to understand him.

    He fits all of the descriptions of alexithymia. He is exquisitely talented and intelligent. He has a huge amount of friends, however I’m not sure if any of those friendships are very deep or close. He has so many friends, because he is so out going and charming. But after getting to know him over the years and watching him to talk to people, I have realised that he doesn’t talk WITH people. He just spews out and endless stream of facts and stories about himself – never stopping to gage the other persons response, never talking about how he feels, never asking about the other person. I have watched him keep talking to people enthusiasticly while they slowly back away from him.

    His behavior towards me has been the most confusing thing I have endured in my life. I have been left wondering if I am insane, selfish, unreasonably demanding. When our first child was born I had a c -section in the middle of the night. He went home a short while later to shower. The nurses assured him that I would be fine and needed sleep – so he said that he’d return in the morning. The next day he didn’t return. I called him in tears saying that I was still unable to get out of the bed, and I coudn’t reach our sons crib to pick him up to feed him, and that I needed him with me to help me. He said, yep, I’ll be there in an hour. Hours past and he he still hadn’t come and again he told me on the phone, yep I’ll be there in an hour. Eventually he turned his phone off and he went to work and never showed up that day. Years later It has come up in converstation how hurt I was, but he just says “they needed me at work”.

    In my most difficult times in life, if he sees me upset (over something unrelated to him) he will get angry at me if I display emotion. I have said….all I need is a hug. And he will say something like “well thats not going to solve your problem so whats the point”. If something has left me upset in my day – his response would never be any words of comfort – his immediately response is to tell me what I must have done wrong to cause that situation, OR to say he will beat up the person or persons involved in my shitty day.

    He frequently ( 2 – 4) times a week since I have known him, lets me down and wastes my time. He makes a promise, “oh yeah meet me there at 11am and we will do x y or x” He does not show up. He does this on minor occasions but also occasions that would consider very important like birthdays. When I express how devestated this makes me feel that he completely disrespects my time and my hopes, he doesnt say sorry. He just says, “yeah but I was doing something else”. I have asked him, “do you understand how hurtful it is that you have done this to me literally over 1000 times?” He just says, but thats just how I am”.

    Now when he garuntees he will be somewhere, I question him. “Are you sure?”. This makes him angry. I explain that I almost expect him to let me down so I have to reinforce how important it is. He says “relax!!!! OF COURSE I will be there”. But then he still doesn’t show up. And is still bewildered at why I get upset again.

    I have swung back and forth from believing I am being abused. To believing I am crazy and I have made it all up. Because I actually believe he is a decent person. He does adore his children. He would do any physical act of problem solving to help me if I ask him. (fix my car, fix my washing machine) but he will not engage in meaningful conversation or extend any empathy in any circumstances even if I beg for it on my hands and knees.

    He was an alcholoc for a very long time and thought his problems would disapear when he stopped drinking. But they didn’t. They just became more obvious.

    I have tried to talk to him about what went wrong and to delve deeper into his emotions. I made it clear that there is alot of water under the bridge now, and I still care for him, and there’s honestly nothing he can say, no hidden feelings that might have inside that I would possibly hold against him now. I told him if he always loved some other woman instead of me, or if he had a double life, or if he couldn’t stand the sight of me now, whatever…… I’m perfectly ok with any of that. I just want to know if there is SOMETHING. ANYTHING in his head. at all. So I can rationalise my confused perception of reality. I am genuinly perfectly ok with our relationship being over, but I cant get peace because I feel I have an overdose of empathy FOR him, I am not sure if he’s ok, and I cant get an answer from him, and can not assertain what he wants. This is complicated by the fact that we are still in each others lives alot with parenting, so I am still effected by his daily behaviors.

    I asked if he still wants something from me. He said, you can do whatever you want. I asked him if he feels relieved to be seperated, or sad. He said he doesn’t think about things like that. I asked him if he has any feelings about entire relationship, good or bad, he says no.

