The first person we date is most likely not our soulmate. The first guy I dated never made it far enough to be my prom date! Although I broke up with him because my 17-year-old wisdom (rightly) told me he was not the one for me, I still did not understand the full picture.
In fact, I did not know until six months after we broke up that he had Asperger’s syndrome, which means he was clinically, medically, inevitably socially awkward. When I found out, my first reaction was aha! Now I understand why he never understood when I was joking around and was completely unaware of how to act in social scenarios. My second reaction was anger: How dare he not tell me tell me about this! Was he expecting a high school student who had never taken a psychology class in her life to diagnose him on the spot?
The blessing and curse of Aspergers is that it is hard to figure out who has it and who is just socially inept.
The major red flag that should have made me realize his Aspergers was the fact that he never laughed at my jokes. Yes, I am completely aware of how egotistical this sounds. As much as I would love to think I am the next Tina Fey or Amy Poehler, I know it takes a certain audience to appreciate my sense of humor. I did not anticipate, however, that every time I told a joke I would essentially be speaking Korean to this poor boy; jokes and sarcasm, and any kind of nonliteral form of communication, is completely lost on many people with Aspergers. For example, a break-up song would be playing on the radio and I would joke, “I hope you don’t think of me like that in three months” and he would completely freak out and think we were actually breaking up. I had to spend at least 15 minutes assuring him that nothing of the sort was happening, and that we were completely fine.
This became repetitive and exhausting. I started to feel like I was walking on eggshells every time I talked to him.
Joking and sarcasm are two major ways I communicate with my friends. I lovingly call them “bitches” and they know I actually do not think of them that way (or maybe they think I actually mean it and are friends with me because they enjoy verbal abuse). Would I have adjusted this to accommodate him had I known about his Aspergers? More importantly, should I have adjusted my sense of humor and my way of being just to accommodate him? I know he could not help the fact he had Aspergers, and he was not forcing me to change myself at all, but this leads to a question many relationships face: How much compromise is too much compromise?
If the person is supposed to like you for who you are, and jokes and sarcasm are a part of my identity, is it possible he would have liked me only had I been a different person? Would a neurotypical person who is more literal-minded necessarily be more successful at dating someone with Aspergers, or would they face thee same problems?
All I know is that there is compromise in every relationship, and every person needs to figure out exactly what compromises they are willing to make. While I do not have that entirely figured out, I know I need to date someone who’s in on the joke.
Next week: Dump the deadbeat