For autistic men: my all time list of social blunders & how to avoid them

Jerry Newport

This is my personal list, compiled by many years of social malpractice. If you think of dating as a baseball game, it is a lot more fun playing than watching. In comparison to most fifty year old men, I am not that experienced. In the autism spectrum, I am. I learned, painfully, to minimize expectations. I may marry again. I may not. I will not be alone any more than I want to be. On the other hand, I would rather curl up with a great book than a boring woman.

I am still in a divorce process and socializing was not my interest for a while, but the right women finally woke me up. I guess it's the thrill of the chase that gets my blood up. Women do that better, usually, than books. I don't compete with other men for women. I just am myself and they come to their senses or say "no." Right now, I'm an active, social free agent, until someone makes me a first round romantic draft pick and makes me an offer I can't refuse...

Here's my list...

1. Seeking the wrong women: A lot of us social rookies seek someone to make us look good. I call this the "armpiece complex." It comes from a lack of confidence on our part, in how we appear to others. Look beyond what you see. Be practical. Define a good potential partner. There are plenty of women who are attractive enough to add to the quality of your life. They are attractive because of their personality, energy, interests, style and lots of other real, enduring qualities. List the qualities you want in a date. Look for clubs, interests and interesting places where you have a common ground already.

2. Trying for the big first impression: Too many of us spend our last dollar on an all-out first date. It never works. Anyone worth your time can't be bought, and the more you strain your wallet with a total stranger, the more foolish you look. Be yourself and start simple: Meet for lunch or coffee. Be on time, be neatly dressed and clean but forget the tuxedo. Relax. Say her name. We all love to hear our names. Talk about your favorite activities. Find out hers. Don't ask for a date right away. Go home, think of something both of you like to do, call her up in a few days and ask her to do it. Cut to the chase. A little small talk is smart but don't take all night to ask someone out. Know when and where you want the date to happen. Be direct and enthusiastic. Make it easy for her to say "yes". If it's "no," try maybe a couple of more times at the most.

3. Wanting too much too soon: If you have little social experience or are leaving a bad relationship, you can over¬react to new, nice experiences. It may be a breath of fresh air for you but usually isn't for women, who tend to be more experienced than us. Be patient: Remember, no matter how good a woman made you feel, you had a life before you met her and will even if this doesn't work out. It is usually best, at first, not to call up the next day. Give your feelings time to settle to reality. Keep your emotional center because this is not easy for our emotions. Take your time. True love is much better as a slow burn than a forest fire.

4. Talking about yourself too much: I wore this one out in college. Goes along with our insecurity. We think we need to tell our date everything great about us so she will like us. If she is shy you may do more of the talking but not all of it. How can .you get to know her if all you do is talk about you? You may as well go out with yourself!! Show genuine interest. This always helps. What in life makes it work living for her? What is her passion? Get her to open up and talk about it because most men won't let her. Be the listener and she will love you for it. Don't ask endless questions, but don't hog all of the talking either. After a date, ask yourself what you learned about that person. Do you know the color of her eyes? Be creative. Try drawing her.

5. Crowding people: Sometimes, I find it hard to believe someone actually likes me, even when it's obvious to her that she does. So, I force my attention on her. Give people the space that you want for yourself. If they tell you they can't talk long, make it short or ask if you can call them another time. Better yet, ask them to call you at their convenience. That shows real confidence. It shows you are interested in them but sensitive enough to let them have some say in when you talk. Phone calls are necessary but in a sense, they are invasions to many people who feel obligated to answer phones even when they'd rather not. The interested ones will call you back. The others are history, the sooner the better. Never force your company on a person. If that is what you must do to be with them, give up and meet someone else.

6. Bad Timing: there are times to contact people and time not to. For all of us. Don't call when you wouldn't want to be called. Do you like a phone call as you are off to work, getting up, falling asleep or eating? Treat others likewise. Learn what their best times are for talk. Don't hog their lives on the phone. If they tell you they will call you back, trust them. Let them go after you once in a while. They like that.

7. Stale Conversation; Too much of one kind of talking: Not surprising. A couple of jokes are fine, but a string of them just shows you are too insecure to handle a real conversation. It is bud for most of us, being autistic, not to get on a roll about a favorite subject, but too many jokes, compliments or anything makes you look like you aren't connected to the social situation. Look at your date (without staring). Does she look interested? Does she act like she wants to hear more or fidget because she isn't getting to talk at all? Hog the stage and you will soon wind up in an empty theater.

8. Losing Your Personal Perspective: It is easy for us to get obsessed with new people. That new nice feeling seems more important than the rest of our lives. This is dangerous. Nobody is that important. Remember your own life. Make a list of the things you can do on your own or with friends. When you feel yourself really needing to be with someone, use that list to find something else to do. It will help you to avoid driving people away by being too dependent on them. You need to know your limits. Some people will take advantage of you once they know you are "hooked" on being with them. You have to tell yourself that you won't do things for anyone, no matter how much you like them, if you can't afford to do them.

9. Misreading Messages: We all like it when someone is really nice to us, but that doesn't mean they have a social interest. I can guarantee you that most bank tellers, waitresses, receptionists and stewardesses will light up your day with a smile and momentary charm. It's their job. Period. Don't jump to social conclusions. Before you assume a woman has shown an interest in you, look at the situation. Was her behavior voluntary or because she has to treat every person that way? You can save yourself a lot of frustration with this thinking or you can waste your time trying to date women whose professions expose them to every line in real life and the movies.

10. Not hearing the word, "No": Okay, guys, here's the scene. You go out with someone or maybe don't even get that far. You like her a lot. She tells you that she would like you for a friend instead of a romantic interest. Now, what part of the word, "No" is so hard to understand? Is it the "N" or the "O"? Make friends with women who like you enough to be honest. Thank that woman person for her honesty. She could have led you on and cleaned out your wallet. Ask her what she would like in a friend and offer that, if it is reasonable. Maybe she knows some other women. Birds of a feather flock together. Maybe she can help you grow socially. Women friends prepared me for my first marriage, helped me recover, and will help me in the future.

11. Disregard social boundaries: Sometimes, we have a hard time accepting what a woman tells us, especially, like in the previous example, when it is exactly what we don't want to hear. That is usually the time to accept it without an explanation. Respect women's rights to privacy, choice and feelings. This is all about respect. What if you were the woman? Would you want to have to explain to a man why you don't want to see him, or why you don't want the evening to go in the direction he wants to direct it? I'll bet you wouldn't. A woman's body is hers and so are her feelings. Be patient and sensitive. Heed the red and yellow lights and you'll see enough green ones.

12. Not using your friends for support: It is possible to get so interested in your new date that you lose contact with your friends because even when you are not out with her, you are sitting around missing her. Very dangerous. Stay in touch with your friends. They are vital when your social life is stressed out. They may notice changes in your attitude or behavior or other ways you are not coping with life in general. Listen to them, but be aware of the person, usually the opposite sex, who may not have given up on you. True friends will accept your interest in another and want to help you be happy.

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