Love + Relationships

How Neurodivergent Folx Might Not Align With Traditional Dating Expectations

Attunement, connection, care, and healthy amounts of space that allow for curiosity, individuality and play - they are all part of the neurodivergent dating game. And honestly, we couldn't think of anything more wholesome.

Neurodivergent dating may not look like they are straight out of a rom-com. But that definitely doesn’t mean it could be any less rewarding.

Attunement, connection, care, and healthy amounts of space that allow for curiosity, individuality and play – they are all part of the neurodivergent dating game. And honestly, we couldn’t think of anything more wholesome.

Might not seem affectionate

Neurodivergent languages of showing love & affection may take the form of sharing something that they take special interest in, or through just being around as each of you do your thing, or by giving you something that they personally treasure (like a pebble they picked up along the seashore). These are the ways a neurodivergent person might be inviting you into their world.

Might not want to make things exclusive

In many normative relationships, especially during the early stages, it is common to gauge the other person’s interest by mentioning other folx and trying to make one another jealous. Instead of getting green, a neurodivergent might be curious to know more or respond in some other unexpected ways. This does not mean they are not interested in deepening their relationship with you. In fact, it’s the opposite!

The dance of physical intimacy may look different

A lot of flirting in the neurotypical world occurs through social cues, which a neurodivergent person might find hard to read or be confused by. They may also be incredibly shy about it, regardless of the extent of their experience with it. Clear and gentle communication (which can also be cute and complimentary) is key to setting and meeting expectations about expressing affection through physical touch.

It is important to become comfortable with dealing with rejection sensitivity dysphoria (RSD)

The thing you should probably know about RSD is that it is often not about your intentions, but about how the neurodivergent recipient perceives it. Often, it stems from their past experiences where they have been slighted, bullied or alienated for something that is just a natural part of who they are. So they might get defensive and launch into an explanation about it. It’s important that you don’t respond in a similar way but gently clarify what you meant. If circumstances permit, you can take it a step further and ask them why they felt so strongly about it – this is often a doorway to building emotional intimacy.

Taking space and self-care is not selfish

Your neurodivergent person might need more space than what you’re used to. This may be to self-soothe, focus on special interests, or to simply spend time with their other loved ones & pets. If you are curious, you can ask to spend time with them through parallel play – where you don’t necessarily engage with each other, but are simply around. It is in these moments that you might notice them stimming or doing something with great precision or getting into a state of ‘flow’ – it could allow them to relax around you more.

If they decline, it may be because they feel shy or may not be ready or simply want to be by themself. Respect their space and allow them to set the pace in this respect. Communicate your curiosity and interest whenever possible.

This story was about: Community Identities Mental health

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Tejaswi is journalist and researcher whose attention is captured by post-colonial human relationships at a time of the Internet of Things. She can't wait to become a full-time potter soon, though!

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