Relationship Diversity Podcast

Understanding Autism and Mixed Neurotype Relationships with Angela Lauria

November 09, 2023 Carrie Jeroslow Episode 73
Relationship Diversity Podcast
Understanding Autism and Mixed Neurotype Relationships with Angela Lauria
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Episode 073
Understanding Autism and Mixed Neurotype Relationships with Angela Lauria


Unravel the mysteries of the neurodivergent brain with my special guest, Angela Lauria, host of the Autistic Culture Podcast. Drawing from her personal experiences, Angela offers a unique lens to view the world of neurodivergence, likening it to being an orchid in a tulip garden. We journey with her through an enlightening exploration of neurodiversity, discussing the need for special accommodations and how they help neurodiverse people feel safe and accepted.

Communication in mixed neurotype couples can be a challenge, as Angela candidly reveals.  We also discuss the reasons behind certain behaviors that might seem incongruous to neurotypical individuals. And shed light on how neurotypical partners can navigate these dynamics, providing accommodations without veering into ableism, and the potential benefits of partnering with an affirming therapist.

Lastly, we touch upon the often misunderstood realm of autism, discussing concepts like selfism, monotropism, and how they differ from narcissism. Angela emphasizes the importance of recognizing and celebrating special interests for the thriving of autistic individuals.

Join us in this immersive conversation to deepen your understanding of neurodiversity, and learn how to foster empathy, understanding, and connection in your relationships.

This is Relationships Reimagined.

Connect with Angela through her podcast, "Autistic Culture Podcast"

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The Relationship Diversity Podcast celebrates and explores all aspects of relationship structure diversity from soloamory to monogamy to polyamory and everything in between because every relationship is as unique as you are.

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Please note: I am not a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, counselor, or social worker. I am not attempting to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any physical, mental, or emotional issue, disease, or condition. The information provided in or through my podcast is not intended to be a substitute for the professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by your own Medical Provider or Mental Health Provider. Always seek the advice of your own Medical Provider and/or Mental Health Provider regarding any questions or concerns you have about your specific circumstance.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Welcome to the Relationship Diversity Podcast, where we celebrate, question and explore all aspects of relationship structure diversity, from soloamory to monogamy to polyamory and everything in between, because every relationship is as unique as you are. We'll bust through societal programming to break open and dissect everything we thought we knew about relationships, to ask the challenging but transformational questions who am I and what do I really want in my relationships? I'm your guide, Ca Jarislow, best-selling author, speaker, intuitive and coach. Join me as we reimagine all that our most intimate relationships can become. Today's episode is an offshoot of our conversation series that I'm calling Lived Experiences. In it we hear life stories from the people who live them with the intention of cultivating understanding, empathy and connection. There is such power in storytelling, which can also create an opening for self-reflection and awareness.

Carrie Jeroslow:

My guest today is Angela Lauria, podcast host of Autistic Culture Podcast. We talk about her experiences as neurodivergent in relationship with someone who's neurotypical. I learned so much from this episode with Angela, so stay tuned. But first a little about her. Dr Angela Lauria is the founder of Difference Press and creator of the author Incubator, the world's most successful program for writing and publishing exceptional expert books. As a late-diagnosed autistic, she's drawn on her lifelong special interest in nonfiction to help almost 2,000 entrepreneurs write, publish and promote their books. Angela is also an author herself, with seven books, including a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller. She has a BA and an MA in journalism and media affairs from George Washington University and a PhD in communications from European graduate school.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Let's get into the conversation. Hello everyone and welcome to this episode of Relationship Diversity Podcast. All right, everyone. I'm super excited to have with me today Angela Lauria, and I want to say this is a very personal reason why I'm so excited because Angela was like the midwife of my book. Why do they always break up with me? She helped bring this book into the world. This was an idea I had since 2004, since my divorce and it came out, and she helped birth that. At the beginning of the pandemic, she helped keep me grounded and focused and helped that information come up and that really helped me to step into the path that I have traveled over the last three years leading up to this podcast. Relationship Diversity Podcast. We're going to talk about a whole different subject, but first I want to welcome you, angela. Thank you so much for being here.

Angela Lauria:

Oh, my God, I'm so excited to be here. It has been far too long since we've talked, but I love working on your book. I love that book and I remember when we came up with that title. It's still so juicy.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yes, and people love it too. Why do they always break up with me? People were like, yeah, I always wondered why they always break up with me or why I always broke up with them. We're going to talk about a really important topic that I think a lot of people and couples struggle with but maybe have not been able to identify what it is. It's just this thing of like we just can't communicate. We just don't communicate the same way. What we're going to talk about today is mixed neuro type couples Juicy, yes, so juicy. So first, before we get into your story, angela, because I would love to understand I know you have a very personal experience with this, but can you explain what mixed neuro type couples are for people who don't know what that means?

Angela Lauria:

Yeah. So let's actually go back to a concept of neurodiversity which I think some people know, some people don't know. Also, the word gets used a little wrong, so I just want to start with clarifying this term. So the way that I think of neurodiversity is the way I think of a flower garden. So when we look at a garden and there's tulips and there's daffodils and there's crocuses, they're all beautiful, they all have a place in the garden, they're all great, but they're all different, like a tulip is different than a daffodil, is different than a crocus. But also, if we held up three daffodils, they would all be a little different too. They'd have a longer stalker, a thicker stalker, a brighter yellow leaf or a white leaf or whatever. So Petal I said leaf, but I meant petal. So we are all, 100% of us, neurodiverse. It is a neurodiverse world, meaning all of our brains are a little different.

