(Rambling thoughts on) Asperger’s / autism and love

It’s been almost a year since I stumbled upon the fact that I’m on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.  Right away, everything that I’d been wondering about, confused about, and beating myself up for was suddenly, simply, and neatly explained.  And right away, it became easy–and necessary–to reframe my life through my newly focused lens.

But you knew that.  🙂

What you may or may not know is that 10.5 months later, I’m still reframing.

Over the past year, every significant day that has come to pass has been my “first” as a (known) Aspie/autistic person.

Valentine’s Day is no different.

And by “no different”, I mean a few things…

It’s “no different” from the other holidays I’ve encountered in which, as I mentioned, I’m still reframing.

It’s “no different” from any other day on the calendar.  I’m hitched in every way possible (at least, that I can think of) – emotionally, logistically (we share an apartment and a business), financially, and legally.  We’re also almost-assuredly connected karmically

Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be a reminder to be nice to each other.

When you’re hitched, every day should be a day in which you’re sweet, caring, considerate, and friendly toward each other.  Every day should be one in which we’re “nice” to each other, saying nice things to and doing nice things for each other.

Valentine’s Day can also be divisive.  It can inadvertently pit the single and taken culture segments against each other–usually not in a personal, individual way, but in a broad, general way.  Its obsession with couple-hood can marginalize those who are single.

I’ll explain…

If you’re single, you either want to be, or you don’t.

If you’re single and happy being single, then (it goes without saying) you’re content being single.  Your life is complete and satisfying as it is, and you don’t need the rest of the world implying that you’re “strange”, “cold”, “unloving”, or “weird” for being single.  You don’t need the rest of the world telling you what to do and putting you in the possible position of feeling like you have to defend yourself or justify your choice.  You don’t need everyone rubbing their coupledom in your face.  And they shouldn’t be.

If you’re single and would prefer not to be, Valentine’s Day can be downright depressing.  You don’t need the rest of the world reminding you what a “loser” (they imply) that you “are”.  You don’t need to be reminded that you’re lonely.  You don’t need to go grocery shopping or watch TV commercials and get bombarded with the message that “everybody’s doing it, so it must be a character flaw that you can’t”.  You don’t need everyone rubbing it in your face.  And they shouldn’t be.

Nobody needs any of that crap.

Adding salt to the wound is the fact that V-day wouldn’t get so much press if it didn’t have anything to sell.  Its perceived importance is thrust upon the rest of us, who have no choice but to play the role of the sitting duck, unless we stay inside that day with the TV (and any other source of advertising) turned off.  The importance is purely a commercial-social construct.  Advertisers want to sell you chocolate, wine, and flowers that will die after a week.  They want to sell you outlandish items that far outweigh the actual meaning of the day, like luxury cars and diamonds.

All of this V-day shizz is completely unnecessary.  I think that people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum inherently understand that.  And relationships can be a thorn in our sides (whether we’re single or not) as it is – we don’t need to make a whole production out of it.  We don’t need the fuss or the fanfare.

And I resent being sent the message by the mega-companies and their advertising firms that I’m a piece of crap if I don’t get my partner a Lexus for V-day, or that he’s a piece of crap if I don’t get one on V-day.  And a person can only drink so much wine or eat so much chocolate (which is a borderline sacrilegious statement, I know).  🙂

As an Aspie, I’ve looked upon Valentine’s Day very pragmatically.  OK, cool – a day of love.  A day of celebrating partnership.  That’s nice.

But, as an Aspie, relationships have given me plenty of headaches throughout my life.  There’s the Headache of Misunderstanding.  The Headache of (Inaccurate) Assumptions.  The Headache of Accusations.  The Headache of Betrayal/Dishonesty/Lies.  The Headache of Absenteeism/Distance (usually from them, toward me).  The Headache of Cluelessness.  The Headache of Feeling Used.  And so on, and on, and on…

And although I’ve been in my current partnership for almost 18 years, we don’t make a big production out of V-day, either.  It’s another day.  We’ve gotten each other gifts on the occasional V-day in the past and all that, but we go to work, do our thing, come home, feed the cats, watch TV, and go to bed.  That’s about it.  Nice, simple, routine.  And for us, V-day is no different.

I’m diagnosed as Aspie/autistic, and I have a strong suspicion that my partner may be on the spectrum, too.  So V-day is doubly-ordinary for us.

After all, how do you celebrate a day of partnership-flavored love when you already have a different approach to love?

By a “different approach” I mean that although I usually know if I love someone, I don’t always.  I may not realize I love someone.  I may not be able to identify or express what I’m actually thinking/feeling toward that person, and I may find tougher yet to be able to tell that it’s love.

