Relationships are one of the most rewarding and exciting aspects in the human experience. However, dating someone new without learning dating tips can be daunting for most of us. When this experience is coupled with being on the Autism Spectrum, it provides its own unique challenges, as discussed in Part 1 of this Asperger’s Syndrome and Dating series. Outlined in the blog are strategies for growing positive relationships when dating someone who has Asperger’s Disorder, now known as an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In the below discussion, using my knowledge as a relationship coach and dating expert, I now look at ways to move forward in dating when you experience ASD yourself.
Tips on Dating with ASD
Starting out, be confident in yourself and know that it is possible to date and enjoy great relationships with ASD. The key is to learn how to overcome your unique challenges, as each person needs to when embarking on building relationships. Secondly, I would like to highlight that we receive the love that we give in life. This means in relationships input equals output, meaning how much you are willing to put into your relationship is how much you will get out of it. So be willing to put in the work to reap the reward of a satisfying and meaningful relationship.
Be relationship ready: Before you take the step of dating someone, make sure that you are ready to be in a relationship and have done the groundwork to build a connected relationship on. Ways of doing this is to see a coach or therapist to build your social skills and relationship tools. Working with a professional can help you understand the evolving steps in dating, develop empathy and learn the signs that partners give and receive when communicating in relationships.
Practice and persevere: Take the relational skills and social cues you have learnt and practice using them in less pressured settings. In order to grow your confidence, take each interaction opportunity, and use it to develop your communication skill set. Make eye contact, and watch the other’s person’s response, smile and show interest, practice fluid two way conversations. You can do this with work colleagues, family, friends or other acquaintances until you are confident enough to approach the person you are interested in. Do not give up hope if you have a few uncertain experiences, and persevere as these skills will grow with practice.
Plan: A useful technique can be planning out your date beforehand. This can include conversation ideas, questions to ask, and social cues to look for. Having a plan written out and a structure relieves the anxiety that can arise in interpersonal relationships. The prompts can also be a helpful reminder of the appropriate behaviours to follow in new social interactions.
Get to know each other: Relationships are a process and the first step is to get to know each other. Be aware of the suitable steps and behaviours for your relational stage as you progress. Listen to them, ask questions, find out what they enjoy, and share your interests and hobbies. This provides a solid foundation. When you have a strong enough connection, share with them the story of your ASD experience. Share some of the challenges you face and ask them if they have any questions. This will create understanding and transparency needed for growth in the relationship. You might fear that sharing that you have ASD with your partner or date may hinder the relationship. However, by showing all parts of yourself, willing to be vulnerable with someone you are connected with and who is willing to understand your uniqueness, you can strengthen the relationship and bring you closer. If your date does not understand or reacts negatively, it is a sign that perhaps that person is not a suitable a partner, and you would be better off not to pursue it further, as it can turn into a waste of time and emotional energy.
Show your love: Once you are together, one of the most important things to remember is to express your affection and admiration to your partner in ways that are meaningful to them. Coming from a logical (thinking) perspective, emotions (feeling) can be overlooked. Neurotypical partners can value emotions highly and need to know how you feel. In your mind, it may be simple that you are committed and love your partner, but they need to be told and shown that often, not just once. Ask them what makes them feel special – maybe it is gifts, words or helpful gestures? Find out what works best and show your special person how much they mean to you. People never get tired of being loved. Communicate and share in emotional reciprocity as vital ingredients for a happy relationship.
Dating when you have an ASD can present its own challenges, but remember that all relationships require commitment and work, and similar approaches and strategies work for ASD and neurotypical individuals alike. The key is to keep open to learning more about yourself and your partner and using that knowledge to grow the best you and the best relationship you have had. If you are in a place that you want to take the steps to finding a partner and having a meaningful relationship, be bold and move forward. Reach out to those who can support you in your circle of family and friends, and if you feel you could benefit from social skills training and to get relationship ready, I am willing and waiting to coach you through this new evolution on to fulfilling relationships.
 Marsh, A. (2017). Shocker! People with Asperger’s Syndrome Want Love (And Sex) Too. Tango Media Corporation. Retrieved from: http://www.yourtango.com/experts/dr-amy-marsh/not-so-great-expectations
 Borgman, S. (2017). Thrive with Aspergers. Retrieved from: http://www.myaspergers.net/what-is-aspergers/aspergers-dating-tips/.
 Attwood, T. (2006). Romantic relationships for young adults with asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism. Retrieved from: https://www.iancommunity.org/cs/articles/relationships.
 Myers, J. (2016). Dating with disabilities: how to date with (and without) Asperger’s. Love Science Media. Retrieved from: http://www.lovesciencemedia.com/love-science-media/dating-with-disabilities-how-to-date-with-or-without-asperge.html.