Asperger’s Syndrome Wives Need Understanding

November 12, 2009 by · 3 Comments 

By Karin Friedemann, MMNS

Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurological disorder considered as high-functioning autism. Individuals with this syndrome have difficulty with social aspects of intelligence. This manifests itself as a notable lack of “common sense.” The presence of Asperger in children is getting more attention now, but the undiagnosed adult is not yet well recognized. Because these types of brain disorders seem to be more common in men, many times wives have trouble getting the support they need.

The shortcomings of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome have been camouflaged beneath layers of coping strategies and defense mechanisms. Their behavior often gives the impression of someone perhaps a little eccentric or odd – but passable because of their high or gift in an area or career, such as engineering.

Life with an AS spouse is very isolating. Since the AS person in public often appears normal, others do not understand the spouse’s suffering. Spouses of people with Asperger Syndrome play an abnormally large caregiver role. Even when AS people are successful professionals, their families cannot rely on them to participate fully in family life since they typically don’t do their share of chores or provide emotional support to other family members.

Although people with Asperger’s Syndrome do feel affection towards others, relationships are not a priority for them in the same way that it is for people who do not have Asperger’s Syndrome. People with Asperger’s Syndrome generally seem to be more focused on a particular interest, project or task than on the people around them.

Because the person with Asperger’s Syndrome does not have the same relational needs as the non-Asperger partner, he or she is mostly unable to recognize instinctively or to meet the emotional needs of his or her partner. Marriages can thus form seriously dysfunctional relationship patterns. The denial, the complex and multi-layered coping mechanisms and defensive strategies make it difficult to live successfully in a relationship with someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Often the afflicted will deny there is a problem, since one of the disorder’s main characteristics is the lack of ability to imagine someone else’s point of view.

People who do not have Asperger’s Syndrome enter a marriage with the normal expectation that the priority of a marriage relationship will be about togetherness, mutual terms and meeting of needs, but in reality the relationship ends up being more one of practicality and convenience for the person with Asperger’s Syndrome than for the loving and meeting of emotional needs of the marital partner.

In many cases, the Asperger partner analyzed the partner prior to marriage and assessed them as being capable of filling a compensatory role for his own deficits. The non-Asperger partner then unwittingly fills the role of personal assistant. In the privacy of their relationship, the spouse who does not have Asperger’s Syndrome will more than likely be physically and emotionally drained, working overtime to keep life on track for both of them. Perhaps the relationship has taken on more of the characteristics of a business partnership or arrangement.

For those who had normal expectations of the mutuality of marriage, there will be a sense of betrayal and a feeling of being used and trapped. Instinctively they know that their partner needs them, but feelings develop that the relationship is about the needs and interests of the person with Asperger’s Syndrome and that there is not even room for their own voice. Many partners feel that they are daily sacrificing their own sense of self to help fulfill the priorities of the partner who has Asperger’s Syndrome. They begin to feel that they are entirely defined by the role they fill for their Asperger partner. There’s a sense that there is no mutuality, no equality, no justice.

People married to someone with Asperger’s Syndrome continue to hope for the mutual meeting of emotional needs within the marriage and resent the reality of living on terms dictated by the needs and priorities of the partner with Asperger’s Syndrome. In effect, their flexibility is exploited by the inflexibility of the person with Asperger’s Syndrome. This prompts an extremely manipulative behavior pattern, with the neurologically typical spouse going overboard to prevent stress. Living with someone who sees only his or her own viewpoint cannot help but damage a spouse’s self-esteem.

The neurotypical spouse must thoroughly evaluate all the issues before deciding if there is enough of value to make continuing the relationship worthwhile. Those who stay in a relationship with an Asperger’s-afflicted mate should do everything possible to be independent socially and financially. In most cases, the afflicted spouse will not be able to make substantial changes, so the neurotypical spouse must be able to accept that. Knowing what to expect will make the marriage more predictable and manageable, if not easier.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women.

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The “Stockholm Syndrome” and American Muslims

August 16, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

By Shahid Athar

In the aftermath of September 11th, American Muslims are suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome without even knowing what it is. This is a term in Psychiatry in which the disease manifests when the victim, for example a captive sympathizes with his captors and takes up the cause of the captors or oppressors as his own cause in order to get special privileges. The syndrome was first described after World War II during the trial of war criminals in which captives of war criminals identified themselves and sympathized with their captors and even cooperated with them during concentration camps. Thus, they themselves became the tools of the oppressors, acting on their behalf in order to gain their sympathy and be in their “good book.” In more recent days, the syndrome was best manifested by the behavior of Patty Hearst who was kidnapped by SLA and then participated in the theft and violence by SLA while being their captive.

The response of most of the American Muslims to the tragedy of September 11th is in two extremes, both suffering from the same syndrome. At one extreme is the group most visible on the Internet, still working on the conspiracy theory, that is this evil act was done by the work of Mossad, the CIA, the Pentagon, the Militia or the remote control devices blowing up the World Trade Center, completely denying the possibility that it could have been the evil act and plot by Muslim Terrorists. This group did not say enough to the fellow Americans that this act was an attack on humanity and not just on America, an attack on innocent civilians and even on the peaceful religion of Islam.

Thus, suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, this group became a manifestation of the disease, identifying themselves with those terrorists who might have done it and even justifying their actions.