By “different approach” I also mean that even in cases in which I can determine that I love someone, I might not be able to manage that feeling.  I might loom over my head, out of control.

“Different approach” can also mean that I express that love differently.  I might be quite fond of someone without spending much time with them.  I don’t have to be in the same room with them.  I can love someone from afar.  I can hang out with them in my dreams.  I can interact with them online.  Even given the opportunity to physically spend time together, I might need to be given plenty of space, plenty of room to have regular doses of Alone Time.

My version of a “different approach” to love also involves different types of love.  My partner is male, we’re conventionally married, and that partnership is a one-of-a-kind deal.  I’m loyal to him; I have no other partnership of this kind with anyone else.  But there are some types of love that I can only describe as not-partnership, but not-platonic, either.  They go deeper than that.  How deep do they go and where does it take me?  I can’t always describe it.  It’s innocent enough, sure; there’s nothing I feel for anyone else that could be considered adultery or cheating or anything.  I think sometimes it’s a brain-crush.  I think other times it’s an affectionate type of love (sometimes complete with physical touch), but without a single hint of anything sexual.  And I think that sometimes it’s a feeling of sibling-hood, like spirit siblings.

For me, these could all be considered types of love.  For me, gender does not matter; all types of non-partnership love is equal-opportunity.  I’ve had brain-crushes on people of both genders, non-sexually affectionate relationships with both, and spirit-sibling feelings toward both.

A “different approach” can also pertain to how I relate to my partner.  Although I’m a huggy person, I’ve been affectionately starved for so long that I’d long ago given up on the idea of getting hugged on a regular basis.  It hurts sometimes, but there’s a callous there now instead of rawness.  The partnership we have is pragmatic and familiar.  The familiarity breeds a sort of soft comfort.  Some might call it a rut.  I’m not sure if it is or not; the verdict could change directions with the wind.  Right now, I don’t think it’s too rutty, though.

I do know that we do deeply care for each other.  We share unique characteristics and a common (to us but otherwise unusual) communication mode.  I also know that we’re both perfectly happy doing our own thing by ourselves, coming together periodically to make contact at our convenience and whenever we feel like it.  At least it’s not smothering.  But I’d also long ago given up on asking myself how I feel about that arrangement and expecting myself to be able to answer.

All I can say is, I don’t know the answer, but at least I’m used to it.  I’m OK with the way it is.  I’ve learned to work with it, use it to my advantage, turn the sources of pain into parameters of opportunity.  For example, if I wasn’t alone as much of the time as I am, I probably wouldn’t be able to blog or interact online as much as I do.  So, instead of believing I’m being neglected, ignored, and left unloved, I might think of it as his giving me space to explore, connect, and be who I am.  And he’s very gracious about the time I spend on the computer and my mobile.  Maybe that’s just because he’s happy to have sole control over the TV, but the result is the same: I have some space and freedom.  I get to be me.

I’m typically a romantic at heart, but the entire concept of romance has been lying dormant in the shadows for a long time.  I’ve lost track of the length of time that has elapsed since I’ve adjusted.

Instead, I’ve gravitated toward information, projects, creating, and producing.  Information doesn’t need to be impressed or convinced to stick around.  Information doesn’t require anything from you; it just gives to you–what you want, when you want it, and however often.  It’s not going to judge you for jumping up and down with glee when you find it.  It doesn’t give you any stink-eyes or death-glares.  It doesn’t misinterpret you or get all haughty by something you said.  It’s just there–utilitarian, dependable, reliable, and constant.  Projects don’t need constant attention.  Creating doesn’t need endless reassurance.  Which is…reassuring.  It brings out the best–as opposed to the worst–in me.  It lets me shine.  My partner does, too, but my activities don’t require that I consider anyone else.

That probably sounds pretty selfish.  Some would jump on the narcissism label.  At least, they might dust off the Asperger’s/autism spectrum diagnostic criteria and pull the antisocial card.  I can definitively state that I’m not narcissistic.  I’ll give you selfish, although I must qualify that with the fact that I don’t think it’s an immaturity issue.  Rather, it’s an anxiety or uneasiness feeling.  Other people can be complicated and unpredictable, which can further clutter and overload my brain.  I can’t predict what they’ll say or what they might think of me.  Since I’ve stopped judging myself so much, I find that I’m a decent playmate…or at least a more content person.

