Dating with autism

For most of us, spontaneity is a necessary component of romance and being in love. Not that you need it all the time, nor is it really feasible to be spontaneous constantly but we do love that giddy feeling when we lose our inhibitions and forget for a brief bit about making fools of ourselves. When we are consumed with overwhelming emotion which cause us to act in ways we would not normally. But what if love didn’t include any spontaneity? We would think that it meant it was passionless, or at least I would have, and then I read an article on “Dating on the Autism Spectrum” in The Atlantic.

While I hope that a majority of people already know that autism, as a spectrum disorder, comes in all forms, there is a generally assumed belief that those with autism tend to be practical and methodical without any of the emotional ups and downs that the rest of us have. However, recent studies show that they may actually have greater emotional capacities. “Studies have shown that people with autism can have feelings that are stronger and deeper than those without autism,” said John Elder Robison, an autism advocate. “Yet those feelings may be invisible to outsiders because we don’t show them. Because we don’t show them or the expected response, people make the wrong assumption about our depth of feeling about other people.”

Dating and romance tend to be particularly difficult for those with autism because they cannot read the social and gender cues that consitute so much of the dating game. They don’t understand the subtle undertones of flirting nor do they enjoy the chase.

I found the article intriguing because I think even those of us without autism often grapple with what our relationship should look like and what our roles should be. We all have this in common. Everyone, regardless of gender, religion, disability, has to at some point put up a wall between what that “normal” relationship is and what relationship they would like and what relationship they are in. There is no ideal partner. After 31 years of age, Paulette Penzvalto found freedom in her diagnosis not just because she now understood herself better but also because she was liberated from the pressures of having a “normal” relationship:

“The number one freedom I found in the diagnosis is I don’t need to really give into a partner’s idea of what a relationship should or needs to look like,” she said. “It’s really liberating to know I’ve been living my life a certain way, and it turns out that that’s okay”