What Do I Need To Know About Dating Someone With Asperger’s?
By Sarah Fader
Updated July 29, 2019
Reviewer Rashonda Douthit , LCSW
Dating is a natural process for most people, but have you ever thought about all the non-verbal cues that go along with romantic relationships? One person notices something attractive about another. For example, a woman tossing her hair back or a man who is clean-shaven and impeccably dressed see each other for the first time. They exchange glances and smiles and move in the direction of the each with flirty eyes fixed upon a captivating target. Before you know it, they are enjoying a drink together at the bar and talking like old friends. Because of the social impairment that makes up Asperger's Syndrome, dating will look a little different. This is not to say that it can't be both enjoyable and mutually beneficial. As long as both parties are on board and the person without Asperger's is willing to learn more, a beautiful relationship can blossom.
What Is Asperger Syndrome?
First things first it is important to know what Asperger's Syndrome is and how it affects a person's day to day life.
Asperger's syndrome is on the autism spectrum, so both children and adults with Asperger's syndrome often experience challenges in communication and social interactions. They may also have other symptoms including repetitive speech, inability to pick up or respond to social cues, lack of eye contact, having one-sided conversations, obsessive tendencies or unusual mannerisms.
Although there are sometimes delays in motor development, people with Asperger's syndrome don't typically have delays in language or cognitive development. In fact, many people with Asperger's syndrome are highly intelligent.
Do People with Asperger Syndrome Have Romantic Feelings?
There seems to be a misconception that because of their social difficulties, those with Asperger's Syndrome do not enjoy or desire close, intimate relationships. Although every case is different, this is generally untrue. People with Asperger Syndrome have romantic feelings much like everyone else. They desire to show love and be loved. They want to be involved in lasting loving relationships, and they want to enjoy a romantic and intimate partnership with someone they can trust and grow with.
Get Educated About Asperger Syndrome
Becoming acquainted with a person who may be extremely smart but struggles in social settings is baffling for a lot of people. If you are interested in dating someone with Asperger's, it's important to educate yourself about the diagnosis. The certified therapists at BetterHelp.com are ready to answer all your questions, but you can also do a lot of the prep work on your own.
The behaviors associated with Asperger's are much easier to accept when you understand them within the context of the diagnosis. A successful romantic relationship with a person with Asperger Syndrome is possible; you just have to be well-knowledgeable. Here are some facts about Asperger's Syndrome that will help should you choose to move forward.
Dating Someone With Asperger's Means Playing By Different Rules
For neurotypical people, romantic relationships tend to proceed in a natural progression. But, a person with Asperger's may not pick up on their partner's body language or spoken language to know when the relationship is ripe to move to a deeper level of intimacy. A neurotypical person in a romantic relationship with someone with Asperger's may not realize that their partner hasn't picked up on what they know to be "normal" relationship stages. This could create a barrier to the relationship moving forward.
- Asperger's is common. The CDC currently rates autism prevalence as 1 out of 59.
- Asperger's doesn't only affect men. It's a well-known fact that autism is found more often in boys than girls, but doctors now think that girls are more likely to go undiagnosed.
- There are strengths associated with Asperger's. Those with Asperger's are usually intelligent, fair, funny, detail oriented, and have good memories. They like to connect over shared interests, so if you want to date someone with Asperger's syndrome, finding something you both have in common is a great place to start.
- They also have their weaknesses. Some common challenges include having sensory sensitives to loud noises, lights, and even smells. They can be overly emotional, have social anxiety, have a hard time asking for help, and struggle with understanding both verbal and non-verbal cues that others would quickly pick up on.
Communication Is Key In Romantic Relationships
The phrase "communication is key" might sound cliché but it is common for a reason. Communication or lack thereof can make or break a relationship. People in committed relationships where one or both people have Asperger syndrome need to learn to do the dance of romance a little differently.
Communication still plays a big part, but it's important to know that just as the person with Asperger's doesn't pick up on the neurotypical person's cues, the neurotypical person may not pick up on when they need to ask questions about why the person with Asperger's acts the way they do. Understanding how each person speaks and responds to intimacy is a two-way street. Words and actions that feel comfortable and pleasant for one person can completely be misinterpreted by the other.
Enjoying romance with a person with Asperger syndrome requires large doses of patience and understanding. If something seems confusing on either end, it's best to talk about it openly.
Here are four additional tips for dating someone with Asperger's Syndrome:
- Learn as much as possible about AS. Read books, look at online articles, join a support group. If you're serious about dating someone with this syndrome, you have to learn as much as possible so that you can understand him or her better. After all, knowledge is power.
- Realize that Things will be Atypical. Most of us put our best feet forward on dates. We say the right things, do the right things. But for someone with Asperger's directness and honesty can often come off as offensive or rude. Author Matthew Rosa, explains this in a detailed account of his dating history in an article about dating with Asperger's. In it, he describes commenting on mutual weight gain between him and a potential partner and not realizing that discussing her 'packing on the pounds' would come across as offensive or inappropriate.
- You'll Need to Be Direct and Consistent. It's important to share your wants and needs openly when dating someone with any form of autism. Do this either verbally or in writing and without emotion. Don't hint - they just won't get it. It's equally as important to remain consistent. Since your partner likely won't automatically understand the 'dos' and 'donts' of social situations, it is important that you outline your ideas of the way things should be in a dependable way.
- Brace Yourself for the Difficulties. All relationships come with challenges. Dating someone on the autism spectrum will be different from dating someone who isn't, but it is how you handle the hard times that matter. When she doesn't get your joke, try not to be offended. If he gets obsessed about a new hobby can you try to be supportive? These are the types of things that might come up along the way that you will need to prepare yourself for.
But above all else, remember this: a person's struggle, whether it be a neurological issue like Asperger's or some other flaw, is only a small part of who they. Try to see your potential partner for who he or she is as a whole. Drop the labels and stereotypes. Don't worry about what's typical or what isn't. Just be yourself and let your potential partner do the same. It's when you're able to do this that you can genuinely enjoy dating them without any pressure.