All relationships have their difficulties and require efforts to succeed. Being in a relationship with someone who has Asperger’s syndrome is no different. Obstacles will exist as in any relationship, and the more efforts you make to understand your partner, the more successful you can be in maintaining a healthy and satisfying relationship with them.
If you are dating someone with Asperger’s, you don’t have to be frightened. Although Asperger’s syndrome was recognized as a high functioning form of Autism Spectrum Disorder, you need to remember your partner can be anywhere along that spectrum.
Familiarizing yourself with Asperger’s syndrome can be helpful, as long as you combine it with familiarizing yourself with the person in front of you just the way you would when dating someone new. Your partner is your best compass for being happy even while dating someone with Asperger’s, so rely on them more than the research.
What is Asperger’s syndrome?
Asperger’s syndrome was named after an Austrian pediatrician who was posthumously credited for identifying the syndrome.
Moving the diagnosis to ‘autism spectrum disorder’ is helpful as the ‘spectrum’ part emphasizes the lack of precise science and the need to approach each person individually.
No two people who have the symptoms will have the same manifestations, as is true with any mental health diagnosis.
Signs and symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome
Being in a relationship with someone who has Asperger’s means being especially cautious about not seeing anyone as a mental health label. They can show signs of Asperger’s, but they have their own personality.
Familiarizing with symptoms can be helpful in dating someone with Asperger’s. The knowledge you acquire can provide you a bigger picture and useful questions to run by your partner.
Symptoms of Asperger’s vary from person to person, but three main signs include difficulty with:
Let’s take a closer look. Further, Asperger’s symptoms involve:
An unconventional way of oral expression
Their communication may be more factual than usual. For example, they may head straight to the point of what they are trying to say instead of telling a wider story.
Little to no eye contact
Their natural inclination to establish eye contact simply differs, and they feel more comfortable with less or no eye contact.
Lessened non-verbal articulations
Facial expressions, gesticulations, and body language can be of lower volume.
Different understanding of social manners
What comes to many as “normal social norms” may not be as intuitive to people with Asperger’s. They are not being rude; they simply have a varied understanding of social rules.
Passionate (to obsessive) focus on a topic
Topics of interest may entangle them so much that they leave no room for interaction in a conversation. It may appear rude, but they are simply passionate about a hobby, their rare collection, or a famous person of interest.
A love for routines
People with Asperger’s syndrome need routine and structure as it helps them remain organized, avoid confusion and chaos.
Difficulty understanding feelings
People with Asperger’s can find emotions confusing and overwhelming. Talking about emotions and describing them doesn’t come as easy. That doesn’t mean they are cold, unkind, or lack empathy.
Positive characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome
On the other hand, some of the interesting qualities that their partners generally appreciate in them are as follows:
A deep sense of loyalty and dependability
Strong need for order and accuracy
Kind, attentive, and socially or emotionally immature
Their conversation has no hidden meanings or agendas
Extraordinary ability to focus on small details rather than the big picture
8 Tips for loving someone with Asperger’s syndrome
We all need to be loved in a way that is individual to us. Therefore, loving someone with Asperger’s means simply accepting and loving them in their unique way.
Use your knowledge of symptoms and Asperger’s dating tips only as inspirations.
Dating someone with Aspergers invites you to do the same as you would for anyone else you truly love – get to understand their unique love map so you can be there for them the way they need.
1. Ask instead of assuming
This is true for any relationship and is a key to reaching a true understanding. No one is a bigger expert about themselves than that person.
Therefore, if you notice you are making assumptions based on the fact that they have Asperger’s, stop yourself and reach out to your partner. Inquire about the reasons for their actions, and they can tell you.
2. Be specific and clear in communicating your needs
Dating someone with mild Asperger’s requires you to place more importance on how clearly you communicate your needs. What may come as intuitive to you might not be easy for them to perceive.
People with Asperger’s can best comprehend direct communication. So, try to be as clear and straightforward as possible when it comes to what you need.
3. Describe and explain your actions
Hugging, kissing, and other flirting signals are self-explanatory to most adults. Reading gestures and body language doesn’t come as easy to people with Asperger’s.
Therefore, be kind and try to explain everything you do so they would catch the nuances of social situations with more ease. The more you share the reasons behind your verbal and non-verbal cues, the better they will become in deciphering them.
4. Do not take their actions (or lack of it) as a sign
Things that other people would do (or not do) that are potential red flags do not always apply when dating someone with Aspergers.
For example, a lack of physical affection might not be an intentional hurtful decision they are making. They might not understand the importance of it for you. As their partner, try to elaborate on your perspective and needs so they can be there for you more.
5. Be patient in mastering the unique style of communicating
Communication is key to the happiness and longevity of relationships. Aspergers and dating problems can often be most evident through miscommunication.
Still, learning to build a bridge between two different communication styles is not only typical for Asperger syndrome dating. This is true for all relationships. Focus on finding what works for you two.
