Relationships – dependence vs independence
PDA is this funny thing where we need to be in control, but need others to do things for us …
Whether it is parents and partners, our relationships are unlikely to be ‘typical’. Some of us develop super-strong bonds and rely on our parents for everything. Others feel that a weight of expectations comes from our parents, at least in our teenage years, and so see them as the source of anxiety. Pushing them away feels like it will make things better. And how does all that need for support work with a boyfriend/girlfriend or partner … and then there’s our children.
There is so much to say …
Julia: I got lucky finding my partner Paul. If I didn’t have Paul I’d need a full-time carer which I’d hate and find degrading. Whilst I may in some ways seem independent, I really can’t do anything on my own. We work well together, he needs me as much as I need him.
I’ve been living with Paul for 13 years. He’s my primary support and is on call for me 24/7. He’s an enabler, I need him there with me most of the time. I don’t like being alone, it’s boring. If Paul wasn’t with me, I’d need someone to help with all practical aspects of my life – managing my money, filling in forms, making appointments, cleaning, cooking … I even like to have Paul be in the room with me when I have a bath! It’s not that I can’t ever do these things myself, it’s that sometimes I feel totally frozen with anxiety. It’s like being post-viral, I literally cannot move.
We complement each other really well, he’s very quiet and tolerant but not very organised, so I take him in hand without him rebelling.
Sally: My relationships with my family frankly suck. I’m pretty sure my mum has PDA. She was always mega-critical of me, which was seriously undermining. I recently resorted to cutting her out of my life completely, but we had an amnesty and our relationship is now better. I’ve learned to quietly laugh off her critical comments and she’s learned not to make them. My mum’s important to me, so its great to have her back in my life and even better that she’s no longer hacking me down. I have, for one reason or another, zero contact with my brothers (I am sure both are on the spectrum). I also have very little contact with my step-dad (who my mum is separated from).
Beyond family, I have always wanted to be popular. In gaining wisdom, I’ve realised I don’t actually want the ramifications of popularity. In general people annoy me and exhaust me. I need a lot of quiet time.
Since childhood, I have had serial best friends/boyfriends/soul mates. I have a tendency to connect very intensely to one person at a time. I am not good at making new relationships. It’s easier for me to hang out with someone who I’ve already forged a connection with. These people have acted as social shields for me so I can stand in their shadow during wider social interaction with them as a guide/ambassador. This reduces my social anxiety. I don’t follow role models though: I’m too independent in this respect.
I have frequently picked best friends who have undermined me and let me down. I’ve gradually gained self-esteem and shed toxic relationships. My current partner is wonderful and supports me.
Riko: I’ve never been one to rely on others, although I need people to do things for me when I can’t, I hate people helping me. I don’t think my mother liked me, I was too similar to her but I didn’t like the things she liked. I got along with my brother, we had a love/hate relationship, but I’ve lost contact with all of my family. I do miss them, but I also don’t.
I like being on my own, I go out and meet people when I feel like it and that works for me. I’m no good at spending lots of time with people so having kids is very hard. I try to be there for them but I also need space, ultimately my health is the one that suffers because my kids come first, always. I cope by spending weekends inside, though we do go to groups during the week. I’m not partner material and I’m fine with being on my own. I do like having friends, but I can’t spend as much time with them as they’d like. Social media is a great help here, the adult PDA group on facebook is my tribe, and they don’t mind if I go missing for days at a time, we all know how exhausting socialising is and we understand the need to retreat.