In this episode, Sarah Martin teams up with Certified Sex Coach AJ Locashio to answer questions from neurotypical women about relationships with men on the Autism Spectrum. If communication is something you value in a relationship, you’ll pick up lots of information that can be helpful in any relationship. You can learn more about AJ at mamapistachio.com.
What’s the Difference Between Narcissisism and ASD?
Often, this questions comes from feeling like those on the spectrum only care about themselves, often because they’re not showing their love for their partner in ways neurotypical people are accustomed to. That said, it’s important to point out a few things. First, if you’re feeling uncared for in your relationship, blunt, direct communication can be useful for communicating with folks on the spectrum and often leads to rapid transformation within a relationship.
“Make the implicit explicit.”
It can be difficult for women to speak up and ask to have their needs met. However, once you share your needs clearly and openly, you give your partner an opportunity to understand what it is you really want. Remember, something like direct communication, which might make you uncomfortable, doesn’t necessarily make the other uncomfortable.
Women have been taught to not take up space, but, in this case, you need to be able and willing to take up space and have a conversation. Release the discomfort about how the other person will react, it may be a relief for your partner to finally understand what you want.
It’s amazing how many things stay unsaid, especially among neurotypical people. If you’re asking your partner to be more gentle with your feelings but don’t connect this statement to concrete actions and behaviors, the ask may go unfulfilled. With explicit and concrete instructions on how to be more gentle with your feelings, your partner is more likely to take note. When you focus on the behavioral and come to a concrete agreement, you may be surprised. Often, your partner will remember and consistently take this action going forward.
“I want you to clean up after yourself in the kitchen by washing, drying and putting away your dishes.”
Another thing that can help is adding time boundaries to conversations. Those on the spectrum may shy away from conversations about your relationship because they’re thinking, “Is this going to 5 minutes and we hug, or will we be talking about this for hours and hours?”
If now isn’t a good time, schedule the conversation.
Before going into a relationship conversation, it’s important to know explicitly within yourself what you are looking for.
What Makes Consent Clear to Someone on the Spectrum?
Consent is where we speak our needs, desires, and willingness. Consent is a place where we get and give permission. It’s important to be clear about what consent means to you and to spend time learning what it means to your partner. Take your time testing and learning together before diving headfirst into sexual play, especially when you are looking to introduce new activities to the bedroom.
There are important additional considerations a neurotypical partner needs to make when negotiating consent with someone on the spectrum. Importantly, those on the spectrum often experience extreme discomfort due to sensory overload in response to actions that are pleasurable for many neurotypical people. One example is that, for many people on the spectrum, a gentle caress can be overstimulating. It’s important to make sure that your partner is not in a “should bubble” about touch, that is, that they are not just gritting their teeth and going along with it because they believe that is what they should do.
Additional Items to Note
Those on the spectrum struggle with subtext and indirect communication. In a similar vein, this means body language isn’t always understood as you intend. Many folks on the spectrum crave a rule book, and as you know, there isn’t a rule book for sex and relationships. There is no, ‘if this then that’. The same standardized script doesn’t work within a relationship.
However, within your relationship, you can work together to create an understanding of each other’s desires by linking them to concrete actions and behaviors. You can also support your partner in developing confidence around sex and intimacy by highlighting the transferable skills he has from other parts of his life. For example, maybe your partner knows how to execute collaborative projects in the work place. Good relationships have a lot in common with collaborative projects!
Remember that those on the spectrum often worry about judgment around being autistic. When you create a loving space without judgment, you have the change to experience the surprising gifts of mixed neurotype relationships.
Finally, there’s a lot neurotypical people can learn from the communication styles and methods used in mixed neurotype relationships. What would your relationship gain if everyone were able to be more direct and more clear about their needs and desires?