One of the things I do when I’m bored is a Google News search for “autism”. It’s Autism Awareness Month. In that spirit, Sam Swaine felt the need to publish the awkwardly-titled The Curious Incident Of A Relationship With An Asperger’s Syndrome Adult. It tells the sad tale of what happens when you date one of us.
It started with a casual conversation in a shopping isle, he asked for her number and uncharacteristically, she gave it to him. “Great, I’ll call you”, he said and lodged his cell phone in the back pocket of his jeans. She always erred on the side of caution as she’d been hurt many times. Mostly due to her own low self-esteem and a common trait for partners who couple with Asperger’s Syndrome sufferers. Her mantra however was “never turn down an opportunity or invitation.”
What she’s saying is that only the most shameful of self-hating disasters, who’ll fuck anybody, would give me their number. Ouch, right from the first paragraph.
It’s amazing that she has a whole elaborate fantasy story about this.
He did call, and he was the perfect gentleman; he opened the car door when he picked her up as he did when they left. She settled herself at the bar when they arrived and it didn’t take her long to realise it was going to be a long two hours, this man hardly contributed to the conversation and she did all, if not 90% of the talking on the date. In sum, she left unimpressed, although his chivalry appealed to her old fashioned ideologies. Little did she know that these were learned gestures acquired through observing romance by way of film, literature or other tools of romantic displays.
He kept in touch over the months; his vocabulary bank and written prose in messages were exceptional, mastered and sophisticated. During the course of the year, he continued to contact her and randomly remembered her birthday. She was touched but still had no desire to entertain a second date, but he was relentlessly romantic and eventually, she gave in.
So we’re either good listeners or we Aspie ramble everyone to death.
It’s funny that the autistic person is supposed to be unique for basing their behavior on the media. If anything, it’s easier for me to ignore unhealthy stuff the media wants me to believe.
In the beginning, he paid for meals out, bought flowers and scented candles, the norm for a relationship in the beginning stages of the honeymoon period. Though strangely never did he kiss her, hold her hand or put his arm around her in public. He shied away from physical touch unless it was within a sexual context.
Scented products can be too much. It’s a real problem.
If you lost your normal-person sixth sense about when those things are ok or not, you’d err on the side of propriety, too. Maybe she’s making him nervous. Maybe the driving is stressing him out. Maybe she should talk about this with him instead of being all weird.
As time went on and she got to know him better, his behaviour appeared robotic and repetitive. He’d recite pages and pages of poetry and Shakespeare word for word from his matric year; his voice monotone (she would Google the poems whilst he did this, it was a game he loved playing).
Another peculiar trait noticed, his subjects were limited to two things; cycling and rugby fixtures, any other topics were superfluous to his interests and he was socially awkward if he wasn’t among his own friends, and even then his interactions were superficial and forced.
When I was married, I remember this as “you only talk about computers.” See how he knows about romantic poetry stuff and it doesn’t count toward his “two interests?”
Autistic person struggles with social interaction. News at 11. She has the option of helping him, which would occur to her if she cared.
She mistook his Asperger’s Syndrome for routine, which she craved. Unfortunately, it ended badly and in a strange turn of events. They went hiking and she broke her ankle. She managed to hobble along the path back with his help, he dropped her at the hospital and left. There was no communication the next day or the day after to ask if she’d been discharged, was dead or alive. It was then she realised if this was the level of care and treatment received over a broken ankle, should there ever be a ‘real’ emergency, he would not be able to cope. She subsequently ended the relationship.
I have totally driven to the emergency room because my partner at the time was having a panic attack and paresthesia from hyperventilating made her scared of nerve damage. I sat around the waiting room. Pre-diagnosis. That’s not an extraordinary accomplishment. It’s just obvious. But I have to go through life and my ability to understand that you don’t abandon your girlfriend is in question. Because this lady has an elaborate fantasy of autistic people.
Here are signs that you should look out for, and it’s not to say that an NT and Asperger’s Syndrome relationship can’t work out, but it stands less chance than a romance between two neurotypical people. The caveat pertaining to the below is that your partner may display some and not all of the noted characteristics common to adults with AS.
People with Asperger’s Syndrome may prefer to spend more time alone or engage in solitary activities. There is an inability for a person with Asperger’s Syndrome to recognise social or non-verbal cues, such as boredom or signs of stronger emotions like sadness or anger. As a result, the person may appear emotionally distant. This creates frustration with an NT partner as the behaviour of their Asperger’s Syndrome other half can be interpreted as being non empathetic, which means the NT’s emotional needs are not being met.
An adult with Asperger’s Syndrome may follow rigid routines and can become easily frustrated or angry when something interferes with their plans or activities. You’ll find that their speech is monotone, or may appear robotic. It’s quite common for an Asperger’s Syndrome person to engage in a monologue with intense focus on self. This means if you’ve had a rough day at work and your Asperger’s Syndrome partner is unable to support you and launches into a diatribe of cycling facts, you’ll understand where the disconnect lies, especially when they struggle so deeply when trying to express their own emotions.
When my ex had a rough day at work, which was every day because she had BPD and worked in customer service, she’d come home and vent about it. She said bringing the work stress home was a problem in normal coworkers’ relationships, too. Sometimes I’d try to talk about my trials and tribulations at work and she’d be annoyed because I was “talking about computers again.” Yes, that’s my job, but the STORY might’ve been about the same annoyances as her stories: inconsideration, people not paying attention, office politics, etc. The stories are just set in a computer job.
A partner has complained that I wasn’t emotionally mirroring her enough. The problem was that I just couldn’t work myself up into a rage all the time and have it be healthy. Why is this not a story about a calm, level-headed autistic person being rational and grounding someone, being nonreactive? When you’re dealing with crazy-person drama, it’s actually a bonus if I shrug it off and don’t get sucked into the drama pit.
But we don’t hear that side in the her story. She’s not difficult to be with, ever, because she’s neurotypical.
Then there’s pseudo-tolerance at the end, almost as a footnote:
According to psychologist Bronwyn Hood, recent research shows that people with Asperger’s Syndrome desire romantic relationships as much as the rest of the population, despite the delay in the development of their social skills and narrow social interests. Individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome benefit from relationship skills guidance and educational interventions that address empathy skills, emotional self-awareness and sexuality. Successful relationship therapy involves developing a realistic understanding of the challenges faced by Asperger’s Syndrome and NT couples. Further to this, realistic goals related to those challenges need to be established, and practical tools implemented to support the mutual attainment of the milestones.
Asperger’s Syndrome sufferers are capable of love and want to be loved as much as NTs do, some go on to sustain long term relationships and marriages, some don’t. It’s more about your own boundaries as the neurotypical party to apply your learned emotional intelligence to overcome the barriers encountered in your relationship with an Asperger’s Syndrome adult.
Oh, it turns out that research doesn’t support the stereotypes the article is based on.
Therapy is probably a good idea for most people. Alexithymia is in no way restricted to autistic people, and not all autistic people are alexithymic. Traditional masculinity is partly defined by a poor ability to communicate feelings. So autistic people are taking the blame for communication issues that normal people are terrible at in practice, amongst themselves.