Ex with Asperger's
July 3, 2012 8:43 AM   Subscribe

How do I navigate trying to reconnect with an ex who possibly has Autism/Aspergers?

I have recently realized my ex-boyfriend might be High-Functioning Autistic or have Asperger's. The symptoms described in the various medical journals and websites that I've read pretty much fit him to a T (so much so that I said out loud to myself "things make so much sense now!").

So my questions are these: If your significant other has Autism/Asperger's or just super stoic, how do you communicate with him/her? How do you speak their "love language" when trying to get closer to them?

I would like and try to reconnect with my ex, but I feel like we are on two different communication levels. I'm a more of an emotional thinker (heart before head) and he is way more logical thinker. He is also pretty stoic and he rarely, if ever, talks about what is going on in his head. It felt like my ex would get freaked out and would back off whenever we got close.

Some possible pertinent info: I'm female late twenties, ex-boyfriend is in his late twenties as well. The man in question is one of my best friends, and I am still crazy about him. I was going through some pretty bad anxiety and depression before and during the relationship (nothing to do with him specifically - these were issues I had prior to meeting him) and he ended up breaking up with me without much warning after 6ish months of dating. We didn't fight or have a bad relationship per se, just poor communication. We are still friends, albeit online only since I didn't want to see him while I was dealing with my own issues. I am fine in seeing how things go, and in no rush to be in a relationship.

My throwaway email: colormetwitterpated@yahoo.com

** I realize this might be something that we will never be able to work out, but I am willing to at least try with different communication techniques (I am awesome at a lot of things, just not communicating). And I am aware that it takes two to tango, so I am just wondering what could be helpful on my end.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total)
I'm....actually wondering more why you are thinking it may be a good idea to reconnect with them at all. And for the record, I'd be wondering this about anyone wanting to reconnect to any kind of ex that they had had only just "not a bad relationship" with, so it isn't about the possible Aspbergers.

I'm also questioning whether this is a case of Aspbergers as opposed to you doing the whole "but he broke up with me and I don't know why and I'm going to look for something that sort of makes sense and latch onto that" thing. (Which everyone does, let's be honest...) The thing is, knowing the "why" is something that only helps you make peace with the past and move on - if they actively don't want to get back together with you, knowing what you could do different will not help you.

It's possible he does have Aspberger's, yes. But I wouldn't try to use that as a way to lifehack your relationship to life again; I'm sorry. Maybe bear it in mind as a way of possibly relating to him as a friend, but...you have your own needs that need to be met as well, and it's very possible someone with Aspberger's can't meet them, and it's not fair to you to deprive yourself of this, as much as you're telling yourself "No, I think I can deal with it if it means I get Sid back" right now.

Bear it in mind when you're dealing with him going forward, but I'd otherwise assume that getting the dating bit back is a lost cause. I'm sorry.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:52 AM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

One thing I've learned by being on the other side of this equation is that my communication is my responsibility. As his friend or his partner if you try to make his communication your responsibility, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.
posted by fearnothing at 9:04 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

We didn't fight or have a bad relationship per se, just poor communication.

These two things are in opposition. Poor communication equals bad relationship. Just because you still like him doesn't mean it wasn't bad.

Also, he broke up with you. What about your friendship now leads you to believe that he wants to start things back up again?

I think maybe you're having feelings of "I want a do-over". You don't get do-overs. Things ended for a reason. Move on.
posted by inturnaround at 9:15 AM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Move. On. It's not like you're going to become The Asperger's Whisperer and make this relationship work now that you have this magical insight.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:19 AM on July 3, 2012 [23 favorites]

You might want to get a couple of the many books available for partners/family members of people with Asperger's and see what a long row they have to hoe. In my experience, finding out someone has Asperger's-- or, what happened in my family, everyone deciding someone has it with no real medical diagnosis-- makes everything seem to make sense retrospectively, but does not really change anything about the relationship day to day. But mostly I would leave it alone. The guy dumped you unceremoniously after just a few months. Who needs to revisit that?
posted by BibiRose at 9:36 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

The man in question is one of my best friends, and I am still crazy about him.

and he ended up breaking up with me without much warning after 6ish months of dating.

I think you need a time out from him for a bit - he broke up with you, listen to him, focus on yourself for a while.
posted by heyjude at 9:39 AM on July 3, 2012

You can't diagnose another person unless you are a professional.

The whole Asperberg's explanation for someone who doesn't fit our idea of "normal" is already played out.

But no matter, taking your former boyfriend at face value, there were things about him and things about you that didn't work together. Full Stop.

Now that you MAGICALLY (TM) understand his issues, the idea you can swoop in and save the day, and build a little love island for the two of you is sort of silly. (Think about it. It is.)

Also, he broke up with YOU! Get the hint, for whatever reasons, he's not interested in a romantic relationship with you. Believe him! He's not brain damaged, he's just not into you.

Let it go and move on. You're still missing your relationship, and that's fine, but don't embarrass yourself by trying to rekindle ashes.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:16 AM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

So, it's a slightly different scenario, but my daughter has Asperger's. There are two things you need to keep in mind:

1) How do you show them that you love them?

2) How do you know that they love you?

For #1, it's the same as any other relationship, just a little more intense. I make an effort for my daughter to do things she wants to do and be interested in the things she is interested in. Just like any other relationship, this means doing things I'm not especially interested in but it makes my loved one happy. Unlike other relationships, it can go on quite a lot longer, be much more in depth, can often be repetitive, and doesn't always seem to register with them when you have had enough. For example, whereas most daughters may take their dad shopping for the day, mine will spend the day talking about her fan fiction. I like sci-fi and fantasy books the same as her, but it gets a little much for me. But I try, because I love her.

I try to know the triggers that set her off (things like loud noises and heavy crowds) and help her avoid those.

Also, I sometimes have to be more explicit in telling her that I love her. A few months ago we had a fight. I make homemade desserts for her lunches every week (cookies or whatever). She ran out, didn't tell me, and just took a bunch of chocolate chips in a bag. This bothered me because then I was short chocolate chips for my next batch, so I told her that wasn't a good option, asked her not to do it, and to tell me when I need to make something else. She got upset that I was "lecturing her" about it. So the next day, as a way of making peace, I included a note in her lunch telling her that I hope she liked her dessert, and that it was important to me that she have a good dessert since I pride myself on my cooking and that was one of the ways I showed her I loved her. That night she thanked me for the note, and I think it helped her realize that was one of my love languages, and I got a bit of retroactive credit for all the years I've made her desserts. I just had to be more explicit with "I do this because I love you".

In this case, I disagree with the posters above - having a diagnosis, even an informal one, might help you understand how to bridge that gap between the two of you.

#2 is harder. For me, I know she loves because she is my daughter. But I also notice when she does things to show me that, like when she takes time to ask about my day, or takes an interest in something I'm doing. For most people that would just be mundane small talk and not a big deal. But my daughter doesn't do small talk, she would literally prefer silence. So when she reaches out to me, I know she's making an effort, and I know it's because she loves me.

This is the area where the above posters may be right. Do you know that your ex-bf loves you? Do you know if he wants to try, and what he is willing to do? Even if he does love you, you may go through periods where you don't feel loved by him, because he doesn't show it very well. Yes, this is the case in every relationship, but it will likely be much worse in a relationship with someone on the Autism Spectrum. Are you prepared for that?

Good luck with this. I hope it works out for you both.
posted by I am the Walrus at 11:23 AM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

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