I feel your patterns with every sense. The ones you’re completely unaware of. All of them. You are drowning me with your patterns and crowding out my own.
Meatspace relationships of any sort are intensive pattern dances done at the terrifying tempo of synchronous, full-sensory real-time. I need daily doses of solitude and regular hibernation intervals to sustainably withstand any other human being. Only in solitude do I have the space to unfurl my patterns, un-beset by the outside, and recline into their regulated peace.
Like many other people who aren’t neurotypical, I become exhausted and irritable from too much outside stimuli, like having people around me or trying to make conversation with music on. I’m also not great at picking up on social cues or understanding when someone’s being sarcastic - I use facial expressions to sometimes determine jokes and pretend that I understand them. However, being on the spectrum makes me dive into what I love, and for this reason, even though I’m terrible at school, I’m pretty good at writing and communications. This allows me to work around my social anxiety, leading some people to believe I’m an extrovert.
Because I had trouble making friends when I was growing up, I threw myself into learning how relationships work by analyzing and writing about them - and by now I’ve dated my fair share of people and have a number of friends. However, lately I’ve begun to realize that even though I can hide things like exhaustion and irritability by staying out for shorter periods of time, the closer I get to people the more I have to be upfront about what I need. For example, I love my partner and enjoy being around him as much as possible - but as a person with sensory sensitivities, my body says otherwise. If I don’t have enough time to myself without outside stimuli, I start to become burnt out and snap at him. If you’re like me, you’ve tried to avoid getting close to others because you felt it was necessary for you to keep them in your life - but actually, the only way to have fulfilling relationships is to let others in.
It wasn’t until looking into solo polyamory I realized I don’t have to feel guilty for having separate needs from my partner. Solo polyamory is the idea that people are autonomous beings who have different needs and wants, and alongside good communication and mutual respect between all partners, no one puts rules on each other because no one owns one another. There’s this expectation in mainstream society that if you’re a couple you should want to be together most of the time - but with solo polyamory, partners respect how much time you can set aside to see them based on work, hobbies and other people who are important to you. There’s no pressure to converge lives the longer you’re dating because with solo polyamory commitment and time together aren’t seen as mutually exclusive. In a solo polyamory group I recently joined on Facebook, I found a thread where a number of people on the spectrum talked about how finding solo polyamory has helped them work through their sensory sensitivities without feeling like there’s something wrong with them. If they need to leave a date because they’ve had too much stimuli for the day, their partners understand because they’ve had those essential conversations on what each other needs as an individual.
When not taken exclusively or in excess, another’s patterns are satisfying and necessary.
- Autigender and Neuroqueer: Two Words on the Relationship Between Autism and Gender That Fit Me
- Gender Copia and Bricolage
- Neurodiversity and Gender Non-conformity, Dysphoria and Fluidity
- There’s No Glory in Dysphoria, Victoria
- The Sensory Hell of Showering
- The Sensory Hell of the Lunchroom
- Titrating the Whelm: Perceptual Capacity and Autistic Burnout
- Bring the backchannel forward. Written communication is the great social equalizer.