10 relationship tips if you love someone with autism
People on the autism spectrum disorder can be, or want to be in romantic relationships like everyone else. And such relationships are successful if you keep in mind certain tips.
Being in a relationship with a person whose brain is wired differently than yours can be a unique challenge. So if you are a non-autistic person who is in a relationship with someone who has autism, here are a few pointers. Not all of them may apply to you but they can be useful to keep in mind.
- Social situations can be hard on them - Because they struggle with small talk and sensory issues, people on the spectrum may not enjoy parties or large gatherings. They can find them stressful. So talk to them and decide jointly about whether they want to avoid a certain social outing. Also they like to know in advance what is going to happen so they can mentally prepare and not get caught off guard.
- They will give honest answers to your questions - Questions like 'Do I look fat?' will get you a truthful answer so you will get the truth whether you like it or not. Many autistic people tend to be honest and get confused when they get upset reactions. So if you truly want an honest answer to a question, ask away, else avoid saying anything.
- Talk to them - Communication is important in any relationship, especially when your partner is autistic. People on the spectrum tend to take things literally, so make sure your communication is straightforward and direct. Don't hint, or get sarcastic, or rely on body language and facial expressions. This extends to physically intimate situations as well.
- Respect their repetitive behaviours -Many autistic people engage in repetitive behaviours like hand-flapping, rocking, and making vocalisations. It’s important to respect it and let your partner do it. They also have strict need for routine so respect this as well.
- Eye contact is hard - People with autism tend to hate making eye contact and it can be extremely overwhelming, distracting, and even painful to meet another person’s eyes. Don’t assume they are not listening to you.
- They don't like sudden change in plans - A sudden change in plan can be devastating to someone with autism. Avoid cancelling or changing plans if possible and if you have to, break it to them gently. Work together to find an alternative plan.
- Gestures of affection may not come naturally to them -There are some autistics who are averse to touch but don't take it personally. Talk to your partner about what’s okay and not okay, as well as your own needs, too. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
- Emotions are a challenge for some-People with autism experience emotions just like everyone but have trouble identifying and putting words to their own emotions. This is a condition called alexithymia and, while common to autism, is separate from it.
- Give them enough space - They need plenty of time alone to recharge. They want to see you and spend time with you but in small doses.
- Don't let them treat you poorly - Many people with autism have empathy and can be loving partners. But some can be abusive and mean. If you get that from a partner who has autism, its best to seek help. If that does not work and the behaviour persists, maybe you should take a re-look.