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    • Mikhaela:

      I have never dated another autistic person, only neurotypicals this has been my overall experience. Communication is important in any relationship. I used to not disclose until I trusted the person, however now I disclose early on to gauge someone's true nature. You can tell a lot about someone in how they treat you or respond once they know about this part of yourself.

      For example, I have had some people very clearly tell me it's okay for them to date me because I'm not "too disabled" for them. Others have been seemingly supportive only for me to later find out they actually discount my feelings and don't truly understand my needs, writing me off as quirky. It is important to never doubt your intuition. Even though as an autistic person I have trouble with nonverbal communication, my gut instincts usually prove to be correct. Unfortunately, a lot of people try to manipulate autistic people and I have had these people come to me under the guise of a romantic relationship. They use parts of autism that they know I'm self conscious about to validate their behavior and get away with certain things, saying I am misunderstanding. I have written more about how to recognize controlling behavior down below:

      With that said, I think its important to disclose whenever you are comfortable to do so. I have done both ways, earlier on and later on. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Just know if the person really cares for you, it will be a non issue.

      Dating in general is difficult for me. Most of dating involves flirtatious non verbal communication that I am unable to pick up on. As a result, I miss most flirting cues and miss out on the opportunities to meet potential romantic partners, shutting them down without even realizing it. To compensate for this I tend to be more straight forward. If I am interested in someone I will do my best to be a little flirtatious, but mostly I will just be myself. I try to be upfront as possible if I think there could be romantic interest. I do often think I am luckier in a way being a woman who is autistic because in dating, women drive the nonverbal coy signals. Men are usually more straightforward and so I can more easily learn social cues to interpret if they are interested romantically.

      When in a relationship, I make people aware of my sensory overload. I also do my best to make them feel loved in my own ways since I know I do not pick up on a lot of nonverbal signals of affection. Something that has really helped is to read about love languages. We all speak our own type of love language no matter who we are, and you can even take free quizzes online to see what types of love your personality repsonds to best. I encourage whoever I am dating to take these with me so we can both know how to best make the other feel wanted and appreciated. Beyond this, I keep communication open about how I feel most supported and ask them to tell me how I can best support them. I find that concrete examples help. "I love when you do the dishes." or "It is too difficult for me to process what you are saying if we eat with the TV on." These little things help the person to learn more about me while acknowledging actions they do that make me feel good.

      I will step out of my comfort zone from time to time to make them feel loved just as I hope they do for me. I do think that the hardest part for me is my inability to know tone and facial expressions, leaving me constantly worried about someone's true feelings or anxious that I have missed a cue of affection. Now, I simply tell people who date me long term these parts of myself. While it can certainly be harder, if they are the right person they won't leave me guessing.

      The most important thing is to be yourself and always speak your truth no matter how hard it is. Never sacrifice who you are. Don't compromise your core beliefs or who you are as a preson just to be "good enough" for someone. Just because we are autistic does not mean that our feelings are any less valid within a relationship.