With the dissolution of my most-recent relationship, I have been compelled to share my insight into what it’s like dating while being on the Autism Spectrum.
Here’s a quick backstory for you. Now, I received an initial diagnosis of autism at the age of 3, in 1987. This was in a time when very little was known about the condition. Even through my childhood and into my teens, I was often made a pariah because I was “different” from everyone else. I was seen as a danger, a menace to society, because I would be quick to anger and ready to beat other kids up if they made fun of me. To this day, I still carry the trauma of being different from my peers.
Now, let’s get into why we are all here. I was the tender young age of 7 when I developed my first crush on a girl. Her name was Mindy and she was older, 11 to be precise. This started a little pattern, but I won’t dive too deep into that. Mindy and I met at school, which was a K-12 school for special needs students. We became fast friends and tried to spend time together outside of school, but she lived much too far away for that to happen. We might have lived in the same county, but we lived at least 30 minutes apart. I knew that I always wanted to be around Mindy, but I knew nothing of crushes or being in love. She certainly must have thought I was crazy to want to hold hands and kiss her, because let’s face it, I at least knew that much about “love”. Our story ended about a year later when she had to move away and of course, I was sad.
I really didn’t pay any mind to girls again until I reached adolescence. I’m going to tell you now, this is where adult subject matter and terminology come into play. Click off of this page if what I say from here on out might offend you. With that having been said, let’s continue.
At around the age of 11, I really started to take a renewed interest in girls. As puberty hit, I began to have erections whenever I would think about a girl or woman I found attractive. Before I had access to pornography, I would masturbate to Sears catalogues and TV programs I knew had pretty ladies on them, with the TV on mute. In any case, I was hopelessly chasing girls with no success. Then again, I might have been successful, had I not turned down a field trip in 7th grade. The group I was to go with were all girls, including one I was really into. Talk about your missed opportunity.
Just remember, we are all adults (hopefully), who are reading this blog.
Middle school was humiliating enough, what with every kid being hormonal, emotional tornadoes, just sweeping through everyone who got in their way. When it came to high school, I can’t say that my dating prospects were any better. Oh, I tried, really tried to find my “soulmate” at 16 or 17, but the ones who did like me, I took no interest in. In fact, more than 20 years on, and I still regret not pursuing one girl who genuinely was into me.
At this point, you may want to ask “Well, James, what does any of this have to do with being on the autism spectrum?”
Dating as a man on the Autism Spectrum presents its own set of challenges. For someone who already has trouble with social cues, boundaries are another issue. I don’t always know if a woman is comfortable with my words, moves, or motives in general. Other times, they can see right through me, knowing that my end goal with them is sex. That’s when they promptly friendzone me.
Trying to get the attention of the opposite sex is difficult enough for even neurotypical males. It’s a whole ‘nother nightmare for people like me. Never mind that I was never one of the “popular” kids, I was clueless (and still am) about social interaction, period. Confusing lust for love is all too easy in my world. Even as I started working at a well-known grocery store chain for my first job, it was still just an extension of high school, what with cliques and hierarchies. I cannot tell you just how many young ladies I tried to get with over the course of my time at that job. One in particular stands out, because she strung me along for a year, before revealing that she had a boyfriend all along. Just hold on tight, because things are about to get juicier.
The year was 2006. I was fresh off of being canned from my job at the grocery store and had a lot of time on my hands. I was on a journal website, probably GreatestJournal, when I met a girl whom we’ll call “C”. In late January of that year, C and I agreed to meet up where she was working at the time, then we came back to my house to hang out. As we were spending the first of two nights together, I decided to take C over to meet an elderly neighbor of mine. C, of course, thought that I was weird for making her go and meet this person. The second night C and I spent together, we started making out and feeling all over one another. I was pretty sure she was expecting sex, but I chickened out, because I really liked her and wanted to wait for a “special occasion”, one that never came.
I got to meet and know C’s family, especially her youngest brother, who liked me because I was into Dragon Ball Z like he was. My relationship with C, however, was rocky from the start. She began to treat me like I was a waste of space and always demanded that I pay for her when we’d go out, whether I had money or not. I still clung to C through her succession of boyfriends and girlfriends. That, kids, is another pattern I would fall into when it came to the females I dated. Most of them were bi or pansexual. Anyway, when C was in a rather serious relationship towards the end of the time I associated with her, the guy she was with didn’t take too kindly to clingy fools like me. 8 years I put up with C’s crap before finally cutting her out of my life for good. Funny how I do something like that, only for it to be followed by a major life-altering event, such as losing my father to a massive heart attack.
All in all, C was just like every other bully I had in my life, constantly putting me down for my disability and hating the fact that I wasn’t already living independently at 21. She was the most spoiled of princesses and I was happy to do away with her. C actually had a loose association with someone who would become my first actual girlfriend. This one, we will call “K”.
I met K on Myspace? Remember Myspace? Of course you do (or don’t). After a few weeks of talking, K and I meet at the Winter Park Village and spent the day in a book store, a video game store and other places. Later on, my mom picks us up and we go back to the house. K was trying all evening to get into my pants, which I wasn’t clued in on until we had to take her home. 3 days later, she calls out sick from her job and wants me to come over. I do and I lose my virginity to her that very day. On Tuesday, April 25, 2006, I finally became a MAN!