    I asked him if he imagines what his life might be like if he found a woman who makes him very very happy. He said no, why would I think about that. I asked him has he ever had someone in his whole life who he talks to on an emotional level. He said, I don’t understand what you mean. I just get things done. I don’t need see the point of talking about things. I just do things. Thats all I do.

    To me, he is like a robot. Being with him has destroyed a big part of me. It has left me at times feeling like there is no possible happiness for me in this life. Because I feel dead inside.

    When I have been in the state of mind that ‘YES, he is an abusing controling asshole”….it strengthens my resolve to forget about him and put myself first. But then I come back to the idea that no, there is some genuine underlying emotional defficiency causing his problems….. and then I feel sorry for him. And I feel as if it is my duty to be there for him even though he crushes me.

    I feel as though I have an extremely long road to recovery ahead of me.

    • I am very sorry for everything that you have experienced. You are not alone. This post that you have commented on has receive more comments than any other post I’ve written. I’ve received emails. It sounds like your ex-partner has a personality disorder. You cannot fix him. Nothing you say will make him change. There is absolutely nothing you can do to persuade him to be different. He cannot be.

      There are many things that I could say, but the one thing I will say based upon my own experience is to start taking care of yourself and addressing your own needs. Put that ahead of his because this is what he has and will always do. That is the compatibility factor that existed in my marriage. He took. I gave. The more miserable I became, the more I believed I was the problem. So, I gave more. He took more. I asked more questions hoping to find an answer to the nagging feeling I had that something was wrong. There was a problem and I had to solve it. No answers. Ever. So, I gave more until I was very ill and a shell of person. And still…he was immovable.

      You will never get the answers you want from him. Never. My ex-husband did things to me that I cannot understand. My therapist can’t even understand it outside of pathologizing it. It’s incomprehensible. So, the bottom line has become: If he didn’t do something, no matter how ludicrous, it’s because it did not meet his needs to do it. He didn’t help you in the hospital? It didn’t meet HIS needs to do it. He didn’t show up on time? Of course not. It didn’t meet HIS needs to do it. He didn’t hug you? It did not meet HIS needs to do it. And when a person operates in life like this, they are relationally dangerous because you are simply an extension of their own ego. You are never you. You are an amorphous blob that shifts from one thing to the next–whatever shape meets their need.

      I highly encourage you to read “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by Lundy Bancroft. You’ve already left, but it succinctly discusses in a very supportive manner the aspects of abusive relationships that women miss. I was one of those women. And, it addresses the common questions like: Am I just demanding? Maybe I ask for too much? Expect too much. All of these things are discussed. It recalibrates your expectations and sheds light on what a healthy relationship SHOULD be as opposed to what you grow accustomed to. It helped me enormously.

      I am very sorry that you have suffered in this way. A few years ago, I could have written what you wrote in this comment. With commitment to a healing process, your life can and does change in remarkable ways. I wish you all the best. MJ

  40. I have a lot to process and consider, but I will say with a very small, cautious voice that I am the partner with alexithymia. I have cut myself to feel anything, have struggled my whole life with making friends, taken medication for depression, have been to therapist after therapist asking if there was a chance I was a sociopath only to be told over and over, no, definitively no because I experience guilt and sadness. I am the wife, not the husband. But all of these comments have helped me better understand my husband’s constant illnesses and frustration with my inabilities to meet his needs. I want to connect. I don’t have ASD. But I also know I find it SO. FUCKING. EXHAUSTING. to be constantly asked what I am feeling or what I want and to be accused of lying when I answer ‘nothing.’ I will be going to my long time therapist with this word tomorrow and hope to someday report back more information from ‘the other side.’ I do want to be a good mother, to save my marriage… but it is so hard to understand. Just, please know, for those of you searching, I have absolutely cried as many tears over this as you have, often with a partner screaming at me that if I could just communicate instead of shutting down things would be better. Ha, as if I didn’t feel broken enough already.

    • Thank you for commenting. I think the other point of view, your point of view, is valid and important. I’m sorry that you feel broken. Speaking only for myself, I would greatly value your perspective. Really listening to the “other side” is how we learn and grow and develop empathy. Thank you again.

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