17 Ways to Say “I Love You” in Neurodivergent

A black cat stretches out on a concrete step next to a cocker spaniel

17 Ways to Say “I Love You” in Neurodivergent:

  1. I saw this article/site and wanted to share with you.
  2. Here is a thing about your favourite thing.
  3. I would spend unstructured time with you.
  4. You can share my silence.
  5. I researched your problem; here are your options.
  6. I love your project so much, I thought of some ways to make it even better.
  7. Do you need a ride home from your mundane errand that should be no big deal but is actually a Big Deal?
  8. I see you’re freaking out. That’s cool. I will chill here in silence until you need me.
  9. I will make that phone call/book that appointment so you don’t have to.
  10. I knew you would forget, so I did [insert thing here]
  11. This is your reminder to do the self care thing.
    Do the self care thing.
    Do the self care thing.
    I’m not getting off the phone until you confirm you have done the thing.
  12. We made plans, and I had a sh*tty day on that day. But, I didn’t cancel, because I knew I would enjoy seeing you more than I would enjoy staying home.
  13. You screwed up something people don’t usually screw up, and you’re probably embarrassed, so here is a story of my best screw-up.
  14. You once told me about a completely irrational thing you hate, and now I remember not to do it/to keep it away from you every time.
  15. I learned your allergies/sensitivities. Please confirm if these ideas I have for avoiding them are helpful.
  16. You mentioned one of your health conditions the other day. I have no background in it, but I read everything I could, and now I have follow up questions.

A point to clarify:

No, neurotypicals don’t “do this, too.” Not to this degree. Neurodivergents do these things repeatedly– and sometimes obsessively– and make massive time investments in them.

However, one common thread in a lot of these items is social anxiety, introversion, and means of expressing love that aren’t verbal, so those features could be common to a number of different groups, including neurotypicals.

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14 Responses

    1. I could say the same thing, Beren of Numenor! It is a tongue-in-cheek name as I often write satirical Twitter posts.

  1. I do know NTs who do this stuff all the time though! Literally all of it. I feel like a lot of autistic people had parents who didn’t try to understand them or who didn’t love them, and that might be why many don’t associate NTs with this kind of love. But I’ve known some very good NTs and very good autists, and these are a common way to demonstrate love among caring people in general. I know you said not to say this, but I don’t really listen :o)

    1. Maybe TRY listening? It’s fine to have an opinion, but it’s not OK to specifically do what you were asked not to do. It’s invalidating to the person who wrote this and possibly triggering to others who want to read the comments.

      1. I’m tired of being told “no, this DOESN’T happen”. Usually NTs have done that to me. When other autistic people do it, it feels like even more of a betrayal.

        1. So, this article started off as.a Twitter thread. The reason I said NTs don’t do these things was because 1) people were claiming they do these things, but they meant “sometimes” or to some lesser degree than what I had in mind. Plenty of people express their love through “acts of service” but there is a particular flavour to how NDs do it that is hard to capture. Secondly, we know there are many undiagnosed NDs out there, so if they really do these things and don’t express love in other more “common” ways, they might not actually be NT.

          Also, saying something like “I know you said x but I don’t listen” is a good way to get a fellow autist’s back up, as long as we are talking about how it feels to be dismissed by an autistic person.

          1. I said I don’t listen in a tongue-in-cheek way, hence the smiley (since I specifically was responding to a point made, you can assume I read the thing I responded to!) People in general, and especially teachers, always claimed I wasn’t listening because I was not making eye contact. I figured on a website full of people who have probably been accused of the same thing for the same reason, they would get what I was saying and the tone I was saying it in. I guess not.

