A romantic relationship can add love, companionship, support, fun, and excitement to your life. Plus, dating is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and grow as a person. Dating can be difficult for anyone, but dating on the autism spectrum can be particularly challenging. However, having a successful dating life as an autistic adult and finding that special someone is entirely possible and a worthwhile endeavor.

This guide to dating on the autism spectrum was created to educate and prepare autistic adults for the world of dating. We will discuss the unique challenges of dating on the autism spectrum. Then we will provide tips and advice for meeting people, planning and preparing for a date, communicating on a date, and dating safely.

Challenges of Dating on the Autism Spectrum

Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning there is a wide variation in the symptoms and challenges autistic individuals face as well as the severity. While everyone is different, these are some of the common challenges that autistic adults face when dating. Do not fret, we will discuss strategies that will help you navigate these challenges later in the article.

  • Social & Communication Challenges
    Interpreting social cues such as body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, and sarcasm can be difficult for people with autism. Missing or misinterpreting these social cues can cause misunderstandings.
  • Sensory Issues
    Many people with autism are hypersensitive to certain stimuli. Sensory sensitivities (bright lights, strong smells, loud noises, etc.) during a date can be stressful and distracting.
  • Lack of Routine & Structure
    People with autism tend to prefer routine and structure. Whether you have experience or you’re new to dating, it’s unpredictable. Unfamiliar feelings, unpredictable situations, changing plans, and new experiences can cause discomfort and irritability.

Celebrate Your Strengths as a Person with ASD

While there are plenty of challenges that come with dating on the autism spectrum, people with ASD also have unique and incredible qualities that make them phenomenal romantic partners. It’s important to recognize and celebrate these strengths so you know what a catch you are!

  • Honesty & Directness
    People with ASD are usually straightforward and honest about their feelings. Mind games, mixed signals, vague communication, and dishonesty are unfortunately very common in the dating world. Autistic people offer a refreshing level of honesty and direct communication that’s rare and admirable.
  • Loyalty & Reliability
    Loyalty and reliability are common characteristics among autistic individuals, more so than in the neurotypical population. Their preference for routine and structure over impulsivity provides a strong foundation for a safe and stable relationship. They are very loyal to the people they care about, which makes them wonderful long-term partners.
  • Strong Focus & Attention Skills
    When an autistic person really cares about something (or someone) their ability to focus is incredible. If they care about someone, they give their undivided attention to them. Their strong focus and attention skills make their romantic partners feel important and loved.

Where to Meet People

Meeting potential dates can be one of the hardest parts of dating. “There’s plenty of fish in the sea”, but where are they? Here are some ideas for how to put yourself out there and meet people!

Your Daily Routine

public transportation, school, the gym, the grocery store, church
Pay attention to the people you cross paths with during your normal routine. The love of your life could be sitting next to you on the bus, but you’ll never know unless you strike up a conversation. Disclaimer: This does not include people you know from work. Intertwining your professional life and dating life can lead to drama and uncomfortable situations.

Events & Locations Based on Your Interests

conventions, museums, sporting events, concerts, book signings, plays, zoos, and aquariums
Visiting places and attending events that you’re interested in is a great way to meet people with similar interests and gives you an automatic topic of conversation.

Group Activities

art classes, intramural sports, volunteer work, cooking classes, exercise classes, groups for people with ASD, clubs and groups at your local community center
Joining a club/team or signing up for a class is a great way to interact with new people. If one-on-one conversations make you nervous, this is a great option because the group atmosphere and focus on the activity take some of the pressure off.

Online Dating & Dating Apps

Online dating websites and dating apps can be great tools for meeting new people. Many autistic adults feel more comfortable getting to know someone virtually before having an in-person date, and that’s perfectly fine! Dating apps and websites allow you to highlight your passions and strengths, use filters to narrow down your search, and learn a little bit about the person before even talking to them.

Autistic Dating Events

Thanks in part to the Netflix show, Love on the Spectrum, tons of organizations are putting together events to help people with autism find love. Autistic dating events such as speed dating, mixers, and dating workshops are a great way to meet potential dates in an environment designed specifically for people with autism. Do some research to find out if there are any autistic dating events happening in your area!

Tips for Planning a Date on the Autism Spectrum

So, you asked them out and they said yes! Congrats! Now it’s time to plan your date. The first step to a successful date is deciding where you’re going to go and what you’re going to do. Here are some things to consider as a person planning a date on the autism spectrum.

Avoid Sensory Sensitivities

Consider your comfort level in different settings and choose an environment where you feel at ease.

Take Advantage of Shared Interests

If you already know that you share a common interest, plan your date around it! Going to a museum, movie, bookstore, or other destination that you’re both interested in will spark conversation and make you both feel more comfortable.

Relieve the Pressure with an Activity

Enjoying an activity together is a great way to get to know each other with less pressure than a traditional dinner date. Bowling, skating, hiking, mini golf, arcades, and board game cafes provide a fun distraction and automatic topic of conversation.

Start Small

You don’t have to plan something super fancy or spend a ton of time together on your first date. It’s okay to start small with something quick and simple like an ice cream date, coffee date, or even a walk in the park!

Ask your Date for their Opinion

Not sure what kind of date your date would like? Simply ask them! Provide them with some ideas, ask their opinion, and give them the chance to tell you where they would feel most comfortable. Your overall goal is to find a setting where you are both as comfortable as possible so that you can focus on getting to know each other.