Angela Lauria:

I am going to talk specifically about neurodivergent people, and neurodivergent means people that are at either end of the bell curve, right, most people are in the like daffodils look alike-ish, but then if you just throw an orchid in there, that's very different. That's divergent. If we have a garden of tulips and then there's one orchid right in the middle, you're like oh, that orchid diverges from the tulips, even though each tulip is different. So just as you're listening and you may notice some defensiveness like why do I have to make special accommodations? Because the reason for that is we live in a tulip garden and a few of us are orchids and it's hard to live there.

Angela Lauria:

Like we can see very different things than tulip meat. They're both great and everybody's different and everybody's valid in your experience is 100% valid. But my goal in coming on here is to talk about if you've got an orchid in your garden, how can you treat them maybe different, or how can you be aware of their care needs so that you're not bummed, they're not acting like a tulip. And I will tell you super fun. I host a podcast called the Autistic Culture Podcast. There's a super fun episode.

Angela Lauria:

It's about Hans Christian Andersen and Hans Christian Andersen was autistic and he wrote the the ugly duckling. And so I'm talking about tulips and orchids here. But what he talked about is you grow up, you think you're a duck. Everyone's like you're kind of an ugly duck and then one day you figure out oh my God, I'm a swan. How do you tell me? And like, listen, ducks are cute, swans are cute. I'm pro swan, pro duck. But that story is the autism origin story by an autistic person. And so there is nothing wrong with ducks, there's nothing wrong with swans. But if you know you're a swan, it's going to change things. Many people and what you alluded to in your introduction, which I think is really helpful many people are in relationships with someone who thinks they're a duck. They might even think they're an ugly duck and they're really a swan. So we might give you some tips here today, if you listen. If your partner has been driving you crazy and you're like why do they?

Angela Lauria:

do it that way. It might be because they're a swan, it might be because they're an orchid and they're trying to act like a tulip, or like a duck.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah, oh, that is such a good description of, and so how, what was your journey like with this awareness? Did you always know that there was just something that in going on in your mind and your brain and how you think in process that's different from other people? I did.

Angela Lauria:

I always felt that. But the way that I thought of it until I got diagnosed at 39, so that was like 11 years ago the way I thought of it for 39 years or however long I was thinking within those years, was I'm an ugly duck. And my phrase in my head from the time I was maybe like 10 years old was I have a bad personality. I thought I always felt like I was super smart. I always felt like I was super generous. I always felt like a really loyal person. I didn't think I was a bad person, but I was like when they were handing out congeniality awards, when they're handing out personnel, I just got the bad personality stick. And there's a psychology test I think it's called the oceans test, and one of the things they measure is like likability and I scored like 13th percentile, so like I'm just not super likable. But if people connect with me on something like my autistic special interest is book writing.

Angela Lauria:

So, if you connected with me on book writing and you're like, oh my God, she's a genius, this is amazing Because I'm good there. But if you and I connected it, I don't know rock climbing which would be not a thing for me, like God why is she complaining? So why is she so annoying? And so often I would go into situations and I just wasn't well liked and I kept trying to fix that Right. So I'm like putting more sunlight and more water when that's the orchid wants less sunlight and less water. We're giving the wrong ingredients. So I was diagnosed at 39.

Angela Lauria:

My first marriage I was 30 when I got married and some amount of mid 30s when I got divorced. It's hard to count. It was a long, horrible divorce. My husband was neurotypical. My first husband was neurotypical. We had all these communications issues. They made no earthly sense to me. No sense. I did not understand what was happening.

Angela Lauria:

And then when I got diagnosed, which is after my divorce, I was like, oh, we were just missing each other. And because I was what I would now know as super ableist but I was just like he's right, I am a fucking ugly duckling Like why can't I be a prettier duck? I sort of agreed with him, instead of having the knowledge I have now in my second marriage, which is much more successful, because now I'm like oh, here are the accommodations I need. I'm going to need you're going to need to move me out of the sunlight and I'm going to need water once a week, not every day. Now I know what to ask for, because I know myself better, and I think that's one of the big advantages of being diagnosed you can understand your needs more.

Angela Lauria:

You're looking at the right manual.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Right? Well, I was actually going to go and ask you more about that moment. I know that it might have been more than just one moment, but that moment that you got that diagnosis, what was that like?

Angela Lauria:

Wires of Angels. It just. For me, autism can be a scary word, especially if you're not as familiar with autistic culture or neurodiversity affirming therapies and awareness. So I think when people think of autism, a lot of times they picture like a seven year old boy banging his head against a wall, throwing a train across the room or something which is one, very it is. It exists, but it's one tiny part of autism. Autism is a pretty big spectrum with lots of different needs. For me it was like that part of the ugly duckling when he finds out that he's really a swan. It's sad, because all my people are ducks, and there is a sadness and there is a grief that comes with it, but it's also like well, this explains a lot. So what we did?

Angela Lauria:

This amazing book, this woman, shana Ross, who was adopted, always knew she was adopted. She's from somewhere in Texas, but like a small town in Texas, was adopted by this family, grew up in this family, didn't know her birth mother and when she found her birth mother, it turns out she was Native American and she connected with her whole Native American family and suddenly all this shit made sense, because everyone was just treating her like a white girl. If you look at her, she looks like a white girl I don't know, maybe Latina, you're not sure and everyone just treated her that way. And as soon as she met her family, she's like well, now I understand all these things inside me that I thought and wondered, that made me such an alien to my family. A lot of times people talk about the autism experience as it's like you're living on the wrong planet. So there's a great resource called the wrong planet. Shannon was just like living in the wrong planet. When somebody introduces you to the planet, you're like well, it makes a lot of sense. Now.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Somebody could have told me Right, and now you're in your current relationship with your husband is neurotypical. Yeah, no, or maybe I don't know.

