The world of dating and relationships
A common thread among adults with Asperger’s is difficulty creating and maintaining meaningful romantic relationships, particularly with those considered neuro-typical (NT). Some “experts” even claim that “true” people with Aspergers do not desire and are incapable of romantic relations. However, research disagrees. Relationships for Aspergians simply require more work, knowledge, and understanding.
Meeting a new partner and maintaining any kind of relationship can be especially challenging for an Aspergian because of the very traits that characterize Asperger’s disorder.
• Difficulty reading social cues often makes conversation and interaction awkward.
• Difficulty intuiting emotions of others and responding appropriately is often perceived as coldness or lack of desire to connect.
• Tendency to expound on favorite hobbies or topics may come across as narcissistic or worse, dull. Yet the Aspergian may never realize that the audience is bored.
• Strict adherence to rituals impacts flexibility for dating in general and the Aspergian’s availability to a new partner.
• Delayed adolescence, misunderstanding of sexual signals, and sensory issues can lead to the problem of expressing too much (or too little) affection.
If the situation seems hopeless, it need not. Plenty of Aspergians have successfully navigated the world of dating and so can you. The following tips may help but are only starting points:
• Know yourself by embracing your diagnosis. This doesn’t mean fixate on the label; simply read about Asperger’s and high-functioning autism to discover which traits and coping mechanisms may apply to you.
• Know yourself by studying your own behavior. What are your mannerisms? Do you tend to lecture others about a favorite topic while they yawn and look away? Do you make an attempt to keep eye contact during conversations? Do you have difficulty with personal space and stand uncomfortably close to others in a group? If you aren’t sure, ask those who know you best.
• Know others by studying both the NTs around you and in popular culture.
• Role play. Engage a friend, family member, or another AS to help you develop a dating “script” to follow. Practice words, gestures, and even facial expressions that denote interest, concern, joy, etc.
• Consider therapy, if possible. A therapist specializing in autism and adult Asperger’s can guide you through cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and social skills training.
• Look for realistic and appropriate places to meet someone with similar interests or values. If you don’t enjoy dancing or drinking, don’t go bar-hopping to find a date. Try a meet up group aimed at your interests, a support group, your church, or even an online dating site for Aspergians.
• Communication. It is up to you whether or not you “come out” to your date. If you do, be sure to provide accurate information so he or she can learn about your diagnosis.
• Don’t wait for your soul mate to come along before dating. Instead, view each date as practice, or even a social experiment, a chance to test the skills or social theories you have managed to work out so far.
Dating can be difficult for anyone. For the Aspergian, it can feel like a nightmare. However, with the right strategies in mind, it can be done successfully.