Navigating Different Dating Expectations in Neurodiverse Relationships

A YouTube viewer recently expressed frustration that his autistic partner’s idea of dating and intimacy seemed more childlike. He questioned whether she was capable of a real relationship. In this article, I explore different dating expectations in neurodiverse relationships and the importance of being respectful and avoiding labels.

“She’s intelligent, but her idea of a relationship and intimacy seems more the way a child might view it. I hate to dismiss her, but she doesn’t seem capable of a real relationship.”

YouTube Viewer Comment

Understanding Personal Expectations in Relationships

In dating, each person brings their own set of expectations and beliefs. These ideas are shaped by our culture, family backgrounds, movies and shows, and even social media posts. It seems obvious that not everyone shares the same beliefs and values, but this can be easily forgotten in dating and other relationships.

Cognitive Empathy and Theory of Mind

“Cognitive empathy” refers to the ability to understand and acknowledge that someone else’s experiences and expectations might differ from ours. “Theory of mind,” is the understanding that our own experience and point of view is different than anyone else’s – and this changes our perspective. Autistic individuals often struggle with cognitive empathy and theory of mind more than non-autistic individuals. However, everyone, regardless of neurotype, will struggle to remember that other perspectives are different and valid.

In the situation described by the viewer, it is important to consider whether he and his partner have discussed their expectations for the relationship. Conversations about pacing, timing, physical intimacy, and future plans are essential for any couple. Each person will have their own timeline and desires, and these differences should not be automatically dismissed as childlike or wrong because of different expectations or preferences – or because of neurodivergence.

Expectations and Pace in Dating Relationships

For many neurodivergent individuals, especially those on the autism spectrum, building trust and establishing a strong foundation before engaging in physical intimacy is paramount. The need for safety and familiarity often leads to a slower pace in developing an intimate relationship. It’s not uncommon for neurodivergent individuals to have specific criteria for allowing someone into their intimate spaces and engaging in physical touch.

The Importance of Safety and Familiarity for Neurodivergent Individuals

If you find yourself dating an autistic individual, it is key to use open and honest communication. Express your expectations, preferences, and desires, and encourage your partner to do the same. Remember, it may take time for them to articulate their timeline or preferences, but by having these discussions, you can determine whether you are aligned with each other as romantic partners.

Avoiding Judgement and Respecting Individual Differences

It’s crucial to approach these conversations without judgment or blame. Both partners should have the right to express themselves and explore what is important to them. If you discover that your expectations or timelines are not aligned, it doesn’t mean that your partner is incapable of a relationship. Instead, it might indicate that you are simply not the best fit for each other. Respect their individuality and make a decision based on what is ultimately best for both of you.

Conclusion: The Importance of Alignment and Respect in Relationships

In conclusion, navigating different relationship expectations, especially when neurodiversity is involved, requires open communication, empathy, and understanding. By recognizing that not everyone shares the same views and beliefs, we can foster healthier relationships. Remember, judgment and criticism have no place in these discussions. Each person deserves the freedom to be true to themselves while respecting and valuing their partner’s unique perspective.

*AI was used to generate and edit portions of this article.


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About ME

Although my professional training and experience have provided tremendous insight, my own neurodiverse relationships have been my personal training ground for understanding and embracing neurodiversity. In over two decades, I  have helped thousands of individuals, couples, families, students, and colleagues in over 13 countries as a THERAPIST, PROFESSOR, COACH, and GLOBAL EDUCATOR

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