Maintainers: An Introduction
It’s well established that folks with autism can be pretty retarded. We’re often totally disorganized, our memories can be crappy, we may not know much about appropriate clothing, or appropriate social interactions, or appropriate anything.
So most autistics, without even being consciously aware of it, acquire Maintainers.
They’re one of the most valuable aspects of autistic culture.
A Maintainer will help their Aspie navigate difficult situations by sharing relevant skills and knowledge.
They might proofread an important e-mail before their Aspie sends it off to ensure that it’s socially acceptable.
They might talk their Aspie down from having a panic attack.
They might provide advice to their Aspie concerning a complicated interpersonal problem.
They might accompany their Aspie to a medical appointment to provide information to the doctor which might otherwise be forgotten or inadequately explained.
They might tell their Aspie to stop being an asshole.
A Maintainer could be responsible for hundreds of different little things.
It’s an intense, intimate relationship, and more mutual than it might seem. Aspies are loyal, supportive, and loving toward people in their inner circle, and will be particularly devoted to their Maintainers.
Also, people who end up as Maintainers are naturally nurturing people who enjoy taking care of others and find it emotionally fulfilling.
Of course, sometimes it can be gruelling, messy work, and will take a toll on the relationship between an Aspie and their Maintainer. This is why most Aspies have several Maintainers, each of whom will have special insights, skill sets, and areas in which they’re uniquely useful.
So how does such a relationship come about? How do Aspies find their Maintainers?
Oftentimes Maintainers are family members, in which case the process is pretty automatic. When an Aspie is young, their Maintainers will be whichever adults are their primary caregivers, and possibly- but not necessarily- siblings as well.
As Aspies get older, their Maintainers are more likely to be close friends and romantic partners. If somebody enters into a romantic relationship with an Aspie, they will become a Maintainer. That’s just how it is.
If a close friend becomes a Maintainer, it will be a gradual process. For me personally, once I realize I’m growing fond of someone, I’ll deliberately suss them out to see if they’re Maintainer material. I’ll start by asking them for advice in a situation where I already know what I’m going to do. In the past when I’ve done this, everyone who’s gone on to be a Maintainer has told me what I already know as well as something that I hadn’t even considered.
That’s when I know they’re good.
It isn’t enough that I’m able to trust a Maintainer. Trust is fairly easy. When I ask my Maintainers for feedback or advice or I use their social skills to navigate a situation, I’m seeing the world through their eyes. I need to ensure that we have a compatible world view and similar values. I need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. I need to know what their aspirations are, and what they’re afraid of. I need to know what matters to them.
This wouldn’t be necessary in most relationships, but my Maintainers interpret reality for me. I need to believe what they see.