Welcome to Suivez le zèbre, France’s first blog on neurodiversity(giftedness, hypersensitivity, autism spectrum including Asperger’s, DYS disorders) for an article on the autism spectrum that’s a little more personal than the others.
I’m Mathieu, I work on the development of new projects at Suivez le Zèbre and I’ve been in a relationship with a person on the autism spectrum for 2 years now, and living with her for 1 year. I’m not necessarily trying to talk about my life in this article, but rather to give some general advice that comes, among other things, from my own experience.
Asperger’s syndrome is included in the autism spectrum, and is very similar in terms of behaviors, although the nuance lies mainly in the intensity of these characteristics. Many of the tips described in this article are valid for living with someone on the autism spectrum in general.
TheAsperger syndrome itself is a neurodevelopmental disorder whose main characteristics are :
- Difficulty understanding social codes, especially non-verbal cues in social interactions.
- A time delimited by very important routines
- A special relationship with the senses, whether over-sensitive or under-sensitive
To live with a Asperger’s person, it is therefore necessary to consider these characteristics: remember that misunderstandings may come from a poor understandingof what Asperger’s syndrome is, that there’s a need to clarify and that if your companion needs to isolate himself it’s not personal, it’s more likely because all his senses are over-reacting or to manage anxiety.
It’s a series of characteristics you need to know about to know how to live with an Asperger’s person.
Aspects to consider with an Asperger’s person
Sound and light
Sensory hypersensitivity takes many forms, and it’s not possible to be exhaustive about solutions. For people with Asperger’s, sensitivity to touch in particular has an impact on life together. When it comes to physical contact, always make sure your partner agrees. But when it comes to cooking, just as you have to take into account allergies, intolerances, diets or simply tastes, in an Asperger’s couple you have to consider that certain textures are not edible.
For light sensitivity, you can invest in adjustable lights, have incense or pleasant perfumes for smell, and a fairly isolated place for sound. It’s a case-by-case basis, and often takes the form of investments when we set up together.
It’s also possible that your partner is one of those autistic people who lack appetite sensitivity , unable to tell whether they’re hungry or not.
If this is the case, it’s a good idea to remind them to eat and to set mealtimes, as this is something the other person may forget.
There are days when the person you live with will spend an entire day curled up under a weighted blanket with a Netflix series and their laundry piling up in the corner of the room. There are others where the person will have had the determination to do all the housework, get on with all their projects and run a half-marathon. And on most days, when everything’s going well, she might just be a little tired.
It’s a rhythm you have to live with, and don’t get offended when someone struggles to make an effort – it’s just not feasible today.
One of the most notable things that can happen is that your Asperger’s partner doesn’t have the energy to do an activity on his or her schedule, and it may be a shared activity. In these cases, it’s very important not to blame him, because you’re not the most disappointed person in the story. It’s very frustrating when you can’t do something because your brain and body are telling you it can’t be done.
Living with someone on the autism spectrum very likely to find their calendar hanging on the wall with all their appointments written on it. It’s practical because you’re living with someone who writes down all the outings you’ve planned with them, but it’s also a way for the other person to prepare mentally for all these events.
It’s best to avoid adding plans at the last second, so plan ahead if you can. Let her or him know if there are any activities you’d like to do so that she or he can remember them and put them on the calendar later.
If you’re very apprehensive about events, it may be very difficult for your partner to travel, and especially to go on holiday with you. It’s normal, and with time and trust between you it can help her to go further and longer.
If you’re trying to organize this kind of thing, you need as much lead time as possible, and months of preparation are needed for both basic organization and mental preparation.
A few tips for living well as a couple with an Asperger’s partner
Take it easy
Anxiety attacks in your partner can happen.
The best thing to do when you’re next door is not to look for a solution. Support and discussion also help, but the most important thing is to stay relaxed. In fact, if you add yourown anxieties to the mix, and especially if your partner sees that his anguish is distressing those around him, it won’t help the situation.
So make sure it doesn’t get any worse, have a few gestures of affection, bring her a cup of tea, have a chat, but get on with your life by simply being attentive and a little more caring. “The universe isn’t collapsing and if you need me I’m right here” is the message to get across.
Sometimes there are subjects that your Asperger’s partner will tell you he or she doesn’t want to discuss at the moment. It could be a problem the other is having with his or her work or studies, or a disagreement between you. It’s normal to want to talk about it to break the discomfort , but it may not be possible for the other person because it’s too demanding.
In these cases, the solution is simple: wait a bit. You’re not the only one who suffers, your partner does too and is probably just as keen as you are to sort out these worries, but there are times when it takes insurmountable effort. Don’t worry, in a few hours or days your partner will have the energy to deal with the subject and you’ll feel better.
Being in a couple with an Asperger’s sufferer means living with someone who has difficulty judging whether or not there’s tension, and you have to talk about it to prevent the discomfort from escalating. If you don’t talk to your Asperger’s partner, you may be letting him think there’s tension when there isn’t at all.
Speak of what bothers you, it may turn out to be due to his condition, in which case it’s a question of living together: by talking things over, you’ll find a way to make it work.
Express yourself on everything that pleases you and makes you happy in this relationship, it’s even more important to make him understand that you are fulfilled in this relationship.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing really different about a relationship between neurotypical people. Explain what bothers us so that we can exist together, and what we like so that the other knows we’re happy with it.
This last point is true for the whole article, living with an Asperger’s or autism spectrum partner is not so different from a relationship between two neurotypical people:
- The important thing is not to get carried away when something goes wrong, but to talk about it and find ways of living together better.
- Talking about what you like about the other person and the relationship is just as important as expressing everything that’s wrong.
- Your partner has his own habits, his own life, and so do you. The challenge is to get them to live together and do things together.
What does Asperger’s syndrome changes is the nature of the habits and constraints that need to be taken into account when living together, and for this I would invite you to read up even more on the conditions faced by Asperger’s sufferers.
Regularly having to express yourself clearly and without innuendo finally brings an advantage. Living with someone on the autism spectrum means being constantly reminded that all these points are necessary for the couple to function.
You can also find more information, resources and tools on Giftedness in Mel POINAS‘ book. With a lot of humor, Mel tells the story of the discovery of her giftedness and the routines she put in place to finally find her place!
Écrit par une HPI !
Un témoignage et des solutions concrètes pour découvrir, comprendre et apprendre à vivre en étant HPI.
To find out more about this topic, read also :
- 10 Clichés about Asperger’s syndrome
- 20 signs and characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome
- Zebra or hypersensitive, High Emotional Potential, Asperger’s, Bipolar, Borderline?
- How to manage your emotions
- The different types of hypersensitivity
- Gifted people and love relationships!