People who speak the same language expect to be able to communicate effectively with each other, especially when they have a romantic relationship. However, when one of the intimate partners has high-functioning autism, whether it is officially diagnosed or suspected, this natural expectation is not likely to be met. Couples in mixed-neurological relationships experience daily breakdowns in communication and deal with constant feelings of frustration, anger and disappointment.
These couples don’t usually realize that what appears to be one common language that both use and share, is not really the case, but rather something else, which resembles two radio waves that are transmitting and receiving messages through different modes of communication.
The partner who has autism features uses the logical wave. This wave works in a linear way, transmits and receives one message at a time. This wave is distracted easily by background noises, that can block messages from going through. The logical wave is very good at transmitting and understanding messages that include facts, numbers, tables and statistical data. Messages should be very clear and explicit. The logical wave is very practical and task oriented. It seeks rational, operative and efficient solutions and is very good at fixing and solving technical problems.
The typically developing partner uses the emotional wave. This wave works in an unpredictable way, transmits and receives lots of messages simultaneously and is very good at what we call ‘multi-tasking’. The emotional wave focuses on the expression and interpretation of feelings and masters the use of non-verbal communication. It can transmit and understand emotions through body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. Messages go through, even without words, and even when they are very vague. The way of solving problems and dealing with them is much more important for the emotional wave than the solution itself, and very often, simply sharing feelings, without finding any solutions, makes all the difference and brings great relief.
When two lovers use these two different waves, it is not surprising that communication fails. The logical wave has a hard time dealing with messages that involve feelings and is not good at interpreting non-verbal communication. The partner who uses the logical wave, often thinks of himself/herself as superior and views the user of the emotional wave as irrational. The user of the emotional wave tends to look at the user of the logical wave as cold and uncaring. Lovers may become angry and frustrated and can easily reach the conclusion that their intimate partner does not love them.
When mixed-neurological couples understand the reasons for their breakdowns in communication, they can learn to decipher the intentions behind the use of the different waves. If both intimate partners are willing to put the effort and learn new effective strategies and techniques with the aim of improving their communication, they can transform their frustrating relationship into a loving and satisfying one.
Dr. Pnina Arad