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. Continue reading
In our community, it is often thought impossible for people ‘on the spectrum’ to date, have a relationship, or ‘love someone’.
Anyone you run into, will tell you that dating for anyone can be difficult. For us with Asperger’s, the concept can be more difficult. Many of us feel that dating is impossible, others claim it’s a difficulty that makes them not want to engage in the behavior.
Among the things one has to contend with are:
- The perception and understanding of social cues that may not be obvious in nature.
- Unexpected or unpredictable touching, or other shows of affection.
- The concept of reaching out and being social without being asked first.
- Meeting new and strange people.
- Having to introduce your significant other to new and strange people.
- Changes and transitions as it pertains to personal routines.
Even neurotypicals will attest to the fact that there are a lot of dynamics that make a relationship what it is:
- Trust and support. Many Aspies feel the need to remain private with their thoughts, especially in personal situations.
- Understanding your partner. Ensuring that they understand that you don’t want to be hugged from behind, or maybe that only kissing on the lips is what you’re comfortable with.
- Being on the same page with your partner in terms of what they want and what you want.
- Compromise and accepting when change needs to occur. If you eventually decide to marry your partner, understanding the changes that happen.
- Many neurotypicals don’t realize that sexual relationships are based predominately on emotion – something that Aspies struggle with.
- Adaptation to each other’s quirks and personality traits. Imagine if your partner had Bi-Polar Disorder; how would you adapt to each other?
- Making sure you have support from people on your side to help you through things that your significant other may not understand. Also being able to accept advice and input from people whose opinions and intentions you disagree with, is key.
While this entry is placed on the ASA Facebook Page, I had someone message me earlier with a group that I’d like to share. It’s called “NT Women Who Love an Adult Aspie”.
I volunteer for a non-profit organization in my state that provides services for those with Asperger’s and Autism. I’ve attended workshops and seminars that they’ve hosted, where the host/moderator themselves was an Aspie, married to a neurotypical. When I have run into those people, or others that are neurotypical and have an Aspie significant other, I’ve asked them how they do it, and they have responded with:
- I’m patient with him/her and I have to realize that he/she is wired different than I am.
- We dated long before we married, so I was able to learn how he/she functions, making our married life that much better.
- I became friends with his/her family and they helped me better understand him/her.
- Once it became clear that I cared deeply for him/her, I offered to attend therapy sessions or participate in activities that he/she enjoys; it also helped me understand him/her better.
Having said that, I can conclude that it is possible for NT’s and Aspies to have relationships, but they just require more effort and work than the average relationship.
Whenever I run into people that know I have Asperger’s and I have a lengthy conversation with them, they tend to ask me if I’m sure I have it. I’ll admit that I’ve had doubt of my own diagnosis – some things about me don’t seem very “Aspie”:
- I grew up with constant change in my life, thus change is part of my structure.
- I do understand and at times use sarcasm within conversation.
- I have no problem being social with others, as long as I’m invited into groups and other social scenarios.
- I have made friends over time, even if I don’t hear from them for months on end.
- I can read basic social cues and understand the more common of nuances.
- While unproductive conversation bothers me, I can engage in limited small-talk, as long as the conversation takes a productive turn.
- While I have a hard time expressing my emotions, I can relate to some people on a logic level, such as providing moral support for someone going through a hard time.
On the other hand, I suppose what people don’t notice about my Aspie tendencies are among the following:
- I have a sensitivity to noises at the level of a concert or large crowds. In many cases, I can manage the noise for a short time before having to relocate.
- I don’t make a ton of eye-contact when talking to people. When others are talking, I will try and look at them, to appear interested, but eye-contact is still very uncomfortable.
- For someone who can partially modulate their voice for jocular effect, I do maintain a very dry and sharp voice when I converse with others.
- Whether chatting on an instant or text message, I still do take things very literally when not required.
- I am apprehensive about touching certain surfaces or textures with my fingertips.
- Many of the attachments that the neurotypical population attach to their friends, family, coworkers, etc… I fail to understand.
- While I have dated in my past, some of the ‘closeness’ and intimate acts and social cues still elude me.
- I am actually more comfortable being in a space by myself, than around others. While the presence of others does not completely bother me, I would prefer to not be around others.
I wrote this entry to give our group some idea or suggestions that might help them with managing some of their symptoms.
- When you talk to people, don’t immediately tell them that you have AS; depending on your symptoms, they may pick up on it before you mention it. Neurotypicals tend to notice many more social ‘anomalies’ about the people they interact with than we give them credit for.
