Social Life with Tourette
Dating can be a challenge to all of us. While Tourette Syndrome may loom large in your mind, it might not be that big of an issue. There’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be just another thing to learn about you as you’re getting to know each other.
Get It “Out of the Way” Early
You don’t need the added pressure of concealment — plus the more you try to hide tics, the worse they can get. Although you probably shouldn’t introduce yourself with, “Hi, my name’s Joel, and I have Tourette Syndrome,” it’s a good idea to clear the air early on.
Suggestion: Take the opportunity offered the next time you tic. You can be sure he or she noticed, so you might say, “you know that twitchy thing I do? It’s because I have Tourette Syndrome.” After that you can provide as much or as little information as the person’s reaction seems to require. A joke or two can come in handy as well.
The very tic-like occurrence that happens when you feel compelled to say something completely inappropriate is a frequent worry that people with TS have on a date. It’s a concern because it does happen sometimes. If this is one of your fears, it’s a lot easier to explain before it actually happens than afterwards.
This is one strategy you can use if you currently have a tic that you fear might offend your date. Talk to a doctor or therapist who knows TS well about how to do this (basically, it involves finding an alternative behavior that satisfies the same urge). For example: say you have a nose-picking tic — there might be something else you could do with your finger when that urge comes on. With a bit of practice, you can avoid causing offense, even though it might not be possible to stop ticcing altogether.
Talk About It, Role Play
Many people with TS, especially those with more severe symptoms, worry about finding a way to discuss these things with a date or acquaintance. The issue may be what you think about yourself, not how others see you. Childhood and adolescent experiences of being teased and bullied can lower self-esteem.
We urge everyone with TS to remember that you are a “person first” with qualities, values, and interests that are important to you, as valid as anyone else’s, and that these will likely be attractive to potential friends and relations. For some, seeing a counselor can help you talk through your experiences, and perhaps help you role-play the things you worry about, like introducing yourself to someone new or telling a date about your TS.
Lower the Stress Level
Meeting new people is stressful for everyone, but the same things that work for others can work for you, too. Find ways to be in low-stress situations with lots of potential partners. Instead of the high-anxiety bar and club scene, for example, you might try joining a martial arts class or yoga, or taking a night class in a something that interests you. Meeting someone in these types of environments reduces the stress level because the focus is on learning something — not on you.
Others swear by speed-dating events and organized singles parties that include icebreaker games. And of course, going out with a group of friends means you can check out the local venues but still have a great time if you don’t meet a prospective date. Online dating is also a possible way to meet others (and the question of having TS can be addressed when a comfortable moment arises).
Play Your Strengths
Many people with TS have some advantages over others when it comes to dating — good verbal skills, quick minds and quick wit, and a well-practiced sense of humor. You can probably charm anyone — just give yourself the chance. Try honing your “charm” skills with relatives, neighbors, and colleagues. If you’re comfortable in your own skin, and have a sense of humor about yourself, you’ll be happy no matter what.