Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“How Can I Find a Man Who Will Accept My Autism?”

I’m in my late 40s and have only been in one committed relationship, which last lasted three years when I was in my early 30s. I have been single ever since. I have weight issues, which men hate, and I have mental conditions. I suffer from Fragile X and Autism. Fragile X is less severe in females but Autism is worse in females than it is in males. I just pursued a guy who flat-out told me that he’d never date a mental health patient. Then he ranted about how he scored models at singles bars. This kind of guy is not for me.

What can I do to find men who are right for me? I am musically inclined and looking for the same to date me, but I don’t want to have to contend with shallow men. At the same time, I don’t want to get stuck with men who have no common interests and beliefs whatsoever with me. Your advice is appreciated. — Fragile-Hearted

Honestly, your plight isn’t so different than that of most single people. We all have crosses we bear. A simple scan through this site’s archives proves that. There’s the guy who was something like $150 K in student loan debt and worried that he’d never find a woman who would want to settle down with someone with so much debt to pay off. There are single parents who are anxious about finding a mate who will accept and love their children. There are those who have been abused or raped and carry the baggage from that and are afraid to let someone get close. Some people just feel embarrassed about their lack of sexual or relationship experience. Others are embarrassed that they have too much experience.

We all have something we’re afraid makes us less desirable to others, and you know what? We’re right. We do all have something that makes us less desirable to others. But the thing you think makes you less desirable may or may not be what turns off one person. Maybe there’s something else about you that a particular person isn’t into. And maybe the thing you think turns most people off is no big deal to someone else. That’s because we’re all so different, with different tastes and different tolerances, and we’re all looking for different things. Sometimes, we don’t even know what we’re looking for until we find it. YOU could be exactly what someone is searching for, despite your mental conditions and your weight. But, I’m not going to lie to you: you probably need to cast a wider-than-average net to find that someone. You do have what a lot of people would consider checkmarks in the con column. But that’s OK. You don’t want a lot of people. You just want one (I’m assuming?). One right someone. Or a few potential someones you can choose from. And for that, you need to cast a wide net.

What does that mean? For one thing, it means opening your heart to men who may not be musically-inclined or share every interest you share. You’re right that someone may not have a musically-inclined nerve in his body, but that doesn’t mean he won’t appreciate your musical talent or won’t enjoy going to concerts with you or listening to your favorite albums on a cozy Friday night at home.

For another thing, if you want to find someone who has common interests and shares common beliefs, you should look for men in places where you express or practice those interests and beliefs — the aforementioned concerts, or music classes, or church, or wherever it is you go to find your joy. That’s the place where you’ll find men who share the same joys. But once you “find” them, the work doesn’t stop. Actually, it hasn’t even started yet. Once you find them, you have to initiate conversation, show some interest, be friendly and approachable.

And if you want to find men who will be more open to your mental conditions, why not try support groups, both online and offline, as well as dating sites that cater to people with similar issues? A simple Google search for “Dating sites for Autism” turned up lots of sites (I’m not personally familiar with them, so I will stop at recommending one over another). Searching for Fragile X dating sites didn’t prove to be as fruitful, but if it’s compassionate men who understand what it means to live with a mental condition or mental illness whom you’re looking for, there are still plenty of dating sites that cater to that sort of thing. As always, you need to be careful and smart and follow the typical online dating rules, of course, but if you open your heart and open your search to include spots your “ordinary” guy may not necessarily hang out, you’ll be more likely to find someone who will accept you and love you for who and how you are.

One more thing: you mention that men “hate” your weight issues, which may be true for many of them, but there are men out there who love heavier women (though not as many who love thinner women). What’s most important, though, is how you feel about your weight and your body. If you aren’t happy with yourself, then you need to do something about it.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter and ‘like’ me on Facebook.

25 comments… add one
  • avatar

    oldie June 13, 2012, 9:23 am

    Wendy is right. You’ve already been in a three-year relationship, which indicates you’ve already had significant dating success. I assume if this was a largely negative relationship that you would have said so. You are over-reacting to one ass-hole. The problem isn’t that you didn’t appeal to him, it’s that he rejected you nastily. You shouldn’t let one nasty narcisist get you so down on yourself. If he really was the God’s gift to women that he sees himself as, he would have had lots of practice in letting women down gently.

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  • avatar

    Lily June 13, 2012, 9:23 am

    Good advice, but I would like to mention one thing – people with Fragile X tend to be heavier through no fault of their own – it’s a symptom of the disease.

