Relationships are complex, beautiful journeys that can take various forms throughout our lives. We all want these for ourselves and for other loved ones - autistic and not.
Sometimes relationship development is not as obvious to someone experiencing autism who is watching movies (especially Disney movies where people meet and get married on the same day)! It may not obvious due to the sheer amount of social nuance that occurs as you travel from one type of relationship into another.
My recommendation: state the obvious, share the details and be blunt. It is not that autistic people cannot have relationships. They might just need the crazy rules of love and relationships spelled out a bit. And if you are autistic, find someone you trust and ask them if it is okay to ask them questions about relationships. If the answer is "yes," then ask those questions that you have been afraid to ask. That person wants the best for you. They want you to have the information you need to be successful in relationships.
To the guide: AVOID only talking and lecturing. Allow it to be a back and forth conversation. State one sentence and WAIT at least 45 seconds before continuing. I am including a visual I am working on that you might like. Shorten and/or add photos if your autistic someone will find them helpful.
Let's explore the stages of this transformative journey. You probably don't want to use all of these words, but you might! So I am including lots in the hopes that you will shorten them to the essentials. Shorter versions can be found above in the visual, for example.
Acquaintances to Friendships: Building a strong foundation often begins with acquaintanceship. Shared interests or circumstances can lead to initial connections. The key is to foster these connections by engaging in meaningful conversations, finding common ground, and investing time. As trust and comfort grow, acquaintances naturally transition into friendships.
Friendships to Best Friends: Friendships evolve when there's a deep sense of trust, vulnerability, and emotional support. Best friends are the ones you turn to in times of joy and sorrow, sharing your hopes and fears. Nurturing these relationships involves open communication, empathy, and being present for one another. Best friends become your pillars of strength.
Best Friends to Dating: Sometimes, the boundaries between best friends and romantic interests blur. Transitioning from friendship to dating requires careful consideration. It's essential to communicate your feelings openly and honestly with your best friend. This transition can be both thrilling and challenging, as it can change the dynamics of your relationship.
Dating to Marriage or Living Together: The decision to commit to marriage or living together is a significant step. It's essential to have open and honest discussions about your future, values, and goals. Marriage signifies a legal and emotional commitment, while living together is a form of commitment that doesn't involve marriage. Whichever path you choose, it should be a mutual decision made with love and respect.
Conclusion: The journey from acquaintances to marriage or living together is a profound exploration of human connections that can be full of nuance and misunderstandings. These can be a minefield for autistics who get overwhelmed from sensory and emotional loads. Having clear information is often the anecdote to that overwhelm.
Guide yourself or your autistic someone to identify people they know or have observed at each stage. Remember that every relationship is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all formula. Communication, respect, and love are the guiding principles that will help you help yourself or someone else to navigate these beautiful journeys of connection. Guide yourself or autistic someone to embrace the adventure, cherish connections, and learn to nurture them along the way. This guidance starts with modeling healthy relationships with them and with others they witness, presuming their competency of having deep and fulfilling relationships, and connecting with others - respecting that their connections may look a bit differently but are just as valid and beautiful.
Wishing you all love and connection through understanding one another.