Aspie Advice

Someone wrote to me, asking for advice. I didn’t really ask permission before posting this, so I’m stripping out the identifying information:

Hi nebu, hope i’m not intruding in a way that isn’t pleasant, but I just saw some of your posts on what it’s like to have aspergers and was curious about a few things. A good friend of mine is also diagnosed with aspergers (and is also 30 yrs old), and I’m trying to get to a point where I can understand some of his behavior just a bit better. He’s gone through some tough times recently, and I would love to be able to be of more help to him next time a similar situation rolls around.

Anyway, in this post you talk about a few things I’m curious about. I wanted to just post a reply, but it seems like that isn’t possible on older posts anymore.

Do you have any theories as to why eye contact sometimes causes you to cry? Do you feel distressed while these tears emerge, like do you feel the tears are a physical expression of sadness in the way they often are for NTs? Or do you think it’s something different?

Also, you say you like to drink out of your blue mug. Could you explain why you prefer this mug to other mugs? And what you feel (or what you would feel) when drinking from something other than your mug?

Could you possibly give me any advice when it comes to helping out my friend? I think the current situation is screwed up beyond repair, but it’s bound to happen again and I’m wondering if I can help him in the future.

There was a girl that he liked. And he really liked her - he fell in love with an intensity that I really haven’t seen before. Really, he went into this with no doubt whatsoever about his own feelings, which I found quite admirable as I’m rarely so clear in my own NT mind about things like that.

I thought that she liked him as well, but without the same level of certainty. Because of this, she sent some mixed signals - essentially, she expressed a lot of obvious affection for him when they were physically hanging out together, but when emailing and texting said some things that made him think she was not interested (for example, mentioning that she had seen some attractive guys at the beach and would like to see them again, that she enjoyed looking at attractive guys). These things, although they seemed insignificant to me, occupied his thoughts to such a degree that he grew quite upset and ended up preemptively cutting off all contact with her. Now he’s in a depressive funk, convinced that he’s never going to find anyone that he will have a relationship with.

So I guess what I’m asking is - do you have any relationship advice for a fellow aspie? Have you been in any serious relationships, and if so, how did they come about? Have you also gone through significant emotional turmoil brought about by not connecting with a girl/boy that you felt strongly about?

Thanks so much Nebu, if I’m being too intrusive simply don’t reply - that will be fine with me. But if you’re inclined to reply, I really would appreciate it deeply.

Wow, I can’t believe reddit doesn’t let you reply to old posts. They used to let you do that (I “accidentally” replied to a 2 year old thread once), but I guess now they took it out. Maybe they’re planning on charging us for the privilege, as part of their reddit gold thing.

Anyway, on to the parts you actually care about.

Do you have any theories as to why eye contact sometimes causes you to cry? Do you feel distressed while these tears emerge, like do you feel the tears are a physical expression of sadness in the way they often are for NTs? Or do you think it’s something different?

Something different. I’m trying to think of an analogy to help explain it, but I realized I don’t actually know under what conditions normal people cry, other than sadness or pain. Hmm… When you’re kind of sick, and you blow your nose a lot, do your eyes get watery? I guess it’s sort of like that. My eyes just start… leaking tears. And when that happens, I feel extremely self conscious and embarrassed. I start to feel pain if I force myself to maintain eye contact, but it’s psychological pain, not physical. I just feel like I’m such a freak of nature for crying over something as simple as looking at someone in the eye.

Also, you say you like to drink out of your blue mug. Could you explain why you prefer this mug to other mugs? And what you feel (or what you would feel) when drinking from something other than your mug?

The few times I drink from other mugs, I feel disgusted. It smells funny. The liquid tastes different. Where did this mug come from? Who used it before me, and what were they drinking? When I pee afterwards, it burns. Maybe that last one is coincidental, but I just attribute it to change of mugs, just because I’m already in the mindset that his mug is “bad”. It’s not MY mug.

There was a girl that he liked.

Oh man. I don’t think I’m the right guy to ask for advice on this. My love life hasn’t been all that great either. I don’t even know what to say, because if I start talking about this, I could easily see myself ending up with a 20 paragraph essay that doesn’t even begin to address why I don’t think I’m the right guy for this.

