Asperger and dating

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I remember feeling disgust and then curiosity the first time someone explained the concept of “dating leagues” to me, or being stunned to learn that a girl who invites you to a hotel room to "just chill for a night" might actually mean the opposite of that, or that one who keeps postponing seeing you again is blowing you off.

Others with AS have told me about similar stories, all linked by a common theme: We experience dating, as we do all other social rituals, as non-native bumblers, struggling to comprehend a culture of Byzantine complexity (in our eyes) and lacking the unassailable logic of being entirely direct, straightforward, verbalized, and emotionless (which is clearly reasonable… We also notice that …I recently had a conversation with a friend who commented that people with AS should "just use common sense" when navigating the dating scene.

Since people communicate through both verbal and nonverbal methods, those of us with AS are frequently at a disadvantage when attempting to socialize in our personal and professional lives.

After all, there are few places in society where social rules are as crucially important and deeply entrenched as in the sphere of courtship, and being mildly autistic — or having Asperger's Syndrome (AS), if you use the label as it was before the APA revised its diagnostic criteria — impairs your ability to comprehend nonverbal communication.

Love requires not only the ability to have "loving" feelings for someone else, but the ability to have those feelings reciprocated, create "chemistry" in a relationship and, ultimately, create a deep and mutual romantic bond. This isn’t to say that there is no hope if you have AS.

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Similarly, many of the practices that are generally regarded as "obvious" parts of dating feel like intimidatingly strange concepts to us, such as "flirting" and "bantering," creating an intangible "chemistry," or spacing out how often you call, text, e-mail, and/or suggest hanging out with a dating prospect.

Few pieces of advice are more frustrating to a mild autistic, since "common sense" in dating involves intuitively knowing the assumptions that others will make about you based on the cues you give off through what you say and do — which, of course, is precisely what AS causes you to miss.

Regardless of whether two people are meeting on a prearranged date or striking up conversation in a casual setting, each one’s emotional response is determined by the assumptions they make based on a multitude of factors, from body language, facial expression, and eye contact to manner of dress, choice of conversation topics, and tone of voice (the same principle applies to online dating, although the cues are different).

This isn’t to say that there is no hope if you have AS.

If there is one other commonality linking people with AS, including not only myself by many of the others who I talked to for this article, it is that — when you listen to constructive feedback and carefully study human nature, even using your outsider's perspective to your advantage — you will find rewarding sexual, emotional, and ultimately romantic relationships.

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