Poor Relationship Choices
Living on on the Autism Spectrum results in our making Poor Relationship Choices. As adults with learning differences we are not knowledgeable about building healthy relationships until we are properly diagnosed. Until then, every personal relationship becomes distorted, twisted and inappropriate, and that is sad. Because of these learning differences we
- Often become infatuated with someone for the wrong reasons,
- Always expect too much from the other person,
- Mostly speak and behave improperly,
- Sometimes focus too much on idealized expectations,
- Always fail to understand the subtle signals of a relationship,
- Tend to take any complements as an invitation for a personal relationship.
That said, in my experience, we are totally unable to have a normal, healthy relationship before diagnosis. And, after a diagnosis, unless we do a lot of research, receive counseling and work on people skills, we are doomed to relationship failures, one after another. But again, this is my opinion based on our personal experiences.
Breaking it all down, beginning with our Fathers
Let me start by saying as girls, our total understanding of relationships with boys relies upon whatever relationship we have with our fathers. If we raised by fathers who are present, supportive and comfortable with who we are as individuals, that is healthy and very beneficial. With this father, girls grow up looking for relationships with boys who most resemble their dad, and will continue to look until they find that person. If, however, we raised by a father who is not available and does not support us for who we are, we then have no guide for finding a healthy relationship. And, there is something even more important we need from our fathers: a healthy understanding of how to express proper affection with others.
Fathers show affection by how they treat their wife, all the children, especially the girls, and family pets. Sadly, I am being very specific here because my father did not know how to show proper affection to any of his daughters, including my mother. Looking back, I can honestly say he was often inappropriate in how he associated with us, especially as children. There are pictures of me with him that are cringe worthy by today’s standards. And, as I finally recalled past experiences of sexual abuse, two of my abusers were his own father and brother, with the other being my mother’s younger brother. I believe both my father and mother may have actually known about one or all the attacks. My father’s attitude towards me took a darker turn once I started dating: he was very cynical, chilling, almost accusatory when he tried to touch on the subject of my dating. He seemed to be assuming the worst about any relationship I had, and so did my mother. Whenever we traveled, and stayed in one room, I would always wake to find him sitting up and staring at me. It was creepy and depressing. I was ultimately left with no guidance for finding an acceptable partner from either my father or mother.
Learning Differences and Poor Relationship Choices
Our ADD-ADHD-Dyslexia learning differences are at the root of our social development. We always become infatuated with someone for the wrong reasons. We are attracted to someone’s overall looks, hair, eyes, hands, clothes they wear, the car they drive. During high school, those characteristics along with someone being a football or basketball star and wham! We are totally convinced they are our Romeo! Even if we do find someone with whom we begin a relationship, we often expect too much from the other person by expecting them to follow dating rules from the latest romance magazine!
When in any social situations, we often speak or behave improperly by standing too close, invading someone’s personal space. Because our learning differences cause us to take everything very literally, we often speak out of turn, too loudly, or without thinking, many times throwing out words that are as hurtful, unintelligent, out-of-place. We tend to focus too much on idealized expectations, based upon current romance magazines, movies or television shows as well. Having little or no social skills, we are without a moral compass and assume that what we read or see is how someone should act in public with other people. We do not understand the subtle signals of people in social situations, especially personal relationships. This is important to remember. When trying to develop a personal relationship with someone, those of us with learning differences are blind to social cues:
the look in someone’s eyes,
the sound of voice,
their choice of words,
their body language,
how close they stand or move towards us.
We are oblivious to any of the above. We are so immature with different mental wiring we can only focus on one thing at a time. We are totally incapable of catching subtle clues of developing healthy relationships.
Learning Differences and Work Relationships
And, we tend to take any complements from the opposite sex as more of a pass, an attempt at suggesting something more in a relationship. Sadly, this often comes within a work environment which normally is a safe place to get to know someone. However, especially for women with learning differences, past sexual abuse and unhealthy relationship with their father too often this situation often happens with a supervisor. We are so mis-guided within our own brains we assume anyone who is nice to us, pays us a compliment, smiles at us or, God forbid, touches us in any way is making a an attempt for more affection! If they are also smart, attractive and successful in the company we assume they are attracted to us. As I write this I realize I am still pause when anyone of the opposite sex (and some same-sex) pays the slightest bit of attention to me. Sadly, I recall my mother flirting and assuming that all men, even those I dated or married, that were nice to her were interested in her as a sexual being up to her recent passing at 92! I have read several articles about this mis-communication between the sexes and how it is also tied to not having a healthy relationship with our fathers.
I had a father who worked multiple jobs all while holding down a full-time career position. He was religious and devoted to the image of his perfect family. He was also cold, often violent, and inflexible. He seemed to focus on awful stories from experiences while in the Navy: observations of rough, public sexual acts by furloughed sailors somehow thinking that was a way to talk to me about boys. He had a crude, rough idea of what sex should and should not be. I remember finding a copy of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” in his bedroom drawer when I was fourteen. Published in 1960 I remember there was a real uproar over “that sex book.” I found it confusing about why it would be in my Bible-thumping, righteously pious father’s underwear drawer. Nothing within that book remotely represented the way my father acted.
Other than making sure we had enough food and a safe home my father had nothing to do with his daughters on a day-to-day basis except the mandatory evening meal. He did, however, made sure we each had new outfits for church on Easter, complete with matching hats and purses, and continued throughout our college years. But as far as love, support and any sense of healthy fatherly affection, there was none. Looking back, I think he was more afraid of us than not. He had grown up with three very strong-willed younger sisters, one a local beauty queen. I think he would have preferred living by himself, often declaring he lived in a house of all women: even the pets were females!
Sadly, this all confirms how our learning differences, coupled with low self-esteem, makes us vulnerable to any improper relationship that comes our way. With childhood sexual abuse, we are totally incapable of knowing what a genuine, loving relationship with healthy sexual context is.
I fell in love with, and married, someone equally damaged and living with un-diagnosed learning differences. Ours has been a relationship of extremes: intense, sexual infatuation along with numerous infidelities by my husband. Sadly, he grew up believing he had a right to do so because of his Latin heritage! He also had experienced childhood sexual abuse, and lost his father during World War II at the age of five. Health issues finally ended his philandering, but not before almost destroying everything we had between us. Thankfully, I was determined to make this, my third and last marriage outlast his boorish behavior. Now, after more than thirty years of marriage, we finally have a loving and supportive marriage. I believe ours was a dysfunctional marriage from the start because we both were survivors of childhood sexual abuse and un-diagnosed learning differences: ADD-ADHD-Dyslexia.
I could not find any articles online covering the kind of information I have shared in this Blog. Living with ADD-ADHD-Dyslexia learning differences, sexual abuse and no healthy relationship with our parents make it extremely difficult to have any healthy, personal relationships. This Blog is totally from our personal experiences.
“After the final no there comes a yes, and on that yes the future world depends.” Wallace Stevens
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