What your Asperger’s / Autistic partner or significant other probably wants you to know ~ Part I

First, a little background…

In terms of biology and anatomy, I’m female.

In terms of gender identity, I’m non-binary; I identify as mostly female, but with near-complete disregard for society’s traditional expectations and definitions of a stereotypical female.

I’m legally married to a man.  He’s becoming more understanding as we progress along this journey together.

I’m not heterosexual; I’m actually asexual.

I’m also bi-romantic; I’m very affectionate and can exchange affectionate words and gestures with either gender, equally.

That’s the standpoint from which I write this post, which adds a colored filter, a specific lens, through which my message may be biased.

Therefore, I can’t speak for anyone else; I can only speak for myself.  That said, I’ll try to keep this post as general and broadly applicable as possible.

Dear allistic (non-autistic) people with Aspergian/autistic partners/significant others, AKA  partners/significant others “with” Asperger’s/autism…

I’m an Aspie.  Meaning, I’m on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.  Being in a relationship with me/us can be somewhat interesting at times.  We may have “quirks”, habits, rituals, behaviors, or other nuances that you might find confusing, interesting, amusing, annoying, exasperating, or shocking.  You may wonder why we do/did or say/said something in particular.

I’m going to “let you in” on (my personal take on) relationships and partnering with an Aspergian/autistic person.  As alluded to above, anything I’m about to say probably won’t apply to all Asperger’s/autistic people; we’re all different, after all, and we need to be considered as such.  When in doubt, ask your Aspie/autist partner! 🙂

(I realize that I switch back and forth between “I/me” and “we/us” a lot; that is intentional.  I can only speak for myself, yet I have interacted with many other people on the spectrum, either passively by reading their writing, or actively by talking/chatting with them.  I’ve gleaned a lot of insight along the way, but I certainly don’t know everything, and although I know myself best, I’m realizing that I don’t even know everything about myself, either.)

With any luck, you were drawn to our quirkiness; it wasn’t something you “put up with”, either initially or over time.  Rather, hopefully, our quirkiness was something you were actually attracted to.  If this is the case, this bodes much better for the odds of success of the relationship in general.  We hope you can “tolerate” (and even enjoy/admire) our quirks on a “forever” basis, because they’re probably always going to exist, in some form or fashion.  If you’re hoping we’ll somehow “get over” them or that they’ll disappear over time, you’ll probably be disappointed.  But if you stick with us, we can enrich your life in multiple ways.

One of those ways is our straightforwardness.  When you ask us what’s wrong, and we say “nothing”, we’re probably not lying.  Our facial expressions may look to you like we’re irritated, depressed, or down, but we’re actually probably quite calm and relaxed.  We’re not the type to engage in game-playing, mind/head-games, or any other type of passive aggression or manipulation.  We generally say what we mean.  We might say it too bluntly for your tastes, but at least there’s little question about the truth, or where you stand with us.  You generally don’t need to worry about us hiding secrets from you or cultivating secret romances (we’re a typically pretty loyal bunch, as a whole).

We often develop “brain-crushes” on people; these are harmless and generally won’t deter from the strength of the relationship unless you make it–or let it become–an issue.

Before I get ahead of myself, there’s one exception to the answering-the-“what’s-wrong”-question-with-“nothing” scenario; sometimes, when something is bothering us, we may not know how to explain or describe it.  We may not be able to find the right words to express ourselves.  Or trying to find the right words is too cognitively exhausting for us, for one reason or another.  Or we may not even realize that something is bothering us in the first place.  Sometimes, we’re simply unaware.

When we do say something unexpectedly straightforward (i.e., “blunt”), we’re not trying to hurt you.  We’re simply saying something as directly as we can.  We’re trying to help you understand us, as thoroughly and quickly as possible.  We have little time or patience for game-playing ourselves, so there’s no hidden meaning or double-entente buried in our words.  There’s no hidden agenda, no underlying truth, other than our words themselves.  We’re not trying to be cold, distant, or mean; we’re simply operating uber-cerebrally, without as much of an emotional “softening” filter.  We’re trying to share with you, to build a bridge.

We’re often accused of being insensitive.  Actually, we’re often extra-sensitive.  We’re sensitive to our environments.  We’re sensitive to sensory input.  We’re sensitive to peoples’ “vibes”, becoming affected by the negativity of other people (even from across a room or on the road), even if we ourselves are not conscious of this effect.

