Many of my young adults tell me they are ready for love. They are actively seeking dating partners, want to be in a committed relationship, and tell me they have studied how to be a good partner. The stumbling blocks to finding a suitable dating partner are generally the same for folks with ASD as the general population: managing anxiety, managing expectations, using courage to start the process, and finding someone. It appears that the process of finding a suitable mate is far harder for folks on the spectrum for a variety of reasons:
- Anxiety – it appears that folks with ASD have higher levels of anxiety than the general population. As such, managing the anxiety and angst of embarking on new friendships can feel overwhelming. But if you can make new friends, you can consider dating!
- Courage – my clients have frequently been exposed to rejection in relationships. They often struggle with low self-esteem, a poor sense of self-worth, and often fail to identify what makes them unique and fantastic. The level of courage required for my clients to date is higher than what is required of the general population.
- Lack of practice – my clients generally are late to the dating party. Autism is a developmental delay, which sometimes means that the person is ready for a first dating experience later than their peer group. As such, sometimes my clients have dating skills that are mismatched with their more experienced peers. Happily, a patient dating partner can overcome that hurdle!
- Finding someone – my clients tend to have small social networks, and sometimes put more of their efforts into online relationships rather than in person relationships. Those online relationships are great for developing friendship skills, but can be international in reach, which can make in person dating a challenge.
Despite these hurdles, my clients generally remain motivated to date, and often research at length how to achieve their goals. Next post, the benefits of dating someone on the spectrum.