Dating and Aspergers is a big topic. Not only does an individual with autism spectrum often wish to connect with others, but as s/he becomes a teenager, young adult, and adult, dating becomes more and more of an interest. Yet, dating inevitably involves social rules, which of course are not spelled out. Therefore, it may be helpful to go over some tips for asking someone out on a date.
I am giving credit for most of this article to Dr. Jed E. Baker, author of Social Skills Training for Children and Adolescents with Asperger Syndrome and Social-Communications Problems.
First, initiate some common ground by starting a conversation.
Think of what you have in common with the person to find an initial question. This may take some time, so don’t be in a rush: study and observe before jumping in too quickly. Once you start the ball rolling, ask follow up questions, and make the conversation about the other person, not just all about you. Think about different types of questions (Who, What, Where, Why, How). And don’t forget to introduce yourself. Say, “By the way, my name is ____________, what’s your name?”
Second, keep in mind that you should initiate at least 3 conversations before you ask the person out.
For dating and Aspergers, Dr. Baker suggests 1-3 conversations, but I would be more conservative and say at least 3 conversations. You don’t want to give the other person the idea that you are overly eager to go out with them. There is something about a person being too direct or forceful that will send the other person running in the other direction.
Continue to build common ground. You might ask, for example, “What are you studying? What kind of work do you do? What do you do for fun:” You will want to listen for clues that the other person may be already dating someone, or in a serious relationship. If that’s the case, you can continue to have a friendship, but realize that this person is already ‘taken.’
You may want to actually watch some movie clips of actors asking people out. Look for the expression on the actor’s faces to see whether the person being asked out expresses interest: For example, if the person is not interested in going out with you, s/he may make excuses to leave, or may try to avoid you. On the other hand, if interested, the other person may lean toward you, smile a lot, and seek to keep the conversation going with you.
Dating and Aspergers: Asking the Person Out
Once you have confidence that the other person is showing interest in you, or seems to want to continue the frienship (keep in mind that is is after at least 3 conversations), ask if the person would like to get together with you some time. If the person says yes, ask where s/he would like to go: you could suggest a restaurant, a movie, going bowling, to a roller rink, to a park, or to any other place of interest. If you have listened carefully enough during the first few conversations, you may have an idea of what the person’s interests are, and where s/he may enjoy going.
Dating and Aspergers: Going on the Date
Pick the person up, or plan to meet in a place that is convenient for her/him. You may want to bring a small gift, like some flowers, or a box of candy. When on the date, it’s usually good manners to pay for the meal, movie, or activity, unless the other person insists on paying her/his own way. (If the other person indicates that s/he prefers to pay, it may indicate that that person wants to keep the relationship with you on more of a friendship level, that they want to take the dating process “slow.” In this case, respect that person’s unspoken wishes, and let her/him pay for the meal, movie, or activity.)
During the Date
While on the date, you can compliment the other person on how nice s/he looks. Continue to ask about other aspects of the other person’s life. Without getting too obsessive, think about the other person as you would one of your special interests: you like to find out as much as you can about that special interest. In the same way, treat this as social research about the other person: ask about the person’s interests, where s/he grew up, work or school, his/her family (how many brothers, sisters, etc).
Be careful not to go on too long about yourself and your interests. People like it when you are generous with your listening: it shows them that you are interested in them. It’s ok to talk about yourself and your interests, but try to ask twice as many questions as you talk about yourself.
photo credit: charles thompson
That’s a very brief guide to asking someone out on a date. What have your experiences been? Do you have any other suggestions I may have missed?