Autism & Relationships: How Autism Impacts On Dating

Autism Spectrum Disorder Autistic Aspergers Valentines Dating Relationships Disability


So Valentines Day, there's no escaping it, even if you don't actively partake in it there's hearts, flowers and declarations of love everywhere you go. I thought about all the posts I could write, the gift guides, the 'how to's' and the 'top ten romantic...' which are all great ideas but they felt a little dishonest, how can I talk about those things when I haven't acknowledged the thing Valentines Day is mostly about, relationships, or more specifically romantic relationships. Having Aspergers effects all aspects of every relationship I have but today I've decided to open up about how having Aspergers effects dating.

Let's start at the beginning, actually meeting a person. Whilst social situations do terrify me it is the unpredictable nature of the social environment that causes me the most anxiety. Take a Bar for example, there's the sensory input of people talking, the music playing and people moving around. I am hyper aware of my surroundings and often seem distracted during conversations because I am trying to process the information from the environment in order to make it predictable. I'm like a meerkat on a mound, perfectly poised and looking for danger.  

In terms of a conversation, I struggle immensely to concentrate on more than one thing and so trying to a maintain a conversation in a bar is like trying to hear a pin drop in the midst of a brass band. I simply cannot follow it. Once passed the initial exchanging of phone numbers the conversation becomes easier because it is almost always done by text.

Going on a face to face date is difficult as they also tend to be in environments that I find overwhelming though dates usually happen at a less busy time so the environment is less stimulating. It helps if I choose the venue so I can go somewhere I know well and is therefore more predictable. I still struggle to follow conversations as I'm focusing a lot on what's happening around me. One boyfriend (affectionately) compared me to chewbacca because I just responded with a 'mmmm' sound and a head nod. Another believed that I just wasn't interested in him but in reality I was being hyper vigilant and trying to manage my anxiety. 

In some ways having Aspergers has helped me. I don't tend to worry about what people think of me, I wear what I want regardless of fashion, I speak my mind and often come across as confident. I find it easier to explain that I have Aspergers early on as it is such a huge part of my life and it seems unfair to conceal it. I am fortunate in that I can explain Aspergers quite well to people and I am not afraid of people asking questions and wanting to know more. Some people are intimidated and scared off and that is their choice, it's not something I can change. In most cases though I've found that by being honest it prompts the other person to be honest too. There's less of a 'best first impression' vibe and more of a genuine conversation. 

Going on a date is very draining. I get what I call a 'social hangover' and this applies to every social event, not just dates. Being in an unpredictable environment is very difficult for me, I spend the full amount of time in a state of heightened anxiety, my muscles ache, my head hurts and I feel a fatigue that is unaffected by sleep. When I am engaged in conversation I just speak, I pay little attention to what I am saying as I speak from the heart. Afterwards I evaluate what I've said and go through it looking for times I've been 'autistic', the times I've said something socially inappropriate or I've missed the point. I torture myself for a long while after each conversation I have.  It takes several days of no social contact and staying in my 'safe' place (home) to recover. 

It's hard making connections when you have Aspergers but dates have the potential to become friends or relationships and there are people out there that have been worth every second of anxiety- there are also people that haven't. I don't enjoy social situations but I do enjoy having love and laughter in my life so for me the social hangover is a price worth paying.  

There is so much more I have to say on how autism affects relationships, not just romantic relationships but relationships with my family, friends and my daughter. Aspergers is part of every relationship that  I have and I hope that in the coming weeks I can share more about my life with Aspergers as I genuinely believe that every story I share takes us one step closer to better understanding and less stigma.

 Thanks For Reading 

Katrina Fox UK based parenting blogger. Writing about Coeliac / celiac disease, Aspergers Syndrome and Autism, Pregnancy, Parenting and both Childrens and Adults Books

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6 comments:

  1. This is really interesting Katrina! I had never even considered all of these points. Hopefully by choosing certain date locations over others it will be better? As you say, anything that raises awareness and understanding is good. Thank you for sharing #KCACOLS

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  2. Dating is hard but if you have social anxiety it is incredibly hard. As you say choosing the venue makes a big difference. #KCACOLS

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  3. Thank you for sharing, this was really interesting to read. Thank you for linking up to #KCACOLS

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  4. Such an interesting post - thank you for sharing. #KCACOLS

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  5. My step daughter lives with Aspergers, she is a super smart young woman however, she can't explain in words how life is for her socially. She has many physical reactions to certain social situations such as sweating profusley and pacing in circles. This post is super helpful for many people who may not understand what their family member, friend or partner experience in their daily lives xx Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS

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  6. Thanks for sharing your story. It's really important to make people aware who just might not know how things are affecting you x #KCACOLS

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Thank you for supporting me on my journey to raise awareness about mothers on the autistic spectrum. We do exist, we just need people to know we do!

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