The fondness spectrum

In the neurotypical world, there is generally a limited gradient in terms of the type and intensity of fondness that one person may have for another.

There is love, such as what one feels for a close family member.

There is love, such as what one feels for a partner or significant other.

There is like-a-lot, the kind that one might feel towards a good, long-time friend.

There is “just friends”, which is how one might regard other good friends who aren’t their “best” friends, but a good friend nonetheless.

There’s lukewarm-like, such as the benevolent, casual feeling one might have toward an acquaintance.

In certain situations, there’s also the infatuation/”crush” that one often develops toward someone one is attracted to.

In another type of certain situation, there’s a purely sexual attraction, in which the people find each other nice to look at and the chemistry flows between them, but they might not make great life partners, or even friends.

But in the neurotypical world, these categories are generally clearly divided.  There’s hardly any blurring or crossover, unless two people decidedly change their bond’s status.  And in the neurotypical world, one’s anatomical gender and sexual orientation automatically dictate which of the above options are available, at least to a point.  For example, eyebrows might elevate when a male and female are seen together, it is assumed that they’re either “just friends”, or they’re sleeping together.  There seems to be no allowance made for an in-between.

As usual, my experience as an autistic/Aspergian person is different.  And I have sound reason to think that I’m in plenty of company.

I experience different types of bonding that may not be common among the “rest of the world”.  Sifting through them can be challenging, as not only are they uncommon, but English language lacks the words in its language, and Western civilization lacks these concepts in its culture.

I’ll do my best to describe a few…

Deep, Intense Fascination:

I feel different kinds of…I’m not sure what to call it.  Love?  Attraction?  Chemistry?  Infatuation?  Although I don’t know how to classify or describe it, I do know that it’s not the same as the “typical” categories neurotypical place other people in.

I’ve always had what I call a fascination for certain people.  As in, utterly fascinated.  I can articulate the fact that it’s a strong, strong attraction.  There is no trace of any sexual overtone; their appearance is immaterial, as are their age (although they’re usually older) and gender (equal opportunity there).  On the surface, I appear to be a devotee (at best) or a stalker (at worst).  The truth is, I’m neither of those, but it may take on an “obsessive” appearance when considered only superficially.  I will want to know everything about the person with whom I’m fascinated.  Everything about them interests me, makes me laugh, or draws me in even more strongly.  I will think about them all the time.  Little nuances about them, phrases they’ve said or jokes they’ve made and long forgotten about will echo in my head for days, weeks, or months afterward, popping up at random, no matter what I’m doing at the time, and each time they do, I will feel an involuntary smile spread across my face as the memory washes over me warmly.  The slightest word, look, or touch, no matter how incidental, no matter how insignificant for them (or anybody else) will make my whole world, meaning everything to me.  I exercise strong self-censorship so as not to come off creepy to them or possessed to other people, who would quickly tire (and have quickly tired) of hearing about the person with whom I’m fascinated.  I’ve learned that the hard way, through multiple strings of embarrassing moments.

Generally, I’m more likely to feel this way about people older than I am, usually by at least 10-35 years.  Mostly, they’ve been teachers or someone in a position of potentially-nurturing authority.

Spirit Siblings / Spirit Family:

There are people whom I simply, effortlessly “click” with, and come to bond closely with.  I can only describe this as a love or a deep caring for that person.  It goes beyond platonic, but there is no magnetic attraction, per se; it’s simply a feeling of deep and sincere kinship.  Of course, here again, sexual attraction or desires never enter the equation at all.  And here again, age, gender, and appearance don’t matter one bit; they can be male or female.  I would consider them fellow “tribe members”, “soul siblings”, “spirit siblings”, or “kindred spirits”.  I feel a strong sense of camaraderie with them, and we are gentle with each other, possessing a near-automatic understanding, much of it unspoken, although we’re not necessarily shy with our words toward each other, either.  There is a sense of earthy realism, comfort, and peace.  I feel an instinctual trust with them.  I’m at ease in their virtual or physical presence, and not only do I love who they are, but they bring out the best in me, too, so I feel more comfortable with myself when I’m around them.

