How I Show Love: Autism

Communication is a two-way street and when it comes to autism, it’s often one-way traffic. When I say that people usually assume they know what I mean. They think I mean that autistic people are disordered and can’t communicate as well as non-autistic people.

That’s not what I mean.

Communication is one-way traffic insofar as it is assumed that there is a “right” way to communicate, and a “wrong” way. By definition that would make my autisic communication wrong, and everyone else’s right.

What does that mean for me? Well, it means learning unnatural communication methods, and being criticised for not finding them natural.

Small talk, eye contact, physical contact such as hugging or touching an arm, telling “social lies” because other people attach meaning to facts that are not intrinsic to the fact; these are ways of communicating. There is no rule that says these are the right ways.

Avoiding eye contact, moving your body whilst speaking, avoiding physical contact, stating relevant “social truths”, are ways of communicating. There is no rule to say that these are the wrong ways.

You would think that those with no social processing condition would be the ones willing and able to adjust their communication methods, but that is rarely the case. The pressure is always upon the autistic person to conform, and where does this lead? Stress, anxiety, fear of getting it wrong, one more weight on an overtaxed processing system.

How do I communicate my love? In myriad ways. I love giving presents. I’m not so good at receiving, but I love giving them. Each gift is a problem-solving exercise into how well I know the person and what would make them smile.

I am the family member who finds it hard to hug you, but will remember a throw away comment about a book you loved, or a print that hung on your grandfather’s wall, or some snippet of a moment that I want to give back to you, and I will hunt it down. That’s one way I show love.

I give gifts through my creativity. I find it grounding and soothing to create things. I spend time making something for someone that connects us. I think about what they like or need and then spend my time creating with them in mind. Love gives me purpose.

I give patience and acceptance. I assume the best in people and try to find kind motivations for all actions. This is how I show love.

I am the person who is avoiding eye contact so that I can listen to you. Really listen. I am the person who will apply my empathy rigorously and tell you honestly that your feelings are real and valid and that it’s ok to feel. Because it’s true.

It is ok to feel anger, envy, jealousy, bitterness. We all have these feelings. You cannot control your feelings, but you can control your actions. Feel how you feel, and do good, that’s my motto.

My love is deep as the oceans and wide as the horizon. I am not less loving because I may communicate it differently.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make communication a two-way street? I will show you love in a way that suits me, but doesn’t hurt you, and you can show me love in a way that suits you, but doesn’t hurt me.

You cannot count my love in hugs, or glances, or obligatory birthday cards; but it is as real and as solid as anyone’s.

40 thoughts on “How I Show Love: Autism

  1. I wish more people could understand this . . . Thankfully, the people I’ve surrounded myself with, the people who have entered my life, understood, and stayed – they get it. Maybe not at first, but they had the heart to learn. My boys and I have been blessed. They make up for the ones who have been unwilling or unable to look deeper and see just how we communicate our love ❤️

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    1. It’s so pleasing to hear that some people get it, and if some can, then everyone can! So many just don’t know. They just don’t imagine that people can work differently to them. People who listen are keepers 😊

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  2. Wonderful post. I’m asking myself those questions too. Can I learn to communicate differently, but if I do, then I am not being myself. I’m still unsure.

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    1. I see it a bit like learning to speak another language, it’s a useful skill to have, but I’ll always find it easier to speak my first language. So long as there are people I can fully be myself with, I don’t mind “speaking a foreign language” at times. But it’s better when people try to learn mine 😊

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  3. I like to think that just because I show love in non-standard ways, it doesn’t make that love any less genuine. I consider myself so lucky that at this point in my life I’ve surrounded myself with people who are willing to communicate in my language.

