I was talking to a friend last night and he compared dating to a foreign country where he didn’t understand the customs. I’ve been thinking a lot about how being on the spectrum has impacted my confidence when it comes to dating, especially as I’m re-entering the online dating sphere after a year of being in a relationship. I’ve never understood the point of “playing games” when it comes to dating. Flirting always seemed like a chess game where the rules kept changing and there was no end in sight. I remember in high school; I had a crush on a boy for YEARS, I spent so much time trying to figure out if he liked me as a friend or something more. Nothing ever came of that crush because we were both too nervous to say anything. Looking back, I’m positive he liked me too. I’m sure he just didn’t know what to do with those emotions, which I feel is a common emotion for young adults. I had the added layer of feeling like an outsider because of my ASD which contributed to the internal strife I was already experiencing.
I want to spend a few posts discussing how to make dating more manageable for those of us who are on the spectrum. I’d like to focus on everything from prepping for a first date to gauging the interest of the other party, having the define the relationship talk, physical intimacy, and conflict resolution. Whenever I try to have conversations regarding these topics with my friends on the spectrum, I’m given looks of utter terror and discomfort. I think this must be because dating feels inaccessible. I’m hoping that since I’m going through this process, I can bring y’all along for the ride and make it seem less scary.
I’m not going to lie; online dating is hit or miss a lot of the time. I’ve had men insult my education decisions, send unsolicited photos, and just make creepy comments. I also have had some exciting conversations that have led to engaging in-person encounters. I haven’t gone on an actual date since I got back into the dating game, but I do have one on Monday. I’ve been talking to this person we can call Ken for about two weeks. I’ve found that talking over the phone and or via video chat before a date can help alleviate nerves. This all depends on whether you’re comfortable sharing your phone number with a stranger. We‘d tried making the voice call through the app and it didn’t work, so we had to do it the old-fashioned way. We‘ve got some of the first date snoozefest over with. I’ve always felt like first dates are like job interviews. So many questions aren’t very interesting and have to be asked. What’s your favorite color? What do you do for work? Are you looking for a long-term relationship? Do you have any siblings? You might as well hit me upside the head with a frying pan if this is the content of the conversation. Not every guy wants to have in-depth conversations before a first date, but if they’re willing to chat a bit, it goes a long way.
When it comes to prepping for the first date, there are two areas I want to speak about. The first is selecting the location. If you’re planning the date, don’t pick a place that’s super loud, overcrowded, and hard time focus when you’re overwhelmed sensory-wise and, on a date, want to focus on the person and the conversation. Getting coffee, going to a brewery, walking at the park, having a picnic, etc are all less stressful options for me than a loud restaurant. If you’re not the one planning the date, be sure to communicate your preferences to the person arranging the date. It’s okay to advocate for your needs.
The last part of this post is about how to dress for a first date. Do not wear uncomfortable clothing! You will be distracted the whole time by your outfit and not feel confident. Pick something you look good in and are comfortable with. Also, keep in mind the location and context of the date. If you’re going to a fancy restaurant, that will require different attire than a picnic. I hope this advice has been helpful. Wishing everyone joy and peace.
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