I have been with my partner for the last 10 years. He is undiagnosed but I am 100% sure is aspie although I’m also pretty sure he would deny it himself. I’ve been aware of his traits for the entire duration of our relationship and in the main, we get along great. He is very high functioning, clever, sweet, kind and creative and I believe our relationship has been generally fulfilling for both of us. I continue to struggle, however, with lack of physical contact. Only on a handful of occasions has he initiated a hug or a kiss himself.
I got overwhelmed and upset due to feelings of rejection about 4 years ago and we separated for 6 months. There were issues going on in my life and I felt that he wasn’t able support me nor give me the comfort I was needing at that time. Despite this, I always knew that he loved me and we got back together. He struggles so much with expressing his emotions and in spite of that he agreed to go to relationship counselling with me which made me realise how much he wanted to make it work. Plus I simply missed him so much when we were apart.
At that time I decided that if I needed a hug I would just hug him if I wanted, regardless of whether he reciprocated. I’ve carried on that way since then and I believe we’ve been pretty good since. Although I have had spells of feeling sad about us not being a ‘normal’ couple they’ve passed pretty quickly in the face of all the good things we have together.
Very recently though I have started to wonder about whether me ‘taking’ the comfort I wanted is the right thing to do. I have been plagued by the worry that I am violating him and his personal space in some way. I have tried to talk to him about it and tell him that I am sorry if I have caused him discomfort. He said it was ‘fine’ but didn’t deny it, which just about broke my heart. He has also promised to try harder to be affectionate with me, but I don’t want him to do anything he doesn’t like. I haven’t touched him since and he has gingerly touched me a couple of times but he is clearly uncomfortable when he does it.
I don’t know what to do now - whether I should just continue doing as I have the last few years, or whether I should stop contact unless he initiates it himself. I wondered whether we could reach an agreement that he would speak up if he wasn’t happy with anything I was doing, but I know he is aware of how important physical contact is to me and I don’t really trust that he would let me know.
I love him to bits but I have no idea how to handle this.
I can probably tell both sides of the story for you so hopefully this will be of some help. I have Aspergers myself but I’ve also been convinced for a long term that my husband has at least autistic traits if not Aspergers. Neither of us is spontaneously affectionate with each other (rather hilariously he has berated me before for my lack of spontaneous affection but he’s worse than I am!) which most of the time suits me just fine BUT sometimes I really want a cuddle, like the first few weeks after I gave birth to our daughters when I was feeling a bit vulnerable or when I’m upset about something and even if I ask for a cuddle I kind of get held at arms length and patted like a dog! Or not cuddled at all depending on what mood he’s in. It’s difficult and it makes me feel rejected and like my emotional needs are not being met. Would your partner give you a cuddle if you asked for one? The next thing I was going to say is that it might be better to ask him rather than just cuddle him. I can handle cuddles up to a point, I have 3 children, two of which are under 5 so I have to be ok with cuddling BUT I do have my limits, my middle daughter is the definitely NT of the bunch and she’s very very tactile, sometimes she’ll start stroking my hair without warning or start stroking my tummy while she’s cuddling me and I absolutely can’t hack it, I feel bad as she’s just a child being affectionate to her mummy so I usually try to grin and bear it but it makes me feel really squirmy! My eldest will sometimes rest her feet in my lap while watching tv and it makes me feel really uncomfortable, I can handle the polite brief hug and kiss that you do to greet people at social events but if someone came up and full on hugged me, if my husband came up and full on hugged me, I really wouldn’t like it. If however, I was asked/warned about the impending cuddle first though, I’d have time to mentally prepare for it and I’d be able to tolerate it better.
Thank you so much for your response. It must give you a pretty unique insight to be on both sides of this!
Recently I have thought about asking up front if it’s ok or at least telling him what I’m going to do before I do it, but it feels so stiff and formal, lacking in spontaneity to do so.
The words you use to describe hugs and cuddles , ‘handle’ and ‘tolerate’, indicate reluctance. Do you have more positive feelings associated with contact too? Is it possible to foster them? Or am I asking for more change than my partner is able to make? He manages to lavish great affection on our cats and I would just occasionally to see a bit of it myself! To be fair, he takes great enjoyment from tickling my feet even though he knows I cannot stand it :)
I assume that your husband hasn’t been formally diagnosed? I have never raised with my partner my belief that he is autistic because I’m not sure how he would react and I have always been uncertain of what benefit it would actually be. At various points in time we have spoken about his traits such as not getting social cues, his obsessions etc and have over time developed our own little ways to manage them which has involved compromise on both sides, but I have never been explicit with him as to what I think is their cause. Do you think it would be worthwhile to do so? I worry it would upset him if he thought I thought there was something ‘wrong’’ with him and that he would think I am trying to blame him for our problems.
I can understand why having to ask for a cuddle might seem a bit formal and lacking in spontaneity but I’m afraid when your partner suffers from fixed rigid thinking patterns, we’re not as spontaneous as NTs, we can sometimes be but just not as much. I feel that it might be necessary to ask/warn your partner first so he can mentally prep for the cuddle a bit first. I hope my next paragraph will explain why a bit.
