The Straight Male Aspie’s Survival Guide to Dating, Part Eight
Reading Between the Lines: How to Deal with the Implicit
Non-autistic people can be kind of a pain in the ass sometimes. They have these strange beliefs about social propriety which are nonsensical and counter-intuitive. Unfortunately, we live in their world, so we have to figure out how to deal with them. One thing that non-autistics do which confuses me is delivering valuable information in an implicit way. They don’t come out and say something. They just hint it.
Well, because they’re used to dealing with people who think like they do. The possibilty of us- of socially alien individuals- hasn’t occurred to them.
For instance, sometimes when somebody doesn’t want to hang out with you, they won’t come out and say it, out of fear of hurting your feelings. They might cancel plans at the last minute, or claim to be really busy, or be frustratingly vague.
Sometimes people aren’t aware they’re doing this. They’ve always communicated in this way, so it’s difficult for them to change. Keep that in mind when you’re approaching them. And you will have to approach them directly, because if both of you are being elliptical, nothing is going to get done.
When I first started dating Hannah, I told her that I required the people in my life to be blunt with me, and honest- totally, unmercifully so. One of the Aspies I used to hang out with had a similar talk with people he brought into his circle. He’d tell them, “You’re going to have to be blunter than you’ve ever been in your life.” And the ones who understood that and followed through with that were the ones who stuck around. The other people were scared off.
Sometimes your direct communication style and your sundry eccentricities will spook people. But those aren’t people worth knowing.
The other people will at least try to be explicit in their dealings with you. It might take time, because we communicate so differently than non-autistics, and you’ll both have to compromise and be uncomfortable sometimes, but it will be worth it.
Every now and then Hannah tells me I’m full of shit, or wrong about something, and I feel a warm glow inside.
How To Say No
Some of you will have no problem with this. Indeed, some of you could probably stand to be more open-minded.
Learning how to say no is a problem which is more common among autistic women, but some autistic men struggle with it, too.
You want to be liked, and accepted, and it’s been a real struggle over the years. And maybe you’ve been rejected so often you feel on some level like you’re not worth a damn, or like you’re damaged goods or something.
In that frame of mind, you will be vulnerable in romantic relationships. You will be at risk of people mistreating you and taking advantage of you.
Once someone has shown you some amount of kindness, even a small amount, or acceptance of you are, of course you’re going to want more.
It’s too easy to overlook subsequent mistreatment, or give in to pressure. It’s too easy to think, “Well, they’ve given me so much. I should give something back in return.”
That’s a good impulse, to some extent, except when it pushes you into doing something which feels wrong, or leads you to feeling consistently unhappy.
For instance, there was my first relationship in high school. It lasted five weeks, it was with an Aspie friend named Skye Jessel (not her real name), and it was a fucking disaster. Like a fire in a fireworks factory. In retrospect I see the humour in some of it, but at the time I was shredded.
Skye had a crush on me, which was a big deal. As a result, I would’ve done anything for her. I wanted to make her happy. I wanted to make everything perfect.
I didn’t realize that these were all unhealthy and totally unrealistic wishes, and I also didn’t spot the red flags.
Skye wanted to fix me. She thought she had overcome Asperger’s, and wanted to help me do the same.
Skye wanted to change my appearance. A few hours before our first date, she took me to a hairdresser and told him how to style my hair (I still see the guy; she had good taste, at least).
Skye wanted me to dress differently. We went to the mall together, and had an argument in The Gap because I refused to use the change rooms (I am, and was then, self-conscious about getting undressed in public).
I could have said no at any point. But I didn’t want to lose her. I did anyway, in the end, because we were totally different people who wanted totally different things.
That’s the thing you have to realize when you’re afraid of saying no to people: if what you want is consistently, radically different from what they want, you’re going to lose them anyway.
So stick up for yourself. Compromise. Work together to find solutions that work for both of you. If you have a falling out as a result of this process, well, it was going to happen eventually.
You’ll find someone who accepts you for you, and helps you achieve goals which matter to you, and allows you to help them achieve their goals as well. I know you may not believe this, but you are a remarkable person who is worthy of love and acceptance. Don’t let people treat you like shit. You deserve so much more than that.