This blog has been kindly written by a guest blogger, to give advice to others on the spectrum who want to start dating.
The world of online dating can be shallow and ruthless and for some people like us on the spectrum quiet intimidating and scary.
When I decided to create an online dating profile a few years ago it was something I went into with naivety and massive expectations of finding a life partner. Instead it turned out to be a life journey.
It was something I needed to do no matter how scary. In the end it proved beneficial for me in learning how to socialise one on one with people I had never previously met.
Creating a profile
When I created a profile I used just a tiny picture of my face. I was shy and lacked confidence. My profile was uninspiring and didn’t say much.
To push myself I would message a profile of somebody that I thought was interesting. Often times they wouldn’t reply back and I would take it to heart and felt upset about it. Sometimes if I messaged somebody and they didn’t reply back I would send multiple messages in the hope they would end up replying. And sometimes they would actually reply back and when they did I wasn’t sure what to say to them. I would often send replies in quick succession within an hour.
I didn’t have any friends and I hardly ever travelled anywhere unless it was to my job, and that was local. Although I was an adult ‘stranger danger’ was always in the back of my mind due to my inexperience with people, my trusting nature, and having trouble with understanding a persons intentions.
Starting the conversation
I would start out small and ask them their names and what their jobs were, their hobbies, and I would tell them mine. As is usual with online dating they would ask to meet up in person. I did not know how to take trains and I didn’t feel comfortable travelling to other parts of London. Most of all I didn’t know them so I was frightened that they may have ulterior motives to laugh at me or harm me. I decided to compromise; I would meet them local to me and In familiar surroundings and make sure it was crowded. I didn’t want to and was frightened to step out of my comfort zone.
Meeting someone in person
Meeting someone in person after talking with them online was a difficult experience for me. I either spoke too little, or I spoke too much.
I have a passion for film and history and when I spoke about these two subjects I would go into immense detail. I would add in timelines and specific historical dates or talk at length about set pieces and soundtracks used in films. When it was time for the other person to speak about their interests I would have my head down and not say much. I would also find myself agreeing with what ever they said, even if I didn’t agree with it or not share that interest. I was desperate to impress.
I was oblivious about reading body language and understanding chemistry. Often times if I liked the person I would start bombarding them with messages 2 minutes after departing from the date. I would ask them how they found the date, if they liked me, and when they wanted to meet again. It always the same outcome, they wouldn’t.
This scenario kept on repeating itself. It went the same way each time. Sometimes if a date went wrong I would cry once I got home. I couldn’t understand why nobody wanted to date me, why I kept messing it up.
I didn’t want to give up. As awful as I was on these dates nothing would change in life if I just gave up. I decided I had to continue with the online dating. I had to learn to face fears. Although it wasn’t going to be easy I decided to step outside of my comfort zone.
A person I was speaking to online suggested we meet in the centre of London. It was a suggestion that terrified me. I stay in my local area and I never traveled by train but it was something that I needed to do so I said yes. I asked my mum to sit down with me and explain how the train system worked. I then did it; I stepped outside of my comfort zone. It wasn’t easy. It was an unnerving experience as I find places that I do not travel to overwhelming but I had a nice evening. It felt good that I had stepped out and conquered the impossible. Things started to change.
My whole perspective on online dating shifted. I had begun to realise that finding a partner can not be forced, that meeting people that I wouldn’t normally have met and in a one on one setting was beneficial to me learning how to socialise.
I started slowly travelling to places in London to meet people for dates. Finally I had found the confidence and courage to travel on trains and to wider areas in my city. I also began to feel confidence within myself. On dates I was forced to talk about myself, my interests, and my dislikes. I had to force myself to listen and to ask questions to my dates.
If I contacted somebody online and they didn’t reply it started to not bother me. I’m not what they are looking for. It’s a natural part of dating. It happens to everybody. If I messaged somebody and they messaged me back I would no longer bombard them with messages. I took it slow. If I liked someone I met on a date I would no longer message them at the end of the date. I’d leave it a day or two and then send them a message. The pictures on my profile started to appear more confident.
I started to see the benefits of my new found confidence. Some of the people that I was meeting for dates wanted to see me again….on a friendship basis. Throughout my teens and much of my twenties I was a loner and I never had any friends, now I have a group of them. They are very accepting of me and my autism.
I use online dating occasionally now. I see it as a bit of fun, a chance to meet new people and improve my social skills. If I meet a partner then great. If not it’s a chance to make new friends. Me joining the world of online dating was one of the best decisions I ever made. It wasn’t and isn’t easy but It has helped me along in life and helped me to understand that dating is something that happens naturally and is not to be forced. Don’t take it serious. In time things fall in to place and in hindsight I was never ready for a relationship anyway when I first went into online dating. As somebody on the autistic spectrum I overcame a massive hurdle.
Online dating tips for those on the spectrum
1. Disclosing your autism
When you create a profile you don’t need to disclose you are on the spectrum. If you send somebody a message and do not get a reply then leave it and move on, do not keep sending them messages. If you get a reply or somebody messages you do not send them messages every 10 minutes. Take your time and reply when ready and give the other person time to message you.
2. Having no expectations
Always approach a date with no expectations. If you are nervous, they are also nervous. If when you leave the date and you like a person do not send them messages or ask them if they like you. Leave it a day or two and then send them a message, be neutral. Ask them how they are doing and see how they reply. Remember; if they aren’t interested in you it is normal. Don’t take it personal. It’s a hard part of dating and meeting people in general.
3. Talking too much and going into too much detail
When you talk about yourself do not go into too much detail. They don’t need to know specific dates and timelines of your favourite historical event. You don’t need to describe your favourite film and give a reel by reel analysis. I wouldn’t mention things like politics or religion. Keep it light. And do not talk about odd subjects like UFO encounters. Remember to ask your date questions about themselves and their interests. Listen to what they are saying and show an interest.
4. Leaving a bad date
Occasionally you might meet somebody who from the offset is very rude or stand off’ish. If you feel uncomfortable make an excuse and politely excuse yourself from the date. Do not take offence as it is them who have an attitude, or maybe they have had a bad day. Unfortunately things like this can happen when you choose to meet somebody you were talking to online.
5. Staying safe
Stranger danger. Do not overanalyse. People that are online are there for the same reasons you are. Always meet them in a public place and tell somebody where you are going it it makes you feel safer. It’s important to be safe but don’t go overboard with it.