Dating someone with high-functioning autism can be a wonderful and fulfilling experience, but it also has some downsides.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), including Asperger’s Syndrome, is an umbrella term used to define a group of disorders characterized by difficulties in the areas of social interaction and communication, as well as repetitive or restricted patterns of behavior. These symptoms must cause significant impairment at home, school, work and in other important areas before they might be diagnosed as ASD. The many different forms that ASD takes mean that dating someone who’s living with it can present challenges you might not expect.
How ASD Can Affect Your Relationship:
People who live with high-functioning autism often have difficulty using nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, tone of voice or body language. They may have difficulty reciprocating emotionally in some social situations or with certain individuals which can lead to misunderstandings. People who live with ASD are often very literal speakers, so they might say things that seem rude or insensitive if they don’t realize how their words will be interpreted by others. They may not pick up on subtle hints, like joking comments or sarcasm. All of this makes dating someone whose ASD is high-functioning a very different experience than dating someone who doesn’t struggle with these problems. Expectations and feelings you take for granted may need to be discussed ahead of time; otherwise your date might not grasp what you’re trying to communicate.
People living with ASD may also have difficulty with empathy, or understanding how another person might be feeling. This can lead to problems in relationships when one partner expects the other to be more emotionally supportive than they’re capable of being.
Difficulty with communication is one of the hallmark symptoms of ASD. People who live with high-functioning autism may have trouble starting and maintaining conversations, keeping up with a conversation once it’s started or taking turns speaking. They may also have trouble understanding sarcasm, idiomatic expressions or jokes. All of this can lead to misunderstandings, frustration and even conflict in a relationship.
Dating someone with high-functioning autism isn’t impossible, but it does require some patience and understanding from both partners. It can be rewarding to get to know someone who struggles with the same challenges you’ve encountered in your own life, but it also tests both your empathy and patience.
Understanding each other’s autism can lead to a closer bond between partners. According to the website Autism Speaks , understanding your partner’s condition can help you build “mutual respect, greater intimacy, deeper compassion and increased acceptance of one another.” This applies whether your date is high-functioning or not.
People living with ASD may also feel more comfortable dating people they already know are willing to understand them for who they are. If you’re someone who would like to date someone with ASD, consider yourself warned: You will need to be patient when communicating with your partner. Don’t expect them to read your mind, and ask them if they don’t understand something instead of giving up or guessing.
Having a romantic relationship with someone who lives with ASD can be an immensely rewarding experience. It’s also a completely different one from what you might expect, so take some time to prepare yourself for the challenges ahead.