Neurodiverse* Couples

Nobody tells the neurotypical (NT) partner about the loneliness that can occur when partnered with a neurodiverse (ND) individual. For example, when you drop off your last ‘baby’ at their college dorm for his first year, and you feel incredibly sad, and

neurodivergent couples

Emotional cues are often misread or ignored

are grieving the loss, don’t expect empathy or automatic cuddling from your ND partner to feel soothed. This doesn’t make the partner “bad.” It just means they may be hyper-focused on getting the task of moving done, or feeling a different set of emotions altogether.

Healthy communication between these couples must be taught, as emotional cues may be misread or missed altogether. For the NT partner, having other people to turn to to get emotional needs met on occasion is helpful.

Types of neurodiverse people include those with ADHD, being “on the [autism] spectrum”, and those with easily overloaded sensory inputs. Here are a few traits:

  • Difficulty managing impulsivity
  • Difficulty reading non-verbal cues
  • Rejection sensitivity dysphoria
  • Sensory and emotional overwhelm
  • Executive functioning difficulties
  • Hyper-fixation on special interests
  • Low frustration tolerance

But you should know, as the NT partner, that just because your partner’s emotions may be harder to access for them, doesn’t mean they are not present. Your loving, different thinking person has spent a lifetime managing their differences, and may often show you in other ways how much they care.

Teaching these special couples to use more effective ways to communicate is something I love doing.

*On Neurodiverse couples:

Many of the people who come to see me don’t meet the DSM-5 or ICD-11 criteria for an autism diagnosis or autistic disorder. They might share some of the characteristics with someone who has autism, but this could simply mean they’re neurodivergent. For example, they might be gifted or have a cognitive profile outside the center of the bell curve. Or, they might have a trauma history, or be experiencing significant anxiety.