My Husband’s Battle with Social Isolation
Sometimes I think it is a miracle that I met my husband. Not just because he can be absolutely wonderful, loving, and caring in his own way, but because we happened to go to the same event, at the same time, both being newbies, and him on an extremely rare foray into the world of socializing. It’s not that he wants to be antisocial all the time, but being on the autism spectrum, he is frequently burned by it.
Before We Met
On meeting him, I did not get the impression at first that he was on the spectrum or that he was so insular and isolated. Sure, he worked from home and was relatively new to the city, so had no existing work or friendship groups to be with. However, he talked a lot, about many things, was witty and funny, and well dressed. In hindsight, I was falling for all the old cliches and thinking one of the worst things people can say – “Oh, you don’t look autistic.”
Throughout his life, he’d had short relationships which burned out quickly for different reasons and a rotation of friendships that started well and then ended with them ignoring him or moving on. He’d been bullied at school and tormented at home by his sister. This constant changing and having to find new friends and new people led to him becoming increasingly isolated as he found comfort in movies, music, and especially books. He loved ancient history, archaeology, science, psychology, Asian literature (“Not manga!” – husband), and philosophy. Yet whenever he went out, he’d come home feeling overwhelmed, tired, and burned out with the thought of one ex ringing in his ears – “Can’t you try to be more normal?”
True Love Comes from Understanding
Like many people who are not on the spectrum, I did not understand autism at first. The long bouts of isolation or the inability to settle after a night out were difficult. That’s not to mention the different way of being – arms crossing while chatting happily, not making eye contact, or missing social cues. He also seemed to know a lot if you hit certain topics, and I was sure he was using phrases I’d heard in 90’s television shows as part of his everyday lexicon.
Through this I have learned that true love comes from understanding, a deep knowledge of how someone is and why. My husband is always trying to work out his own mechanisms as such – why he does what he does. Is it due to biology, physical or psychological experiences, family, etc.? It can be disconcerting to see him this insular, but I can also see he’s working through things, trying to reach out, and trying to be like other people so he can fit in.
Give Someone a Hug Today
I want to close with perhaps the most romantic thing my husband has said to me. When trying to explain what autism is to me when we were in the early days of our relationship, he said that it felt like always wanting a hug and to feel the comfort a hug should bring but never finding it when he got one. However, when we cuddled on the couch, he felt that contentment. Give someone a hug today or at the very least, call them and talk to them. If your isolated friend or loved one is on the spectrum, do things their way for once, you’d be surprised how much better they feel.
The following video below brings awareness to the issue of social isolation. Please watch, share, and try to make time to reach out to your loved ones today. You never know who might be feeling lonely.