Not everyone sees and experiences the world the same. If this difference is due to neurological reasons, that person is called “neurodivergent.” Common examples include Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dyslexia, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, the list is much longer than that. Roughly one in seven people are neurodivergent.
With the percentage being that high, it’s not unusual for a neurodivergent person to connect in a relationship with a neurotypical person. Like every relationship, there will be challenges. In this instance, perhaps the biggest hurdle is communication. With that in mind, let’s explore some ways to improve that important element of any couple’s life.
Communication Struggles in a Neurodivergent Relationship
In many ways, this section can be summed up with the phrase “speaking different languages.” Each partner sees the world through a different lens. This is definitely not a deal-breaker but it requires special focus.
Unless both of you commit to the work, it’s likely that at least one of you will feel unheard or invalidated. This can result in resentment and emotional distance. Thus, it’s essential that you recognize your differences and put in the effort to connect.
Communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship. Prioritizing this skill is a powerful step toward strengthening your bond. And remember, there is no finish line. Communication is an ongoing process that evolves as you do and as circumstances change. There is no secret formula except doing the work. Here are some tips to help you along that road.
3 Ways to Improve Communication When You Are in a Neurodivergent Relationship
1. Be Aware of Timing
Not every time is a good time to communicate — especially about weighty topics. Work together to identify times that feel compatible and productive. Over time, you can create routines to allow consistency to guide you. Many neurodivergent thrive with routines.
Another way timing plays a role is in not letting small problems fester. Express your feelings early and often. Suppressing difficult emotions may prevent an uncomfortable discussion now but will almost always result in a major disagreement later.
2. Be Clear
Do not expect your partner to intuitively know what you mean, feel, need, and want. Even if you’re soul mates, you need clarity. This usually means you can’t rely solely on nuance, body language, or implications. Something like sarcasm or metaphor can be misread or missed entirely.
Everyone has their own lens and framework for communication. Take the time to learn how your partner clicks. Take the time to share with your partner about yourself. And put a strong emphasis on clarity.
3. Be Ready to Learn
When a misunderstanding occurs, it can lead either or both of you to immediately expect the worst. This is a crisis, after all… right? Sure, all couples have rough patches but not every disagreement is cause for panic. In fact, you can agree to work together to see such scenarios as teaching moments.
If you choose to stay curious and compassionate, there is so much to learn. Differing viewpoints are a chance to broaden your horizons. Hearing your partner out during an argument is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge about them. The more you learn, the fewer misunderstandings you have.
Couples Therapy is Proactive
You do not have to wait for a crisis to emerge to seek guidance. A neurodivergent couple can work proactively to prevent many of the more common pitfalls. Connecting with a skilled, unbiased therapist early in your relationship is a proven path toward easing the challenges.