How Does a Person with Autism Date successfully?

How does a person with ASD date successfully?

For individuals with as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), dating can be a real challenge. It is a misconception that people on the spectrum don’t want relationships – often they do, but they just don’t know how to meet people or understand the nuances of relationships. How do we effectively teach relationship skills?

Teaching social thinking is a good place to start. Michelle Garcia Winner has done excellent work in this area. Her book Socially Curious, Curiously Social teaches perspective taking, facing social challenges, creating thinking flexibility and building strong friendships. Having successful friendships can set the groundwork for successful dating later on. If you can’t have a friendship, how can you expect to have an intimate relationship with someone?

The hidden curriculum is another good place to start. Brenda Smith Myles wrote an excellent book on the subject called The Hidden Curriculum. She highlights several ways to teach those unspoken, hidden social rules through social narratives, cartooning, Power Cards, and video modeling. Many of the basic social rules apply to dating and relationships such making conversation, school dance etiquette, talking on the telephone and eating in restaurants.

Dan Coulter of Coulter Video is an adult with Asperger Syndrome. He sent out a list of his personal dating tips which I think are quite good. Here are 10 tips for guys to think about:

ONE: Be interesting. It’s much easier to get a date with someone if they are interested in you. If you have a special talent, use it to become good at something that attracts the attention of girls you’d like to date.

TWO: Don’t brag. Letting other people praise your accomplishments is much more attractive to girls and women than acting like you are your own biggest fan.

THREE: Work on your manners. Girls tend to appreciate a guy who knows not to talk with his mouth full, how to stand back and let someone else enter a door first, and how to keep his voice volume low in a crowded movie theater.  It’s not just using good manners with her, it’s also how she observes you acting with everyone else.  If she sees you using some basic manners and always trying to do the right thing, she’s more likely to be forgiving if you haven’t mastered other social skills.

FOUR:  Get a girl mentor, or several.  I made friends with girls in my high school classes who I could ask questions about what girls expected or would like. An older sister or even your mom can be a great source of information. Other guys can be helpful, if you can trust them, but girls have insights guys don’t.

FIVE: Find a girl with interests similar to yours. Maybe you both excel in a class. Maybe you’ll find her in astronomy club or in fencing class. Having something in common makes it easier to talk with a girl, so put yourself in situations where you’re likely to meet someone who likes what you like.

SIX: Get to know a girl before you ask her out. Put yourself in the girl’s place.  The better she knows you, the less risk she takes in going out with you — and the less risk you take that you won’t have anything to talk about.  Less pressure makes for a better first date.

SEVEN: When you ask a girl on a date, make it specific.  “Would you like to hang out sometime?” is really asking her to pass judgment on you as a person.  A girl who is not interested may say “Yes” in order not to hurt your feelings. It’s much better to say, “Would you like to go to (insert movie, concert or other event) on Friday night?”  If she says, “Yes,” you’re in.  If she says she is busy and suggests another night, you’re in.  If she says she’s busy and doesn’t offer an alternative, it’s best to back off.

If you wish, you can then wait a few days and ask her out again to a different event.  If she doesn’t accept your second offer and doesn’t suggest an alternative, she’s probably not interested. You could wait a few more days and ask her out again, but two or three attempts without encouragement from a girl is a pretty clear indication that it’s best to move on and focus on someone else.

EIGHT: Listen, listen, listen. One of the biggest mistakes guys make is talking too much about themselves or their interests. This is a special challenge for guys with Asperger Syndrome. When you talk with a girl, make your point and then give her a chance to respond.  If she changes the subject, try and talk about the new subject for a while. Assume that a girl cares as much about her interests as you do yours and her opinions are just as valid.  She is not less or more, she is different — in some interesting ways.

NINE: Don’t try to solve her problems unless she asks for your input. People often talk about things to help them think them through, or just to have another person sympathize. Pointing out what you see as a simple solution to her problem is not likely to earn you admiration for being smart. It’s more likely to make her frustrated because you think you’re smart enough to solve a problem and that she couldn’t.  Especially if you assume you see the whole picture when you don’t.  Responses like, “That must have been hard for you,” or “That’s a difficult situation,” are often likely to be well received.  If she asks for your input, it’s a good idea to suggest solutions in the form of a question:  “Do you think you could…?” This leaves the door open for her to give you more information if you’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.  Girl-world has a lot of icebergs.

TEN: Be honest and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand some social nuance, being open about it can be disarming.  You may want to disclose your Asperger Syndrome, but even if you don’t, you can always explain that you just don’t get something and ask for help figuring it out.

