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Translating the worlds of the autistic and neurotypical partners

Woman Standing on Dock
Woman Standing on Docks

Twenty Questions about Your

Neurodiverse Relationship

I developed this list of questions for the neurotypical partner in order to help a couple determine whether neurodiversity might help explain some of their challenges. Please review it and bear in mind two things: this is not meant to be diagnostic, and no two couples are alike, whether neurotypical or neurodiverse. The questions derive from my years of working with neurodiverse couples and are representative of some of the most significant reasons neurodiverse couples seek professional support.

The course I developed entitled Maybe My Partner Is Autistic incorporates and contextualizes these questions, offering  strategies for making effective changes in your relationship, especially in the ways you communicate. The link will take you to a YouTube preview of the course, and you can find this three-hour course and other courses on my teaching website TheNeurodiverseCouple.thinkific.com

Do these any of these questions resonate with you?

1. Is there an awkwardness in social situations that you used to think of as shyness, but which over time has come to feel different to you in ways you don't understand?

2. Are your conversations fact-based and impersonal, regardless of the topic of conversation? In other words, is your partner's manner of talking about your love life the same as talking about more impersonal aspects of your lives?

3. Have you been living without sexual intimacy for so long that you can't remember the last time you made love? When you think about it, would you even use the term make love to describe your sexual relationship? Or has sex become a regimented and daily undertaking, with little emphasis on your enjoyment, as if it were strictly for your partner's benefit alone?

4. Do you feel that your partner has your back? In other words, does your partner represent a safe emotional haven for you? Do you trust your partner to comfort you?

5. Does your partner relate well to your friends and family? 

6. Does your partner demonstrate sincere interest in you and your life? Does your partner ask you questions about things that are important to you?

7. Does your partner sense when you are feeling down and offer you consolation without being asked?

8. Does your partner understand why your birthday or your anniversary, Christmas or another holiday might be important to you, even though such holidays may not be important tp them?

9. Do you feel your lives are intimately combined, or are they parallel lives that feel sometimes to you as if they exist on parallel planes?

10. Are your dreams and desires important in your relationship? Or have they become marginalized?

11. Do you feel as if your relationship is normal? Do you find yourself wondering what normal means?

12. Does your partner demonstrate a limited range of facial expressions, gestures, and postures?

13. Do you feel as if your partner sometimes has no idea what you are talking about, no matter how hard you try to make your feelings clear?

14. Do you ever cry from frustration because you feel as if things can never change and you will never be understood?

15. Do you keep these things to yourself, because you can't imagine how you would explain them to your friends or family members?

16. Do you continue to blame yourself for things that go wrong because you think there might have been something you could have done differently or said differently?

17. Is there an empty spot in your heart where you hoped to have feelings of tenderness for your partner?

18. Do you ever cry yourself to sleep out of unidentified frustration?

19. Do you cover up for your partner, or run interference between your partner and others?

20. Do you have a nagging feeling that something is wrong at the heart of your relationship, but you cannot figure out what it is?

These questions are not meant to be diagnostic, of course. But if they express familiar feelings, neurodiversity might be something for you to explore.

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