Dating is challenging for everyone, but for those with Asperger’s, the dating dance seems more like a series of spastic, rhythm-less movements. Matthew Rozsa, a successful journalist with Asperger’s described his personal experience eloquently: “If life in a society is a game (and make no mistake about it, it is), having Asperger’s forces you to play while learning two-thirds of the rules as you go along, even as everyone else knows them instinctively … and assumes you do too.”
Unlike their neurotypical (NT) counterparts, people with Asperger’s struggle to understand nuance or things that aren’t to be taken literally. Dating, especially, with all the flirting and mixed messages makes courtship exceptionally difficult. Though intensive, personalized coaching is the best way to improve dating success. Until you are ready to take that step, try these five dating tips for better dating experiences.
- Focus on the Signals
The best way to determine if someone is interested is to watch for signals. Before speaking, most people communicate through body language. Proximity, hand gestures, and eye contact are all ways of communicating without saying a word. Not all signals carry the same strength, so it’s crucial to differentiate weak signals, which could indicate friendship, from strong signals, which could indicate romantic interest.
Weak signals include: saying hello, making infrequent eye contact
Strong signals: touching, asking for your phone number, getting very close, asking you many personal questions
Think of weak signals as springboards for you to mine for more information. For example, if you notice a woman across the room, but she decides to order a cocktail next to you, she is offering a weak, yet positive signal. If you initiate conversation with this woman and notice that she is asking questions about you, the signal is getting stronger.
- Keep the First Date Shorter
To de-pressurize the first date, try selecting a single event or activity as the date. With a time limit on social interaction, you can relax and focus on learning about your date. As you’ll be maintaining constant one-on-one contact in a public place, you run the risk of sensory overload. This level of distraction can take you out of a comfortable mind frame and spoil budding romantic feelings. A time limit on the first few dates will help guide you through the more uncertain parts of the dating process. As your relationship grows, you’ll be better equipped to negotiate how much time to spend with each other.
- Consider Being Open About Your Condition
A lot of people wonder if they should be open about their autism when they are first dating someone. According to sexologist Amy Marsh, an authentic, straightforward approach is best. “The best thing a former partner said to me was, ‘I have a limited capacity for emotional engagement.’” If you feel that your partner is giving you strong signals—and you feel similarly—opening up about your condition might not only help her know what to expect, but also prevent her from taking some of the emotional challenges personally.
- Listen More than You Speak
If you have a tendency to talk a lot, you need to remember the purpose of the date: You are trying to learn about a new person. If you find yourself talking incessantly on one subject for a prolonged period of time, you aren’t creating an opportunity to learn about your date. Prepare a few questions that cannot be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and try your best to listen twice as much as you talk.
- Follow Up
If you aren’t sure about the signals you received during the date, and you’re interested in seeing your date again, you should certainly ask. If your date is unresponsive, she is probably not interested in seeing you again romantically. However; you can use this opportunity to learn more about her dating experience to improve. The best way to get answers is to create a safe space for her to be honest with you. You can leave her a voicemail or text and politely ask for feedback. After you make the request, you should not continue to contact her or ask her out on more dates.
Example: “Hi. I’m really happy you took the time to go out with me last week. I understand we might not be matched for dating, but I would really appreciate your feedback so I can improve. I think it’s really hard to read emotional cues and communicate about my feelings and any help you could give me would be immensely appreciated. Absolutely up to you and no pressure.”