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  4. Realy to tierd to think and write in English but this is so importent I try any way. Love and affection can be shown in a million ways and non is right or wrong as long as the person is honest. It’s not that hard to show your love in a way that works both ways – but you need to be perceptive. As always. ❤

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  5. Rhi, I’m the same. I am crap with showing my feelings so I put a lot of time and effort into buying the perfect gift for a particular person. It takes a lot of time to trawl the internet looking for something that’s absolutely right for them. it makes me ill a lot of the time because I get migraines from looking at the screen and the amount of information but I put up with it because it’s my way of showing that person that I care about them. X

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    1. Yes, it can be exhausting. Christmas is certainly a challenge! I am always confused by people who place a monetary value on a gift, instead of a thought-value. The cost of the gift isn’t the point, it’s whether the gift is right or not. I’m terrible at sending cards because I don’t understand how buying a card with someone else’s words in it can have any value. I’d rather get a personal message than a card, but I’ve known a person at work rant about the cheapness of a christmas card they were given. People can be very strange.

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      1. “I am always confused by people who place a monetary value on a gift, instead of a thought-value.” I love this statement. It wraps it all up just nicely and expresses my feelings perfectly.

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  6. Hi Rhi ,
    Another excellent post from you. Communication with Autistics sometimes can be a revelation you are right it is a 2 way process but Hazel finds it so difficult sometimes she always insists on telling me everything first without any interruptions fascinating. I believe like you that everyone should conform to how autistic feel , communicate and relate. Eye contact is another issue why do you have to give eye contact like a trained seal everyone is different and Love , my daughter is the loveliest kindness person I could meet and is always giving presents et al People have to understand that the World is composed of different , challenging and interesting people thanks again for your thoughts they are excellent.
    Love and kisses Laurence xxx

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    1. Thank you, Laurence. Yes, so many things aren’t actually important for communication, but are seen as “valuable” for no good reason. There are some things where compromise is more difficult, but many many things that can just be accepted.

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  7. We speak a similar language. I enjoy buying people their favorite candy or flowers. Making others happy makes me happy. Sometimes this gets misinterpreted because that’s how others display a different emotion. Not everyone accepts that i speak differently. I tend to focus on those that accept me as I am.

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  8. Actually, some aspies show love by hugging. Although I hate hugging strangers and hide behind other people when my parents’ friends start the hugging round. I showed love to my nieces when they were small by playing with them and telling made-up stories about cats. I show love just by being around the other person and doing things together, like going to the supermarket together, walking down the street together.

    I also avoid eye contact and have a close body language. This could send the wrong signal because neurotypicals think this is a message that the other person doesn’t want to talk to them or be around them. I hope the ways I use to show love reassure them that I do. Usually, people know how to see beyond the body language and lack of eye contact. The real message is received.

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    1. Absolutely! I have a few autistic friends who are the huggy-type. They always ask me if they can hug me. Sometimes I say yes, sometimes no. I would also hug someone in distress who I knew liked hugs. Because that’s the kind thing to do, and I don’t mind being uncomfortable for a bit if the benefit is clear.

      It’s when I’m stressed and people try to inflict hugs on me that it becomes an issue! It’s the last thing I need – more sensory information. We all just need to respect the different ways we communicate.

      And a huge “yes!” To NT people mistaking no eye contact for not wanting to be with them. It’s so much easier when we can just say all this out loud and people listen.

      Thanks for your comment.

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  9. Wish I’d found you, and this blog forever ago.
    I thought I knew myself pretty well after 40 some odd years of self-aware rumination But you know me so much better without even knowing I exist. Or at least that is how your words feel to me. Diagnosed 6 weeks ago at 51.
    Know that today you gave someone some much needed hope. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. It’s a funny thing, going through life “different” and then seeing your drives in someone else. It gives me a huge sense of belonging and safety to know that I am not alone. We are not alone. We are perfect versions of our brain-types, not faulty versions of non-Autistics. 💐

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  10. This is so beautiful. I love that you have shared how you show love and that everyone shows love differently. Your way of loving is and never will be wrong. I believe everyone should show love more often in whichever way they can.

    Liked by 1 person

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