“If You Really Loved Me, You Would…” – Never Say That to Your Autistic Partner Again

 A sepia-toned photo of a couple with their heads together. The man has his eyes closed and is leaning against the woman's head while the woman looks away in the distance.

“If you REALLY loved me, you would…”

This sentence is incredibly manipulative, if you think about it. Especially, if a neurotypical person is saying it to their autistic partner.

It’s also very disheartening because, in the end, it does not matter how much a person loves you; if their brain can’t do the thing, their brain can’t do the thing. Period. End of sentence.

What I don’t understand is how easy it seems to be for NT partners of ND people to say something like this, but yet most of those same NT people wouldn’t say it if their partner say, used a wheelchair, or was blind, or was deaf, or was missing a limb.

Let me give you a few examples of how this actually sounds when heard by an ND person:

NT person to ND partner:

“If you REALLY loved me, John, you’d go to these work social events with me.”

NT person to amputee partner:

“If you REALLY loved me, John, you’d make more of an effort to grow back that arm you lost in Iraq.”

NT person to ND partner:

“You know, Tracy, if you REALLY loved me, you’d remember I don’t like it when you ask me all these questions after I ask you to do something.”

NT person to blind partner:

“You know, Tracy, if you REALLY loved me, you’d tell me how nice I looked in this blue dress I bought just to wear for you.”

NT person to ND partner:

“If you REALLY loved me, Rick, you’d think to ask me how my day was once in the while.”

NT person to mute partner:

“If you really loved me, Rick, you’d think you could say “I love you” out loud every once in the while.”

Now, this doesn’t just go for NT people, either. That wouldn’t be fair, so here’s an example with the shoe on the other foot:

ND person to NT partner:

“If you REALLY loved me, you would cease all chewing and swallowing noises in my presence.”

ND person to hard-of-hearing partner:

“If you REALLY loved me, you’d know I don’t like to repeat myself over and over again.”

Do you see how ridiculous it seems to tell someone who literally cannot help the condition they live with that if they REALLY loved you they would somehow stop having all symptoms of said condition?

It’s the same for an autistic person whose brain is wired differently than yours! All the love in the world isn’t going to morph their brain into what you would prefer it to be or what would be more convenient to your relationship.

It simply can’t happen!

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The best way to improve communication with your autistic loved one is to understand how your autistic loved one’s mind works! Intentions, motivations, and personal expressions (facial expressions or lack thereof, body language, etc.), are often quite different in autistic people than they are in neurotypical people.

Experience a better understanding of your autistic loved one by reading books about life from an autistic perspective as well as stories that feature autistic characters. You’ll have so many “Ah ha!” moments and start seeing your autistic loved one in a different light (and you’ll have a better understanding of their behaviors, which you may have been misinterpreting up until now).

Books I recommend for a better understanding of your autistic loved one:

That isn’t to say that compromise and therapy isn’t important, especially when a couple are of two different neurotypes. And there has to be compromise on BOTH ends, otherwise it’s not fair to the partner putting in all of the effort, BUT, and this is really important, you have to meet your partner where they are at.

What seems like no effort at all to you could be a Herculean struggle for them!

And you can’t expect time to just erase neurodiversity. “Oh, we’ve been married 10 years, and he still does this thing.”

Yep, and he’ll probably do it on your 50-year anniversary, too.

You wouldn’t say, “We’ve been married 10 years, and he’s still blind, I thought he would get over that by now.” Would you?

That isn’t to say you should not communicate what you want and need. You absolutely should! But language like, “If you REALLY loved me,” is just cruel. Not to mention, it accomplishes nothing!

Because an inability to do something has nothing to do with love.

They’re two separate things entirely. Somebody may make more of an effort to compromise, listen to you, go to therapy, go to a workshop, read a book, attend a seminar, or something to that effect because they love you, but they can’t just up and change the brain that’s in their skull.

It’s not possible.

So, instead of that dreaded sentence, which only makes the person you’re saying it to feel HORRIBLE about themselves because they couldn’t change whatever it is they are doing or not doing under penalty of death, try stuff like this:

“When you _____________, I feel ________________.”

“I need ____________ from you in this relationship. How can we work on that together?”

“I show love by __________________. What do you do to show that you love someone?”

“I’m not feeling loved right now. Will you ____________?”

Also, if it’s really something you cannot stand, like the sound of chewing and swallowing (drives me bonkers), eat with the TV or a radio on.

There are workarounds for just about everything!

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