Dating tips for People with Autism:
- Advice for Dating with Asperger’s (this can also apply to those on the spectrum): Don’t Call 100 Times a Week: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/08/08/338910290/advice-for-dating-with-aspergers-dont-call-100-times-a-week
- Connect Through Common Interests: Date people you get to know through common interests. Do not make dating the main objective, such as volunteer organizations. Get to know people while involved in the activities. Don’t shy away from social activities. Have a graceful escape plan if needed, but do go along.
- Build a Relationship Online, Then Meet Offline. But be aware that there can be predators and manipulative people online. Find tips on how to date online safely. Or, you may want to consider finding a pen pal, and getting to know each other through good old fashioned letter writing!
- Work on the Uncomfortable – “NT” Social Skills. Work on learning NT communication skills. Study people. Hang out at restaurants and bars and other public places and watch people interact. Read books, look up sites, or watch movies or TV on social interaction, posture, and body language. Ask questions.
- Learn How to Tell If the Other Person Is Interested.
- Learn How to Ask a Person on a Date. Better to do it in private.
- Rejection: If the person rejects you, just say “ok, that’s fine,” walk away, and forget about that person. Look for other fish in the sea (not literally!) Do NOT contact the person who rejected you and stalk them. You’ll be in a lot of hot water if you do.
- Take the initiative: Since people with autism have trouble reading body language and cues, they find it difficult to negotiate the complex art of social interaction. While in the professional field, this may have only limited impact, while engaging in personal relationships, this becomes a major handicap. This is the reason why people with autism are perceived as socially awkward and sometimes even rude. So if you wish to get to know your date better, you may have to take the initiative more than once. You will have to invite him/her to join you in activities and experiences which will bring you closer. The important thing for a person with autism is to cross the “threshold” of dating. So do whatever you can to get your partner started in dating or other relationship socialization. Once they cross the threshold, they can learn a good deal of social behavior and eventually improve their knowledge as well as handling of relationships. Don’t push them or they’ll stress out.
- Communicate carefully: When dating someone with autism, don’t expect him/her to have sophisticated communication skills. They are usually born with an inability to pick up behavioral cues, interpret them and then send their own response – a skill that non-disabled people learn naturally and easily but one which many individuals with autism take time to learn. So it is best you develop ways of communication which suit your relationship particularly. For instance. in the earlier stages while conversing with your date, stick to subjects he/she is deeply interested in. It will be easier for them to participate in a discussion based on their likes rather than merely making polite talk. Be prepared to listen to them talk to you about their “specialty subjects”. They may not realize that you are not interested without you telling them. Then again do not pressure them to have eye contact with you. It is extremely uncomfortable for most people on the autism spectrum to look at people in the face for extended periods of time, if at all. As the individual becomes more comfortable socially he/she may look at you in the face more, or they may not. Either way it’s usually best not to draw attention to it. Remember that just because they are not looking at your eyes does not mean they are not listening to you. Also avoid pointing out or criticizing unusual behaviors your partner may have such as hand gestures, knee-jerking and pacing. If you do this you will not only hurt the person’s feelings, but possibly destroy any chance of having any sort of relationship with them. On the other hand if you keep behaving normally, without drawing attention to the unusual things that they are doing, they will be more relaxed and more capable of modeling their behavior on yours.
- What to do on a date: When going out on a date with a person with autism, it is necessary to choose the venue carefully. If you wish to get to know each other better, head for a place where there are minimal distractions or sources of stress around the individual. Try to avoid flashing lights, annoying sounds, excessive crowds which may distract or stress out your partner. Better still, organize your date around an activity like mini-golfing or chess which provides structure and regularity. Avoid forcing him/her to be part of a group or going to a place where social activity like dancing is expected.
- Give him/her space: People with autism are often wrapped up in their own worlds, as a result of which they can seem withdrawn and even emotionally distant. Another important thing to remember is that people on the autism spectrum do not filter out things in the same way that most people do and thus it can be a lot to manage. So, if you can tell that your partner is getting more and more stressed or anxious as you talk to him/her, don’t force them to communicate with you immediately – just give them some space and maybe come back later. This does not mean that they do not like you, it just means that they have had enough for the day. If you stay on and keep talking, you can put them at risk of having a meltdown.