Does a break help to process things? Does written communication get the message across more easily?
You might find that your non-verbal signals are not conveying the message, and you need to adjust your approach. Be patient and work together on this.
6. Accept instead of trying to fix them
When dating someone with Asperger’s, make sure not to fall into the trap of offering solutions they don’t need for them to ‘be better.’ It is easy to assume that they would like to be different, but that might not be true.
Instead, ask them what changes they would like to see and how you can support them.
Avoid dating someone with Asperger’s if you are going to try and fix them.
Imagine how that will make them feel. Also, that kind of approach will get in the way of any conflict resolution as you will be focusing on making them “better” instead of resolving the situation.
7. Be mindful of and honor your own needs
If you wish to have a lasting relationship, you need to make sure both of you have your needs recognized and met. It might be that you need to ask for some things more directly and help them learn how to show their affection and support for you.
It might also mean expanding your social network and including some people who are dealing with similar challenges.
8. Consider counseling
What you are experiencing in dating a man or woman with Asperger’s might not be the first time you felt that way. Feeling not seen or heard enough might be a familiar feeling. A therapist can help you understand your choices better and work through the issues you are facing.
Couples counseling can be helpful, as well. A psychologist can aid you in improving the way you communicate, cope with stress, and connect. There might be blind spots keeping you in a vicious circle that you can break with professional help.
How you can improve your emotional connection?
People process emotions differently. The more difference there is, the more important communication becomes if you are to feel heard and appreciated. The same is true for Asperger’s and relationships.
A person with Asperger’s in love can have a more difficult time understanding and identifying emotions and knowing how to support you.
Their affection can be there, but not the expression you might want to see. When it comes to dating someone with Asperger’s, you most likely need to provide more direct clues as to what makes you feel connected and validated.
There are some exercises you can use if you are dating someone with Asperger’s to improve your intimacy. Make sure to customize any exercise or ideas and share it with your partner in a respectful way.
1. Reframing your partner’s behavior
This exercise is helpful for anyone, including people dating someone with Asperger’s.
It invites you to embrace your partner’s perspective and learn where they are coming from. Knowing their reasoning better doesn’t mean you have to agree with them or stop being upset immediately. It means that you can start to build a mutual understanding so you can resolve the situation.
Here are the steps to the exercise:
Take a piece of paper and create four columns:
In the first column, define the behavior that made you upset. Describe it as neutrally as possible.
In the second, write how you interpreted the behavior. What did it mean for you?
In the third, assume their perspective and make an effort to guess what they would say why they did what they did.
In the fourth, write down what they actually tell you were their reason. This means you have to ask and be open to hear what they share
2. Write it all down
Improving emotional connection is a continuous task. Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. One of the exercises that can be helpful and used repeatedly is writing down your needs.
Both partners are to take a piece of paper and write down what they think they need to feel more connected to their partner.
Next, you are to write down what you do that increases the chances of accomplishing this goal.
Third, write down what you would like to have your partner do so you feel more connected and intimate.
When you are done writing, talk about what is on the lists. Put them in separate boxes. Each partner can try out some of the behaviors the other would like them to do. Be patient and keep coming back to this exercise if possible weekly.
The video webinar below explains the problems experienced in Aspergian relationships and the solutions with Asperger’s therapist Alina Kislenko.
She explains how Aspies in relationships can be the most loving, loyal, helpful, creative, and resilient partners and how you can move such a relationship from helplessly confused to head-over-heels in love.
Dating someone with Asperger’s can present an additional challenge in the relationship, but you can learn how to understand each other and connect.
Although they might exhibit more or fewer signs of autistic Asperger’s syndrome, approach them as a person, not a diagnosis. The most important Asperger’s relationship advice is to abandon categories and get to know the person in front of you.
Put away your judgment and accept them for who they are. If you are not able to do so, be honest. If Asperger’s dating is not for you, that is alright. Just be straight about it with them and yourself.
In the end, we don’t decide who we love. If you decide to stay, have in mind that loving someone with Aspergers means being willing to pay attention to the way your partner demonstrates affection. Don’t limit the boundaries of what affection is only to what you are looking for.
Your partner might be able to work on overcoming some of the barriers and show love and support the way you need it, but you need to be ready for it. That’s true for all relationships, including Asperger’s dating.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Milica Markovic has graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy with a degree in Clinical Psychology. She has 7 years (and counting) of Psychotherapy and Coaching education (both Transactional Analysis and Psychology of Personal Constructs) and experience in working with clients. Throughout her career, she has had remote clients around the world facing various personal, academic, or professional challenges.
She finds her primary duty is to establish a trusting environment in which clients can feel safe enough to discuss anything that might be troubling them and grow closer to their goals. She believes that whether you are experiencing a personal, relationship related, or professional challenge, the journey to surpassing it can be made easier with the right help by your side.
Milica is also a strong advocate of lifelong learning and continuous improvement.