Aspergers Adults and Fulfilling Relationships

Question

I’m a 23-year-old male with Aspergers. I would like to date, but am having great difficulty in finding a girlfriend. I can even see myself getting married someday if I find someone I’m compatible with. Any suggestions?

Answer

Some adults with Aspergers (high functioning autism) are married or in long-term relationships. Some are not. Often times, it is only when Aspergers parents have kids that they recognize their own Aspergers traits. Also, Aspergers adults tend to have “alternative lifestyles” in statistically greater numbers than the general population. Some Aspergers adults do not feel particularly attached to their sexuality (i.e., they don’t identify with a particular sex or seek relationships with a particular sex). Other Aspergers adults simply avoid pursuing relationships (other than friendships). "Aspies" should not feel pressured to act outside of what they are comfortable with when it comes to developing relationships with others.

Relationship difficulties are not something unique to those with Aspergers. Non-Aspergers individuals (i.e., neurotypicals) have their own share of relationship difficulties. All relationships have stages. The stages in a relationship are:
  1. coming together
  2. staying together
  3. moving apart

Coming together is a 6-step process:
  1. initiating contact
  2. discovery of common interests
  3. intensifying your interest and involvement
  4. integrating this person into your life’s activities
  5. bonding or committing to the relationship (usually leading to marriage if the interest in the relationship is sexual)

Staying together is a long-term situation that requires effort from both partners to keep the relationship going. There are nine characteristics that long-term relationships often have, none of which are always present to the same degree:
  1. amusement (i.e., making the relationship fun and enjoyable)
  2. affection (i.e., pleasure in being together)
  3. commitment equity (i.e., equal dedication to the relationship)
  4. fidelity equity (i.e., faithfulness to each other)
  5. contracting (i.e., fulfilling any agreements made to each other)
  6. a “two-some” mentality (i.e., relying on each other as partners)
  7. recognition (i.e., publicly making others aware of your commitment to each other)
  8. frankness (i.e., revealing your inner self to each other)
  9. averaging (i.e., good and bad times should average out)

It is possible for a relationship to come apart at almost any stage. Under normal conditions, relationships come apart in five steps:
  1. differentiating (i.e., disagreements and differences become the focus of attention)
  2. circumscribing (i.e., talk diminishes with less revealing of self and fewer commitments to each other)
  3. stagnation (i.e., relationship loses its life and partners move apart physically)
  4. avoiding (i.e., partners stop seeing each other)
  5. termination (i.e., the relationship ends)

Communication and attitude are always thought of as a key to successful relationships. This is where the differences in how Aspies and non-Aspies perceive similar experiences can cause problems in relationships. Non-Aspies tend to value the following attitudes in a relationship:
  1. achieving an understanding and appreciation of each other
  2. being able to discuss conflicts, expectations, and anxieties that bother each other
  3. being committed
  4. being empathic
  5. being honest and open about ones feelings
  6. having a desire for the relationship to continue
  7. listening non-judgmentally
  8. make compromises when problems occur
  9. seeing the world through the other person’s perspective
  10. sharing responsibilities
  11. talking “together” rather that “at” one another
  12. trying to understand the other person in the way they perceive themselves

It is a common (but false) perception on the part of many people without Aspergers that Aspies lack these abilities. It is extremely difficult for anyone – with or without Aspergers – to understand and perceive what one has never experienced. Because of differences in the way that our brains process and respond to experiences, non-Aspies have just as much difficulty understanding and appreciating the Aspie’s perspective as the Aspie has understanding and appreciating the non-Aspie’s perspective. That doesn’t mean that both sides can’t learn to respect those differences and even understand them somewhat on an intellectual level. Communication becomes the most important factor in helping each other to understand and appreciate these differences.

People without Aspergers learn about and experience social interactions on a non-thinking level. To articulate how and what they know or feel on a thinking level is not something they often need to do – or know how to do – with other “normal” people. They simply “understand” because they tend to perceive these experiences in a similar fashion. Conversely, people with Aspergers tend to process a lot of input on an intellectual level because it is harder for them to pick up multiple pieces of information and process them quickly on a non-thinking level.

(An interesting side note: Even though the mental effort of verbal communication can be very stressful for people with Aspergers, they are the ones who are expected to “explain” their differences to non-Aspies since non-Aspies see themselves as “normal” and therefore consider themselves easy to understand.)

Nonetheless, both Aspies and non-Aspies can develop meaningful and fulfilling relationships with one another. It requires that both parties have a strong desire to make the relationship work and to work hard at communicating their different perspectives. Both parties should have a willingness to communicate in a non-judgmental way, which is essential to the understanding of, and an increased appreciation for, the differences that will exist between the two parties. All relationships, to be successful in the long-term, require a commitment to compromise and sharing, but having Aspergers does not lessen the chances of having such a relationship if this is truly what the Aspie wants.



COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… 32, aspy, and divorced. Now floundering in the dating scene again. It's hard. Especially after a nearly 10 year relationship. I guess the hardest part is making myself available again, but being in a new town and not knowing anyone adds another level of difficulty to something that is already hard for me. 
•    Anonymous said… Dont give up hope! Its not an easy journey, but when you find the person willing to share it with you, its worth the wait. Just be patient!
•    Anonymous said… I know it sounds absurd but there IS a girl out there who will think your quirks are adorable and be anxious to deal with them in a way that will make you feel like a million bucks! Just do NOT be in a hurry. It took 44 years to find mine.
•    Anonymous said… It helps if you can find someone who shares your "special interest." Whatever it is that you're super into, try to find someone else into it too. The bond over the shared interest will help smooth out the other areas of the relationship that will likely be bumpy.
•    Anonymous said… Just be yourself. I'm not dating yet because I am concentrating on school. Still, there are a lot of people who complement me for my kindness and smart ideas. They have said that I'd make any woman happy because of how I am as a human being.
•    Anonymous said… My aspi son is now 28. He has been with the same girl for 8 years. They now have a beautiful baby girl. I am a 60 yr old female aspi, not diagnosed till recently. 3 marriages and X boyfriends later. My advice would be to forget the end goal and enjoy the journey. Expect nothing and then everything becomes a happy bonus. I am back dating again and am much more relaxed about it. X

Post your comment below…

4 comments:

  1. You wouldn't be the first aspie to marry many have managed to overcome difficulty and be happy in long fulfilling relationships. You just need someone considerate and understanding. There are many siblings of aspies who understand the issues and accept them and indeed already love someone "aspergerish" ... Its all about meeting the right people and i'm sorry I can't offer any advice on where what or how to do that ... But they're a very knowledgeable bunch on here they know everything! Good luck and never give up hope ♥

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  2. My son is almost 23 and Aspie- college student, and feels that way at times also !

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  3. My husband is an Aspie. I love him for being kind, supportive and loving me for who I am. I am the only "girl" he has ever kissed or dated. For us, the key was wanting to not play games and finding a best friend. Aspies tend to not play dating games and value honesty. Find a friend with the same interests and you will fall in love. Then they will have the patience they need when you mess up emotions.

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  4. Just be yourself. The "right one" will love you for who you are. Stop looking and she'll find you. Best of luck ♥

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