The rate of autism diagnosis has double in the past few years; research shows that 1 in every 50 people is diagnosed with autism. Early diagnosis helps with early intervention. But a delay in diagnosis means a delay in intervention and a significant absence of guidance.
Being on the spectrum makes typical everyday tasks a challenge. Autistic individuals may have a hard time comprehending social cues, understanding differences in opinion and perspectives. The spectrum on which autism lies is a vast one, including individuals that cannot communicate at all – making romantic relationships impossible while other that function like any other person with a slight difference.
Dating is a challenge for many. There's no right formula one can learn and apply to ensure a successful and healthy relationship. It's even more challenging for a person who's diagnosed with autism. The hurdles autistics have to face and overcome cannot be compared to the average dating lifestyle. Mostly when help is rendered for the young, and there's little to no aid or guidance is given to young adults.
However, where there are ups, there are also downs. Overcoming challenges is what makes relationships worth fighting for and continuing. Everyone deserves to feel the emotions of being in love; you'd be surprised to find out the most common Googled question by high-functioning neurodivergent is "Can an autistic person fall in love?" the short answer is yes, and we'll tell you how.
Understanding Dating on the Spectrum
Emotions work differently for people on the spectrum. Autistic individuals can feel every emotion maybe 10x better than any typical person would. It's a common misconception that autistic individuals cannot fall in love. Researches have proven that autistic people are some of the most empathetic and loving people around.
Sure, a neurodivergent will have trouble showing emotions; it doesn't mean they're incapable of feeling them. The common reason for arguments between autistic and neurotypical partners is the lack of display of emotions. Unlike most people, autistic individuals don't see love as a fleeting emotion that's bound to come and go. It's more logical and everlasting.
Additionally, there are some instances where the difference in opinion between neurodivergent and neurotypical couples seems absurd. For example, while any regular person would assume a bar to be a great date spot, an autistic person would be 100% against the idea. Skinship and physical touch is the epitome of peak intimacy and expression of love in a relationship, but all these seem like a task that's well beyond acceptable for an autistic person.
This is accounted for by the fact that some neurodivergent cannot handle visual pressure, including noises and visual images all around because of sensory overload. Even non-sexual contact is something you'd have to consider carefully.
Autism Dating Tips
Researches have proven time and time again that autistic individuals feel emotions more deeply and intensely than any neurotypical would. It's not the absence of the emotion of love that stops them from being expressive, rather the inability to express the overwhelming feeling of love.
Don't get frustrated if an autistic individual doesn't flirt back or notice your cues, where it might seem natural and coy method of interaction to you. It's utterly nonsensical to them. Here are some tips to get you started on your dating journey on the spectrum.
1. Hunt down good date spots
As mentioned earlier, your typical date spots won't work out for your neurodivergent partner. You'll have to get creative and wear their shoes when deciding on the perfect date spot. Follow the rule of thumb: ditch any noisy, loud, crowded, and overly stimulating date spots.
2. Choose your touch wisely
You'd never think you'd have to think twice about the first kiss after the perfect date, but hold on, you really need to when dating someone on the spectrum. Where a tender, soft touch is appealing to many and taken as a sign of love, the opposite is applicable for people with autism.
Neurodivergent don't find typical touch pleasurable. They need firm pressure; note that firm doesn't equate to aggressive. Where a tender moment of lips touching while kissing may be typical to you, it would merely translate as smashing faces together for an autistic person.
3. Don't expect extravagant gesture of love
People with ASD feel every emotion a regular person would, sometimes in greater intensity. However, be ready to experience a lack of expressiveness from your partner. Don't take it as a sign of disinterest; they simply cannot reciprocate what they feel for you. But trust us, they feel 10x the emotions you have towards them.
4. Expect the unexpected – brutal honesty
People with autism are very honest about their opinions. Where you'd expect your partner to say you look lovely in an unflattering dress, an autistic individual will downright tell you how ugly the dress looks. Remember, their words are not said to harm or offend you. It's part of being on the spectrum and a fact you'll have to come to terms with.
Their brutally honest remarks aren't limited to pointing out dislike of your haircut or the unflattering look of your dress; it also applies to giving compliments. You'll never have a hard time deciphering the meaning behind your neurodivergent partner's words.
5. Throw sarcasm out the window
People with autism simply cannot comprehend things that make no sense logically. And if you're going to pass a sarcastic, snarky comment, be ready for your partner to accept it as accurate to its meaning. Our advice, throw the sarcasm out the window: it won't do you any good.
Also, keep your wording as simple as possible, don't say the sun is burning your skin; they'll take it literally as your skin burning rather than an expression describing how hot you feel.
6. Don't undermine their feelings
It's easy to overlook certain remarks you make as nothing more than a few words coming out of your mouth. But an autistic person simply can't let go of something you said which you considered "insignificant".
If your partner is fixated on discussing something too trivial, take the time to sit down and hear them out, you'd appreciate the level of concern and understanding they show and the importance they give to your words. Be patient and accepting of this impulsive behavior.
7. Don't rush things
Autistic individuals need time to adjust a new task into their routine. This also means making time for yourself and adjusting yourself to their lifestyle. It might seem like you aren't dating them for a good few months because their brains are rewiring to add another important person into its functioning.
Be mindful and don't push for extreme changes; people with autism don't respond well to being forced to accept a situation which they wouldn't have otherwise. Hence when you decide to make date plans, plan it well ahead of time so they can adjust and accept it with open arms and make sure you keep your promise of being regular. Every second of their routine is accounted for.
8. They aren't self-centered
If you've been dating or have dated a person with autism, you'd have noticed their intense love for activities they're into. Often, they'll cut your conversation short of talking about something they love. It isn't them being inconsiderate but just how their brain works.
People of the spectrum may go as far as to tell you how boring and dull your interests are and begin their discussion. This thought process pertains to the processing that everyone around them has the same interests as them, and if they don't, they should.
9. Be open, direct, and honest
If you want to get the point across when dating an autistic person, be direct about it, you can't push and pull, giving "signs" hoping they'd notice. How can you expect an autistic person to realize your cues when a regular person has a hard time deciphering them? Communication will play the most significant role in the success of your relationship.
Also, there are certain norms you'd expect them to know but be ready to teach them even the most basic. They are honest about their feelings even in situations where it might hurt the other party; it'll be your job to help them navigate their social situation. Above all, you'll require being patient and compromising.
Things to Know About When Dating an Autistic Person
Nobody can be ready for what's it like to date a person on the spectrum. You'd be surprised to hear your partner looking for another autistic individual to date but ending up with you as a miracle. Most autistic individuals aren't looking to date neurotypical as there are far more obstacles that need to be overcome.
Having a similar view and perception of things will help ease the transition of dating an autistic person and forming a life-long relationship with them. Here are few things you should be aware of before diving into dating an autistic individual:
1. Sensory issues
Autistic individuals are very sensitive to noise and flashing lights. Again, often it triggers the worse in them, causing them to through fits of rage. When planning to meet an autistic person, choose a place with few visual and auditory stimuli.
Don't take physical touch for granted. Many autistic individuals will be hesitant to initiate any form of touch initially; however, don't take it as a cue of them never expecting physical intimacy. Always as you permission and discuss what type of touch they're most comfortable with.
3. Show interest in their interests
As mentioned earlier, an autistic person will go on for hours talking about the thing they love. This intense and deep interest is coined the term love fixation. Be patient and join in on their conversation and continue the small talk. It's an excellent way of building your relationship's strength and a sign that shows you're interested in them.
Also, don't discuss sensitive topics that are bound to cause conflicts, such as political talks or talks on religion and race