Neurodiversity refers to neurological differences, such as autism, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental conditions, that are natural variations of the human brain. These differences are not disorders or deficits, but rather unique ways of thinking, perceiving, and experiencing the world. Neurodiversity promotes acceptance, understanding, and inclusion of individuals with diverse neurological profiles.
How Neurodiversity Impacts Relationships
Neurodiversity can have a significant impact on relationships, both romantic and non-romantic. Understanding and navigating these impacts is crucial for building strong and healthy connections. Here are some ways neurodiversity can affect relationships:
- Communication Differences: Neurodivergent individuals may have challenges in understanding and expressing emotions, social cues, and nonverbal communication. This can lead to misunderstandings and difficulties in effectively communicating needs and feelings.
- Sensory Sensitivities: Many neurodivergent individuals have heightened sensory sensitivities, such as being sensitive to loud noises, bright lights, or certain textures. These sensitivities can impact shared activities and environments, requiring accommodation and understanding from both partners.
- Executive Functioning: Difficulties with executive functioning, such as organization, time management, and planning, can affect daily routines and responsibilities within a relationship. This may require additional support and strategies to ensure a balanced partnership.
- Emotional Regulation: Neurodivergent individuals may experience challenges in regulating emotions, leading to intense emotional reactions or difficulties in expressing emotions. This can impact conflict resolution and emotional intimacy within the relationship.
What You Can Do
If you or your partner are neurodivergent, there are steps you can take to navigate the challenges and foster a healthy relationship:
1. Education and Awareness: Learn about neurodiversity and the specific neurodivergent condition(s) involved. Understanding each other’s strengths, challenges, and unique perspectives can foster empathy and acceptance.
2. Open Communication: Establish open and honest communication channels. Discuss your needs, preferences, and boundaries with each other. Find effective ways to express emotions and resolve conflicts.
3. Accommodations and Support: Identify and implement accommodations that can support both partners. This may include creating sensory-friendly environments, using visual aids for communication, or utilizing organizational tools for daily routines.
4. Seeking Professional Help: Consider seeking counseling or therapy from professionals experienced in working with neurodiverse relationships. They can provide guidance, strategies, and support tailored to your specific needs.
How Counseling Can Help
Counseling can be a valuable resource for neurodiverse individuals and couples. Here’s how counseling can assist:
- Understanding and Validation: Counseling provides a safe space to explore and understand the impact of neurodiversity on relationships. It offers validation for the challenges faced and helps individuals and couples navigate their unique dynamics.
- Communication Skills: Therapists can teach effective communication strategies, including active listening, empathy, and assertiveness. These skills can enhance understanding and connection within the relationship.
- Conflict Resolution: Counseling can help couples develop healthy conflict resolution techniques that consider the unique needs and communication styles of neurodivergent individuals. This promotes constructive problem-solving and reduces misunderstandings.
- Building Coping Strategies: Therapists can assist in developing coping strategies for managing stress, sensory sensitivities, and emotional regulation. These strategies can improve overall well-being and relationship satisfaction.
Remember, every relationship is unique, and the impact of neurodiversity will vary. It’s essential to approach relationships with empathy, understanding, and a willingness to learn and grow together. With open communication, support, and professional guidance, neurodiverse relationships can thrive and foster deep connections.Learn More
Going through a breakup is never easy – even if you were the one who initiated it.
The first step is working to disconnect emotionally from the relationship. This will help you be more emotionally available to date. The loss of the other relationship is going to involve grief to work through. Forget about the old, “just let it go”. Recovery involves accepting whatever loss there is and finding an area of personal growth to embrace. These will help you make a good next choice. This process can be very therapeutic.
Then, take your time to think about how you contributed to the relationship not working. This is your learning to not carry forward. For sure, also think about how the relationship made you a better person.
When To Start Dating Again
When you start thinking you’re ready to jump back into the dating pool, consider the following questions. You may be ready in a week, a month, or a year. It is completely up to you. You may not know the answer right now, and that’s okay! Take your time, this is a process.
How Does The Thought of Going On a Date Make You Feel?
It’s very normal to feel nervous before going on a first date. But there are two types of nerves:
There are excited nerves that often feel like butterflies – which is generally a good sign.
There are anxious nerves too, which may be a sign you’re not quite ready. If the thought of going on a date makes you feel uneasy, your body might be telling you, you’re not ready yet, or the person isn’t right.
Ironically the body sensations of anxiety and excitement are very close! Take time to be clear about which one you are actually experiencing.