Angela Lauria:

Well, this is a true one, because now we get into like outing things. So in my opinion I think I did not know this at the time I think my husband is autistic. I think that's part of why our relationship works so well. I definitely didn't know that and it's a spectrum and he has very different things than me. But one of my favorite things when we were dating was I dated many people and wondered why is he breaking up with me? But I did many people who would ghost me or not show up or cancel last minute and it drove me so crazy Like I didn't understand it.

Angela Lauria:

And when I was dating Paul, my husband, my favorite thing about him, one of the things that made me fall in love with him, is he would make plans and he would stick to them 100% of the time. And even if he got called into work, even if he got a call from Barack Obama for lunch, if we had plans he was gonna be there. He was gonna be there on time and there were never any excuses and I thought that was something I chalked up to. I don't know he really liked me or integrity or something, and those things are true. But also he is extremely particular about schedules, which is a very typical autistic trait, and so I think part of why I was attracted to him was actually that he's got a lot of traits on the spectrum that make it so easy for us to communicate. It's one of the things about autistic people and if you have an autistic partner you might recognize this is we mean what we say. We say what we mean. We don't say anything else. We're super blunt, we're very on the note. The way this gets done is we're very on the note. The way this gets pathologized or the way we get described is have trouble reading social cues. So Paul was always very literal. If he said we're having dinner Tuesday at six, what he meant was we're having dinner Tuesday at six. Many neurotypical people mean it would be cool to have dinner around six-ish on around Tuesday-ish, and so there were times that I was probably getting blown off, that I was experiencing blow off, that they didn't feel like they were blowing me off. They felt like they said it would be cool if maybe Tuesday, maybe around six-ish, we maybe had dinner and I was like on Tuesday at six, we will get dinner.

Angela Lauria:

We're often accused of being robotic. If we say it, we mean it Like we're not. I'm not. You know this from writing a book with me. There's a deadline, there's a motherfucking deadline. Oh yes, it's not confusing, it's not maybe-ish. There's no ish in autism. We're very, very literal. So your partner might be driving you nuts because you feel like they're frustrated with you all the time, or you're frustrated with them because, like, why do we have to leave at exactly six? Why is he so freaky about time? And part of it is time, but part of it is also. You said something. Did you not mean it Cause now I'm questioning everything. What else didn't you mean?

Carrie Jeroslow:

Wow.

Angela Lauria:

So it throws us into a state of emotional deregulation or dysregulation when things don't go exactly the way we have planned it. Another thing that is really important to me and a lot of autistic people are brands. So there's only one kind of toothpaste I use. There's only one kind of milk I drink. Brand names are very specific.

Angela Lauria:

So maybe your partner just said, hey, on the way home can you grab a loaf of bread? And you just saw whatever Sarah Lee was on sale. So you bought it. You know they normally buy wonder bread. But what's the big difference? White bread is white bread. White bread is not under no circumstances. So then they throw a fit at you or they yell at you because they're emotionally dysregulated, because they're like now I have to go to the store. I didn't have go to the store on my list. Now we're going to have two loaves of bread. Now what do I have to do? Find ducks to feed. We are very. We have a lot of extra neural pathways. Sometimes people call it catastrophizing. But you're thinking I did do a favor. You asked for the bread, I bought the bread. Why are you being so fucking weird about brand name and we're like here are the 15 things that screws up for the next nine days. Thank you very much. Next time I won't ask for your help.

Carrie Jeroslow:

These are all really important things to understand because I think a lot of times we take people at face value and we fill in you know all the stories of what we think and it's all through our own filters of our own past experience right.

Angela Lauria:

Those are the only ones we have right.

Carrie Jeroslow:

So you just take.

Angela Lauria:

They wanted bread. I'm going to pick up bread.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Right. So someone could look at you and just say, well, angela seems to have it all together and just see that part of you. And it's one of the reasons why I love on your Facebook page that you have and maybe you have it somewhere else but these autism diaries where we really get to peek inside to get a look and understand what's going on beneath the Angela Lauria that we've made up. You know that, we think we know right.

Angela Lauria:

Right, and that's true with your partner too. Right In any relationship. I mean, there's only so many hours in the day, we can't share everything. But if somebody did something that is really in your head, you're like why would they do that? There's a story under it. You may or may not take the time to understand the story, but it's probably not. They've suddenly decided to be an incongruous jerk. There is some congruity if you could get to it. There is some logic there. You just might not know the logic.

Carrie Jeroslow:

And this leads to the importance of communication, which of course I talk about all the time in terms of relationship diversities and different relationship structures and how important communication is for any kind of relationship, whether intimate or not. And with mixed neurotype couples, it seems like communication takes on a new meaning and even a deeper need to work as this meta communication to kind of figure out how do we communicate and where problems, and figure out ways to come together in our communication instead of it creating more of a disconnect. So how have you found ways to come together in your communication when there is the mixed ways?

Angela Lauria:

OK, so I'm going to give a very specific example here, but I think this will help. So one of the things having a diagnosis gives me is I understand myself more, and many people that are on the autism spectrum have auditory processing issues. And you think also neurodiverse people are often dyslexic, so this can also what I'm about to explain could happen in writing with your partner or reading, like you ask them to read something and then you don't understand their interpretation of it. Also, a lot of neurodiverse people have dyscalcula, so it could also happen with numbers or if you're doing your taxes or your bills. I'm going to talk about auditory processing, but numbers, reading and auditory it's the same but different. So what happens with me when I certain words? So this happens if there's background noise, and this also happens if something is out of context, and it's the same thing with reading is the same thing with numbers. So with reading, if it's really small print, this could happen more. Or if you're reading something but you don't know what you're reading like I know all the words, but they get more jumbled. So for me, if you say something out of context or if you say something and there's a lot of background noise, even if I, by your neurotypical observation, should understand it.