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    • avatar

      SweetPeaG June 13, 2012, 9:51 am

      Great point! I did a very quick google search, since I have no knowledge of Fragile X. You are absolutely right.

      So, while she should work to feel healthy and as good about herself as she can, she probably can’t change her body type. And there are men who will love the body type she’s got!

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray June 13, 2012, 10:14 am

      Oh, I thought “Fragile X” was a placeholder for something she didn’t want to identify. I am stupid.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar June 13, 2012, 9:33 am

    Every pot really does have a lid. You are some-one’s perfect girl. I admit – the tricky part is actually finding him. Wendy has given you excellent suggestions on where to find your particular lid – online is a great way to meet a whole set of people you would never have normally encountered. I find it a little odd that the last guy you actively pursued was the kind of guy that pursues models at bars. Why did you pick him to pursue? Was it his personality? Or his looks? What recommended him to you? Friendly reminder: Just as you don’t want others judging you on anything less than your personality and compassion – then just make sure going forward you afford the guys you are going to meet the same consideration.
    Everyone has to flex a little in relationships. Don’t settle for less than what you want in a partner – but really take some time to figure out what characteristics are most important to you. Musically inclined seems less important than patient, kind or resilient. My husband and I don’t have a lot of shared interests – but we are open to each other’s interests. I’ve spent hours of my life at motorcycle shows and his passport has more stamps in it because of me. But if he was looking for a girl who was interested in motorcycles, he would not have found me. The plus side of not having the exact same interests is that I get exposed to things I wouldn’t otherwise have been. If it wasn’t for my husband I wouldn’t have gone zip-lining or kissed a sting-ray this year. I’m just sayin’ – musical concerts are great – but there might be a zip-line in your future if you allow it.

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    • avatar

      ktfran June 13, 2012, 9:45 am

      Your response was lovely FireStar and I agree completely.

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      • avatar

        SweetPeaG June 13, 2012, 9:56 am

        Agreed! Great advice, Firestar!

        And I love that you kissed a sting-ray!!!!

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      • FireStar

        FireStar June 13, 2012, 10:07 am

        Apparently kissing them is worth 7 years good luck. If you FRENCH kiss them it is luck for life – but..erm.. we felt 7 years was plenty!

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      • avatar

        honeybeenicki June 13, 2012, 10:43 am

        You can always go back every seven years and do it again to renew it.

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      • avatar

        MissDre June 13, 2012, 10:10 am

        @FireStar – I think your comment is really insightful and it certainly rang true for me. You seem like such a smart and compassionate woman. If you’re ever interested in chatting sometime just let me know 🙂

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      • FireStar

        FireStar June 13, 2012, 10:25 am

        Awww… thanks MissDre! And I’m happy to chat with you! I think about you and your boyfriend and his family all the time and I wish the best for you all.

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      • avatar

        MissDre June 13, 2012, 10:27 am

        You can email me anytime: drestylez @ live . ca

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    • avatar

      Sunshine Brite June 13, 2012, 12:10 pm

      Yes! Look at how the guys are picked and keep working on you.

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      • avatar

        Sunshine Brite June 13, 2012, 12:11 pm

        and by you, I meant your self esteem. Typed too fast. You can’t change that you have Fragile X or Autism, but you can work on what that means to you and your relationships.

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    • bittergaymark

      bittergaymark June 13, 2012, 1:23 pm

      Every pot has a lid? Um, no. That is a nice thing to say, but it is simply NOT true. Not true at all. Far from it. It’s that kind of statement that puts unnecessary pressure on people. Statistically speaking, a good many people do end up alone…

      So, embrace being alone, LW.. No, seriously. There are worse things. Far worse. Hell, read every other letter here lately — you know the ones, where some vapid idiot is doing ALL they can to stay in some obviously wretched relationship simply because they are just so damn DESPERATE to not be alone. So desperate to cling onto that lid for their pot…

      Personally, I’ve made my peace with the fact that there is not necessarily a Jack for every Jill — or in my case, a Jack for every Jack. Sometimes, you need to let go of the illusion and just stop kidding yourself. I know I did. And it was very freeing. Look, If it was going to happen for me, it’d have happened LONG ago. End. Of. Story.

      Meanwhile, since you won’t take my advice. Especially since the greek chorus here shall soon chime in telling you NOT to give up… “NEVER give up! Love is right around the corner! It always, always is….”

      Whatever.

