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Why have some of my relationships gone wrong after autism diagnosis?

Updated: Jul 16

It is not unusual for your relationships with partner, family or friends to change after you realise you are autistic. You may find those close to you question your newly-found identification.

A long-term partner may refuse to accept small talk is tiresome for you and big social events exhausting: "But you've been doing it all fine for years, so what's changed?" Parents might take it as somehow their failure and refuse to acknowledge you as autistic. And a friend might come out with a disappointingly invalidating "Ah, mate, you're alright. Don't let them label you. We are all a little bit autistic!"

And suddenly you realise that autism diagnosis may have an unexpected effect on your existing relationships.

You may feel hurt, confused, rejected even. After all, these people are your closest, they should understand? They know you! And here is the key point. Do they know the real you or the facade you have carefully and painfully pieced together?

Why is autism difficult for others to accept?

When you learn you are autistic either through self-identification or through a confirmed diagnosis, you will likely discover insights about yourself you did not have before. Your "oddities" may start to make sense. The compulsion to turn off overhead lights in any room you are in, the love of schedules, the transcendent peace that comes with complete absorption in something that fascinates you...These are mine but I am sure you have your own! There is a reason for why you are the way you are.

Welcome to the best neurotype there is. I am unashamedly biased.

You may become more accepting of your character and want to live as authentically as possible. This means you may drop some "expected" behaviours and let your true self come through.

But to your close ones this new person may yet be unknown.

And the unknown can be scary...There is this unexpected change, the certainty is taken away. It can take some time to adjust.

How do you renegotiate your relationships after autism diagnosis?

There is no one right answer. I would suggest a mutual understanding is a useful starting point to a healthy compromise. There has to be willingness on both sides to meet in the middle.

Perhaps be patient with yourself and those close to you. This is a time of adjustment. Talking the issues through with a specialist therapist can help. But so can simply being kind and accepting to others. After all, the saying goes "Treat others how you want to be treated"...

Think you may want some support ? I am a counsellor, supporting autistic adults, and a happily autistic person myself.

A ginger dog lying on a bed.
My terrier Hazel offering loving acceptance. Always.

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