Angela Lauria:

Like, for instance, you're saying can I throw out this honey? So I'm watching TV or I'm reading a book and from the other room you yell is it okay if I throw out this honey? It seems like something I should hear and understand. I'm not that far away. Because of my auditory processing disorder, it sounds like I should hear about honey, and it might even sound like I should hear about honey. So I will say what. And then, if you repeat, I should hear about honey. And now I'm just hearing honey and I'm like what about the honey? I'm starting to get super emotionally dysregulated and you're starting to get pissed off that I keep saying what. It's a simple question Can I throw out the honey? Throw out the honey? Can I throw out the honey? How, through a honey? What are you saying?

Angela Lauria:

And it becomes a fight about everything. Suddenly you want to divorce. It's like I'm moving out. I can't live with you. This is intolerable and it gets really, really big. If you don't know, you're having auditory processing challenges. Your partner or partners could think that you're being obstinate or being a jerk or not listening or not paying attention or narcissistic, which a lot of autistic people get accused of being narcissistic and it's really an auditory processing disorder. So for years actually one of the main reasons my first marriage ended I attribute a lot of it to my auditory processing disorder. My first husband was Indian. He had a pretty strong accent and I just I said what so much? And he got so mad at me saying what that he would say things like fine, I won't say anything. Then Can I talk about communication?

Carrie Jeroslow:

That's disconnect right there, right.

Angela Lauria:

So we ran into that huge wall Also not helpful. We were both avoidant attachments, so I'm still avoided, but my husband now is anxious and I do think we sort of balance each other a little bit.

Angela Lauria:

He keeps trying harder and running away. But I mean, my first husband would immediately just like I'll never say anything again, I'll just never speak to you again and I'm like no, what? I just didn't hear you and this would become so heated that in our case it got violent. It was like so huge. So now this is what it looks like.

Angela Lauria:

In that moment we might have a little tiff, but then I know enough to say, hey, when I'm reading or when I'm doing something else and you asked me something out of context, it makes my auditory. I have lots of tools to deal with my auditory processing disorder, but that's when it's the worst. It's kind of like, you know, when we're at a bar. I can't understand you. You know that one. It's the out of context one I don't think you realize. So I'm not saying what because I don't love you, I'm going to leave you anxious attachment style. I got also a little bit of that. I'm not thinking of leaving you. I don't think you're a bad person. There's no abandonment happening. I literally you turn into Charlie Brown's teacher. I want to hear you. So for us and this isn't a prescriptive for listeners, but for us what we've done is when I'm saying what, because I just wasn't paying attention, I will just say what.

Angela Lauria:

But when I'm having an auditory processing disorder, instead of saying what I say, I'm having some auditory processing issues. So I call it out differently because with context, like the thing we've talked about, when we're not about to kill each other, if you give me context, like, hey, honey, I'm going through the cabinets because I'm about to go grocery shopping and I noticed the honey is all crusted over. Are you okay if I throw it out? I'll be able to understand that, even if I'm reading a book. But if I'm in this book world or if I'm in this TV show world, or if I'm in a candy crush world, whatever I'm doing, like if I'm doing something else, it just looks like what you imagine dyslexic writing, to look like All the numbers and letters are flipped and the B's are D's and the D's are B's and the keys are upside down and I don't know why you're so you got it me Like I'm mad at my body for not translating the sound properly.

Angela Lauria:

So that's the first thing I want to say about mixed neuro type couples is, first of all, if you're noticing your partner's doing things that annoy you, look at the list of ADHD traits or a list of autism traits. Look at some neurodivergent features and could this be that that's gonna help you. But also understanding your own neuro type and the bias like you talk about. Everybody has a filter, right, the filter that you're bringing. The filter might just be. My son is not autistic at all. He did not do well living with me and Paul because we are very meticulous about time and Jesse's just easy. He'd call himself chill, but he's just chill. He's like if we said six o'clock, I don't know, five, 36, six, 30, let's just see how we feel. Why would you just eat at six if you're not hungry?

Angela Lauria:

That doesn't no, there's nothing wrong with that. But I know if I'm living with Paul, we're eating at six. If we said we're eating at six and if I'm living with Jesse, we're gonna eat when we're hungry, and it might be six or eight. 30.

Carrie Jeroslow:

It sounds like what I talk about a lot in this podcast is knowing yourself and continually getting to know yourself, so then you can communicate in the best way possible. But I like you talk about I think in that is that you have the dialogue and the communication not in the moment of it happening.

Angela Lauria:

Yeah, there's no point. You can't even hear it anyway. I mean for biology here. You're in your lizard brain. You're in your infighter flight. You're not using executive functioning. I cannot believe that stupid fight. When I couldn't hear him in the kitchen, my brain was telling me you are gonna need to get a divorce. It is nothing, this is not a fight. And I'm like okay, so you'll move out and you can afford your bills. I'm like strategizing a divorce over because we were so mad in that moment.

Angela Lauria:

There's no, you're not going anywhere. You just gotta exit. At that point.

Carrie Jeroslow:

So what would you if someone was listening and they either have the autism diagnosis or not, but they're really struggling in their relationship? What would you say to them?

Angela Lauria:

I think the biggest thing. I really am such an advocate for self diagnosis and I just wanna talk about the difference between, like, self diagnosis, professional diagnosis, like what is it me? So if you are having a job issue, if you think you're being wrongfully fired or if you have a kid and they need special help in school or accommodations, you need an official diagnosis. Like you're gonna need to go to the lawyer or go to the school board and ask for what you need. Most of us just in relationships, live in our life, do in our thing. We don't need to spend the money to get a professional diagnosis. And also, most professional diagnosis is wrong and sort of screwed. It's not a great experience. So I don't think this is about labels. I don't think this is about getting something in your official file most of the time. Sometimes it is. I think it's just a tool for knowing yourself, like I talked about. Do you talk on here about avoidant attachment styles and different attachment styles?