- Take it slow: Don’t try to push your relationship too quickly because this can cause a lot of stress. Take it slow and as far as possible be consistent so your partner can adapt. Physical intimacy may take time since many individuals with autism can have difficulty in expressing their emotions through physical gestures. In fact at the earlier stage of dating, avoid touching your partner without warning. Usually people with high functioning autism do not like to be touched unless they initiate it, like if they tap you on the shoulder. Of course one person differs from another and the general pace at which your relationship should move, will depend on your partner’s stage of social development.
- Overcoming Roadblocks To Getting Married: Keeping the promise of full inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities includes supporting individuals to date and get married. Having a job, going on vacation with friends, spending holidays with family, volunteering, playing on a local softball team or singing on a choir are great ways to experience friendship, love, accomplishment and feeling part of the larger community. But they are no substitute for an intimate relationship.
- Will Getting Married Change My Benefits?: Yes, if you or your partner receives SSI, your monthly check will be reduced if you get married. This is called the Marriage Penalty. As of 2013, the maximum federal SSI payment is $710.00 for a person each month. When two people with disabilities get married their benefits are combined and they receive one SSI payment each month. Their benefit check is reduced to $1,066.00. They roughly lose 25% or $354.00 of their income for getting married or living like they are married. The $354.00 penalty for falling in love and being together is a roadblock to marriage faced by many people with disabilities.
Free Marriage Advice from Aspergers Adults: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/spectrum-solutions/201405/free-marriage-advice-aspergers-adults
Lessons from an Asperger’s-NT marriage: http://musingsofanaspie.com/2012/10/22/lessons-from-an-aspergers-nt-marriage-part-1/
Husband’s POV on being married to an Aspie: http://aspiewriter.com/2012/08/i-married-aspie-husbands-perspective-on.html
An Adult with Autism Who is Married: http://offbeathome.com/adult-with-autism/
For more information, I recommend reading “The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband” by David Finch and “Alone Together: Making an Asperger Marriage Work” by Katrin Bentley.
The marriage advice can also apply to people with autism and their partners.
- Ending Relationships: Separation and Divorce: Some people with disabilities dream of getting married, but how do you know you’re with the right person? What do you do when you know that you’re with the wrong person? What are your options? What changes can you make in your situation?
Where do I Look for Information and Help?
An easy to use website, called The Modern Woman’s Divorce Guide, lists the following information for each state:
- State Laws on Divorce
- Child Support Guidelines and Enforcement
- Divorce Forms
- Domestic Violence Resources
- Free or Low Cost Legal Services Programs
- Mediation Centers and Services
- Lawyer Referral Service Links
Tips for Ending a Relationship:
Ending a relationship can be painful for both people involved. Here are some tips on how to end a relationship with someone and how to deal with pain and anger written by Katherine McLaughlin and Green Mountain Self-Advocates.
Ways to end a relationship…
- Make a clear decision about whether to end a relationship or not. Talk to friends and family about your decision. Be sure that you either don’t want to work things out or you can’t work things out.
- Know that you will probably be hurting someone else, but you would hurt them more by staying in a relationship that you don’t want to be in. You may also feel some sadness as well.
- Once you’ve made the decision, stick to it. Your partner may try to talk you into staying together. You may be feeling sad and this may make you feel weak and scared. Getting back together may take away this sadness, but the reasons for ending the relationship will not go away.
- It is important to be truthful, but kind, about why you are ending the relationship. Think about how you would want to be treated if someone was breaking up with you.
- Pick a good time and place. You should also do it somewhere safe in case the situation gets uncomfortable and you want to leave.
- Try not to blame yourself or your partner for the break up. It’s easy to want to blame someone, but relationships end for many reasons. You and your partner aren’t “bad.” It is normal for interests and needs to change.
When you are ending an abusive relationship…
If you are in an abusive relationship, it is important to remember that you do not deserve to be abused. There are many people who have ended abusive relationships, and though this might feel scary, it is probably safer than being in an abusive relationship.
The ideas above can be used in any relationship whether it is abusive or not, but in ending an abusive relationship here are some more tips to help keep you safe from your abuser.
- Tell someone that you can trust about the abuse and your plans to end the relationship. This person can be helpful, supportive, and have ideas about how to keep you safe.
- Call your local domestic violence and sexual assault group. Trained counselors can give you information and support and are also prepared to deal with emergency situations.
- Choose a safe place to end the relationship. It’s hard to know how your partner will react to the news, so expect the worst and make a plan. Pick a public place and consider having your friends and family close by.
- Use the legal system. If you are afraid of the violence, you may want to get a restraining order from a judge. A restraining order helps to keep your partner away from you. Your local domestic violence agency can help you decide whether you need a restraining order and how to get one. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE or 1-800-799-7233 or Text TELLNOW to 85944.