Consider joining a support group for teens or adults on the spectrum. These are often safe havens in which to discuss feelings, fears, and practice valuable social skills to use in the real world of dating and relationships.

Relationships are hard work for everyone; they require give and take, respect, and understanding of another person’s feelings. No one will ever be perfect at it, but practicing social skills and learning the hidden curriculum are good places to start.

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  1. Louise says:

    Please stop writing articles about people on the spectrum that are adressed to men only. Women and girls on the spectrum are also acutely in need of guidance when it comes to dating. Especially when it comes to interpreting sexual cues, and avoiding ending up in potentially dangerous situations.

    • Louise, this post was written by an autistic male guest blogger named Dan Coulter so he wrote from the male perspective as he does not know the female perspective.

  2. Matthew says:

    No offense to the author, but women should stop writing articles on dating for men and stick to writing for other women. Now, before someone blows up at me with an angry reply replete with choice words, allow me to elaborate; women do not have the same frame of reference as men, a requirement if she hopes to advise men on how to date. As a few other commenters have already pointed out, this article does nothing to help and is mostly speculatory. I understand why it would be difficult to grasp in fullness how difficult, borderline impossible, dating is for men on the spectrum from the perspective of a woman; the shift in gender-based social dynamics is far too great to underestimate and dismiss as simple bad luck, and yet dismissed at every turn it has been.

    Perhaps, instead of instructing men to talk to more women, the author should leave her island and talk to more men if she wants a more accurate and informed conclusion of the autistic male dating experience?

    • Matt, this post was written by an autistic male guest blogger named Dan Coulter. I only wrote the introduction. It may be helpful to read the entire post. Dan Coulter spoke from his experience and knowledge so there is no female perspective involved in this post.

  3. Ben says:

    Yes but girls are not expected to initiate social contact as men are, you just have to focus on how you respond. It’s terribly nerve racking for me to approach a girl to speak to when 99% of the time I’m shut down. Then there’s the peer pressure from other guys to prove yourself to be a man. Not to mention the intense sexual urges that can never really be satisfied and an ever present longing for love since the age of 13. I’m 42 now and still feel like 16 looking to get a girl.

  4. Dave says:

    I’ve seen these articles a lot around the net, and I also see a lot of comments going “well, this didn’t work,” with a complete lack of insight as to why. Here’s the thing: science really doesn’t know either. The thing about this kind of advice is that it isn’t evidence-based. I’ve been looking into the research literature, seeing if someone’s started to piece together what would actually *work,* and it’s a bit of good news and bad news. The good news is that autism researchers are realizing this is a Big Problem that needs to be investigated urgently, and there’s some efforts to start to study it properly. The bad news: they’ve only started in the last 3-4 years — after this article was originally printed! — and so far all they’ve found out is just how truly and deeply awful the problem really is. (Plus, the plague has derailed a lot of the current research too, which we won’t get into here.) So there’s hope for younger people as this research starts to bear fruit.
    Meanwhile – yes, autistic women also have trouble (heard a saying once: autistic men can’t get a first date, autistic women can’t get a second date) but sometimes they can have better luck because men will put up with more than women will, on average. However — this is NO guarantee of success and as we’ve seen with other commenters, women can experience the same isolation and alienation. Plus, there is a TON of sexual and gender diversity within the spectrum, and yes, that doesn’t get addressed or covered nearly enough.
    Another thing we have to fight which really needs to be addressed more is sexual ableism – the notion that autistic people (and disabled people in general) are somehow incapable of love. This is seen in how autistic relationships are commonly depicted in the media – often a “supercrip” narrative where someone “overcomes” their autism to find love. Meh. This is slowly changing – just look at Sam and Paige from “Atypical.” But there’s a long, long way to go.
    Finally one solid piece of advice: despite what you may have been told, dating sites and apps, by and large, DO NOT WORK. They barely work for the neurotypicals! (Sometimes it works but not often.) The only reason why anyone puts up with them is that it’s become largely socially unacceptable to approach people in public anymore. Don’t waste your time or money, even if it’s an autism or disability specific site or app. If anything, just try to make friends (and don’t expect anything more) – you can get some of the benefits at far less cost to yourself or others. And also, advocate for more research, to have our relationships more positively and accurately portrayed in the media, and start pushing back against the notion that autism makes us undateable, or that we can only find love by trying to be as neurotypical as possible. Not only will that ultimately fail — we shouldn’t have to do that in the first place.

    In the end, this is much much bigger than a psychological problem.