Carrie Jeroslow:

We've touched on that. We've touched on that, yeah, with different people.

Angela Lauria:

It's an online quiz or something. How do I know that? Like took a quiz, I think. And I don't know if you've ever talked about anyogram or Myers-Briggs or StarSigns. Yes, to me, self diagnosis is just a tool like that for getting to know yourself. So I know in Myers-Briggs I'm an ENTJ and I can say to my partner like, well, you know, I'm an ENTJ, so I need a little people-ing time. I gotta get my battery amped up, I gotta go spend time with people. So this is how I want you to think of this, not that you're going to be institutionalized or even that you need to be on medicine Although, with ADHD, I know there are medicines that some people choose that can minimize these symptoms. But I want you to think of it more like my garden theory. It is a tool that can help you understand how to treat the plant not treat the plant, but like how much sunlight and how much water the plant needs.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Right how to care for the plant.

Angela Lauria:

How to care.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah exactly.

Angela Lauria:

So that's what I think, understanding neurodiversity and why I come back to all of our brains. Or even, if you're neurotypical, if you look at the autism spectrum, so one of the things that's particular to autism is sensory sensitivity. So we often are either sensory seeking or sensory avoidant. And then there are seven different senses that we measure. So the one, the five you know, plus interoception, there's like a couple extra appropriate exception and interoception are the others.

Angela Lauria:

I won't get into that too much, but basically, if you take all the senses, this is for everybody. It doesn't matter if you're autistic, holistic, you know it, you don't know it. If you take every sense, let's just say seeing, you could be more sensory seeking, like I love going to nightclubs, I love bright lights, flashing lights, or you could be more sensory avoidant. So you know, when you go to the theater and they say like hey, we're gonna have strobe lights, and you're like why are they telling me? Why do I care? Because sensory avoidant people, people of epilepsy, people who are autistic, if you give us a heads up that can be helpful, we may or may not decide to be there. So everyone, 100% of people with brains, are somewhere on a spectrum of sensory seeking to, sensory avoidant when it comes to light, where are?

Angela Lauria:

you on that Because it's gonna help you to communicate with your partner. To know that For me, sound is a huge. When I am very sensory avoidant on sound sort of makes sense. I got into books. When I hate movies, I wish I loved them. They're too loud for me, I can't understand them. I don't know what's happening. I want to love them. I don't love them. I love a book. Because why? When it comes to sound, I am sensory avoidant.

Angela Lauria:

And your boyfriend, who loves going to all the Fast and Furious movies, I'm gonna tell you right now he is sensory seeking when it comes to sound. That's good to know, because if I love you and you asked me to go to Fast and Furious, I might go, but I'm gonna leave there kind of shattered. It's gonna emotionally dysregulate me. I'm not gonna want to fuck you after I'm just not going home and having sex. We can go to Fast and Furious together, like I can get it together. I can go to. But then don't be sad if you thought we were gonna have like a two hour sex session. It's not happening. Or here's fun. You can go to Fast and Furious. I'll stay home and read a book and when you get home I'll be super ready for sex. Yes, so if you know yourself and you help your partner know themselves, there are so many easy accommodations Like have fun at the movies, dude. But if you were thinking other things are happening other than me sleeping for the next 12 hours to recover from that trauma of those cars crashing and then go through all the senses right and really track yourselves and this is just one part of the spectrum is senses If you know that there's dumb fights you're having that you could so easily not have. We're not having conversations at bars is not happening.

Angela Lauria:

Like my smell. I'm mostly on the avoidance side, so I can smell everything. If you are cooking something in our house that smells, I need to be out of the house. Now, great news. I love coffee shops, I love getting my nails done. There are many places I can be and then all you need to do is like light a candle after open the window before I come home, but otherwise I'll walk in the house. You just slaved for two hours making an amazing I don't know fish dinner or something to surprise, because I do like eating fish, I just don't like smelling it. So you're thinking I'm supposed to be bringing you flowers and in case that instead I walk in the door and I'm like, oh my God, what's happening in here? This place is terrible. Now I'm totally emotionally disregulated, I'm not going to enjoy your dinner and you're mad at me.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Right, so yeah, so knowing who you are in this way and how your brain operates and the sensory where you fall in that spectrum is really helpful and will come together in the communication to say I know this about myself I had this experience where I cannot have too much stimulation, meaning I can't always be going, or I get super anxious and unsettled. And so when we go away with the kids to family vacations, I finally realized I don't know after how many years that oh my God, we go, go, go. And then by the end of that trip I am in a really, really bad place. And so I had that awareness of I need to tell my husband that when we go away somewhere in the middle there I need to pull myself away and be by myself and like have no stimulation whatsoever. And just having that conversation when it came up, it was like, oh, we've already talked about that, and then we knew how to- and most things are not actually a big deal.

Angela Lauria:

So I have one I sort of mentioned this and because I love them both, even though one's my son and one's my husband, but they're very different. So for vacations with Paul, what he really likes is to make sure he's getting value for money and to schedule everything like let's wake up at 7 am, let's go until midnight and let's do every single thing there is to do. I can actually do that. I need a buffer before and after of a couple of days, but I can do that. My son, who has a completely different neurology- Chill, we learned.

Angela Lauria:

Yeah, he's a chill guy so he's like why do you always schedule so much? I want really unscheduled days. I would like to do one activity every day or two days. So if we have a seven day trip, I wanna do four activities. That could even be part day activities. So we, jesse and I, went on a vacation and I scheduled which works in my brain a lot of chill time, five or six hours a day of chill time, uh, and I, like, brought books and we went to Sicily. So we watched all the Godfather movies in Sicily in our hotel room. I literally think my husband would have died. We watched a movie we could watch in America in a hotel room. He would have murdered someone Me or Jesse would be, because I knew this is what Jesse needed to enjoy the vacation.

