Neurodivergent Book Reviews: Relating While Autistic

Neurodivergent book reviews: Relating While Autistic

Next up in neurodivergent book reviews is Relating While Autistic, Fixed Signals for Neurodivergent Couples by Wendela Whitcomb Marsh. It’s part three of the Adulting While Autistic Series, a four-book series full of advice and support for autistic adults.

The series consists of:

#1: Independent Living with Autism: Your Roadmap to Success

#2: Dating While Autistic: Cut Through the Social Quagmire and Find Your Person

#3: Relating While Autistic: Fixed Signals for Neurodivergent Couples

#4: Parenting while Autistic: Raising Kids When You’re Neurodivergent

Admittedly, I stumbled upon book 3 first and it’s the only one I’ve read thus far. The book was helpful to me so I would be open to reading the others. Although being happily married already, I’m not sure how relevant Dating While Autistic would be. Who knows?Mmaybe there are still some useful tidbits for me.

Overview of Relating While Autistic

Relating While Autistic is only 260 pages, which makes it a pretty quick read. I appreciated that the lines are a bit spaced out which made it easy to read and digest the information. Initially, it felt a little basic and I don’t know…corny? That’s the closest word I can think of to explain my initial take. However, that perception faded as I read because I could see the author’s intention. The author breaks down scenarios and exchanges to be simple and straightforward. It’s a blunt, neurodivergent way of communicating that’s straight to the point, making it easier to relate and apply the examples to your own life.

The author provides evidence-based strategies to help couples communicate better including:

  • Stories of four fictional couples to demonstrate common miscommunications and ways to deal with them
  • Red Light/Green Light Tips with examples of things to not say or do
  • Date Night Themes with ideas for neurodivergent couples
  • What Shall We Talk About conversation starters to open up discussions and family meetings
  • They Say stories from real neurodivergent couples the author has worked with in her therapy practice about things that work in their relationship

What I Liked About Relating While Autistic

As I already mentioned, I appreciate the layout and straightforward nature of this book. The various examples, demo conversations, and do’s and dont’s made it easy to see ways it applied to my own life. It helped me understand some of the neurodivergent communication traps my husband and I tend to stumble on and ways to manage them. One suggestion I’ve found really helpful is the suggestion of establishing signals to communicate things nonverbally. Say you’re overwhelmed and want to leave somewhere without needing to explain why. Make a signal for it so you can still easily communicate to your partner if you’re struggling to be verbal.

Maybe you want to acknowledge you’re interested and engaged in what your partner’s talking about without being able to offer much verbal response. You and your partner can come up with a signal for you to use so your partner knows they have your interest. Struggle to verbalize when you’re in the mood? Signal! Relating While Autistic is full of useful tips for bridging the gaps that often come with neurodivergent communication.

What I Didn’t Like About Relating While Autistic

Like I said before, it is pretty simple in its writing style, but I don’t think that’s bad per se. As I read, I realized it’s written that way for a reason and the author serves that purpose well. That being said, it does make it a bit of a dry read. There were plenty of parts I felt were quite obvious but that’s obviously not the case for every autistic adult. Also, every time I started to feel like it was a bit too obvious for me, I’d read something eye-opening or connected dots I didn’t know needed connecting. That’s why I can’t say there was anything I truly disliked about this book. Is it an exciting page-turner? No, but it’s not meant to be one. It does do a good job of its intended purpose to help you fix communication disconnects that are so common in neurodivergent relationships.

Key Takeaways

The biggest takeaway from Relating While Autistic for me was the importance of finding the middle ground when it comes to different communication styles. The author writes about how crucial it is to allow neurodivergent people to communicate in their preferred way. Reading that section was really eye-opening for me for things that have been happening in my own life.

My husband’s childhood resulted in him becoming quite a people pleaser. When we started seriously dating, I pushed him to go to therapy and address this because I was worried that if he didn’t learn to get past it, ultimately there would be situations that led to resentment between us. As he’s worked on his people-pleasing habits, he’s felt more comfortable pushing back on things (which was definitely an adjustment for me.) He also tried setting some parameters around our communication that we’ve since realized weren’t fair to me. As a result, it was causing problems for both of us.

Neurodivergent Communication Adjustments

When complex feelings or subjects are involved, it is much easier for me to write out my feelings. I’ve done this as long as he’s known me. However, he expresses himself much better verbally than in writing, it has led to many misunderstandings and disconnects over the years. As he addressed his people-pleasing, he thought we should only discuss difficult topics verbally and would get frustrated with me if I opted to write something. This started to create a situation where we were again having a lot of disconnects and I kept unintentionally bottling things up.

When I read Relating While Autistic, it clicked for me that my husband was making a communication demand of me that wasn’t fair to my neurodivergent needs. Relating While Autistic gave me the phrasing I needed to explain to him why we needed to find more of a middle ground. Since then, we have used some of the examples and suggestions from the book and it’s been tremendously helpful for us.

Who I Recommend This Book To

While it’s intended to be for couples, I think this book would be helpful for anyone neurodivergent to read, as well as their loved ones. It is written to give neurodivergent couples the tools to communicate and understand each other better. That being said, it has plenty of tips that can be useful for friends and family as well. With its simple guidelines for catching communication differences, it’s easy to see where you can apply the tools or suggestions in relationships beyond just romantic ones. If you’re neurodivergent and could use some help navigating relationships, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. If you’re not neurodivergent but love someone who is, you should also read this book! It really is that helpful for smoothing out those neurospicy communication bumps on the relationship road.

I want to hear from you! Have you read the other books in the series? What neurodivergent book should I review next? Drop me a note in the comments or send me an email with your suggestions!

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