Neurodiverse Couples

What does neurodivergent even mean?? Many of the people who come to see me might share some of the characteristics listed below 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.

These conditions rewire your brain to respond differently!

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 can be taught, as emotional cues may be misread or simply missed altogether. For the NT partner, having a good support network of friends or family to turn to to get emotional needs met on occasion is essential.

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, and procrastination

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.