You may have read Dale’s “Open Letter to New Aspie’s”…
So here’s mine to NT’s.
Dear NT’s (Neuro-Typicals),
When you think of Autism, what do you see; is it a “naughty-loud” child in a restaurant? Is it somebody incapable of speech or basic motor systems (walking/eating)? Is it somebody who seems weird and out of sorts? Or do you see what I see?
Autism doesn’t make the person
If there’s one thing that I’ve always impressed with Dale, it is that Dale isn’t an “Aspie called Dale”. Of course he knows that himself, but he’s asked me before about whether I would still love him if he was “normal”. So I will say the same to you. You’re not talking to an “Aspie named so-and-so”. Whatever their mental state is, you are only talking to a ‘Dale’. Yes, they work differently, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of intelligent, engaging conversation and normal, everyday things.
They aren’t disabled
I struggle sometimes with this one, even now with dating an Aspie. I sometimes catch myself justifying somethings he does by saying “oh but that’s because he’s Aspie” or saying “just bare in mind that he’s Aspie“. Yes, fair enough, we need a little more consideration in regards to some situations, but that’s no reason to use “Aspie” as an excuse. I want to be clear, I don’t think Dale as disabled. After-all, he lives on his own, he has a University Degree in Computer Science, he has a well-paid job and he’s still alive. Just. But he’s alive. My turn to get into trouble now.
If you are about to or are currently in a relationship with an Aspie, I want to give you some advice.
Dating an Aspie can be as easy or hard as you want to make it, and to be honest, if you really want your relationship to work, it will be easy. It doesn’t take much more effort then what a NT-NT relationship takes and you won’t notice the effort.
If there was anything which I first did when I started dating Dale, I looked up on medical sites the characteristics of Aspie’s. Some of them won’t apply to your Aspie, as some of them don’t apply to Dale, but if you have at least a basic understanding of how Aspie’s think and some of their traits you’ll learn very quickly how best to support them.
I didn’t know Dale was Asperger’s until less then a few weeks before we made it official, so I got to know him without the thought of him being Asperger’s in the back of my mind. Maybe this helped? I don’t know, but I do think that if you are serious about dating someone, you should get to know them without all the strings, so that when you decide to make it a thing, those strings won’t seem like strains.
I also wouldn’t scare yourself too much when reading up on Asperger’s (not that it’s scary), but for example, Dale told me that, even though it is a very rare occurrence, Aspie’s can become very obsessive and possessive and hence lead to an abusive relationship. Just because it says that ‘this is what they’re capable of‘ doesn’t mean that’s what your partner is like. After all, any person NT or AS is capable of being abusive, but it’s about knowing that person and knowing whether that is something they would do.
I remember Dale actually scared himself that he might become abusive, and this is where you come into play in knowing your AS partner. I know for definite, no doubts, that Dale could never be abusive. It’s not in his makings. Yes he gets frustrated, but so do I. Yes we sometimes chuck pillows at each other in play-fighting but he has never once touched or even spoken to me in malice. He’s been upset with me or hurt by something I’ve done, but he has still never been offensive to me.
So that’s the other part. Know your Aspie Possibilities, but also know your Aspie’s possibilities.
Boundaries are a good thing in any relationship
When Dale and I first began officially dating, we told each other what we were comfortable in doing (physical contact) and speaking about. This has changed as our relationship has progressed, in some instances adding new boundaries or editing already set boundaries, so just to reassure you, once you say a boundary, it doesn’t mean it’s set in stone and you can’t change it. For example, (and I’m going to be rather graphic) if you previously said that your okay with your partner touching your bottom or breasts (if your a lady of course), but you decide that actually, you’re not comfortable with that, you can and must tell your partner.
Maybe if you’re dating another NT they would be able to pick up that you’re not comfortable with that, but an Asperger’s may or may not. So don’t get trapped in the vicious cycle of “but it makes you happy“. Be encouraged that your partner should be happy when you are happy and would want nothing less for you. I know this about Dale because he’s always asking me ‘Am I okay?’, ‘What do I want to do?’ and sometimes is the first to ask whether he’s doing or done something wrong.
Quick Aspie Possibility; Your Aspie may not like too much or any physical contact.
When I learned this about Dale, it did worry me a little. Not because of the thought that he doesn’t like to hugged or kissed on the cheek, but because I was worried I may have made him uncomfortable by kissing him on the shoulder, or placing my hand on his knee. He explained that that’s why he doesn’t really have physical contact with anybody, including his parents. Originally, when he told me he doesn’t really hug his mum or dad, I didn’t think anything of it; I’ve never seen my dad or mum hug their parents, but when he told me it was actually an Aspie trait I did worry.
Luckily, and I hope he doesn’t mind me revealing this, I’m one of his ‘Safe People’. This of course doesn’t give me the ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card to touch him anywhere I like. He still has his boundaries.
So if your NT, make sure you discuss this with your AS Partner. You will both feel more at ease, trust me.
Honesty is the best policy
As with any relationship; family, friend or partner, you need honesty. If you can’t be honest with your partner, then I would implore you to think about the reasons you’re with them.
I know that I can trust Dale and I know that whatever we speak about won’t be spread without the other saying it’s okay to do so. I also know I can lay my cards on the table with him and know that he won’t think of me any differently. Dale’s taking a little longer to realise that no matter what his deck is, I still love him, but he is getting there.
For example, when he would have an anxiety attack, when we were first getting to know each other and then dating, he would pick and choose which subject of the attacks he would tell me. He also would not tell me if he was upset with me or why. He would also not tell me if he was in pain in some way. We have finally reached a point where, even though Dale and I do still have some secrets, we know that we won’t think any less of the other no matter what the circumstance.
We always say to each other “I love you for who you are today and who you will be in the future“. We normally say this when we reveal that there’s something in our history that we would rather not discuss at that time or at all, and we are mutually okay with us having secrets. They’re not bad secrets and they’re not secrets which will effect us as a couple, but it’s a fact about our past which we’d rather not share. We’ve both had fairly bad pasts. Who hasn’t?
That’s the false-hood of ‘Honesty’; SPILL YOUR GUTS! Think of it this way:
Honesty is getting up off the sofa, and your partner asking “Where are you going?”. You reply with “Just to the toilet.”
FAKE Honesty is coming back to the sofa and revealing the density, colour, shape and contents of what you did on the toilet.
So the key is to be honest! If you don’t want to see your partner today, don’t say that your great great nan choked on a squirrels forehead hair and needs an operation to remove it.
Notice something. None of the above is too out of this world for being in a regular, normal, healthy and successful relationship.
I hope that these reminders will help you no matter what type of relationship you’re in, but more so that you see that a relationship with an Aspie isn’t a difficult or too different thing.
So, I’m going to leave it there, but I hope this helps.