Love with an Autistic Dimension

My mind is occupied with love. Love and autism.

I’ve experienced romantic love a couple of times, and I’ve had plenty of experiences of sexual desire. I’ve had romantic crushes that have faded, flings that turned into friendships, friendships that evolved into romantic relationships and so many other kinds of relationships where the experience of love has changed over time. At the moment, I love a couple of people, all in unique ways. My thoughts are often occupied with how difficult I find it to trust people and let them in, but when I think about it like this I can see how much warm feeling for other people I have at the moment and have had in the past and that makes me happy. Love isn’t one single, monolithic feeling or experience. Rather, love is multiplicity.

One of the people that I’ve been (or maybe still am) deeply, romantically in love with stands out in ways that I don’t know how to describe. I just wrote that all my experiences of romantic love have been unique to me and they have, but this one is different because not only did my love for her feel different than for all other people. My feelings for her had (have?) a whole separate dimension. Honestly, it’s not a perfect way to describe it, but I’m lacking words and that’s not only because I’m writing in a language that doesn’t feel fluent to me. What I felt (feel) for her was something so…special, rare, different, unique… no words are really fit here… that I don’t have any words in any language. Despite that, I have a strong urge to write about it. It doesn’t make sense. Or maybe that’s exactly what it does.

When I think about my time with her, Liz, I feel like I’m totally falling. It was like I was standing at a mountain and when I was with her, a separate world opened and we fell straight into it. Considering that the expression “falling in love is” exists in several languages, I suspect that I’m not the only one who have experienced the falling feeling. Tomber à l’amour, falling in love. However, what was special with my feelings for Liz wasn’t the falling feeling, but that new dimension of intimacy.

It was like we fell straight into a world where our words and actions had a meaning that only we understood. Like the words I had been saying, writing, hearing and reading all of my life had only been making some kind of sense, because my undiscovered autistic self had always lived with such a chaos and confusion. When other people talked about how they, and as they assumed even I, experienced the world, it only fit to some degree. I had been trying to be that person that other people told me that I was, a real person that experienced sensations like real people should, and felt feelings like real people should. It had never fit, and all my words had always been scraping and rubbing my mind instead of fitting smoothly. And then I fell deeply in love with Liz and we talked about experiencing other people’s feelings, about not being able to shield ourselves and about wanting so desperately to be close to other people while easily being overwhelmed and needing space and quiet time.

I was shaken to the ground. I was so used to hiding everything that was me, so used to be an unrelatable freak that had to exhaust myself in my efforts to be like (what I thought was) a real person. With her, I lost everything that I had to defend myself. I showed myself to her and it scared me to the bone.

This happened several years ago, before I had understood that I am autistic. Up until recently, I never understood why I was so shaken by this experience. Now I think I finally know why.

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Gap

My relationship to my partner has been better for the last couple of months, and I’m very happy about that. We have sorted some things out and some external factors have changed and that also seems to make our everyday life easier. However, sometimes I experience some sort of gap between us. Like right in this moment.

There’s too much going on this week. Special things for my kid in school (a small concert and a theme day about human rights) that we found out about very late, meaning, we’re working our asses off to make visual material and prepare our kid. On top of that we have some healthcare stuff for me that my partner need to take me too and preparations to be done before that. My partner has done a big part of the preparation work for our kid because I haven’t been well enough today, so he’s kind of stressed out. I feel bad for not being able to do more but I also feel bad because this is the kind of situation that worries me a lot. Everything has too work smoothly according to our plan, otherwise it’s quite likely that things will be chaotic for all of us. The thing is, things never run smoothly. There will be some kind of problem that needs to be solved and I know that I don’t have the capacity to handle it, but I have to solve certain things because otherwise my kid might end up suffering.

This is not how I prefer to organize things, but this is happening mainly because my kid’s school forgot to inform us on time. Still, we have to solve this situation.

I worry. I need to just focus on dealing with my anxiety. My partner thinks that since he’s doing a lot of the preparation work with our kid, I get to rest since I’m done with most of the preparations for my doctor’s appointment. But I’m not resting. I spend my time planning exactly how to deal with every minute of Monday and Tuesday, trying to predict everything because I don’t have room to deal with any kind of demand that I’m not prepared for. In these kind of situations, I always end up over-exerting myself and that means that I also have to plan for being in a terribly bad shape until Friday.