            Regardless, I don’t much enjoy being told my experiences could not be true. And I am the kind of person who would see “Spread anarchy!” written on a wall, and scrawl under it “Don’t tell me what to do!” I legitimately do have some problems with the idea that no NTs show love all the time through actions. This particular dividing line makes autistic emotions and expression sound so alien to NT ones, which is something that our adversaries already say to dehumanize us. In reality, our emotions are not so different, and neither is our expression… it’s others’ interpretation (and sometimes our interpretation) where things break down. Assumptions get made about intentions, they’re wrong, and everyone gets confused. But I don’t think you can be confused about how someone feels about you if they stay with you in the hospital all day every day for two weeks while you have colitis. That speaks loud and clear no matter who you are and what your neurotype.

            Most people, even NTs, do not rely on words to tell them the status of a relationship- otherwise abusers would be even more successful at gaslighting their victims than they already are. Along that vein, NT parents who send their kids to ABA so that their kids can parrot “I love you” on command would be outcast even by other NTs if people really understood what they were doing to their autistic children and why. Training someone like a dog to say some words because you “need to hear them” is the opposite of love… if those words are so important to a parent, they would wait to come by them honestly! People who get hung up on words are insecure and not in the majority. I personally say “I love you” all the time, but it’s because I’m a deeply anxious person who thinks that someone flirts with death every time they go outside to get the mail, and I’m never sure if I’ve done a good enough job treating people right. Other people less neurotic than me do not feel the need to make peace with everyone they love upon every separation. Most people trust in the volume of their actions and interactions, because those are the things that form lasting memories and impressions.

            Also, I agree that there are a LOT of undiagnosed autistic people out there, but that itself does not explain the prevalence of people showing love by doing rather than saying. East Asian families primarily communicate their love that way. A lot of other ethnic groups do this as well- it seems to be common among us emotionally constipated folks of Irish descent for example. Not every trait that is slightly more common among autistic people is a blinking neon sign saying “you should get evaluated for autism!”

            Since hundreds of gene variants are linked (but not “the cause”) to autism, it stands to reason that the dividing line between us and NTs is a bit blurry in spots. I know NTs who have misophonia but not other symptoms, or who are quiet and have no other symptoms, or who have motor function issues but not other symptoms. I don’t want to invalidate these people by saying they can’t share something in common with someone like me. I like to look at running water, like many other autistic people do. Does that mean Rome with all its fountains is the most autistic city on earth? Maybe. But maybe fountains are just pretty baller. Like demonstrative love.

          2. The majority of this comment is responding to things I never said. Please refer to my earlier comment. You are more than welcome to write content about your position on any platform you can, and I will read it with interest. Otherwise, you seem more argumentative than curious and I don’t have the energy for it.

            I note you also appear to be requesting accommodations that you’re not according to me; “I don’t much enjoy being told my expe­ri­ences could not be true,” “I fig­ured on a web­site full of people who have prob­ably been accused of the same thing for the same reason, they would get what I was saying.” Wanting to be understood and validated are universal desires. Are you able to see that I am a person and want those things too, and your response to this article has been received in the exact opposite way?

  2. Awwww, all the things on that list make me feel so warm and fuzzy… and to number 3 for someone, heck that is LOVE.

  3. As an ND I do those things for people I love, but legit that whole list is what I wish people would do for me. I think it is because I am used to people not remembering or being considerate of things for me, so I try really hard to do those things for other people, the feeling of not being considered is horrible and I don’t want people I love to have to experience that, no different then I hate feeling that way myself.

  4. There really needs to be more awareness of different styles of expressing love. Even though I am autistic myself, it took me a surprisingly long time to realize that when my autistic mother did small chores for me whenever she came over, she wasn’t trying to convey that I wasn’t capable of doing these things myself, but rather that she cared about me and wanted to make my life easier by washing the dishes that had obviously been piling up in the sink for days because washing dishes, while not a big deal for most people, was clearly a Big Deal for me. We just don’t communicate that sentiment in the same way that most neurotypical people do, and that’s OK!

  5. I was searching for a good article on how I love people. This list was so spot-on that I teared up, as it felt like someone was finally speaking my language.

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