Angela Lauria:

I got on board, like I'm actually fine with either. So, like if you're in a relationship with multiple people here's the story. I don't go on vacations with Jesse and Paul together, not never, like sometimes we do, but generally if I'm planning for enjoyment, I will do a stacked top to tail vacation with Paul and have a great time. I will do a super spacious, luxuriating vacation with Jesse and have a great time. But if I try and bring them together when you can apply this, if you're in a relationship with more than one person, no one's having fun. I'm miserable. I'm in the middle. I'm actually fine with either. I don't know why I'm fine with either. They're both fine with me. As long as I know in advance. You're not like surprises on vacation, so that's my, and other people might be fine like saying every night, let's figure out what we're doing tomorrow. I would die. I literally need to do what I'm doing every single minute. But what I'm doing could be watching a movie in a hotel room. Fine with that.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah, and you know that about you, and you know that about your son and your husband, and so you're really able to, like you said beforehand, cultivate the experience that you're gonna have. And I love how that applies to different, diverse relationship structures, and I think that this whole topic does, because my main message is there's a unique person plus another. Unique person equals a unique relationship, and this really falls into that as well. Everything that we're talking about. I wanted to just get your perspective from the other side. If someone's listening and they are neurotypical, but they're having issues they don't know why they just can't communicate with their partner, who either has been diagnosed or thinks self-diagnosed, what would you say to that person?

Angela Lauria:

First of all, I think that, as a neurotypical, there are so many opportunities for you to learn about you because we are all diverse, right, right, and though we're not all divergent, we're all diverse. So everyone's awesome, everyone's rich. But now I'm gonna say something hard for you to hear. Neurotypical person, we're the divergent ones, so don't go. All lives matter on us. We have to cope every day, in every way. At the DMV or motor vehicle department in school, at our office, we are an orchid in the tulip garden. You're a tulip in a tulip garden. So I know that it feels like we're two individual people. There's this idea, especially in America, like a meritocracy or like it should be equal. If I have to make compromises, you have to make compromises, we're equal. There is a difference here that you need to understand. If your partner is neurodivergent, if they're in that skinny side of the bell curve all day, they're making accommodations All day. They are living on the wrong planet and at home they want to be with you, they love you, but they are the ones who need the accommodations, not you. I know that might be hard to hear and that doesn't mean you're not valued and honored, but there are more accommodations you need to make. So, if you think about it, what we've decided for kids in schools is if you have an individualized education plan, we have to do different things for you. You might need a note taker. Everyone doesn't get a note taker. There are decisions that we've made with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Everyone doesn't get an elevator. Sometimes the only people that can use the elevator are people who have mobility issues. So we neurodivergent people need accommodations. Now, our part of that for those of us who are speaking and who have lower support needs is to advocate. So your partner's job is to understand themselves and advocate for what accommodations they need.

Angela Lauria:

There are definitely autistic people that have higher support needs or don't have the ability to self advocate and they need an advocate for them. But probably, if you're listening to this podcast and you're in a relationship with someone who has ADHD or is autistic, it's their job to figure out what accommodations they need. You can help them with that for sure. But it is your job as the neurotypical to be willing to make those accommodations without being ableist, without judging them, without secretly thinking, but do they really need this? Because if that contempt is there, you know the, you know the Gottman, four horses of the apocalypse.

Angela Lauria:

This relationship is gonna end. If you're like making the accommodations with a little bit of an eye roll, that would be nice for me. You get an extra hour in the morning in the bathroom and I get 15 minutes. It must be nice. That won't work out. You have to truly understand this is a disadvantage we live with all day. This is a safe space. Your job is to make the accommodations without being ableist, and that's working on your own ableism, which is gonna bring up your own internalized racism. It's gonna bring up your own internalized hate. It's gonna bring up how the patriarchy has affected you if you're a woman in this relationship, and that means you gotta do some of your own work. We just went to be caring.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yes, yes, and it's scary, but imperative. Imperative to do your own work and to show up for your partner in the way that they need it, not in the way that you want to or you think you should, but really think is fair. That's a big one.

Angela Lauria:

That was whole marriage, one for me, right.

Carrie Jeroslow:

It's all gotta be fair. It'll be fair, right, right.

Angela Lauria:

And so, like, really study racism is really like white supremacy and racism is good to study because you understand, a quality is not equity. So do we want an equitable relationship? Or like, do we could just say, hey, the volume on the TV is always at five, well, that's equal for everyone, but that's not going to work for me. But I need the volume ladder, I'm going to need the captions on that, otherwise we are not equitably able to watch TV together. You know, it might be equal, we're all listening to it at a five, but it doesn't work for me. I have auditory processing disorder.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah, and I do want to say that if you are in a mixed neuro type relationship and you can't get to it on your own, to find a therapist who is really skilled in neurodivergence and neurodiversity and how to bring you guys together to help make the union stronger through the diversity of the way that you process, rather than disconnect, so always go to a therapist, if this is something, because I think sometimes when the mind gets involved like specifically, my mind scrambles everything and I can't untangle it, like no matter how hard I try, I can't untangle it. So I would love to encourage you to find and also go to Angela's podcast, because I bet you have incredible resources for people if they don't know where to go, how to find an affirming therapist.

Angela Lauria:

What you're looking for is a neurodiversity affirming therapist, or they might say neurodiversity strengths-based therapist. That's what you're looking for, and I will say a couple things about autistic people is generally, cognitive behavioral therapy does not work for us, so that's not so. A lot of people will say like dialectical behavioral therapy works better than cognitive talk therapy can be challenging for us Because most autistic people have alexithymia, so if you're asking us how we feel.

