It has been well documented that many young adults with NVLD can find dating to be overwhelming due to their difficulties reading body language and understanding social cues, but what positive attributes do these individuals have may be frequently overlooked? Do young adults with NVLD have qualities that make them more attractive to potential partners? I was inspired to think about this while reading the blog of Dr. Kenneth Roberson, a psychologist in San Francisco, who specializes in autism spectrum disorders. While describing adults with Asperger’s he stated, “They are usually loyal and dependable. Competing to get ahead is less important than solving problems and meeting challenges. Conscientiousness, faithfulness and devotion to duty matter more than ambition, especially if that ambition would cause others to suffer.” I wondered if the same could be said about young adults with NVLD. Can we also be more loyal and kind? Obviously, it depends on the person, but I outline some potential positive characteristics below.
A blog from Ask Meta Filter states that adults with NVLD can be “more trusting, honest, and open than average.” This can be a positive characteristic in a relationship, especially when it comes to expressing one’s true thoughts and feelings. Many people in therapy complain that they would like their partners to be more “open and honest.” Of course, young adults with NVLD may also struggle with when and how to be open in social situations, but over the course of a relationship, a trusting and honest demeanor and communication style may be very attractive qualities.
Another valuable quality is attention to detail, especially in terms of a strong auditory memory. A partner who can remember what was said during an earlier conversation, or who is able to identify the specific details of what his or her partner stated, may be able to demonstrate care and sensitivity, even if nonverbal communication and white lies may be more difficult for a person with NVLD to grasp.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when considering the potential strengths of young adults with NVLD is that many may have a deep compassion and understanding for those who have been classified as “different” or have experienced various life challenges and difficult circumstances. Because many individuals with NVLD have been misunderstood and criticized by teachers, professors, employers, peers, and colleagues, they may have often developed compassion for others going through similar life circumstances or challenges.
What makes somebody with NVLD attractive is obviously highly variable and depends very much on the dynamics of a specific relationship, but there may also be strengths that are too often overlooked. As mental health professionals, it is critical that we keep these strengths in mind when working with individuals with NVLD instead of focusing exclusively on the perceived deficits.