Dating When Your Brain is Weird

Most dating tips assume a lot of things that may not apply to you – like heterosexuality, general physical ability, and a complete lack of mental illness or learning disability. Here are tips that I’ve come up with for dating when your brain is different from the expectations. So, in time for Valentine’s Day, here are 5 Things You Should Know.

  1. Know Yourself
    Specifically, where possible, know the ways you differ from the norm. Is eye contact a no-go for you? Do you hate cuddling? Are there certain triggers that could come up in dating that you want a partner to know about? The better you can explain yourself to others, the better they can (hopefully) understand you and be there for you. They can also figure out if you’re not what they’re looking for – if the things you can offer aren’t the things they want. It goes both ways, but it’s easier to start with knowledge of yourself.
  2. Know What You Want
    Do you want a long-term relationship leading to eventual cohabitation or maybe even marriage? Do you want someone to hang out with at home, watching Netflix and petting cats? Would you rather get dressed up and go out on dates? How important is sex to you? People want a lot of different things from relationships – monogamy, polygamy, coparenting. While the world around us may say that the only good form of relationship is a monogamous heterosexual marriage producing children, there really isn’t a superior type. If you know what you want going into a relationship, you are more likely to find someone looking for the same things.
  3. Know Who You’re Looking For
    Now that you know who you are and what type of relationship you want to have, you can think about who you’d like to have that relationship with. What character traits matter to you – compassion, kindness to animals, a joyous spirit? What passions do you hope to have in common? What issues will you absolutely not budge on and don’t want a partner who feels the opposite? (For me it’s abortion rights, among others.) This part may take trial and error to really figure out. When you do figure out what kind of person you want to be with, it will help you narrow your search to more ideal candidates.
  4. Know That Rejection is Part of the Process
    Ideally, everyone else engaging in dating has had this level of self-reflection. Hopefully you can, through a written profile or hanging out, both communicate who you are and what you want. The reality is a little murkier. Either way, everyone has their own set of criteria. Some of that criteria may be flawed or bigoted (anti-fat, anti-trans, anti-femme gay men, anti-women of color biases, for example). Some of it may be down to recognizing their own very specific needs. The majority of people in the world and on dating sites are probably not going to be ideal matches for you, and that really is okay. Likewise it’s okay when they decide you’re not an ideal match for them. The goal is to find partner/s you want, ready to have the type of relationship you want. It’s not to get the most votes or dates or messages.
  5. Know That It Can Take Time
    Getting into just any relationship is easier than getting into the kind you want. You may decide you’d rather date people outside your initial criteria. You may find your criteria changes over time. It’s up to you whether you want to keep looking or try something not on your list. Trying not to get caught up into loaded language like “settling” and instead recognize that your wants and needs can shift. Be kind to yourself. Don’t let the process wear you down. Take as many breaks for as long as you want, as often as you need to. Be single forever if that makes you happier. It’s about you and what you want.


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