Tips for Overcoming Dating Challenges
The parts of life that make daily life challenging for neurodivergent people can really come to the forefront when it comes to dating. The aspects of dating that include social cues, caring about another person’s perspective, and making small talk can be quite anxiety provoking for neurodivergent people. However, in talking with the young people in our Advance LA community, we often hear that they have a strong desire for dating and romance.
But how to get started? One way for young people to meet potential dating partners is to participate in activity-based events such as an Advance LA club l.a. event, a special interest club like meetup.com, or by joining a group such as a bowling league. The focus on the activity lets the participants talk about what they are doing, such as discussion of the rules or scoring of a game. It also means that there is likely to be less of a focus on chatting and more of a focus on doing the activity. And the best part is meeting other people who have shared interests which can establish the common ground for conversation. And then, if sparks do fly, there will be plenty to talk about!
Another approach is to use a dating app. One example of a dating app is Hiki, which calls itself the “friendship and dating app for the Autism community.” This app is unique in that the sole focus isn’t dating but rather building a connection to a community. Hiki’s focus on neurodiversity allows for inclusivity which is often absent in many dating apps.
A big part of dating apps is the creation of a “profile.” A profile is information such as a person’s background interests or hobbies. Experts in dating apps suggest that every profile should contain the “3-2-1” formula: 3 things you want people to find out about you, 2 qualities you wish to find in the person you are dating, and 1 thing you hope to find together. A profile might look something like, “I am adventurous, curious and I love being outdoors. I am looking for someone who likes hiking and nature. Let’s explore the world together!”
One part of dating that can be challenging is that actual date itself. Trying to figure out social cues can be very challenging for some neurodivergent young people. Often we hear from our clients that they wish their dates could be more direct and just say what they mean. The use of sarcasm often is misunderstood and hurt feelings can sometimes happen. Our Coaches advise their clients if something comes up in conversation that they aren’t sure about, it is perfectly okay to ask for clarification. If it is the right person and a good match, they will be ok with the check-in.
On the other hand, sometimes neurodivergent young people can be too direct while on a date. For example, a young adult might ask, “Do you think I look nice?” and their date might respond in a way that was not meant to be unkind yet their date’s feelings are hurt. Practicing social skills can be of help in this area as well.
Another pitfall can be when neurodivergent young people experience romantic attraction for the first time. This can lead to, in some cases, young adults becoming overly attached and their romantic partner becomes a new special interest. These intense feelings of attraction are sometimes expressed in over-texting their partner or showing up at their home unannounced. This can feel a bit overwhelming for the object of their affection. Learning how to set clear expectations and boundaries can be very helpful.
Dating can be challenging for all of us. It takes practice to develop a level of comfort with social skills necessary for dating. But when the right person comes along, it can feel worth it.
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?