“Asperger’s syndrome is a mild form of autism that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to understand others. People with Asperger’s syndrome are generally socially awkward; they often avoid eye contact and have a tendency to monologue about their particular interests instead of sharing conversations with others.”
– Kent Miller, Match.com
It’s certainly not easy to date someone with Asperger’s. In fact, if anything, the realization of how closely alike they are to people without Asperger’s makes the few but glaring differences all the more difficult to overcome.
I won’t pretend to be an expert on Asperger’s, but suffice it to say that I have dated someone who has it. To this day, she’s still one of my dearest friends, and one of the sweetest persons you will ever meet in your life. And like anyone else, aspies, as they are fondly referred to, certainly are capable and deserving of love and affection, even romance.
For the sake of her privacy, let’s call her Princess. Because that’s what she is, as far as I’m concerned.
Just as men and women are different, just as a guy who likes sports and a geek who likes comics are different, aspies and people without Asperger’s (often referred to as neurotypical, or NT for short) are different. These differences manifest themselves in different ways, but the key thing to understand is that aspies are not necessarily disabled or impaired, and can function quite well in society, regardless of difficulties.
I Remember When… Princess graduated from college earlier this year, and is taking her second major. She’s very intelligent and very few people actually realize she’s even different, and often just consider her “quirky” because of the way she dresses and the fact that she’s a cosplayer. It’s the lack of awareness that she’s different that causes friction for her with NTs who just don’t understand why she does what she does.
Because it defies easy-to-follow logic, aspies don’t really understand the big idea of romance—but then, who does? This doesn’t mean they can never be sweet or romantic, though. It just means they have to understand what is sweet and romantic, and why it is, through patient explanation and reasoning. This sometimes leads to strange but amusing results.
I Remember When.. .When Princess and I broke up, there was no drama involved. We went back to being friends right away, and little changed between us. Seven months later, I got into a new relationship, and I told her about it. Because of how she came to understand the concept of jealousy, here’s how our dialogue turned out…
Me: I have a new girlfriend now, Princess.
Her: What? You’re cheating on me!
Me: Uhhh, Princess? We broke up seven months ago.
Her: Oh, right! Okay! ^______^
There was no lingering anger or jealousy once she realized there was no logical reason to be jealous. She just dropped it right away.
I think this speaks for itself, but to elaborate, innuendo, the kind that’s not necessarily sexual, doesn’t go well with them because they take your words only at face value. This goes double for sarcasm.
I Remember When… I once told Princess that it’s sweet when she would feed me (read: subuan), and she immediately took to it like a horse to water. When I got full, she refused to stop feeding me, and she got so annoyed she poked me pretty hard with the fork and I started bleeding. Her friends were horrified, but she indignantly looked at me and said, “Your fault. You didn’t open your mouth.”
I would have gotten mad if I didn’t realize that yes, it was my fault. I didn’t make it clear enough that the gesture stops being sweet when the person you are feeding no longer wants to eat.
Aspies tend to have certain interests that they hyperfocus on. Some aspies end up being classified as geniuses because of this, but it also means that this kind of hyperfocus comes at the expense of a lot of other things. That includes your relationship. An aspie who hyperfocuses can and will neglect you, even if they do care about you. This doesn’t mean they don’t love you enough: it is what it is. Their affection for you and their ability to hyperfocus tend to be mutually exclusive.
I Remember When… As a cosplayer, Princess will often be oblivious to everyone and everything else while she imbibes her character. This makes people feel that she’s suplada when in reality, it’s how she achieves amazing results with her cosplay, to begin with. I learned pretty early on to not take it against her when she completely ignores me during a convention.
An aspie tends to have a lot of personality quirks that leads them to feel that relationships are futile. These numerous difficulties make them generally pessimistic about their prospects in a romantic relationship, and given their logical but very linear mindset, a breakup is of no great consequence to them, so it’s easy for them to move on. If you’re not ready to work with them through this, don’t expect the relationship to last very long.
I Remember When… Except for our Facebook status, Princess and I still treat each other exactly the same way we did when we were in a relationship. It’s good in that there is no drama or bitterness after the breakup, but it’s bad in that I, being an NT, tend to forget that we’re no longer together sometimes.
Because surprises tend to defy logical progressions, aspies hate them. If you think you’re going to do something so sweet and romantic for the aspie you’re dating, and it involves a surprise, think again.
I Remember When… When Princess celebrated her birthday a few years ago, I tried to make it a bit special by having 21 of our friends greet her, since that was how old she was at the time. Our friends happily obliged, as they texted her throughout the day. When I called her later that day, she complained about the fact that a lot of people have her number now. My bad : (
Aspies hate being patronized. They can manage just fine without us reminding them that they’re different. It’s especially worse if they aren’t actually diagnosed with it yet, which means that they aren’t even aware that they’re different, and unless you are a qualified professional, you have no business playing psychologist for them and lampshading their difference.
I Remember When… Every single time I would mention that she’s an aspie, Princess would promptly punch my arm or scratch me. That’s how she copes with it, and soon enough, I knew better than to bring it up. If you plan to date an aspie for long, you should learn to address their differences without making it clear to them that you are doing so.
Whether you are dating someone with Asperger’s, or strongly feel that the person you are dating has it, then you need to learn more about Asperger’s. There are so many resources out there to understand aspies better. You can get in touch with Autism Society Philippines if you wish to ask people who are in the know. They even have a Facebook page.
I Remember When… The day I realized Princess was an aspie, I did all the research I could just to make sure that I could still somehow make her happy even if I don’t fully understand every facet of her. Even though we aren’t together anymore, just waking up to her sending me a smiley to start my morning off never fails to brighten up my mood, and having her offer me a hug and her standard response of “condolence ^____^” when I’m feeling down and out never fails to turn my day around.
Sometimes, I do wonder what I’ve done right to deserve someone as amazing as Princess in my life.