I remember when my boyfriend (now husband) told me he couldn’t feel my love. I had no idea what he was talking about.
“I do love you,” I said matter-of-factly. “What does that even mean?”
I panicked. How can I get him to feel my love? I was touching him, we were spending time together, what more did he want from me?
“I don’t know,” he said softly and sadly, “I just don’t feel it.”
“Okay, well, stop,” I said stupidly. I wasn’t very good at making people feel better then.
He didn’t say much more on the subject, but that conversation stuck with me. I wanted to be with him, and I wanted him to know, so I set out on a mission to get my boyfriend (now husband) to feel my love.
I had no idea where to start. I knew that the love was there, so I decided to start with a google search, and that’s where I found out about this nugget of relationship gold: The Five Love Languages.
A series of books written by Dr. Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages, give specific details of how to show your loved ones you love them in ways they will feel loved.
You see, neurotypicals have different ways of wanting to be told they’re loved.
I always assumed that the words “I love you” meant that he would understand that I loved him, but some people like actions better and others like gifts and stuff. So I took the Five Love Languages test to see if it was right about me. It was. I like physical touch: cuddling, heavy pressure (but not light touches), and being squeezed. I had my boyfriend (now husband) take it that same night.
It was a floodgate. I learned so much about him. I didn’t realize we didn’t speak the same love language, and the way he wanted Love was not the way I was showing him I loved him. His love language is Quality Time. I had to Google what that means, but don’t worry, I’ll tell you.
Why Romance is Important to Your NT Spouse
Intimacy is one of the most important aspects of a relationship because it provides a safe closeness between two people. Intimacy is essential to every relationship. But what is intimacy, and how can you get closer to your spouse? To start, any expectations that you or your spouse have for each other must be verbalized. Autistic people process emotions through words and not subtle cues, and that makes it so much more important to communicate with each other. It’s impossible to be a team if the players aren’t on the same page.
The best way to increase intimacy in your relationship is to increase romance. But how do you know which romantic ideas are going to make your spouse happy? That’s where the Five Love Languages test comes in.
I suggest both of you start by taking this test first. I recommend you take it by yourself, but they can take theirs with or without you, as long as you both come together when you finish. I’ll tell you how to compare your answers. Set aside time for both you and your spouse to sit together with a pen and some paper.
As the aspie, before you compare your answers, I should warn you that this conversation is an emotional minefield. It’s an explosion of pleasant emotions, this is true, but an explosion none-the-less, and you need to know about your own preferences before you can learn about your spouse’s. This will help you from getting emotionally overwhelmed and shutting down during the conversation. Know what you want from your spouse and practice communicating that for when the time comes to talk and exchange answers.
Once you’ve both completed the test, ask each other the following questions:
Was the test spot on about what your love language is?
Is there anything I do now that hurts your feelings?
Is there anything I do now that makes you feel loved?
When you compare your answers, make sure you take notes of what your spouse says. Listen very carefully for things your spouse says they like, want more of, want less of, and would like to do or try, and then write that stuff down. Don’t hesitate to ask them to wait while you write. They love you, and they’ll be happy to wait.
Here is a breakdown of what each language means, and examples of speaking in that language:
Quality Timers enjoy feeling like they have your focused attention. Eye contact is difficult for us aspies, but they extra love it, so if you can stand it for a little while, I highly recommend doing it whenever possible, it makes them smile and feel good. If it burns, though, don’t worry about doing it; there are other ways of showing them your attention, like conversations and dates. Make sure to ask about your spouse’s day. Here are 36 questions you can ask your spouse that are proven to increase trust and intimacy.
Physical Touch doesn’t mean just sex. Physical touch is a nonverbal sign of love: a shoulder rub, holding hands, touching legs, footsie. You don’t need a lot of words for this one, but if your spouses love language is physical touch and touching is a no-no for you, then you have to ask yourself how much of a compromise you’re willing to give. It’s vital that you are aware of what you’re ready to tolerate and what you aren’t. If holding hands with your spouse isn’t painful and just annoying, then think about how good it makes them feel. Compromises should include comfort for both parties.
Gifts can be from anywhere as long as they are from your heart. If your spouse likes clocks, make one and give it to them. If they like plays, buy tickets for a date night. Use a calendar to plan out gift-giving. Start with once every couple of weeks and adjust as necessary. Don’t forget to give gifts on special occasions. Make sure that if money is an issue for you that you don’t spend too much. Here are some excellent ideas (here also) if you’re not sure what to give.
Words of Affirmation
Words of Affirmation means that your spouse likes to hear how much you love them, what they mean to you, and how much you appreciate them. They also like it when you say beautiful things to them about how they look or what they can do. This one can be tricky for us to do randomly because of our communication problems. Tell your spouse something nice and thank them whenever they do something that benefits both of you.
Acts of Service
Acts of Service means your spouse likes it when you do stuff with them and for them. This shows your spouse you care. Easy ways to do this would be to take your spouse’s car for a wash, gas, or maintenance. You could wash the dishes when you see the sink is full. Breakfast in bed is another good one. Most Acts of Service don’t cost a lot of money, so if that’s an issue for you, you’re in luck.
One thing to keep in mind if your spouse is talking using sharp words or a harsh tone: don’t instantly assume they want you to fix their issue. That means don’t ask them what they want you to do about their problem. Ask first if they are just venting. Venting means they want to talk, but they don’t really care if you have anything to say. Neurotypicals like to speak out loud when they are upset, but don’t necessarily want an answer to their problem.
So when your spouse confirms they are venting, don’t offer a solution. Offer sympathy instead. “I’m sorry, how did that make you feel?” can go a long way. When neurotypicals say we don’t have empathy, they really mean we don’t show sympathy, so this one little thing will get you far in social skills, not just conversations with your spouse.
Relationships between neurotypicals and aspies are very complicated, with lots of communication and lots of compromise. The neurotypical needs to educate themselves on autism. Still, it’s equally essential for the aspie to educate themselves on neurotypicals if the aspie wants to be in a relationship with one. An AS/NT marriage is a marriage of two separate worlds, and learning about each other’s world in a positive environment allows for self-awareness, open-mindedness, and lots of love, as long as both parties are willing to put in the work to be together and love each other.