      I will now close with one tidbit of VERY practical advice… And that is this… if you are bound and determined to keep on kissing frogs — you will do well to look for somebody who not only understands your issues, but perhaps shares them… The asshole guy who lands models? Let me guess, he was SUPER hot, eh? Let that go. Be realistic about who you are in the looks department. About who you can attract. Seriously. This applies to guys as well. One of my best friends STILL thinks he’s going to land a super model and he is a human hobbit. And a broke one at that…

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      • FireStar

        FireStar June 13, 2012, 2:36 pm

        I think everyone is someone else’s favourite flavour. Very few people are unlovable and without any merit or appeal. Quite frankly, even the ones I have seen like that – have partners. Go figure. No one is saying that some fairy dust and an online profile is all anyone needs. I have amazing single girl friends in their late thirties and early forties that are super frustrated at the whole process of dating… and I feel for those that want love but can’t find it. I can’t guarantee everyone will find the person that they can build a happy life with but I can guarantee you if you aren’t even open to it – then love definitely is going to have a hard time finding you. You may not get the rewards you want in life exactly when you want them – but you need some hustle to get them at all. I totally agree with you that you should be a full and complete person alone before you try and align yourself with another though.
        Oh and Mark? Life is long. You aren’t even half-way through your life as an adult. Things may not have happened for you in the time you allotted for them to happen – but the book hasn’t been written yet on your overall successes or failures. I get that you are not sunshine and rainbows by nature but you are little too young to get away with an End.Of.Story statement – not unless it is a choice that you have made for yourself. The LW hasn’t made that choice for herself – are you actually so true to your screen name that you have?

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark June 13, 2012, 8:29 pm

        Eh, reality check. At some point, telling people to keep the faith, to hang on, and that surely somebody is STILL out there for them simply becomes incredibly cruel. You may mean well, sure. But false hope is just that — false hope. And false hope never brings anybody any closer to their ever elusive happiness. It just doesn’t. Look, if you are broke and gay and over 40 — or if you are battling both mental illnesses and your weight in your late forties… it only stands to reason that now is the time to perhaps embrace being alone. Because, really, that’s just the way it is.

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  • avatar

    Desiree June 13, 2012, 9:52 am

    Both my dad and my sister are autistic, so I have seen some of the extra challenges they face in normal social situations. But both of them are currently in healthy relationships with great partners, so it can definitely be done. LW, I don’t know who your perfect match is, but I do have one suggestion (it might work for you, it might not; everyone is different). My sister has had a fair amount of difficulty relating through her peers over the years due to her autism. About a year ago, she met a great guy who is her age who is also autistic, and they just absolutely clicked. They really get one another on a deep level, and they are so very much in love. You, LW, might find that a man with autism could be a very empathetic partner for you. It is only a suggestion, though. You also might find an awesome guy who is not autistic but understands you perfectly. Good luck!

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  • avatar

    bethany June 13, 2012, 10:07 am

    Wendy said it perfectly. I have nothing to add.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie June 13, 2012, 9:42 am

    A lot of this lady’s troubled search for affection is hampered by a lack of self esteem. Obviously she’s intelligent and needs to seek goals that will make her feel confident which will go a long way to being attractive to eligible men. Pursue education in some form, academic, professional, or athletic interest. Exercise would go a long way in getting controlling her weight (something I struggle with) and the accomplishment of self established goals is very important. Autism is not the end of the world and people who suffer having it are just as entitled to love as anyone else. There are many Autistic couples who have successful romantic relationships. The measure of that success is what they define for themselves and the effort required is far greater when handicaps of any kind affect their lives

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  • katie

    katie June 13, 2012, 12:59 pm

    WWS.

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  • avatar

    painted_lady June 13, 2012, 1:44 pm

    Wendy’s and FireStar’s responses were so phenomenal I haven’t got a whole lot to add, other than some practical things that might help. That guy who rejected you was obviously a bag of dicks, and he would have been a bag of dicks to any woman who wasn’t precisely what he wanted (those kinds of guys always assume women can and should be whatever and whomever they want and therefore react in anger when women don’t hop to).

    I wonder, though, if, because of your autism, maybe you weren’t seeing some standard douche signals that might have given you cause to tell him to eff off? Obviously it’s not your fault, and I’m nowhere near saying, “Oh honey, should have seen this coming,” but maybe there’s a different way – other than emotional cues that you miss – for you to see the douche code? If you have a friend who’s cognitively average, maybe you could ask her to give you some douche avoiding tips. For example, if he’s talking to you but looking over your head or behind you instead of making eye contact, he’s looking for someone hotter and you want to lose him, stat. That’s a really obvious one, but if you have texts or emails or remember enough conversation, your douche-tutor could probably pull from it. Then do a field trip to a bar or similar and the two of you observe and interpret douche signals there. With practice, you can weed out a good percentage of the men you wouldn’t want anyway – not because they don’t play musical instruments but because they are assholes who will hurt you.

