These are my personal observations about the Aspie to Aspie relationship
A relationship between two people with Aspergers, whether platonic or romantic, can move at a very high-speed when in comparison to relationships between one person with Aspergers and one person without Aspergers (Neurotypical: NT). I believe this is because both individuals are able to be more themselves, without the societal rules and restrictions they are used to either adhering to, struggling to understand and follow and/or adamantly rejecting. When two Aspies meet to form a new relationship, a space is created that allows an open understanding to occur that oftentimes neither participant has experienced before. For the first time an Aspie might feel seen, heard, and/or understood. This can be intoxicating, reassuring, and/or frightening. For some the experience can resemble finding home for others the experience can resemble being forced out of hiding.
Typically, there is an initial spark of excitement and energy, with one or both partners, when he or she realizes that there is ‘finally’ someone who not only speaks his/her language, but provides the freedom for him/her to be authentic and real. In some cases there is also a sense of dread in having been exposed for what seems to be the first time, uncloaked in a manner of speaking.
In referring to a situation in which both parties are pleased to have found another Aspie who ‘gets’ him or her, at first glance, one might assume that such freedom to be ones true self without societal-inflicted boundaries would enable the participants to have a very open and easy, free-flowing relationship, without qualms and without restrictions. Yet, because both participants are in a new and unexpected situation, there exists a high probability that each one will be confronted with certain triggers. New experiences and unexpected happenings trigger most Aspies. The unknown will bring up questions for both participants, and because of the high-intellect and character trait of over-analysis, both will begin to process the friendship.
The processing can take on different shapes and forms. Much of the processing will be centered around analysis of the self and analysis of the other participant’s behavior. Different attributes of the relationship will directly affect the behaviors of the participants. Variables of the relationship include the frequency and duration of conversation, participants’ past experiences in relationships with other Aspies, any romantic thoughts or feelings housed by one or both of the participants, any tendency for fixations or obsessions about new relationships, the propensity for fear to arise based on past perceived ‘failed’ relationships, recent and past hurts from relationships, and exaggerated hopes and expectations based on projecting into the future. Variables also include other factors that are found in mainstream relationships, but tend to have a higher occurrence in relationships with people on the spectrum; these include: the temperament of each individual and the fluctuation of mood, the presence or absence of medications that affect cognitive or emotional responses, sleep patterns, confidence-level, self-awareness, processing speed, environmental and conversational triggers, adapted rules, patterns and structures, and any comorbid psychological or cognitive conditions.
At the onset of a new relationship, some individuals might fall into a state of high-hope, even bliss, based of a type of self-projection into the future, in which the highly imaginiative Aspie can logically recreate a realistic fantasy relationship in his/her head that does not mirror the current relationship but interjects his/her individualized hopes. This fantasy relationship can shift and morph along the same wave pattern as the real relationship, only extending further out into the realm of non-reality. For example, one might start fantasizing about the first time the friends fly across country to have a cup of tea, and in so doing visualize the tea house, the waiters, the menu, the conversation, and such. This can happen in both platonic and romantic relationships, and tends to remove the participant from the here and now and may or may not cause false hopes and expectations.
The initial state of a relationship between two Aspies, including platonic relationships, can produce behaviors indicative of Obsessive Compulsive Behavior, over attachment, over-giving, and what could be named smothering. It resembles codependency, but is not as long-lasting as codependency behavior, and trickles down and dissipates with time. The frequency depends on each individual. This obsessive state could last weeks or feasibly a year or more. The feelings might mimic feelings of what is believed to be the concept of friendship- or romantic-love. But on close inspection there is no evidence of love. Rather there is an over attachment and a high-need to be part of that person’s life. It resembles an addiction. Typically the participant is highly aware of his/her actions and feels a type of euphoria. Even as he or she is aware, he or she is often unable to stop the feelings, thoughts and resulting actions. As a result participants might partake in impulsive actions including detailed queries about the relationship, long dialogues written or spoken, a preponderance of over-giving and/or sharing. The actions are a result of an inner drive to alleviate the stress inside the psyche. The mind wants to release the obsessive thoughts about the other individual and pushes the participant to react. There is a sense of entrapment until the participant acts out. When the participant attempts to instead stuff his or her emotions and actions, the consequence is further anxiety, angst, and confusion. This can lead to grandiose acts of over-sharing and giving of self or to a strong impulse to run and flee from the relationship all together.
If neither participant is aware of these behaviors and the reasons behind the behaviors this can be the end of the friendship or romance, even before the relationship has really had a chance to start. If participants are aware of the behavior, having an open discussion about what is happening has the potentiality to bring growth and understanding to both parties. However, there remains a constant need to reevaluate the standing of the relationship, in order to keep the relationship from getting out of hand. The management of the relationship can feel tedious and exhausting. Both parties have to have the energy and resources to continue onward in order to avoid potential burnout and frustration. Primarily self-awareness, open communication, boundary setting and adjustment, and self-acceptance can assist during the process of building a mutual beneficial relationship. Still, the complexities of the relationship and effort required to maintain a semblance of normalcy and stability can overwhelm one or both participants, no matter what strategies are initiated.
