strong>The holidays can be especially taxing for mixed-neurological couples. Many mixed couples experience more conflict than respite. While same-neurological typically developing couples are often using the time off to relax and rejuvenate from the year’s work, mixed-neurological couples are managing the stress of communication and the mutual sense of unmet needs. So little is known about same-neurological ASD couples that it’s hard to even make conjectures about what they may be experiencing. Again, far more research is necessary.
Both partners in mixed relationships can recover from the holidays through self-care. If you’re the ASD partner, remember that it’s also very important for your typically developing spouse to get some time and space for self-care, too. Your life isn’t easy and you do manage daily difficulties that your partner doesn’t face, but your partner also has needs and a perspective. Your partner gets tired and experiences difficulties, too.
Many of you also have children on the autism spectrum and your typically developing partner is probably using all of the skills that come along with having a typically developing brain to help your children on the spectrum succeed. And that is hard! Autism in children is taxing on parents and families. Your typically developing partner needs a break, too.
Self-care is for both partners and both partners need to think about ways the other person might take some time off to be alone and recuperate from any holiday conflict.
So, regardless of neurology, here are some of the things you can both do to support each other and yourselves this post-holiday season. And, if you’re typically developing, you can do these things regardless of whether or not you get support from your ASD partner:
- Take time away from the family and relationship to spend with same-neurological friends
Typically developing report feeling a sense of relief and peace when socializing with other typically developing people (RESEARCH IDEA). People with ASD report enjoying the time they spend with other adults on the spectrum who share their same special interests.
- Take the time and spend the money to get a massage. Remember to stretch.
Physical tension affects mood can impede recovery from long periods of difficult mixed-neurological interactions. Both partners can benefit from working to ensure their muscles are relaxed and loose. Alleviating tension now can lesson the likelihood that difficult interactions in the future will explode into fights. If you’re the ASD partner, remember that your spouse needs a massage, too. Buy gift certificates for both of you so that both of you can be cared for equally.
- Practice Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness are all the rage in today’s world. There are countless apps and books available that can help both partners. Take establishing the challenge of establishing a practice seriously and, if you have ASD, remember that your partner needs support in developing a practice, too.
- Exercise in a way that is personally enjoyable to you
Early on in the New Year, many of us are revisiting our health goals. If you’re in a mixed-neurological relationship, you need to take your health very seriously. But since you’re probably dealing with more incessant stress and a consistent low-level of trauma in your relationship (RESEARCH IDEA), you also need a program that is going to be responsive to your emotional needs, too. Find a way to exercise that works for you. Do you prefer to try to keep your heart rate up while running around the house and doing chores? If so, just do it! The gym isn’t for everybody.
Or do you prefer hot yoga (also great for relaxation and breathing)? What can you do to find a routine that works for you? Support your partner in the routine your partner chooses by speaking respectfully about your partner’s decision and by making sure your partner has the time and space to take exercise seriously. If you have ASD, try to avoid the mistake of putting pressure on your partner to perform up to your expectations. Your partner needs a chance to exercise the way your partner wants and with your support rather than pressure.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
I know, it sounds silly. We all know that it’s best to eat well. The thing is, people in mixed-neurological relationships experience a level of difficulty and stress that others can’t fully comprehend because they’e never lived it. Your bodies need more physical support than others. Take eating antioxidants seriously. Do what you can to incorporate them into your regular diet. Think green smoothies or whatever it is you like to eat! Don’t underestimate the benefits of a healthy body in stress management. Avoid sugar and meaningless carbs when you can… just because you’re worth it and it will make you feel better. You deserve to feel good!
- Engage in other healthy practices that bring you peace
We’re all a little different and we all find peace in different activities. Take the time to do what makes you feel good. What is it that you really love? Painting? Poetry? Skiing? Do it!
- Avoid alcohol and other non-prescription mood-enhancing drugs
Turning to alcohol and other substances is easy in the present, but they tear down your body rather than build it up. Spinach is better than alcohol and spinach with berries and protein powder in a green smoothy is yummy, too! If you’re in a mixed-neurological relationship, you have a lot of extra life stress and conflict to deal with. Take care of yourself as best as you can.
- Get the right medical care
ASD Adults: Many adults on the autism spectrum don’t want to admit they have autism. There’s no shame in being on the spectrum. Get the help you need. Be honest during diagnostic interviews and when answering diagnostic measures.
Typically Developing Adults: Many typically developing adults in mixed relationships also avoid getting the professional and medical help they need. Don’t make that mistake. Right now there aren’t a lot of professionals who know how to help you with your relationship, but don’t let that keep you out of the doctor’s office. Speak about what you do know… professionals need to hear. And get whatever help you need for your physical body, too. Longterm trauma and stress has an affect on your body. Don’t be ashamed to admit what you’re really going through. You deserve help, too. Being a caretaker is taxing.
Remember that old oxygen mask on the airplane analogy? You’re the typically developing partner. You know it’s your job to keep the oxygen masks on everybody in the family. Get yours on first.
Happy New Year to all! Good luck in whatever journey you choose for your future!