“Everyone I’ve had a relationship with, my friends, my family or my romantic partners, has always told me that I function in a weird way. As if there was a bug in me, ”says Louise, 21, diagnosed with autism without intellectual disability two and a half years ago. On the autism spectrum, this form of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) can be invisible. Before consulting the psychologist at her university, she did not suspect such a diagnosis. Lydia Proisy, a child and adolescent psychologist specializing in ASD, recalls that, on this spectrum, we can “distinguish autism without intellectual disability (commonly known as Asperger’s) from forms with intellectual disability and cognitive disorders”. In Louise’s case, autism is manifested by signs that are sometimes invisible from the outside. For example, repetitive behaviors, social difficulties, such as sudden withdrawal, great sensitivity to light, noise, certain materials… So many symptoms that complicate relationships in general. In terms of seduction, love and couple, autistic behaviors also have a weight, especially in women diagnosed late.
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“I didn’t realize I was on a date”
“My first relationships were influenced by my autism, because meeting someone in real life was unthinkable for me,” says Louise, who only went on a few unsuccessful dates before meeting her granddaughter. current friend. “I don’t understand the innuendo during flirting. The subtleties that make sense to others escape me. I obviously perceive the flirt if someone says to me: “You are very beautiful today”… and again, I find it difficult to distinguish a normal conversation from a flirtation. It’s hell for me. How many times did I realize much later that I was being hit on, I who thought we were just friends! Lydia Proisy explains that “autism involves a disorder of communication and social interactions”. Love relationships are then affected. “Deciphering non-verbal cues, facial emotions, innuendos and other implicits may be impossible for the person with ASD. The social codes, prohibitions and aspects related to intimacy that a neurotypical individual (lambda, editor’s note) learns almost without having to pay attention to them, require real training work for the autistic subject, finally to be integrated into the wire. time. »
Inevitably, the experience of seduction is limited in Louise. “It’s an experience shared with other people who have ASD,” notes the young woman who still tried dating, but who was always caught up in a communication gap. “I had a date with a boy who liked me. But I didn’t realize it was a date. When he understood that I was not interested, he got upset and devalued me to his friends,” she recalls. “And then I had two dates with people I met on apps. The first went well but, unable to decipher the flirtation, I did nothing. After three dates during which nothing happened between us, it quickly stopped. »
“We must explain everything, say everything”
According to the psychologist, everything must be explained. “Think what you say, say what you think: there should be no room for the implicit, the implied or the sarcasm. You have to explain the codes that govern romantic relationships: what do commitment and fidelity mean? Why are these concepts important for romantic relationships? “, she asks. This is why the virtual approach is much more accessible for Louise, who has had no other flirting experience than on Tinder. All the subtleties of a meeting in person are erased and above all “we know why we are there”, supposes Lydia Proisy. The framework is clear on this type of platform and the exchanges leave no room for ambiguity, as could be the case in our daily social relations. “When I signed up, I didn’t know I had autism. I was 18, inexperienced, with a strong need for validation. I didn’t know anything about amorous approaches. I was told that Tinder was the place for that. ” Starting from the premise that the dating application is a virtual place dedicated to flirting, she therefore feels more comfortable to discuss.
On Tinder, Louise meets Chloé, just before her diagnosis. She has no idea she has an ASD. “I grew up trying to fight my hypersensitivities and my social problems. I “mask”, that is to say that I deceive socially. I behave “normally” despite everything, because I was always told that I had no choice. The result is that I am much more tired than normal,” explains the young woman. “I have no trouble building relationships because I’m quite outgoing, but it takes a lot of energy. I find it difficult to maintain relationships, to take news. When you meet me, you don’t see that I have autism, but when you get to know me, you realize that I have abnormal behavior. For example, during my first date with my current girlfriend, I asked her if she had… a family vault. I hadn’t realized anything, but then she pointed out to me that it was a strange question,” jokes Louise.
These “compensatory phenomena” are frequent in people with Asperger’s autism without intellectual disability. “In cases of severe autism, where the subject has little or no access to communication, the question of sexuality is still almost taboo, or at the very least, kills. At the other extreme of the continuum, some “Asperger” people diagnosed late have seen themselves capable of setting up compensatory mechanisms that have allowed them to start a family life, even before any diagnosis, “explains the psychologist.
Difficulty putting oneself in another’s shoes
Despite the compensation, Louise is still affected by “crises” that can create tension in her couple. And that could put anyone with ASD in trouble in a relationship. “I sometimes tend to withdraw and need alone time after several consecutive days with the person. This need comes suddenly, so I isolate myself emotionally. For a long time, we were both confused by this unexplained emotional blockage: she took it for herself and I felt guilty. His sensitivity to light, sound and touch can make outings unpleasant and quickly tiring. On an emotional level, Louise also struggles to grasp the subtleties of the couple. “I have a lot of trouble communicating in writing. I don’t necessarily understand the innuendo about jealousy, or when she needs me to reassure her. »
This behavior does not reflect a lack of empathy but “a difficulty in putting oneself in the place of the other”, explains Lydia Proisy. “The autistic person must also be helped in the regular reminder of the notion of empathy, through concrete situations encountered in sentimental relationships”, she advises. “Sometimes you have to repeat things and regularly reactivate these nuances which are not mechanisms for the person with ASD. »