"My new boyfriend advised me he has autism (high functioning), which I have no problem with that (other than I don’t really know a lot about the ‘disorder’). I’m very interested in him …he’s a really nice guy, but I have one issue that puzzles me. He seems to pull back a bit when I make physical contact with him (lean against him, put my arm around him, for example). He says that sometimes it’s hard for him to be touched by others and stated that he never liked to be hugged by anyone as a child. This concerns me, because how can you have a close relationship with someone who is uncomfortable with physical touch… would be really hard to have a man that you can't hug, kiss or hold. Is it common for ASD?"
Although it can happen, it is rare for adults with ASD (and Asperger's) to "refuse" to be touched at all times - in all situations. However, it is fairly common for them to have tactile sensory issues, which may make them avoid certain types of physical contact with others on occasion.
BUT... this really has nothing at all to do with the inability - or lack of desire - to show or receive affection. I work with many adults on the spectrum, and they are the most kind and compassionate people I know! So please don't make the mistake of taking your boyfriend's lack of interest in physical contact as a personal insult.
One of the most pervasive myths that surrounds ASD is that a person who has it will never show affection and can’t accept receiving affection from others. ASD and the way it affects people really runs the gamut from mild to severe. An excellent point to remember when dealing with a person on the autism spectrum is that each one of them is different and will react to almost everything differently.
For a few adults on the spectrum, a simple, random hug can be sensory overload. They can become agitated if they are touched without prior warning. You will probably need to have a trial-and-error approach when it comes to hugging and touching your boyfriend. Some methods may be responded to in a positive way, other ways might not be. You just have to try and see.
When you want to give your boyfriend a hug, instead of rushing into his personal space and just taking one, approach him and open your arms. Smile and see how he responds. If he doesn't come leaning in for a hug, don’t feel snubbed. It just wasn’t the right time.
Let’s don’t sugar-coat things here, though. You need to know that trying to figure out a puzzling disorder like ASD can be a lifelong challenge, and for many partners and spouses, the affection issue may be the biggest. But with patience and learning to go by your boyfriend’s cues and not your own, you will be able to connect with him in a deep and satisfying way.
More resources for Neurodiverse Couples:
==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD
==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives
==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples
==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism
==> Online Group Therapy for Couples and Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder
==> Cassandra Syndrome Recovery for NT Wives
• Anonymous said… Been diagnosed at 44 with Asperger's officially this year (2017) I was and sometimes still am, "skittish" about people touching me. this is not just for personal relationships, also friendships, work etc. let him make the first move but let him know you want him to touch you or that you want to touch him. :-) takes some of the stress away.
• Anonymous said… better to know it going into the relationship than finding out after 40 years of a " frustrating and rocky" marriage...
• Anonymous said… hi i have aspergers and i am in a long term relationship and i dont have any pyysical contact at all, i find it to hard, becasue of sensry issues but we are still close
• Anonymous said… I am very new to this topic, so please forgive me if this is an ignorant question. If I can't stand to be touched when I'm upset/mad due to the tenderness of the touch angering me even more, is that an autistic tendency? I get lost in so many articles I'm just hoping I can talk to other high-functioning folks and get some takes, personal stories, and opinions. 😊
• Anonymous said… I can ID with that poor chap; i think we can see what we miss out on due to our hypersensitivity.
• Anonymous said… I don't mind being touched and I have Aspergers :)
• Anonymous said… I sometimes have this issue as well. But it's more I don't want to be touched or held onto by certain people. My close friends or a girlfriend(intimacy is no problem for me)could grab on or hug or lean on me, but I'm uncomfortable with touching or being touched by certain family members or people who are effectively strangers to me. I definitely tense up when grabbed or touched by someone other than those truly close to me.
• Anonymous said… I'm the same it took a while before I was comfortable with my boyfriend initiating contact, and even now if I'm out of sorts in any way or upset he know not to try to hug me, but hugging a person is his instinct when they are upset and it took him time to get used to not doing it to me. He does say that because I don't like contact that much, it makes it mean so much more to him when I do show affection and give him a hug or kiss.
• Anonymous said… It can be VERY difficult if that's a true need for you.