- Find a counselor that you can talk with. After being in and ending an abusive relationship, you will probably need to talk about your experience and your feelings.
What are Healthy Ways to Deal with Pain and Anger?
Pain and anger are normal and natural feelings to have when a relationship ends. While the feelings may be strong, they will decrease over time if you deal with them in a healthy way.
- Let your feelings out—have a good cry or two. It’s okay to yell and scream when you are alone to let your anger out. Some people try to do something physical like working out, playing a sport, or going for a long walk.
- Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well, get plenty of rest and do something special just for yourself.
- Keep your usual routine and stay busy on weekends. Filling up your day keeps your mind off what you have lost.
- Talk to people who will listen.
- You may want to get rid of pictures, letters, or other reminders of the relationship you lost.
- Think carefully before getting involved again right away. Sometimes after a break up, people start another relationship before they have dealt with the loss of the last one.
What are the “Don’ts” in Dealing with Pain and Anger?
- Don’t blame yourself. Relationships end because people change or their needs are not being met. You did not fail.
- Don’t make big decisions right away. Your thinking is not clear during this time and you need a clear head to make a good decision.
- Don’t drink or do other drugs to numb the pain. This may work for a while, but the pain won’t go away unless you deal with it.
- Don’t hurt yourself. Call your local suicide hotline or 1-800-273-TALK if you are having thoughts about ending your life.
- Don’t hurt others. It’s okay to feel angry, but it’s not okay to hurt someone because of it.
What are Some Other Resources?
- Couple Therapy and Support: A Positive Model for People with Intellectual Disabilities by J. Dale Munro, MSW, RSW, FAAIDD. 2007 NADD Bulletin Volume X Number 5 Article 1.In 2007, J. Dale Munro had completed 36 years of work as a couple and family therapist working with couples with intellectual disabilities. “The purpose of this paper is to review literature on the topic of marriage for people with intellectual disabilities and present an effective couple intervention model. In this article, “a couple” is defined as two people closely associated, bonded or paired with each other, at least one of whom functions in the mild or moderate range of intellectual disability. A couple can be a man and a woman—or a same-sex relationship – engaged, married, living together or in a committed love relationship.” The sections of the article include:
- Reviewing Marital Research
- The “Positive Support-Couple Therapy” Model
- Therapeutic Stance: Being Unconditionally Positive
- Four Alternative Roles for the Couple Therapist
- Assessing the Couple, the Extended family and the Service System
- Intervening with Couples, Extended Family and Service Systems
- To Parent or Not to Parent? That is the Question!
- Private Sessions: What Couple Therapists Need to Know!
- Case Illustration of the Intervention Model
- Asperger & Marriage: Therapy Recommendations for Marriages Impacted by Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Marchack, Ph.D. http://www.kmarshack.com/Asperger-and-Marriage.html and Divorce and Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Marchack, Ph.D.This book specifically addresses the touchy issues of sex, rage, divorce and shame and gives a glimpse of the “inner workings” of these relationships. It offers new ways to look at the situations presented, as well as tips on how to handle similar situations in one’s own life.
- Connecting with Your Asperger Partner: Negotiating the Maze of Intimacy by Louise Weston Drawing on her own experience of being married to a man with AS, Louise Weston shows that the road to intimacy begins with letting go of expectations and looking after your own physical and emotional needs. She provides tried-and-tested strategies for relating to and connecting with your AS partner, as well as useful tips for coping with hurtful words and meltdowns, helping your partner to interpret emotions, and finding further sources of help and support.
- Love, Sex and Long-Term Relationships: What People with Asperger Syndrome Really Really Want by Sarah Hendrickx.Many people on the autism spectrum have limited knowledge of how to establish or conduct sexual relationships: drawing on extensive research with people on the autism spectrum, the book openly explores the desires, needs and preferences of people with AS in their own words. Attitudes to issues such as gender, sexual identity and infidelity are included, as well as positive advice for developing relationships and exploring options and choices for sexual pleasure. This accessible book is an invaluable source of information and support for those with Asperger Syndrome and couples in which one or both partners has Asperger Syndrome, as well as counselors and health and social care professionals.
- The Asperger Couple’s Workbook: Practical Advice and Activities for Couples and Counselors by Maxine Aston. The book is a positive addition to Asperger Syndrome (AS)/Neurotypical (NT) relationship literature providing not only information, but also useful tools and strategies to deal with typical AS/NT issues.
Navigating Marriage w/Autism: