“I can recall every conversation we ever had, and use it against you in a fight.”
Dating is complicated. Dating when you have autism spectrum disorder is… like herding blind cats into a volcano that is directly across from the World Fish and Catnip Museum.
I have autism and if my dating experience were a résumé, it would be blank on both sides. During the simplest of interactions with a potential love-interest, my brain is working overtime. For the sake of my sanity I’ve taken to online dating recently, though the results have been only incrementally better. Trying to interpret the meaning behind the little gestures, the closeness, or lack thereof, the little lulls and crests of conversation—It’s like trying to crack the Da Vinci code for me. Even the thought of attempting to make—God-forbid—physical contact with my date causes me to short-circuit into a spiral of failed social calculations and crippling anxiety. Needless to say, I don’t get many second dates.
My own romantic debacles have often left me wondering how other Aspies have fared. Surely some must have more luck than me. With that in mind, I did what any writer would do in this situation (I assume). I reached out with a list of questions, and I must admit the answers I found may not have revealed the secret to true love or anything like that, but what they did reveal… surprised even me.
VICE: How have you met most of your past partners?
Lana: I’ve had five boyfriends, four of which I met at either a bar or a party. Alcohol is a great social lubricant.
How old were you when you started dating?
I was sixteen when I had my first boyfriend. We didn’t really date in the classical sense. I dreaded the concept of meeting with someone with the express purpose of talking to see if you’re compatible. So we basically just drank beer, listened to music and made out for one glorious month.
How consistently have you been in a relationship over the course of your life?
I’ve been in a relationship for most of my adult life. I’m 31 now, currently in a four-year-long relationship.
Have most of your partners known about your ASD? If so, when do you tell them?
I was diagnosed while with my current partner, so there was no coming-out of sorts. I told him that my shrink (whom I was seeing for depression) wanted to evaluate me for autism, which came as a huge shock for me as I had never considered that as a possibility. He told me it didn’t matter to him at all. He loves me for who I am, and suddenly getting a label didn’t change that.
What’s the hardest thing about dating?
I don’t really pick up on hints. People often think I’m flirting with them, when I’m just being sociable. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve invited a male friend over to watch a movie, only to have him get upset with me when he realized I really intended to watch movies, not have sex. I used to have a lot of male friends, but I’ve lost most of them due to misunderstandings such as this.
I also have a lot of anxiety. I’ve never really dated in the classical sense of gradually getting to know someone over drinks, dinner, and a movie. I get incredibly anxious when I make plans to just hang out and talk with someone I don’t have feelings for, so much so that I often end up cancelling. Meeting someone for a real date? Sober? I don’t even think I could.
What do you think is the best thing about dating an Aspie? The worst?
The best thing? I’m a force to be reckoned with at bar trivia. The worst thing? I can recall every conversation we ever had, and use it against you in a fight. But on a more serious note, I don’t think there are any specific upsides to dating an Aspie. I have quite a few “Aspie superpowers” but none of them are especially useful in a relationship. It’s one of those things where my normal, scientific approach is quite useless. There are a few downsides though, mainly my inflexibility. I can’t handle unexpected visitors, I can’t handle my boyfriend being late, and I can’t handle when things are not in their proper place. I’m a very calm, collected and friendly person, never violent, but when I lived with my previous boyfriend I once flipped a towel rack because he folded the towels incorrectly.
“Kink really ‘speaks’ to me, because it’s all about rules and boundaries, which is basically Aspie porn.”
What are some things that you and past partners have had disagreements over that were related to your ASD?
We mostly clash over my rigidity. My boyfriend is a very spontaneous guy. He doesn’t like planning things, he doesn’t really pay attention to the time, and he’s not the best at picking up the phone. I need to plan things out carefully or I get stressed. This is obviously not the best combination. When I tell him he needs to be somewhere at 8:30, I’ll start stressing at 8, wondering whether he’ll be on time. He’ll call me at 8:45 to let me know that he’s about to leave. Yeah, we fight sometimes…
How have you handled sex and physical intimacy in your relationships?
I have no trouble with this. I like sex, and I’ve been quite promiscuous in the past. I have no trouble separating emotions from sex. That can be a bit tricky for some partners though. I have no trouble having sex with someone I don’t like as a person if the sex is good. This confuses people into thinking we’re dating sometimes. I once got into an incredibly painful situation when a guy I regularly had sex with introduced me to his friends as his girlfriend, and in my surprise I blurted out “Haha, no way in hell,” and then the guy cried his eyes out in the club, and his friends hated me, and I left, wondering how this misconception came to be. Needless to say I never slept with him again after that.
In what ways do you think your ASD might have influenced your attitudes towards love and sex?
I’m a bisexual kinkster in a monogam-ish relationship. I do think being an Aspie makes it easier for me to be sexually adventurous. Because I’m capable of separating sex and emotion I get to enjoy sex as a fun activity. Sex with my boyfriend is a wonderful experience with a deep emotional significance. Sex with someone else is just fun. Kink really “speaks” to me, because it’s all about rules and boundaries, which is basically Aspie porn. I have a very rational outlook on love, sex and relationships and I can’t really tell whether that’s the Asperger’s or my personality speaking. My neurotypical boyfriend feels the same. We’re both pretty nihilistic.