Dating on the Spectrum

In many ways, dating is an extension of friendship. If you haven’t yet, please read my four-part series on friendship. A mutual interest in initiation of physical intimacy of any kind is the biggest and most important difference between a deep friendship and dating. Deep friendship can provide the same level of emotional intimacy as you might have with a dating partner. Sometimes the addition of physical intimacy is not desired.

The key to dating is determining if the other person is interested in exploring the relationship on a romantic level. This is accomplished in much the same way we explore friendship, which is why I recommend that you read those blog posts and develop friendships before you decide if you are interested in dating. Here are three important points to remember when considering dating:

  1. Asking someone out on a date looks a lot like moving a friendship out of its primary location.
  2. Becoming romantically involved with another person is a lot like moving to a deep friendship.
  3. Physical intimacy ALWAYS requires permission and ALWAYS starts slowly and then progresses with mutual consent.

After exploring a romantic relationship, one of the two partners may decide they do not want to continue dating. This may be difficult to express and is certainly difficult to hear this from someone else. But you must respect someone else’s decision to stop dating. Like with friendship, failure to move from acquaintance to friend does not mean you need to ignore the other person moving forward. It can be difficult, but some former romantic partners CAN remain friends after a break-up. Because this is often an awkward transition, it is a good idea to rule out those we must see regularly in other settings as romantic partners. For example, a co-worker may not be a good potential romantic partner because you will need to continue to interact with this person even if you are no longer romantically involved.

Dating can be very tricky and confusing but can also be one of the most rewarding parts of life. It is important to have a trusted friend, a parent, or even a coach to help navigate these conversations and relationships. Young adults with autism deserve true connection, even if there are a few bumps in the road along the way.