It should come as no surprise to anyone when I say that I’m currently single. I have already mentioned my struggles with socialization and making connections with other individuals multiple times throughout my blog. To summarize my problems: I don’t feel comfortable hanging out in large groups of people; I have significant trouble having fluent conversations with people without talking too much; I’m unfamiliar with many social cues and rules that most others follow; and I find it difficult to stay in touch with people after I meet them so that we continue to know each other after meeting. In other words, I lack several skills that are often crucial to forming any kind of good relationship with someone, let alone a romantic one.
In fact, that I’ve been in almost zero intimate relationships so far – I think I’ve only had one woman so far that I can consider a “girlfriend”. I do, however, reach out to women online every now and then via services such as OkCupid and Tinder, and I have been on a couple of dates (some of them online). Despite how socially isolated I still am, I’m on the search for potential partners, though I try to be as careful as I can not to jump into relationships that probably won’t work. Hopefully it won’t be too long before a find a woman that seems compatible with my personality and is willing to put up with me as an Aspie.
With all that said, I would like to take a moment to discuss a bit of my history with girls and affections for them, specifically as a kid and teenager. While it was difficult for me to socialize or communicate with any of my peers during those years, girls were particularly challenging and I made relatively few connections with them in school. Even as a young child, trying to interact with females that were my age commonly made me uneasy, sometimes to the point where I would avoid as much as I could. To make things more problematic, I often developed crushes on girls that I became acquainted with, secretly hoping that they may eventually become my girlfriend. I was quintessentially an embodiment of the lonely nerd stereotype you often see on television (think Ugly Betty or “Screech” from Saved by the Bell).
I made every attempt I could to hide my affections and pretend I had no interest in those girls whatsoever. Unfortunately, I don’t think I was very good at hiding these feelings. At school, I would sometimes stare or awkwardly glance at girls that I found attractive or was acquainted with. Yeah, I know, I was a bit of a creep back then, and thinking about it today makes me cringe so hard. Furthermore, there were a couple of instances where I was so nervous and unaware of what I was doing that I ended up unwittingly revealing my affections for them. When this happened, I usually scared them away and they would not want to talk to me afterwards. I’m honestly fortunate that I had any female acquaintances and friends to speak of during my elementary school years.
There are two girls in particular that usually come to mind whenever I think about how poor I was at having social connections with females around my age. Note: I’ve changed the actual names of these girls for obvious reasons.
The first girl was called Jessie. I knew her from middle school and I always found her to be extremely cute. At one point I had the fortune of being semi-friends with her, though we didn’t hang out together or chat with each other all that much. To be honest, it might be a stretch to call her a friend given how little time I actually spent with her. If nothing else, we were good acquaintances, she was very friendly to me, and I developed a huge crush on her. The problem was that I was far too insecure to tell her that I liked her, let alone ask her on a date or something. So instead, whenever Jessie was in the same class as me, I habitually glanced over at her every couple of minutes, occasionally staring at her a little. This naturally made her feel uncomfortable, so she asked me several times, as nicely as she could, to not do that. I did my best to comply with her request, though I still couldn’t help but look at her every now and then. Eventually we stopped being close acquaintances, mainly due to me not voting for a friend of Jessie’s for class president, and I learned to stop eyeing her during class. Although I never got to hook up with Jessie or even become good friends with her, our “relationship” at least faded without any drama or humiliation on my part.
The same can’t be said about the second girl, unfortunately. Her name was Lily and I got to know her as a sophomore in high school. I actually didn’t notice her for a while until she started saying hi to me about every day and generally acted incredibly kind and cordial towards me. Of course, I began to develop strong affections for her and this time I was confident enough to attempt asking her out on a date. She (sort of) said yes, and we ended up seeing a movie at her place, which is where I found out that Lily was already in a relationship with someone. I was immensely jealous, though I attempted to hide it as much as I could from her and continued to hang out with her as friend afterwards. I seriously wish I could’ve allowed things to stay like this and accept the fact that she was already in a relationship, but back then I was far too impulsive and irrational to listen to my better judgment. You see, at the time, I was regularly exposed to romance in the media and had several male friends who had girlfriends, causing my feelings toward her to intensify to a point of desperation. This led to probably one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in my life so far, which was writing a letter that confessed my feelings for her. I’d rather not go into detail about what happened after I gave her the letter, but needless to say it caused our friendship to immediately cease and she didn’t speak to me anymore. While this outcome did bring me considerable sadness and embarrassment, I like to think that I learned an important lesson from this ordeal about relationships, non-reciprocal affections, and how not to handle being friend-zoned.
There are several other similar experiences with girls from my elementary, middle, and high school that I could point to, but for now I’ll spare you those stories for the sake of keeping this post as short as I can (given how long it already is). Anyhow, I’m happy to say that as I matured through high school and college, I became substantially better at talking with females, forming casual connections with them, and accepting when my feelings toward a girl are not mutual. This hasn’t fixed my problems with socializing and connecting with others nor has it made me any more appealing as a person to women. However I personally consider it progress that I no longer hide from females to avoid embarrassment or act like a complete jerk when one talks to me.
Going back to the subject of dating and romance in general, I think it’s safe to assume that I’m not the only Aspie who experiences difficulty with the subject. Given how Asperger Syndrome, or any ASD, generally involves some obstacles to social communication and interpersonal connections, it makes sense that intimate relationships can be particularly challenging for Aspies. I have seen plenty of people with Asperger’s share their past and present struggles with dating and relationships; this YouTube video is an excellent example. Moreover, I’ve read several online posts that explain why people with Asperger Syndrome can have trouble finding romantic partners. There’s an article from the Good Men Project website that, in my opinion, almost flawlessly explains the issue. This quote here probably sums it better than anyone else ever could: “For better or worse, thee is a music to dating, and while people with AS [Asperger Syndrome] can understand the verses (and often have a distinctly straightforward way of expressing ourselves that can be refreshing), we struggle with the pitch, rhythm, dynamics, timbre, and texture. The end result is emotional tone deafness.”
I do not wish to infer that most people with Asperger’s or ASD are incapable of dating or finding a suitable partner. There is no shortage of success stories throughout the globe of Aspies forming very loving, happy relationships with other individuals. Additionally, there are countless useful resources for people with Asperger Syndrome looking to improve their dating game (just Google “dating advice for people with aspergers” and you should probably find something that helps).
Sadly this does not change the fact that a considerable percentage of adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders are either unmarried or single compared to the rest of the population (See this link for reference). This isn’t simply because people with Asperger’s have difficulty socializing in general and connecting with people intimately. There are several factors about how many Aspies function, myself include, that can make them seem “unappealing” or “problematic” to many potential partners. This is only strengthened by stories of people who have been in relationships with Aspies and have reported being mentally overwhelmed and stressed out as a result. Whether or not most of these individuals gave their Aspie partners a fair chance, I can’t honestly say.
What is clear from all of this is that getting involved in the dating scene and discovering someone who can truly embrace and love us for who we are as Aspies can be a long, difficult road. There are some individuals, unfortunately, who won’t be able to acquire that special someone and live much of their lives on their own. In my opinion, this road can be worth traveling if it means possibly getting together with someone who can help make me feel complete as person as well as serve as a supportive and sympathetic companion for the other challenges that I will face in life. Although the odds might be somewhat against me, I am willing to at least continue giving it a shot and hold onto the hope that there maybe, just maybe, exists a woman that I share a great deal in common with and will be more than able to accept my awkward and strange ways. I mean, it’s possible that won’t happen at all and I will be single and lonely for most of my life. I don’t think it’ll hurt for me to at least try seeking love.