An autism diagnosis can be life changing in many ways, but many wonder how it will impact their relationships, marriages, and other long-term plans.
Life is like a roller coaster. There are highs and lows.
However, your partner is supposed to be there through all of it with you, and you will support each other through the highs and the lows.
Difficulties come in the form of schedules, work, and even children, but when you add a clinical diagnosis into the mix, especially autism, all of these may seem more complicated; however, there are certainly ways to make it through.
Much like marriages, any serious relationship will have an added load of difficulties and responsibilities. Neurotypical people often struggle with relationships, and those with autism have to go through these same issues, but they are often amplified.
Questions of communication, faithfulness, future plans, etc. certainly come into play, but are processed in a different manner that can sometimes prove to be either an advantage or a disadvantage.
However, despite the hardships of being in a relationship when living with an autism diagnosis, there are certainly steps that can be taken to move forward and keep the relationship happy and health.
A new diagnosis in an existing relationship
Of course, some people with autism enter relationships after they have been working through their diagnosis for some time.
How does this differ when you are in a relationship when you receive your diagnosis?
Ideally, it should not be a large hit to your union. You have already built a foundation for your relationship, and likely have strong feelings for one another. Therefore, the two of you should be able to work through it together, and be a support system for one another. In fact, the diagnosis might even act to make your relationship stronger, as it might clear up some previous confusion that could have caused issues in your relationships.
When relationships become unhealthy, autism or not
If you feel as if your partner is not supporting you in your quest to work through your diagnosis and find peace within yourself, they may not be the right person for you. Be sure to discuss with trusted family and friends what you are going through, and find a way to communicate your needs and desires to your partner. If one or both of you are unwilling or unable to compromise, it is likely time to leave the relationship.
Being a parent with autism
Parenting is extremely rewarding, but it is challenging for everyone. Sometimes it can be especially difficult when children do not understand what it is like to have autism for their parents, but open lines of communication and care can assist dramatically.
Raising a child with autism
Many difficulties come with being in a relationship or raising children when you yourself are on the autism spectrum. Being a parent of a child on the spectrum, also, can be trying at times but is overall rewarding.
April Corbett shared her story on what it is like to be a parent in this type of situation, and how she approached it.
"I look back on the days that I knew, instinctively, that something was not quite right with my daughter's progress. Her pediatrician advised milestone delays, and other factors that led her to urge me to see a neurologist. There were second opinions, along with visits to other specialists.
Therapy was inevitably, and the fact of the matter was this was not 'going away' anytime soon, if ever. My spouse at the time felt I was overreacting, and he chose to stick his head in the sand. This only increased the stressors of our marriage. Eventually, our relationship ended in divorce. Statistics show a high divorce rate for families who have children with special needs.
I feel that it is how you choose to support one another that ultimately determines whether your marriage will stand the test of the diagnosis. Spiritually speaking, prayer and support of loved ones is another important factor.
People think a relationship or marriage is 50/50, when in fact it's 100/100. Both must give 100% in order to survive life's daily challenges. I tried support groups, but still felt like I was all alone in this. Whether one person thinks one way or another finding support is a top priority. Just add it to the doctor appointments, therapy visits, IEP meetings, etc. In fact, here is how to hold on to your job while raising an Autistic child."
Finding success in relationships
So, now that you know many of the potential difficulties that can arise, you may be wondering how you can succeed in a relationship after an autism diagnosis. There are a few important things to keep in mind.
For one, remember that self-care is not selfish. In fact, if you take care of yourself properly, you will likely act as a better partner to the one you love. Another reason that self-care is so important is that if you are not healthy, you will not be able to support the person you are with, or even do fun things with them! Ignoring self-care also leads to stress, which can act as a cancer in relationships.
Sometimes, part of self-care is discussing how you are feeling with a professional. This can be by yourself, or with your partner. You can discuss what your goals are, what you are struggling with, and more to move forward both in yourself, and in your relationship.
It's important to maintain relationships not only with the person you are with, but with friends, family, and coworkers. This way, if something is becoming stressful with your partner, you have other people to turn to. You also won't overburden your partner because you will have others to rely on as well.
Of course, a crucial aspect of succeeding in a relationship is having good communication. A good method is to simply communicate as much as you can; that way, you will be able to avoid confusion that might arrive if you do not sufficiently explain or discuss.
One part of communication is allowing grief. Sometimes you or your partner will be upset about something, maybe you got in a fight or maybe it has nothing to do with you. Of course, you can be supportive of them and try to make them feel better, but do not force them to skip over the natural stages of grief. Simply support them through anger, sadness, guilt, and acceptance, or anything else they might need to go through to cope.
Of course, much of this article has been referencing the difficulties in relationships and how to get through them; however, it is important to remember that the purpose of a partnership is to lift each other up, and it is also important to focus on the positive aspects. Of course, you will go through hardships, but you will also go through some of the best times of your life, and it is important to be grateful for that, and to focus on the highs instead of the lows.
These pieces of advice can be applied not only to romantic relationships, but with friends, family, and children as well.