While I’m sure there is never an absolute way to know what another person thinks or feels about you, I wish there were a better way in general.
There are some “facts” I could establish, such as what they say or do, but those can be variable based on context, frequency, and benefit to the other person. Then, you get into the so-called “love languages” discussion, and a misunderstanding of those, autistic or not, can create feelings of invalidation and frustration.
Since autistics tend to have a history of rejection, over time, the need for clearer methods of knowing may increase. There are more experiences in which a person may have said or acted in a way that triggers a fear of something going wrong.
It’s one reason I told my former boss when I hadn’t known him long that I was OK as long as I knew I was doing what he wanted me to. Somewhere in the pandemic, I think that all got forgotten, for obvious reasons. The same may be true of other relationships.
I’d hate to think I’ve lost or missed out on friendships because of silly misunderstandings. Have I not known how someone truly felt about me because I was waiting for some word, phrase, gesture that never came? Have I failed to do likewise for them?
Neurotypicals struggle with these situations as well, but I’m certain it’s worse for autistics. We don’t always realize our mistakes until it’s too late, or we can’t learn from them quickly enough to change course or even change at all. If too much damage is done too quickly, it’s hard to recover.
I know I’m not supposed to ruminate on events in the past, and I’m working very hard on projects that are fun for me. My wife and I are figuring out a balance in our expectations of each other as we are in a new phase of our life with our kids mostly gone, the pandemic over, and my official diagnosis. We talk a lot about how we can show love to each other and our children. It can change over time, and that’s just another difficulty.
Currently, I take some solace in having limited contact with people. It’s safer that way. From a logical perspective, if I’m going to be upset anyway, I might as well not upset anyone else. It’s a reasonable sacrifice, in my opinion. If checking in on me is any indication, most people are happy I’m doing it. But, I doubt that is good forever, and I’m slowly reconnecting with people I trust.
Occasionally, I just wish a person would take my hand or arm (with proper autistic pressure) stare in to my eyes, and tell me exactly what they feel about me, good or bad. But, that doesn’t really happen. It’s probably a strange thing to do. I could start paying more attention to other people. Well, I’m not around people much now.
Now that I think about it, I believe this is what happens at many weddings. The couple has their hands together when saying vowels and looking into each other’s eyes. Often, I think the hardest part for them is not laughing or crying. It’s hard expressing feelings, even for neurotypicals.
I may try this on my wife today and see how she reacts. Out of context, it may make no sense. At least I am thinking ahead about how she may not react as I’m hoping . . .
. . . and, I did try this. When my wife got home, I took her hands, looked into her eyes and told her I loved her. She looked so happy! I was afraid she’d wonder what I was doing, but I think she’s learned my quirky behavior should not be dismissed. That’s been a problem in the past, but maybe that has been solved. I didn’t have to use my planned script in case she reacted differently. But, having it in my mind possibly improved the entire interaction.
Perhaps, there is a way to know how people feel about me. I just have to concentrate on what is right in front of me, ignore past negative results, and clearly state what I’m thinking when it’s appropriate to do so. I’ve gotten my wife on board with some concrete actions: hugs, sharing feelings, and cuddle time in bed. While she may not need those things as much as most people, it’s comforting for me, especially in difficult times like the past few years. I wish it hadn’t taken so long and been so frustrating, but it is good to be trending upwards.
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