Angela Lauria:

We cannot identify how we feel. So if you get into fights in your relationship or you've done couples counseling where they're like how do you feel and your partner can't answer, they may have alexithymia, they may literally not be able to answer and then a lot of times, very specific instances work for us. But if you're neurotypical, you might be like, yeah, but that was one instant, why are we talking about that? We had one weird bad day. So the way that we do therapy is very different. So, somebody who understands mixed neurotype couples there are definitely people who specialize in that we recommend over the autistic culture podcast, but anybody who is neurodiversity affirming, strengths-based and, if they use the term, the sociological model or the cultural model of autism, that's what we're looking for, as opposed to the medicalized model, theologized model. That will drive you further apart. You'll feel righteous, but you will not end up together.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Well, thank you for that, because I always say, specifically in relationship, diversity, if you go to a therapist who thinks that anything other than monogamy is going to be the problem, then you're never going to get to it. So what I will do is link your podcast in the show notes so people can click right to it and listen and get all the resources from you. Is there anything else you want to touch on?

Angela Lauria:

I have one more PSA and I know our episode might be long. But autistic people are often confused for narcissist and I want to explain the difference so you know what to look for. If you have a hunch, your partner is a narcissist. Please do.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah.

Angela Lauria:

That's a really important, key distinction With narcissists. They know what they're doing and they are being intentionally manipulative to get their way. So they will do the love bombing at the beginning and then they will gaslight you and twist facts because there is an outcome they want. Autistic people do things that neurotypical people report experiencing as very similar, but you can test this by understanding their why. Autistic people are incapable of being manipulative. We're literally constitutionally incapable. We are just literal and on the nose. So we will often get accused of being manipulative when we're being straightforward and we're saying exactly what we mean. And what you want to look at is the reason why we are doing something. Autists do things in their own best interest. Autistics usually have another reason, so it could be like justice, fairness, it could be for the best of the relationship or their job or finances. But you want to get to the why. Usually autistics don't do the love bombing thing as well. So look and see if you had that big love bombing period because we can't turn it on and turn it off. So if this can turn it on and turn it off, they're doing a thing. We're just being autistic.

Angela Lauria:

Now ought means self. It's selfism and it's because there's a theory called the intense world theory. So, for instance, monotropism is at the core of what we do. I read a lot. I miss a lot of things. That's why my husband was so mad when I didn't understand him, because when I'm reading I can't hear anything else, I can't see anything else. I am in the book. I always say eat the books right Hours and hours a day. You might feel like this is so self. I know my husband feels this way. She did not even help clean the kitchen. He did not even mow the lawn and he said he would. That is not narcissism, that's monotropism. I am super focused on what I'm doing. We have something called autistic inertia. It is hard to stop doing that thing because we are selfism.

Angela Lauria:

But it's not narcissism, it's selfism. We get trapped in our own world because of our monotropism. This specifically has to do with biology. This is why you can't try and get us with CBT or rewards to be nicer or act better. It won't work for us because something called the mTOR proteins a little science lesson here but we all have mTOR proteins. What the mTOR proteins do is they will prune the synapses. We're always making synapses. Synapses make all these connections in our brain. Then your mTOR proteins prune those synapses. There is an excess of mTOR proteins in autistic people, which means that our synapses don't get pruned.

Angela Lauria:

When you are reading a book and you realize you need to do the dishes, the amount of synapses you have make it not pleasant, but fairly easy to put the book down and do the dishes Because we have so many more synapses. Our brain is like you must keep reading, you must keep reading, you must keep reading. Do not stop reading, you must keep reading. We are enveloped in this intense world. It also means we experience joy more. It also means we have fun with sex. We can feel everything more. We have a different experience because of the number of synapses in our brain. You may think we're being narcissistic, but what might really be happening is we're being monotropist. Our why is we had to keep reading? Because it's our special interest. It literally feels like a murder or a death sometimes to stop doing our special interest. Understand that first, because there's a lot of differences between narcissists and autistic people, but we are routinely misdiagnosed as narcissistic, even right there. Who don't understand that? New research I shared with you is within the last 10 years.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Okay, that's an incredible clarification. I have a one follow-up question. You say that the difference, or how you can tell, is through the why Do you recommend the neurotypical person asking yeah, and then the leading.

Angela Lauria:

Ask and believe the answer. That's the key. But I'm going to give you an example from the world of work. But I think it's helpful.

Angela Lauria:

I'm going to do Steve Jobs. I could do Elon Musk, but I'm going to do Steve Jobs. So Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, both autistic. If you know anything about Steve Jobs, you know he was very controversial and not well loved as a boss and some people call him a narcissist. Steve Jobs was not a narcissist. He was a monotropic, autistic person. He was fucking obsessed with getting the iPhone. This very particular way and, by the way, we have an episode on the Autistic Culture podcast called Apple is Autistic. So a lot of autistics have a phobia of buttons.

Angela Lauria:

This is a true story. It has to do with our sensory issues and the reason why Apple doesn't have a lot of buttons is because of Steve Jobs. Oh, he was an asshole. If you came into his office and you showed him I don't know a mouse with a button, he'd be like fuck off. This is the stupidest fucking mouse I've ever seen in my life. You're fired and people would be like what a narcissist.

Angela Lauria:

Not a narcissist. Monotropic. Focus on exactly what he wants. The reason, his, why was? He had this perfect image of what he wanted to create for his inventions, his staircases, his computers. People would say it was selfish or not collaborative, that's true, but it's not narcissistic. There was a very specific why. It wasn't like he could turn it on or turn it off. It wasn't like he was trying to manipulate you into getting his way. He just fucking told you no buttons on the mouse. Very fucking clear. Yeah, it means no buttons on the mouse. There's no secret code language. No secret code language. We're not trying to manipulate you into something. We'll just say what we want. You might not like it, but a lot of people will guess all these other meanings behind it. So if somebody tells you why they're doing it because I want the mouse to be beautiful that's probably the fucking reason.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Right.

