Dating with Asperger’s

I’ll start this out by saying that contrary to popular belief within the adult community, that it’s not impossible to date – it just requires doing things differently than would be done for two neurotypicals.

Dating can be a very difficult and complicated experience.  It requires more effort than a friendship, but it is in many ways, less complicated than a marriage.

From my limited experience, it takes three things to make a relationship work: Communication, an emotional connection, and trust.  Communication isn’t so bad – it merely relies on both of your ability to communicate your thoughts, feelings, desires, and intents to each other in a way understood by both of you.  Trust is usually pretty easy – don’t lie, deceive, or mislead each other.  The emotional connection is often what gets lost in translation.

Neurotypicals are wired to thrive and act based on emotional states, where Aspies, are more wired to act based on logic; emotions are present, but the associations may not be the same.  Emotions can be indicated and evoked using all five sense, and for the most part, biology and chemistry cannot be overriden by logic.  What tends to confuse and sometimes derail an adult Aspie are the emotional aspects of a relationship that cannot be explained by procedure or reasoned by logic, but rather are based on pure-and-raw emotions.

Things that occur in a relationship may include (this assumes that you are the Aspie and your significant other (SO) is a neurotypical):

  • Your SO experiences a loss.  Loss can be tough to process because in this case, your SO has experienced a loss by which nothing can replace it.  Logically speaking, the way to deal with the loss of something, is to find something to take its place; not always possible.  You may logically understand that ‘something’ or ‘someone’ has been removed, but not completely grasp the emotional concept of loss.
  • You and your SO have not been in each other’s company for about a week.  Neurotypicals, especially when dating, have an almost primal need to be with their SO; it’s build into all humans by design.  Adult Aspies may run into the problem where they don’t understand the logic of said emotional attachment; the primal need is still present, but doesn’t make the connection that they desire to be with that other person.
  • If you and your SO want to be intimate.  All of those actions are based on primal emotions that are driven by the natural human desire and instict to copulate.  This also relies in being able to read the social cues of your neurotypical partner.
    • While it may be obvious to your partner than holding their hand, that they’re looking for some attention – to you, it may not be as obvious.  If you don’t like being touched, that social cue might not register properly.
    • Another social cue used by many neurotypical women (depending on their preferences) to indicate the desire for intimacy, is dressing in a certain attire that invokes thoughts of sexuality.  The female neurotypical may have to make it clear to their SO that wearing such provocative clothing in their presence is an indication that they want attention.
    • Both genders do it, but some Aspies may not be full aware of, is the type of dialogue that occurs between two people who are dating.  Verbal dialogue can be tricky for Aspies, as certain vocal inflections may completely go over their head.  While a neurotypical might understand what is meant by having a particular phrase whispered into their ear, an Aspie might be totally oblivious.
  • Depending how long you and your SO have been together, you might be at the stage where your SO introduces you to their family.  This might be the time for you both to review any rules or protocols associated with interactions involving either of your families; not all Aspies can transition properly or recognize when certain conversations should not be held.
  • One of the most difficult things to many Aspies (children and adults) is unexpected change.  If you’re dating a neurotypical and they unexpectedly get a job offer requiring a geographical relocation, or perhaps they’ve always worked first shift and now they’re being offered third shift; it may be bothersome.  In the time I’ve been volunteering where I have, many of the adult Aspies I’ve met, are more tolerant to change when there is a period of transition and warning accompanying it.

While I cannot speak on marriages, because I’ve never been married, I can tell you that many dynamics will change – in more than one way:

  • Once you do get married, you are committed to your SO, for the rest of your life, or something happens to either of you.
  • If for some reason, life does throw you too many curveballs, it is much more difficult to leave a marriage, than it is to leave someone that you’re just dating.
  • For Aspies that prefer their own space, getting married typically involves sharing a house or an apartment.  Could get rocky if not dealt with properly.

I will conclude this by saying that dating is something people do by choice – whether they want to date, or the feel so societally compelled to date.  There are a number of Aspies that have no desire to date, or whose AS is severe enough where the logistics involved with dating may be too much for them.  Don’t feel that you’re required to date or find someone to spend the rest of your life with; family may try to convince you otherwise, but remember that you’re an adult and it’s your life.

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