In general, I’m more likely to bond this way with people of any age or gender, and usually we share a quirky minority status, such as being on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, a different race/ethnicity/culture, an unconventional gender identity or sexual orientation (even though, again, there is absolutely nothing sexual involved in what I feel toward them), or some other orientation that sets us together with each other, and apart from the rest of the world.  Most of these folks are online, although some are also part of my offline life.

Lone Wolves, Traveling Together:

These are friends, online or offline, any age and gender, (etc) with whom I don’t converse much, but who I feel are sort of “right there with me”, even from a distance, whether that distance is geographical, emotional, virtual, or other.  We may come together only sporadically, but when we do, we can easily pick up where we left off, even if we don’t know each other all that well.  We go off and live our lives, doing our own thing, being our own people, only periodically checking in, and then we sort of pop up on each other’s radar like popcorn and reconnect for a short bit.  Conversations usually occur electronically, either by email, direct message, or what-have-you, and they usually have no beginning and no end.  We simply respond and initiate conversation as we feel like, have time for, or are awake enough to.

The Innocent Crush:

This type of bond is like going back to elementary/primary school or junior high/middle/secondary school, when one usually started to notice people for the first time and develop their first crush.  There’s a beyond-platonic attraction there, too, which compels me to steal momentary sideways glances when (I hope) they’re not looking, or to pine for them in an innocent way, attracted to them in an indescribable way from afar.  The key word here is innocent; I’m so not going to cheat on my partner, of course; I’m a monogamous and faithful person.  This can happen with either gender, too.  One can consider it to be a mild version of the fascination, except that it doesn’t come across quite as “obsessive”.  I’d still like to know a lot about them, and I may think of them quite fondly, but I don’t need to nail down every detail of their Timeline of Life or remember every word they said.  I might giggle a bit too loud (before I catch myself and abruptly stifle it), and I might gaze at them for a moment too long, but usually it goes unnoticed by those around me.  It’s a bit easier to contain.

Sometimes, the act of attempting to make sense of these types of bonds is futile, as their descriptions are elusive, undefined, and sometimes unquantifiable.  It may be that the words exist in my native language but they’re so rarely used that I’m not aware of them.  It may be that the right words don’t exist at all.  It might be that various types of bonds straddle across multiple existing neurotypically-recognized categories and thus are tough to pin down precisely.  It may be that the emotions I associate with these bonds might be too powerful to gauge or even contain.  I might be trying to measure them with a certain “normal” emotion-o-meter and yet…like everything else in my Aspergian/autistic-flavored life, they cannot be measured using a regular instrument; these emotions might be marching to the beat of their own drum kits, blazing their own paths in the jungle that is the world at large.

I think that this predicament is largely the result of a combination of the following:

  • A different way of relating to people (i.e., what the neurotypical world sees as a “social impairment”)
  • The social awkwardness that accompanies this different way of relating to others
  • The simultaneous different ways of identifying and expressing emotions, yet experiencing these emotions on an incredibly deep and almost-unreachable level
  • A different method of processing (which neurotypical “experts” might describe as “delayed”, while I simply explain it as “delayed because it’s more thorough and, like emotions, it runs deeper” (which may be largely responsible for the “obsessive”-like surface appearance))

These bonds and their accompanying feelings bring senses of happiness, elation, and even sometimes euphoria, but they also include feelings of self-consciousness and vulnerability in their package deal.  This especially comes with disclosure.  For some reason, perfectly plausible-sounding phrases like, “you seem cool!  Let’s be friends” or “I love you like a brother” are Simply Not Uttered in the conventional neurotypical world–at least not without people shrinking back (sometimes visibly) and wondering if you’re their own personal celebrity stalker.  There’s a real risk in disclosing these types of feelings to the vast majority of people; doing so can be a surefire way to get them to disappear entirely, even though my intent was the exact opposite.