Why Am I Going On This Date?
That void you feel after a breakup can be quite painful. It is helpful to engage in solo activities and do things you love. This can help you find your independent self and be in a position where you want someone versus needing them. Get back into older hobbies, discover new ones, or spend time with friends and family.
If you are going on a date because you genuinely want to get to know a person, that’s great!
If you are going on a date because you feel obligated, you may not be ready.
Are You Looking For Validation?
Relationships deliver comfort, connection, belongingness, and support. It’s normal for our partner to feel like our other half.
Once that honeymoon ends, it’s common to believe you need to date someone else in order to feel attractive. If you’re only looking to date to get validation, you may not be ready to open your heart to someone.
Take time to understand your thoughts and feelings. Getting clear about yourself and what you want or need will help you make better decisions when you work to pick a new partner worthy of you!Learn More
If you want to keep your relationship, you must treat it and your partner as though they can choose to be in the relationship or not.
Are relationships unconditional or a choice?
Does the word “divorce” not exist in your vocabulary? If this is true for you and your partner, awesome!
Unfortunately, when one or both partners hold the belief that the other will never leave, this invites complacency or even neglect into the marriage. Life gets busy, so if the belief is that, the motivation to respond to them will get dropped lower on your list of priorities. It seems okay because your partner won’t leave no matter what, right?
No, that’s not right.
There are plenty of couples, including many who never ever believed it would happen to them, who do split up. A funny thing happens though. Those who do break up or divorce and enter a new relationship, marriage or otherwise, now know that relationships are a choice. They must be treated as a choice. This can be a game-changer.
Honestly, though, it doesn’t matter if you believe marriage is an unbreakable commitment or not. What does matter is this:
If you want to keep your relationship, you must treat it and your partner as though they can choose to be in the relationship or not.
Figure out what creates a hurt
To help your partner keep choosing to be with you, you will need to figure out two things. Firstly, what is it that hurts them? What are the hurts they experience that force them to think about choosing not to be with you? Once you zero in on one or two things, then stop. Just stop doing the things that hurt your partner.
If you need help figuring out what hurts your partner, you can certainly go ask – by all means! They will probably welcome your curiosity as it will help your partner feel like they matter enough for you to ask. However, I have a feeling you already know what they will say.
Does it hurt when you criticize your partner? Stop criticizing! Learn to express your needs without criticism. If you need help with this, Step 4 and 5 in my book, Fix Your Partner in 10 Easy Steps or Less! discusses criticism and hurtful communication and how to change it.
Does it hurt your partner when you are dismissive? Stop being dismissive. Learn to validate and empathize; learn to be compassionate to how your partner feels. Whatever it is that hurts them, stop. You can’t hurt your partner and then expect them to want to be close.
What creates a connection?
The next step is to figure out what you can do that builds a connection. You have to work on cultivating the connection between you if you want it to be strong. This takes intention and effort, not just being in the same room watching television.
Remember, love is a verb, so let’s get you loving! If they value time with you, make some time. If they value being snuggled, then get snuggly. If they like it when you cook dinner or clean the bathroom, get started! If they value these things and you do them, they will feel grateful and more motivated to meet your needs, which will help you continue to make the choice too.Learn More
Divorce is undeniably a social, emotional and financial upheaval for families. The time of divorce will almost always be held as an incredibly sad memory for children. Unfortunately, we cannot protect our children fully from the inevitable impact of this moment. This inevitably leads to the question, “How do I tell my child about my divorce?”
Fortunately, we can do a lot to help children attach this painful transition to a memory of parental unity and nurturing. The makes divorce merely a thing that happened, not a traumatic event they’ll never get over.
When is it Best to Tell Them?
It’s best if you and your spouse tell your child(ren) together and on a day where there will be enough time for them to process the information. Here are some key steps on how you can manage emotions, at the moment and afterward, in a way that will set them up to handle this successfully.
Prepare the Family Story
This first step is the hardest and requires that you come together, manage your emotions and practice restraint. Ideally, you and your spouse agree on a reason you are getting a divorce; a reason that can be shared with your child at an age appropriate level. The details of your divorce are private and not for the ears of your children. Keep your story very short, simple and honest.
Your Story Has Four Parts:
1. A general reason for your decision
2. The clear fact you are going to be living apart
3. Reassurance that the child plays no role in this dissolution
4. How you love your child, and this will not change
“You know how much mommy and daddy fight. It is really awful and sad for us. We have tried different ways to get along better but finally, have decided that we cannot live together anymore. It is hurting us too much. The reasons we fight have nothing to do with you; it is just about us. We love you, we love being your parents. Being your parents is the best thing that has ever happened to us. We will always together be your parents.”