• Anonymous said… It takes awhile... I'm the same way... I don't like being touched until I'm VERY comfortable with the person... once I get comfortable though I tend to swing the opposite way...
• Anonymous said… It's absolutely fantastic he told you up front!! Just know his love for you will be shown in different ways. You'll both have to make adjustments.... but isn't that true of any relationship? I've been with my asperger's husband for 10 years now.
• Anonymous said… No, no we don't. It takes a very long time before I feel comfortable with someone even high fiving me.
• Anonymous said… Phisical contact can happen for me but it takes a bit time to get used to the person been trying to
• Anonymous said… That would be me and is why I have never had a girlfriend
• Anonymous said… This is a common thing sign aspergics. I used to 'ball up' when ever some one Hugged me.
• Anonymous said… This is a common thing sign aspergics. I used to 'ball up' when ever some one Hugged me.
• Anonymous said… You might find it a bit ridiculous, but my husband sometimes ask before, like "hey can I hug you now and I find it much more easy because I know what's coming, and I'm really enjoying it.
* Anonymous said… I am still learning myself, but from what I understand and have experienced personally, autism/aspergers is a disorder of the senses. Our minds are wired differently and how we perceive the world around us is different. Each person is different and how they perceive each sensation and which sensations they are more or less sensitive to varies. It’s like each of our senses is on a dial and the dials are either turned way up or turned way down. For example, my son has a sensitivity to sound. Whenever anything is too loud, he’ll place his hands over his ears and say, “Too loud! Too loud!” When he talks, he often mumbles or uses a high pitched voice. Because his perception is different, he hears sound much louder than it actually is and speaking at a higher pitch in a normal volume is easier for him to handle. Sound is one of my senses that seems to be turned down a bit. My hearing is fine, but in order for me to perceive what I’m hearing, the volume needs to be turned up a bit. I like my music loud to drown out all of the other noises and the voice in my head that goes non-stop. If I don’t focus on it, I talk very loudly. My whole life people have been asking me why I was yelling, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. It’s because my perception of sound is different. Touch is tricky. Different textures and types of touch give different sensations, which can be perceived a lot of different ways. For me personally, it’s kind of all over the place. I find myself craving certain kinds of touch at times, because it helps me feel grounded or provides a sensation I am looking for at the time (such as holding my husband’s hand in a crowded place to give me something to focus on, so my anxieties don’t spin out of control). Other types of touch I find repulsive (like wool). Sometimes it’s the texture, while other times it might be the weight or pressure behind the touch that feels wrong or even just how/where they are touching me period. Hugs and affection has to be done in certain ways or I can’t stand it and will pull away. Even how our fingers intertwine when we hold hands has to be just right or I can’t do it. That being said, I am still a very affectionate person. My husband and I just had to learn what worked and what didn’t. It was difficult at times, especially in the beginning when we were both learning. But, we found our way. The key is open communication between the two of you. He needs to feel safe enough to let you know something is bothering him and you need to be able to not take it personally when he pulls away. If you are really interested in him, I recommend educating yourself. Life can be interesting and challenging when your perception of the world is different. Being with someone with a different perception of the world can be difficult at times. Even if it doesn’t work out, it won’t hurt to have the knowledge. You never know what might happen in the future. My husband and I had to figure it out without the knowledge or a diagnosis. We now know why we had the difficulties we did, but having a diagnosis and knowledge that comes with it back then would have been extremely helpful. We are now educated and learning to adapt to a whole new set of sensitivities with our son. Hope this helps some at least. Best of luck!
* Anonymous said... We're in our 5th year of marriage and I'm learning all the time, my Aspergers comes with hypersensitivity as well so some touch is actually physically unpleasant, (I couldn't bear being tickled as a child) but once we realised then my better half is a good deal firmer with touch, which itself has lead to some of the hypersensitivity being lessened.... No idea how or why but there you are... When we first got together I was only just learning about AS and together we worked with it. It's not been easy but is worth the endeavour. I guess it's best to lay it out there off the bat and let the early days play out as they will... Not everyone is willing to invest time and effort into a relationship, and to be honest, you don't really need a relationship like that...
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