- If you find that you’re going to be in a noisy room, bring ear plugs (not headphones). You will still be able to hear conversations, but you may have to focus on a specific person in order to take everything in.
- One way that I’ve been able to manage my symptoms is controlled exposure: Expose yourself in bursts to different levels of noise in moderation. If you enjoy music, make it a point to listen to the music at louder levels, as times goes on.
- If you’re in a building or other enclosed space, look for exits or locations of calmest sound.
- When you are making plans to be in a social venue, be sure to ask about the environment that you will be entering; whether you ask the host of the venue, or asking a friend who has attended.
- Those three bullet points can also be modified for those with visual sensitivities.
- While you may not be able to offer moral support on an emotional level, some incidents of tragedy can be universally and logically understood. If you are not comfortable receiving or giving hugs, you may have to alert the person beforehand that you’re not comfortable, and resort to another cue, such as a handshake.
- Many of us on the spectrum have no filter on what we say, or we have a hard time choosing our words appropriately. Consider entering social scenes with a friend or somebody you know that understands you; ask them to brief you on who you are about to meet. Sometimes being prepared for a situation can make all the difference.
- When it comes down to reaching out to people, ask those people to specify a block of time when calling or contacting is acceptable. Try to learn quickly that if someone gives you their business card or phone number that it is most likely acceptable to contact them. Whenever I receive either one, I ask the person when it is good to initiate contact.
- If you are someone that has a hard time with change, understand that the neurotypical world we live in, is always changing. Sometimes change has to occur in an ordered sequence, often on paper.
- Remember that often in life, change is a necessity, and sometimes it is needed for legal reasons.
- We as people are changing regularly: We get older, we change appearances, we experience life moments that are new and different, and as you get older, your personality and way of thinking also tends to change.
- If you see a counselor for your AS symptoms, considering asking them what steps you can take or what methods of treatment could help you live a more productive life. Nobody is realistically a better judge of what can help you, than your counselor; they know your background, history (both medical and otherwise), and assuming they ask the right questions, they can tailor treatment to you as an individual.
- Learn from a mistake I made over six months ago: Avoid the temptation to avoid partake in something because you have AS – mind-over-matter goes a long way. Now, along with an earlier suggestion, don’t expose yourself to too much stimulus or discomfort when it’s not necessary, but realize that you still have to live.
- I have found that writing things down; be it my feelings or just information in general, can help a situation. Realize that what you’re reading is part of a blog; sites like WordPress allow you to setup free blogs for the sake of expression.
- Everyone on the spectrum has a different form, type, and degree of Asperger’s. No two are alike and no two show the same symptoms.
This post comes as a result of a conversation with my counselor today.
I’ll start by saying that when I was diagnosed, I actually refuted my diagnosis, on the grounds that things just didn’t add up. I ran these 10 things by my counselor today and she was able to map each one appropriately to AS. The numbering sequence is not an indication of importance, I just felt like using a numbered list. Continue reading
The phone call: The process by which you pick up a phone, dial a phone number, wait two seconds for the call to connect, listen to the ringing sound that indicates that the other person is being made aware of your desire to communicate, and finally when the person picks up, you have a conversation.
Sounds pretty easy, you’d think? All you need is a phone number, people to talk to, and a phone. Billions of people across the globe communicate by telephone every minute – across neighborhoods, streets, towns, states, and even countries.
In order for a phone call to take place – you need people on both sides of the connection. One to dial the phone number and one to answer the phone. With the advent of Caller ID, you now know who is calling, it wasn’t just “Hello?” on the other side. With the advent of Call Waiting, if you are on the phone with someone and somebody wanted to get through, you heard a short tone that indicated that somebody wanted to interrupt; you had the option of ignoring the incoming call or placing the current call on hold while you ‘dealt with the interruption’.
The phone call also requires more than just hardware, it requires motivation and desire, both of which are emotional states. Motivation being the energy that drives you to complete tasks, no matter what the undertaking. Desire is the feeling that you want to reach out to someone and communicate, even if just to say hi.
Aspies face a challenge when it comes to this type of communication. In order to have the desire to contact someone, you have to be aware that the other person wants to be contacted, and have it be by you. When you can’t read or feel that desire from the other party, it doesn’t give you a lot of motivation to want to contact them.
I recently posted this question on the ASA Facebook page. I have also raised this question when I attend support group meetings (noting that they comprise mostly men) and the responses have been various:
- Some state that they rarely place phone calls because they’re not sure if the other person wants to hear from them, due to lack of mindfulness.