I’m trying to focus on just getting by the rest of the day. Tomorrow, I’ll be drained of energy from just dealing with the chaos that this kind of tight schedule is causing me, and my partner won’t understand why. It will be a huge gap between us but we’ll be too busy and exhausted to sort things out.

 


As usual, I’m not writing this to get any practical advice and comments including advice won’t be published.

Intimacy

I keep thinking about what I wrote the other day, that social interactions are so hard, for so many reasons. One thing that I didn’t mention is that interactions can lead to intimacy, and it can be intense. Too intense to harbor. There’s no way of knowing which interactions that will be too intense, too good, too scary. It just happens, and I’m never prepared.

Honestly I don’t know which force is the strongest, my fear for intimacy or my craving for it.

Intimacy is difficult because I tend to not understand what kind of intimicy I’m experiencing. All I know is that interacting with someone feels good and I want more. I want to be closer. But in which way? That’s not always obvious. Sometimes it’s obvious and comparatively uncomplicated, but all the times when I don’t know what the longing for more of this person is – it scares me. If we met AFK, would I want to kiss you? Touch you? Confide in you? Talk about autism or philosophy? Be comforted by you?

I don’t know. And that scares me. And of course, I don’t know what the other person feels, if they experience any sense of intimacy at all. That scares me even more.

Recently, someone asked me to show myself to them. Not that much, just a piece, but an important piece. So I did. It was scary and energy consuming but oh so good. I want them to ask me for more. I want to ask them for more. But I won’t. This person did probably not understand how affected I was from our interaction and I won’t tell them, because that would be to cross a line I have no intention to cross. I hid behind theories, or maybe theories were what made the intimacy possible. I don’t know. All I know is that the interaction was difficult but felt so good and now I want more.

I don’t know if this is something particularly autistic or not. It makes me feel ashamed and that’s why I’m writing it. After all, this is a place where I write about shameful issues.

The Lonely Polyam

Content: This post includes mentioning of an abusive partner, but no explicit details.

 

I don’t know how old I was the first time I realized that I could feel romantic kinds of love for more than one person at the same time. At the time when it happened I didn’t know that there were other people who felt the same and to me it wasn’t an identity, I just considered it one of my flaws.

A couple of years later I was familiar with the term polyamorous and I had found a couple of people to talk to about it. I had come to the point of articulating the question “How does it come that it’s considered perfectly fine to love more than one child, more than one friend, more than one sibling or parent, but never ever to love more than one person as a romantic partner?” To me, this was an honest question but most people outside my poly community seemed to interpret it as a rhetorical question intended to provoke. I didn’t want to provoke, I wanted answers. I wanted to know what I could do to either stop feeling the way I did, because it was obviously so wrong to most people, or to figure out a way to live with my feelings without hating myself for it.

Because, even though I ended up as a speaker in workshops with such great answers about all relationships being hard and demanding work and what not, I never actually figured out how to deal with myself. I had a girlfriend and after a while a boyfriend too, and it didn’t work. I ended up with the same problems as in most relationships of any kind, but so much worse. Everything that was difficult for me in relationships was intensified to a point that teared me apart. Having more than one partner and taking a totally different direction than the conventional path with one partner at a time meant that I was exposed to being misunderstood by more than one person at the same time. Everything that was weird about me, all the stuff I didn’t have words for, became even more weird and impossible to relate to. Living a poly life with all the unpredictability that came with it made me more lonely than ever.

Today, I think that there were many reasons for this. One was that the girlfriend mentioned above was mean and actually abusive, another was that I didn’t understand myself as an autistic person with sensory and emotional overloads. I need to have plenty of time on my own to process and when I didn’t get this I had so many meltdowns that I never understood. I need to know that my processing time is something that will be respected, something that I didn’t experience in most relationships. At one point I was sure that the poly thing wasn’t for me, that it was just a phase and that I needed to put it behind me, so I did. Or, I tried to.

I’m still able to feel romantic kinds of love for more than one person, but today I live in a monogamous relationship. My partner accepts that I’m polyamorous but I hardly have energy to maintain my relationship with him, and there’s absolutely no practical possibility for anybody else. But, I loved someone else too a couple of years ago and until recently I’ve felt so guilty about it. I had forgot that it’s possible to love two people at the same time and felt like I let my partner down by loving someone else too. And then it hit me a couple of days ago that just because I couldn’t handle more than one partner at a time doesn’t mean I don’t have the ability to love two people.