Plan the Timeline before your Date

Dating comes with enough uncertainties, planning the logistics of your date ahead of time will give you some control of how the experience will go. Determine where you’re going, what time you’ll arrive, AND what time the date will end. Even if you’re having a great time, giving your date a set time window will put you at ease, and if you want to spend more time with them, ask them on another date!

Communication Tips for Dating with ASD

Good communication is the basis of any successful relationship. Communicating with dates and romantic partners might be a little more challenging for people with autism spectrum disorder, but quality communication is entirely possible, especially when you find the right person. The goal of these communication tips for dating with autism is to help you have productive, meaningful, comfortable conversations so that you can form connections and find the right person for you!

Use Direct Communication

Flirting, non-verbal cues, body language, innuendo, and social signals can be difficult to decipher for autistic individuals. That’s okay! You don’t need to understand these vague forms of communication to succeed in dating. Focus on direct verbal communication instead. Clearly communicating how you feel about a person, your boundaries, struggles, and intentions, makes for a healthy and open relationship.

Don’t expect your date or partner to guess how you’re feeling. Express how you feel regularly, whether it’s positive or negative, but remember to always be polite. If you’re having a great time, let them know! If there’s something that you like about them, compliment them. If something makes you uncomfortable, tell them. If you don’t have romantic feelings for them, simply tell them you just want to be friends.

Don’t Dominate the Conversation

Dating is all about getting to know each other. Be careful not to dominate the conversation by only talking about yourself or hyper fixating on a topic only you are interested in. Ask your date plenty of questions and when they ask you a question, ask it back to them. Autistic individuals are very passionate people, which is a great thing! However, it’s important not to ramble on and on about something your date isn’t passionate about or interested in because they might get bored or feel ignored. Ask them about their favorite books, musicians, movies, hobbies, interests, and try to find common interests to discuss.

Look Your Best

You might be thinking, “what does my appearance have to do with communication?”. In the dating world, the way you look communicates a lot. Putting effort into your appearance for your date shows that you like them and want to look your best for them. Make sure that you are dressed nicely, your hair (and facial hair if you have it) is well groomed, and you smell and look clean for your date. Looking your best on the outside can also help you feel confident on the inside.

Prepare a Conversation Starter

Small talk is something that many people with ASD struggle with. Thinking of a few questions or topics of conversation ahead of time can help you get the conversation rolling at the beginning of the date and give you something to say if there is an awkward silence or lull in conversation.

Safety Tips for Dating on the Autism SPectrum

Even before finding love, safety should be your top priority when navigating the autistic dating world. Following these dating safety tips will help you and your date stay safe.

Enforce your Boundaries & Report Inappropriate Behaviors

If a date or romantic partner is making you feel uncomfortable in any way, stand up for yourself. Unwanted physical advances, controlling behavior, verbal abuse, or harassment are never okay. Tell a trusted adult in your life if any of these inappropriate behaviors are occurring in your relationship and distance yourself from that person. If you are unsure whether your partner’s behavior is inappropriate, ask a trusted adult.

Physical Intimacy & Asking Consent

People with autism might experience atypical processing of touch, have an aversion to physical touch, or lack an emotional response to touch. Always discuss physical touch beforehand whether it’s hugging, holding hands, kissing, or something more. Physical intimacy can be a wonderful part of a romantic relationship, if you want it to be. However, you must have open communication with your partner to make sure that both parties are comfortable, ALWAYS ask consent, and expect your partner to do the same. Click here to learn more about consent. If your partner doesn’t know about consent, educate them!

Online Dating Safety Tips

Dating websites, dating apps, social media, chat rooms, or even video games can be great tools for meeting people. Unfortunately, there are people on dating websites, dating apps, and other virtual platforms that are there for something other than love. Beware of scam artists, thieves, catfish, and other deceitful people, and use these online dating safety tips to protect yourself.

Meet in Public

When you’re ready to make the transition from online to offline, you should always meet in a public place. No matter how well you feel like you know a person from communicating online, you should never agree to go to their home, invite them to yours, or meet in a secluded location until you have established a strong in-person relationship and they have proven to be trustworthy. This also applies to transportation, do not get in a car alone with someone you only know from the virtual world. Handle your own transportation and meet them at the public date destination.

Do Not Share Personal Information

This is a good rule of thumb for any new relationship. Criminals can use your personal information to impersonate you, steal from you, or stalk you, and these schemes are common on the internet. Do not share location details such as your home address, place of work, or school with someone on the internet. There are certain personal details that you shouldn’t share even if you’re in a committed relationship—banking information, social security numbers, passwords, and anything you’re uncomfortable revealing.

Share Your Date Details

This tip is a good idea regardless of whether you met your date online. Provide a friend, family member, or other trusted individual in your life with the details of your date (time, location, date’s name) and contact them afterwards to let them know how it went. If you want to take extra safety precautions, share your phone location with them as well.

Don’t Hesitate to Seek Professional Help!

We hope the information and tips in this article were helpful, but the support doesn’t have to stop here! Autistic dating is complicated and can be intimidating, but you aren’t alone, professional help is available. A therapist or behavioral specialist can help you improve your communication skills, identify and address challenging behaviors that could impact your dating life, and learn more about dating with autism.

Applied Behavioral Advancements is a team of top clinicians dedicated to improving peoples’ lives across the state of Kentucky through Applied Behavioral Analysis. With a wide range of expertise, ABA can match you with the right therapist(s) to help you overcome obstacles, become a better version of yourself, and achieve your goals. Navigate the world of autistic dating with confidence and improve your odds of finding “the one” with the help of ABA. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or learn more!