I am dating someone that I think may (I am not into armchair diagnosis, it just looks like this may be the case) have Asperger's. I also seem to recognize a few things that may apply to myself, and will be speaking to a therapist about this.

I have gone through a year and a half of pain dating this guy, and feel very much relieved to know that there may be real reasons for the way he acts beyond the definition of "jerk" - which would apply only part of the time. (Which is why I'm still hanging in there.)

I've written something that I'd like to say to him, and I'm interested in knowing what people who actually have Asperger's think about it - how you'd feel if your very frustrated girlfriend said or wrote this to you.

Here goes:

Emotional and "niceness" reciprocity is a problem in this relationship.

What can I live with?

I need some reciprocity. When I do something nice, I would like something nice done for me in return. The reason for this is that it would make me feel good. I did the thing for you to make you feel good. It makes me feel good to make you feel good. So when you don’t reciprocate there is this odd little automatic dialog I probably learned for the first time in kindergarten or earlier – “I did the thing because I wanted him to feel good. He did nothing in return. Doesn’t he want me to feel good?” And it all goes downhill from there.

If I do nice things on occasion for you, but you don’t for me and this non-reciprocity goes on for too long, I worry that on some level (not necessarily deliberate or malicious) I may be being used. (People use those they love all the time. Some forms of use are benign, others feel bad. Even though the latter happens a lot, it still isn’t a nice feeling on the receiving end. I think people would have better relationships if they could avoid this except in ways they have accepted and agreed to. It’s probably better if that agreement is not only explicit but revocable – one might agree to something, then find out they really don’t like it.)

This desired reciprocity includes demonstrations of love and affection.

I have figured out that while you feel emotions, you may or may not be able to express deep feelings the way other people might expect. In the past, I have interpreted this as a lack of those emotions, but I now realize that while you may feel them you have a hard time transmitting that. Still, I would like a little more expression. It’s as if I am expected to know that you feel them, perhaps telepathically or at least empathetically.

But I am an adult who has experienced hurtful behavior from past partners. I am now more wary and self-protective than I was once, and I do not assume that just because someone loves me or acts like they do, that I know how they are feeling. I mean that there is some uncertainty there. We definitely have a linkage, but I’m not in your head, and the hostility you sometimes express when you’re uncomfortable can also tend to confuse me - you see, I read that hostility as lack of emotions or dislike for me.

While there is no need for constant self-monitoring and endless discussion, there are lots of ways to express affection that can be within your comfort level, yet expressive. I think the reason you are uncomfortable doing this at all is that you may be anticipating the extreme discomfort you clearly experience when it will get to be too much – for example an embrace that goes on too long for you - and dread that so much you don’t embrace me at all. But an embrace might be a really appropriate and helpful thing at that moment. I’ll be happy if you give me the embrace, and when it begins to be a bit much, lovingly disengage from it without having to get away from me entirely, which you would if it had gone to the point where it felt too much.

It occurs to me that if you can step just to the edge, or one step beyond, of your comfort zone and see that I don’t mind if you retreat back there quickly, maybe between us we can advance the boundary of the comfort zone gradually to a point I can live with too.

I don't mind if you do this and watch my reaction to see whether I’m telling the truth here - I know you need to test me rather a lot to see if I mean the things I say to you - but it would feel better if as you watched, you gave me the benefit of the doubt and watched me in anticipation of a positive and loving reaction, not in suspicion that I am just saying all of this to make you be affectionate against your will.