Friday, April 11, 2008

On Aspie Courtship

As I mentioned in my last post, many of the problems with aspie love stem from the aspie's inability to find love or to receive and interpret appropriate signals from partners. There are a number of factors influencing aspie courtship and these include;

General Shyness
Aspies are usually fairly "shy" beings - not just with the opposite sex but with everyone. This shyness is even more problematic with people in whom they have an interest. Often, the aspie will simply look or smile at their intended partner and assume that this is enough to "call" the other person's attention. If the aspie stares too long without proper conversation, it becomes "creepy" and they will lose any opportunity they may have had. Aspies generally need to be approached since they'll rarely do any approaching of their own.

The Naive Mind
Aspies tend to appear very naieve and sometimes, we are. More often however, while we are well aware of the scope of human endeavors, it is our ability to read expressions that lets us down. An aspie will usually not know if someone is "coming onto" them and will not respond as expected. Similarly, aspies often get themselves into trouble by mistaking approaches by others as simply friendly gestures. In female aspies, the latter can lead to particularly dangerous situations.

Invisible Rulesets
An aspie's life is governed by a complex series of rules. Most of the time, these rules apply only to the aspie themselves and are "invisible" to other participants. Aspies act on these rules constantly, auto-create additional rules constantly and usually assume that other people are mind-reading their rules and require no explanations whatsoever.

Aspies are often genuinely quite surprised when people around them break rules, particularly deep-seated moralistic ones. Often a simple action, like an NT taking a "sick day" at work when they aren't really sick, can cause an aspie great distress because of the way it breaks a rule. Such rule-breaking in their partner can cause an aspie to doubt their morals or honesty.

The rules applying to courtship are often overly complex and can be anything from "the number of smiles I get" through to how someone answers a given question. From the NT's point of view, you can't win but if you often ask the aspie direct questions, you might be able to glean just a few of the rules.

The Need to be Explicit
Many NTs who date aspies complain that the aspie doesn't know how to do anything by themselves or that they don't think before they act. In reality, aspies are often so oblivious to unspoken social rules that their partners need to provide them in the form of "aspie rules".

For example;
  1. "Whenever you are asked to go over to someone's house for dinner, you should bring a wine - or if they're not alcohol drinkers, some other drink"

  2. If you're visiting someone for lunch, bring a cake
The same sort of rules should be made explicit regarding courtship. These rules include something along the lines of; From a female to a male: "You need to provide one or two compliments to me when we go out; either about my clothes, hair, looks, personality etc.". Yes, I know that an NT wouldn't need to be told, but an aspie not only needs telling, they also need it created as a rule.

In order to get past the telling stage and into the "rule" stage, you need to repeat it a bit until it starts happening.

One rule that my wife successfully managed to instill into me was the idea that "I'll only go out with someone very seriously for 2 years - after that, I'd expect to see an engagement ring". She mentioned this rule a few times right at the start of our "serious" relationship (never mind that we'd been going out less seriously for about 6 years prior). This was particularly useful to me because it made me plan without feeling threatened (since I had two years to decide).

5 comments:

Inspiration Alley said...

I can definitely relate to this. My husband was astounded when he met me that I was totally unaware that just about every unmarried man at work wanted to go out with me. He couldn't believe his luck when he realised that I wasn't committed elsewhere. I had no idea that I was so popular, after all nobody had explicitly told me and I had ignored all their attempts to get to know me better due to not picking up on the social cues. I need to be told explicitly the rules and what to look for.

My son and I discuss the things to look for and how to respond hopefully, he'll find things easier than I did.

Meredith said...

I can also relate to it...now. But I started out as quite the opposite of shy, and before I was 15-16 I was very aggressive, even violent - especially when detected intrusion to my personal space or someone halted the flow of thought I was swimming with at the moment. Then I made a 180° turnaround and became anxious and self-loathing - probably due to "assertive parenting" and, even more likely, authoritative teachers (I was transferred into a new school back then). It became a kind of unconscious rule to me in this form: "you must not have a will of your own", though it was (and is) very painful at times (though it was useful by now as all I had to do at school and at home is to shut up, wait for instructions and obey; but now I'm going to university and have to unlearn this to be a little more independent). So my conclusion is that the "shyness" you mention is not always an inherent Aspie trait, but some kind of learned strategy or rule which one has to lean on in order to survive in a hostile environment.

Also, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9Yd8E-IlVw this video link; it's not "scientifically accurate" but provides a great core idea for identifying and accepting Aspies of all kinds. (Though I don't quite get what the Spielberg one is about; it sounds like an NT.) (BTW, I'm a Morrissey/Nicholls according to this.)

midwestcoast said...

I didn't know that I should bring a cake to lunch. Oops.

Poe said...

I agree with Meredith. Pre-High School I was fun and talkative and high energy but in high school, Marine Corps and college I was forced into a behavior box and like you mentioned what I could do or how I should behave was endlessly repeated to me to the point I made a long list of rules as to my "public" behavior. Only when I was alone did I venture out of the behavior box. I see my behavior as a pattern. They say this I repeat that. They do this I do that. Smile, nod agree, smile again. Like a flow chart. I am fine unless someone talks the conversation to unfamiliar territory. I have my default "Oh, Really!" or "You bet." to try and hold them at bay till I can escape.
One thing I do is live in ear plugs. Work ear plugs, sleeping ear plugs, church ear plugs and for those loud stores I where heavy duty ear plugs and driving sun glasses that get darker the further up the lens it goes. I can still read packages, menus and such but ceiling lights are dimmed.

-Poe

Poe said...

I agree with Meredith. I was put in a Behavior Box in high school, Marine Corps and college. Only now that I am diagnosed can I see what is going on. I see social behavior as a flow chart. They do this, I do that. They say this, I say that. Smile, nod, smile again.

-Poe