  5. Aaron says:

    I found out I had Aspergers around 3 or so years ago (I’m 37). I’ve had 3 long term relationships, since 24. One thing normal people don’t seem to understand about Aspergers, is that they don’t want to understand it. When they hear the word, they automatically run like we have some type of leprosy. Most of us are very smart, but our outlook on life is different. We see things differently, but the thing we lack/have a tough time doing is our social skills. We don’t lack romance/love, infact we may love more so than normal people. We may not say the right things at the right time, or we may come off as a jerk, but it’s because we don’t know that we’re doing it, or no one tells us.
    To my fellow aspie’s, when you’re out on dates, let whoever it is you’re dating get to know you first before saying you have Aspergers. If you say it right away/on the first date, they’ll most likely run. If they still run, when they got the chance to know you, they aren’t worth it. Those that have put the time in to understand what Aspergers is, will show compassion, and be patient with you. Those are the people you want to be with. While life is lonely now, just keep putting yourself out there. Dating/relationships is hard for everyone, not just us. Dating can be a full time job in itself, and is no different than job hunting amongst the thousands of others that are applying for the same jobs. Things that us aspie’s have, is that we’re unique, we’re smart, we can talk someone’s ear off (on the right topics), we research. Research confidence, and, Dating in the 1950’s. When you do go on a first date, buy women flowers (nothing too crazy). You’ll stand out from all the other guys right away. Dress casual. Button shirt, cuffs rolled up below your elbows, with a pair of jeans. Take her out for ice cream (buy it for her), and a walk in the park. Let her do most of the talking, and FOCUS on listening to her. Don’t trail off when you talk into some crazy deep topic…yes its hard to not do it, but try to limit yourself as much as possible. Eye contact is hard for us, but when talking, try to look at her eyes from time to time, instead of staring off into space. Try to place her like she’s the only thing in your universe (as in no distractions). When the date is done, let her know how much FUN you had with her, and how you had a GREAT time. These are keywords. Depending on how the date went, you could either ask her out on a second date right then, or wait a day or two, and ask then. You the man, have to always initiate the dates, the place, the time etc. Let her know a few details about it, so she knows how to dress for the occasion. A word of advice, don’t wear cologne/drown yourself in it..just wear deodorant. A lot of women get completely turned off with men that wear too much cologne, and much prefer your natural body scent.
    I hope that helps 🙂

  6. Clayton says:

    How can you apply these steps when you cant even get a date or any interest from a woman? Honestly, I’ve tried I think I’m just ready to throw in the towel. I’m 35, never married, no kids. I dont even know what to do for the rest of my life. Everyone else I know is married with kids and I cant even a single person to be interested in me, let alone one I feel the same way about. Basically this article tells us to be everything that we aren’t. Like so many of you others here, the loneliness is killing me.

  7. Natalie says:

    I’m with the other women here. I’m autistic and often seek advice online. Most of the information is geared solely for men. That’s ok, it wouldn’t be hard to include other autists, though.

    Women face unique challenges; as one Commentee wrote, paraphrased, we get used and abused. It hurts, and I cannot find anything that helps, except to pretend I’m too broken to be wanted or matter.

    It’s alienating to be an autistic woman, and/or on the gender spectrum as it is. We add into that articles that exclude us even though we require the same help, and it just furthers the distance.

    I’m sick of having to type -men in a Google search to try and find something relevant to me. Can there be more awareness of the whole of the spectrum instead of the cookie cutter mold?


  8. Lauren says:

    i am a girl who has autism. it’s no longer just men. i want relationships too.

  9. Leo says:

    If you think dating with Aspergers is hard, try dating with Aspergers undiagnosed for 56 years. Therapists keep telling you you are totally normal and all you have to do is “get out there.” It doesn’t work if you have a disability that everyone tells you doesn’t exist. I wish malpractice suits were possible for therapists who can’t recognize autism.

    • Leo, I know that there are adults who feel so frustrated at not being able to get a diagnosis for themselves despite reaching out for help. Relationships are hard.

