How can I help my crush on the autism spectrum relax around me?

Hi everyone,

How can I help my crush relax while we're seeing each other? He is on the autism spectrum and gets stressed, anxious and shy when I'm around, so he starts stimming and then feels ashamed about it, so he ends up avoiding me for weeks. How can I show him that it doesn't bother me and all I want is to make sure he's feeling comfortable and safe around me? Bear hugs or no touch at all? Open conversations or pretending nothing happened? Trying to be more relaxed myself or admitting that I'm nervous, too? I've had cognitive behavioural therapy sessions for social anxiety, so I understand what he's going through and maybe I could give him some pointers? Any suggestions would be very welcome.

In detail:

My friend told me he is on the autism spectrum and that he's also extremely shy, but I thought he was just joking because he seemed completely fine to me (I'm a medic). We started hanging out a lot, opening up more and more while having deep conversations. Then I started having feelings for him. We kissed and then things got tricky... He started stimming around me and that's when I realised he is indeed on the autism spectrum. He started being very nervous around me, blushing and talking very quickly. He can hug other people, but he can barely touch me when I try to hug him.

I think he likes me because there's a lot of chemistry between us that other people have noticed, too. When he's not stressed, we laugh together a lot and he gives me a lot of attention. I don't want to pressure him, so I gave him a lot of space to figure things out. But in the same time, I would like to show him that taking things to the next level could be fun and rewarding. I think once we're feeling comfortable around each other again, things will go well. He likes talking about sex and sounded experienced, but I have the impression that he struggles with emotional intimacy. How can I help him?

I'm also open to being just friends, if in fact he has no romantic interest in me and might be behaving this way because he's afraid that I might get hurt... He's so amazing, bright, handsome, funny and understanding!!

Thank you,

Lana

  • Lana, the thing you need to understand is every neurodiverse person is different with their sensory needs and responses so there is no simple rules.

    It helps to start with understanding that your crush has a far slower processing speed for ideas and novel things than you as a neurotypical. So he hit overload quickly and got ashamed of his behaviour.

    So if you want a relationship it's going to have to involve finding out how best to ask about his needs and likes and be VERY patient waiting for a response.

    NT/ND relationships can be immensely rewarding but they are also hard work. My relationship is amazing but we took 7 years to live in the same household and 6 to live in the same time zone. My SO has ADHD and I have DCD so we both deal with processing and sensory issues.

    The only other generalized comment I think can help is trustworthy behaviour is necessary on your part. My SO had 18 years of domestic violence in his marriage and there was a lot of hidden trauma 'landmines' ranging from trigger words to being set off by touch at the wrong pace. We quickly worked out we needed safer words, so if he was triggered he could use it and I would stop. It requires that you really are aware and you do stop as agreed. We are almost totally passed the time of using safe words (one came up this week but it was over a year since the last time) and things are very good between us. Christmas Eve will be our official second anniversary of living together.

  • Hi Lana,

    Love and related feelings can be very overwhelming for someone who isn't able to cope with them as well as other people. Also, he may not know what the next steps are, or what he's supposed to do, or how things will change - social contracts are difficult things if you don't have the skill, and romantic ones are even bigger because you have more to lose.

    If it was me, I'd probably tell him plainly that I really like him and want to be a couple, and that it will all be okay, and that you welcome his quirks, and you want to spend more time with him. Keep your communication clear and obvious, no hinting. Also, 1-on-1 time can be good - I know when I had girlfriends when I was younger, I was much more settled if I was somewhere just with them, not with a crowd of other people, so I could focus all my attention on them. I think normal people would see that as being intimate, I would just see that as being normal.

    I guess ultimately you have to judge all this for yourself, knowing him. But hopefully the above offers a perspective.

    Good luck and I hope it works out, you sound like you would be a good match :)

  • Communication is important maybe say online that the autism doesn't matter to you if he's understanding he might know how you are feeling towards him. Ask him to for a coffee sometime, maybe call it a date or it's okay if you both want to stay friends. Make sure you're clear on what you want..

    I'm autistic in a 3 yr relationship with a neurotypical girlfriend.