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Some people are pessimistic about Aspergers relationships.
And I’m talking about Aspies themselves! I visited a couple of threads at Wrong Planet and read that very statement [an Aspie commented that all the other comments were very pessimistic] after a string of comments lamenting the state of Aspergers and dating.
But then along came some autism news that made me sit up.
This news story from the Times Dispatch highlighted the state of autism spectrum relationships.
It highlighted three scenarios of autism spectrum relationships: friends, dating, and married.
I haven’t been able to find any preliminary statistics about the percentage of the autism spectrum population.
I wonder to myself:
- How many are able to form friendships successfully?
- How many are able to support those friendships?
- How many can master the intricacies of dating?
- How many of them can stay in a marriage relationship?
Challenging, Not Impossible
Relationships are challenging for people with autism spectrum disorders. But not impossible.
Behold the Picture
I love this picture.
It seems to describe what many on the spectrum experience in relationships.
A) Do they know the game exists? [In other words, many adults with Aspergers, if undiagnosed, may be confused and not understand that relationships, dating, and marriage have unspoken rules that need to be followed]
B) Can they even see in order to learn? [Individuals with Aspergers lack theory of mind and the ability to read social cues. Unless they learn those skills, it's as if they have a cap pulled over their head and eyes]
C) Who is that person across the board? [Without social thinking, mental flexibility, and a theory of mind, a person with Aspergers will have a very challenging time being able to be aware of the person across the chessboard. In this analogy, the person across the chessboard would be the person they are getting to know, wanting to date, or wanting to marry].
Test Your Assumptions
You are not a victim of your neurons. Neuroplasticity research shows us that we can learn new skillsways of relating to others..
Learn the Basics
You’ll want to learn the mechanics of starting and holding a conversation.
Read about the four step process for communication to better understand how communication between two people works.
Learn how your physical posture and presence affects the social communication process.
And focus on the these 10 keys for becoming more likable.
Advance to the Intermediate
Once you understand some of the basics of communication, it will help to read about these communication tips about facial expressions, so that you can better read people’s facial expressions.
At this intermediate stage, it’ll help to read about Asperger’s relationship resources I’ve put together for you.
Build on Progress
You’ll want to set up a process to help you put your learning into practice. Consider hiring a coach or therapist to help you practice these skills.
Get out there and fail a few times. Failure is feedback. If you view it that way, rejection will be less difficult. Albert Ellis, one of the pioneers of rational-emotive therapy dealt with his fear of rejection by asking 100 women out on a date!
Even more important to the young Albert Ellis was his shyness around women. He flirted with them in Bronx Botanical Garden near his home, but he never approached them. Instead he made up all kinds of excuses to avoid doing so because he feared rejection.
At the age of 19, he gave himself a homework assignment when he was off from college. He went to Bronx Botanical Garden every day that month, and whenever he saw a woman sitting alone on a park bench, he would sit next to her, which he wouldn’t dare do before. He gave himself one minute to talk to her, calming his fears by saying silently to himself, “If I die, I die. Screw it, so I die.”
He didn’t die.
He found 130 women sitting alone that month on park benches. He sat next to all of them, whereupon 30 got up and walked away. He spoke to the remaining 100 — for the first time in his life — about the birds and the bees, the flowers, books, whatever came to mind.
Al later said, “If Fred Skinner, who was then teaching at Indiana University, had known about my exploits, he would have thought I would have got extinguished, because of the 100 women I made one date — and she didn’t show up!
“But I prepared myself philosophically, even then, by seeing that nobody took out a stiletto and cut my balls off, nobody vomited and ran away, nobody called the cops. I had 100 pleasant conversations and with the second 100 I got good and made a few dates.
What Does the Future Hold for Dating and Aspergers?
I like to hope.
But it will take more than hope. It will take individuals on the autism spectrum who have the courage to believe they can succeed, even if they fail many times. It will take discipline and tenacity to learn new skills and uncomfortable ways of learning to read social cues and to learn social thinking. It will take mental toughness to deal with the frustration of failing to connect at first.
But think about someone learning to ride a bike for the first time. Or learning to speak a foreign language.
After multiple attempts, there comes the discovery. And all those failed attempts become worth it.
I hope you’ll do what it takes to take the guesswork out of Aspergers dating, and succeed!
photo credit: flickr