We’re often accused of being irritable or angry.  This happened to me for many years.  I kept trying to insist that I wasn’t, which often–surprise, surprise–did end up in my becoming irritable or exasperated.  One of my “triggers” is people making assumptions/accusations about me, especially if they’re not true.  I don’t appreciate being told what I’m thinking or feeling or how I am, especially if the perception isn’t accurate.  Try not to judge or assume; that doesn’t help anybody.  Instead, consider a deeper root cause.  What ultimately helped me was the realization (by reading blogs, mostly) that my irritability/anger outbursts were almost always due to a knee-jerk reaction to something that triggered severe and sudden anxiety.  For decades, even I couldn’t tell the difference.  (Of course, we also do get genuinely angry, without the presence of anxiety, like anyone else.)

Please understand that when we express anger/irritability due to severe and sudden anxiety is usually NOT directed at you.  We may speak in forceful, intense tones of voice; we may express anger; we may indeed be angry.  But it’s not directed at you personally.  As difficult as it may be, try not to respond to us as though it is, because that doesn’t help the situation.

One real-life personal example: we’re driving in heavy traffic, and  I’m the one driving, and my partner is the passenger, so all of the (heavy) responsibility for keeping us alive and getting us to our destination safely rests solely on me.  Other drivers are making rude and aggressive moves on the road.  Several come very close to hitting us.  I react harshly, with my horn, and probably a gesture that includes one particular finger.  This is more than likely accompanied by a string of very strong four-letter words.  On the surface, it looks–and feels–like pure anger.  To the point where I got accused for many years of “having ‘anger issues’ “.  Ugh.

What escaped perception (his and mine) was the immediate, sudden, incredibly-intense, and split-second moment of sheer terror and panic that engulfed me immediately before the kneejerk anger-based response.  I ultimately realized that, in reality, the anger came from, “you asshole!  You came within inches of my truck, damn near hit us, endangered the lives and safety of both myself and my beloved partner, freaked me the hell out….and for what?–so that you could be one measly space in front of us and save–what–three milliseconds of travel time?  What the hell was that for?  Where’s your head, in your ass?”  In other (more friendly) words, I was incredibly scared, and equally-incredibly resentful that this jackhole caused that magnitude of fear, due to the magnitude of risk s/he posed to us.

This kind of situation is fear-based, folks–not “anger issues”.  In situations like these (and others), replace “anger” with “anxiety/fear”, and have a little sympathy.

We are indeed capable of love.  We feel it on both a very deep and complex level, and also on a very logical and cerebral level.  I don’t know for sure, but it’s probably not the same as what you feel/experience…or maybe it is.  No one knows for sure.  What we do know is that we often express it differently.  We may not (or we may) crave affection.  Sometimes we need less than “average” (whatever that is), and sometimes we actually need more.  (When in doubt, ask your partner!)

We are indeed capable of sex.  The anatomy is there, and the biology works.  Sex can be a tricky subject, though.  Not because we’re embarrassed or ashamed (although some of us can be); but because of the sensory extra-sensitivity mentioned above.  Yeah, that whole five-senses mechanism includes touch and texture, which means that sex-related sensations are also heightened, and often in an overwhelming/uncomfortable way.  It may actually be too much for our systems to handle.

So for those of you who experience a sexual drought in your relationships with Aspie/autistic people, please take to heart that the aversion to sex probably has zero (or very little) to do with you, and probably everything to do with our own tolerance levels.  Many of us, too, have excessive anxiety or brain activity that distracts and prevents us from even thinking about sex much.

Not everyone on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum operates like this, though; in fact, for some of us, sex may even become a “special interest” or area of interest or focus, and some of us may also actually be hypo- or under-sensitive and thus actually seek out that kind of stimulus/sensory input.  Others of us fall somewhere in between, perhaps needing to do things differently, or maybe needing to establish a routine.  (There’s a lot of variation in this area, so when in doubt, ask your partner!  Which brings me to my next point…)

…actually, this post as I had originally typed it got very lengthy, so I split it into two parts; the second part can be found here. 🙂 ❤


(Image Credit: kelogsloops)

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