Valentines day is upon is once again. It’s time to shower your loved one with rose petals and luxury chocolates and smugly declaring your perfect and unmatched love to the world. I’ll sit here as a singleton and feel sad and lonely…
Well not exactly, I’m actually pretty happy for now being single, but many of my friends don’t seem so convinced. Valentines day seems to be the time of the year when it is seen as a great time to raise the issue of how asperger's affects relationships and ask some very pointed questions that normally people probably wouldn’t dream of asking.
This seems a great opportunity to address some of these questions or comments and answer some of the stereotypes. The following are a list of statements I have genuinely received and a light-hearted look at each one. It is important to remember that I’ve made my answers based on my own personal feelings, we are all different so perhaps you’d answer in a very different way. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic and I do hope you enjoy this post,
So let’s get started…
1: It must be so hard finding a girlfriend as an aspie…
Yeh, I guess it is, but probably not for the reasons you might think! I don’t know many people (aspie or not) who find it truly easy just getting a girlfriend, let alone a compatible one. The main hurdle is communication. When faced with stepping out there and making a good first impression with someone I find attractive I usually panic and say something random, but that’s definitely not exclusively an aspie problem! Beyond this we’re all different and the way we approach finding the love of our life and what we’re looking for in a partner varies just as much as it does for those not on the spectrum, although some of the factors are. Questions like how and when (or even if) to tell them about my condition do play a big part. For me it takes me a while to feel comfortable around new people so meeting someone new in say a bar or nightclub has never been great for me, but developing a relationship over time has been successful for me. So yes there are challenges, but I don’t think they’re it’s necessarily any easier for those not on the spectrum.
2: You should meet my friend, she has asperger’s too, you’d be perfect together…
I have a friend who is stupid, perhaps YOU could date them?!
Perhaps I will get on with this person, perhaps I won’t. The only thing volunteered here is that they have asperger's, like me. This tells me nothing about them as a person or their personality. I’ve actually been told this in a number of occasions, in various different forms – two people with autism would make a perfect match because they have autism in common.
This is no different from telling someone that if you’re British, then any other British person would make a perfect match for them. We wouldn’t say that! Well at least I hope not…
3: You must be lonely being single…
Yes sometimes I am, but you can also be lonely when with someone. Loneliness is a big factor for many on the spectrum, whether single or in a relationship. I can go for long periods of time with little to no interaction outside of work or care settings, it can get very isolating at times. When I’m most struggling it becomes increasingly hard for me to communicate and this can fuel the feeling of loneliness. If anything it’s actually worse when in a relationship because the barrier this temporarily creates whilst the meltdown or crisis passes can isolate you from those around you. It is never pleasant going through this feeling isolated from those around you but it passes and in many ways it is easier to handle these times when I can just go and be alone for a while. Having good friends and joining clubs also works wonders if loneliness creeps in, but I’m under no illusion that I only experience loneliness because I’m single.
4: If you were more outgoing, less outgoing, more bold, wore different clothes…(and so on)… you’d find someone
Yes I’d find someone, but not the right someone! How long could I keep up the pretence of having a different personality? Perhaps if I want to change any of these things about myself then I should do it for me, not for some one else? I’m a work in progress, just like everyone else and whoever I meet joins my journey right where I am now.
5: Aspies don’t have empathy so they can’t have relationships.
Aspies not having empathy is the biggest myth there is. It is simply not true, and recent research is beginning to show that it could be the opposite, that we have too much empathy! It is true that it is in many ways harder for aspies to have relationships but it’s not impossible not related to empathy. The social cues and unwritten rules in starting and maintaining a relationship are a minefield and often confusing for anyone, let alone someone with communication difficulties that come with autism. In past relationships I’ve often come up against barriers where I was ‘expected’ to act a certain way, say certain things, do certain things that I was just clueless about and vice versa. As an example if my girlfriend was upset I might naturally leave her alone. For me I need space when I’m upset so I was showing empathy by allowing her the space that I would want in this situation. She, on the other hand, might perceive this to be lack of empathy and show me to be distant and uninterested. Really this just shows that we both do things in a different way and need to communicate about issues that others might not necessarily need to talk about.
6: You’ll Want to Start a Family One Day
Perhaps, but I’m realistic that I’m getting older and it might not happen. I’d love to be a father, but I’m also quite content with not having children. It’s something that’s out of my control so I don’t see this as burning issue that absolutely must be resolved instantly.
7: Do you think you should have children? What if you pass on autism…
It is possible that autism is genetic so I guess I could pass it on, but why should that be a problem? I’d argue that I’d be in a great position to be able to pass on what I’ve learned through my life experiences to a child, whether they have autism themselves or not. Perhaps we’re more at risk of you passing on ‘stupid,’ – ignorance is the thing that needs to be wiped out, not autism!
8: You Need Someone so they can Help You Around The House
Yes I do, that’s why I have a support worker. Having a partner would clearly reduce weight of domestic tasks and financial responsibility, but this should never be the motivation behind a relationship. I don’t want a second mother (one is plenty enough), I want a relationship. Even in a relationship I’d probably still keep outside support in place. After all I want to spend my time enjoying my partner’s company rather than burden her with medication and sensory integration routines!
9: You can’t really be happy on your own can you?
Our society pushes a view that to be happy we MUST have someone to share your life with. This is not true. There are plenty of people I who never settle down, get married, have two kids and a pet dog, and they’re definitely not leading a substandard life.
In reality it could be that I never meet the right person and stay alone, but actually this isn’t so bad.
Being single allows me the freedom to live life with far more freedom than many of my married friends. If I need to make a lifestyle change I don’t have to consider my partner. (Recently I moved house to get better healthcare, this may not have been even an option if I had a wife and children to consider), if I have a bad day I can be as grumpy as I like and not have to worry about it affecting someone else, If a friend is in need I can drop everything to help out, if I want to go away for a weekend… no problem. Yes at times I do envy the family life that these friends have but it’s far better to appreciate the benefits of the life I’ve got now, rather that wishing I had what someone else has.
10: The right girl is out there for you, you just need to go and find her…
She is, but I don’t think I will find her, I believe we will find each other. If I get on with my life, and live it the best I can, be happy with who I am then the rest takes care of itself. Call it fate, destiny or just chance, I believe that if you meet people while living your own life and then who knows where things go.
So if you are spending Valentines Day alone this year like me, then join me in celebrating all the reasons why being single is actually pretty ace. Whether you are in a relationship or single I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Share your thoughts on why you enjoy being in a relationship or being single? What struggles have you had in relationships and do you have any tips for others?