Now, while I had plenty of good times with K, even attending that year’s Warped Tour concert together and bonding with her estranged father, we had some not-so-great moments, like when I was nearly arrested for not having identification on me while being with her and two friends, all of whom had criminal records. K treated me well, otherwise, but her mom and sisters hated my guts. In fact, her mom encouraged her to stay with me so that she, not K, could get some of my disability money. It was 3 days after my birthday when we would split up. That afternoon, K and I were left alone in her mom’s apartment to have a little fun. She then wanted to go for a walk down by the lake behind the complex. It was then that she told me she didn’t want to be with me anymore. This caught me by complete surprise, because I thought we were doing so well. It was only a couple of months later that I found out why she broke up with me. Her boyfriend came home after finishing a tour with his band. Case in point, I was K’s side guy for 3 months. Thanks, but no thanks to a mutual friend for divulging this information.
I would spend the next several years, chasing random girls from my past, even having sex with one, which she clearly pitied me and let me sleep with her. Then, in 2009, at 25, my quarter-life crisis was in effect. I was so despondent from the job I was working at the time and continuing to fail with women, that when one came along, I became obsessed with her. She will be referred to as “K2”.
K2 and I met while working at a place known for being a “red bullseye”. We became fast friends and seemed to have real connection. There was just one problem, she was married. The people we worked with couldn’t believe that I was trying to pursue a married woman, but I would have none of their criticisms. To me, it didn’t seem to matter that K2 was taken. I just wanted to be with her, even going so far as to include my brother on outings and inviting myself to go with them to an outdoor concert, when it was their anniversary present to one another. One of the last times I had anything to do with K2 was when I showed up at her townhouse unannounced to try and be alone with her. She freaked out, understandably, but let me visit for a short while anyway. Nothing happened. We reconnected over Facebook 2 years later, but she told me that I was responsible for their divorce. Her husband could not mentally recover from my intrusion, even though K2 and I never even so much as kissed.
I took the next several years off from trying to get laid and just focused on myself. I registered to vote, took trips out of state, went to more and more concerts and had a pretty wild 28th birthday party, where my dad stole my thunder. That last bit was July of 2012, and we would lose him 18 months later.
It’s late 2015 and I’m 31 years old. The next woman I would get involved with was an older woman who lived out of state, in “Buckeye Country”. For this part of my story, she will be abbreviated to “H”. H would be the first single mother I found myself dating, as she had a 5-year-old daughter at the time. Our infatuation was quick to grow and within weeks of meeting H, I was on my way to visit with her over a long weekend. I spent some time with her daughter, but she was mainly with the grandparents, so that H and I could get to know each other. The first visit, even though I caught a little cold, was as wonderful as life could get for me. We spent much of our time in the bedroom, even waking up in the middle of the night to go at it. When that wasn’t going on, I was attempting to form a bond with her daughter.
Unfortunately, as these things go, reality soon set in. There was talk among H and myself about her and the kid driving down to visit me over Christmas break. When the time came for that to happen, she backed out and I was upset. I tried to break up with her around New Year’s Day 2016, but took her back shortly thereafter. It’s now February 2016 and I go back to visit her over Valentine’s Day weekend. I wish I could say that things were as good as the first visit, but I came down with the flu and spent most of that weekend in bed, sleeping. It was also during this time that any attraction I had towards H was on rapid decline. I just couldn’t do the long-distance relationship thing anymore. One month later, I was pushed by a friend to finally break up with H, over the phone, no less. I told H that she was only fit for helping me break a 6-year dry spell of physical intimacy.
After a random sexual encounter with someone in between, I remained mostly unfulfilled until March of 2020. Through the Facebook Dating app, I started talking to a lady with a Christmas Day birthday. We will refer to this one as “A”. A was my most promising potential relationship yet. We talked even when the COVID quarantine began and I was furloughed from my job for a month. In June of 2020, the stars finally aligned and we had our first date at one of my favorite restaurants. That was a great day, even with all the rain that fell. We tried to get together every couple of weeks. The first time I would sleep with A, was the night before my birthday. After the way that session embarrassingly ended, she almost didn’t want to see me again, so I had to plead for her to stay with me.
After that night, things did improve between us and I started going over to where she was house sitting, and those were some of the best times that A and I shared together. I even paid her a surprise visit one Sunday and met her mom and nephew. My relationship with A seemed to be on an upward trajectory…until about late September. A decided that she needed to time to clear her head from all the stressors in her life. Those things include her chaotic job and moving into her new home. Looking back now, I could have been one of her stressors.
Now, in mid-October, after another of her multi-day disappearing acts, A texted me to tell me that she wished me well, but wanted to move on in her life without me. Now, I don’t mind if my significant other needs time to herself every now and then, but if she won’t let me in just a little bit, then I can’t be with someone like that. I’m the type of person who needs near-constant communication with my partner, if only to be assured that everything is alright between us.
Maybe I’m all wrong and I should stop being so needy, but that’s a topic for another day. If you made it this far down the post, then you’re a real trooper. I’m finished with this blog, but be sure to return next time, when I give a little advice about what to do when you’re dating as someone on the spectrum.
Thanks for reading.