This all means that I usually have to harbor my bonds, attractions, emotions, and so on, in secret, which makes me feel even “weirder”.  As if I don’t feel “weird” enough already, just for possessing these feelings, but feeling like I have to hide them only adds to the pile of strangeness and alienation that have become all-too-familiar.

Most likely a by-product of acting and masking, I’ve learned to use neurotypical-world-friendly terms to describe these other people in my life.  “Fascinations” become “role models” in conversation.  “Innocent crushes” become simply “friends, “lone wolves” become “pen pals” (or some other similar term), and “spirit siblings (etc)” become “online friends”, if I even dare mention them to neurotypical people at all in the first place.  The neurotypical world in general does not seem to understand these abyss-deep emotions, thoughts, and attractions.  When faced with a third choice between “just friends” and “sleeping together”, the neurotypical world freezes and crashes, unable to compute.

But that’s OK.  It’s OK on its own, and it feels even more OK since I found out that I’m not alone.  Many of my fellow Aspie/autie friends “get” me, a “getting” that has brought me a glitter pile of peace and self-acceptance.

As for the rest of the world?  They don’t necessarily need to know.  They wouldn’t understand, and they’re not any better or worse off.  I can keep my “secrets”; they’re my consolation prize for my acting and masking efforts. 🙂

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55 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Aspie Under Your Radar and commented:
    Yeah, this is a tricky one. Where are the boundaries? Where does friendship begin and end? Are you even my friend, or have I imagined it all? Or do you love me dearly, and I totally missed all the clues?

    It’s a spectrum, for sure. And it’s a very confusing one, at that!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you very much for your lovely compliment! Asperger’s/autism is a *hugely* under-recognized condition in adults. Many of us “slipped by” under the radar all this time, for one reason or another (there are many) 🙂 If you’re curious and would like to begin the journey to find out if you are, simply google “aspergers quiz” – there are a few excellent, research-supported quizzes that take a matter of minutes, provide instant scoring, and are *free* to take 🙂 Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions! I’m always here ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  2. WOW! Again, I am in awe of you. Your ability to not only identify these feelings but also explain them is fantastic. I totally get your explanations. I can’t say that I’ve felt the fascination but then I’m just a boring ol’ NT😜 I have felt the spirit family and it’s wonderful. I also have many online friends (No time for friends in real life – I did a post on that) and we do the same thing. I kind of envy your neurology. Thanks for sharing with us!😘💚

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Awwww thank you Fig!! I’m in awe of you, too – hey everybody – his guy’s brain is amazing!! I love his thoughts and his blog.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL I love it! You’re one of The Absolute Coolest NTs I’ve ever met 🙂 Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m relieved that the explanations were well-understood. It was a challenge to zero in on them and quantify them, but hey–if another neuro-type can understand them, it must have worked! (I mean that in a good way – different neurotypes is different neurotypes, and when running different brain-operating-systems, words and concepts can get jumbled sometimes, in either direction LOL) 😉 ❤

      The sharing is totally my pleasure! I'm glad it was yours, too ❤

      And I am *totally* digging your blog! You are the coolest grandma, too!! 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  3. i know the sort of person that i will love forever. date? not necessarily (it doesnt work that way.) care for? absolutely. love? yes. like family? yes and yes. any other way? in another situation, definitely.

    i think the secret about aspies is that we do understand feelings, but we dont understand the bullsh** built up around those feelings. im not saying we are a zero-bullsh** species, im saying that we have less of it (oh yeah, im saying exactly that) and that in a bullsh** world, having less will get you called out, sure as calling it out can make a friendship more difficult.

    if i love someone, i know (because i know people) that being up front about it can complicate things. really.

    not being up front about it can complicate things in a way that nts all more or less have this social contract/mutual understanding about– when i can manage it, im ready to dump that as soon as i can, for being honest about how i feel. if people dont like it, i dont stick around.

    if they dont mind, i know ive found a great friend. ❤ probably the kind that youll want to keep for years/forever if possible.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. OMG yes, I can totally relate to what you said!! “Complicate things” indeed!

