Modern Morality: Should I Tell Potential Partners on Dating Apps I Have Autism or Wait Until the Date?
Question: I was diagnosed with autism in my early 30’s and it answered many questions for me, particularly about some of the challenges I had in intimate relationships.
Some people are surprised when I tell them I have autism. I’ve heard “You don’t seem to be autistic” more times than I care to count… Other people tell me it makes sense and explains some of my behaviors.
Anyway, I’ve never used dating apps, but I joined a few of them in early January. My question is should I tell people I have autism when we chat on the app or should I wait until I tell them in person?
My friend says I should only tell people when I’m sure they have “match potential.” But that process could take months, and withholding such information seems wrong. What should I do?
Answer: I’ve shared your dilemma with three experts who have all had experiences with autism. You understand how autism can affect romantic relationships. Likewise, they understand that disclosing autism — under any circumstances — has both benefits and risks.
Autism counselor Laura Crowley says disclosure is “an extremely personal thing”. Diagnosed at 40, she says she’s very open about her neurodivergence and is “very proud of it.”
She “dabbled” with dating sites, she says, but that was pre-identification, so she never had to “face the same conundrum” as you. “I’ve been very happily married for the last few years and my husband has never ‘insulted’ me or looked at me differently since I identified myself,” she adds.
However, as someone who’s been very open about her neurodivergence, she says she’s encountered “every reaction you can imagine — shock, embarrassment, confusion, and my most unpopular pity. I’m used to it now and treat it as an educational endeavor in the hope that the next time they encounter autism they will respond with more compassion.”
Based on her experience speaking to people about autism, she encourages you to ask yourself two things before opening up to people on dating apps. “First, if the reaction is immediately unfavorable, are you ready? Second, are you willing to educate the person to see “you” rather than identification?
“The societal understanding of autism is weak at best,” she says. “Autism is complex, but the overwhelming response is often compassion, as if a life lived as autistic is a life less lived. Educated people will see beyond the word, but how confident are you that you can handle an initial rejection based on unconscious bias?
“It may be more beneficial to allow them to see the real you before you tell them everything. This can serve to immediately challenge assumptions and discredit their interpretation of the autistic experience.”
I also shared your dilemma with Eleanor Walsh, who is a performer and autism advocate. She notes that there are many common myths about autism, including the notion that people with autism aren’t interested in dating or romance. “By simply being yourself, you dispel some of the myths about autism,” she says.
“When it comes to access, that’s a good reason to be public, but you can also speak up about your accessibility needs without specifically mentioning autism,” says Walsh. “‘I’m not really into nightclubs, the music is too loud for me, but how about a coffee instead?'”
She also suggests tackling autism-related issues in subtle ways: “‘I think Greta Thunberg’s climate crisis campaigns are brilliant, what do you think?'” Then see how they react.
“If you decide to disclose, be prepared to answer questions,” she says. You could talk about what it means to you to have autism and justify it with “real life examples”. You could say: I can be very sensitive to noise and noise, so I take my headphones with me everywhere.
In your letter, you mentioned asking your boyfriend for dating advice, but did you know there are relationship experts who specialize in neurodiverse relationships? Natalie Roberts, a relationship coach who supports individuals and couples in neurodiverse relationships, is one of them. She is also the co-host of the Myth about neurodiverse relationships podcast.
“Revealing aspects of our identity, neurological or otherwise, is a matter of personal choice rather than right/wrong choice,” says Roberts. “What’s also true is the more ‘you’ you are, the more likely you are to connect with and develop a successful relationship with the right person for you.
“Your relationship with ‘you’ is the single most important factor in a successful relationship with someone else. Confident disclosure to “partner potential” works best when you have a high level of confidence and self-acceptance about yourself.”
Still, disclosure can put you in a position of vulnerability, she adds. “You may have experienced not belonging, being left out, rejected or bullied, which can affect confidence and make it too scary to share who you are with others – we don’t want to be hurt or rejected again, it’s understandable.” You want others to be curious and interested, and if they aren’t, they may not be for you.
“As someone who has navigated unknown and later known neurodiversity in an intimate relationship, I would recommend disclosing this as soon as you feel comfortable saying so.
“Neurodiversity can affect both partners, and the sooner a couple gets support from someone who truly understands how to love and live with differences, the better the outcome for everyone.”
If you have a dilemma, email email@example.com.
https://www.independent.ie/life/modern-morals-should-i-tell-potential-partners-on-dating-apps-that-im-autistic-or-wait-till-the-date-42325528.html Modern Morality: Should I Tell Potential Partners on Dating Apps I Have Autism or Wait Until the Date?