I’ll say this: I think it’s really nice of you to try and help out your friend, but people too are complex to be meaningfully described with just one label. Okay, so your friend is an aspie. I don’t even know if it’s safe for me to say “I’m sure he’ll appreciate knowing you’re there for him” because I don’t know where on the spectrum he is. If he has a very weak theory of mind, it might not even occur to him that you ARE there for him, or why it takes effort on your part to be there for him, or why other people putting effort is something that might be worth appreciating, etc.

I don’t know how to say this tactfully, but does he really understand what love is? I’m asking rhetorically, to bring up when you mentioned “he’s in a depressive funk, convinced that he’s never going to find anyone that he will have a relationship with.” If he’s just looking for companionship, that may be a much easier goal to achieve, than to find love. Honestly, I think almost nobody finds love, but maybe I just have a different idea of what love is, compared to most NTs.

The piece of advice I can bring up here, is something I heard somewhere and which sort of inspired me: “A tall man and a short man will both have successes and failures in their lives, but the short man will attribute all of his failures to his shortness.” (I think) everybody has relationship problems, self esteem problems, suffer from loneliness, and so on. Not just aspies. Do we suffer MORE loneliness? Maybe. More self esteem problem? There’s no reason that has to be the case. Relationship problems?

I know we certainly suffer different relationship problems. I’ve had a few girlfriends, and the general consensus is that none of their other relationships have been anything even remotely like how it was when they were with me. Both in a good way and in a bad way. If you’re in a self-pitying mood (and there’s nothing unusual about that, I often self pity, thinking my life is worst than everyone else, because everyone is NT and I’m not), then it’s easy to say “I’m autistic, so no one will like me.” But it turns out there are girls who specifically dig autistic guys; at least the high functioning ones… My most recent relation was with one such girl. She was very cruel to me, mocking my strange behaviour etc. until she found out I had aspergers, after which she took a strong liking to me. I think we were together for about one year. My last relationship before that lasted 3 years, and the one before that one year. I’ve also hand a couple of very short relationships (e.g. less than a month). I hope that gives you a vague idea about the level of seriousness I’ve had. And yeah, I’ve been very upset over relationship problems too, getting into “depressive funks” as you call them, writing emo blog posts and toying with the idea of suicide, etc.

But I’m digressing from my main point, which is to say that having Asperger’s can be both a hindrance and a benefit in terms of finding a relationship. It’ll probably be a hindrance more often than not, simply because girls who are specifically attracted to guys with Asperger’s is more rare than girls who are not, but the point is that Asperger’s doesn’t have to always be a hindrance.

I don’t know what your financial situation is like, but maybe you can give your friend this book: Asperger Syndrom: A Love Story. It’s cowritten by an NT girl and an aspie guy. It’s mostly written by the NT girl, though, and so don’t expect to glean much practical advice from “how to make relationships work” or “how to find girls” or anything like that. That’s not why I’m recommending this book. Rather, it’s to present as evidence that, yes, there exists girls who specifically like guys with Aspergers. In fact, maybe you don’t even have to buy the book. Maybe just the knowledge that this book exists will be enough to convince your friend of this claim.

Other than that, I think the generic advice for meeting girls works just as well for Aspies: Have confidence. Knowing that (some) girls dig aspies is one step in that direction. Don’t be ashamed of your neurology. Aspies are typically “smarter” than NTs (at least in terms of rational thought processes; don’t ask us to solve mushy emotional/social problems), and lots of girls dig smart guys.

I don’t know what your friend is like, but when I’m down, the first thing I want to do is have some time to myself so I can mope and self pity. I like to know that you’re there for me when I need you, but I don’t need you just quite yet. Give me some time. If it starts to stretch out, ask me to hang out with you, doing stuff to get my mind off things. In my case, that’d be playing videogames or something. I don’t know what your friend is into. Then, when I’m in the right mindset, to actually tackle my problem, that’s when I’d want concrete, actionable advice. “Be confident!” is too vague. “Your sense of style sucks. Let’s go shopping and I’ll help you pick out a new outfit” isn’t.

As for actually “meeting” girls, I haven’t quite figured that part out yet. If your friend is anything like me, then social gatherings will just make him anxious. Forget going to bars or clubs or pool halls and just chatting with girls he’s never met before. It’s not gonna work. (Do NTs even really do this, or am I just stereotyping?) I’m afraid you’re on your own for this step…

 
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