      Me: “I love you.”

      Friend: (gets all weird)

      Me: “No, not like that! Like this…” (tries to explain)

      Friend: (still doesn’t get it)

      Me: “Ah hell…” (tries to use an analogy)

      And so on… LOL

      Later that night…

      Me: “Please god(dess), don’t let them shy away from me completely. I hope they don’t think I’m weird. What are they thinking about now? How to melt off my radar with minimal fanfare, how to tell me as gently as possible to take a hike, how to change their phone number and email, what???”

      4AM (still up, obsessing about it, retro-editing my end of the conversation, like a 1980s Choose-Your-Own-Adventure kid’s book LOL)

      😉 ❤

      Liked by 5 people

      1. every choose your own adventure book ever: “well that was a fun idea, but youre really f***ed now! THE END.”

        i like your dilemma: “how do i love thee… let me try to find a way to explain: one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand… no, thats not exactly it… nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine… wait! ive got it this time!” 🙂 ❤

        Liked by 4 people

      2. faye: “lemme guess, youre the one who vacuums her apartment at four in the mornin.”

        hannelore: “yes, but im not a stalker! i just…noticed you guys, and you seemed nice, and i was trying to figure out how to introduce myself but i couldnt think of a good way to do it.”

        faye: “how about, yknow, knocking on our door and just introducing yourself?”

        hannelore: “i was afraid id seem creepy.”

        martin: “if irony were water, this apartment would be lake michigan.”

        a spoiler: they become the best of friends, and even coworkers.

        http://www.questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=533

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I have zero tolerance for BS too. I think I’m turning into that “Get off my lawn” lady 😕 I blame it partially on being “old & crippled”. My daughters tell me I’m not old. Crippled? Yeah. Either way, I’m all about saying exactly how I feel. I try to be nice but I’m not gonna lie. If you’re an ass, I’ll tell you to quit it or kick rocks. Life would be so much simpler if everyone quit playing head games. OY! Don’t get me started…🙂

      Liked by 4 people

      1. women that scream “get off my lawn” usually turn out to be just as nice as any other person, once you stop running across their lawn. theyre also feisty, which often says other nice things about them.

        if a woman yelled “get off my lawn!” at me, id probably tell her “sorry! hey, would you care for a cup of tea?”

        Liked by 3 people

  4. incidentally luv, i interact with you here mostly, though you have my permission to “stalk” me from one corner of the earth to the other. im sure you dont find me quite *that* fascinating, but if you ever do, you may.

    i trust you completely– that said, if you sneak up on me i will probably flail. (fair warning.) but my arms arent longer than anyone elses, and standing back 3 feet before you know you have my attention should make you totally safe (youd be pretty darned safe regardless, but i still dont recommend literally sneaking up) 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. just in case you ever think you could creep me out. honestly, i wouldnt be creeped out if you started collecting my socks (id even try not to joke about it. im sure youd have a good enough reason, whatever it is.) http://www.questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=525

      ^ hannelore has ocd, and had trouble making friends until she met martin. after that she did okay. she was literally tiptoeing around him for a couple weeks before she managed to say hi. i consider laina the very best of best of friends and shes always welcome– for the record.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. LOL 🙂 Yep, actually I find you pretty fascinating!! I would say that you’re in my Spirit Family category, with a tinge of Fascination as an “accent pillow” 😉 ❤

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Lol 😊😊. No, you’re more than an accent pillow 💜. The fascination aspect I feel toward you is definitely a bad-ass vivid-colored accent pillow; the neurosibling sentiment I feel toward you is the whole dwelling itself 😊💞

          Liked by 2 people

    1. Lol!! 😉😊😘. You are too awesome! Please keep writing too! I love your posts–and your whole blog–as well! ❤️❤️. Please feel free to reblog or link to (or whatever 😊) anything you like from here 💙. Just keep your own voice going, too! I value it highly 😘💜

