Why YOU End Up Comforting US When We’ve Hurt Your Feelings
Imagine this: You’re a neurotypical partner to an autistic person, and you’re arguing.
Suddenly, you say something in the heat of the moment, and your partner looks at you in wide-eyed shock and then immediately begins to cry. Not just cry a bit, but a full-out wailing sob.
More than likely, the neurotypical partner will take this reaction to mean that the autistic partner is attempting to turn the focus of the argument onto them and/or manipulate the neurotypical person into making a concession and agreeing to just about anything to get them to stop arguing with them.
Oh, my goodness! The gut punch I took when I finally learned how neurotypical people take that reaction during an argument.
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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:
Here’s what’s really happening:
1) Your partner is just realizing completely what they’ve done or said to hurt you. It has clicked with a deafening boom. The sudden shock of understanding hits them like a tidal wave of emotion, and all sensory functions go off at once.
2) We feel absolutely horrible! When we suddenly start crying like that, it’s a combination of sudden and painfully clear understanding AND empathy. We can’t stand the pain we are causing you, and worse, we have no idea how to stop it or avoid hurting you again because this behavior isn’t purposeful.
I’ve had people comfort me after I’ve hurt their feelings and resent me for it, but I didn’t understand what was happening at the time.
All I knew was everything was “fine” one minute and not the next. I couldn’t connect their reaction to my behavior, and if they hinted at it non-verbally, it didn’t register at all, so I only knew they were upset when they were screaming and crying.
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