Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Defining Affection and Love

Relationships are complicated even in the best of circumstances.  "Typical" individuals can have a difficult time expressing themselves, especially in a way that other people WANT them to.  Think about it, we all interpret expressions of love from our own viewpoint.  After all, it's what our heart knows!  So when someone else's expressions don't fit into that mold, we may feel slighted, or misinterpret what those things really mean.

I often relate things to the movie "Rainman" because while the movie is certainly not perfect in it's depiction of special needs relationships, it does have some shining moments where it pinpoints things exactly.  Case in point, Charlie (Tom Cruise) teaches his autistic brother how to dance.  It is a sweet moment where the brothers connect in a new and profound way.  At the end of the song Charlie reaches out to hug Raymond, who immediately recoils and panics.  Charlie is left feeling confused and dismayed.  But here is the important part, by the end of the journey Charlie learns how to be affectionate with Raymond on HIS terms, and the two were much happier.  Charlie learned that by caring for him and about him, along with very subtle physical contact, he could gain Raymond's trust and affection.

Let me relate this to my own Tyler.  Right now Tyler is in a point of his behavioral cycle which is not his happiest or warm-and-fuzzy-ist.  Of course when the family sees him at church on Sunday we are excited!  We miss him and we want to squeeze him!

At the moment, he isn't sharing our enthusiasm so he gives us a quick hug and heads for the exit to get back to his home.  We would be fooling ourselves to say that, while we fully understand it, we don't feel hurt by it.  We want him to understand OUR love and OUR affection and we want him to give it back!  But so often being on the spectrum doesn't translate that way...or perhaps at all.  We tell him we love him, give him all the hugs and kisses he can stand, and we send him on his way.  Right now its what he needs, and that is ultimately what matters most.

So take heart if the loved one you care for doesn't quite receive or reciprocate affections the way you would hope they would.  Most likely it isn't personal.  Remember that the messages they process are way different than how we process them.  To be successful as caregivers we have to remember to love them in terms that they can understand and trust, and if you can do that, it may just open the doors to a better relationship.

Be well and God bless.


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