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This is one of the most difficult questions that people with autism can ask someone and it is also one that, if heard by someone with autism, can make their day, week, month or even year!  “Will you go out with me?”

All of us want to be loved and desired and those on the autism spectrum are no exception.  They, too, seek relationships, get married, have children, etc.  Dating can be a very difficult game for anyone, but, just like with social skills, once people with autism are taught the rules of the game, they can go on and win it!

In my dating journey, my younger sister, one of my greatest advisers on what women want and think, told me that dating was like a video game.  You have to go through Level 1 before you get to Level 2 and Level 3 after that…and there are no ‘cheats’ to skip levels.  Attempt to ‘cheat’ and it could be “game over.”

Another game I saw that helped me improve my image and confidence on the dating scene was Ashton Kutcher’s social experiment Beauty and the Geek.  This reality show paired up eight beautiful women that had gotten by on their looks most of their lives with eight brilliant but socially awkward men to see what they could learn from one another through a series of physical and mental challenges.  It was a great way to see both sides of the coin and, as a result, it helped me develop empathy as to what women are thinking, feeling, wanting, needing, etc. from their lives and their relationships.

To add to the excitement, halfway through each season, the geeks got makeovers: new outfits, haircuts, waxing, the whole nine!  After seeing the styles of their clothes and hair, my family took me shopping for a brand new wardrobe and I instantly felt like a million bucks!  This show was also the reason I get my hair cut and eyebrows waxed every six weeks like clockwork!

Now that I looked the part, I had to act the part.  From my family, a number of books on dating and Beauty and the Geek, I gathered what I needed to learn and how to motivate myself to be successful in dating.  Knowing that women like a guy that keeps himself clean and healthy, knows how to cook, can dance, does well with children, has a good sense of humor, treats his family right (particularly brothers and sisters), has a job, etc. inspired me to take on these positive traits so that women would find me attractive not only on the outside, but also the inside.

Speaking of “the inside,” one of my favorite movies growing up was Shallow Hal.  I didn’t like it just for the good humor, but for the lessons that could be taken away from it.  Someone that is beautiful on the outside could actually be ugly on the inside as they lie, steal, cheat, deceive, etc.  These are the people to avoid in your life whenever possible.  Instead of asking the most beautiful woman to dance, if you ask a “wallflower” (usually last to be picked or stays off of the dance floor) to dance, this could be a decision that changes both of your lives forever!  If we saw people more for their inner beauty instead of their outer looks, the world would be a better place!

I also want to stress the importance of good manners and overall politeness during dating, and life in general, and how they can make or break a date or relationship.  Have you ever heard the saying “chivalry is dead”?  Back in medieval times, knights honored women as if they were royalty: getting her whatever she needed when she needed it, fighting for her honor, putting her first and foremost and making her feel important.  Nowadays, men overlook the little simple things that women look for the most: bringing her flowers, opening the door for her, pulling out her chair for her, making sure she is as comfortable as possible, using terms like “sir” and “ma’am,” picking up the tab when he asks her out (per Beauty and the Geek, the person that asked for the date pays the bill…), etc.  If more men embraced these values and put them into action more often, so many relationships would flourish rather than suffer.

Restating my mantra: Know Yourself.  Love Yourself.  Be Yourself.  It all starts with you…if you know what you want and what you can do, you love yourself and believe in yourself, and you do not pretend to be something that you are not, others will love you in return.

While our love and relationships with people are important, so are our love and relationships with animals.  This will be the topic of next week’s blog.  See you then!

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