Chris Packham reflects on maintaining a relationship while living with autism

Chris Packham reflects on maintaining a relationship while living with autism

BBC presenter and climate activist Chris Packham has opened up about his experience of maintaining a romantic relationship while living with autism.

The Springwatch host, 63 has been with zookeeper Charlotte Corney, 47, for over 17 years – but he did not reveal his autism until three years into the relationship.

In a new interview with The Guardian, the passionate naturalist, who recently called out Taylor Swift for her private jet consumption, opened up about the benefits and challenges that neurodiversity posed to their relationship.

“I can’t love Charlotte 99.9 per cent. That doesn’t exist in my world,” he said. “I can only offer Charlotte 100 per cent of myself – or 0 per cent.

“The 100 per cent commitment, which has previously been suffocating in relationships, is something which I hope gives Charlotte a degree of security.”

Packham said he had “forced” previous partners to be part of his “obsessions” and admitted he had been “pretty unforgiving when partners wanted me to do anything they valued and I didn’t”.

Reflecting on the experience, he added: “I felt that I was right and what they were asking me to do was entirely unnecessary. If I did what they asked me to do, I did it under duress: I sat in the corner and didn’t communicate or got completely wrecked and said entirely inappropriate things.”

But he has learned to do things differently with Corney.

BBC’s Springwatch presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan
BBC’s Springwatch presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan

“Now I just refuse to do things I don’t want to do: I don’t go to the weddings of Charlotte’s friends or round to her friends’ for coffee and chats, and she accepts that.”

The presenter who has hosted the BBC’s popular nature programme since 2009 added that he felt maturity had played a part in maintaining his relationship with Corney.

“My relationship of 17 years with Charlotte is different because of basic maturity. If I had met Charlotte when I was younger, there is every chance that the relationship would have failed and that would have been my fault.”

Packham admitted that his partner would like “more softness” in their relationship and said they could “misunderstand each other sometimes”. While Corney added that Packham’s honesty could be “brutal” and “upsetting” if she was in a particular frame of mind.

However, she concluded, “It’s about trying to embrace our differences rather than forcing either one of us to be more like the other.”