Reflections on Expectations

Gregory Wood
Blog Post

I am 66 years old, but I only found out I was on the spectrum at the age of 49. I realize now that I have spent my lifetime not meeting others’ expectations in my social skills. My lack of non-verbal communication gets me into a lot of misunderstandings, but I have high expectations of myself in being kind to people.


Holiday anxiety started at a young age. I lived in a boarding school as a kid, and that to me was home. When I went home during the holidays, I had to travel, and then I was sad at having to leave. In my adult years when my dad was alive, I had a yearly “performance review” in his home office at Christmas time. I could not hold a job and usually got some kind of lecture from him on what was wrong with me. It was not from the lack of trying. Also my father under stress would drink and everyone was subject to his critical comments. My sister and her husband say that I am welcome for the holidays, but I stay in a hotel while the rest of the family is together. I feel the expectations are to clean up my own dishes, keep my mouth shut, and not have any needs. Not being able to read non-verbal cues makes me feel anxious and I am prone to a meltdown. I do not get any support when that happens.

Today I wish my family took the time to learn what it is like to be on the spectrum. At this point, the only thing I can do is make myself comfortable in any way I know how. Some years it is not spending time with them during the holiday. For the families of autistic adults, I would say be patient and kind on the holidays. Take the time to ask questions in order to support the person on the spectrum.


I have always struggled with society expectations in dating or social relationships. I never dated much over my lifetime. My marriage at age 58 was my first experience, which ended five years later. Now that I am dating again, I am trying to figure things out. Social niceties or soft skills never felt natural for me. One lady would not date me any more because I did not tell her how pretty she was when I picked her up for a date. It does not come naturally for me to pay attention to something like that. Because I struggle with non-verbal communication, I never recognized when someone was flirting with me when I was younger.

I have a habit of giving too much information about myself, but I just want to be honest and be who I am without acting like other people. I would love to meet a person on the spectrum, but it is hard at my age. I would like to find someone who is self-supported, has similar values to mine, and self-reliant, as well as family orientated, open minded, and willing to explore the world with me. I would like to have a person in my life that is willing to learn and accept me being on the autism spectrum.

Although it has been hard at times to feel the pressure of all these external expectations I cannot meet, the AANE weekly group has made me feel I am not alone in dealing with family and relationship issues. I found a place where I can learn from others who understand.