Whether you are in a relationship, single or just starting to think about dating, Valentine’s day can be full of mixed emotions.
If you have teenagers who are autistic and starting to show an interest in dating, is it something you feel anxious about? Do you feel like you can talk to them about it?
Here, Vicky shares her story about becoming interested in boys, the pressures she came up against and fitting in.
De-bunking the myths
It’s often presumed that autistic people can’t have or don’t want a relationship, with people assuming that we are incapable of love and affection. I myself think I am a very loving person, and this shows through in my relationships.
Autistic relationships work just like any other, they take commitment and dedication and involve a lot of sharing, compromise and open communication. Relationships are challenging as a whole, it’s not solely because I am autistic. Neurotypicals face the same puzzles we do, we (autistic individuals) just tend to experience things more intensely and to an amplified level.
Before I was diagnosed, I knew I was different, that I had my own quirks, I just hadn’t received any sort of label. I grew up thinking I’d never have a relationship, let alone get married one day. I thought that because I was introverted and peculiar no one would ever show an interest in me, but I soon learnt that it was my uniqueness which made me attractive.
Growing up I had no interest in boys, they were just like everyone else, human. I just wanted to stay home and play with my barbie dolls, dolls which had crazy haircuts and a weird fashion sense, who pretty much mirrored myself and who I wanted to be. I played with dolls all through high school, I spent most of my time alone… this was me. I played with dolls and teddies up until I was almost 17, when I suddenly realised it wasn’t age or socially appropriate.
When I was 17 I made new friends, friends who were extremely lively, social, and of course who were interested in make-up and boys. However, I was still a child at heart and I wasn’t interested in being a grown up yet. I was always the odd one out, I always felt like I didn’t fit in, and, actually, I think this is part of the reason why I decided to seek a relationship. Seeing all my friends in relationships made me feel a sense of loneliness and, although I didn’t want to be a grown up, I wanted to feel a sense of being grown up so I could fit in. I wanted to have someone I could talk to, someone I could have a close bond with. I was growing older and wanted to be able to experience relationships, even though I had no prior experience.
How it happened for me
I had my first relationship when I was 18/19, and honestly, I did feel the pressure to be in a relationship. My relationship started off as a friendship, developing into a more romantic relationship. However, looking back as an adult, I do feel that my relationship was more of a friendship than anything intimate, and this was okay. At the time my relationship was everything and in my eyes my boyfriend was everything, like me in many ways, we had lots in common.
I find I get attached to people extremely quickly and have a sense of wanting to be with someone when, in reality, I think I just liked the idea of being in a relationship and having someone close. I didn’t realise how different we actually were. He was socially awkward; but in a way which he became popular. He was friends with everybody and socialised frequently, something and someone I was not. I found it hard to communicate with him in ways other than text message, I found it difficult to show my emotions, we were two different people. I wanted a close connection, someone I could talk to, yet I didn’t talk, I didn’t show my feelings and it wasn’t a close connection. I realised it was more of a friendship.
Holding out for someone who understands you
Starting dating can be overwhelming and exhausting, it can make you feel anxious and nervous, but when you find someone you connect with on a deeper level you feel invincible. You feel as though someone truly understands you and lets you be your autistic self. It’s important though to remember your boundaries; knowing what you want out of the relationship and ensuring there are no pressures. You shouldn’t be in a relationship just for the sake of it or feel as though you should be just because its socially desirable. It’s essential to have a relationship where there is mutual understanding and respect for each other, with affection and love for one another – something I grew up thinking I’d never experience.
Tomorrow, you can read more about Vicky and her relationship where she talks about finding her feet with love, struggling with communication and marrying the man of her dreams. Don’t miss it! Can’t wait for that? Read more over at her Blog and follow Vicky on Twitter @actuallyautie