How autistic people show and like to receive affection, according to someone on the Autism spectrum.
By Shamiha Patel
Written on Dec 01, 2023
Photo: Toa Heftiba | Unsplash
When I first learned about the original love languages created by Gary Chapman, I felt like I couldn’t strongly relate to any of them. I even studied them in depth while studying for a Psychology degree, but even with this knowledge, I still couldn’t fit the way I loved and wanted to be loved into any of these ‘love languages’.
It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Autism and ADHD a few years ago that a transformation of self-discovery occurred. I started to unravel all my beliefs about love and relationships, specifically how I wanted to give and receive love. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition that can affect the way we socialize, communicate, and even the way we experience love. I realized I had misunderstood how I wanted to be loved, and I finally started to piece together why I had struggled in past relationships.
In the past, when I had dated neurotypical men, I always felt there was a disconnect. They couldn’t understand how I needed to be loved, and they didn’t appreciate how I loved them, so it was no surprise that those relationships failed miserably. I thought something was wrong with me, that I didn’t know how to love appropriately, even though I was masking constantly in these relationships. There were so many times when I felt unlovable or that I wasn’t worthy of having someone who loved me unconditionally because I was too ‘needy’ or ‘weird.’
Luckily, seven years ago, I met the love of my life who knew exactly how to love me and appreciated how I could love him. I had no idea I was autistic all those years ago, and I had no idea that he was neurodivergent, but being in a relationship with someone whose brain was wired the same way made all the difference, as we had the same love languages.
Recently, I came across the six neurodivergent/autistic love languages, which differ from Gary Chapman’s Love Languages.
The neurodivergent love languages are as follows:
1. Parallel Play
I love doing my own thing with my loved ones near me. I don’t always want to watch the same show or play the same game, but I want to be near the people I love while we do different things. On many occasions, I’ve asked my husband if he can sit next to me watching a show whilst I read my book, and even with my daughter, I love being near her whilst she plays independently and I do my chores. I feel so secure in my relationship, knowing I can comfortably sit beside my husband, doing our activities without directly interacting.
2. Unusual Gifts
I pay special attention when my husband talks about his likes and dislikes, and I tend to remember small details he doesn’t even remember saying. My observations often mean I give unusual gifts that most people wouldn’t expect. Moreover, whenever I see something that reminds me of someone, I’m more than likely to buy it or take it to that person to show them that I was thinking of them. My husband often buys me unusual gifts such as retro sweets, vintage trinkets, and even tree bark he came across while hiking.
If a neurodivergent person unmasks their actual being, their needs, and quirks, then they feel safe with you, which is a form of neurodivergent love. Throughout the years, I have become unmasked because my husband has assured me in more ways than one that he would love me no matter what. Autistic people mainly mask with those people whom they don’t feel comfortable enough to show their true selves and tend to hide with those with whom they fear judgment and abandonment. For example, in a past relationship, I was masking every minute of the day because I knew that the only way he would stay with me was if I suppressed my autistic self, which came at a high cost of constant meltdowns and exhaustion.
4. Info Dumping
Info-dumping is when a neurodivergent person talks about their passions, interests, or something they just found out at great length and detail. I love talking about my passions, and I could talk about them all day long, but I often don’t know when to stop talking about them. My husband loves to tell me about world news and things that he has learned throughout the day, and although it can be annoying, I know from experience that is how he expresses love. As neurodivergent people, we are eager to share what we love or learn; this is one way we love to connect with others.
5. Support swapping
This is where two partners swap support or even spoons when you know the other needs it. This can include reminders such as ‘Remember to take your medication today’, ‘Don’t forget to send that email’, or ‘Do you need to call your parents’. As well as reminders, this could extend to doing things for each other to reserve spoons, such as cooking them dinner, organizing their laundry, or even running them a bath. Simply asking your neurodivergent partner what they need help with can be the most significant token of love.
6. Deep pressure hugs
Although most autistic people don’t like to be hugged or even touched by people they don’t know, deep-pressure hugs or hand squeezes can give us great comfort from those we love. Deep-pressure hugs from someone we trust can help ground us and regulate our emotions. A deep-pressure hug between me and my husband can only be described as what feels like a joint stimming experience.
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Shamiha Patel is a writer with a background in Psychology who focuses on neurodiversity, parenting, and relationships. She is a featured top writer on Medium (as Shamiha Said) based in the UK.
This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.