Non Autistic Partner Here! Best Ways To Communicate?

Hello, I am a non autistic woman in a relationship with an autistic guy, we're in our early 20s, I graduated college last year and he's just finishing up his final year now.

We've been dating for about three and a half years, living together for 1 and pretty much everything has been really smooth sailing as far as I can see only recently we've been at loggerheads a lot more because I've been unemployed since graduation and really struggling monetarily, and he's also very stressed because of course he has to hand in his dissertation soon while also working on his final project. I feel like both our stress has been manifesting in us being very snappy at eachother which is not our usual MO

We had a big fight this evening, I was crying over money woes and he just got up nonchalantly and when I asked where he was going he was just like "I've got *** to do" and of course this really really upset me. I suffer quite badly from depression (as does he) and anxiety so I had something of a screaming mental breakdown. When I collected myself I went downstairs and confronted him as to why he'd leave me alone when I was clearly in such a state, his reasoning was he just couldn't leave the dishes unwashed any longer, and he wanted to eat the leftovers of dinner that I'd cooked because they were "made with love". In the moment I was completely baffled he saw my feelings over dinner I cooked earlier as more important than the large breakdown I was having at that moment, I got very upset, but we talked it out and he says that if there are other things on his mind he just HAS to deal with them first otherwise he doesn't feel "safe". Also that when I'm in a state like that he finds excuses to get out of the situation rather than just directly saying that it's overwhelming him which I'd much rather wish he did. It took a lot for me to get that out of him and when he does this it comes across as indifference or sometimes even irritation at my feelings. I'm a very sensitive person to tone of voice and facial expression so it effects me really badly.

Sorry if this is too nebulous a question but what's the best way we can communicate over these issues, how can I tell him to let me know he has other things on his mind that are making him panic without him coming across like he doesn't care about me. Also I sometimes worry that when he is struggling with depressive thoughts he doesn't come to me or anyone even, or doesn't know how to word them, but of course I don't want to badger him if maybe there isn't actually anything wrong in the moment! I do my absolute darndest to communicate but obviously that's not gonna do much if I'm not speaking in a way he understands so I need some help now that things are a bit more stressful for both of us. Anyone been through anything similar, any advice from autistic adults on how you communicate with your partners? Sorry if this is a bit rambly and if I've said anything insensitive please let me know

Thanks loads~

  • Hi NAS 37486, all I can say is by reading how you describe what is happening it shows you really do understand his mind and how it effects him, a lot of what you wrote strikes a chord with me in that I struggle like your partner with many of the things he does, I do not have any answers for you on communicating, all I can say is try to accept what he does isn’t in anyway against you, we are “HARD” wired and rarely se3 what we do as being inconsiderate or not caring, it is as if we just do, maybe it is just us being us, the big difference which puts us apart from someone who is dismissive or appears not to care is we very much do care, we internalise most of it, it hurts, but for me it is the only way I can deal with it. 

    I wish you both well,you are very understanding and although you need to feel able to understand him more you do already, itis accepting it may never change and asking yourself is it enough for you.

    take care.

    x()x

  • Every long term relationship I've been in except one was with a neurotypical girl. I don't mean to sound snarky but if you are in a relationship with someone for 3 and a half years you pretty much know how to communicate with the other person. It sounds like you have hit a bit of a rough patch and you are suddenly questioning his Autistic traits because of it. You seem to recognise his traits. You seem to be pretty raw at the moment and picking up on them more. He sounds pretty reasonable.

    Trust me the problems you are having aren't too bad, I've seen some real *** over the years. You are young and probably haven't been in too many serious relationships. There are waaaaay worse guys out there going by what you are saying about him. Who eats leftovers because they were "made with love", that's a compliment a lot of people don't get! That sounded quite sweet to me!

  • Hi, you haven't said anything insensitive. (To me anyway!) I'm a woman in my 40's with Asperger's and I can relate to some of your partner's reactions. I can also understand a little of how you describe your feelings. It does sound tough, for both of you.

    He may have genuinely thought that, as you were upset already, the last thing he wanted to do was leave you with the washing up and waste the food you'd gone to the bother of preparing for you both. That actually makes a LOT of sense to me, he didn't want to upset you more when he saw how distressed you already were.

