Autism & Relationships

Autism & Relationships

Learning as an adult that I have autism definitely sent my world spinning. But I’m not the only one affected by the official diagnosis. The new info also affected my wife, Regan. It shed a lot of light on our relationship and explained some of my quirks in a new way. In fact, it’s given us some really positive points that have improved our communication and appreciation for one another almost immediately.

Here are three keys we've learned for partners of people with autism:  

Hang in there with them

One of my autistic traits is that I will go at a problem head-on until it’s resolved. I get very focused and wrapped up in something, and my brain cannot calm down until I know I’ve addressed the issue. This applies to our marriage, too. When Regan and I have some sort of conflict, her M.O. is to walk away. My M.O. is to talk about it and figure it out. When she hangs in there with me, we are able to work at a problem until we come to a resolution and a solution. Conflicts do not go on for too long between us. This has made our marriage stronger.

Deliver information up front (and don’t take offense when they interrupt)

Interrupting people is a trait of autism – who knew? I thought I was just being rude all those years. But it turns out that because my brain is 5,000 miles ahead of things, I’ll jump in and ask the next question, and the next, and the next. I’m down the rabbit hole of information in about two seconds. (Our joke while watching a movie is, “And what’s that actor’s favorite color?”) Now, Regan says, she can cut me some slack for that trait. And she has also learned more about how I process info, and is focusing on delivering the information up front that I need to know to move ahead. when I get into the interruption track, instead of getting frustrated with me, she can calmly say, “Let me finish,” and avoid the hard feelings. She says, “So I’m not berating you for interrupting, but trying to change my own behavior so that you get everything you need in the conversation.” 

Tolerate a lot going on

My brain needs stimulation. To stay sane, I have to keep my brain active. That often means multiple things going on all at the same time. When I’m watching that movie with my wife, I’m also checking my phone (researching that actor’s favorite color) and reading a book. A lot coming at me keeps my brain focused and calm. Regan is a lot calmer and needs much less stimulation than I do, but she has found a way to be patient and tolerate my need for input.

A lot of my upcoming memoir, From Turmoil to Triumph, looks at how autism and anxiety have propelled my success in business and family. Check back for more details on the official release this winter.

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