On the other extreme is the group of Muslim intelligentsia, who after recovering from the shock of September 11th, suffered from unwarranted guilt complex and became apologetic. After visits by the FBI, they realized that they must make a politically correct statement now in order to save American Islam and their own leadership. Otherwise, they may not get invited again to the White House or State Department Iftaar parties. For them, to be in good books of homeland Security was more important than their dignity as Muslims. Some of them had to change their external outlook, tone of speech and writing, and even retracted and regretted their statements given before September 11th against the “super power.” Now, some of them are telling the same American Muslim audience, whom they incited before against America that “If you do not like the West, go back to your own country.”

Another prominent writer wrote, “the Muslims are hypocrites of grand scale, in opposing the oppression by Israel, Serbia and Hindu but when the same acts are done by Al Qaeeda and other Muslim terrorist groups they look the other way.” True, but apples and oranges cannot be compared. Two wrongs do not make one right and there is no trade off, i.e., we must choose between two types of terrorists, two groups of oppressors and accept state terrorism over the group or individual terrorists. Another group of Muslim intellectuals find someone else to blame rather than accept responsibility. Not too long ago, I was on a public forum at a Town Hall meeting. My other counterpart speaker was an Afghan origin Professor who put all the blame of the recent trouble with the Taliban on Pakistan in creating, training and sponsoring Taliban terrorism. Those who are true students of Taliban history know this is not all of the fact. Talibans were created and strengthened with the help of CIA and the American government. This Afghan Professor never acknowledged the help given to mujahideens by Pakistan in fighting Russian aggression on Afghanistan. He did not realize that if there was no Pakistan, Russians would have won their “great game” in very little time and conquered Afghanistan. It was Pakistan who gave sanctuary to mujahideens and helped them with everything that they had to re-arm and regroup themselves to go back to Afghanistan and fight. Again, the psychology of this Professor’s mind is nothing but Stockholm Syndrome in order for him to say something to please his captors.

The American media and some of the columnists, never a fan of Muslim intelligentsia in the past, are now out to discredit them even more, saying something like his to the State Department Policy makers and American people. “ Do not believe these American Muslim leaders. Look at what they wrote in the past and said in the National convention of Muslims 2 years ago. Look at what they have actually done themselves to fight terrorism. Do not listen to what they are saying now under the pressure, against Bin Laden or AL-Qaeeda.”

Thus, while our leadership is in disarray suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, the average middle class, mosque going Muslims who run grocery stores, are office workers or students, are totally confused at what they should do or say.

Should they side with the Muslim terrorists Or with the super power who is bombing the innocent civilians in order to free the whole world of these terrorists. How can we present Islam to those who stereotype, profile and even attack us? On record are close to 1,000 cases of such hate crimes since September 11th. Is the FBI our friend or our foe? Will our children ever get admission to schools of flight training, biomedical research and nuclear physics or will we ever feel comfortable flying as a passenger in an airplane?

Will women in hijab be able to go shopping without fear? The joy of being a Muslim in America is gone, at least for now. All the progress we have made in the last 30 years is being reversed. We have to start all over again.

How can we live our faith while we work with those who defame it? We American Muslims are going through the most difficult time in our history in this country. These are difficult questions and I have no simple solution to offer. My advise is to the mainstream ordinary American Muslims and not to the intelligentsia and leadership. I hope and pray the latter get healed from Stockholm Syndrome and instill in us our stolen and bruised self esteem. Even if they heal, I’m not sure if they will not relapse again. Many of these leaders, especially those from overseas, tend to live in the past and not in the present. While their bodies are here, their hearts and minds were left behind somewhere else.

The sad plight of American Muslim organizations is no different from that of Arab league, OIC and Rabita. They are just bodies to meet and pass resolutions without any actions. They will pass resolution to condemn acts of terrorism (which they should) and thank FBI when it catches a terrorist. These organizations are like the poor peasant when beaten up by the emperor bragged to his people “Today I was honored by the emperor who beat me with his golden shoes”

The need of time for American Muslims is to have a civil rights organization of their own consisting of American Muslim lawyers and journalists as well as Muslim elected officials who will be able to speak for them as one voice whose sole job is not to please agencies and bureaucrats in DC but defend the rights of all Americans but especially the most oppressed right now that is American Muslims.

I suggest to myself and all ordinary American Muslims to wake up and take charge of our religion as we have to take charge of our families, our health and our lives. We should learn Islam for ourselves as a religion of love, peace and tolerance and prove it by our individual actions. If we want to be counted as American Muslims, we must take all the concerns of Americans, whether terrorism, Anthrax, drugs, violence or even pollution as our own concerns.

We must show Islam by their actions, not by speeches, video tapes and pamphlets. We must denounce all those who use religion for their political gain and denounce political powers who wish to abase religion of Islam.

Thus, we as ambassadors of Islam, must be careful in what we say and to whom we lend our ears and even our money.

We must reclaim our faith from the terrorists who hijacked it and also from the leadership who apologize for them.

We did not do anything wrong so we should not have low esteem. Allah has chosen Islam for us and we are thankful for it. As for the question being asked “are you with us or with the terrorists?”, we say “we are neither with the terrorists nor with those intent to terrorize us.

We are here to stay, vote and participate in the American process and we are neither going back no can we be interned. Make no mistake!”

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