Dating for Young Adults with Diverse Challenges
Oh, February – the month where the focus is on romance and dating. For all of us, dating can be nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing. For neurodiverse young adults, dating can be particularly challenging due to a lack of self-confidence and insecurities.
A lot of people get nervous about dating and end up staying home and thinking, “I really want to date.” So it is important to get yourself to informal social situations that will allow you to meet other young people. You can try going to a club l.a event, or joining a bowling league, going to a church or temple event, or trying a new hobby like an art or cooking class.
So what to do if you are at a social event and you find yourself wanting to meet another person? Here are some tips to help you get into the swing of dating:
1.) Some people need to know someone as a friend for a while before they are comfortable enough to go on a date. So how do you get more comfortable with each other? You have to talk to the other person. This is the beginning stage of dating when two people see if they have common interests; what are their favorite activities, what are their favorite foods, and what do they want in the future. If you find out you both love pizza, then going out for pizza is a great date!
2.) It can be tricky finding out if the person that you like feels the way about you. One sign is the person wants to talk to you and wants to find out more about you as a person. Remember, a lot of people get nervous talking to someone they like so the conversation may be a bit awkward at first. But if they ask you for your number or ask if you want to go to a movie or out to lunch, that can be a sign that they are interested in you. Or you can invite them to do something with you and if they say “yes,” then that may be the sign you are looking for!
3.) Try to be open to trying something new. Often times a person will want to share their favorite activity with someone they want to get to know better. For example, a person who loves their bowling league may invite the person they like to go bowling. You might be surprised how much you like doing something just because you like the person you are doing it with!
4.) It might take the pressure off if you don’t think about your activity as a “date” and instead just think about it as two people sharing an activity. And it’s ok if you find out that you like each other but don’t always like the same activities. For example, some people like to cook and some people don’t like to cook but they love to try new foods. This could still work out really well!
5.) If you meet someone online, get to know the person really well before you first meet in person. If you decide to meet them, then meet in a public place where there are lots of people around. Let a family member, good friend or coach know that you’re going to be on a date so that they’re aware of it, and even check in with that person during the date to make sure everything is going okay. Don’t get into your date’s car or go to their home or apartment the first time you meet. It’s a good idea to have your date meet your family member, good friend or coach so that the people you know can get to know your date as well.
6.) Preparing for your date might reduce your nervousness. Make arrangements for how you will get to the date and bring money to pay for the activity. Think about what you might talk about. You might try role-playing with a friend, coach or parent to practice having a conversation. Make sure to share the conversation so you both get to talk.
7.) Be honest with the person you like. And be sure you are both comfortable and happy doing the things you decide to do together.
And after being with the person you liked for a while, you might find that you have changed your mind and you no longer like them romantically. That is fine! It might be best if you both just stay friends.
And keep in mind that you do not have to go out with a person just because that person wants to go out with you.
And what happens if the person you like decides that they prefer to just be friends with you? That is okay too. Your feelings may be hurt for a bit which is absolutely normal. It happens to everyone. It just means that the person you are meant to be with is still out there waiting for you to find them!
Jeri Rochman, JD, MS
Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services?