Dating, relationships and Autism
FACT: Many people on the autistic spectrum, have the same natural desire to find a partner, as your average neurotypical.
However, we may not always know how to cope with our feelings towards the opposite sex (or same sex). As autistic adults, there are a few extra questions we need to ask ourselves that neurotypicals do not:
- Should we only date people on the autistic spectrum?
- If you date a neurotypical, should you tell them you have autism?
- Will they still like you if you dotell them about your autism?
- Would they want to have a serious relationship, knowing there is a
chance that your autism could be passed. genetically. to your children
How to meet a potential partner if you are on the autistic spectrum
- Go to places where there are people that share a similar interest to you. This will give you things to talk about
- Think about the people that you already know at work, college or any social groups you attend. Starting off as friends is a good idea, before attempting to start a relationship. This is a good way of finding out if you like and get on with the other person..
- Asperger dating sites? Possibly, although this may not work for everyone. Get advice from someone you trust. Perhaps they can help you find a trustworthy site
- Mainstream dating sites: Be careful! It will be difficult to understand the intent of people you make contact with. May be okay for some people on the spectrum
Things to avoid
- Don't stand too close to the person you're interested in, (Always be aware that you may be encroaching on their personal space)
- Don't become obsessed with the person you would like to date. This could make them want to avoid you..
- Be careful not to dominate the conversation, especially with topics the other person is not interested. in. (Remember that a conversation between two people involves listening to the other person and not doing all the talking.
When I go on a date, what should I talk about?
This can be difficult for most people, autistic or not. From my experience, it's best to go on a date with someone you have something in common with. I have been on dates (before I was married of course!) when I just could not think of a single thing to say, and the other person did not help by only ever replying with "Yes" or "No." On each occasion, It turned out that we'd had no shared interests.. The end result was an evening of intense embarrassment, and a feeling of failure.
But then there were dates with some people, (girls in my case,) where we talked for hours about all sorts of things. This was possible because we both liked similar things, and had plenty to talk about. This is the reason that I've suggested you join a club or organisation that relates to a topic or hobby you are interested in, so you can meet like-minded people.
- A shared passion for a particular topic
- Perhaps a similar background with interests in common
- Work related topics that are interesting to both of you
- It's always good to ask the other person about their hobbies, work and friends. Note: Conversation means listening to the other person as opposed to talking at them until they are so bored, they may not want to see you again! On the other hand, try not to interrogate the person you're on a date with, by asking them question after question after question. This may take some practice. I learned about the art of conversation by copying people that appeared to be really good at it. Also by observing characters in films and on TV. Fifty years of practice has meant that I can usually have good conversations, although, I still have to concentrate a lot to make sure I don't talk too much or say inappropriate things.
- Once you have some knowledge of their lifestyle, hobbies and work, you will have an idea if they are someone you may want to pursue a relationship with
Note: Both of you have to want a relationship. Just because you do, does not always mean the other person does.
Remember that you will not get on well with everyone you meet.. Sometimes you may have a date that is really awkward, and you will just not get on with that person. This is normal! We all go through those horribly uncomfortable dates where we feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. I have many memories of cringe-worthy dates on my way to finding someone that was right for me.
Should you tell your NT partner you have autism?
I can only give you my personal view on this. A relationship has to be based on honesty and trust. So, if you've began a relationship with an NT, It's only fair to tell them. It may not make any difference if they really want to be with you. And when something needs fixing in the relationship, as it undoubtedly will at some point, at least you will both have the benefit of examining whether your autism has contributed to the problem.
These days, many people have been in relationships for many years, both completely unaware that one of them is on the autistic spectrum, In my case, I had been married for twenty years to an NT woman, before we found out I had high functioning autism. The diagnosis certainly explained why some aspects of our relationship had been problematic. My wife put my idiosyncrasies down to everything from "probably being starved of oxygen at birth!" Mental health problems, and "just born strange!" Luckily she must have thought I had enough good qualities to make up for my apparent "emotional retardness!"
Overall, my diagnosis been good for my marriage. We have been able to work out many of the conversational and other misunderstanding's that had made life difficult at times. My story is echoed by many other newly diagnosed people that have been in long term relationships with NT partners. A diagnosis can really help you, and your partner improve your relationship. Together you can work on strategies to make all those domestic practicalities become easier. A diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, also answers many of the questions around the "emotional distance" we are sometimes accused of by our NT partners.