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Angeni Mai

Non-autist in relationship with autist looking for guidance (ended up as a rant)

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I'm mostly looking for advice at this moment on how to foster and encourage my significant other's (soon to be married) interests. She seems to want to share a lot of things with me, such as things about other people and all; however, when it comes to her interests, she tells me about them but doesn't include me in them. I know she tries but she also gives up if she even perceives that I'm not interested. Often times it isn't a lack of interest but rather that I may be having a bad day or an having difficulties with things and processing. (I have Cerebral Palsy and multiple mental health diagnoses) 

I don't mean to make her feel like I have no interest or I don't want to get along, but is it not ok to indulge in my own thing/ have some alone time? A lot of things I do bother her sensory issues (singing opera, playing jokes, touch randomly without remembering her boundaries because my memory is shit). I want to better our relationship by sharing some in each other's interests but I also still have that need to do my own thing when it is something I know she can't handle. She's also pregnant which makes her sensory issues twice as bad, which has lead to some hard feelings, especially when I would like to sing (as I have a generally loud singing voice as I've sung opera for the past 8 years. 

She also has a developmental delay that causes her to need to speak things aloud and get that feedback on social situations and some other things to process them, in which she is quite long-winded most of the time. That has also lead to more hard feelings as it leads to limited time to indulge in anything else but talking from the time we are up until the time she goes to bed. Any other time that's left during the day, she usually insists that we spend it together because she wants to be close but she has also said that if we don't have that closeness each and every day, multiple times a day even (most days) then she and I will be too distant and she won't be able to open back up to me because I'll be a stranger (she has had issues with selective mutism when she was a child is the only thing I could assume she means by she will stop opening up). It may just be a matter of her mental health and I just misunderstood what she meant, however, is it wrong of me to feel like she is somewhat playing mind games/ manipulating me/ twisting my arm for me to pay all of my attention to her?

She is currently visiting from Canada and I live 422 miles away from her home. She has said that things will be different when we go back to Canada in 5 days, but I don't know whether or not I can trust this as I have seen different happen when she's back home and we just talk over video call. She says she doesn't really lie, and I know that, but is it bad of me to feel like she just doesn't really know herself all that well in what she really and needs from a person, especially when she's never really been in a long term relationship before us getting together? I'm really trying to let go of the past but this is just a lot to handle. 

Does anybody have any advice on how to cope with these situations? Is it too much for me to continue to wish for and sometimes expect her to understand my needs? Is it too much for me to want to be left alone sometimes (as it helps me to cope with life and process my own emotions)?

I really don't want her or our relationship to suffer because I'm not giving her what she needs. 

Thanks for any responses. They are much appreciated.

P.S. ~ Are there any books you would recommend somebody in a relationship with somebody who has ASD reads to have a better understanding of what it is like to have autism or books on how to cope with the differences in their partner? 

P.P.S. ~ I know she's not a manipulative person and she wouldn't mindfully force me to do what I don't wish to,  it's just I feel backed into a corner most days and I lash out emotionally in anger and start to yell when she's annoying me, most often times at the expense of being called mean when I say something she doesn't view as true and, at the best of times, neither do I. I guess it's just hard when both parties have mental health issues that result in a lot of emotions (and a TON of anger) and developmental issues, and social skills deficits on her end. I love her to death though and just want to make things easier on the both of us, more so on her though.

Edited by Angeni Mai

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Angeni Mai - As a person on the autism spectrum who has had relationships with non-autistic (what we would call "Neurotypical") others, including a former spouse, I read your post with some concern. It is very important that you understand heading into an AS/NT relationship that such relationships require extraordinary patience, understanding, forbearance and tolerance on the part of both persons, and it is incumbent upon the neurotypical partner to do the research to understand why the autistic partner may not be able to explain his or her cognitive differences. Note that I do not say "explain his or her deficits" - many of us do not consider ourselves as being in some way deficient or lacking simply because we do not function in a neurotypical way; we simply function in a different way that some neurotypicals choose to view as deficient. It is an important distinction.

Your post-postscript is the most concise bundling of your concerns, so I would draw your attention to it for a couple of things. First, you talk about manipulation. It does not occur to most autistic persons to emotionally manipulate others; they are not emotionally equipped to do so. Similarly, most autistic persons are extremely poor liars, if it even occurs to them to attempt to lie at all. Autistics by and large live within a black-and-white world without significant shades of grey - a thing is either true or it isn't. Your behavior makes sense or it doesn't. If you wonder if your friend is manipulating you, she is almost certainly not.

You explain that you lash out emotionally, often in anger. I have to warn you that you will not be able to sustain a relationship with an autistic person if you continue to do so. Most autistics cannot read your emotional cues, cannot anticipate your annoyance and your anger, and will be taken aback every. single. time. that you lash out. It is not a question of her "learning to read you" - she does not have the wiring. Your sudden display of emotion, along with the yelling, will seem to come from nowhere to her, and will be baffling and irrational each time, especially if it's brought on by a disagreement over something you've said that conflicts with what she believes to be true. For you, the definition of "true" may be flexible - for her, it isn't.

