Happy Valentine’s Day! In that spirit, this is my rough and incomplete guide to dating an autistic person. Most of my articles here are targeted towards people with ASD or their families. This one isn’t. It’s hopefully helpful to everyone, but speaks to people who are dating or interested in someone on the spectrum. It’s written from my own perspective, but my experience leads me to believe that many of the points apply to most of us.
- Forget Faking Normal
To most of the world, I have to pretend to be neurotypical. It makes life easier overall, but it’s frankly exhausting. I need a safe place to land, one where I can rock back and forth when I’m upset, count things for absolutely no reason, and talk about any given topic waaay past the point at which it makes sense to move on. If you have a problem with rocking, counting, or perseverating, I’m afraid we need to just be friends. I know, you’re devastated.
- No, I Don’t Understand What I Did Wrong
I’m not good with facial cues or body language. Even worse, despite my best efforts, sometimes I screw up and say or do offensive things without realizing it. I need to be told explicitly 1) that you are upset with me, and 2) what I did to cause it. Don’t wait for me to figure it out on my own, because I won’t, and I’ll probably do the same thing again in the future.
- I Am a People-Pleaser
As are many people with ASD. We like to make other people happy, even if it means compromising what we want. I’ve kissed boys I didn’t want to kiss simply because I didn’t want them to get hurt or angry. I know other people on the spectrum who have gotten even more intimate, or even said “I do,” just because they felt that it was expected of them. So the advice here is to be careful. Take the time to really be certain that you’re on solid ground. It’s frustrating but absolutely essential. Being with a person who is with you for the wrong reasons can’t possibly be satisfying, right?
- Patience Is a Virtue
Is dating a person with ASD easy? Absolutely not. Just ask anyone I’ve ever been involved with, loving a person who might fall apart over having the highlighters on her desk moved out of order is no walk in the park. I’m not doing any of it deliberately to make you angry, and sometimes I need to be told, in the kindest way possible, that I am being ridiculous. Chill out about it, though, because this too shall pass. If you react with anger, it’s counterproductive.
So there you have it – my main thoughts on dating someone on the spectrum. I probably should have started with my fourth point, since it all basically boils down to patience and understanding. So go forth, date, and be kind to one another.
And, seriously, don’t touch my highlighters.