Navigating the dating scene is challenging in itself, and dating someone with autism can be a new experience for you. However, it is no less great an experience than dating a regular person. Autism spectrum disorder is a neurological condition that affects a person’s perception, learning, and ability to socialize and communicate. A person with autism may have difficulty being articulate and indulge in repetitive behavioral patterns. Different people with this condition can manifest different symptoms, and the intensity may vary in each case (1).
If you plan to or are already dating someone with autism, this post might come in handy. Read on as we explore the various challenges and amazing aspects of dating someone with autism.
Is It Hard To Date Someone With Autism?
Dating someone with autism is different and challenging, but it can also be a fulfilling experience if you know how to get along. Before you start dating a person with autism, you should know that they may not be well-equipped to understand or decode certain basic things in life that a regular person can do. Communication is often perceived and processed differently by someone on the autism spectrum.
Romantic relationships can be confusing for a person on the spectrum. They want to be loved but are unsure how to achieve it (2). Also, they may fail to understand subtle romantic hints by their partner, which can be frustrating for both of them. Straightforward and candid communication is critical for the success of the relationship. They have their share of struggles and need a partner who can understand their style of communication, their behavioral quirks, preferences, annoyances and support them.
To make a relationship with a person on the spectrum work, you need to be extremely patient, emphatic, and understanding. You also have to be clear with what you want to communicate to them and not expect them to understand cues and hints on their own.
Dating Someone With Autism: 15 Things To Know
Dating someone with the autism spectrum may not be easy. That is why you need to know a few things before you start a relationship.
1. They are not emotionless
A person with autism finds it difficult to express their emotions and feelings clearly, and hence, is often perceived as being cold, uncaring, or even emotionless, which is not true. They are emotionally sensitive and sometimes experience emotions more strongly and deeply than neurotypical people (3). However, they cannot express the same easily as most people. You need to understand this and not wrongly assume them to be completely indifferent to your emotions.
2. They may not appreciate a physical touch
Sometimes, a person with autism can get extremely sensitive to touch and may feel enraged to even a slight brush of fingers, while some love to be hugged tightly (4). This varies for those on the spectrum. You need to discuss this clearly with your partner to understand how they like to be touched. If they are averse to being touched, find an alternative way to express your love for them.
3. They like to follow their routine
Individuals on the spectrum exhibit repetitive behavior and activities. It can cause a certain obsessiveness for their routine. Due to any reason, if they are unable to follow their routine, it can cause them a lot of anxiety, leading to tantrums (5). They might find impromptu dates or surprises stressful and not appreciate them. Ensure that you plan a date that fits in their routine and does not disturb it in any way.
4. They take their time to adjust
Since they are so accustomed to a routine, stability and familiarity are important to them. Changing their habits and adjusting to anything new may not be easy. In case you shift to a new house or start living together, the experience can be overwhelming for them. So, you need to introduce changes to them slowly and gradually. Give them time to adjust and ease into a new routine; do not rush into anything.
5. They cannot go on regular dates
Going to a bar sounds like a good idea for a date. But given their heightened sensory perceptions, going to the bar may be the most uncomfortable experience for someone on the spectrum. A person with autism can be sensitive to noise, smells, flashing lights, and crowds (6). If your partner is hypersensitive to sounds, plan your date according to their comfort level and preferences.
6. They seem to be a selfish talker
Topics of discussion with a partner with autism may often involve their subject of interest. When they have a hobby or interest they are passionate about, they can talk on and on about it. They will show hardly any interest in anything else. It might make them seem self-centered. You need to talk to them about it patiently, and with practice, they can become a better listener and learn to listen to what others have to say and understand their perspective.
7. They need you to support their interest
People on the spectrum can be highly passionate about their interests. Their interests and hobbies may be unusual for you, but those mean a lot to them. Support their interests. Try to see the world through their eyes. If possible, and if they are okay with it, join them. Let them spend some time indulging in or pursuing their interests. Do not mock anything dear to them as they may resent you for it.
8. They do not get sarcasm
Someone on the spectrum might not understand sarcasm. They can take every word literally. So, in case you get angry and ask not to talk, they might stop talking to you. Hence, you need to be careful about what you ask your partner to do and what you tell them because they will believe everything you say and even follow your instructions. The importance of being clear and direct can’t be emphasized enough.
