My girlfriend and I live in separate places and both live alone. I live in a house in a very rural part of Southwest Missouri, population 4,000 including county areas and 15,000 if you include Branson, the city next to mine. Shannon lives in the “big city” of 120,000 about a half-hour away.
When all this Coronavirus hullabaloo started and we knew we needed to shelter in place, we realized it would be difficult for us to maintain a normal relationship where we go back and forth. We chose to stay at my house as at the time my county had no cases of coronavirus, whereas hers had 14. Now my county is up to a whopping two while hers is up to sixty with six deaths.
She “moved in” almost three weeks ago.
We’re both autistic (Asperger’s), which comes with its own set of unique challenges, the biggest being communication. We’ve always ultimately handled our communication issues well, especially considering that we are two VERY different autistic people.
As Dr. Stephen Mark Shore said, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” That means that though we share a few similar traits, we’re each unique in our autistic makeup.
Yes, we will always have our moments where we just don’t communicate clearly, and we don’t “get” what the other is saying. At least not at first. In that situation, we would normally separate and head back to our individual residences until we can figure out how to say what we have to say in a way that the other will understand. That’s always worked for us, but right now that’s a luxury we don’t have.
Amazingly, we’ve found a way to make things work over the past weeks. We’ve had our differences and had our moments when communication wasn’t optimal, but we’ve adapted and found ways to make it work for us. I can honestly say that we’re both surprised at how smooth things have been.
What’s been our recipe for success? I’m not entirely sure. We’re both the kind of people who can analyze and overthink things into the ground and Shannon has almost a fetish for flow charts. I’m amazed she hasn’t created one to diagram our communication strategy or our living arrangements.
Success, so far, has just come naturally and there hasn’t been much discussion as to what needs to happen to make things run smooth and make us both happy campers. That being said, here are a few things that have worked for us:
Respect the other person and their needs.
We’re both taking three classes at a local community college. Shannon’s are in Graphic Design and are very hands-on and take a lot of time, creativity and skill. With all classes being moved to an online format that means she’s not doing anything in the computer lab at school. She’s at home working and she needs to focus without distractions. That means that when she’s working on her projects, I need to make myself scarce and find my own things to work on in rooms where she’s not.
This is something I have no problem doing as I can usually find something to do, whether it be Good Men Project editing, working on my Behavioral Science classes, reading or something else. Being a good nerd, I can generally grab a comic book or three and read them, but with non-essential businesses being closed and comic books not being shipped to stores, that’s one option that’s been taken out of the equation!
Communicate your needs.
I can’t stress this one enough. Autistic or neurotypical (non-autistic) no one can figure out what the other is thinking and what they need, so communication is key. If you want time alone, let the other know. If you want cuddle time, tell your partner. If you just want to hang and watch a movie, articulate that. If you’re looking for something a little more, uh, intimate, definitely let that be known as well!
Keep plenty of Diet A & W (or whatever their “go-to” things are) on hand.
Shannon has a Diet A & W addiction, so making sure that we’re well stocked is a definite must. Besides that, making sure that there’s enough food on hand and especially the kind of food and snacks that you like will make sure that everyone is satisfied as you hunker down and wait this out.
Keep games, adult coloring books, books or whatever your thing is on hand.
Binging TV is great, but you can only do so much of that. Having things that you can do by yourself and with each other is essential for both of your mental health. Keep plenty of things on hand to keep you occupied and you will see fewer arguments and tiffs arise.
That’s it. This is what’s worked for us these past three weeks and hopefully, it will continue to work for the foreseeable future. For two people on the spectrum who value privacy as much as we value our time together, this has been an awesome experiment and one I‘m happy to say has worked out very favorably. So far.
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