Autism and relationships: what is ‘normal’?
Mickey and Saffron speak about how they navigate relationships with friends, family, and romantic relationships when having autism and any advice they have to give to others going through a similar thing.
Mickey’s experience with autism and relationships
When I start new experiences, I do feel shy around everyone, and it can be hard to get my words out. When I feel comfortable, I can speak to people. I’m able to build a friendship and I would try to get to know them.
For me, trust is really important, if I don't trust someone, it would be hard to have a friendship. In school, I was bullied and I saw the way people would take advantage of people who were kind.
Actually, I find my relationship with my family much easier. Well with family it can be difficult, but at the same time it's like, it's a lot easier because they understand me.
I really like making friends, and getting to know everyone, and being a part of the conversation. I enjoy meeting new people as often as possible it is so fun because we’re all so different.
Saffron’s experience with autism and relationships
I have found navigating relationships... really confusing! Be that friendships, romantic relationships, or even within my family. But while being autistic might make relationships extra-confusing, I don’t think this struggle should make anyone feel weird or ‘wrong’. Everyone, autistic or not, forms unique relationships. There is no ‘one size fits all’!
This concept of every relationship being different and there being no ‘ideal’ or ‘perfect’ way to be a friend, daughter or girlfriend, is something that has taken years for me to wrap my head around. I used to actively search for guides on how to make friends and how to behave in friendships - focusing on what I ‘should do’ or ‘should be’. All this did was erode my confidence, leading me to isolate myself from everyone.
Time and experience have shown me that actually the best thing I can do is be myself! And to be open about that. For example - I used to be ashamed that social contact can really tire me and that I need breaks from it because I believed it was weird and would make people want to stay away from me. Now, rather than avoiding people, I explain how I feel, and this means we can form a relationship that works for us. And it’s a two-way street - they may have different habits or worries, or ways of doing things, for me to understand, too. Together, we work around them. And as a result, I’ve formed much stronger bonds with my mum and grandparents, and have a small number of close friendships, that mean so much to me.
I urge you - please don’t isolate yourself and please don’t be ashamed of yourself. Whether you struggle with physical contact, or like to do things on your own, or find it hard to initiate conversations... more even if it’s something specific... my relationship with my mum greatly improved when I explained to her that I have certain routines at certain times of the day, and could do these whilst being with her, rather than hiding in my room!
I promise you - every relationship is different and there will be a way of doing things that work for you.
And just to finish, one last important point I think it’s relevant to mention (because I know it is so hard to recognise one’s own good qualities) remember that you are of incredible value and that the other person in the relationship appreciates you just as much as you appreciate them.
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