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Well rounded thoughts, I could really “see” myself around 🙂
    One aspect I may add (even though I might have missed reading it), namely the actually much superior “bonding” specific to neurodivergents, which is defined by the inclusion of the intelectual/rational/logical approach when it comes to fidelity or infidelity. Since the NDs judge a prospective action through filters inexistent or unused by NTs, “undesired” outcomes are much better avoided. This seems to be a perfect match for an oftentimes different approach to the “sleeping together” part, not uncommon to NDs, based of a differently experienced perception of existing emotional bonds. Many NDs are exceptionally faithful and monogamous throughout longstanding relationships, because these relationships are based on much more than hormone fuelled, climactic episodes, too soon regretted once the hormone levels stabilise.
    Because unlike many NT relationships, ND relationships have foundations excavated deeper than the lawn. And even in relationships which lack initially established foundations, the stability and order so treasured by NDs will prevail and re-establish shallow foundations to deeper levels.
    Oh, are we exempt from “the grass is greener”? No, but we usually consider the truly long-term effects of climbing the fence outside our well-thought-through comfort zone.
    Having said that, yes, the NT world may judge us as “cold” and “insensitive” because many NDs can end a commitment based less on emotions, and more on rationalised facts. I am fully aware that there are significant differences between males and females, nevertheless, the thought process and rational decisions have similar neuro-biological backgrounds.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for adding your insight! You raise excellent points, and I agree wholeheartedly 😊. I do rely far less on hormones (I think); my own partnership is definitely not the “average” hormone-driven (potentially roller coaster) that I’ve often observed among some NTs (but have hardly ever seen in the ND world); the “average” Aspie/autistic person seems to be quite cerebral and content with sameness, which I would definitely think would lend itself to a greater propensity toward monogamy, even if serial monogamy 😊💚💙

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Awww thank you luv! (I could have sworn I replied to your comment before, but I think my WordPress app ate it?)

      You’re awesome! Please please keep talking yourself, though 😘❤️

      Like

  6. It’s ambiguous in the wording, so I do have to point that polyamorous people can also be faithful. Maybe that’s what you meant (that you’re monogamous and faithful to that relationship classification), but there is a deep cultural assumption that polyamory is just consequenceless cheating (it’s not).

    My wife and I are both autistic and polyamory makes so much more sense to us both. For us, it’s a natural extension of being fed up with stupid relationship games (disclaimer: it may not be that way for others, but this is our experience). I honestly just don’t understand why we have to categorize different forms of affection; why is it okay for friends to hug, but not cuddle or kiss? Why should we have to choose just one person to have sex with, when there may be others out there who can fill sexual needs that one person doesn’t (me being asexual while my wife is hypersexual, polyamory was the most logical choice)?

    I just think each relationship (no matter its classification) between any two given people is unique. There are going to be different boundaries and different ways that relationship manifests, and I don’t understand cutting yourself off from possibilities just because of an imaginary slight against your partner. (My wife and I love to play board games together. Is it cheating if I play board games with someone else? Why is that any different from kissing or sexual acts?) The only real harm done by responsibly exploring multiple romantic/sexual relationships is when you’ve agreed to be exclusive and someone breaks that agreement.

    Aside from that, I did love this post. It resonated deeply with me — how many “crushes” have I had that were really just deep, intense fascination? At one point I started calling them “friend crushes”, where I didn’t want to be with them, I just really really wanted to be their friend, but that didn’t really ring entirely true. The way you put it is a lot more accurate.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Also agreed👏🏼👏🏼 😊 I would love to see “group marriage” completely legalized/available. No harm at all if everyone is open, honest, and on board 😊 Even though monogamy keeps my life simple and it works best for my personal situation, I’m definitely not against poly at all ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Real talk here, Laina. I’ve never really figured out the differences between any of them, and what I think is one usually isn’t reciprocated by the party I’m attracted to…all-in-all, a mess.

    Thanks for breaking them down. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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