Dating and relationships can be a difficult subject for anybody, but if you have autism, and your social and communication skills are less developed than a lot of neuro-typical people`s, it can be an even more confusing, and stressful experience. A lot of autistic people say that dating, and getting into a relationship is one of the biggest challenges in their lives. This article won’t teach you the secrets to being able to convince hundreds of people to go on dates with you, but hopefully it will help you to be more confident and assured in yourself.
If you are autistic, and struggle to start even the most basic conversation, getting a date could be extremely difficult. But there is one positive about autism when it comes to the idea of dating; it`s hard to explain, but for a lot of people with autism, once they realise there is simply no other choice (i.e. they have to do something) they will often, somehow, find the ability to do it. This might sound overly simplistic, but in a way it is true — you either ask someone out or you don’t. If you feel confident enough to just sit back and let them come to you, then all credit to you. Different techniques of gaining confidence will work for different people, but perhaps the most important thing is to accept the possibility of rejection. Everybody gets rejected at some point in their life, and there could be dozens of reasons. But the people who have the most success when it comes to getting dates are actually the ones who deal the best with rejection. If everybody who was ever dumped, or turned down, let it weigh on them for the rest of their lives — or simply gave up after the first rejection — humanity would have died out a long time ago. The phrase “the worse they can say is ‘no’” can seem ridiculous if in your mind `no` is a terrible thing; and I am not saying for one minute you won’t feel bad if it happens, but it’s a natural part of life.
One of the best ways to avoid rejection is to be able to recognise signals in other people; things that they do or say that suggest that they might feel the same about you, as you do about them. Perhaps if you do struggle with body language and understanding these things, the best way to do it is to talk to other people about their experience, or to look up on-line tutorials about body language. This might sound silly, but if it’s something you don’t know about and you want to learn, you have to learn somehow. It can also be helpful, especially for girls, to be able to see if there are any signals coming from people they really don’t want signals to be coming from. A lot of girls with autism can be told that they are leading boys on, or flirting with everybody they meet, when in reality they are just not aware of the signals they`ve been sending out, or of the signals the boys they`ve been interacting with have been sending out. As far as the girl realises, she was just being friendly. This leads on to the fact that being able to recognise those signals in others also means that you can keep an eye on the signals you are sending out, and make sure they are appropriate to the situation — difficult stuff.
As well as signals, you have to be aware of how much you are flirting with other people. Again, a lot of neuro-typical people struggle with this as often they will go too far with what they say or do. And it is one of those things that will change with your situation, and with who you are talking to. The only real way of figuring out what is acceptable is to watch what other people do, read up on it, and ask friends what they would be comfortable with if somebody was flirting with them. Also, try to think, if you can, what you would feel comfortable with. And try to stick to that.
The above also applies to how much you can touch another person. It is not appropriate to get too close to somebody and touch them excessively if you don’t know them in that kind of intimate way. If you are autistic the chances are you would hate somebody getting in your space and touching you if you didn’t want them to. And it is the exact same thing if you go and stand too close to somebody and constantly touch them when you are talking to each other. Like everything else, it`s just common sense, but it`s just being able to see it which can be hard.
If you finally get the courage to go up and ask somebody out, you need to have the patience to sit back and see what happens. Coming on too strong will not get you anywhere. You need to simply put the question to somebody, wait for their reply, and then accept it —whatever it is. Don’t bombard somebody with texts or keep going up to them asking if they`ve got an answer for you yet. And remember not to get too hung up on one person rejecting you; it`s just an unfortunate part of life.
How to behave on a date
One of the first and foremost things that should be talked about concerning the actual ins and outs of what to do on a date is staying safe. Primarily this might apply to females, but men need to take these things into consideration as well. If as somebody with autism you struggle to read somebody’s intentions, this could easily lead to trouble. Sadly some men would take advantage of a girl who is extremely trusting. The idea of somebody trying to rape you when you are on a date with them might seem extreme, but the reality is a lot of people will target those they feel are vulnerable. Some basic ways to avoid incidents like this can be to always go somewhere public for the first few meetings, and to let a couple of people know where you are going, and what time you intend to be back. You could even arrange for somebody to pick you up instead of getting a lift back off your date. I am not saying be cynical, but be aware that just because you trust somebody who seems nice doesn’t mean you are actually safe.
A lot of people wonder if they should be open about the fact that they are autistic when they are first dating someone. For me it’s all about how you phrase it. If you say something like “I have to admit that I am autistic” it sounds like it`s some terrible thing you have to get off your chest. Whereas if you simply slip it into the conversation somehow, it seems like it’s something you are a lot more confident about. A lot of people worry that they will be rejected because of their autism, but think of it this way, if you want to continue dating somebody you’ll have to tell them at some point because it’s such a big thing. And if they are going to reject you, then its better they reject you on the first date, rather than you finding out after a couple of months what kind of person they are. Also, if you let them know about your autism it can be beneficial to you. If you struggle in busy, noisy places, and they want to go to a busy noisy pub for a date, then you are probably going to have some kind of sensory overload, and not be able to talk or have any fun, so what`s the point? Let them know so that you can go somewhere quieter, and therefore have a better date.
If you have a tendency to talk a lot, you need to keep an eye on this as well. One thing some autistic people can do — without meaning to — is talk incessantly on one subject for a prolonged period of time, without giving the other person chance to speak, or noticing if they are interested or not. Obviously this would not be a good thing to do on a date. The best thing you can do is to make a conscious effort to tailor the way you talk and the subjects you discuss. You could prepare a list of questions in your head to ask the other person, and then just nod, and pretend you’re interested when they answer — a technique a lot of people employ anyway, autistic or not. Obviously you want to be able to talk about the things that interest you because you want to find a shared interest in something you both enjoy talking about and doing — just make sure it doesn’t dominate the entire conversation. The date is about both people. It is not a big deal. All you really need to do is ask a couple of people who are close to you – friends or family, ideally neuro-typical – to be brutally honest about how long you talk for. It might be the person you are with is fascinated by the subject, and wants to talk for ages, so there`s no set guidelines, just ask the advice of people you trust and try to follow it. This is because it can be difficult to gauge yourself how long is too long to talk – but others can often help you out with this.
It may also be worth putting a time limit on the date as a whole for your own sake — that way you don’t have too much social interaction or sensory overload, and it will probably end up being a better experience in the long run. You have to maintain constant one-on-one social contact, as well as being out in public and everything that brings, as well as focusing on things like the list of questions mentioned above. Obviously you want to go out and have fun, but putting a time limit on the first few dates could be extremely useful to you, and will probably help you in the long run.
People always say to relax and be yourself. This is good advice because if you ever actually want to be in a relationship with the people you date, they will have to like you when you are being yourself. But if you know you are autistic, and your behaviour can be difficult to deal with at times, try to be yourself in a way which is not too intimidating to the other person — you can follow the advice given above. Ask autistic friends who may have been on dates in the past, and try to figure out your own techniques to help you, but overall try to have fun, and try not to be too nervous if at all possible. 😉
My name is Paddy-Joe Moran. I am a 19-year-old autistic author of two books, and co-founder of autism advice service ASK-PERGERS? If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s, or simply want to talk about it check out my free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS? On Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl
Also to read more from me go to my blog http://askpergers.wordpress.com/
And have a look at my books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but I did co-write them, trust me on that!) http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/book/9781843106227