10 relationships tips when you are in love with a person with autism
February is the month of love and through the month we will bring you stories focusing on different aspects of love and relationships. Today we focus on some tips to keep in mind if you are in a relationship with a person on the autism spectrum.
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.
- Communicate – 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 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 – Some people with autism dislike eye contact. They find it overwhelming and distracting to meet another person’s eyes. Don’t assume they are not listening to you.
- Avoid sudden change of 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.
- Affectionate gestures of affection may not come naturally – -There are some autistic people 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.