The art of relationships on the autism spectrum

Austin Jones

By Austin John Jones

I want to talk about something very personal to me: relationships. I have had fairly minimal experience with being in relationships. I have had 4 online dating relationships (which didn’t work out), and I would say 2 “serious” real life relationships. One of them is the current woman I consider my significant other.

I would like to start by sharing my first experience of being what people call “in love.” I met this girl online. I was 15 and was crazy about her. Long story short, my parents didn’t approve and it ended up not working out. It was a part of my life I would rather not remember, but what that relationship taught me was one really important thing about being in a relationship: trust.

Trust is a weird thing. Because everyone should trust each other, but not everybody does. Because people feel insecure. I’m such a nice person that I try to trust everyone. But because of that, people take advantage of me. This happened to me in my first relationship. I trusted this girl online, believing everything she told me about herself, and that all ended up being a lie. So big lesson from this was: Be careful who you trust. Learn to read people which for me being on the spectrum is hard to do.

These days I recommend if you are going to date someone, do it in person. Long distance sucks. If you can date someone in person, you get to do a lot of things that can be hard for people on the spectrum to be comfortable with: Touching someone, kissing someone, holding hands, talking, eating together, going to see movies, going to theme parks, driving in the car together, etc.

USING YOUR CELL PHONE IN A RELATIONSHIP

We call people. We text people. We video chat. All that stuff kind of makes it easier if you are on the spectrum because you don’t have to look people in the eyes or touch them. But I have a problem with phones: they are a way to communicate, but that way to communicate sends mixed messages based on how you use your phone.

Texting sucks. I cannot tell you how many times, whether it’s online on my computer, or texting with my girlfriend or friends or whoever, miscommunication happens. And it really messes things up. It causes arguments. It causes conflict, and all sorts of problems if people take the message I sent the wrong way. It can be very difficult sometimes to use texting to your advantage. So what can you do instead?

You have a couple options.

1. Call them. Hearing a person’s voice is always better then just reading something they sent and misinterpreting it. This reduces the amount of stress both people feel. Every time I have ever called someone instead of texting them it has been just straight up easier for us to understand each other.

2. Take a break. Sometimes…when the heat gets turned up, when that conflict fire is just too much, disengage. Remove yourself from that situation. Because if you just keep throwing coals at the fire, it will continue to burn. Sometimes you just need to let the fire burn out. Wait for the ash to settle. Sometimes the best thing to do is just wait a bit before responding. I’ve done that and sometimes the person has called me.

3. Just wait till you can meet in person. I don’t know what really makes it so great, but when you are literally face to face with the love of your life, friend, another person or whoever it is you are talking to, just being with them is a really special thing. You see their expressions: you see them smile, you see them frown, you see if they are angry. You might even see them cry. It breaks my heart when I see my girlfriend cry. Because I love her with every fiber of my being and I would never intend to hurt her feelings. It’s not in my nature to make people cry. Seeing someone cry really brings out another part of me—a level of empathy that I think we have inside each and every one of us. These kinds of things are hard for me to communicate over a phone.

ACCOMMODATING FOR THE ONE YOU LOVE

I’ve meet a lot of different people, and I have dated a minimal number of people. All of them were DIFFERENT. Some people have a hard time keeping their relationship steady and keep bouncing from one person to another. I guess you get used to that. For someone like me…who is very loyal and dedicated to the people I am in love with…this can be a very difficult thing. I also think it can be ESPECIALLY difficult for people on the Autism spectrum.

This reminds me of my blog about CHANGE. Change sucks. Change is a very hard thing to do for some people, especially for people on the spectrum. So just imagine, you meet somebody, you fall in love with them, you date them for XYZ amount of time, it ends up not working out, than you go through the recovery process of the breakup (which is very, VERY sad) then BAM! Someone new shows up in your life and the process starts all over again. You have to learn who they are; you have to know what they like; you have to understand what they do and don’t like about you so you can make yourself a better person to prove you are worth their while. See how this can be overwhelming at times for people on the spectrum? It can be very hard, but there are some things I try to do in situations like this.

I try to have an easygoing, patient, calm mentality. Most of the time, I don’t even realize I do these kinds of things. Most people I meet think I am pretty chill. I am a hyperactive spaz, but I know how to relax and have a good time. I also try to have a sense of humor, and know when to take things seriously, know when things get bad so that I can fix things, and I try not to panic. The worst thing I can do in a relationship when I’m are trying to learn about someone new is get super excited and just rush into things.

It’s too much for me and here is where I say the words my father told me:

RIDE THE WAVE…GO WITH THE FLOW

I have learned something important from being in a serious relationship, and my wonderful girlfriend now told me this: How can I believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself?

Confidence is good. It’s pretty cool. It makes us better people. It helps us live our lives with love and passion. It helps us make choices…someone once told me “Austin love is not a feeling, it’s a commitment.” I was at one of my cousin’s weddings once and her husband’s grandparents were at the wedding and he said something crazy like they have been married for 50+ years. OVER FIFTY YEARS!! At that point, it’s not just that feeling of love they have for each other, that is DEDICATION!! That is an eternal promise.

LIVING WITH THE PERSON YOU LOVE

Okay…so honestly…I have never done this. I have never had ANY EXPERIENCE with this.

