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In a relationship with an Autistic boyfriend


Daemi
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I've been in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend who has autism, for about 6 months now. We are both in college, except we are nearly 3,000 miles apart.

When we first began dating, it was fantastic. He was bold enough to make the move (with help from my sister who he is very close friends with) and for the first month we would go out every other night and he was enthusiastic and loved to hug and kiss.

We've always kept in contact, all through the college semester, and he has been honest with me almost to a fault which I found out is a great quality about autism (well, I consider it a great quality since he is always honest about what he thinks).

However, now that he's back for the winter and we are together, I've spent a considerable amount of time with him and his family. I see him about every day and have spent the night 3 times in a row.

Now of course, the dynamics feel different. He says he is completely happy in the relationship and couldn't possibly see anything wrong with it, but now that i've spent so much time with him, I see that he has barely any energy during the day. He shows very little emotion now, less than usual, almost as if he's become "comfortable". I know from his occasional actions that he cares about me, but sometimes the only emotion he will show is by hugs or he'll formally invite me to hang out with him for the evening. And when I say formally, I mean he presents the question to me as if he were inviting his boss to dinner.

Sometimes it feels like he's treating me like he would an aquaintance, which leaves me frustrated, and then he'll suddenly hold my hand, or give me a quick kiss on the lips.

Though I'm usually good at understanding, it is sometimes difficult to keep myself from constantly asking him "Are you still happy in this relationship?" becuase I can't tell from his actions whether or not he has feelings for me. And i know the question can become repetitive and annoying. It feels like his emotions are an "on and off switch" that comes and goes as quickly as his energy (he gets tired A LOT. And often when he's tired, he becomes completely glazed over and stone-like).

Is it normal for people with autism to act this way? How do I show him that I love him without saying it, in case he freaks out? Sometimes I wonder if he will be okay with a long term relationship, or if guys with autism constantly need a change in girlfriends.

:)

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Well some of this sounds quite familiar to me! There's the down side and the up side of loving someone on the autism spectrum. I agree, the total honesty from a person with autism is a wonderful trait. When they compliment you, you know it isn't fake or a manipulation. As for the distance and low energy, that rings very true too. A person on the spectrum has a nervous system that is hyper tuned in to some things to point of exhaustion because they can't turn it off. Now if there aren't a lot of demands put on them, that high intensity can take them down fascinating paths and they can cultivate knowledge, wit, & fun in their areas of interests and as their friend, you get in on that sometimes. Alas, the world doesn't stop for anyone however, and that means a person with autism gets overwhelmed quite regularly. This results in distance, fatigue, and if it gets bad, anxiety, and if it gets really bad, violent outbursts. The person with autism needs to be cut A LOT of slack.

So for you and for me, the question is, how do we stay in a relationship to someone who has some very rigid limitations? How do we get the emotional feedback we need to keep a healthy sense of self?

I am not sorry I am closely attached to someone with autism. He cares for me in his way, and he has taught me many things about love. I do have to find emotional feedback from other sources and I do have to have breaks from him or his ways dominate too much of my life (since he's not very flexible).

As you are intuiting, telling him you love him probably is not going to have the effect you would like. It's not that he doesn't have deep feelings, it's that the whole feeling realm is very difficult for him to navigate through or express... especially if he's feeling bombarded. He may much rather have himself to himself and not be required to extend himself into the emotional realms of you except in small doses and on his terms.

I wish I knew 20 years ago that I was dealing with autism in the person I loved. It took me a very very long time to figure that out, that what I was missing I was not going to get from him, and even longer to figure out that it was normal to wish I didn't have to miss out on those things.

There are things he has given me in relationship that a "neurotypical" person probably wouldn't be as good at: honesty, morality, stability, passionate interests.

I have also learned to recognize how much he suffers to make it in this world.

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