The Straight Male Aspie’s Survival Guide to Dating, Part Four
Dating is, to say the least, emotionally complicated. Every time I’ve dated someone, my feelings have been all over the place. Especially in the early stages.
After my third date with Hannah, for instance, I remember getting home and taking inventory of what I was feeling. I realized that I wasn’t feeling angry or jealous. But I was feeling everything else. And it was all dialed up to eleven.
Eventually most of these feelings dissipated like fog in the morning and I was left with a basic set of easier-to-understand feelings.
Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize is that relationships change over time. Not in big ways, but incrementally- tiny little tectonic shifts. Usually these shifts will bring you and your significant other closer together, sometimes subtly redefining your relationship in the process, or your relationship dynamic. Sometimes it’s so subtle you don’t even consciously notice.
But just about every time one of these shifts happens, my feelings go a little haywire and I get dizzy way down deep in my head. I think to myself, “What the Christ is going on? Have I finally snapped?”
Nope. It’s just relationship stuff. It’ll happen to you, too. Don’t panic. If you have concerns about what’s going on, talk to your significant other. Before you’re actually in a relationship, be careful of how much detail you go into. Don’t be too intense. You may want to run by what you want to say with one of your Maintainers before you say it to the person you’re dating.
And sometimes it’s difficult to articulate what’s wrong, exactly. Something just feels off, or uncomfortable, or different- maybe not even different in a bad way.
But we’re not good at transitions, so even something that is nice different is going to throw us. Just a little bit.
So yeah: loads of feelings, all the time, and sometimes you’re not going to know how to process them.
Just talk about them, even if you’re not quite sure how to express yourself. Try. In the early stages, run things past a Maintainer first, but then later on, tell your significant other what’s going on. Keep communicating. Even the vaguest idea might be helpful.
Just Friends, Seeing Each Other, Dating
Another goddamn morass. I don’t know if this is a comforting idea for you, but every single person struggles to define budding relationships. Figuring out whether a relationship is platonic, romantic but casual, or romantic and committed is difficult. Figuring out which one of those three scenarios you want can be even more challenging.
There are no easy answers.
Let’s start by defining these things and describing what each of them often looks like so you at least have some idea of where you are.
You know what friendship is, I hope. Friendship between a man and a woman isn’t going to be too different from any other kind. There might be flirting. I’m really bad at flirting in real life, so I tend to avoid it. And people pick up on that and don’t really try to flirt with me. People who know me definitely don’t try it. So hopefully your female friends will pick up on the fact that you’re probably not a great flirter and keep things relatively straightforward. Other than that, a female friend is just a friend who happens to be female.
Seeing each other can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a confusing nightmare that results in hurt feelings, loneliness, and all-consuming despair. I don’t understand casual dating, and I have done it. I didn’t understand it while I was doing it. It worked out pretty well, but I don’t know how or why.
I asked my sister to define casual dating and she said it was “getting to know someone romantically in a non-committed way, which is how it differs from friendships and relationships”. So yeah, it’s a minefield, but you’ll probably have to deal with it at some point. Keep communicating with her, and ask your Maintainers for advice.
When you’re dating, presumably you know each other enough to share emotional and physical intimacy and you can talk about important stuff and figure it out together. Every relationship is its own little world. The two of you are creating it from scratch.
Talk about everything. You’re going to be spending a lot of time in this world and there’s only one other person there.
Keep in mind though that there is still another world outside the one you’re creating together. Don’t totally lose yourself in a relationship. Maintain friendships and familial connections. Maintain hobbies and interests which are separate from things your girlfriend does. Remember that you are still both autonomous people.
So you know approximately which stage you’re in (or maybe you still don’t, but don’t worry- this will make a good story someday). How do you get from one stage to another?
Relationships are a collaborative endeavor. You two are collaborators. If you end up in a romantic relationship, you’ll have to talk about all kinds of things- some of which will be painful and embarrassing- so get used to it.
If you’re just friends, you can say, “So do you want to hang out some time, like, as a date?” I said exactly that to someone once, and it went over pretty well. She said no, but that was because she a week away from a total psychiatric collapse, not because she wasn’t interested.
If you’ve been seeing each other for awhile and you want to become more serious (boyfriend and girlfriend serious), here’s what you do. I got this from my sister, who got it from The fucking West Wing. But it’s still a good idea.
You say to the person in a casual, friendly tone- as if you’re talking about a TV show you both like-, “So (name of your best friend, or name of a family member with whom you’re really close) asked me the other day if you were my girlfriend. And I wasn’t sure how to respond. We don’t have to talk about it right now, but at some point we should figure out the language thing.”
Then you drop it.
I’ve used this approach twice. The first time, we had a really intense two hour conversation in her car about where things were going and what both of us wanted. She told me she wasn’t sure if she could handle a relationship at that point in her life, but that she was definitely interested in me. We agreed to wait and let her figure her shit out. A month later we had a follow-up conversation in which we agreed that since she was nowhere close to figuring her shit out, we should just be friends. In that same conversation she also offered to set me up with Hannah.
The second time I used this approach was with Hannah. It caught her totally by surprise, which surprised me, and our mutual surprise kind of fed off of each other, and pretty soon words were just coming out of our mouths in half-formed sentences.
She sent me a message on Facebook a day later saying that she’d like for us to get to know each other better before we make things official (we’d been seeing each other for a month- people’s timelines concerning the appropriateness of moving from one stage to the next will vary wildly). About three weeks later, she told me she was ready to be in a relationship.