Dating at the best of time is a complicated affair. But for people who are struggling with communication and social skills, it becomes an even more challenging task. The same is true for people with Asperger’s syndrome to the extent that their partners often feel frustrated and neglected in relationships. But if you know what to expect and go about it with awareness, dating someone with Asperger’s syndrome can be rewarding in its own way.
Know what it is
If you are thinking of dating someone with Asperger’s syndrome or have found that your partner has it, it will serve to know as much about the condition as you can. Asperger’s syndrome is one of the autistic spectrum disorders which can cause social, communication and emotional problems in an individual. Those suffering from this condition find it difficult to enter into social relationships, decipher non-verbal communication cues and take part in daily social living. The condition was named after Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician who, in 1944, studied children in his practice marked by lack of nonverbal communication skills, lack of empathy with their peers as well as a degree of physical clumsiness. However Asperger’s syndrome differs from other kinds of autism spectrum disorders on account of its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Thus while people affected Asperger’s are high-functioning and sometimes even high IQ type, they have problems with social interaction and communication. The more you find out about this condition, the easier it will be for you to understand how someone with Asperger’s syndrome views the world and consequently help you better to maintain a relationship with him/her.
Adjust your expectations accordingly
The first step in constructively dating someone with Asperger’s Syndrome is accepting who he/she is. You need to understand and come to terms with the fact that you will never share the kind of emotional intimacy and nuanced relationship with your partner that many other couples take for granted. Accept that you do not think alike which is why you are likely to misunderstand each other. Thus when he/she says or does something that seems hurtful, you can trust that it may not have been intended the way you thought, even if it seems very clear to you. Likewise, when you say/do something that they take offense at, you can trust that they are misunderstanding you honestly and not trying to be critical. Above all you need to accept the fact that you and your partner don’t experience life in the same way. The obstacles, interests, complaints, frustrations that someone with Asperger’s syndrome faces are likely to seem illogical to you and those around you. If you can imagine the situation as your partner walking on eggshells all day long and every day, maybe you can better understand why they move the way they do, talk the way they do, and make the decisions they do.
Learn to communicate
One of the defining traits of Asperger’s syndrome is that a person suffering from it has difficulty in reading non-verbal forms of communication and nuanced language. Thus if you are dating someone with Asperger’s, it is necessary for you to use specific kinds of communication techniques with him/her. When speaking to your partner keep your language clear and direct and avoid figures of speech. People with Asperger’s syndrome take language at face value which is why they are unable to fully comprehend sarcasm, humor and innuendo. Most important of all, they don’t know how to lie so be honest with your partner.
Then again, people with this condition struggle with social cues which is why they may seem to forget to reciprocate greetings and verbal expressions in a social context or even forget to answer when asked a question. Unfortunately this is often misinterpreted as rude or socially inappropriate behavior when the truth is that they are simply not keyed into deciphering social cues. So, if similar happens between you and your date or between him/her and your friends and family, gently remind your partner that you or someone would like a response.
Also people with Asperger’s syndrome have trouble figuring out non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and tone of voice. So if you are upset about anything, don’t expect your partner to understand “naturally” or read your mind. If it something minor, let it go but if it is a major issue, discuss it with your partner as calmly and rationally as you possibly can – fretting and fuming and expecting him/her to ask what is bugging you is not going to work in this case.
Technology-based means of communication is especially effective while bonding with an Aspie. Unlike a phone or face-to-face conversation which depend on non-verbal and social cues, texting and emailing are simple, matter-of-fact ways to communicate.
Take it easy
One of the reasons why a romantic relationship with your partner could be challenging is that he/she may not be open physical expressions of love and affection. It is common for people with Asperger’s to be oversensitive to stimuli like touch, even to the point of discomfort. Thus your date may not wish to be kissed or hugged or even touched at the initial stage of your relationship. Indeed forming intimate physical relationship is one of the main challenges that those with Asperger’s face in their adult lives. However with time and a deeper understanding you can trust your partner to allow you to come closer to him/her. So be prepared to give your relationship lots of time since those with Asperger’s don’t respond well to sudden changes in their lives. When dating, try to maintain a familiar sequence of activities so that your partner can find comfort and order. Whenever possible engage in activities of mutual interest which will go a long way in opening up your partner to you and helping him/her to trust you. Recent studies have found that the earlier notion that people with Asperger’s syndrome lack emotions is not true; if anything they have deeper and more complex feelings. It is only that they are unable to express it like others. So love your partner and tell him/her so often. Dropping hints and coy behavior in this case will get you nowhere. Be proactive by expressing to him your emotions and desires explicitly, even if it means stating the obvious.