Long term romantic relationships are a challenge for everyone. For someone on the autistic spectrum they can seem unrealistic and unmanageable. I say this as someone with a diagnosis of autistic spectrum condition who has been married for 14 years.
I was married relatively young at age 21. Prior to my marriage I had three other romantic relationships. It’s fair to say that when I got married I had very little idea of what being a partner to another for the rest of my life actually meant. Since getting my diagnosis of autism, and exploring my approach to marriage I’ve learned more about what being a loving partner and fully committing myself means, and I like it.
Prior to this I was confused, and anxious about my partnership. Don’t misunderstand, we’ve had some amazing times together, and I have always loved him in my own way. However my anxiety, as a result of having autism, has dominated and made communication difficult. Resulting in some challenging times.
Autistic spectrum condition and relationships;
Social communication difficulties.I have difficulties reading people, understanding their intention and responding appropriately. As you can imagine this makes things tricky for both partners in a romantic relationship. I’ve realised that I often read my husband wrong, which leads to misunderstanding. So I think a better approach is to ask for clarification. That makes communication much easier.
Anxiety. I get very anxious, and often this leads to negative thinking and sometimes I project this onto my husband. I can read a situation wrong and assume that he’s thinking badly of me, or that I have upset him in some way. Also I find it harder to put myself in his shoes because of my difficulties with theory of mind so I may not consider that he has his own things happening which are nothing to do with me. These days I’m working really hard to consider his situation much more in our day to day life.
Sensory issues. I have issues with light touch, certain smells, sounds and sensations. This can make being physically close to another person difficult. As a result I’m a bit awkward about hugging, and approaching people for physical contact. In short being a siren does not come naturally to me. We’re sold romance, neurotypical style, on every TV show and big screen, and this has made me feel insecure about my approach. These days, post diagnosis, I’d advise taking things at your own pace and not feeling weird about whatever works for you.
Alone time. I can’t handle too much stimulation and do need plenty of quiet time. Luckily my husband likes quiet time so in this way we are well matched. Since getting my diagnosis we’ve both understood this need more and I am able to tell him when I need to be quiet.
For his part my husband has been very sensitive about my diagnosis, and trying to understand the issues around it. I think that this is part of loving someone and would hope all partners would consider each others needs regularly. In my area there is a group for partners of someone on the autistic spectrum, educating and supporting those who are in a relationship of this kind. Otherwise there are books about marriage and relationships with someone on the spectrum and I’d say research is key.
We aspies can be challenging, and hard to understand but we also have many strengths and you can be sure that it’ll never be dull.