Blog for Individuals and Neurodiverse Couples Affected by ASD
Are you an adult with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger's? Are you in a relationship with someone on the autism spectrum? Are you struggling emotionally, socially, spiritually or otherwise? Then you've come to the right place. We are here to help you in any way we can. Kick off your shoes and stay awhile...
Men With ASD: What Potential Partners Need To Know
Should you date a guy with Autism Spectrum Disorder?
In no way am I suggesting that one should avoid having a relationship with a man on the autism spectrum. However, if you are in the early stages of a relationship with one (or are contemplating getting into one), then you need to know a few things ahead of time.
Unconventional people have always existed, but ASD isn't always recognized as a possible cause of odd behavior in adults. Even though ASD Level 1 is on the high end of the autism spectrum, it can be mild (causing only somewhat curious behavior) or severe (causing almost complete inability to function in society without some assistance).
Adult on the spectrum (similar to children with the disorder) have trouble deciphering the normal rules of society, which impacts their home, work and social lives. They often have high intellectual functioning – but diminished social abilities (e.g., they may use peculiar speech and language, seem egocentric, lack the ability to read non-verbal cues, lack social skills, have limited or unusual interests, follow repetitive routines, appear clumsy, etc.).
Some of the things you can expect to see from a man with ASD may include the following:
1. He usually prefers a structured life with well-defined routines. He may become agitated or upset when these routines are broken. For example, if he normally eats breakfast at 8 a.m., he may become agitated when asked to eat at an earlier time. However, unlike a person with classic autism (Level 3), the person with ASD Level 1will probably be able to keep his frustration in check.
2. The individual with ASD may be reluctant to initiate conversation and require prodding to talk to you at all, especially if he is already engaged in a favored activity when you try to initiate conversation.
3. Because a man with ASD typically struggles to understand emotions in others, he misses subtle cues (e.g., facial expression, eye contact, body language, etc.). As a result, he may appear aloof, selfish or uncaring. He may simply lack the social or empathetic skills to effectively manage romantic relationships.
4. Because he tends to be a literal thinker, the autistic may have trouble understanding social metaphors, teasing or irony.
5. He may be unable to think in abstract ways. He may be inflexible in his thinking, unable to imagine a different outcome to a given situation than the one he perceives. This rigid thinking pattern makes predicting outcomes of situations difficult. He may develop strict lifestyle routines - and experience anxiety and distress if that routine is disrupted. To avoid such disruption, he may keep extensive written to-do lists or keep a mental checklist of his plans.
6. The autistic may have difficulty interacting in social groups (e.g., he may choose inappropriate topics to discuss in a group setting or find making small talk difficult or even annoying).
7. The individual may demonstrate unusual non-verbal communication (e.g., lack of eye contact, limited facial expressions, awkward body posturing, etc.). He may speak in a voice that is monotonous or flat, and may engage in one-sided conversations without regard to whether anyone is actually listening.
8. He may have obsessive tendencies that manifest in many different ways (e.g., insisting all of his books be lined up in a certain order on the shelf, or that the clothes in his closet are categorized by color, style or season). Obsession with categories and patterns is a common symptom of the disorder.
9. The man's focus on just one or two areas of special interest often leads to a lack of interest in alternate topics and the unwillingness to listen when his partner is speaking. Such poor communication skills can lead to problems in relationships. The person with ASD may talk incessantly about topics that others have no interest in. His thought patterns may be scattered and difficult to follow and never come to a point. Speech patterns may have a strange cadence or lack the proper inflections. And, he may have difficulty understanding humor and may take what's said too literally.
10. Unlike an adult with classic autism, a person with ASD Level 1 wants to fit in with others. However, social and work-related difficulties can cause anxiety, anger, low self-esteem, obsessive compulsive behaviors, and depression. He may feel disconnected and distant from the rest of the world.
11. While a high-functioning autistic man often has above-average intelligence, he may process information more slowly than normal, making it difficult to participate in discussions or activities that require quick thinking. He may have trouble with organization and seeing the "big picture," often focusing on one aspect of a project or task. Also, he may be rigid and inflexible, making transitions of any type highly difficult.
12. Other symptoms of ASD include:
inability to understand other perspectives
inability to empathize
highly focused in specific fields of interest often to the exclusion of other pursuits
great musical ability
follows strict routines
difficulty regulating emotions
difficulty managing appropriate social conduct
black and white thinking
appears overly concerned with his own agenda
a tendency to be "in his own little world"
Again, this is not an attempt to discourage anyone from developing a relationship with a man on the spectrum. And it should be noted that, while this article focuses on the areas of potential problems for man-woman relationships, there are many more positives associated with the disorder than negative. Below are just a few examples.
Many men with ASD also demonstrate the following characteristics:
will not go along with the crowd if they know that something is wrong
prefer talking about significant things that will enhance their knowledge-base rather than “shooting the bullshit”
perfectly capable of entertaining themselves
notice fine details that others miss
not inclined to steal
not bullies, con artists, or social manipulators
have no interest in harming others
gentle and somewhat passive
enjoy their own company and can spend time alone
don’t take advantage of other’s weaknesses
don’t play head games
don’t discriminate against anyone based on race, gender, age, etc.
amazingly loyal friends
adhere unvaryingly to routines
accepting of others
able forgive others
Unfortunately, in counseling couples affected by ASD, I've discovered that in some cases, all the positive traits in the world do not make up for the autistic man's (a) difficulty in understanding his lady's emotions and (b) lack of displayed affection. If those two things are missing, it's usually a huge disappointment (and sometimes a deal-breaker) for his lady, regardless of all the assets associated with the disorder.
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