Many people with Asperger’s crave acceptance and love through a romantic relationship, but few know how to actually go about finding and maintaining one. For years, I fit into this category. Growing up, I saw my classmates flirting and discovering young love, and I desperately wanted to experience that. But every time I decided to try and achieve happiness with another person, my determination would be replaced by paralyzing terror. I would freeze up and retreat, my entire body shaking violently as I sought refuge from my embarrassment.
These failed attempts continued until I hit age 19, when I charged recklessly into my first relationship. At first, it was bliss, filling me with a confidence I’d never felt before. The best part of it? She came to me and wanted to date. However, about a month into it, my hopes of maintaining a happy and stable relationship were dashed by a series of quarrels and arguments that ultimately severed the bond I had with this girl. I was devastated. I didn’t come out of my room for days. It seemed like I had landed right back to where I was before, in a state of unbearable loneliness and frustration that would forever consume me.
To help your child approach dating cautiously and appropriately, I’ve compiled a list of three keys to dating. These tips have helped me succeed not only in romantic relationships, but also in friendships with the opposite sex.
Love Yourself First
This is so vital. Before you can learn to love another person, you must get to a point where you love yourself. If you refuse to accept who you are, others will too. So, before even considering becoming involved with another person, it’s important that you reach a place of self acceptance. People seek positive energy and confidence when looking for a significant other, and both of those are absent when you despise yourself.
Examine everything that makes you who you are, and write down the top ten things you love the most about yourself. Then, every morning, repeat them OUT LOUD to yourself, even if you don’t believe them. If you aren’t comfortable with your physical appearance, just look in the mirror, lock eyes with your reflection, and say, “I am good looking.” Saying it out loud sends a positive message to your brain, a message that will eventually become a belief.
And think of it this way: Attraction is entirely subjective, so even if you do think you could be better looking, chances are good that there’ll be someone out there who will fall head over heels for you and think you’re the best looking thing on the planet.
I used to think I was some hideous ogre of a man, and would constantly tell myself how repulsive I was. Then, after years of sticking to this belief, I discovered that I was wasting my time. If my opinion of myself depends on how others think of me, then something is wrong.
Start with Friendship
Most healthy relationships begin as strong friendships founded on mutual interests, congruent moral values, and a mutual physical attraction. When fortune works in your favor and the most perfect person finds their way into your life, reach out as a friend and expect nothing more.
If something does come out of it and there is a spark, that’s great. If the boy/girl of your dreams is only interested in keeping the friendship platonic, you have to be okay with that. You have to be. Making moves where they aren’t wanted is almost guaranteed to ruin that relationship. So, unless your goal is making things permanently awkward between the two of you, I strongly suggest that you take baby steps, enjoy the person’s company, and have no expectations.
Take Interest in Them
Ok, so you’ve found the person of your dreams, the feelings are reciprocated, and you two have a date on Saturday. What do you do? Well, first, I’m going to stress what NOT to do in this situation. First of all, DO NOT ask for sex. That is the absolute worst thing you could do on a first date. I know you’re not interested in scaring this person off, so please, please, PLEASE don’t do it. That comes down the road, when the relationship is more serious and there is a stronger bond. Also, don’t make any creepy passes at your date. I don’t care if you want to play footsie with them or you think their hand might be soft. DON’T DO IT! It’s the only thing you could do on a first date that rivals asking for sex in severity.
Now we come to things you WANT to do on a first date. First and foremost, talk about their interests and take an interest in them. This proves to be difficult for those of us with Asperger’s, because we would like nothing more than to discuss the artistic merit of video games than ask someone how their day went. Our niches often impede our social progress, much to our dismay. But most of the time, that’s all we know how to talk about. In order to make a romantic relationship work, you MUST take an interest in the other person and what they like. The sun doesn’t rise and set when you do, and acting like it will just get you in deeper trouble.
Also, be interesting. You don’t want to sit there with your mouth hanging open and looking either hopelessly confused or incredibly bored. If the other person asks you what you like, respond appropriately, but monitor it. If you find yourself in the spotlight too long, redirect the conversation back to you. For example, if you’ve been talking about video games for twenty-five minutes, turn it back to your date and say, ” So, what do you do in your free time?” or “What are your hobbies?” It may not seem like much, but it actually goes a long way. Not only does the other person feel important, but they also warm up to you quickly and want to talk with you even more.