August 22, 2021

I was diagnosed with autism four years ago, and I met my boyfriend Jake one year later. It’s easy for him to forget that the timing was so close, since talking about each other’s brains is an important part of our relationship, and I’m always analyzing mine through the lens of autism.

The timing is more salient to me, however, since I believe that finally discovering my autism gave me the tools to build a healthy relationship. Yesterday, when Jake was reminded of the timing and surprised by it anew, I said, “Yeah, I think a lot of my problems with previous relationships were caused by not knowing–”

I was going to say, “common pitfalls of my communication style,” or “how to identify and articulate my unique needs,” or “how vastly different other brains can be,” or some other thing that I didn’t understand in the preceding ten years of consecutive heartbreaks.

“–not knowing how great you are?” he interrupted.

It took me a while to recover from the overwhelming sweetness of that response, but when I did, I recognized the wisdom in it.

For so long, I had clung obsessively to the objects of my affection, mentally if not physically, afraid that I would never be exactly what they wanted. That kind of fear, while difficult to control, is not conducive to the kind of honest conversations that form the bedrock of a secure relationship.

Through learning about autism, I came to know myself. Through knowing myself, I came to accept myself. And through accepting myself, I was emotionally prepared when an amazing person for me came along.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.