Being single on Valentine’s Day is hard, rather you are neurodiverse or neurotypical. Many individuals with high-functioning autism want to find love and be in a relationship. So, being single on Valentine’s Day serves as a painful reminder of their loneliness. However, this holiday doesn’t have to be depressing and sad. Today, I want to talk about some ways you can cope with feelings of loneliness on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year.
Dating is Hard. Especially If You’re Neurodiverse
It’s human nature to crave connection and love. However, making connections and forming relationships when you’re on the autism spectrum can be challenging. An individual with autism shared that they feel like an alien who has landed on another planet where they can’t seem to relate to the people they meet. This analogy is pretty spot on if you ask me.
Dating requires a specific skill set that can be extremely challenging to grasp, especially if you’re autistic. It requires you to have good social skills and understand subtle social cues and nuances. For example, making eye contact is a clear way to show someone that you’re listening and care about what they have to say. So, it’s pretty important to make eye contact with someone you’re romantically interested in. Here’s another example, people with autism can be very direct. So, they feel very confused or misinformed when the person they’re interested in is not. Or, they can be so direct that it offends others.
Dating Mankes Many Teens and Adults With Autism Anxious
Dating can be extremely anxiety-provoking for neurotypicals and neurodiverse individuals alike. However, for people with autism, this anxiety can be crushing. Putting yourself out there in any social situation can be super scary. It requires you to be vulnerable. There’s always a chance you’ll be rejected. Many individuals with autism take this rejection very personally. That’s super understandable. It’s easy to criticize yourself when you’ve been rejected. You want to analyze what they didn’t like about you. You may even wonder, “what’s wrong with me? Why don’t they like me?”
Offer Yourself Some Grace and Compassion
When you’re being self-critical about being single and feeling lonely what you actually need to do is offer yourself some self-compassion. You can’t feel balanced and confident if you are self-critical. Being self-critical makes it hard to be vulnerable when you’re interested in someone. But, being vulnerable and true to yourself is really important when you’re trying to build a healthy relationship.
You don’t have to be someone else in order to get others to like you. In fact, that’s not a good idea. It’s important to be okay with who you are and where you’re at in your life. Comparing yourself to others and trying to do what you see your neurotypical peers doing probably won’t end well. It’s not sustainable long term. Comparison leads to self-criticism and unhappiness.
But, here’s the good news, you have control over how you treat yourself. The antidote to self-criticism is self-compassion and validating your strengths as an individual. You are worthy of love and affection and you likely have amazing gifts to offer a potential romantic partner.
Validate Where You Are In Life as an Individual with Autism
The first thing I want you to consider is validating where you’re at right now. Think about what makes you happy. Perhaps, you see your same-age peers in happy romantic relationships and that makes you feel uncomfortable because you’re not there yet. Then you begin to become self-critical. Ask yourself, are these thoughts helpful? Instead, honor where you’re at and think about the skills you have. Perhaps, you’re a really good friend and you go out of your way to help others. Remind yourself of this fact when you feel down and know that someone will really appreciate this about you.
Remind Yourself That It’s Okay to be Single
If you begin to feel upset, remind yourself that your worth is not determined by your romantic relationship. You are not any less successful because you’re not in a romantic relationship. It is okay to be single. Furthermore, hold hope for the future. I know this can be extremely challenging when you’re lonely and depressed, but you can find love and companionship. One rejection does not dictate your future.
Don’t Push Yourself to Fit In. Instead, Do What Makes YOU Comfortable
It’s normal and natural to feel lonely. Almost everyone experiences it from time to time. But, when you’re neurotypical, you need to also think about what kind of connection feels comfortable to you. Then, honor that. For example, you may only want to connect with a romantic partner or loved one on the weekends because you need your alone time. Or, perhaps you need connection throughout the day. Understand your needs and be transparent about those with your future partner. Tell them what drains your social battery and makes you feel overwhelmed. This will give them some helpful content to understand you better.
Tips for Dealing with Loneliness on the Autism Spectrum
Remember to take some time to relax and enjoy the things that make you happy. We call this self-care. Good self-care can help you fight the feelings of loneliness and help you feel better.
Other things you can do to reduce loneliness include:
- Talk to a beloved family member or friend
- Take some time to enjoy your special interest
- Snuggle up with your favorite pet
- Make your favorite food
- Watch your favorite movie or television show
- Play your favorite video game
- Do a craft
- Dress up as your favorite cosplay character
- Read a book or comic
If You’re on the Autism Spectrum and Feel Lonely, Find Support via Autism Therapy
One additional thing you can do is find a supportive community of neurodiverse peers. If you live in California, we offer autism therapy services and social skills groups for high-functioning teens and adults with autism.
Currently, we’re offering the following groups via online therapy in California:
- Neurodiverse Working Professionals Group
- Autistic Women Group
- Neurodiverse College Group
- College Transition Summer Group (offered summer 2020)
- Neurodivergent Young Adults Group (Post-College)
- Autism Parent Support Group (for parents of a young adult or teen with autism) – Click here to learn more
Begin Online Autism Therapy in California:
If you’re on the autism spectrum and struggling, consider online autism therapy. We currently offer online autism therapy and autism group therapy in California for high-functioning teens and adults with autism and their families. To begin counseling or group therapy, follow these steps:
- Contact us for a free phone consultation using this link. You will meet with our care coordinator.
- Like us on Facebook. On our page, we post useful information about our practice
- Sign up to receive our newsletter.
Autism Therapy Services offered at Open Doors Therapy:
Our autism therapy clinic located in the South Bay Area serves teens and adults on the autism spectrum. We help high functioning individuals who identify as having Aspergers, high functioning autism, undiagnosed ASD traits, and their families.
Right now, we are providing all our autism counseling services online. Our autism therapists offer a variety of counseling services including individual counseling for autistic teens and adults, parent counseling, and group therapy. Also, we run several different social skills groups for neurodiverse working professionals, college students with autistic traits, gifted youth & caregivers, neurodiverse adults, women who identify as neurodiverse, a summer social skills college transition training program for youth transitioning to college, teens & caregivers, and a mothers group. Contact our autism therapy office for more information on our services or to schedule a consultation.
About the Author
Dr. Tasha Oswald is a trained developmental and clinical psychologist. She is also is the founder and director of Open Doors Therapy, a private practice specializing in autism therapy services in the South Bay Area, near San Francisco, CA. Dr. Oswald specializes in helping neurodiverse teens and adults and facilitating social skills groups.