Ah the spark. We don’t know how to describe it, but we do know when we have it! It’s just that feeling that comes after a date. Maybe it’s the thought that we just have to see that person again. Perhaps it’s the excitement of a beating heart. One writer states that, “it’s that certain magnetic pull between two people when you both feel mentally, emotionally, and physically, and energetically connected” (Mcclearly, 2015). In today’s world of infinite possibilities and instant gratification, it is not uncommon to expect a spark on the first date. However, creating this phenomenon may be easier for some than others. If a man’s wit, a sense of humor, and assertiveness are seen as primal prerequisites of attraction for some women, men who struggle with social skills or reading body language may be at a disadvantage. Men with NVLD and on the spectrum have many qualities to offer in a relationship; some of the more commonly mentioned are kindness, loyalty, and honesty. However, these characteristics may become more visible later in the dating process and be overlooked by someone looking for an initial spark. However, there are alternative forms of dating and techniques for building an initial chemistry that I describe below.
Suffice it to say that the spark is considered overrated by many dating experts. In my view, its overvaluation also prejudices in favor of certain daters over others: those who are witty, funny, and well-dressed rather than those who are kind, sensitive, and introspective. However, it is also the case that there are strategies for getting to know someone that deemphasize initial chemistry. In my dating skills groups, some participants have expressed more comfort and interest in meeting people in groups of people who share their interests. For example, one participant decided to join a robotics meetup group. By building a gradual connection with someone who shared his interests, he worked up the courage to ask her out for a cup of coffee. This strategy worked better for him than a first date with a stranger who may have expected an instantaneous spark.
Even while pursuing non-traditional dating strategies, it is important to implement verbal and nonverbal strategies for creating a spark such as investing time in grooming and dress. They can also include preparing for a date in one’s grooming and dress, minding one’s table manners, and having a good night’s sleep beforehand. They can also evolve into more advanced strategies such as asking open-ended questions, listening and remembering what was said, and maintaining flirtatious eye contact. Implementing these skills can take some practice, but through role play, one can become more comfortable with them.
Part of the value of working on social skills is to build self-confidence. However, I am not defining self-confidence as it is often understood, but rather as a genuine self-acceptance that has little to do with being assertive, cocky, or arrogant. One can be self-confident and also humble and empathetic. Perhaps the most important aspect of self-confidence is taking the focus off of one’s self and onto the needs of the other. The psychologist Dr. Markway states, “Self-confidence can also breed deeper empathy. When you are fully present, you’re more likely to notice that your date seems a little down, or that a friend in the corner looks like she needs a shoulder to cry on. When you are not preoccupied with your own self-doubt, you can be the person who reaches out to help others” (Markway, 2018). For men with NVLD and on the spectrum, being able to concentrate on someone else’s or your date’s needs may help to overcome hindrances associated with understanding social skills and reading body language.
Whether it is online dating, romcom movies, or simply the belief that we can have what we want, building an initial spark has become an increasingly valued part of dating. While initial chemistry is important, its overvaluation can disqualify men who are otherwise attractive. Men with learning differences and on the spectrum may prosses many positive attributes, but have yet to develop some of the social skills necessary for creating a spark. However, there are contexts for meeting others that build on compatibility of interests and both de-emphasize initial chemistry and improve connection. With some foresight and practice, individuals with learning differences can develop strategies for dating that will lead them to have the success they desire.
Markway, D. B. (2018, September 20). Why Self-Confidence is More Important Than you Think: Self-Confidnece is Linked to Almost Every Element Involved in a Happy Life. Retrieved from Psychology Today : https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shyness-is-nice/201809/why-self-confidence-is-more-important-you-think
Mcclearly, S. (2015, October 22). Why ” The Spark” is Not a Solid Way to Gauge a A Lasting Relationship”. Retrieved from Elite Daily: https://www.elitedaily.com/dating/weighing-in-on-the-spark/1223675
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