Help me understand a woman with PDA and dating her — Scope | Disability forum
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Help me understand a woman with PDA and dating her

Mawens Community member Posts: 1 Listener
edited March 2023 in Autism and neurodiversity

Hello, I am interested in learning more about a woman with PDA and have some questions.

I have previously dated this woman, starting from July and taking a break for a couple of months. We started seeing each other again from February.

I really want to understand her better, and I consider myself a very understanding, accepting, and patient person. We don't talk about the future or the past, and my intention is to have a romantic relationship. I believe she would like to see where things go as well, but we cannot discuss it. I want to ask her about it, but I know it would be a demand and expectation that would not give a positive response.I can live with not discussing it and let time show where things lead, but it's not easy to navigate.

Right now, we are focusing on building trust in our relationship, and that's fine with me, but I find it difficult to navigate her changing moods. Sometimes she is very open, and other times she is closed off.

For example, she wrote that she hoped she would feel better for her meeting, and I asked her which meeting it was for, but she didn't respond, which is fine in principle, but I don't understand what depends on the change. She usually answers, and when it comes to trust, I can feel it's an attack on me, and thoughts like "Have I done something since she doesn't want to tell me?" can come up. I am spending time reading about PDA, and I read that it's good to give choices, so I asked her, "May I ask a question?" which she answered no to. It developed into her attacking me, feeling misunderstood, feeling like there is too much focus on her, etc. Should I take it personally?

She also writes that she understands why I feel overlooked and understands me, but I don't feel that in the situation. I understand with my question that it was a wrong approach since she can feel it as a threat, an expectation to answer, a demand, etc. I wrote some long messages trying to explain, show my understanding and acceptance of the situation, and she ends up getting anxious and stressed. I feel frustrated that I can't explain myself because she can make assumptions about situations that I don't agree with. Now I am left with irritation, feeling misunderstood and unheard.

She is also going through a hard time, have the flue, feels burned out at the moment so there are many things that can trigger her and she can unmask, and I wish she would tell me how she feels because I don't know if it's because of those things or something else, and I can't even ask her because then it's a question that can create pressure.

I also cannot judge whether I appear weak by conceding and saying I understand, and I will implement it, or if it's better to express my frustration. I only want to appear understanding and show her that I accept her feelings and frustrations, that I listen to what she says, that I don't want to focus on her, and I don't want her to perceive me as weak. I hope she understands that I mean it with respect. She is not a friend or a child, but a grown woman, and I want to learn how to balance when to stand up for myself, express myself, and when to show understanding, acceptance, and "surrender."

For those of you in a relationship with a woman with PDA or for women, how do you balance your understanding while still expressing your dissatisfaction with a situation?

I hope you understand what I'm asking for, even between the lines.

Thanks in advance.



  • Alex_Scope
    Alex_Scope Posts: 7,562 Scope online community team
    Hello there @Mawens and thanks for reaching out, just to clarify, when you say PDA, do you mean Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)? :) 

    I don't have any lived experience of PDA, so I'll offer what thoughts I can. For any couple navigating a new relationship, communication can be a challenge. We all have a need to feel heard and understood by our partner. Building trust is definitely a positive place to start. It can be hard when we overthink certain conversations, which is easy to do!

    I get the feeling that you both understand that you communicate in different ways, and have different expectations about your responses to each other.

    Have you considered looking into counselling, either together or apart, to better understand what each of you might need, or how you might be feeling? Sometimes, speaking to someone on the outside can help to see things you might otherwise miss.

    I'm sorry to hear she's going through a hard time right now, perhaps one of the best things you can do is to just be there for her, help her feel supported and cared for in the things you do, rather than say, if that makes sense?

    I sure she understands that you respect her for who she is, and I think it's okay to want to express your own thoughts and feelings too, they are valid, and they are allowed. 

    If you feel you need a hand with anything else in the meantime, please ask!
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  • L_Volunteer
    L_Volunteer Community Volunteer Adviser, Scope Member Posts: 7,979 Disability Gamechanger

    Hello @Mawens. First, a warm welcome to Scope’s forum from me. Thank you for already having the courage to reach out to us. I appreciate the courage it can take to reach out, especially when you are new and finding things difficult.

    I am going to do my best to respond to you in the best way possible. I do wish to say though that I am responding as an autistic adult, not with PDA but PDA can be linked to autism (as it is part of the autism spectrum). I do not always find it easy to follow demands and it depends on how they are framed.

    I can hear that, although you consider yourself a very understanding, accepting, and patient person who wants to learn more about PDA, you are finding this difficult. I think this is more a reflection of the difficult situation, than you as a person.

    It sounds like it is really important to follow her pace and focus on what she feels comfortable with but I can hear that might not necessarily be in line with your own needs. You have mentioned sometimes she is very open and other times she is closed off.

    Do you recognise a pattern of times when she is very open versus when she is closed off? Often, this can help to identify what she needs to have more of the ‘very open’. It might also be worth making a note of what you wish to discuss with her and leaving this for when she is ‘very open’.

    I do not think you should take this personally, though I recognise it is more challenging to do than to say. It might be better to wait to see what she wants to tell you and when she is feeling ready. In itself, asking her if you can do something (ask a question) is a demand.

    Sometimes, it can be more useful to frame demands as a ‘two-way’ thing. For example, what is a shared goal you have and how can you both work together to achieve that goal? But not framing it as a demand. Although this article is aimed at children, I wish to signpost you to it because it is still applicable to many adults.

    However, I want you to know that your feelings are valid and I recognise you are feeling irritated, misunderstood and unheard, etc. It sounds like some of the triggers for this may also be the external things she is dealing with at the moment, such as having the flu and feeling burnt out.

    As I am sure you can imagine, when we are feeling poorly and not at our best, no single human is able to keep up the same capacity. For her, this includes the demands she is able to take and respond to and the unmasking she is able to cope with.

    A resource you might find helpful is the PDA Society! Please don’t hesitate to let us know if there’s anything we can do to support you, even if that’s just listening to you further  :)

    Community Volunteer Adviser with professional knowledge of education, special educational needs and disabilities and EHCP's. Pronouns: She/her. 

    Please note: if I use the online community outside of its hours of administration, I am doing so in a personal capacity only.


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