This might be a long paragraph but I’m going to try to describe my own personal take on how I am with cuddles etc. I actually think that for someone on the autism spectrum I’m not that bad with cuddles (more about that in a bit). Let me explain. I never used to like being cuddled by my mum when I was a child, in fact I remember one time my mum got so fed up with me never wanting to be cuddled that she restrained me on her lap and forcefully cuddled me, I hated it and the only way I could eventually get out of it was to say I needed the toilet so she let me go. That said when I’m first in a relationship with someone I do like cuddling them (we’ve been together nearly 11 years so I guess we’re well past that stage) and I do like cuddling up to my 1 and 4 year own (just not having my hair or tummy stroked) and that does evoke positive feelings, I used to like cuddling up to my 21 year old when she was little, though she’s like me, not that cuddly, weirdly I struggle to cuddle her now she’s an adult, it sounds bad but even if she’s crying I have to force myself to cuddle her. You mention reluctance, it’s not so much reluctance as in I don’t like eating cooked tomatoes but I might reluctantly eat them if I was given them with dinner at someone’s house. It’s more the feeling it produces in me internally if I get hugged or touched when I don’t want to be, it makes me feel very squirmy and uncomfortable inside. I have heard that some people higher up the spectrum, if someone touches them then it feels like a burning sensation, it physically hurts them, that’s why they can’t stand it (and why I say I’m not that bad with cuddles in comparison).
You ask if it’s possible to change and foster more positive feelings towards cuddles but it’s the way our brains are wired and we can’t rewire our brains.
It must be frustrating that your partner lavishes lots of attention on the cats but not you. My husband does this with his dog and I remember finding it particularly difficult after I’d had our 4 year old as at that time I did need cuddles and affection, even just some attention would have been nice. I think maybe men find animals easier to deal with than women sometimes. They can’t answer back either which probably helps!
As I said before my husband definitely has traits, even my mother-in-law when I said a couple of years ago that I thought I had Aspergers and had gone on the waiting list for assessment, once I explained the symptoms to her she turned around and said ‘oh I wonder if that’s what’s wrong with #####’. I have raised it with him before and he was having none of it. I’m sure one of his sisters is undiagnosed AS too but I don’t think anyone’s ever mentioned it to her. Regarding your partner maybe bring up the subject of Aspergers next time he is exhibiting AS behaviour as it maybe that he realises that he does things a bit differently but doesn’t know why, maybe be gentle about it though. Unlike me who just says it as it is
Hi I am new on here and just by coincidence looked up why my partner was like he was? I have been with my partner for 8 years and they have been quite hard years, as by now I thought we would know each other really well, but some days I don’t know him at all and wander why if he loves me why he says such horrible things and doesn’t show any feelings to me or ask how I am ?
I found your post and it’s so familiar -he never instigates anything romantic and the other day I was upset about it and my hospital apt and I asked if I could talk to him , he wasn’t interested he ignored me completely
when I asked if he was happy like this he said yes ? I guess as a women we need to be re-assured about feelings and we have been through a lot together
i need to know if there’s any info on how to get him to listen to me about my feelings as I’m getting to the point of walking out
he won’t entertain the idea he’s got a problem or even go get a test so I’m just reading as much as I can on here
what did you do ?
As a bloke I can relate to that. I have been with my partner 7yrs and she still struggles with it slightly. I was diagnosed last year and she's gone all out to find out what it's like to be me. She works with autism anyway so had a good idea, but she had zero idea what I was going through.
She's watched TED talks, YT videos - everything she can read and asked which parts relate to me. Even after all that time, she was surprised at how hard my life has been and still is to a large degree.
As for hugs/cuddling. She asks me first if it's ok. That gives me a split second to adjust - I do like hugs, but sudden ones are frightening - and at times of high stress it can be painful. She also accepts that "no" is an answer she might get (not often).
Yet strangely, I also have no problem with the kids hugging or curling up on me.
It’s weird isn’t it, how we seem to have an over-ride mechanism when it comes to being cuddled by our children?
Does he have any family members with autism? When my husband’s mum got diagnosed he decided to get it done himself as he knew deep down he was probably autistic.
If your partner is autistic, it could be that he doesn’t mean to be hurtful, but is responding in a way that doesn’t generally meet our expectations of what someone should react like if they love you.
If you are very specific about what you want him to do then it’s easier for him to understand e.g. come to dinner with me on Tuesday at 6pm as I want to spend time with you, can you buy this (exact thing) from (exact place) which is located (particular aisle)
It sounds like he’s happy with you. I feel your frustration about needing more romance. Try to be direct about what you need. Don’t say it when you’re emotional though - try writing it in a text and keeping it very simple and direct
Thank you for your advise it’s more confusing than I thought it would be in that after 8 years, I thought he would have learnt to adapt more ? Or does that not happen ? I don’t know ?
eg I am off for the week so I skied him if he was going to be around so we could do something together he replied bluntly if I was off I would be going to a bike show !!
when he says it in a rather blunt way it doesn’t make me feel very happy and yet if I say no to him he won’t talk to me for ages it’s like he’s allowed to be nasty but I’m not ?
Still trying to understand
I have put up a post trying to say exactly this...i am in the situation asking for advice.
I can relate to this completely - I have had struggles with my partner but I am the one with autism. Until I was diagnosed last year, there was a lot of conflict as he said that I was cold and unaffectionate. I was always promising to be more affectionate. We separated for a while then had relationship counselling. It has helped us to work around our strengths and weaknesses.
For me personally, I never initiate affection. However, I quite like it sometimes when my partner hugs and kisses me. So, perhaps if your partner says he is fine with it - then he could just tell you when it doesn't feel comfortable. I don't see it at all as if you are 'taking' comfort. you are entitled to affection and why not just go for it, as long as he knows he can speak up when he doesn't really want to do that.
I would say continue doing what you are doing. I also struggled with us not being a 'normal' couple but I now realise that everyone is different and I don't have to live up to other people's narrow expectations of how a relationship should be. I find it reassuring to hear experiences of other people in similar situations as it makes me realise that lots of people struggle with intimacy when autism is involved. You sound as if you have a good relationship to me.