Angela Lauria:

And if you go through those checklists and look for other autistic traits as well, that'll help. But narcissists don't have. They don't have monotropism, the number one. If you want to know if your partner this is another quick tip and then we'll wrap it up. But another quick tip if you want to know if your partner is autistic, the single one feature to look for is an obsession with a special interest. Other people go rock climbing. Your partner goes rock climbing six times a day and then reads rock climbing magazine and then keeps upgrading their rock climbing equipment. That and you sometimes want to go to dinner and they're busy reading up on rock climbing and they can't get out the door to go to dinner. So monotropism is the one thing that all autistic people have in common. When somebody tells me like a parent tells me oh, I'm an autistic kid, you might, if you're a little ableist and you don't know better, you might be like, oh, I'm so sorry, is that okay? When I hear someone's autistic, I'm like, oh, what's their special interest?

Carrie Jeroslow:

That's yes.

Angela Lauria:

What's your kid into?

Carrie Jeroslow:

It's a celebration.

Angela Lauria:

It's total celebration. Yeah, if you have a thing, you might have heard of trains like little boys with trains. That's one of the things, but there are many things. Most people have somewhere between four and six special interests at a time. If they're an autistic person without a special interest, that means they're in a lot of emotional dysregulation. You have a relatively healthy autistic partner. They are obsessed with four to six things. One of them probably the most right now One might be historical. So for me, broadway was an early special interest, so I still tap into it, but it's not my one. They have a lifelong special interest.

Carrie Jeroslow:

You can see mine behind me You're not even looking at the ones on the side. There's that same thing on the side.

Angela Lauria:

You will know your part If you have said something to your best friend or your mom like you know, nick, she's really into trains, whatever the thing is. If you have talked about your part, you're like, well, you know, jack's a little bit wacky about cats. We're on number nine. If you know they have a thing that's weird, go do the rest of the checklist. There's a famous autistic blogger, chris Bonnello, whose blog is called Autistic, not Weird. People think we're weird because of special interests. It's pathologized. I don't even remember the pathological definition. It's like unhealthy obsession. We think of them as our spins or our special interests, and it's our greatest joy, our greatest love and our greatest contribution to the world.

Angela Lauria:

Alfred Kinsey, episode 35 of the Autistic Culture Podcast. Kinsey is autistic. His special interest was sex and he's the one who created the Kinsey scale that goes from one to six, which is like are you all the way straight? Are you all the way gay? Are you somewhere in the middle? It did not originally have six steps, it had like 35 variations that included Polly. So he was also Polly.

Angela Lauria:

He was also pansexual. He had like 36 different sexual expressions and his team of researchers was like it's a little whack, my guy, but before that his special interest was bugs and particularly a specific kind of wasp that I'm forgetting the name of, and he had charts and charts and data and data about these wasps and what they did and where they went and how big they were and how small they were and whatever. He did the same thing with sex. So he did 18,000 interviews about sexual habits, categorized them, studied them, and it's very autistic. That's what we do. We contribute in meaningful ways that and I guarantee you many of the people Kinsey was with were like he's such a narcissist. All he fucking talks about are these sex studies.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Oh, I got to go listen to that episode, that is.

Angela Lauria:

Number 35.

Carrie Jeroslow:

35. Okay, episode 35.

Angela Lauria:

That was one of my favorite. It's fairly recent, so we're up to episode 36, as we're recording this now and that one was like oh my God, so mind-blowing. I loved everything about that.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Oh, I can't wait to listen to that. Oh, I'm going to cue that up on my podcast Library. This has been so informational for me and I really appreciate and am thankful for you sharing not only your experience but all of your wealth of knowledge, and I just feel that it is helping people who are listening all over the world, who have possibly struggled and felt like the ugly duckling, but they're really a swan. So thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us, and I'm just so happy to connect with you.

Angela Lauria:

Yeah, so I feel the same way. It was so great to spend time together today.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Thanks so much for listening to the Relationship Diversity podcast. Want to learn more about relationship diversity? I've got a free guide I'd love to send you. Go to wwwrelationshipdiversitypodcastcom to get your sent right to you. If you liked what you heard, please subscribe to the podcast. You being here and participating in the conversation about relationship diversity is what helps us create a space of inclusivity and acceptance together. The more comfortable and normal it is to acknowledge the vast and varied relating we all do, the faster we'll shift to a paradigm of conscious, intentional and diverse relationships. New episodes are released every Thursday. Stay connected with me through my website, carriejeroslowdotcom, instagram or TikTok. Stay curious.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Every relationship is as unique as you are. Are you wondering why you never seem to find lasting fulfillment in your relationships? Or do you create the same kinds of relationship experiences over and over again? Can you never seem to find even one person who you want to explore a relationship with? Have you just given up hope altogether? If this sounds like you, my recent book why Do they Always Break Up With Me is the perfect place to start. The foundation of any relationship, whether intimate or not, is the relationship we have with ourselves. In the book, I lead you through eight clear steps to start or continue your self-exploration journey. You'll learn about the importance of self-acceptance, gratitude, belief shifting and forgiveness, and given exercises to experience these life-changing concepts. This is the process I use to shift my relationships from continual heartbreak to what they are now fulfilling, soul-nourishing, compassionate and loving. It is possible for you. This book can set you on a path to get there, currently available through Amazon or through the link in the show notes.

Understanding Mixed Neurotype Couples
Navigating Relationships With Autism
Communication in Mixed Neurotype Couples
Understanding Neurodiversity and Communication
Neurodivergent Partners and Accommodations
Understanding Autism
Monotropism and Special Interests in Autism
Relationship Diversity and Self-Exploration Journey