Dating and relationships in itself is quite a challenging thing for anyone. For myself and other autistic people, it takes the challenging nature of it to the next level.
Friendships for me, are quite straight forward. The intimacy and closeness that is typical, with even a very close friendship is still less intimate and close, than in a relationship. I feel in friendships lines and boundaries are more apparent and i can keep parts of myself private. Relationships require you to be more open with the more private areas of yourself – physically, mentally and emotionally. Of such, lines and boundaries found in friendships, either disappear or blur.
Many people on the spectrum faces large problems such as extortion and different types of abuse, because relationships and dating is so complex, we struggle between what is right and wrong. Ultimately, when this happens, we frquently end up victim of something negative and unhealthy with someone.
That’s not to mean it’s all doom and gloom for spectrumites when it comes to dating. There’s LOADS of us who are in fulfilling, commited relationships, embracing the single life, or happy with something ‘other’.
Sometimes we might try and emulate things we’ve seen in movies or on tv, as a way of learning some of the more complex social norms between people. The downside to this, is that what we see in movies and tv, isn’t accurate to what is expected in real life. So we sometimes face many disappointments or encounter many misunderstandings.
There are no real set rules to relationships and it seems to be the ‘norms’ are forever shifting and changing, making things more difficult for people like me.
The best thing to do is you are dating someone on the spectrum is to lay down your expectations, what you want and need from them, in the early stages. This gives us some guidance of what is expected of us. And encourage us to do the same, to respond with our expectations and what we want and need from you. This in some way goes against what normally happens in a relationship between people, as its normally conveyed sublities in conversations, subtext, reading between the lines and other non verbal communications that you guys seem to master, and i’m at a loss.
Laying it on the line, helps to cut out a lot of misunderstandings, which could other result in hurt feelings and confusion later on down the line.
Take to your spectrumite about relationships and dating, and the social norms with it, and see if theres clarity needed for them. This helps with building a bond and building trust, because you then become someone whom we can talk to about things we may not fully understand or know. And from the other side of things you get to learn a lot about the world from a different sort of eyes, which could provide different perspectives or views on things you’ve never given a second thought to before. We can be very interesting and entertaining in the way we think and view things.
As i mentioned before, many people on the spectrum will at one time or another experience a form or forms of abuse. We’re not always aware of what is right or wrong, and so rely on others to tell us what is right and wrong. If this trust is placed in the wrong person, we won’t know and big problems can occur.
If you suspect that an autistic friend or relation is in an abusive relationship, be aware they most likely won’t know. If approached about it, they may dismiss it and talk to their partner about it and believe their perspective more as they’re someone they also trust. If they are aware of it, it can still be difficult to get it to stop, as change is something we struggle to cope with, so may end up staying, just to avoid change. This won’t make sense to many i know, but from someone who has been in abusive relationships in the past, a lot of things don’t make sense.
Instead, talk to them about relationships, perhaps even about your own and what you and your partner are like and do together. This can help show them what it’s meant to be like. Obviously not exactly alike, but showing respect, love, kindness, acts of caring, affection, etc. And how these things manifest themselves – such as offering to take your partner to a job interview instead of them getting the bus, doing the washing up because they’ve cooked dinner, encouraging them to enter into a race they’re not sure they’d be able to complete, etc.
And then talk to them about what unhealthy relationships are like, and why someone shouldn’t be in one and what they can do to come out of one, and what happens afterwards.
This gives guidelines, but it’s still respecting us to make our own choices. Be wary, and if things look like they’re escerlating, then do speak to people of more authority, this could be health care providers, charities that deal with domestic abuse, and of course the police.
When you are dating someone who has a past of being abused, talk them about it, about what happened and how has it affected them. Be affectionate as they talk and show sympathy, as it is a difficult subject. Make sure it’s somewhere they’re comfortable and there’s no distractions around. Give them your full, undivided attention.
Ugh, i cannot stress this enough! Be consistent! Be consistent in your attention and affections. We will notice any differences, no matter how slight and we will highlight to you very bluntly. Don’t disregard it, but explore it. Have a proper discussion about it, and try not to be too defensive. We’re not out to start an argument, we’ve just noticed a change and don’t like it. It’s as simple as that. But because our minds are defaulted to being quite ‘negative’, we may go to negative reasoning of what these changes might mean.
Don’t leave unanswered calls or texts for hours on end, because that just causes anxiety and tension. Seriously, i start obsessively checking my phone every 5 minutes when this happens and these feelings can grow in intensity and it’s just…horrible. So please, please, don’t leave too much of a gap.
I’ve had to split this entry up into parts, because it is such a big subject and there’s lots of cover. Mainly because there is actually many resources out there about dating autistic people. And because it’s a very complex subject. Part 2, will cover break ups, dates, reassurances and some other bits and bobs. 🙂