HOWEVER…I have some advice that I think will be useful based on what I have thought about for when this happens to me. I also have advice based on witnessing friends and family doing this.

1. You will see that person…most likely…EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE. But you need to keep in mind that they will have a schedule. JUST LIKE YOU. Not everything is going to go the way to you want it to. This is why adapting to change is more important than ever. Be ready for the unexpected. And be ready at a moment’s notice. And we know change is hard, so take it slow.

2. BE ORGANIZED. I have seen a lot of different people’s houses. Clean ones, messy ones…ones I can’t even believe are still livable. Just understand, it’s a lot easier to live with another person if you both can work together to keep your living space tidy and clean. But that can be hard especially if you haven’t done it or like your things just a particular way. Again, change is hard so take it slow.

3. I think you need to be prepared for anything in a relationship when living with a person. A lot of the times it’s going to be great…but there are going to be just as many times where there will be bad days…and that person you are with and yourself are going to have to LIVE THROUGH THOSE TIMES. Be patient. Ride the wave. By the end of the day, as long as you both are fine…things will work out eventually. Just be strong. Life sucks sometimes. I know. But remember the good and forget the bad (except it’s good to remember the bad things so that you make sure those things don’t happen again.)

Love. Hope. Commitment.

These three words are so powerful.

Love ignites the spark between people.

Hope keeps the spark alive…and turns It into a flame. A burning flame that lasts as long as you have hope.

And commitment…is the care…the passion…the will to keep that flame alive between you and that person.

Be committed. Love finds a way. Ride the wave.

Peace.

***

My name is Austin. I am an artist. I am an art teacher. I am a gamer. I am a storyteller and a writer. I love my community, I love my friends and family, and I am on the Autism Spectrum. My favorite game to play with my friends is Magic the Gathering. My favorite video game to play is Spiral Knights. I am a Guild Master of my Spiral Knights Guild: Altosk. I am an avid Hearthstone player.My favorite food to eat is Mexican Food. Specifically Carne Asada Fries and California Burritos. I went to Art Center College of Design for college and graduated with a degree in Illustration.

2 Comments

  • Dear Austin,

    I am following your posts and I like you,
    You already know that.

    Many things you describe above are common with people not on the spectrum.
    Dating and building a relationship is extremely hard for everyone.

    I would like to refer to the extra things for us, people on the spectrum:

    1) Remote dating

    YES.
    You do need to see the person face to face at least once.
    Otherwise, you cannot know.
    However, technology helps.
    It is an amazing resource for us on the spectrum.

    2) Texting

    My messages look like small letters sent over regular mail. I always start by addressing the person name, and always sign below with my name. My wording is very exact, comprehensive and comprehensible. People get very quickly used to this style. It avoids misunderstandings. My messages are not formal, they are often rich and poetic, but the format is there and it helps. When it comes to love, emojis help a lot. Big hearts help… Do it when you feel it. Our feelings are not less strong than the feelings of neurotypicals… Texting is great for keeping in touch throughout the day with your loved one.

    I DO find cellphones to be great in general and for us even more. It is all about how to use them. We do not have to use cellphones the way other people do. I found that cellphone connection with your loved one is great when you are explicit and do it right. Most people use cellphones the wrong way. They get addicted to them rather than actually using them in the best way. They ride below the horse rather than riding above the horse. This makes all the difference in the world. They invest very little in what they write. I invest a lot in what I write, and I make it longer and more comprehensible. People quickly learn to like it, even though it is not the common way.

    3) Direct spiritual connection

    Now comes a HUGE HUGE advantage I am using which is very hard to explain.
    I use my spiritual power and wisdom in relationships. It works best with people who are spiritual themselves. This advantage is unique, but I am sure it is much less unique to us than most people think. It literally does wonders to me. When I am in a group of newage oriented women I feel free and in the flow like I never feel in ordinary social groups. The same advantage works for me when dealing with people that have any kind of faith belonging to any religion I connect with. It opens me up completely and amazingly.

    When I am in love with a person and we share a spiritual connection, everything flows amazingly. This added dimension can be expressed remotely in the texting and it works almost the same.

    What I mean by spiritual connection is building a channel in energies, feeling the person directly beyond facial expression and looks. I see through directly to the mind of the person, and external details do not matter. It can even connect remotely with people I love, I feel them directly over a large distance. When I translate this vibrant channel into texting, it works perfectly. I do see beyond details over distance. It is the best form of communication for me when it works. It often works with people I love. It can bind people of the other sex to me more than sex does. I believe that everyone has a bit of this ability, and it can be developed further. It works amazingly for us since the usual social barriers become transparent. It is the deepest and most rewarding form of communication.

    My clear feeling is that exactly as using texting and technology bypasses the social interaction barrier from below, spiritual connection breaks the social barrier from above.

    If and when I can combine both, no social barrier is left for me…
    This of course does not always work, but when it works it is indeed a miracle and it solves everything.

    Love,

    David Goren.

  • Hi Austin,

    I’m your cousin Marla. You can ask your mom where I fit in the family. I really enjoy your blogs and you perception of things you experience being on the spectrum. Our grandson is 6 years old and is also on the spectrum. He is in a academy elementary school for high functioning Autism. I’m going to have my daughter read your blog. Thank you so much for sharing.

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