• Autism Help UK

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.

romance autism

The Concern

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

  • Supportive

  • Kind and loving

Bad Relationship Include:

  • Being bullied

  • 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

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