What Isn’t Love?

In April of 2015, I moved away from Arizona, eager to get away to some place new, and perhaps to get away from some aspects of myself. I thought getting into a new place would put me in a better spot mentally, because I knew I’d always wanted to move away from “home.”

Up to that point, I had been single for a little over a year. Since then, I’ve dated a few times, fell in love twice, traveled around the world. I found out I’m autistic, thanks to my mother giving me some paperwork from tests that I had gone through before preschool, up through second grade. It put a lot of things in perspective for me, finding that out. But, I wished I had found that out far earlier on in my life.

I had always told people that, when it came to things concerning myself, that I was wired differently but I couldn’t explain it. Having that gap fill in my life helped out so much, and explained a lot of things, like why I took things out by hitting myself, or hitting my head on things. My affinity for certain textures (and the disdain of others). My inability to put my thoughts into words for long periods, and my ability to do a single task for a long time instead of context switching. Being a creature of habit.

It’s translated to a lot of social challenges for myself, like being in places with a bunch of people. My attention is everywhere and it’s very much a sensory overload. I’ve declined going to bigger events and concerts because my anxiety would kick up and I wouldn’t want to do it because I knew I’d be miserable the entire time.

It’s also made me very empathetic, and very capable of freaking myself out if I even think any of it is because of me. I’ve also told many people that I feel I am made to help others, and it’s easy for me to do so. I can almost say I know what they’re feeling, or at least what distress a situation is causing them, but just enough so that I can work with them through things.

I talked with one of my earlier girlfriends, who is still my friend. She, myself and one other woman all dated each other at the same time and were in a triad. We were young and dumb, and didn’t know shit about communication, and it was even more so for myself. I told her about the revelation, and she replied:

“Ah… Hate to say… Um.. I knew those things.”

I always thought that I was bad. Defective. Not good enough. In fact, that last phrase was the negative cognition I identified with my therapist.

“I’m not good enough.”

I’ve said that about myself so many times in my life, in so many situations, that I didn’t realize just how bad I really thought that of myself. Even now, as I write this, there’s still a part of me that says, “Well, it’s true in some aspects.” It’s hard for me to deny, empirically.

So working through it with my therapist, he told me:

“Not everyone is meant to fit into the traditional sense of love. Not everyone loves the same way. You have to find someone that works for you.”

He went on to talk about why it’s important to understand that I am very unique, and it can be challenging for people. But it has to be a discovery effort, and discovering those parts of myself (and dealing with them) will be most difficult. I’d like to think I’ve dealt with a lot of it, but I know it’s not the case. It’ll all surface when I get into my next dynamic or relationship.

When I told another friend that, he said, “I didn’t find a wife, or a girlfriend. I found a partner. They have to be someone that fits what you need, and what they need.”

And it was true. The way that I express love and passion to someone is very different from other people. Again, it was very much part of the autism (I think). My mother told me about how I was not pliant at all as a kid, and my brother was far more pliant than I. I didn’t like being touched, or held. It certainly worked its way into who I am today, for sure. I have a real hard time with snuggling, or gentle touch. I’m far better with it now, than many years ago. But it’s still something that causes me physical discomfort.

And then, not too long ago, I saw this post on Reddit a while ago. It just spoke to me. In my last relationship, we’d hold hands and I’d squeeze right before I let go, even if I was just resting my hand on her. Every time I did that, I felt a surge of good in me. Like it just felt right.

So, the conclusion? Yeah, I don’t love like everyone else. I love like I do, and I don’t have to change it to what everyone else supposedly does. It took me a long time to figure that out, and even longer to put it in words.

I love via the protection I am able to offer others. I love by making someone feel safe. I love by listening. I love non-verbally.

But, I do love. And that, most of all, was the hardest thing for me to accept.

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