Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome: Unveiling the Hidden Struggles


Living with a partner or family member with Asperger syndrome (AS) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be challenging for neurotypical individuals. Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome (OTRS) is a long-term trauma-based condition experienced by those constantly subjected to psychological distress within close relationships.

Unmasking OTRS

OTRS is a natural response seen in neurotypicals who endure prolonged traumatic stress within intimate relationships. The symptoms resemble those experienced by individuals enduring emotional and psychological torment over an extended period. What makes OTRS particularly distressing is that it occurs within the confines of home, where the surrounding people often deny its existence.

The effects of OTRS gradually manifest, potentially lasting for decades, causing insidious damage to the neurotypical spouse and children.

Unraveling the Symptoms

The symptoms of OTRS are varied and often present as stress-related health issues. These manifestations arise due to the neglect and disregard neurotypical partners experience when living with someone with Asperger’s syndrome or ASD. Physical illnesses, stress-related health problems, depression, fear, loss of self-esteem, doubting one’s reality, loneliness, fatigue, and involuntary social isolation are common symptoms. Strikingly, some of these symptoms align with those endured by partners of sociopaths.

Understanding the Origins

At the core of OTRS lies the psychological trauma endured by neurotypical partners living with individuals who struggle to engage in reciprocal relationships. They display limited or no reciprocity, empathy, or compassion. They struggle with communication, fail to recognize their partner’s reality, and exhibit difficulty understanding others’ intentions and emotions. Their limitations extend to complex thinking, relationship nurturing, acknowledging their own actions, conflict resolution, negotiation, impulse control, and adult responsibility.

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Furthermore, the problem is compounded when surrounding individuals, including therapists and doctors, remain oblivious to or dismiss the unconventional reality faced by the neurotypical partner. Sharing the truth about their experiences becomes taboo, often intertwined with domestic violence, further delaying the initiation of outsiders into the situation.

The Cassandra Phenomenon

Attempting to confide in others about living with someone who has Asperger’s syndrome often leads to disbelief. The typical reaction is, “But he/she seems so nice!” This disbelief does not stem from superficiality or indifference; rather, it arises from the fact that individuals with Asperger’s are adept at mimicking social behavior, concealing their true selves unless faced with unfamiliar situations. This disbelief and lack of support deepen the burden carried by neurotypical spouses.

OTRS is also known as the Cassandra phenomenon. In Greek mythology, Cassandra possessed prophetic abilities and a gift of foresight. However, when she rejected the god Apollo’s advances, he cursed her, ensuring that no one would believe her prophecies.

Escaping the Cycle

Asperger syndrome has only gained recognition within the last two decades, with professionals primarily focusing on assisting children and young people in overcoming the challenges posed by the developmental disorder. Unfortunately, limited professional attention is given to the plight of neurotypical partners of adults with Asperger’s syndrome.

Some therapists even advise neurotypical partners to further accommodate the eccentricities and unconventional behavior of their Asperger’s-afflicted spouse. This advice is not only damaging but also intensifies the anxiety experienced by neurotypicals, who constantly tiptoe around potential outbursts and lack of impulse control.

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This constant fear often leads to isolation, as families are wary of disruptions to their Asperger’s partner’s routines and self-centeredness. The home atmosphere becomes filled with anxiety, leaving no room for enjoyment or spontaneity – a manifestation of the ongoing traumatic relationship syndrome.

Seeking Help and Support

The pioneering work on Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome (OTRS) can be attributed to Karen Rodman, the founder and director of FAAAS Inc., established in 1997. FAAAS, which stands for Families of Adults Affected by Asperger’s Syndrome, is a non-profit organization that provides support and guidance to families impacted by ASD. Their efforts also focus on educating the public and raising awareness of how AS affects neurotypical spouses and family members. For more information, visit Six Minute Dates.

Date: 12th December 2014
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