You note that the mental health issues involved result in "a lot of emotions (and a TON of anger)". I must assume that you are primarily referring to your own emotions here. Your friend as an autistic, by definition, does not have the emotional complexity that you do. Indeed, depending on the level of her autism, she may find it difficult to identify her own emotional state at any given time. I generally am unaware that I have an emotional state unless I am forced into a state of extreme anger or sorrow, although others tell me that they can perceive that I am an emotional person. Evidently I wear it on my face in ways of which I am blissfully ignorant. While you may be feeling the full range of emotions, including your ton of anger, she may only be aware of a subset of those feelings, or just the ones that burst out. Imagine trying to tell a person which colors of a rainbow you like best, when that person can only see the color blue. That person is not equipped to understand you. Shouting at that person in frustration would not help that person to understand, or see any differently, no matter how many times you do it, and can only damage the relationship.

I do not mean to discourage you, but you should be aware that successful AS/NT relationships are inherently very difficult to achieve. I can't lay hands on the source of my data at this moment, but at least one study has found that, statistically, 70% of such relationships end in failure. My own marriage was one such, in spite of my best effort to make it work. Often, it is not so much the autistic partner who finds needs unmet as it is the neurotypical partner, who expects emotional reciprocity that the autistic partner lacks the ability to provide. It is important to understand that this is not a "fault" of the autistic partner, but simply a difference. And it is not a difference that she can simply "learn to do", any more than someone who had lost a leg could "learn" the leg back on again.

I realize I've written a lot here, and it may or may not make sense to you, but in all candor what you describe sets off alarms for me. I do not, however, consider myself an adequate source of counsel on interpersonal relationships, and perhaps others will chime in with wise words. Regardless, I strongly encourage you to find some of the work of writers on autism such as Temple Grandin or Dr. Tony Attwood and gain a strong background understanding in autism before you embark on a long-term relationship with someone on-spectrum, and absolutely before you consider a lifetime commitment. I wish the very best for you both.

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I recommend that you read this:

https://www.amazon.com/Things-Woman-Aspergers-Syndrome-Partner/dp/1849058830

I agree with everything Cerb wrote. I find this especially trenchant:

 

On 8/25/2018 at 10:04 PM, Cerberus said:

You explain that you lash out emotionally, often in anger. I have to warn you that you will not be able to sustain a relationship with an autistic person if you continue to do so. Most autistics cannot read your emotional cues, cannot anticipate your annoyance and your anger, and will be taken aback every. single. time. that you lash out. It is not a question of her "learning to read you" - she does not have the wiring. Your sudden display of emotion, along with the yelling, will seem to come from nowhere to her, and will be baffling and irrational each time, especially if it's brought on by a disagreement over something you've said that conflicts with what she believes to be true. For you, the definition of "true" may be flexible - for her, it isn't.

You note that the mental health issues involved result in "a lot of emotions (and a TON of anger)". I must assume that you are primarily referring to your own emotions here. Your friend as an autistic, by definition, does not have the emotional complexity that you do. Indeed, depending on the level of her autism, she may find it difficult to identify her own emotional state at any given time. I generally am unaware that I have an emotional state unless I am forced into a state of extreme anger or sorrow, although others tell me that they can perceive that I am an emotional person. Evidently I wear it on my face in ways of which I am blissfully ignorant. While you may be feeling the full range of emotions, including your ton of anger, she may only be aware of a subset of those feelings, or just the ones that burst out. Imagine trying to tell a person which colors of a rainbow you like best, when that person can only see the color blue. That person is not equipped to understand you. Shouting at that person in frustration would not help that person to understand, or see any differently, no matter how many times you do it, and can only damage the relationship.

 

I urge you to think very, very carefully before you decide to make a long-term, or permanent, commitment to this relationship. There is no reason to believe that these core issues you have will change.

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Angeni and I did end up getting married, and my wife really is not as bad with my autistic symptoms as she's written about here. She is a good, sweet, kind person who loses sight of some things in life from time to time. My meltdowns do get a lot for anyone to handle, a lot of my issues are that of the sensory nature. Sensory input overload is my downfall. I do have a hard time with identifying my emotions as well, and then handling them. My facial expressions are inappropriate, my tone is monotonous or inappropriate, I can be hurtful without meaning to be so, I seem to be rude without realizing or meaning to do so either. I was diagnosed with Asperger's at 17, as well as Bipolar disorder. I personally have not been the most kind support to Angeni in the past, and for that, I owe her an apology. I understand why she came to this section of CB to get advice on my autistic behaviours. For the majority of my life, they have presented as a challenge to anyone who is close with me, to get me to open myself to others and their feelings. I really do lack empathy and the ability to put myself into another individual's position or situation. I can't imagine their positions for myself. I do lack imagination to an extent, and that "theory of mind". Some of these things have been on me as well. 

However, I am pleased to say, we have sorted out a lot of these things. I am not the easiest person to be around 24/7, being that I do have mental illness (Bipolar) and ASD,  as well as suspected Spina Bifida that I am currently undergoing medical testing for. Sometimes things have to fall apart to fall back together, is how I see all of this. Thank you to everyone for their advice. 

Edited by Fur

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