My boyfriend has Aspergers. We get along well most of the time; however, even though he is as smart as a college professor, he doesn’t get a lot of common sense things when it comes to romance and intimacy. Would you have any ideas on what I can do to help him in this area?
Social interaction is complicated for people with Aspergers (Aspies). Although they are thought to have high-functioning autism, they still have social problems (e.g., they don’t contribute as much socially; they have trouble understanding or interpreting nonverbal language; they tend not to share their emotions as frequently).
Interaction and emotional reciprocity are important in relationships, so it’s no wonder that it would be a challenge for an Aspie to be in a relationship. There are some things you will have to consider to help the relationship work. Here are a few tips:
1. Don’t assume he is uninterested, incapable of feeling love, or selfish just because he isn’t telling you he likes you or finds you attractive. Decide what you think of him and let him know. After he is aware of your attraction and becomes less confused about nonverbal gestures and flirtation, it will be easier for him to decide if he feels the same way.
2. Don’t be alarmed if he is confused by romantic gestures (e.g., hugging or kissing). Educate him by explaining what the gestures mean.
3. Don’t expect a relationship along normal lines. Whether you can get a suitable relationship going depends on a lot of things (e.g., patience, tolerance, clear thinking, knowledge, independence, strong self-confidence, adaptability).
4. Ease your Aspie man into large social situations (e.g., parties, group outings). Understand if he is overwhelmed or decides not to go with you, he might prefer being alone or with a smaller crowd.
5. If he has certain quirks (e.g., doesn’t like talking on the phone or sending emails), understand that it may be related to his disorder. Confront him about the issue if it bothers you, and explain why.
6. If your Aspie man talks in a confusing manner (e.g., talks in riddles or uses complex vocabulary, doesn’t answer your questions directly), ask him for more clarification.
7. Learn about Aspergers and how Aspies are different interpersonally.
8. Learn what his interests are, and try to engage in activities focusing on those interests. Go on a few dates where social interaction isn’t necessarily the focus.
9. Remember not to use riddles, jokes or sarcasm in the same way you would with someone who doesn’t have Aspergers (if you do, ask if he understood, and then explain what you meant – otherwise, he might be hurt by what you said or just be confused).
10. Romance can be puzzling to an Aspie man, but you will probably see improvement after explaining the meaning behind it, why it’s necessary, and that it makes you feel good.
11. Tell him how you are feeling, especially if you are angry, and why. He probably does not understand your emotions and why you are reacting a certain way.
12. Understand that some Aspies can be brutally honest (e.g., One young lady asked her Aspie man, “Does this dress make my butt look big?” ...and he replied, “No more than usual”).
Living With An Aspergers Partner: Help for Couples