Updated: Jun 7
One of the characteristics of autism is difficulty beginning, maintaining, and understanding relationships/friendships. The manual also specifies that many on the spectrum long for close connections with others but without a realistic understanding of what typical relationships are like.
The visual images of friends, couples, and families on social media are gorgeous with big smiles, hearty embraces, and "true love." [Interestingly, it was difficult to find photos of messy relationships for this post!]
In real life, relationships over time are messy. There are misunderstandings, betrayals, irritating habits, arguments, and other ups and downs, in addition to the big smiles and love. Many things in relationships don't follow rules and structure, and the ups and downs often feel unexpected (something that can feel very upsetting to those on the spectrum). Ultimately, we don't know what's going to happen in the long term. Will this relationship work out? Will it handle the tests of time?
My friends and I joke about what family life is like on a daily basis. It often includes discussions about whose turn it is to clean up the vomit when your kids are sick, or who forgot to take the dogs to the vet. Don't get me wrong, hopefully life with others includes all the "ups" too, but there will be lots of unexpected and messy things.
This reality is very challenging for everyone! Add the layer of relational struggle found in autism and the rollercoaster of relationships can be exponentially more confusing and difficult, even when appealing from afar.