One survival strategy I use that becomes especially applicable for me as an Aspie is to keep logic in the driver’s seat and emotions strapped down in a box.  In the trunk.  And slam the trunk lid down.  It’s not so much that I stuff my emotions in order to look tough or anything; I simply keep them on the sidelines in favor of logic.  If the emotions are standing on the sidelines, they don’t meddle in the game.  Since I can’t identify them half the time anyway, I imagine that it would probably be useless to bring them out more often. They might just get in the way and muck things up, and likely for no solid reason.

I wonder if my clinging to logic and detachment is causing the expansive space in our relationship, or if has it formed as a result of it?  Am I creating the situation, or adjusting to it?  Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Ahh, so many questions.

And such is the life of love and relationships for many of us Asperger’s/autistic people.  Love is a strong and enigmatic emotion.  Sometimes it’s too strong, and we turn down its volume as a self-defense mechanism.  Sometimes it hijacks the driver’s seat of our brain, forcing us to act in ways other than typical for our true selves.  And sometimes the story is more nebulous than that–undefinable, like trying to divide a number by zero.

A day like V-day, well, can be tricky and awkward.  It embodies all of those thoughts and emotions, wrapping them up into one bundle of hot mess.  That’s probably why I’ve chosen to look at it as Just Another Day.  My life is simpler that way.  I like simple.  I don’t dread it or get bummed about V-day, nor do I/we celebrate it.  Our partnership is pretty good; but even so–and even if it wasn’t–V-day isn’t exactly a make-or-break kind of day for us/me.  Popular culture sends the wrong message to practically everybody on/about V-day.  It’s just yet one more artificial social construct, dreamed up by the neurotypical desire for social engineering, psychological manipulation, and commercialism at any cost.  Even at the cost of our emotions.  The insistence upon V-day as a big deal can ruin days or weeks of a large segment of people, primarily in the name of making a quick buck for a few select industries.  Society is sociopathic that way.

My Aspie/autistic brain feels repelled toward these concepts, so why would I want to “give in” and “celebrate” a day that should be unlike any other (whether from a single or partnered perspective)?

It’s a farce and the public at large hasn’t gotten around to calling its bluff yet.  Consider it called; I have an alternative idea…

We could call it Alternative Valentine’s Day.  We could possibly hashtag it “#AltVal”, using it instead to express our “love” for, or our deep caring about, and/or our appreciation for each other, our genuine friends, and the cooler members of our families.  We could get together with them instead, either online or offline (as applicable) and send each other cool digital art of hearts or whatever (however we choose to express ourselves).  It’s commercialism-free, it costs nothing, it takes mere seconds, and it spreads our warm feelings and inter-connectedness toward wider boundaries, higher altitudes, and greater depths.

It’s much more inclusive, unifying, open-minded, and wholesome.

The conventional-shaped “couples” do not have a monopoly on a day of benevolence.

***

(Image Credit: Laura Iverson)

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

16 Comments

  1. Well, I am single and will be forever so I can’t say that I really experience romantic love. Actually I’m not sure I personally experience love at all. I don’t even really “love” my family per se. Am I drawn to certain people for whatever reason? Sure. I’ve even had girlfriends, but even then I wouldn’t say I loved them. I don’t really have any friends either, save for a few casual friends (most notably the employees at my favorite local eatery/watering hole – they all know me by name and it’s always good to go in, have a beer, a wood-fired pizza and just BS with them).

    I don’t know, maybe I just process things differently? I don’t know how to describe it but it’s weird.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “there are some types of love that I can only describe as not-partnership, but not-platonic, either. They go deeper than that. How deep do they go and where does it take me? I can’t always describe it. It’s innocent enough, sure; there’s nothing I feel for anyone else that could be considered adultery or cheating or anything. I think sometimes it’s a brain-crush.”

    if this is your way of telling me you want me to buy you a lexus, i got the hint ❤ although theyre going to have to accept a VERY creative payment plan…

    i dont think theres anything wrong with loving someone, so lets not beat around the bush. the great thing about being on the spectrum is that we can articulate exactly what we mean to– to the point where nts cant take it literally (and mangle it in all their weird cultural nt filters that read between the lines in all sorts of curious ways) in situations where we are capable of *unparalleled* honesty, fairness, and humanity. im not saying our way is always better (but how could "their way" always be?)

    so i will just put it as simply as it can be said– as should be (and probably is) obvious, im not here to take you from your lucky husband. for countless reasons (regardless of marriage, which is one more) our relationship isnt physical. if you put your arms around me, id let you, i dont think theres a scandal there. if we "flirt" its mostly around the fact that we have so much in common, or like each other so much (this is the main theme) or that we admire our mutual traits in each other. i think that is a perfectly (if not perfectly, then 99.9% kosher, and i think we can probably live with that) 🙂 innocent kind of love.

