Meet Natalie B., 39
Even before I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 11, it was clear that I needed help with many areas of everyday functioning, including learning and social skills and etiquette. However, it was quite difficult to determine exactly what type(s) of assistance I required without at least having a name for the source of my challenges. Getting my diagnosis not only explained a lot of things I struggled with, but it made it easier to figure out specifically what support I would most benefit from.
I’ve been fortunate to have several amazing people in my life who have helped provide me with a foundation to become the woman I am today. From teachers and therapists to my life-skills coaches and co-workers, have the right support team made a huge difference in my life. One area of my life that still presents a challenge has been love and relationships. As hard as making friends can be for me, "more than friends" is even harder. Although this is not an easy topic for me, I want to share more about my experiences so other people in the autism community can see that we are all human and all have strengths and challenges.
Hear more about Natalie’s story in this Q&A:
What has your experience been like with dating and relationships?
To be honest, I have limited experience with dating and relationships. Although I have dated occasionally, I have not been in a relationship before. Dates kind of remind me of job interviews and I often seem to “want what I can’t (easily) have” in the way of potential partners. Maybe this happens because I have always been single and am so used to that. I’m not sure I really want a relationship.
What was the best date you’ve ever had?
My best date was probably the time I went out with someone for dinner and dancing a while back.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve encountered navigating a relationship?
I don’t know how to “go about” being in a relationship. Even given the opportunity, I have a hard time going through with it. I guess it just doesn’t feel “natural” to me since I tend to question whether I can actually “pull it off.”
What are some of the accommodations you need to be in a successful relationship?
I would likely need more space than most people. I would also need someone to be open-minded, patient, understanding and supportive. I would also need to take things slowly and not feel pressured.
Are there any communication strategies that you’ve found helpful when dating or in a relationship?
Clear and direct communication is very important.
What would you like non-autistic people to know about dating someone with autism?
Someone with autism may need more space and experience anxiety more easily than someone without autism. Someone with autism may also have a different perspective, so it is important to be tolerant and open-minded. Honest communication is essential. Having a good sense of humor would be helpful as well.
What advice would you give to other people with autism who are looking for love?
It is important to find someone with who you feel comfortable with. It is also important to be upfront with others and encourage them to do the same. In addition to mutual attraction, it would also be good to have common interests. I believe in meeting the right person at the right time when I am not expecting it.