…sometimes I get tired. Sometimes I get bored. And sometimes all I want, more than anything else in the world, is to go on a freaking date.
-Kiersten White, Paranormalcy
From our first few minutes, it was clear that neither she nor I were not interested in each other, or that we wanted to go on the date.
But what were we going to do? We went through the painful ordeal of a date neither of us was interested in.
I remember thinking, on my way home, “I just spent all that money and time, for nothing. Is dating really worth it?”
Maybe you’ve been on a few dates that haven’t worked out.
And dating can feel more complicated as an Aspie.
Starting and maintaining conversation, etiquette, and other subtleties may make dating seem like a minefield. Any moment, and you might step on a land mine!
I’ve gathered Aspergers dating tips from Aspies and others. Pay attention to these tips to help you regain confidence in dating.
Dating Tips From Aspies and Others
Think Differently About Dating
Neurolinguistic programming experts tell us that the terms and metaphors we use will shape how we think and feel about different situations and events in our lives.
You can either think of dating as something to be dreaded, or you can think of it as a challenge and adventure.
The most successful cross cultural workers are those who immerse themselves in the culture. They opt to live with a host family and take in the sites and sounds of the culture. They study it intensely and experience it. Yes, it can be tiring when nothing makes sense, and when the food tastes so different. But, over time, the visitor becomes more comfortable with the culture.
In the same way, dating in a neurotypical world can seem strange. Honor your neurological differences, but develop an attitude of adventure and curiosity. Spend time with people who are neurologically different. How do they think? How do they act?
Think of dating as a cross cultural excursion, instead of a laborious task.
Make the Effort to Learn Social Skills
Here’s a story from an Aspie, Aaron.
I am married, a father of two. I am different. My kids are different. I have learned social skills and emotional insight, which I gained from a completely different direction than you and I will teach to my kids in a way they can understand. I have friends who not only understand my differences, but *appreciate* them, because instead of looking down their noses at me, they took the time to see that for every unique weakness, I have a unique strength.
I asked Aaron how he learned his social skills and emotional insight. Here’s what he said:
I studied people. I hung out at restaurants and bars and other public places and watched people interact. I read every article and book I could find about social interaction, posture, and body language. I asked probing questions of the people I knew. And I experimented with my posture and body language until I got the desired response.
a) Pick one night a week, or every couple of weeks to hang out at public places, and watch people interact.
b) Read my article, Social Skills Lessons for Adults With Autism, for tips, books, sites, and movies to help you improve your social skills. Study those resources to become more comfortable socially.
Second Life to Real Life
One young man shared that he met his girlfriend in reverse. They started talking and relating on the online world, Second Life. Eventually, they felt comfortable enough online to meet offline, and the relationship took off from there.
Develop Self Awareness
One woman who has dated an Aspie in the past gave this advice.
Watch yourself in a conversation. If you find yourself getting worked up and talking more than 30 seconds to a minute at a time, take time to calm down and listen to others. Focus outward as much as inward. Practicing meditation may help with letting go and improving focus on others.
What to Do When You Start Conversing
Many Aspies found this woman’s advice helpful-
Once you are in a conversation with someone you might be interested in, do be sure to mention that you have Aspergers. This is best done when something seems awkward or you may have broken a convention, but since you are likely on your own with her in the conversation, you may not know when that is.
Definitely don’t make it a stand-alone piece of information early in a conversation. It needs to be tagged on to something like, “Sorry if that was a strange question- I have Aspergers and don’t always know.” (Then smile at the ground, blink, and look up at her with your eyes, head still tilted mostly downward but slightly up for the glance, then back to the ground before moving on with the conversation. This is friendly and shy, conveying something like that you are happy to share this information but that it is personal)
If, instead, you are deep into conversation and/or already know her a bit, there is a possibility that she is already interested in you. A good way to mention your Aspergers and build a connection with her is to find a way to bring up a third party (another person at your table, a mutual acquaintance, etc) once you two are alone, and lean very slightly towards her (this indicates that it is information just for her), and say something like, “I hope I’m not talking too much about X. I have Aspergers and sometimes can’t tell. [lean a little closer and raise your eyebrows] Could you kick me under the table if I go on too long?” This should be followed by a big smile/gentle chuckle, as the “kick under the table” part was hyperbole and a bit of a joke. (now you can drop your eyebrows and go back to your original posture.) Now, not only did you share information with just her (doesn’t she feel special!), you’ve asked (even if jokingly) for her help. If she already had an interest in you, this will make her feel closer to you.
People talk about relationships in casual chat, so when it comes up, saying something like, “If a woman likes me, she pretty much has to say exactly that for me to have any idea.” That way, if she is interested, she knows what she has to do. (My husband, a non-aspie, did this and so I just told him outright that I was interested in a romantic relationship.) [from Anonymous, in What are some practical steps or resources for someone with Asperger’s to improve their success in dating?]
Give Up On Dating For A While
This is a strange tip. But it could work! If you become consumed with the idea of landing a date or being in a relationship, you lose the fun of hanging out and becoming friends.
Temporarily give up on dating, but don’t give up on hanging out with people. Find local groups that share your interests, whether sports, or hobbies. Meetup.com is one place to explore all types of hangout groups.
Take time to learn social skills. Check out Improve Your Social Skills, compiled by Dan, himself an Aspie, and take more time to read the conversation tips offered earlier in this article.
Here’s a great video from Adults with Autism on the subject of high functioning autism and relationships.
Connect online with other Aspies. Wrong Planet is a great place to start.
What dating tips can you offer other autistics and Aspies?
photo credit: Thomas Leuthard via photopin cc