If he has 'shut down,' what' the best thing to do?

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tattyann
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20 Mar 2014, 7:10 am

My long term boyfriend, who I believe may be on the spectrum, broke up with me some weeks ago. I'm still hoping we may be reconciled, as the relationship was basically wonderful, and I believe his decision was founded on a misunderstanding rather than a fundamental problem.

We agreed to remain 'friends.' The first time me met, post break up, it was clear he was overjoyed to see me. He was happy and warm. This gave me great hope me might get back together. However, a few days later we met again and he was completely cold and withdrawn. I am NT and found this highly distressing. I opened up to him about how devastated the break up had caused me to feel, and I am sure this made him feel very uncomfortable. The extent of my distress might not even have occurred to him previously.

Since last seeing him, he has continued to be in touch with me by text, but his text messages are somewhat curt. I get the impression that the realisation of how much the break up hurt me has made him feel awful.

He has problems in other areas of his life including being compelled for the time being to give up an interest he is passionate about and previously spent a good deal of his spare time on. Is it possible the stress of this caused his coldness last time we met?

We are meeting again next week. This was his idea, which is something... But if he still has his barriers up, is there anything I can do? I want to give us the best chance of reconciling (whilst understanding it might not happen). But whatever the outcome, I care about him and his happiness, so I'd like to help if I can - or at least not make things more difficult for him. Thanks.



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20 Mar 2014, 7:19 am

I would assume his coldness/curtness is an attempt to get some space. ...and not in an autistic way, in a regular "we just broke up" way.



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20 Mar 2014, 7:20 am

If you think he is on the spectrum, I think that the best thing you can do is to explain calmly and nicely without blame what you feel, what you need, and what you want. Then he has the choice to listen and respond or not as he chooses, and neither of you is left wondering whether it is disinterest or inability to figure out what to do. He isn't a child, but people can't read each other's minds, those on the spectrum are more likely to appreciate clarity about functioning interpersonally than to be angered or confused by it, so long as one is being talked to with dignity and not as if one is a child.

If you think it's appropriate you can ask about what he needs and encourage him to voice this, depending on the reason for the breakup.



The_Face_of_Boo
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20 Mar 2014, 7:36 am

What his financial situation?



tattyann
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20 Mar 2014, 7:45 am

Yes, his coldness might just mean he wants distance. However - it was his idea to remain friends, and his idea to continue meeting. Why suggest meeting if you want distance? Why meet, if you don't really want to see the person?

The thing that was most upsetting for me was the complete contrast between the warmth of our first meeting, and the coldness of his attitude on the second. Nothing happened between us to trigger this change, which is why I wonder whether it is the other stresses in his life that caused this. His financial position is sound, but clearly his normal routines have been severely disrupted.



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20 Mar 2014, 7:47 am

I can see stress causing coldness. Too much stress means that my ability to do the difficult things disappears, and emotional expression is typically one of the mega-difficult things for people with autism.


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tattyann
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20 Mar 2014, 7:57 am

Thank you Who I Am. That's helpful. He couldn't bear me touching him in the most innocent way eg taking hold of his arm, crossing a road. It was as though I were a hot coal, he shook me off so quickly! Whereas the time we met before, when he was relaxed, he initiated lovely hugs etc. I think I just go to meet him knowing that he might still be shut down emotionally, but that at least he was open to seeing me which is a plus.



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20 Mar 2014, 8:01 am

Does he have issues with touch that you know of? Some of my sensory issues are tactile, and when I'm stressed, things that I'm normally ok with can actually be painful.


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tattyann
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20 Mar 2014, 8:30 am

He has a lot of sensitivities. The main one is to heat. He can't stand to be too warm. As to touch - well, while we were together, normally he would seem to enjoy touch, but there were times even then when he seemed to want to distance himself. I think this was sometimes to do with my body heat making him uncomfortable! Or sometimes it seemed that he just wanted to be alone and separate from me.



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20 Mar 2014, 8:34 am

Most of the time im sure, just being there, and being a good listener is good enough. If there are plans, stick to them. I know saying show up, and shut up is a bad way of putting things, however, bieng too clingy might be an issue. If there is something about you he doesn't like, you might hear about it.



tattyann
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20 Mar 2014, 8:47 am

yourname here, that is clear and helpful, thanks. I like the 'show up and shut up' phrase! Things will go best if I let him take the lead. I think, when we were together, he couldn't handle it when things became unpredictable, the loss of a sense of control was hard for him as he needs a sense of order to feel safe. So it might help if I can show him that I have taken that in.

If we ever get back together, I'm the one who is going to have to do all the adapting I expect, but it is easier for me, and possibly almost impossible for him. I keep reminding myself of that. He's definitely worth it.



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20 Mar 2014, 9:31 am

Question for you: Does he actually have any friends? Women friends? Who aren't there in a sort of mothering capacity as he needs them, and gone fromhis life when he doesn't?

It's possible he doesn't actually know what "being friends" means, and has taken it for "we don't hate each other, now I can go on with my life."



tattyann
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20 Mar 2014, 9:54 am

He has friends, including females, but I don't think he's all that close to them. People he shares his interests with and sees from time to time and texts from time to time. I don't want to end up in that category.

I'm continuing in contact not really because I want to be 'friends,' but because I want to get back together with him. I don't know what his motivation is for wanting to see me. I think he's fond of me. I like to think he doesn't want to let me go completely, and that therefore he is still interested at some level, but I really don't know.



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20 Mar 2014, 10:27 am

tattyann, I know this isn't what you want to hear, but I'm going to suggest you get yourself some fuzzy slippers, a box of tissues, and a pint of chocolate ice cream.

Think ahead about this a bit. Yes, he gave you all kinds of wonderful feelings -- but, longterm, do you really want to be with a fellow who'll kill a relationship over a misunderstanding, out of nowhere? And then blow hot/cold? I mean suppose he comes back, and you go on, and start a family -- do you want to go through this sort of thing again when you've got small children?

You deserve someone who'll be more reasonable with you. Don't go chasing some fella you have to mindread and ask strangers about on the internet.



tattyann
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20 Mar 2014, 2:51 pm

Tarantella, I have wept floods already. I've decided I want to give us a chance of reconciliation, which can only happen if we continue to communicate and meet. Neither of us is young; we weren't aiming for a family or even living together. I'm prepared to take the chance he'll break up with me again. There's always that chance, in any relationship. I could meet someone new, and they could break up with me!

I'm not a blameless victim. I know I was far from perfect in the relationship. I used to blow hot and cold as well - as we all do, to some extent, dependent on overall mood, stress levels etc.



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20 Mar 2014, 7:27 pm

Here's something important to know. Aspies tend to have very black-and-white thinking, which will work against you in this case. To an aspie, broken up means BROKEN UP! No talking on the phone, except to return the other person's possessions, no texting, no meals together, no booty calls, no communication whatsoever; and the hope for getting back together is minimal or nonexistent. You can be civil to each other in the event of incidental meetings, but ultimately, the relationship is over, and there is no reason to communicate in the first place. All my breakups, whether initiated by me or by my exes, were just like this.

It sounds like he's still talking to you, either due to a guilty conscience or because the NT society say he has to. I'm not sure what to suggest to you at this point. Just be honest with him about what you're willing to compromise on and what your non-negotiables are, if you decide to get back together.

May I ask what the misunderstanding was about? Did you yell or scream at him in any way?