How does an adult with high-functioning autism make friends?
April 15, 2018 2:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm an adult who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome as a child. I have virtually no friends.

I'd like to make more friends, to have people in my life other than my fiancee to spend time with and talk to, but I really don't know how to make friends as an adult. Don't get me wrong, I love to spend time with my fiancee, however we have different ways of coping with stress, and sometimes she needs to do her own thing separate from me. On those days it'd be nice to have someone else to talk to and maybe spend time with.

Some of the 'usual' — I say that in quotations because I don't know how other people make friends, just assuming TV is an accurate source of information on that — ways that people make friends don't seem terribly useful to me.

Work? I work as a septic truck driver for a portable toilet company. The nature of my work is that I am alone all day, everyday.

School? I'm not in school, right now.

Interests? My interests have more often than not proven to be a liability, not an asset, in meeting people. They are simply too eccentric for the general population. Before I met my fiancee, when I was trying to date women, bringing up any of my interests was a guaranteed way to ensure she would never call me back again. What can I say? I keep exotic spiders, I collect rare and out-of-print books (especially old Soviet books), I love maps and buses, etc.

Thus, here I am, unsure of how to make friends. Suggestions?
posted by 8LeggedFriend to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I feel like you're under-estimating the interest, pardon me, people might have in your interests. I personally would find some of the stuff you mention fascinating, just because it is so far from the "mainstream," whatever that is.

The Internet seems a good way to connect to people of like mind, or at least a way to make the physical loneliness a little more tolerable. Have you looked into discussion groups, forums, even something like Twitter?
posted by Alensin at 2:41 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


I have a lot of weird interests, and I've found Reddit to be a pretty good way of finding people who share them and talking to them. (Specifically, all the individual subreddits, rather than the "main" Reddits, which for me are much too big to really deal with.) It's not the same as having friends in person—my in-person friends live all across the country at this point, so I don't get to see them as often as I'd like—but it's nice.
posted by Polycarp at 2:51 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Most adults make friends through shared activities. Is there anything going on in your area that you might be interested in joining? For example, I'm a member of my local hackerspace and several of our members have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. We all generally get along and we do lots of fun and social things together, such as barbeques.

You're not trying to meet with the general population. You're trying to find your people. They're out there, I promise.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:51 PM on April 15 [6 favorites]


Rather you could find in-person friends who share your interests depends on where you live. If you live near a decent sized city you could definitely find people who share your interests in rare books. Here's a list of some meetups on that topic: https://www.meetup.com/topics/book-collecting. Or you could try to find a local weird book store and see if they have any events. There are a LOT of introverted people with poor social skills who are deeply into collecting weird old books.

If you live somewhere more remote I would agree with the others that the internet is a better option. I am much like you and if I don't have an interest to share with someone, there's no point in me trying to get to know them in person.
posted by JZig at 3:04 PM on April 15


Interests. Definitely interests. There are book fairs; there are arachnological and entomological societies; most major cities have groups who do transit-spotting and transit geekery, and if you're not near a major city, you can still look online to see whether there's anything local to you. Your interests are sufficiently diverse and wide-ranging that I think you ought to be able to find someone near you who's into one of them, if you search the internet long enough.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 3:12 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Seconding that your interests sound very interesting! I recently read somewhere that you need to spend 50+ hours with someone to feel like friends, so expect it to take some time for friendships to evolve out of shared interests/groups.
posted by bighappyhairydog at 3:25 PM on April 15


If you haven't had luck finding groups that share your interests (and I second that they should be out there), find somewhere to volunteer a bit of time and, perhaps, expertise.

Rare books? Stop at the local library and see if they could use an extra hand on event nights. You may even discover that a group meets there that would love to hear more about your collection. Spiders? Is there perhaps a zoo, a pet store or an exotic animal educational program that is related where you could volunteer ... or if you're up to it, even do a presentation?

