I've been living with Asperger's (ASD) and I realize that dating me is not always a picnic. I hope to give useful insight to others.
For those of you who are currently dating or thinking of dating someone with Asberger's, it is important that you educate yourself about some of the difficulties your partner may have in their daily life.
Communication will be even more important than usual so that you don't have any misunderstandings that can escalate into an argument. Your partner will likely be capable of having a healthy relationship with you as long as you are willing to be patient and understanding with them.
Hopefully, I will be able to give you some necessary information that will make the transition easier for both of you.
We Tend to Take Things Literally
This can lead to all sorts of misunderstandings, so having phone conversations and in-person interactions are even more important than usual. Texting is tough enough without having to constantly explain what you mean to someone who is sometimes easily confused.
Here's a recent example from my own life to help you understand how quickly I can get confused. I asked a girlfriend why we were not having more sex in our relationship. She said, "If I wanted to have sex, I would get with the guys at work who want me". I was horrified and dashed off to the mall restroom to calm down. I couldn't understand what made these men at work so much better than me, so I essentially shut down the moment she said that.
She later explained that she meant that she saw me as more than just a sex partner, but the damage was done. To this day, I blame her for not explaining herself better at that exact moment. She blames me for not being able to comprehend her intended point. If we had been able to communicate better at that time, things could have been completely different. So, it is important to be somewhat cognizant of the fact that your partner may take what you say quite literally.
We Aren't Great at Picking Up on Gestures
For some of us with ASD, you have to really bring your "A" game for us to realize you are flirting. We don't always pick up on the clues that others may notice. In fact, because we are easily distracted by things that interest us, we may not even notice you flipping your hair or licking your lips while we see a cute dog running across the street.
Personally, I have been told many times in my life how much a woman was interested in me after I felt a date went terribly. It may be the natural social anxiety that we suffer from that causes us to assume no one truly wants to be with us. So, be sure to bring a little extra dose of "obvious" if you want to spend more time with us.
Routine and Consistency Are Very Important
It's important to always do your best to be on time (early is better ) and not change plans at the last minute often. We do understand that everything will not always go exactly as planned, but it causes a lot of extra stress and anxiety when you can't stick to the plan as best as you can. If you say you want to go to an 8:00 movie, then plan on getting there at 7:30 instead of 7:59.
We Are Not as Robotic as You Think
Individuals at all levels of the spectrum are often assumed to be some sort of robotic geniuses. I blame Rain Man for that! Most of us are very intelligent and knowledgeable about our own personal interests.
For me, I have a wealth of knowledge about sports and pop culture. However, I know almost nothing about cars, construction, the arts, history, or architecture. I struggle to read the simplest of instructions and get totally confused by diagrams. You might build a computer desk in 30 minutes while it takes me a whole afternoon. Be patient and understand if your partner asks for help with something that you may feel is very simple.
Keep in mind that it works both ways. Maybe you struggle with math while your partner can breeze through a complex problem in a matter of seconds. Keep your expectations realistic and don't expect us to count toothpicks or know when The People's Court is on.
Meltdowns and Shutdowns May Show Up Unexpectedly
It doesn't always have to be something drastic that triggers one of our meltdowns/shutdowns. In fact, you may never experience it with your partner. However, they are a part of our life and something I personally always think about in the back of my mind.
Don't be shocked or overreact if your partner suddenly needs time to calm down. Instead, be understanding, patient, and respectful because we typically recover quickly from what I call my "blowup moments".
My most recent meltdown (and sadly this exact one has happened more than once) came as the result of the bags at a self-service checkout getting tangled up. I simply cannot understand why these bags cannot just function perfectly and open properly EVERY SINGLE TIME. I fought and fought until I gave up and tossed my stuff all over the floor and kicked a bottled water across the store.
Seconds later, I felt so humiliated and felt like everyone in the store was staring at me, although only a few people noticed and were smiling about it. The woman working nearby was very patient and fixed the bags for me. She even joked that it happens every day, but I knew she was just being nice. So, there is proof that we do indeed get jokes every now and then.
We Can Seem Insensitive in the Things We Say
You have to realize that your partner will sometimes say something that seems very insensitive or even a little rude to you. Speak up and let them know what they did and that it hurts your feelings.
Letting it go will let that bad behavior go unchecked and you will find yourself letting it build up inside and causing unnecessary animosity towards your partner. Letting them know how you are feeling will most likely be the best solution and prevent more of the same behavior. In fact, we will appreciate the feedback and be apologetic.
We Are Very Unique With Our Symptoms
There is an infinite combination of symptoms that people with Asperger's will possess. I attempted to discuss the most common ones, but there are many others that you will discover along your journey with your partner.
Some of my own include sensitivity to bright light, loud noises unless I am the one who chooses them (music, television, etc), low tolerance for labels turned to the side or boxes upside down, and people who respond irrationally to a given situation.
Final Words of Wisdom
Do not under any circumstances continue an unhappy relationship with someone out of a sense of pity or obligation. If the relationship is not working and it's because you cannot cope with your partner's symptoms (or any other reason, for that matter), end it just like you would any other relationship.
Best of luck and thanks for taking the time to learn a little more about what to expect!