How Does Autism Affects Romantic Relationships?
Updated: Mar 25, 2021
Creating and maintaining a romantic relationship can be difficult if you are autistic. Challenges such as communicating and connecting socially with others can hinder the experience and make romance feel hopeless. However, that is not the case. Here are a few tips to help autistic individuals create and maintain a healthy romantic relationships.
Relationships, whether romantic or not, can be harder if you are autistic. This is because of challenges that are common in the autism community, including:
finding it difficult to communicate with others & understand non-verbal communication (such as facial expressions)
struggling to socialise
struggling to connect through perceiving others emotions
These challenges can limit time spent building up and maintaining friendships where important relationship skills are developed. Nonetheless, Strunz et al. (2017) found a vast majority of autistic people want to have and are interested in romantic relationships.
Reasons For Not Being in A Romantic Relationship
In the article, Strunz et al. (2017) found the reasons autistic people didn't want to be in a relationship included:
contact with another person was too exhausting
being afraid of not fulfilling the expectations of a romantic partner
not knowing how to find and get involved with a partner
not knowing how a romantic relationship works or the expected behaviour in a romantic relationship
Tips To Help
Here are a few tips that can help you develop a healthy romantic relationship.
1. Build Friendships First
Before considering a romantic relationship, it is good to build up friendships first. Creating and maintaining friendships is a useful way to developing skills that will help in romantic relationship. Once you feel confident in this area, you can then start to look at developing a romantic relationship.
2. Social Rules & Cues
It is important before starting a relationship for a parent or someone you trust to explain the social rules. These are the things that are appropriate and not appropriate in a relationship, e.g. knowing social boundaries. As well as this, they can help you with social cues that can be lost on an autistic person, such as a person making excuses for not meeting up usually means they are not interested in pursuing a relationship. By having someone there to help you understand these rules and cues can make it easier to find the right person.
3. Understand Yourself
Before starting a relationship, try to understand your needs first. In a relationship it is good to understand who you are outside of the other person. By doing this, you can let your significant other know your needs and wants. If you find self-reflection a bit difficult, it might be worth asking someone help you with this.
4. Good Vs. Bad Relationships
It is important when you are in a relationship to know whether it is good and healthy relationship or a bad one. Parents, or someone trusted, should explain the difference. Here a few differences you can mention:
Good Relationships Are:
Built on honesty and trust
Respectful of boundaries
Listening to each other
Understanding and respectful of each others needs and wants different wants and needs
Kind and loving
Bad Relationship Include:
Neglecting the other person
Making you feel insecure
Physical & emotional abuse
Being excluded from their personal life- e.g. they won't let you meet their family or friends