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17 Ways to Say “I Love You” in Neurodivergent2 min read

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. [thumbs up emoji]
  10. I will make that phone call/book that appoint­ment so you don’t have to.
  11. I knew you would forget, so I did [insert thing here]
  12. 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.
  13. 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.

  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. I learned your allergies/sensitivities. Please con­firm if these ideas I have for avoiding them are helpful.
  17. 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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9 Comments

  1. I saw your user­name and to be honest I thought“What are you doing here?”

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

  2. 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. Author

          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. Author

            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?


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