10 tips for dating as a neurodivergent human

By The HUD App Team

Dating can be a complex and nuanced experience for anyone, but for neurodivergent individuals, navigating the intricacies of romantic relationships may come with unique challenges. Whether you're autistic, have ADHD, or experience other forms of neurodivergence, here are some tips to help you navigate the world of dating with confidence and authenticity.

1. Know yourself

Understanding your own strengths, challenges, and preferences is essential in dating. Take the time to reflect on your unique qualities, interests, and boundaries. Knowing what works for you and what doesn't can help you communicate effectively with potential partners and set realistic expectations.

2. Communicate clearly

Effective communication is key in any relationship, but it's especially important for neurodivergent individuals. Be upfront about your communication style, preferences, and any specific needs you may have. Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself and express what you need to feel comfortable and understood. If you use communication devices or aids, introduce these upfront and make them a non-negotiable part of your dating experience.

3. Set boundaries

Boundaries are crucial for maintaining healthy relationships. Be clear about your boundaries regarding physical intimacy, emotional availability, and personal space. Communicate these boundaries respectfully and assertively, and don't hesitate to enforce them if they're crossed. Also, don't feel any shame about asserting your boundaries - you deserve to always feel safe, respected, and comfortable in every situation, particularly when you're on a date.

4. Try to be flexible

While it's important to know your boundaries, it's also essential to remain open-minded and flexible - which we know isn't always easy for neurodivergent people, as predictability and rigidity can help them to feel safe. Recognize that not everyone will understand or accommodate your needs perfectly, and be willing to compromise when appropriate and safe (this does not mean you bend over backward for people, just that you give them some grace when you can). Building flexibility into your approach to dating can help you navigate unexpected challenges with grace and resilience.

5. Focus on shared interests

Finding common ground with your potential partner can help foster connection and understanding. Seek out activities that you both enjoy and use them as opportunities to bond and communicate. Shared interests can provide a natural way to connect and build rapport. Remember that both of you deserve space and opportunity to communicate about those shared interests - it's amazing to find someone into what you're into, but try not to monopolize the conversation, and if they're the one who won't shut up about their interest, consider gently reminding them you want to chat, too!

6. Practice empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and it's a valuable skill in dating. Take the time to listen actively to your partner, validate their experiences, and try to see things from their perspective. Cultivating empathy can help foster trust, intimacy, and mutual respect in your relationships. Remember that dating makes people nervous, and you or someone else might find those nerves are very surface-level when you're on a date. Give yourself some grace in this situation and try to give the other person grace and understanding too.

7. Seek support

Dating can be overwhelming at times, so don't hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or a therapist. Surround yourself with people who understand and accept you for who you are, and who can offer guidance, encouragement, and perspective when needed. It might be a good idea to have a friend you can call during the date to check in (discreetly, away from your date!) or right afterward to download the experience.

8. Be patient

Building meaningful connections takes time, so be patient with yourself and with the dating process. Remember that rejection is a normal part of dating, and try not to take it personally. Stay focused on your own growth and wellbeing, and trust that the right person will come along when the time is right. It takes time to find someone you're compatible with.

9. Say no

It's okay to say no to people and situations that aren't the right fit. Yes, you should give people a chance, but you shouldn't make yourself uncomfortable in order to make them comfortable. If something feels off, remove yourself from the situation. You also don't owe anyone explanations - if the other person is being a jerk or not making an effort, just walk away. Don't waste your energy or time trying to change them.

10. Prioritize your self-care

Dating can feel overwhelming at times. You might need to take a break, or only go out once a week, or agree to meet in places that aren't a sensory nightmare (think about a quiet coffee shop versus a loud bar, or a wide open park versus a crowded nightclub). If you're feeling a bit like it's all too much, it's okay to put yourself and your need for wellbeing first.

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