A neurodiverse relationship can, and does, work. I know from firsthand experience; I married a man on the autism spectrum more than 25 years ago. Our relationship comes with challenges, but what relationship doesn’t?
In a recent Smart Sex, Smart Love podcast, I talked with Ashley Grubbs, a licensed professional counselor who specializes in neurodiverse couples counseling. She’s heard so many stories from people concerned about getting involved with an autistic partner. They worry the sex will be bad or passionless, it will be like having sex with a robot, or they feel their needs will not be met.
Think again, she professes.
Just because the neurodiverse brain works differently, doesn’t mean it is broken. The brain processes information differently, which means the person’s view and expectations of sex will be different from their partner’s.
Begin the process of understanding how your partner thinks, and what his/her perceptions are regarding sex and intimacy. Start the communication and conversations.
Autistic people may have difficulty expressing love or empathy because they are unable to label their emotions and feelings and verbalize them. What comes to us naturally, is not a natural process for them. On the positive side, the autistic partner is open and honest about what they are thinking. They also are loyal, kind and thoughtful – that is how they love us. They feel so deeply, but they struggle with expressing those feelings – they don’t know how to assign words to their feelings.
The ultimate goal is that both people in the relationship will have their sexual needs met. There are barriers to overcome, but once they are resolved, the relationship can be satisfying, pleasurable and fulfilling.
When working with clients trying to succeed in a neurodiverse relationship, remind them of the following:Don’t place all of the work on the autistic partner; it takes two people to achieve a successful sexual, intimate relationship.
Don’t give up on the relationship because it is not the way you envision it in your head. Adapt, adjust and even give your partner a “script” of your likes and dislikes. Expect some frustration; give your partner space, give him/her time and don’t place blame. It is all worth it!