The New York Times has a great post in its ongoing series about young adults with autism about a young couple where both partners have Aspergers. The article focuses on Jack Robison and his girlfriend Kirsten Lindsmith as they try to navigate the ups and downs of having a relationship and being autistic. Jack is the son of John Elder Robison, who has written two great books on being a person with Aspergers. (To keep the name association going, Jack’s uncle is one of my favorite writers, Augusten Burroughs.)
The article is interesting because of the thoughts and feelings it brought up in me when it comes to dating and now, marriage.
Part of my issues with dating were because I never really dated much before my late 20s. A lot of that was dealing with my own sexuality which slowed things down. When I finally came out in my late 20s I then started dating regularly, and that’s when the fireworks began. A few years ago, as I was trying to determine if I had Aspergers, I asked my friend Erik to write something about it. Erik was my first boyfriend and this is part of what he wrote:
Dennis and I dated for two years and I found it both enjoyable and frustrating. Enjoyable because he is a good person; frustrating because he didn’t seem to “read signals” very well, if at all.
For a while I thought this was because I am the youngest child in my family and therefore had gotten used to everyone figuring out what I wanted and liked. Looking back now, though, “reading” me was apparently not difficult for the others I had dated before Dennis and those I’ve dated since.
There were times when Dennis would be absorbed for hours in his computer screen as I sat across the room thinking that at some point he would come sit by me—that did not happen unless I verbally asked for it. There were times when Dennis would put a CD on and it would play three times through, and would have gone more times had I not objected.
And it got better after that.
The worst was dealing with flirting. I didn’t get it. I still don’t. I could see how others did it with ease. But it never made sense to me to make small talk, let alone talk that is all about puffing up the other person. Add to that, I could never really “read” folks at all. I didn’t know that people were communicating to me in ways that didn’t involve talking. I stayed in my little world, not knowing how to really talk to people. I seemed to stumble along and finally in 2005 met a guy who seemed to like me in all my strangeness. Not that it has been a cakewalk there. Daniel is still at times amazed by my oddball behavior, but it seems to be working for now.
What I do know is that even with all the problems, I’m glad for dating and being a relationship. It’s from these encounters with others that I learn a little bit better what it means to be human.