When it comes to dating, finding someone with the same interests as you can be hard. Emma and Thomas are young adults on the spectrum living in Sydney. This Valentine's Day, they share their stories about the highs and lows of dating when you are on the autism spectrum, and the things they have learned along the way.
Thomas: “I’ve learned quite a bit about dating from friends over the years”.
Emma: “There are loads of ‘hidden curriculum’ issues about how often you need to text (i.e. don’t text every 5 minutes)… Thomas!!”
Thomas: “Also, I learned that there are certain things that might apply to one woman but do not apply to others or generally you don’t ask people out on a date first time you meet them - you have to spend some time together”.
Emma: “It’s a bit harder for us [on the spectrum] as we tend to integrate social rules as a one size fits all. If you can imagine the stress of meeting someone for a first date, it’s way more intense for us”
Thomas: “There’s a lot of pressure not wanting to screw things. This is where the dating game can be really tricky … Society has the depictions of what the perfect things are. Autism isn’t ‘attractive’. So I like to play off the eccentricities - people like people who are different.”
Emma: “But you have to learn where the fine line is and not go over the top”.
Thomas: “With my first girlfriend, I sat in really close & I wouldn’t stop bothering her - I tried way too hard to show we had things in common. At the end of the night when I asked her if she wanted a hug, she was half way to the train station before she said ‘no’!”
Emma: “I’ve been asked every stupid question [about autism and dating]. I think sometimes there is a component of people not believing my diagnosis [they think] you can talk so you can’t be autistic!” Someone once asked me ‘how do you have sex!!’.
Thomas: “We have sex with tentacles!! With all of this, I have learned about the ‘don’t worry’ principal”
Emma: “My biggest challenge in general was disclosure. I have come to the realisation that you tell on the first date - if they run away you’ve saved a waste of other dates (you probably didn’t want to be with them anyway)”
Thomas: “I try to say it so it doesn’t seem like a big issue. “So I’ve got autism, it’s OK”. I’ll make a joke to soften the blow”. “I have been in relationships where I have waited until I have screwed up before having to explain. Mostly though, when people ask me ‘what do you do…’ there is no way of avoiding it!”
Emma: “It’s so hard because it [autism] is invisible. So unless you’ve got someone who already knows what it involves then it inevitably involves having to explain things to someone”
Emma: “I say it very matter of factly “By the way… I have Asperger’s syndrome. If you don’t think this is going to be OK then I’ve had a really nice night and feel OK to leave. I know people who are not comfortable with their diagnosis and this makes talking about it in a relationship very difficult.”
Thomas: “Love is a battlefield!”
Emma: “In any relationships, without the communication people can get badly hurt - communication is so much more important for us. It needs to be clear direct and straight forward.”
Emma: “Other people have told me not to look for romance with shared interests - this is so important to us! If I dated someone who wasn’t into World of Warcraft we wouldn’t talk 90% of the time!”
Thomas: “I know! I didn’t go on a second date with a girl who said Star Wars was overrated!!! Aspies are really passionate”.
Emma: “Dating has so many positives too. Being in a relationship has enabled me to do so many things I might usually find impossible, it helps to put things in perspective, it also helps you feel like you fit in e.g. in group social situations. It also opens up your social circle - there is a snowball effect.”
Thomas: “I learn something new every time I am in a relationship”
Emma: “I do hate the misconception that I’m only supposed to date other Aspies - I don’t get on well romantically with other Aspies. On-line dating has been amazing for Aspies though.”
Thomas: “Ultimately you really have to be comfortable with who you are!”
Aspect are running a series of workshops in 207 around 'Relationships and sexuality for adults with autism.' For more info, contact us