    He was also probably panicking seeing you that upset (much more upset than he's seen you before from what you say) and needed time out to process it so that he could work out a way to try to help or to communicate with you about it. He probably isn't thinking in that exact moment "I need to go off and process this, I'm feeling overwhelmed by it." so that would explain why he doesn't / isn't able to say that to you straight away. 

    He's instead probably in 'freeze' mode. In similar situations I feel as if my brain is rushing frantically, casting about for the correct way to deal with the situation and panicking because, in the rush, I can't find anything - at that point it's as if the computer in my brain crashes and ... well, I sort of mentally freeze. At that point I too would need to remove myself from he situation to re-boot and (without distractions) process everything that just happened. After that, I'm perfectly capable of coming back to calmly and rationally discuss the situation. Of course, not having that retreat and re-boot time (as in some situations it just isn't feasible) can result in saying / doing whatever it takes to make it stop - even saying hurtful things just to remove the other person and force them to leave me to do what I need to do. I'm not saying that your boyfriend is like me in that respect but that, to me, is an understandable and reasonable reaction when I'm feeling backed into a corner. 

    It's not necessarily him "finding excuses to get out of the situation" but needing reasons to remove himself so that he is able to respond to you in the way that he wants to rather than either exploding (like me on occasion) or simply agreeing to anything just to bring the situation to an end (not one I'm overly familiar with). 

    I hope at least some of this makes sense. One last point I would add is that, seeing as he's working on his dissertation, he probably doesn't have any head-space left for anything else right now. I would imagine this to be the same for anyone, ASD or not, but in my experience that's a pretty all-consuming project and I put partner, kids, eating and sleeping on the back burner when I was engaged in full-on study like that. It might be a good idea to give each other a bit of extra space and leeway when one of you is going through a high-stress period like that.            

  • Thank you Endymion your words,,,,Well! Spot on. 

    Thank you. It all helps reading how others see things and how I can see things in a new way, it gives me a better understanding, my head often needs to reboot, not always possible. Factor in an abismal memory just makes things harder, I too reboot and the change is so sudden in my mind that it freaks me out. I don’t always say the right things but my words are said in a factual reasoning way, 

    I freeze mentally or if no time then it starts getting very confused, tangled and just about anything comes out as I flounder to just keep going, often harsh words, not meant, but can cause upset. 

    Take care OP I feel you both have a good chance as you both understand what is happening,,,you just need time to work through it, as said give yourselves a break, things are full on with the work load, 

    x()x

  • I'm autistic and have been in relationships where I may have seemed standoffish or unconcerned. I think you've described the situation well, although to be frank I wonder if you may be looking for solutions inside to relationship to problems outside the relationship where your other friends and family might be able to help more. This is a very personal thing to you, and I've no right to 'put my oar in' and hope I don't say anything insensitive.

    There is a cliché that autistic people 'don't like strong emotion'. It's not quite true, but many people do need time on their own to access their own feelings. I get the impression that if you asked him to sit with you and give you a hug, and he did, he'd break down in tears himself in sympathy, and may not want to appear weak. You could just reiterate what the ideal means to you.

    how can I tell him to let me know he has other things on his mind that are making him panic without him coming across like he doesn't care about me

    If you know that isn't true, why does it matter? You might ask him again for something that might have helped you then and see if he can find a way to help when you're distraught. I don't know how silly an idea it is, but maybe you could devise your own language of hand signals or something to signify being too stressed to continue the conversation at that particular time.  Anger is about unmet needs, so those need to be recognised.  Hope you talk it through, anyway.

  • I think we as people on the spectrum tend to focus more on practical stuff and less on emotional issues. Perhaps he thought that continuing to argue with you wasn't doing either of you any good, but doing the dishes and eating leftovers is at least a productive way of spending his time. I also often completely get the focus of a situation wrong and end up upsetting someone, even though I am considering their feelings. I will give advice about some situation someone has told me about when all they really want is for me to say "that sucks", or whatever. It sounds as though he cares about your feelings but is having trouble showing it.

    I think that if you try to focus more on what is practical, you will see things more from his point of view. Similarly, he could consider your emotional state more, though keep in mind that it will be difficult for him to do so.