Even totally unrelated volunteering opportunities can introduce you to a wider group of acquaintances, among whom you might find your friend base. So consider visiting the elderly, volunteering at a food bank, or getting active in a community improvement committee. Volunteering has the added advantage of helping you concentrate on the needs of others. As they say, the best way to make friend is to be a friend, willing to spend your time and energies to help others.
posted by peakcomm at 3:39 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Your interests are not that crazy, certainly not offputting except maybe to people who are afraid of spiders. If you live in a city, you may be able to find groups of people locally who share your interests. If not, there are definitely lots of people online who are devoted to the same sorts of things as you! I think that would be a great place to start.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:52 PM on April 15


raising exotic spiders and collecting rare books are totally legitimate hobbies! I mean those are like the cultivated interests of a gentleman character in an English novel. and i assume you have a somewhat deeper interest, but I have run into a ton of people who have opinions about transit systems, the design of transit maps, and so on.

the point is, they aren't like extremely weird or outlandish interests.

this stuff might go over badly when dating, because dating situations are weird and fraught with all kinds of confusing signaling. especially if you get really enthusiastic about things and tend to talk about them a lot. I think just trying to find regular friends would be less fraught.

if you find a repeated event or group that is at least modestly fun, and keep showing up, and make an effort to learn people's names, that should give you a chance to interact with them. people make friends via gradual self-disclosure, and showing up puts you in the position to do that.
posted by vogon_poet at 4:33 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


First off, making friends as an adult is hard regardless of whether or not you are on the spectrum. So don't judge yourself too difficult.

Besides just finding a group that shares your interests and hanging out with them, I would suggest finding an organization that promotes your interests and volunteering for them. I've seen volunteers at nature centers answering questions about spiders or you could volunteer at your local zoo or natural history museum. You could see if there conventions or fan gatherings for your interests and see about volunteering for them. What's nice about volunteering is that there is more structured interaction with people and so it can be less awkward than just trying to strike up conversation. I think most of the friends I've made as an adult are through volunteering.

Once you've made an intial connection with someone though, you'll have to put some effort into turning them into a friend. Invite them to see a movie with you. Invite them over to dinner. Invite them out for coffee or drink.
posted by brookeb at 4:35 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


Board game meetups are a really good way to have low stress interaction. Everyone is focused on the game so there's not a lot of pressure to think of things to say. Sometimes game stores have them, or our local makerspace hosts one. Meetup.com has a bunch too.
posted by selfmedicating at 4:36 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


It sounds from your description like you've been trying to date and befriend neurotypical people. Have you tried making friends with other autistic people?

If your gut reaction is that autistic friends are less "real" or count for less than neurotypical friends, maybe think about why that is and where that idea came from, and try to get to a place where you can recognize that people like us have something to offer.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:46 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


Have you considered going to a Metafilter meetup?
posted by corb at 5:05 PM on April 15


A non-neurotypical GF of mine does rock climbing with a weekly group and is also a member of a feminist writers' group. She goes to synagogue, too, but I don't think she has had much friendship success there.
posted by 8603 at 5:34 PM on April 15


I am also someone who has an interest in Mass Transit.

Maybe your city/area has a group that does Mass Transit Advocacy? For instance, Seattle and other cities have a Transit Riders Union. It may be more activist oriented than your comfortable with, but I'm sure they'd be grateful for someone who knows more of the nuts and bolts of Mass Transit.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:56 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


PM’d you about an interest group you may enjoy.
posted by matildaben at 6:34 PM on April 15


If your area has a walkers/bikers advocacy group(my areas does both) there is probably an overlap there with people who are interested in transit, and if they do group walks led by volunteers that would be a physical activity to share with a group AND a volunteer opportunity as well.
posted by bq at 9:42 PM on April 15


It is super hard to make friends as an adult. Being on the autistic spectrum is an added complication but be aware that everybody who isn't in school is floundering around unsure of how to make friends, how to keep friends, and even what categorizes someone as a friend in the first place. So what you can do is capitalize on that.

