So is your impossible husband actually autistic?

Does your husband seem to lack any empathy for your emotions and yet get mortally wounded by the most light-hearted of comments you make?

Maybe he is clumsy, useless in social situations and seems to have no friends of his own. Is he, well, just ever more impossible?

This could well describe many middle-aged men – certainly, if you ask their long-suffering wives.

But they could be signs that he is autistic, experts say.

Justine Sullivan and her husband Chris, have been together for 16 years but learned three years ago that his 'difficult and frustrating' characteristics were actually Asperger's syndrome

Now research suggests thousands of British men with learning disability autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) have not been diagnosed.

Undiagnosed ASD may be the cause of marriage trouble for many couples, according to a woman who has set up a support group for wives who, like her, are in just this ‘devastating’ situation.

According to UK charity the National Autistic Society (NAS), ASD in adults can often be a ‘hidden disability’ with autistic people simply being thought of by those around them as ‘a bit odd’.

Indeed, Justine Sullivan, 44, admits that it was his ‘interesting and quirky personality’ that first attracted her to Chris, her partner of 16 years.

However, despite home ownership and the birth of sons Conor, seven, and Arlo, four, those ‘endearing characteristics’ quickly became ‘difficult and frustrating’.

At Justine’s insistence, three years ago Chris visited a psychotherapist and was diagnosed with a type of ASD known as Asperger’s syndrome.

The label has brought with it relief: an explanation for their problems, which helped the couple come to terms with their differences.

Alarmed by the lack of support available for the wives and partners of men with Asperger’s, Justine and therapist Krish Nath set up the Giraffe Support Group.

This takes the form of monthly workshops to help couples like them cope with the challenges of day-to-day life.

Justine says the strain that undiagnosed ASD puts on relationships leaves many women lonely and depressed. Some are unable to cope – and leave their partners.

She says: ‘People with the condition are very capable, hard-working and clever, and that can mask the real difficulties that they have.

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