Chris Packham show - glossing over relationship problems

Did anyone else find the Chris Packham show (https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09b1zbb/chris-packham-aspergers-and-me) worrying? 

Had Chris chosen to be single, I would have applauded every aspect of this show and agreed wholeheartedly with his horror at the 'curative treatments' he witnessed in the USA / sentiment that his Aspergers was an intrinsic and positive part of his make-up.

But he isn't single, and I was horrified at how casually the show treated the dysfunction in his relationship with Charlotte. 

He admitted to having difficulty in empathizing with other humans. The only feeling he expressed for Charlotte was gratitude that SHE loved HIM; he showed her no affection, avoided physical contact with her, said that he only knew how long they'd been together because she had told him (10 years), aggressively forced her to greet his dog before he otherwise acknowledged her after a significant period of time apart... for her part she acknowledged many difficulties in the relationship but the show presented her concluding that it was worth it because she so admired how his mind works. Was that just editing? Can it really be enough? Surely anyone can admire how his mind works, it doesn't mean that you have to be in an exclusive 'romantic' relationship / 'partnership' with that person to witness it.  

I worry for her enormously, because I am only just now recovering from a "catastrophic" end to a relationship with a man on the Autism Spectrum. I wrote on this forum about it last year. The short version of it is that I supported him for years, and he ended our relationship a few hours after my Dad's traumatic death because HE found it too intense.

There was more too, but beyond the scope of this post. It's impossible to express the psychological impact these events have had on me, it was devastation upon devastation. That was about a year and a half ago. It has been a very tough time and although I'm starting to pull through now, my own mental health has been in the toilet for most of it. 

What is a relationship for if not reciprocal intimacy and support? The show completely glossed over his really unpleasant attitude to humans in general, and Charlotte in particular. In addition, I'm concerned that the show may have given the impression that treating a partner with such disdain is acceptable. It's not.

I completely agree that Aspergers has unique potential to offer a whole other set of intellectual skills which are of enormous value to humanity, but it is my opinion that it is irresponsible for someone who does not have the capacity for human empathy to be involved in a romantic relationship. 

  • That's quite a surprise, I've only watched the first 20something minutes because it should only be possible to watch it in UK and that was the longest clip I could find that would run here. I was convinced he lived there on his own with his dog. There seemed no space for anyone else really... I'm honestly surprised now to read that there is actually someone and can imagine that this would not be easy. Guess even if it wasn't mentioned or presented that way quite a few people will feel about it in a similar way as you do, even without the bad experience you have had. On the other hand being autistic doesn't necessarily mean to be unable to give love to someone else (sometimes perhaps even too much and in an too intense way). It also doesn't mean that people should stop themselves (or be stopped?) to get involved in a romantic relationship, I think. That's always going to happen, isn't it, can anyone be blamed for that? I agree that they could have been more honest, the way it seems to have been presented wasn't exactly advertising autistic people as good partners anyway.

    Hope you recover from your experience. Perhaps in a way it doesn't matter so much why a relationship fails, when it does it usually hurts at least one enormously.

  • Given the available time, I thought the programme was excellent. My only criticism relates to scheduling: I would have liked the programme on BBC1 at prime time.

    Making that programme could not have been easy and I think Chris Packham should be applauded for helping to improve the understanding of autism and Asperger's in particular.

    I did not find his attitude to people unpleasant, but that is probably because I have a similar attitude. I much prefer animals to people.

    With regards to the relationship with Charlotte, we do not know if there were reasons (other than time constraints) for limiting the time given to that aspect of Chris Packham's life. The relationship seemed ideal to me.

    If Chris and Charlotte are happy or contented, or whatever word(s) you wish to use to describe a relationship that works for them (and they are not hurting anyone), then we should not criticise that relationship. People are different and a relationship means different things to different people.

  • I haven't seen the show, but what you say about his attitude to her rings bells with me - sadly.  I am a little older that Chris.  I've had a lifetime of failed relationships, and now choose to be single.  The only way I could ever have a 'relationship' again is with the understanding that it would have to be 'living apart'.  So, it would need to be with a very understanding and accepting person.  Healthy relationships are built on compromise (something much harder for someone on the spectrum), so why should I force someone to accept my conditions for a relationship if it wasn't what she wanted?  From what I gather, Chris and Charlotte both seem to be accepting of the arrangements.  Many couple - ND or not - choose such relationships now.  I have a friend who has sustained a successful relationship with his partner for nearly 20 years, and they live in separate houses, about half a mile apart.  They love one another.  But just looking at how each of them lives - her tidy and comfortable, him messy and cluttered - would be enough to guess how long it would last if they cohabited.  I also know a number of cohabiting couples who, whilst loving one another, find cohabitation very difficult.  It can put huge strains on a relationship.

    As for the emotional side...  I know how it feels to be in love - that is, romantic love.  That, of course, is a whole lot different to the enduring love that's supposed to come when that's all settled down.  And it's that side that I struggle with.  In that sense, I don't think I know what 'true' love is at all.  I don't think I can have that kind of feeling.  Like Chris, my attachment to my pets is far stronger and more profound to any attachment I've ever had with a human being, aside from my parents.  If anything happened to any of my animals, I'd be horribly distraught.  I'm not even sure I'd know what to do.  Maybe it's because that is an unconditional love.  They depend on me, would never lie to me, would never cheat on me, and are always there when I want them - and vice-versa.  They don't make any difficult demands on me. They're vulnerable - as I am and always have been throughout my life.  That all sounds very selfish of me, doesn't it.  But it works, for me and for them.  And I'm not causing any other human being any grief with my demands and my behaviour.  So perhaps it's the best way to be.  Maybe it seems like a huge sacrifice - to live the rest of my life without a loving relationship with another human.

    But, as I've said, I'm not really sure what that is anyway.