    with that said, i think its pretty safe to come right out and say it: i love you. it isnt shameful– as far as im concerned, anyone who *doesnt* love you has something wrong with them. im certain im not the only friend that loves you (im pretty sure anna loves you, and she said pretty much literally that, and i said "its perfectly mutual" and she liked the comment. you see where im going with that?)

    the real "scandal" here is that we talk about it openly. we say it out loud. we find new and fun ways to express it. as if love was at one point so reduced in meaning that it could only be expressed between two married people, and immediate family. well you know what? i am happy (indeed honored) to be considered your brother (with or without quotes) for as long as i live, and you may adopt me as such for a lifetime, or for however long it suits you. and even if theres ever a 1% tinge of incest about it? im not going to complain ❤ heck its probably my own fault if there is 🙂

    and what does it mean? it means that english is a little too limited. when we say "friend" it sounds a little too much like "i love you" so we want something to call that. i think we might as well call it love, because thats probably what it is. and i dont think that needs to be taboo. im agnostic, but there is no commandment to "like your neighbor a lot as yourself." LOVE is what we are supposed to do!

    and i think (i insist) that its ok if you have found your way to being my second favorite person– in the entire world. even if someone else moves up that far (i think you could actually be my favorite, but youd find it difficult to oust the friend of mine that kissed me in january, if only because she kissed me in january.) as i said once already– how could ANYONE NOT love you?

    youre a genius, youre kind, you show an extremely rare level of courage– not just the latest brand of surviving lifes pitfalls "shes so brave" (ugh– sure its true, but it sounds really awful) but about things that NO ONE needs to be courageous about– speaking up, speaking out, going against conventions in ways that really can get a person into trouble when they could just be quiet and be "fine."

    but then we do also have worlds in common. we do really like talking to each other. and i do love few things more than i love hearing from you. i know its love, because the way i feel when i read something from you is a lot the way i feel when the girl that kissed me puts her arms around me and says "i love you."

    its a better way to live. and we should all be doing it every day, with as many people as we can. sure, you still get your life partner and thats good too– ive spent my whole life looking for one. (the first girl i ever wanted to marry– other than the bi-racial celebrity crush a year earlier– youve seen the girls picture) ive gotten very close to having one (both in the woman i married and the woman i was with when my marriage fell apart.)

    but id never tell you that i dont love you, because that will probably never be the case. friendship is when someone is important to you– and love is when friendship means so much to you, that a person lives in your heart forever.

    i cant be ashamed of that. i would be ashamed though, to ever deny it.

    नमस्ते– ke a o rata. i love you– and youre right, it shouldnt be one day of the year. i love you everyday, too. if more people understood it the way we do, fewer people would feel lonely on this dreadful day. 🙂

    whatever you choose to tell me, i know, its either mutual or its close enough for me. ❤ http://www.metrolyrics.com/just-the-way-you-are-lyrics-billy-joel.html

    also this is your second-best post ever. the best one is still the one where you talk about the icd-10. if you ever top that it will be a miracle, and yet you dont really need to. just be you every day, and youll be amazing ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I never had any problem with Valentine’s Day. Neither did my husband. It had no connection to our lives, so it was just something that other people did. It seems to me that all your analysis, while I do understand it as your reaction to it, wouldn’t even exist in a culture which didn’t allow itself to be defined by artificial constructs like holidays, especially one as blatantly commercial as Valentine’s Day.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Exactly 😊 I don’t mind it as much myself; I do feel for those for whom it’s a source of emotional pain or discomfort. And I completely agree with you about how it wouldn’t even be a big deal in a world not led around so tightly by the invisible commercialistic ring through the nose 😊 V-day itself isn’t the problem, per se; it’s society’s obsession with the money part and the inferred insistence upon being part of a couple ❤️

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I am glad you have found something that works for you. Unfortunately, for me, I am that rare breed of autist that seems to long for a bit of sentimentality-and my husband is not. I despise commercialism, so it’s not about the stuff. Perhaps it comes of a childhood where I craved love and never fully had it. I crave being known. And, yesterday, in the complete lack of any reminder of his affection ( and offhand jokes about my attempts), I am reminded that, even as much as I thought I was known my fellow autist husband, I am not always. Oh, he loves me in his way, and I hate to be one of those typical, obnoxious, boo-hooing wives, but, today, honestly, I realize an area where I wish we were like everyone else….or that I could be logical and dismiss these foolish longings like so many others on the spectrum seem to be able to….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean, girl! 😊 Thank you for sharing your perspective! I’m prone to sentimental tendencies myself at times, too. Being that my partner is yin-yang in the love expression department, I sometimes feel like I’m riding waves, with their peaks and valleys lol ❤️💜

