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18 Love Story

Following the release of Love on the Spectrum and amidst the romantic flurry of Valentine's month, I've been inspired to delve into a topic close to my heart: the dynamics of autism within romantic relationships. My journey into this discussion began with a simple Google search, an attempt to tap into the current conversation surrounding this subject. Yet, what I found was disheartening. The articles I stumbled upon, predominantly written from a neurotypical perspective, left me feeling both frustrated and patronized. These pieces often focused on the perceived challenges of being in a relationship with an autistic person. They posed rather reductive questions about the capacity for love and the quality of relationships autistic individuals can have.

 

The prevalence of such uninformed perspectives was a stark reminder of the significant gaps in societal understanding and acceptance of neurodivergence. It underscored the critical importance of this blog post, transforming it into a project of unexpected significance. I realized the urgent need for a narrative that is both enlightened and empathetic, one that truly resonates with the experiences of autistic individuals. As always, all autistic individuals have their individual stories and experiences. This is a post that I have been rather hesitant of writing. It explores a chapter of my life that has been marked by its share of challenges. In the past, placing my trust and affection in individuals who didn’t value it has led to feelings of being undervalued and a misplaced sense of personal fault. However, I have come to realise that such experiences do not define my worth or who I am.

 

Opening up and showing vulnerability has always been a struggle for me, a reality I believe many neurodivergent individuals can relate to. Our experiences with stigma and bullying have conditioned us to rely solely on ourselves, making the act of letting someone in a significant and sometimes daunting step. When we do decide to open up, I've found that I can become overly reliant on that person, enveloping them with an 'all or nothing' intensity where they become my special interest, consuming all my time and energy. While such deep investment in another can be seen as a positive manifestation of love and commitment, it also poses its challenges. It can lead to a situation following the 'sunk cost fallacy', where I continue to chase a relationship despite diminishing returns, driven by the considerable emotional investment and the extensive effort it takes for me to open up.

 

This propensity to focus on the positive aspects of a relationship, amplifying them in light of past negative experiences, further complicates the emotional landscape. It's a defense mechanism, one that perhaps shields me from reliving the pains of past rejections or misunderstandings. Yet, it's also a testament to the capacity for deep, unconditional love and the desire for genuine connection that exists amongst autistic individuals, unlike the narrative that we can’t love or form meaningful connections.

 

Thus, navigating breakups can be complex. Especially, for those of us who tend to see the world in black and white. This thinking often clashes with the deeply emotional and compassionate aspects of our nature, leading to a tug-of-war between our head and heart. Recognising that someone may no longer be a positive presence in our lives doesn't make the process of letting go any easier. And letting go can lead to a rollercoaster of emotions: relief, guilt, confusion and loneliness, just to name a few.

 

From my experiences of love and loss, I've gathered several valuable lessons that have shaped my approach to relationships:

 

1.     Self-understanding: recognize that a relationship is not a fix to fill inner voids, it is a temporary ‘plaster’ if you will. Rather than seeking external solutions for internal issues, it's crucial to address personal insecurities and challenges directly. Healing and growth must originate from within, laying the foundation for healthy, loving partnerships.


2.     Do not let anyone question yourself. The right partner will embrace you for all that you are, as well as all that you're not. They will never make you feel like you aren’t enough or rather you are too much. True compatibility flourishes in an environment of unconditional acceptance and understanding.


3.     Trust your gut! Trusting one's intuition is particularly poignant for those of us who are neurodivergent, as we may experience intense instincts that are hard to articulate. Even if the precise cause of these feelings remains elusive, they're often indicative of deeper truths. Listen to your intuition; it's a powerful ally in discerning what feels right or wrong. If something isn’t right, your body will find a way of telling you.


4.     Clarity and communication. Entering a relationship with clear, articulated expectations, needs, and methods of communication is crucial, especially for us neurodivergent individuals. We aren’t always the best at reading between the lines or expressing how we feel so making this a regular, normalised conversation from the very beginning is helpful. These elements should not be static but rather subject to ongoing review and discussion, ensuring that both partners remain aligned and understood.


5.     The power of love languages (acts of service, quality time, receiving gifts, words of affirmation, physical touch): As cliché as it might sound, understanding each other's love languages can profoundly enhance a relationship. This framework offers a straightforward and effective means for partners to express and receive love in ways that resonate most deeply with them. A common example of a discussion you could have could be surrounding affection (whether you are someone who likes physical affection or prefers other less invasive methods). You can also find free love language tests online!



These lessons, born from the interplay of heartbreak and healing, underscore the importance of self-awareness, mutual respect, and open communication in cultivating meaningful connections. They serve as reminders that, even in the face of loss, there's invaluable wisdom to be gained in the pursuit of love.

 

In writing this, my aim is not just to share a part of my journey but to contribute to a broader, more inclusive dialogue about love, neurodiversity, and the richness of the autistic experience in romantic relationships. It's a call for a deeper understanding and appreciation of the varied ways in which we love, challenging societal norms and expectations. And if you identify as neurotypical and you find that this blog resonates with you, consider it is a gentle reminder than whilst there are plenty of differences between neurotypicals and neurodivergents, we, as humans we share plenty of commonalities. Thus, this moment of reflection may also offer you insights into your own being and the unique ways you experience love.


Thanks for reading,

Nidhi :)

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