    I hope I’m not coming across as condescending. I’ve had something similar done for me because I used to be The Worst at knowing when someone was into me – a friend took me out to a bar where she dragged me around and talked to a bunch of guys. Then afterwards she broke it down: “This one was obviously into you because of this, that, the other thing he did. This one would’ve hit that – exhibit A – but wouldn’t go out with you – Exhibit B. This one wasn’t interested but was being polite,” and so on. It was massively helpful.

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  • KKZ

    KKZ June 13, 2012, 3:12 pm

    The only thing I can add to what Wendy and Firestar said is that, there will likely be more “swing-and-a-miss” encounters like you met with Model-Dating Dude. You just can’t let that make you believe all men are going to react like that or have the same values and priorities.

    I also feel for you because even without autism, dating when you’re in your late 40s isn’t always easy either. Depending on the age of the guys you’re pursuing, generational attitudes about mental health conditions could be a factor. This is probably another good reason to check out those autism-friendly dating sites or support groups.

    The only fear I have about those sites/groups is that I doubt many people who *don’t* have autism are congregating there, so it’s almost like you’re setting yourself up to only have relationships with other autistics – not that that’s a BAD thing, just something to be aware of. It may very well be, like another commenter said, that you find a great connection with another autistic person – but I understand each person’s experience with autism is unique and it doesn’t guarantee compatibility by itself. If you dream of being in a relationship with someone who isn’t autistic, you might not find that person on a specialized website or in a group – in fact, that person may end up being very hard to find.

    Best of luck to you, though! You seem sensible and confident in what you want, and those two qualities are attractive to a lot of people. Focus on your “pros” and not your “cons,” and that’s the part people will see.

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  • avatar

    quixoticbeatnik June 13, 2012, 11:36 pm

    I can kind of relate to how you feel, LW. I don’t have autism or Fragile X, but I am profoundly deaf. I wear a cochlear implant so it’s not as noticeable as it would otherwise be, except that I do have an accent and people do sometimes have to repeat themselves with me. I used to wonder, when I was younger, if anybody would want to date me because of my deafness – I mean, wouldn’t they rather date someone who didn’t have problems? Someone more like them? But, you know, everyone has problems. EVERYONE. Everyone is worried that they have some flaw that makes them undateable. I mean, even serial killers get laid, and what is THAT about? I’m not going to say that it will happen for you, and that you will find the ONE, but I don’t think it’s impossible. Of course, you can’t see my disability, like you can see yours. So that makes it harder, but dating isn’t supposed to be fucking easy. Nobody likes dating. Nobody likes rejection. You just have to be open to all of the possibilities. I’m sure there are people out there, somewhere, who will look past outward appearances and like you for who you are.

    I’ve been dating my boyfriend a little over two years and I am very happy with him. Even though I am a little overweight (but working on it!) I still get attention from time to time and I think it’s more due to my personality rather than my looks. I mean, I’m cute, but I don’t turn heads everywhere I go! As long as you have a winning personality, I think that’s really all that matters – and that you feel good about yourself. Confidence will always draw people to you.

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  • avatar

    Anne Shirley March 7, 2017, 5:49 am

    I haven’t ever commented before but this breaks my heart.

    You. Fellow autistic woman. Stop feeling like you have been cursed.

    I am also autistic – I can’t drive, I am half blind, I have a genetic muscular condition that makes me heavier than about 100% of the population. My daughter is also autistic.

    Not driving is the worst. The rest is ok.

    I can’t make myself into a highheel wearing, gorgeous, slender woman. But what I can do is be loving, care about others, wear great earrings, study, learn, be a fun companion and friend.

    I have never had a hard time attracting men or women, and believe me it is not anything to do with looks, it’s to do with having a kind spirit and a sense of humour. And my autism is great. I see things other people don’t see and I don’t care if i am awkward.

    My advice, meet some other autistic adults who are gifted, strong, witty and wonderful humans who also don’t care what people look like. There are loads of groups on Facebook. You don’t need to suffer autism, you can also radiate from within it.

    Thoughts with you my friend.

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