My autistic love story - Wedding photo Kirsty Kendall

Before I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 28, I had some short relationships with neurotypical partners. Most of them made me feel worthless. They asked me why I’m so weird and why I don’t talk.

There was always this awkwardness in these relationships like there was a wall between us. I always thought it was my fault, and I felt like a failure.

At some point, I thought I just wasn’t meant to be in a relationship. There was just something about me that made it impossible. I hadn’t been in a long-term relationship, and to be honest, the idea made me anxious. I thought living with someone would mean I wouldn’t have my alone time anymore, and I knew I couldn’t live without it.

However, when I got my Asperger’s diagnosis I started to question the idea that my romantic relationships had failed because I just didn’t know how to be in a relationship. What if the problem was that I had only dated neurotypical people? What if they were the problem? I wondered what would happen if I tried dating someone with Asperger’s syndrome.

Love at first sight

So, I decided I needed a romance with a fellow Aspie. It wouldn’t even have to be anything serious; I just wanted to date someone with Asperger’s syndrome and see if it would go better than my unsuccessful relationships with neurotypical people.

Obviously, the best place to search was online. I was in a couple of Asperger’s groups on Facebook and there were a few potential candidates in them.

The first Aspie guy I met was cool and I had fun with him. At the same time, I didn’t see myself being in a relationship with him. So, it wasn’t like having Asperger’s syndrome was enough to make someone a compatible partner for me. Of course not! But I still believed it raised the odds.

The most interesting candidate was a hot guy who was 8 years older than me. He was very active online. He hadn’t directly expressed interest in finding a girlfriend, but I knew he was single. I thought it was worth giving it a try, so I sent him a private message. I didn’t say I was into him, of course. He replied to my message and we started talking online.

We sent messages to each other daily for a month. Then I decided to ask if he wanted to meet in person. He did.

So, we met. It wasn’t love at first sight, but it was love at the first meeting. We fell in love within two hours of seeing each other for the first time. It is like they say; when you meet the right person, you just know. It’s strange that there wasn’t any awkwardness even when we met for the first time. Usually, I’m very awkward with new people.

Happily ever after?

Now we’ve been in a relationship for 8 years and married for 6. As for having kids, we don’t want any. Instead, we’re raising a bunch of pet snails. Happily ever after? Oh, yes.

Wedding photo Kirsty Kendall

We live in a two-bedroom apartment. Our living room is our bedroom as well because we both need to have our individual rooms and we need the two bedrooms for that. I’m pretty sure a neurotypical partner wouldn’t understand the necessity of this sort of living arrangement. For me, having my own room with a door I can close is the key to a happy marriage.

I’m not saying it’s always been easy. Even though we’re both Autistic, we’re two different people. We don’t share the same Asperger’s symptoms either. Compromises have been necessary to ensure a happy married life for both of us.

For instance, I have sensory issues with bright artificial lighting. The bright ceiling light in our living room drives me crazy. My husband likes the bright ceiling light. We argued for years about the ceiling light. Now we finally have a floor lamp that is less bright but still bright enough so my husband can read in his armchair.

When the issues in your relationship are mostly about things like a ceiling light, it’s probably a sign that you‘re doing quite well as a couple. But when you have Asperger’s syndrome and sensory issues, things like a ceiling light can be a big deal. You need to be able to solve these kinds of issues with your partner.

Common problems in Asperger-neurotypical relationships

According to a study conducted by Bronwyn Wilson, Stephen Hay, Wendi Beamish & Tony Attwood, many NT (neurotypical) people feel emotionally unfulfilled in a relationship with an AS (Asperger) partner. The neurotypical partners who participated in the study found it difficult to deal with their Asperger partners’ ”lack of emotion” and ”unresponsiveness”.

According to this study, the ”unresponsiveness” triggered the NT partners to prompt their AS partners for responses and interaction. This made the NT partners feel like they were in a parent/child or teacher/student relationship instead of a romantic relationship.

For me, the issue with this study is the assumption that the way people with Asperger’s syndrome communicate is ”wrong” and we should adopt the neurotypical way of communication.

Interestingly enough, I’ve never suffered from ”lack of emotion” or ”unresponsiveness” in my marriage. My husband and I, two Autistic people, are able to communicate just fine. We can also express our emotions. I’ve only experienced communication issues with my neurotypical exes.

I certainly agree that good communication is the key to a successful relationship. However, it’s not like people with Asperger’s syndrome are ruining their relationships by not communicating.

AS and NT people just communicate differently, which makes it difficult for these relationships to work out. The neurotypical communication style is not in any way superior to the way people with ASD communicate.

Many people with Asperger’s syndrome have sensory sensitivity, which can cause them to avoid the physical expression of affection. However, this is not the case with all of us. I love hugging and cuddling. My husband and I have never avoided physical intimacy in our relationship.

It’s probably true that being in a relationship with an Asperger partner causes stress for neurotypical people. But being in a relationship with a neurotypical partner sure causes stress for people with Asperger’s as well!

You deserve to be loved for who you are

A study conducted on relationship satisfaction among adults with Asperger’s syndrome suggests that people with ASD whose partner was also on the Autism spectrum were significantly happier than those with neurotypical partners.

Based on my personal experience, I agree with this study 100%. My relationship attempts with neurotypical partners made me feel inadequate and faulty. Far too often, neurotypical people try to change their Autistic partner. But if you try to “fix” someone, it’s not true love.

Now I’m married to a fellow Aspie who loves me for who I am. It amazes me every day that he likes everything about me that my previous partners despised.

Don’t settle for anything less than a partner who loves you with all your Aspergerness.

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