Dating and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Most individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) desire intimate romantic relationships just like anyone else. Dating can be difficult for anyone, including neurotypicals. However, it can be challenging for those with ASD to navigate intimate relationships.
Who do you date?
Many people with ASD prefer to date others on the spectrum. A significant reason is that people with autism express and process emotion differently than neurotypicals. Consequently, they may feel more comfortable being with people who can relate to and empathize with them.
There is a misconception that people with ASD only want to date others on the spectrum. Relationships are formed through a mutual connection and not mutual diagnoses. There is no reason to limit yourself to only dating others with ASD unless it is your preference.
How do you meet people?
Meeting a potential partner can happen anywhere. You may meet someone from your everyday activities and places that you frequently visit. It can take some stepping outside of your comfort zone. Consider joining a club or social group. Chances are, there is a group for any type of interest you may have. Think of what you enjoy doing. Some examples can include reading books, playing a sport, trying new restaurants, singing karaoke or playing games.
Look for a local group in your area. Google is an excellent place to start. There are many online communities on Facebook as well. Meetup is another great place to find social groups.
There are many online dating apps and websites available to meet people. The most popular ones include Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and OkCupid.
Additionally, several dating platforms specifically connect individuals with ASD together.
Remember to exercise caution when meeting new people, especially those you’ve connected with online. Always meet in a public place and let someone know where you will be. When appropriate, consider having someone drop you off and pick you up.
COVID-19 has made it even more challenging to meet new people, go on dates, and socialize with others. It is still completely possible. Many groups are meeting online virtually. If you meet someone who piqued your interest, consider planning a virtual date. In some ways, this can be beneficial as you can be comfortable and have some control over your environment.
Do I tell a potential partner that I have ASD?
Some individuals with ASD choose to disclose their diagnosis on their profiles. There are two reasons someone may do so.
It can increase the chances of connecting with another person on the spectrum.
It can filter out those that are ignorant or insensitive towards those with ASD.
Remember that it is entirely up to you on how or when you choose to disclose. It is whenever you feel comfortable.
How do you prepare for a date?
Before you go on your date, there are a few things you should consider. Do you have any sensory sensitivities? What are they? What are some signs of sensory overload? What is your plan if you need to take a break? How will you communicate this with the other person?
It may be helpful to have a few topics brainstormed that you can talk about with your date. Be mindful of finding a balance in the dialogue between talking and listening. You want to be able to share things about yourself. At the same, time you want to ask questions and show interest in your date.
What if I need some help?
Dating can be nerve-wracking for anybody. You are not alone. It’s not always easy to pick up on social cues, know if someone is interested in you, or know how to let someone know that you are interested in them.
Ask for help when you need it. Friends and family are a great place to start when looking for some support. You could try role-playing dating scenarios with them, ask questions and talk about what you're looking forward to and what you’re worried about when it comes to dating.
If you want additional support, consider connecting with a therapist with experience working with individuals with ASD. They can address your specific needs and concerns. They can help you build particular skills that allow you to be more comfortable with dating.
Lastly, remember just to be yourself and have fun! Do not put too much pressure on yourself. There are many challenges when it comes to dating. It can be difficult finding someone to meet up with, and sometimes you may be interested in individuals who do not feel the same way as you do. You may go on dates but do not feel a connection or chemistry. That’s completely okay!. All you can do is put yourself out there when you feel ready and hope for the best!