Between two Aspies, a relationship can progress at high-speed. Typically, both participants will share the commonality of higher-level thinking, keen logic, and the ability to connect ideas with ease. There likely will be a mutual understanding of how the other works. This might be very uncomfortable or very refreshing, depending on the state of mind of the participants. The intellectual abilities will lead to a rapid progression through the stages of relationships. More than likely the initial stage of ‘small talk’ or ‘getting to know you’ will be either skipped entirely, happen over a quick amount of time, or be skimmed over lightly. Aspies will tend to jump into the thickness of conversation rather quickly, rather eloquently, and without much consideration for time or outcome. They will be enjoying the moment, not focused typically on interior motives, goals, or what comes next. The time between two Aspies can seem to go ‘magically’ fast, for each has found an active and attentive audience in the other that finally ‘sees’ the person.
At first both parties might truly enjoy the time together; however, sooner or later, one of the participants realizes he or she ‘has a life’ and needs to pull back some. This tapering off period can be very painful for one or both of the participants. The instigator might feel mixed-feelings of guilt, a sense of release, and a sense of great loss. The individual who is not the instigator might feel abandoned, forsaken or jilted. At this juncture, the participants can choose to talk openly about the experience, and realize that setting structure to future encounters can enable them to continue the relationship without the relationship leaking over into the rest of their lives. In some cases, both individuals will come to an agreement about how to continue the relationship with restrictions in place. In other cases, one of the partners may be too hurt and/or frustrated to continue onward. Sometimes Aspies have a hard time grasping the concept that friendships and/or romances transition. Sometimes an Aspie will equate change to rejection and failure. This is not the case. Merely, both parties are readjusting to fit their current lifestyle, comfort-level and needs.
If the relationship continues to monopolize both parties lives there is a high potentiality for burnout on one or both parties parts. One might reach a point where he or she sees no way to escape the intensity of the relationship without ending the friendship/romance. In addition, all relationships bring up individual’s ‘stuff’ (baggage), but the Aspie relationship will tend to bring the stuff up much faster and from a much deeper level. This can be painfully uncomfortable to look at. Again past hurts from the lack or loss of previous relationships can surface. As most Aspies have suffered great loss in terms of relationships, this can be a tumultuous time of self-inquiry, self-doubt, and a sense of hopelessness. Again, open communication and honesty can assist in alleviating some of the pain. Being frank about what is coming up cannot only take away some of the interior angst but additionally provide opportunity for further growth and self-reflection.
During the relationship, one or both Aspies might counter or question the other partner’s implementation of rigid structures. This scenario can present in numerous ways. For instance, one participant might have adapted a survival tactic of not making plans, not making promises, and not making commitments. He or she might be entirely steadfast in this outlook and unwilling to budge. To him or her his adopted tactic could very well be the life-preserver which enables him or her to get through day-to-day life. Asking someone to change or adjust a rigid structure can be detrimental to the relationship. Here is an opportunity to work on individualized self-esteem issues and question what is about another’s actions that affects insecurities and doubts. In a different situation, a partner might have strict rules in regards to how they wish to communicate, indicating that certain words or mannerisms irritate or frustrate him or her. In this case compromise might be in order, or at minimum a deeper look into where the frustration stems from and how the two can work together to assist one another.
In any situation, both parties must be willing to not only build a relationship but discuss the relationship. Wherein some couples or friends could go years skating on the surface of a relationship, the chances of this happening with two Aspies is highly unlikely. The in-depth mind of the Aspie will analyze and dissect. In previous relationships with NTs, the Aspie likely sometimes felt judged, boxed-in, and unable to always be him or herself without consequence. In an Aspie-Aspie relationship these aforementioned feelings are replaced with a sensation akin to being dissected or put under a microscope; this is a result of the other partner’s over-analysis and need to find his or her bearings. This can seem very unnatural to the Aspie, and invasive, but if he or she takes the time to reflect upon his or her own behaviors and ways of thinking, he or she will discover that Aspies have a natural tendency to dissect.
In some cases, of course, two Aspies, particularly a platonic male-male relationship, as opposed to female-female or female-male, might not face any obstacles of communication. In other situations the perceived obstacles might seem too daunting, and one or both parties might choose to end the relationship. In the case where two individuals are open and willing to move through the Aspie-Aspie relationship, with eyes wide open and with an open mind, there is the capacity for extreme growth and extreme connection on multiple levels. As in all things, with great sacrifice comes great reward.
“I attach without conscious willingness to one individual sometimes. It is as if I am some type of outlet, and instead of plugging into something, I grasp and try to get this person to plug into me. Like I am some vast void of emptiness that needs another to feel alive. I dive into another reality then, making the person into something he is not. And live there most of the day, as a form of escapism from this existence. I feel safe there, playing out the scenarios and replaying potential outcomes. The imaginative interplay preoccupies my mind and provides an outlet for logical processing and disentanglement of ideas and concepts. I enjoy the reasoning to a degree, but more over I am trapped in a torturous sinking muck of angst. I long to reach out and explain over and over my intimate meanderings and details to the one, and check for accuracy and find myself closer to reality. I long to ask for reassurance that I am okay, that this is okay, that we are okay. But I cannot, for I will ruin the situation further, claiming my thoughts aloud to the other and sounding like a foolish child, burying the both of us in my heaviness. Instead, I stay trapped in an immobile state, over-analyzing the reasons why I can’t stop the inner trappings of my cyclic thoughts. I have revisited my tendency to attach to one, trying to edge my way out and figure out the reasons behind my clinging to this false fantasy. The only thing I can surmise is I long to return to Source, to something that I was removed from, from someplace not here. I long to feel whole again, within the circumference of another’s arms. This someone or something that I long for without limits.”