We can't lie to you. It's unnatural to us.
We've all been to a friend's wedding and found ourselves wondering "Will that bride/groom walking down the aisle ever be me?" But how many of us have wondered, "Has it still not happened for me even in my 30s because the way I am, and the problems I have, make it impossible for me to find someone?"
It's fair to say that playing the dating game or looking for a relationship is never easy for anybody, and it seems obvious, even to a person with limited social understandings, that for a viable relationship two people need to be able to support each other emotionally and financially.
Being someone or being with someone who has Autism or Asperger's Syndrome, however, is a totally different ball game. Because, fundamentally, we're different in many ways.
We feel things more intensely than most people, often leading to serious mental health problems, including high levels of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, and we sometimes feel things that most other people wouldn't feel or even notice at all.
We often have our own seemingly bizarre way of looking at things that some people find impossible to comprehend. Most relevant of all is that we struggle with basic understandings of other people, their feelings and intentions, and often feel like we're playing a game that is alien to us.
You probably know someone with Autism or Asperger's, even if you don't realize it. He may have been that shy "nerdy" kid at school who spent most of his time in the library and didn't have a lot of friends, the small child you saw the other day in the supermarket who wouldn't stop screaming uncontrollably for no apparent reason, or the slightly eccentric customer in your shop, blinding you with science about a subject you probably should know more about.
There is, however, another side to dating someone with Autism or Asperger's. Here's a comprehensive, although not totally exhaustive, list of things you should know about having a relationship with a person who has Autism or Asperger's Syndrome.
1. We'll take longer to trust you than most.
Most people suffer some form of abuse in their lives, but when, like most other people with Asperger's or Autism, you've suffered emotional abuse and bullying, and no shortage of rejection and isolation throughout your life, we may take a while to trust you, as we need to make sure that you won't hurt us the way many people do.
2. We won't want to just "get you into bed" straight away.
Don't get me wrong, we lust for the physical aspect of a relationship, just like anyone else. It's just not our only priority like it may be for some men. Even if emotions are difficult for us, we still like the emotional side of a relationship and may even have a stronger desire for romance than most people.
3. We don't really do "going out with the guys/girls."
Social situations are not easy for us, even at the best of times, and the abuse we have suffered can often do irreparable damage to our confidence — to the point where leaving our front door is an achievement, let alone meeting a date for coffee or attending a speed dating event.
4. We're more emotional than most people.
And not necessarily in the typical "angry guy" sense, who will be at his worst after a few beers. In some cases, it's often in a juvenile sense. So if we can't watch our favorite TV program or if we lose our stamp collection, please understand if we don't just accept it too easily.
The other big thing, particularly for men, is that unlike most men who seem to find emotions rather difficult to express, we need to be emotional. We're vulnerable by nature, and we need you to understand and accept this.
5. We'll always be honest with you, whether you like it or not.
If you ask our opinion on something — such as how you look in your new dress — whereas most men will tell you what you want to hear, we'll have no qualms about telling you we preferred the one you wore the other day, or that we simply don't like it. Sorry if you don't like that, but we can't lie to you. It's simply unnatural to us.
6. We won't cheat on you. Ever.
Due to the fact we aren't the most confident at talking to people we don't know, we're unlikely to go out, find someone new and leave you lonely and heartbroken. If you date one of us, the chances of gaining a committed partner and a stable relationship are that little bit higher.
7. We won't always know what you want or need, or understand how you feel.
You might need to explain things to us or make us aware of things that seem obvious to you, and you'd assume would to most people, so that you can be sure we understand you clearly. But we'll try, even if understanding others isn't instinctive to us. Please don't think that we're being ignorant or simply don't care about the one we love. We do, probably more than most partners would.
8. We'll be clear about our intentions from the start.
Because we have an unusual innocence about us, we're far less likely than most "normal" people to manipulate you or be unclear about our intentions. If we want a serious relationship, it's likely you will be told this from the start, so if you don't think we're right for you, be sure to tell us to avoid any confusion or hurt feelings. Be honest with us about your intentions, what you want from a relationship, and what you need in a partner.
9. We won't always know where the line should be drawn.
Because we're so passionate about the things we love, we often get lost and engrossed in them to the point where we forget that we have a life and that other things are more important. This also means we will sometimes talk about the things we love so much that we need to be told we're becoming a bit "too much."
Don't be afraid to tell us; we need to hear it. Just understand that it's a part of who we are and how we're made, and accept that our passions (often labeled "obsessions") are important to us.
10. We do have a life outside our computers.
We're not all the self-obsessed computer nerds that the media often makes us out to be. Like anyone else, we have feelings, we're competitive, and we like watching sports and listening to music. But we do tend to spend a lot of time on the internet or playing our electronic games. Be wary of that.
11. We can't just "relax."
Don't tell us to relax. Ever. Our emotions are in overdrive constantly: thinking, over-thinking, and then re-thinking absolutely everything. Our intense emotions make it hard to just "switch off" and forget everything, so you'll understand if we seem "uptight" or inexplicably nervous and overwhelmed.
12. We will have a special skill.
Whether it's being able to name the day of the week you were born within a matter of seconds, or tell what key a song is in by instinct, there will be something we have that will enable you to say to your friends, "Hey, can your boyfriend/girlfriend do this?"
The biggest challenge for many people with Autism or Asperger's, however, is getting the opportunity for these relationships to develop in the first place, due to the difficulties with understanding other people, particularly the opposite sex. But if you give us a chance, we'll prove to you that we can be the partner that will give you a happy life.
Go on, give us a chance. You won't regret it. We promise.
Shaun Underhay is a 30 year-old with Asperger's Syndrome from the United Kingdom. He is the creator of audio book, Andy the Aspie, designed to provide support for people affected by Autism or Asperger's Syndrome in the form of short stories, and has been campaigning for people with all kinds of disabilities for over a decade.