Autistic Adults & Relationships: Transitions Talks with Priya
Developing and maintaining healthy relationships!
In light of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to discuss relationships this month. They can be messy and complicated for anyone. They can be even more complex for neurodiverse individuals who communicate and socialize differently. This includes not only romantic relationships, but also connections with friends, family, and people from work. Ultimately, a relationship is a connection formed by communicating. Relationships are an important part of our basic human needs.
Here are some tips to help neurodiversepeople cultivate healthy relationships with others in their lives:
- Identify your values.
What type of person do you want to be? What is important to you in your life? These questions will help you identify your values and who you might want to be in a relationship with. Do their values align with your values? Are you the person you want to be when you are with them?
- Give yourself and the other person the space to disagree or say no.
Once you determine that someone has the same core values as you, it makes it easier to accept disagreements on things that are less important to you. Both people in a relationship should feel comfortable enough to say no to the other person in order to set a boundary when needed. This will make the relationship feel safer.
- Observe how they treat others.
Not only is it important to pay attention to how they treat you, but it is also important to pay attention to how they treat others. This will tell you a lot about the type of person they are. How do they treat everyone around them? This can tell you whether or not you might choose to be in a relationship with them.
- It is okay to take a break.
If you’re in a conflict with someone, it is okay to take some time and space away from them. Wait until a moment when you are calm to speak to them about the issue you are having. If you are unable to come up with a resolution, it is okay to suggest coming back to the conversation at another time.
- Seek consent for physical touch
For anything from a handshake to a kiss, ask the other person if it is okay first. Respect their wishes if they say no. You should be able to say no as well.
- Focus on how to respond to your emotions
It’s okay to feel angry, frustrated, or disappointed with someone. The question is how you respond to these feelings. Do not let your emotions make you act in ways that don’t reflect the type of person you want to be. Taking a break is useful when you start to feel heightened emotions that make you uncomfortable. Come back to speak to the person about the situation when you feel calm. Use an “I statement” to express how you feel about their action rather than attack them as a person or strike out against their character. Stay focused on the specific situation rather than bringing up other things that aren’t relevant during the conversation. It is normal to have moments like this and these strategies will help the conversation, and your relationship, go much more smoothly.
- People with autism or who are diagnosed with non-verbal learning differences (NVLD) may have qualities that make relationships more focused and honest.
Many people with a diagnosis of autism or another learning difference have difficulty holding a hidden agenda or playing social games. In a relationship,this can be very positive as the person can be more straightforward and focused. It does, however, sometimes take equal back-and-forth conversations to develop a comfort level with his level of honesty. Open communication will always provide a strong basis for any friendship or relationship.
Hopefully these tips will make it a little easier to navigate relationships with people in your life. They can make things less confusing.Everyone needs happy and healthy relationships in their lives – good relationships take work, but in the end it’s all worth it!