Avoiding the Blame Game
Children can be very black and white thinkers and will be looking to assign blame and finding the “bad guy” where they can direct their anger. They can easily view one parent as the “bad” parent if you are not careful and give any reason for them to take sides. You may be emotionally driven to look good in your child’s eyes especially if you don’t want the divorce, but it actually does greater harm to your child if you put them in a position of splitting their loyalties between the two people they love the most in the world. You are divorcing to get them out of conflict not to place them in more conflict.
Your child will also look to themselves as the possible “bad guy”. Even if the situation appears self-evident that it is between the parents, every child will still think they play a role. Wipe this out of your child’s thoughts by making it clear that this is purely an adult issue and has nothing to do with children. Reassure them of your love.
Plan on communicating the idea that they play no part in the reason for the divorce. Repeat this periodically over the next few years. No child wants to hear that you are divorcing as some sort of gift to them; to get them out of conflict, to give them a more stable life etc. If you play it this way, they will carry that burden of being responsible for your divorce.
Try to own the divorce as your choice and what is best for you, as adults.
What to Say When They Ask, “Why?”
Your child may ask “why”. This again is not a time to air personal details. For most children what they want to know most is how this decision will affect them. Explain together how things will progress. If they persist in asking why – take that moment to reiterate that this is private between the adults and the reasons have nothing to do with the children.
Focus on explaining what does concern them which is the rearrangement of family life. Early in the process, keep the details general, because at this point you may not clearly know the structure of your divorce agreements. Children are going to want to know what directly affects them so focus your conversation on their stable life. Talk about where they will live, whether they will need to change schools, where they will sleep, where they get to keep their toys if they will have their own room.
Managing Your Emotions
Some parents believe that they need to be emotionless in order to create a sense of security for their child. Not only is this hard on your own body, but it also creates a lot of confusion for your child. A divorce is a crisis event and we feel emotions during a crisis. Children look to their parents as a model for how to be in the world. If they see no emotion from you, they may come to believe they are not allowed to express emotion and it is wrong for them to be sad or angry. Your child will feel confused if you tell them everything is fine yet they can see the red-rimmed watery eyes or the inexplicable angry outbursts.
Children will work to make sense of your emotional displays. Therefore, it is important that you are authentic, otherwise, they will make up a story in their own head and it may once again be self-blaming. How you create security for your children is by owning and naming the emotion they see on your face so they are not confused with mixed signals.
Modeling Emotional Leadership
Next, let your child experience how you are going to take care of your emotion. Label your emotion, demonstrate how you are going to take care of it, reconnect back with your child so they do not come to believe that emotions create distance.
I feel very angry right now. I even want to yell, but instead, I am going to use that energy to go for a run and that will make me feel better. When I come back how about you and I play a game? I am sad today, I feel like I am going to cry. I am going to go take a nice warm, bubble bath and that will make me feel better. When I come back you and I can read a story together.
Helping Your Child Manage Their Emotions
When your child feels anger or sadness, know that this is okay. Your job is to simply sit with them. Take the pressure off yourself to remove the pain and rescue them. Just sit with them in their feelings and be empathetic. “I know this is a really sad time right now.” “It must be hard to feel this way inside.
As parents, our job is to raise our children in a way that gives them the tools and skills to manage real life. In real life, there are situations that we encounter that are not solvable. This is one of them for your child. Divorce is out of your child’s control, so allowing those feelings to be expressed and flow through them will be an important way for them to gain their own resilience.
Don’t Rescue Them
You will be tempted to rescue them from their own emotions by distracting them, making promises, offering gifts, or pointing out solutions. That is not what they need. Right now your child needs to know it is safe to express emotions. They need to be able to feel their emotions let those emotions flow through their body and not get stuck inside. Your ability to be calm with them, to make sure they are not feeling alone is critical. To do this, you must control your own internal and external experience. If at all possible do not hijack this moment from your child by having your own emotions and anxiety overwhelm their moment.
You Can Do It
You and your family do not have to limp through a divorce. By modeling emotional leadership you and your children can do more than just survive, you can thrive and become closer.
by Leah Koenig MA, LMHC. Leah is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Family Therapist, and PCI Certified Parent Coach®. Leah specializes in working with children, teens, and parents on creating their best self and best family relationships.
Contact Leah at Bellevue Family Counseling in Bellevue Washington.Learn More