If social relationships are difficult for people with autism, romantic relationships are like walking through a minefield with your eyes closed and in size 13 boots. It’s not because I want to shame myself, but if you love and support someone with autism, it’s important to understand the predicament that our lack of awareness of social cues can lead us to. Because it’s important.
When I was a teenager, I was shy, funny, and socially awkward. I didn’t have any close female friends to give me dating advice, so I learned the “rules” of dating by reading Jane Austen novels and watching family TV shows. I had a few heartbreaks in my teenage years and into adulthood, and apparently I had a couple of heartbreaks myself.
My lack of insight into the motivations and thoughts of others, combined with my inability to read subtle cues and body language, has led to some serious misunderstandings and conflicts. I’m not saying it belongs to Unrequited love is a common theme in movies and songs, and I recognize that it happens to everyone. The difference is that the inability to read non-verbal communication or to gain insight into other people’s thoughts often fails to realize that what one discovers later is obvious to others. is.
have you seen the 1999 movie runaway brideIf not, I highly recommend it as a great example of how many people with autism can adapt to become who others want them to be. Focus on Maggie’s personality and how she transforms in each relationship. She transforms into the perfect girlfriend for each of her partners by changing her clothes, her interests, and the way her eggs are cooked.
That movie really touched me. Looking back at my relationship history, I have gone through a similar process in each of my relationships trying to be who my partner wants me to be.
Girlfriends, like daughters and friends, were roles to be learned, with clear expectations about how I should look and behave. became the person I wanted to be.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, I realize that each relationship has changed the way I dress, the way I speak, the interests and hobbies, and even my life goals. Some lasted for months, others for years, but eventually they all fell apart. When that happens, our partners either realize we’re not who they want them to be, or decide they don’t have the energy to continue being that person.
Ultimately, after many failed relationships, I decided it was too complicated and I was much better off staying single.
At the end of each relationship, I found myself even more confused about my identity. For me, and for many women with autism, relationships are the ultimate masking experience. We know that we need to hide the parts of ourselves that irritate or annoy our partners, and that we need to be able to be who they want us to be. It’s one of the things that makes many of us vulnerable to domestic violence and other forms of relationship abuse. When our partners say we’re not good enough, we believe them.
At the end of the film, Maggie moves to New York to live on her own and discovers her own interests and styles (including her love of eggs).
Perhaps unlike Maggie, and like many others with autism, I not only hid my romantic selves, but also hid my true selves at work, with friends and family. It must have been because , and from myself too.
Ultimately, after many failed relationships, I decided it was too complicated and I was much better off staying single. Our relationship started out pretty much like any other I’ve had. Like all my mask-wearing situations, this was physically and emotionally draining.
After a while, the mask started slipping, just like in previous relationships. I became less pleasing and more confrontational. I declined an invitation to an event I didn’t want to go to. I stopped listening to music and watching movies of his choice unless I really liked them. We’ve had some difficult patches, but we still enjoy each other’s company.
Over time, as I have come to realize and accept my autistic self, I have continued to transform into who I really am. This may be due to his broad tolerance for change, or perhaps it is because of his broader tolerance for change, or because he has more than I thought from the beginning. I don’t know if it’s because I showed myself.
If you’re an autistic person, you’ve probably experienced (or will probably experience) failed relationships. Don’t buy into the myth that you need to be and be different. All you need to do is be yourself and be happy with yourself. If you find someone, that’s great. If not, it’s better to be single and still be your authentic self than to be a replica of someone else’s partner.
This is an edited excerpt growing into autism (MUP) By Sandra Thom-Jones, available August 30th.
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Autism and Relationships: Sandra Tom Jones
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