  10. Carolyn B says:

    I am somewhat autistic too, not diagnosed, yet I should be 

  11. Donte says:

    I would be attracted to a girl and then ask them on a date and they reject me because I have Aspergers and people think you’re the weird kid for having it

  12. Michael says:

    This is valuable but I think there’s something else going on too. I’ve never had a second date, I’m 42 years old and I started dating 5-6 years ago. some girls get really into me when they first meet me but they disappear or we turn into friends…. sometimes those friends go on to other lovers who are super abusive and I never understood. Just having Asperger’s means that I’m worse than those guys? They love me love me love me as a friend but I’m just terrible as a lover? Aren’t love her supposed to be good friends? I honestly don’t know what to make of it, I spend so much time trying to figure out what it is I’ve done wrong during dates, it’s so exhausting. I honestly think I’m going to die alone. I’m learning to be okay with it, just in case

  13. Jen says:

    I am also confused as to why this is only geared to men who date women? That leaves out most people with aspergers. You left out gay people and straight women with aspergers. We statistically would have the same ratios as neurotypical people do in the world.  Straight men have the easiest time dating compared to any other group.  I’m not saying it’s easy for them, but it certainly is easier in comparison because straight don’t have to be judged by straight men 🙂

  14. Jen says:

    As a women diagnosed with ASD 1 (Aspergers) in my 30s, dating is difficult for us, too.  I see comments by naive men who think women have it easier. I actually think (just by the public acceptance of eccentric, but not eccentric women) that women are far more accepting of men.  Men are extremely judge mental to aspie women and Often will just take advantage of our tendency to think everyone else also is true to their word.  We often are used as a practice girlfriend and not taken seriously. . . Often treated coldly by neurotypical men who often lie and say they like us when they actually can’t stand us.  This really hurts and wastes our time.  I’ve only been treated like a desirable woman when I was under 100 pounds and had exercise addiction to cope with job and relationship stress. I went through 15 years of dating before being diagnosed and thought I must be the least desired most disgusting woman in the world to be treated like nothing.  So NO it’s not easy for me being a woman.

  15. Wonderful unique individuals together? They all have a common desire to meet someone who could be a friend or a romantic partner. says:

    As a neurotypoval sibling of a very wonderful brother who is aspie, how can we connect Wonderful unique individuals together? They all have a common desire to meet someone who could be a friend or a romantic partner.

  16. Marcos says:

    I used to have hope, but I’m exhausted. I always feared the idea of dying alone, but maybe it’s easier to accept it. I feel that people around me are afraid of me because I’m weirdo. I just started psychotherapy and it’s my last hope, it’s being hard to wake up from my bed and get stuff done. I want to get back my will for living, or I’ll just kill myself anyway. Loneliness hurts.

    • Marcos, I am so sorry you are feeling very low. I think psychotherapy may help you. You have to find what brings you joy in life and that may not be through another person. Happiness begins with ourselves. When we feel good about ourselves, people want to be around us.

  17. Peter says:

    You can find free dating and friendship for people with ASD and Aspergers at Meet a like-minded partner who shares your special interests! We are dedicated to uniting those without real-life opportunities to meet their special one. ASDating.or is a friendly new portal where you can do this without feeling judged.

  18. Brian says:

    I met all these criteria and it still does not get me anywhere in the dating world.

  19. David says:

    Girls with ASD do also have problems dating, but neurotypical guys are much more receptive to girls with ASD than neurotypical girls are to guys with ASD. Guys with ASD have to pay very special attention with every single thing they do on a date because girls are much more reactive than guys. One example is guys typically appreciate it when girls are straight and blunt to the point, while girls do not.

  20. Skyler says:

    I am a person repellent. You forgot one thing. That vibe, that energy you emit as a person. It can make people wanna hang around you, people wanna talk to you, girls or boys are more inclined to date you. If you lack that certain energy or vibe than it can be the total opposite. It’s more that just being nice, mannered, having worldly possessions or a silver tongue. Being Autistic myself I know the feeling of loneliness the diagnosis can have. People sense it and they dont wanna be around you let alone a girl or guy you wanna date

  21. Shirley says:

    Agree. Everthing I google about autism and dating assumes that the person with autism is male, trying to attract a female. Dating with autism can be just as difficult for women – maybe more so. I am 60, and was formally diagnosed last year. I went out on my first date at age 25, and didn’t go out on another until I was nearly 30. I never did get the hang of it, and am still alone. I’ve longed for a romantic partner all my life, and I still haven’t given up, but It’s hard. I’ve always been told I’m nice looking, but why do people assume that that’s all you need to be able to make a connection with the opposite sex? I never could figure out how to get a guy to ask me out, and if I asked them, they never seemed interested for long. Since I learned that autism is something that applies to me, I’ve been giving dating another try, with the help of a therapist. But it makes me so angry when I read something that says that dating is easier for women on the spectrum. Maybe for some, but not for me!

  22. Grace says:

    I don’t understand why this is only for males. Girls with ASD have the same problems too.

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