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It is sad that every religious holiday has become a license to print money. Secular society has left the Saint part out of Valentine’s Day. Saint Valentine was a celebate Catholic pastor whose ministry was of love of God and love of people. He had a special affinity for neurodiverse people, and is one of the patron saints of people with epilepsy. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Valentine

    The concept of “soul siblings”, and “brain crushes”, reminds me of a televised sermon on the program Food for Life by Father Mark Goring on God’s love and relationship with God’s people. That, to me, is what Saint Valentine’s Day is really about.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Omg how cool! 😊😊 Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and this info! That’s actually *really* neat! Your comment brightened my day! Thank you for that, too ❤️❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You had me right up until the idea of Alternative Valentines Day. I feel the same resistance to a specific day for expressing my love and appreciation for friends as I do for a lover. That feels like a constraint, a demand, a fake construction, every bit as the mainstream version.

    However, the rest of what you said was thought-provoking, adding to my pot of formulating and mixed thoughts and feelings about my own single condition, so thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s true 😊❤️. I definitely wouldn’t be in favor of anything constraining or demanding, and definitely nothing that would come across as fake 💖. I threw it out there as an option/idea for those who might want to participate in something like that, but definitely not something that would be forced or limiting ❤️. I’m so glad you enjoyed the rest! 😉. Being single is indeed a bit more complex at times than it might seem; I’ve been there, lots. Like you, I had mixed feelings about it. As with anything, there are pros and cons 😊. Not that I’m trivializing your situation by saying “everything/everyone is like that”, because that’s not true 😊. I just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone; you’ve always got a friend here, one who appreciates everything you have to say ❤️

      Like

  7. Love is a strange concept to me. Relationships have always been hopeless, mainly because of misunderstandings, and of course now I know why. Before I thought I had serious commitment issues based on my past but I know its more complicated than that. The difference with my husband is that he is Aspie and we understand each other on a mental level completely. Its the first time I’ve experienced that kind of compatibility. I love him, but its not a conventional relationship to outside eyes. I cant say I’ve ever ‘fallen in love’, or not that I’ve known. Fallen in lust, in intense obsession too many times, always with someone utterly unobtainable (perhaps that’s unconsciously deliberate on my part). I’m not a romantic in the traditional sense, romantic gestures mean nothing to me (another problem in the past). Valentines Day is just another day to me, utterly meaningless. I have the feeling I dont experience love all in the same way as most, I dont understand what is expected of me, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel. Its like I’m missing something internally or something. Yet I crave an intense passionate relationship of a type that would drive me crazy, scared and make me completely unstable (and probably would run away from if ever offered tbh). I know the chances of that are next to zero, and it makes me incredibly sad, grief stricken, like I’ve missed out. It leaves me so confused.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is too cool that you have an Aspie husband! It feels like mine has one foot in each pool lol 😉. Yeah, love is really confusing to me, too; you’re definitely not alone. I hadn’t known that I was asexual; into my 30s, which are almost over, I thought I was straight but “weird”, and I also had (non-sexual but very-intense) feelings toward some females, which left me very confused about my sexuality for the longest time. I’ve been in love but it has flipped on and off without warning. I was pretty distraught over that. Then I realized that I’m not supposed to be infatuated all the time, so I was able to relax a little about that. What my partner and I have is pretty stable and solid; to get that, I had to give up any hope of an intense all-consuming whirlwind that flows with passion. Hell, I’m not even sure if I would know how to experience passion the way most people do 😊. Realizing I’m Aspie/autistic has laid a lot of the anxiety to rest. The relationship I have might sound really boring to some, the stuff of bridge-burning desires, but it’s become routine, which, since it’s not unhealthy, is good in my book 😊💓. It’s very mild, very familiar, passion-less, and predictable. It’s more like we need each other, although for different reasons. It’s like being siblings but not in a gross way. It’s like we’re two lone wolves who happen to be traveling the same path, so we walk side by side. 😊

      But yeah, I know what you mean; I’ve been there, too (at least my own version of it) 💝💝

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds very similar to my relationship, very safe, very secure if not very ‘set the world alight’. My problem is I have always had an intense attraction to Byronic Hero type characters and C is definitely not that, more a typical Aspie geek. I know he is the best for me, no one else has cared for me like him, yet something in me wants the Byron and is a little gutted I never will. Selfish, stupid, and in vain…I know, and I hate myself a little for it. If anything learning the Aspieness (together with getting older) has made it all the plainer that I will never attract the type I’m attracted to. And thats a horrible feeling for me.

        Liked by 1 person

Please feel free to add your thoughts!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s