He Said-She Said: Socializing and Asperger's Syndrome
- Thursday, July 22, 2010
Small group dates can be a lot more fun, a lot less stress, and an opportunity for you to not have to be on the spot and carry the whole evening. Your "get-together" doesn't have to be some formal, structured "date." It can be a very casual, informal thing where you can all just get to know each other and not be specifically singled out with one person or the other. It would take pressure off of you and off of them. Also, having a good friend nearby who knows you can help out with the conversation if you seem to be struggling.
When you do have the opportunity to socialize, do take your time, be honest and share with them who you are, but try to focus on her—listen to what she has to say and ask questions of her. Sometimes we can get so excited about wanting to share something (and put our best foot forward), we stop listening. Use the opportunity to work on communicating and feeling comfortable in that kind of a situation.
If things seem to be going along well, ask to get together again. There's no need to rush into a "formal" dating relationship. If things don't click, don't take it personally; she may not be the right fit for you. Just go out and try again. Dating can be difficult even for the most skilled, experienced "dater." Don't put too much pressure or yourself and don't beat yourself up about it.
The most important thing on a date (for me) is to be real and to get to know the other person—warts and all. I don't want to go through months of dating a gifted "actress" only to find out she isn't the person I thought she was.
Be yourself. Be who God made YOU to be. Enjoy the experience.
SHE SAID: As I've contemplated your question, I have tried to put myself in your shoes. What social situations make for awkward moments for me when I don't know what to do or in what types of circumstances have I found myself having a hard time connecting with others?
Now, even though I am a highly social person (and pretty much know no stranger), there are times when I am not completely comfortable and I feel like an introvert in an extrovert's body. An example would be at a party where I know no one and feel alone—even in a crowded room full of people! So, I can share with you in feeling intimidated or lost, if you will, in a group setting such as this.
Over the years, even if I didn't know anyone else attending I would just go to gatherings like these by myself and decided I could just make new friends on the fly. Sometimes that approach has worked, but more often than not I have found myself doing all of the heavy lifting when it comes to breaking into groups where everyone already knows everyone. It can be exhausting, as I feel like I must "tap dance" and put on a show in order to get people to notice me, open up and talk with me.
More often than not, though, I've found that people just don't want to have to adjust when there is a "new member" trying to enter the group or when an "outsider" is trying to make connection with them. They've got their friends, and they don't want to have to get out of their comfort zones to connect with someone new. Again, that's just my experience.
But, that being said, as I've gotten older I feel like I've made some healthy choices and changes for myself—one being that I no longer go alone to parties where I don't know anyone. I realized something important: I don't have to. (I know … rocket science, huh?)
Instead, if I really want to go, then I take a wingman (a friend, basically). The wingman is my security blanket for the evening or for the duration of the party or event. If I get tired of putting myself out there, trying to meet people and getting them to converse with me, then I have my wingman who will be my companion so that I won't feel lonely and will have someone to pal around with.
So how do I translate my experience to you, to your condition and to your predicament? Well, since I am not schooled in or very knowledgeable of Asperger's Syndrome, I would first direct you toward a support group or to someone (a counselor or other qualified professional) who can help you with ongoing tips or techniques that you might learn and utilize to help you in socializing in groups. This might go a long way in helping you to watch for cues and be on the lookout for expressions or behaviors (to help you gauge the social temperature in a room or reactions or emotions) when you are in a group situation.
But then I would suggest that you, too, find a wingman. Is there a guy friend of yours who would be willing to stay by your side and perhaps be a buffer (or help subtly direct conversations with women) in group settings? Is he emotionally stable and is he spiritually mature? Is he someone you trust? He might be able to give you feedback when observing your interactions with women or be the one who helps you to build a bridge (conversationally) with you and someone who interests you.
Once you have engaged a woman in conversation (and your wingman has witnessed this), go back to the "club house" (so to speak) and come up with your game plan. Was your wingman able to tell if a woman was interested in you? Was she attentive? Did she ask questions to try and get to know you better? Did she linger? (Meaning, did she hang around you for longer than just a "flyby" or a "hi" and "bye"?)
If he detects that there was interest on her part, the next step might be a personal e-mail or phone call from you to her. Perhaps you could suggest going out on a short double date for lunch or dessert and coffee (keep it brief at first, so that you can get used to this type of an outing). Your group would only total four people: you, your female interest, your wingman and his date.
This smaller group might help you feel more comfortable in relating to a woman and getting to know her better (in person, as opposed to communicating only via e-mail or phone). Also, perhaps your wingman could let his date know of the situation. Then, they would both be careful not to monopolize the conversation during your date, so that you and your interest would have more time to interact and see if there is something worth pursuing further between the two of you.
Bottom line, as believers we are here to (and are instructed to) help, serve and love one another. So tap into your pool of guy friends and see who you trust and would be willing to help you out and shepherd you through this process (Romans 12:10, Romans 12:13; Galatians 6:10). Perhaps this will be the right step toward building a close, opposite-sex relationship that you desire.
(P.S. Cliff and I know it's a little bizarre that our answers are so alike this time around. That being said—and as a reminder—we write our responses independently of one another and don't see the other's response until we've completed our own.)
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