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Neurodivergent Couples

By Dmitri 

Hello again dear readers, 

How summer has seemed to fly by. At the time of writing, it’s nearly the end of August and the month seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. This has been an interesting summer for all of us, to say the least. I’d like to take this time to talk about a topic I’ve been meaning to talk about since I first started writing for ASDNext, but since that happened to coincide with COVID, I haven’t yet gotten the opportunity to. I’d like to talk about couples where both members are somewhere on the neurodivergent spectrum. 

My partner and I met about seven years ago. I was the new kid who had moved from a big East-Coast city, he was a year above me and to me was one of the coolest alternative kids in the school. It’s funny how these groups of kids emerge in elementary and middle school who all end up gay or trans or mentally ill or neurodivergent or some mix of all four. My partner and I certainly ended up in the latter category, and both of us had our own unique struggles that we had to deal with. He was fascinated by science and ancient history, but a mix of unchecked and undiagnosed ADHD combined with an abusive household caused him to fall behind in his classes. While I did better academically, my undiagnosed autism made it so that I really had a hard time forming friendships or socializing with my classmates in general. Neither of us was even close to realizing what was going on in our brains. But we found each other, and after knowing each other for a few years plus a few months of awkward teen pining, we started dating. 

Now, not to invalidate any young lovebirds out there or anything, but just dating is very different from living together. It’s in that phase of a relationship where you can really get to know your partner and their living habits. For my partner and I, that phase ended up happening earlier than either of us expected. I was 17, my partner and I had been dating for a little over two years, and my mom started to need to travel for her work for weeks at a time. That was when my partner first started living with me just out of necessity (not that either of us minded though, he was excited to get out of his living situations and I was glad to have someone to help me take on the responsibilities of a whole household). It’s been almost three years and a cross country move since then, but we’ve been living together ever since. 

I’m putting a lot of emphasis on this because a couple of weeks ago I got a newsletter from a journal on ADHD studies, it was on couples where one member has ADHD. It was a sweet article but it made me re-realize something, not many people ever consider the possibility that both members of a couple can be neurodivergent. Oftentimes in articles or journals on relationships where a neurodivergent or mental health issue is involved, it’s framed like one is helpless without their neurotypical partner and that the neurotypical partner must act as a caretaker in some way. From my understanding thus far of being in a relationship; mutual care, understanding, and communication are key regardless of the brain structure of those involved.

My partner and I still deal with the issues we had when we first met. I am still on the autism spectrum and I still deal with pretty rampant anxiety. He still has ADHD (most likely also somewhere on the autism spectrum as well) and he still deals with the effects of depression and C-PTSD. We both still deal with executive dysfunction. In that respect, neither of us has changed much. But, regardless of that, we make it work. I make sure we eat healthy balanced meals, he helps me prep our food. He often brings home the bread, and I’ve taken up odd jobs where I can to contribute. I helped him to find a therapist when he first moved to PA, and he recently helped me do the same. He reminds me to take my meds, and I remind him to take his. We make sure our cat’s litter is scooped and that he is fed twice a day (though honestly, that’s more so our cat who reminds us to do that). We remind each other to take a shower when the other needs to. We listen to one another when we have qualms, we find ways to communicate when the other shuts down and goes non-verbal. We cry, we love, and we figure it out. I’d say we do pretty good for two neurodivergent trans dykes trying to live in this crazy world of ours. I’m excited to live my life with him, whatever that life ends up looking like. 

So to my fellow neurodivergent young adults out there reading this, don’t feel pressure to conform to any type of societal expectations of relationships. As long as you’re willing to love someone and work together to sustain a healthy life, I’d say you’re doing just fine. 

With that dear readers, see you next time, 

~Dmitri