“What are you thinking?”
“Where are you?”
“Are you paying attention?”
“Where are you drifting off to?”
“Where did you go just now?”
“Someday you’ll be comfortable with yourself,”
“I just don’t understand you,”
“Why did you say that?”
“Why did you do that?”
“You’re really different,”
I’ve heard it all before, time and time again. These are actual quotes, from girls I’ve dated, whose names will be withheld. I seem to have a wall around me, protecting me from the outside world. It’s a survival device. It keeps me functioning. But I have to admit, it doesn’t make things easy for people who want to get to know me – especially in a relationship.
Within the fragile ball of confusion that is autistic romance, you’ll find a reoccurring theme: emotionally unavailability, hard to connect with resulting in lonely neurotypical (NT) partners. Let me start by making a simple proclamation that has helped me move on, since I was diagnosed with ASD two years ago: I have given up on romance. Seems logical, doesn’t it? Or do you find it hard to believe? Allow me to extrapolate.
I started dating when I was 18 and, in an act of shear optimism, kept at it on and off for 28 years. Most “relationships” were embarrassingly short-lived, lasting only a few months. Some people thought I was a “ladies man”, moving from one to the next, but in fact – looking back – I had no idea what I was doing. I felt like I was going through the motions, a scripted role, that society expected of me. I was afraid people would think I was gay. I felt I had to have someone to talk about when other men started talking about the women in their lives. I had to take picture of her, as if to provide evidence beyond the shadow of a doubt. Prediagnosis, I knew something was wrong. I saw other people having relationships so easily. Why couldn’t I? I was extremely hard on myself. Often, I changed minor things to try and attract a partner – venues, clothing, hair, moving from here to there. I really worked at it (too hard), fumbling along, trying to copy other people around me; trying to meet all expectations. Eventually, I had longer term, more serious relationships, but the same issues reared their ugly heads. The questions and comments. The misunderstandings. The anxiety. The paranoia. I had to face the facts – I didn’t have a clue how to be in a relationship.
Now that I’m older and wiser, and proudly autistic, I find it less stressful. I’m more comfortable and confident. Why bother with something I have no control over, know nothing about and will waste my time (years!) and energy trying in vain to make it work, only to end up disappointing? So, I’ve given up on romance. I don’t do “casual dating” either; haven’t been out on a date in four years. I can divert my energies into my special interests. I’m much better off being alone, pursuing my own interests. It’s more logical – and more rewarding. I’m extremely productive again. My mind is no longer obsessed with having to have a partner and wondering why I don’t. So, all good – right?
Well, actually, it’s when you least expect it that you meet that special someone. When you aren’t looking, you find them. People sense desperation – and avoid it. They also sense confidence. If you’re comfortable and confident, minding your own business, that’s when someone worthwhile enters your life. I haven’t given up all hope. I have to be honest with myself. I did not know I was autistic back when I was attempting dating and relationships. If a partner knows upfront, that might help avoid misunderstandings. Of course, she might not want anything to do with me. That would be her problem. I’d rather admit I was autistic upfront and develop the foundation there and then than go through days, months, years playing absurd games with manic coaches and moving goalposts. I’ve developed a simple mantra: “I’m autistic. If you don’t like it, you know where the door is – you saw it on your way in.” If she stays, she’s a keeper. If that happens, I’ll let you know!
Obviously, this is written from the point of view of an autistic person. But life is a two-way street, it takes two to tango (tangle?) etc. etc. So, what do NTs think of me? I got reading this article and, while some of it I could relate to (scary, to be honest), I began to think: wait a minute – this is harsh! I checked who wrote it and why. It was shocking really, but I have to accept that this is how some people may view me – or do I? I’d rather they didn’t, but do I have any choice? Can I do anything about it? I feel like I’m being hunted, “outed”, stigmatized and finally excluded – a prison without walls. This is the world I live in. I can only try my best. Anyway, please feel free to share your thoughts on this:
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