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Relationships

Someone with Asperger’s recently posed the question “How do we grieve?”. My initial response was ‘it just happens’, someone dies and we respond – if we’re sad then that’s grief. Then I thought I might have misunderstood. Maybe they don’t mean ‘how’ as in ‘how can I feel grief’ but ‘how’ as in ‘how does grief manifest itself (or is expressed) for those with AS’.

Firstly, don’t expect to grieve. I went to my first funeral as a child, excited because I was curious about what would happen, very much NOT grieving. It was a relative, someone I’d met a few times and I was one of few people in the church not crying or looking downcast. I felt I’d hardly known this woman and she hadn’t been very nice to me so what need for grief?

The second relation who died was much closer but still, it didn’t really affect me until much later. Now I might occasionally lament that he died when other, less likeable relatives, live on. It’s not really grief – I don’t think there was much of that – although I did cry a bit at the funeral.

Cold?

Does this make me sound cold-hearted? Not so. I know for a fact I would be horribly upset if anyone I loved died. As a depressed teenager I would often worry about people close to me dying and just thinking about it would make me cry a lot. That is grief. Heartache and lots of crying.

As an adult I find myself reaching for stock responses to the news of people dying. If it’s someone I know then I really do feel bad for their husband or wife or children. If it’s someone I don’t know like a cultural icon, or a relative of a friend of a relative, then I might say “O dear” and try to look sympathetic. The same applies to people’s pets. I don’t really care because these people or animals have no connection to my life.

And there we have it, the three levels of Aspie ‘grief’. Nothing. Attempted sympathy (to be socially acceptable and not hurt anyone’s feelings). And full on.

I’m not looking forward to experiencing the third stage for real. The question of how to carry on is waiting on the other side.

Colder?

I feel I should add something about grief that I’ve noticed in other people. Sometimes it goes too far and people lose their sense of proportion. It’s as if nothing else exists apart from this feeling and everything else has to bend around it. This is a good way to lose friends and miss out on life’s opportunities.

It may sound cold, especially from someone who’s never experienced real full on grief before, but there has to be a cut off point. I don’t mean you should stop missing that person. Just don’t let it ruin everything else in your life and don’t get cross when people try to help you move on.

 

When I was growing up, before I’d even heard of the condition, I spent a lot of time crying because I couldn’t relate to my peers. As you can imagine, this made dating rather tricky.

By the time I was of an age to date boys I was too afraid to talk to most of them. My less than amazing social skills had taught me to expect rejection, ridicule and stressful misunderstandings. Somehow I got from there to being happily married.

How I started dating

My first boyfriend was the friend of a friend. Our first meetings (and many of our dates) were the result of lots of alcohol. I can’t recommend alcohol as a solution to your social and dating nerves but it certainly helped me set the ball rolling.

What I found best for starting new romantic relationships was internet dating sites. My aspergers makes it easier to communicate in writing than in person, plus I hate the telephone! Emailing prospective partners was a great way to get to know them as I was able to assess their interests and education level by reading their emails.

First dates were still nerve racking but I didn’t have to endure the nightclub chat up routines!

Be warned: some sites are aimed at people seeking long term relationships and others seem to cater for more casual flings so if you’re thinking about dating this way make sure you pick the right type of site!

Learning from your mistakes

It’s hard to talk about feelings with someone you care about. The more I value someone’s opinion the more likely I am to want to clam up about things that really should be shared.

Something I learnt from my husband is that you cannot rely on your partner to understand your feelings unless you explain them. This is probably true for everyone but especially for relationships where one or more partners is an aspie.

One person’s logic is another person’s madness. Don’t take it for granted that your understanding of something is correct, or that it is the only valid interpretation.

This was a hard lesson to learn because there’s a lot of ‘normal’ behaviour I don’t get. However, since I started applying this rule the things I don’t understand haven’t been so stressful. Like a kid at school I just have to raise my hand and say “I don’t understand, what do you mean by…”

Some people might think I’m an idiot but luckily my husband isn’t one of them. If someone does think you’re an idiot that’s their problem.