9. They cannot be diplomatic
Ask your partner how you look in an outfit and be ready for an honest opinion. Someone with autism lacks tact, and they speak nothing but the blunt truth. They genuinely do not intend to hurt you. They tell what they feel is right. They are not deceptive in any way, which makes them trustworthy. However, you need to develop a thick skin if you want their opinion on anything.
10. They may seem unpredictable sometimes
Impulse control and emotional regulation can be a challenge for a person on the spectrum. Suppose you and your partner are watching a movie at home, and suddenly they switch off the movie because they spot a butterfly in the background and are afraid of butterflies. You have to be mindful of the triggers that disturb your partner. Even after taking care of the slip-ups, your partner throws a tantrum, be patient with them instead of reacting and getting frustrated.
11. They prefer your consistent behavior
Keep your communication consistent and predictable. When you tell your partner something, stick to it because when you keep changing your mind, it can overwhelm and confuse them and cause unnecessary frustration. For instance, if you tell them you want to eat a doughnut, and just when they are about to order the same, you change your mind, it could frustrate them.
12. They want you to be direct and honest
For those on the spectrum, relationships can sometimes cause anxiety. To avoid unnecessary stress for your partner, be direct and honest in your approach. They also want to make the relationship work as much as you do. They only need you to be explicit with what you want and communicate the same to them without hesitation.
13. They may not understand your unspoken words
You may be upset about something and may need your partner to comfort you. However, do not expect them to sense your low mood on their own. Some people on the spectrum are unable to identify and understand the feelings of others (7). It is not that they lack empathy. They cannot figure out social cues easily. So, next time they fail to comfort you, do not feel bad about it.
14. They do not mind your questions
No matter how long you have known your partner, there will be times when you will feel that you do not understand them. Instead of feeling frustrated, ask relevant and genuine questions to your partner. Ask them directly what they expect from you and do as they say. And when they ask you any questions, answer them honestly and seriously. Keep communication clear and open.
15. They need you to have their back
Not everyone understands the special needs of a person with autism. There will be instances when they might have difficulty in social situations and when interacting with people other than their family. In such situations, they will need you to help others understand them. You will have to act as an intermediary to resolve conflicts on their behalf.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How should people with autism flirt?
These are some tips for a person with autism to flirt in a comfortable manner (8):
- Be honest about your condition
- Smile often to show your interest in the other person
- Talk casually to the person you are interested in
- Don’t have a lot of expectations
- Move on if the other person is not interested in you
2. What is the benefit of dating someone with autism?
The benefit of dating someone with autism is their honesty and openness in the relationship (9).
If you have fallen for and are considering dating someone with autism, make sure to give the above points a good read to know what to expect. People with autism are different and perceive life differently. Hence their behavior, ways of expression, and overall style of living can be challenging to understand at first. But when you get to know the person, you can find a different meaning and view of life. So be patient, understanding, and take things slow. You may take the help of a professional to help make dating a person with autism easier and a happier experience.
Infographic: Things To Know About Dating Someone With Autism
Dating someone with autism can be a fun and loving experience if you know how to navigate it. You need to be more understanding in this relationship to help your date open up and be comfortable. So here are the essential things you must know and consider when dating someone with autism.
- If your partner is autistic, you must know that subtle romantic hints might confuse them.
- They may not like to be touched, so be patient and find other ways to express your love.
- You should be direct and honest with your words and behaviors while being with them.
- Autism Speaks;
What is Autism?
- Interactive Autism Network;
Romantic Relationships For Young Adults With Asperger’s Syndrome And High-Functioning Autism
- Asperger/Autism Network;
Asperger Profiles: Emotions and Empathy
- Spectrum News;
How ‘social touch’ shapes autism traits
- Applied Behavior Analysis Edu;
Why is Routine so Important to People with ASD?
- Raising Children; Sensory Sensitivities:
Autistic Children And Teenagers
- Altogether Autism;
A shift in perspective: empathy and autism
- Organization for Autism Research;
HOW DO I FLIRT?
- Adult Autism Center of Lifetime Learning;
Dating Someone With Autism
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Sadhvi Nishtha Om
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