The romantic aspie
No, don't get excited, I'm not about to declare my undying troth to someone or tell you all to buy hats for the wedding. I just think I've put it off long enough.
Yes, readers, I've been putting off writing about the romantic aspie. Well, is that the right phrase? Are other aspies more romantic than I am? I remember birthdays (or at least the month of the birthday) and Christmas is full of presents, but I'm not very good at the hearts and flowers.
I'm also not very sure how to present this subject to you, as myself and romance are not happy bedfellows, if you'll forgive the pun. As with so many relationships, the romantic side of things is complicated by many factors, mostly originating from me, which make getting to know other people and sustaining a relationship problematic at best.
In other words, aspies can be their own worst enemies.
At this stage in my life I forgive myself and other aspies for this. For many years I berated myself for not behaving properly or not being the kind of person who could be normal enough to make love happen. I had felt like this for most of my adult life, from before I had my first boyfriend and, if I'm honest, when I was married too.
It's a dimension of feeling left out, that sinking sensation we are all so familiar with where you are with people who are meant to love you but you feel like you wandered into the wrong life somehow. That feeling of disconnect, often wavering about at the edges of your life, comes through fully in a relationship because you are forced to face, head on, so many of your regular difficulties and phobias.
For instance, if you have a relationship with someone, you are meant to talk to them about your feelings, or at least show them how you feel. Our families are used to us either saying the wrong thing or sharing the bad feelings more often than the good, but with a new person we try harder to be what is expected.
So, you quite like a person and feel you could be together: what do you do next? Potentially, you are honest with them and tell them how you feel. Sadly, and more likely, you will either tell them what you think they want to hear - as you know romance is meant to be loving and supportive - or you don't share how you are feeling because it's private, even though it directly involves them.
Supposing your new best beloved can push past this, or has a very thick skin and you reach the next level of them wanting a commitment from you. Really? Commitment?? With another person besides yourself?
This one is only ever going to happen if the aspie decides it is. Seriously, it is a terrifying concept, for another person to expect you to commit to them, be responsible for them, every single day for the foreseeable future. (There may be aspies out there who are not commitment-phobes. If so, I apologise, this is from my personal point of view).
This is often the stage where a settled and more stable aspie would back off a little and say they wanted to take things a little slower. For those of us who panic, this is the part we do whatever it takes to make the other person back off and stop being so damn scary all of a sudden!
Trying to revert to a friendship stage in the middle of a romantic relationship seems like a soft way of showing your new beloved that you don't want to commit yet. It feels safer to push them away, just a little, and go back to the non-scary phase of being friends, having a good time and not expecting life to suddenly come together in a brutal melding of minds reminiscent of a giant squid attack.
To the other person, what on earth are they meant to think when the aspie wants to be friends again? That they are a vile excuse for a love match? That they smell? That they did or said something so horrendous their partner was put off for life? That if they try harder, they can make it work and undo whatever it was they did?
To the aspie, still revelling in the relief of being just friends again, all this angst is secondary to getting back to how we were before. There's no need for talking about feelings and stuff like that because now we can be happy friends again.
The aspie will probably become charming, putting in the effort to make this new phase work and pretending not to notice their partner's hurt feelings or confusion.
If an ultimatum is reached, of the new partner wanting a proper explanation of the strange behaviour, most likely the relationship will end. This is too full-on for aspies, who need to back away and hide, not become embroiled in the many perplexing layers of other people's feelings.
Enter even more confusion for the now-ex partner, who wonders afresh what they did to make all this happen. They will probably relive the relationship, looking for the cracks and seeing none. It might occur to them that the aspie was behaving oddly, but whether or not they know the aspie is an aspie, they must already have accepted the odd behaviours as part and parcel of their beloved to have even moved on to the next stage.
They will have asked for an explanation and, mostly, received none. The aspie will probably blame themselves, which is true, without giving any background as to why they became so uncomfortable so quickly.
The now-ex will either go on their way, putting it down to experience or have another go and accept the friendship terms after all, hoping that the future will bring them closer together and the relationship can flourish once more.
In a normal, sensible world, the relationship would have a chance of flourishing, but in the aspie world, if no real depth of explanation and understanding is reached, then they are doomed to repeat the cycle of potential relationships heaving to and fro between new beginnings and away from commitment.
Even if the aspie explains everything, lays it all out and shows their possible life partner the way they feel, why they feel it, what goes wrong, what feels wrong, what can be done...if all of this is done, it can still end in tears, simply because other people do not understand the depth of feeling in an aspie.
The potential partner cannot see why an aspie might cope quite well with life in general, only showing odd little ways now and then, but not be able to do the same with a proper relationship. It doesn't make sense to them. Why should an aspie face work every day and survive, but not be able to face a loving, supportive relationship?
Well, in work you are not yourself, you are the working person, the facade of the real you, the whatever-it-takes to make it through to the end of the day. In a relationship, you cannot and should not do that, so if the aspie is not happy and committed to another person, they have to put forward a facade for the relationship, just like they do for work.
It's very hard to be yourself the whole time, you see, as your whole self is used to being hidden away from the world, even from your own family. So for another person to want to share that, on a full-time basis, it just feels exhausting.
It comes down to what your partner expects of you. On top of any other difficulties you may have in romantic relationships, I think the expectations of the other person are the most harrowing. It's hard enough to commit to a relationship in the first place, despite all your phobias and problems dealing with other people, without also having to face the other person wanting a response from you, every time you are together.
I know I make it all sound like such hard work - and it is! I won't deny it, not on here anyway. I speak for myself and other aspies who have problems in this area. We will all react slightly differently, will all have the areas that cause us most stress, but the over-riding concern will always, always be our response to the other person in the relationship.
If we can get past the need to present ourselves and move forward into some kind of honesty, then the relationship may stand a chance. If we can put aside our misgivings at letting another person so far into our lives, then we can, perhaps, begin to relax.
If we don't feel able to do these things and the other person needs more from us than we can give at any one time, then we will probably retreat and close down the barriers again. Better safe than sorry, you see. Safe from any harm, no matter the good intentions behind that harm.
It always comes down to how we feel. Words, actions, plans, attraction, meeting of minds, it's all secondary to how we feel and whether we can cope with those feelings. After so many years of doing our best to cope with all of life, we don't want to have to cope at home too. Our safe place, that central feeling within us, is sacred and if we feel it is in danger, then we'll do what we have to and make it safe again.
It's sad to write all this, readers, just because so much of it is very familiar to me. I hope it isn't familiar to you, aspie or non-aspie. I hope you sit now, with your best beloved and wonder what I'm talking about.
I hope you can feel like you're in your safe place, even when another person is there with you. Or better still, that they are your safe place.
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