Become reliable, a regular. Pick something and do it at a set time in a set place (or be very publicly communicative about the different place you'll be) and do it every week or month or whatever. Like, always stop by the game store on Thursday afternoons, or always make a new blog post on Sunday nights about interesting transit things from the previous week, or always check out antiquarian book auctions on the third weekend of each month, etc. These are just loose examples, the trick is to pick something that you can do with relatively little difficulty, so you can be very reliable in your presence.

The other side of this is to reach out to people who you meet at these things where you are a regular and suggest another regular thing. Like, oh, transit blog readers, invite them to have a discord chat every other wednesday where you all can geek out about maps together. Or if you have good interactions with antiquarian booksellers mention you'll be going to get a coffee/beer/beverage at a nearby place and that you always do that after the book-related event and maybe you'll see them there. The idea is to capitalize on your acquaintances and make it really easy for them to have further interaction with you.

Because people, by and large, are huge flakes. It's super difficult to coordinate schedules and be able to get to things and do stuff for fun in addition to any of the social interaction complexities. And on top of that all the ins and outs of wanting to know if people like you without directly asking if they like you? God, it's hard, as you well know. So make yourself easy, as it were. By being reliably in a place, people who are interested in you can reach out to you easily. By being proactive about engaging with the people who reach out to you, you're telling them you like them without them having to ask if you like them. And by being a regular, you make it easier for some people to ditch without it being a big thing, since you can catch up the next time they can come and know you'll be there/attending the next event/hosting the discord server.
posted by Mizu at 11:19 PM on April 15 [10 favorites]


Look at the volunteering/social groups in your area and pick a few that you might be willing to try out. Your interests are perfectly fine but depending on your location it might be hard to find meetups or stable groups devoted to them.

Book clubs, community gardens, activism, running groups ... I know an autistic person who has made friends through a choir.
posted by bunderful at 5:16 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Fellow autistic person here! I currently have TOO MANY FRIENDS for the first time in my life and literally can't handle the amount of social interaction I could be having. I never saw this one coming, let me tell you. Here are my tips:

- Learn a new skill. Maybe one relevant to one of your special interests. Ideally what you want is something where you can take the same class over and over again with the same people as you all 'level up' together - neurotypicals might be able to make friends in 6 evening classes but I sure as hell can't.
- Practice saying 'yes' to things in a controlled way. Set yourself targets for saying 'yes' to going to the pub [or whatever it is that Americans do instead] after evening classes or with your girlfriend's friends or whatever. Not always, but sometimes, when you're comfortable that it'll work
- Make online friends. I am 100% sure that there's an online community out there somewhere for one of your special interests, find it and talk to people. Reach out just a little more than makes you comfortable, not too much. Your friends may be on the other side of the world but they're still friends, and maybe you'll meet them some day - the holiday I took in Paris with a select group of Les Miserables fans from 4 different countries is golden in my memories
- Accept, in a deep way, that you WILL make social errors, and try to internalise the fact that the feeling of 'I've made a social error I just don't know what it is' is just a sign that you're doing some socialising. That's all it means, truly.
- Find a social cause you care about and do something connected to that. Work hard at it.
- Ask your partner to look out for people for you and introduce you to each other.
- Do not apologise for being a person who cares about things intensely. This is hard when so many neurotypical people are weird about it. I still get apologetic for being Into things, even around other autistic folks, because I've spent so long learning to be ashamed of myself and the way I am. But honestly, being passionate about stuff makes your life richer and more interesting. It's good. Liking things is good.

It will take TIME. Emotional intimacy is slow and it's even slower for those of us on the spectrum. It's often useful to disengage from that as a goal and concentrate more on intermediate things like 'someone to talk to about my spiders'.
Also don't make too many friends and end up exhausted and overstretched! Learn from my mistakes. (I love all these people but I don't know how to handle this)
posted by Acheman at 2:14 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


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