- Many have stated that they have a hard time reaching out even if they know that the person wants to hear from them.
- It is a known fact that with online communication becoming more prevalent, the phone call is becoming a secondary form of communication.
- I was at one support group and somebody had mentioned that they had gone to the point of scheduling phone calls and informing people that they would be calling them at a designated time. Many Aspies need a sense of structure, so perhaps this is one solution – even though much of the neurotypical population doesn’t structure such calls unless there’s a reason. The phrase “I’ll talk to you later” has become a filler way to end a conversation.
- I have some friends that will text me and ask me if it is a good time to call. I actually like that approach, since receiving the text gives me the flexibility to decide if I can or want to talk to them at that time, or if I have to or want to delay conversation for later.
One cannot speak about the psychology of the phone call unless they address voicemail.
As we all know, voicemail is the recording system that someone speaks into if they have a verbal message they want to leave (it’s been replaced by computer servers at this point).
There are many reasons for a phone call to get dumped to voicemail:
- The person is at work and cannot pick up the phone.
- The person is engaged in activities that prevent them from picking up the phone.
- The person is ignoring a phone call.
- The person is not near the phone when the phone rings.
Part of being mindful or being able to read people’s state’s of mind is being able to logically deduce hypothetically why the person neglected to answer their phone.
With the advent of cellphones, some of that gets easier. If the phone rings a few times and goes to voicemail, it means that you’ve been dumped to voicemail by the other party – which can often prompt even more questions; people with anxiety can sometimes have an anxiety attack because they think they’ve done something wrong, when in reality, the person was talking to their boss.
If the phone call goes straight to voicemail, that typically means that the person’s phone is off or not picking up any service. That can mean one of a number of things: (a) the person is asleep, (b) the person has no desire to talk to anyone, (c) battery is dead on their phone, (d) person is in a rural area where there is no cellphone reception.
Personally, I grew up in a family where the phone is to be answered when it rings, much like you’d see in a business. It almost leaves the other person wondering why the phone wasn’t answered. If someone is too slow to get to the phone, the question becomes “Who was it?” or “Why wasn’t that call answered?”.
The final point I will bring up during this entry, is the most important point when it comes to a phone call: Starting the conversation, something that Aspies often struggle with because small-talk is not one of our strengths. It is something that we are capable of and we do learn from our society-at-large, but not something that we are very good at, since small-talk relies on speaking words that have no real value, whose main purpose is to start a conversation.
Sometimes people answer with a straight “Hello?”, other people will recognize the name on the Caller ID and respond with something more personalized. Until people with AS get to know people personally, sometimes starting that conversation is difficult, due to the fact that we may not know what questions to ask and because conversation is usually gauged upon the back-and-forth responses, not all conversational pieces are easy.
When the other person finally picks up and greets you, for a micro-second you have their attention. The big question becomes “What do I say or ask next?” Some people identify themselves and ask how the other person is doing. I guess neurotypicals call that ‘starting the conversation’ – I find it difficult to do that, since people often answer the “How?” question with some generic response, unless they are not ‘up to par’. It’s considered rude to ask someone to qualify that they are actually feeling the way that they claim to be.
The toughest part, to my knowledge, is getting over that hurdle of the initial micro-second, long enough to have a conversation. Realize also that most Aspies ahbor ‘small-talk’ and would rather ask productive questions and have a meaningful conversation. For the most part, we have a good idea of how the other person is doing and what is happening in their lives, we just get ‘phone anxiety’ trying to figure out how to ‘get the ball rolling’.
Earlier, I mentioned structuring phone calls. In the neurotypical world, the two people just pick up the phone and start chatting. In the Aspie world, those same two people may not even know that the other person even wants to hear from them. One of the more famous responses I get is “I did give you my number, didn’t I?
Welcome to another social cue that’s difficult to read.
To the literal Aspie mind, that can be very confusion or ambiguous, since our phone numbers are given to a preponderance of people every day:
- Places of employment
- Places of volunteer
- When we sign up for loyalty cards, we give it because it’s requested.
- When we sign up for services, the company needs a way to reach us.
- If you order a pizza and ask for delivery, they may need the number to reach you in case they can’t find your location.
- We disclose it on our tax returns.
- When we ask a business for information and they have to call us back with the information.
Which leaves the ultimate question (and the end of the entry): How do you easily discern when someone is giving you their phone number, as a genuine cue, when-in-fact they give that same number out to the places I just listed?