Words define my experience. I think in concepts and words, a constant running narrative giving definition to the concepts that float about. Words are how I express myself; best when written upon a page or typed out with flurried fingers. My mind is full of words; big words, small words, obscure words, so many words. Words are how I understand the world around me and my internal experience.

I love finding the right words to express my experience. When I find an exact word for something I didn’t know could even be defined, I am ecstatic. I know there are many who don’t like labels, but, to me, labels give the world structure and meaning. Labels provide a way to connect with others who experience the world in similar ways.

However, I recently faced a conundrum. My words failed me and I was left without a word to define an experience. I grappled and struggled to find the right words to convey my feelings but came up dry despite a vast vocabulary. I have since found a word, much to my pleasure, that I think fits, but let us not start there. Let’s go back and explore.

I am not a social person. As an autistic with multiple other neurodivergencies, I find socializing difficult and tend to keep to myself, particularly in the workplace. This is not to say I don’t want friends, in fact, I have often lamented my lack of friends. I just struggle to initiate conversation, let alone a friendship. So it was that I spent my days at work in relative silence without anyone with whom I felt a sense a comradery. At least until the day that all changed.

One day in late July, a guy I had talked to in passing started up conversation with me. This guy, let’s call him Ludo, had always seemed pretty awesome. One of my first memories of him was when he noticed my dark mark tattoo and started referring to me as Dark Mark much to my silent pleasure. It was impactful enough that I went home and talked to my husband about this guy whose name I didn’t even know who seemed like someone I would want to be friends with. Of course, I never struck up conversation with him despite my pleasant feelings towards him, until that day in July.

We started talking, I don’t even recall about exactly what, though I know one of our early bonding moments was our shared love of Harry Potter. We started talking and we never stopped. We IMd almost constantly throughout the work day, gradually getting to know one another. We talked about such a vast array of subjects from movies and books to politics and religion and philosophy. He let me go on long-winded rants about the things I’m passionate about like autism and feminism and seemed genuinely engaged with what I had to say. He taught me random facts about all sorts of subjects and often used words I had to look up which is not a common occurrence for me. We talked openly each of our mental illness, finding comfort in another who understands. We grew closer as friends as we shared our true selves with one another.

Fast forward to last week. We chatting as we usually do during work and the conversation got to defining what we mean to one another. We had previously established that we loved another in some way but hadn’t really talked about what that meant. So we started talking about what we are to one another. We both care very deeply for one another. We love each other in a way that feels different from what either of us has experienced in a friendship before. Yet there isn’t a sexual element to the relationship nor is there a romantic connection as far as we can tell thus far. And so we were stumped. We knew that friend didn’t convey enough but we didn’t know of the right word to define what we mean to each other.

That night, we both pondered things on our own. I scoured my brain for a word that might fit. Finally, from somewhere in the nether, a word floated to the surface: queerplatonic. So I started reading. I read up on what a queerplatonic relationship was and the ideas surrounding it and realized I had found a fit. I shared this with Ludo the next day and we agreed that that is how we would define our relationship.

(For those who are unfamiliar with the term, queerplatonic is defined by AVEN as “A queerplatonic (or quasiplatonic) relationship is a relationship that is not romantic but involves a close emotional connection (platonic) beyond what most people consider friendship. The commitment level in a queerplatonic relationship is often considered to be similar to that of a romantic relationship. People in a queerplatonic relationship may be of any romantic or sexual orientation.”)

Over the weekend, we actually texted with each other which is something we had both previously struggled with due to anxieties and paranoias. Yet, despite my happiness at our newfound definition and getting to text with him, I found myself having panic attacks as we texted. As I pondered it, I realized that I was panicking when we said I love you, but was confused as to why.

As part of being autistic and having other neurodivergencies, I often struggle to identify my emotions and the reasons behind them. It can take time and a great deal of thought to identify what I’m feeling and why. I can usually figure out a general idea of what I’m feeling (as in I feel good or I feel bad), but struggle with the intricacies.

As such, I pondered what was causing this feeling of panic but it took me a couple days to finally place my finger on it. I realized that the discomfort and panic I was feeling was due to my trauma. This was the first time I had made friends with a man since escaping from an abusive relationship and then being raped by a different man. This was the first time a man other than my husband (who in my head doesn’t really register as a man) had told me he loved me. It was frightening and overwhelming. I trust Ludo and I love him dearly, but I also trusted and loved one of my rapists. My experience has shown me I can’t trust my trust.

Once I had come to this realization, I explained to Ludo what I had figured out and he was so understanding which helped immensely. He told me he would refrain from using the word love for the time being until I was comfortable. That evening, I talked with my husband about everything which helped me realize that part of my discomfort was that I felt like I was hiding things from Husband. To clarify things a bit, Husband and I have had a long standing agreement that our marriage is open and we are both fine with the other seeing someone else if we so desire as long as everything is open and honest. Ludo and his wife have a similar arrangement.

When I talked with Husband, I explained everything from the conversations trying to define what Ludo and I are to the panic I had been experiencing regarding everything. He was very understanding and supportive of my relationship with Ludo. He encouraged me to follow the relationship wherever it may lead. We talked about how we’ve both come to understand that love is not a finite resource as many seem to think but rather something infinite that can be shared with many without diminishing the love for anyone.

After my talk with Husband, I felt load better. Having cleared the air on all sides I felt so much more comfortable with my newly defined relationship with Ludo. I’m able to say “I love you” with ease and express how I feel. While I definitely still have some difficulties with the relationship due to my past trauma, I am working to overcome those challenges.

If you had told me back when I first met the man who referred to me as Dark Mark that one day we would be in a queerplatonic relationship, not only would I not have known what that meant but I would not have believed it. I honestly doubted I would be ever be close friends with a man due to all my trauma. Yet, I can honestly say I am so happy to have him in my life and to have another person to love. I don’t know where our relationship will go from here, but I’m starting to accept that I don’t need to know. Words may have failed me initially when trying to define what we mean to one another, but maybe that’s ok. Maybe some things don’t need to be perfectly defined with exact words and precise understanding. My autistic nature balks at the lack of clarity, but I’m starting to be ok with it. We love each dearly and we know what we mean to one another and both of our spouses are supportive of our relationship.

So for now, I am happy in this messy, hard to define relationship. I think queerplatonic is the best fit for us for now due to the ambiguity of the term. Queer is such a wonderful umbrella term in its various applications.  Queer holds great meaning without being able to be clearly defined or pinned down. Queerplatonic, likewise, is unable to be clearly defined. It means so many different things to different people, and that’s ok. We’re happy, the people who matter understand and are happy for us, so it doesn’t matter if everyone else is left with questions. I’m happy with my zucchini and look forward to seeing where life takes us.