Difficulties that impede romance for a person on the autism spectrum may seem insurmountable, such as the ability to understand facial expressions, pick up on nonverbal cues, become comfortable with giving and receiving loving gestures. These relationship specialties are usually the very areas that an autistic person hasn’t developed intuitive knowledge in or perhaps experienced that much of. And it’s likely that an autistic adult has not been expected to understand these types of exchanges, since stereotype behaviors have “signaled” to other people that there is no interest for a close relationship.
But often there is interest. Just as there are resources to help autistic people communicate to other people, there are resources a person with autism can tap into to help them overcome obstacles to being a good date and a potential romantic partner. A place to begin is to understand and articulate a desire for romance. Many people on the autism spectrum have difficulty identifying their emotions and to understand what causes their emotions. As a result, an autistic person may experience the indicators of attraction, but not fully understand them as such. An explanation by loved ones in the autistic person’s life may be needed. Do they think about this person a lot? Do they feel tingly when they are near this person?
Jerry Newport, a married man with Asperger’s syndrome who was introduced in our previous article, gives practical grooming tips to make sure that an autistic person going on a date puts their best foot forward. These tips can become lifestyle habits that carry into a long-term relationship. Newport suggests bathing at least every other day, using deodorant, grooming facial and body hair, cleaning teeth daily, wearing clean clothes, and copying the hairstyles and clothes of their peers. More about this can be found on the information sheet titled, “Romantic Relationships and Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
It can also be constructive to realize that there are characteristic qualities of autistic people that make them attractive as romantic partners. Every person is unique with a distinct set of traits, talents, struggles, and personalities, so these characteristics are not meant to stereotype anyone, or to imply that neurotypicals do not have these traits. These characteristic qualities have been defined by Arman Khodaei (a video blogger and main character in the documentary “Autism in Love“) in an article on his website, Empower Autism Now. Khodaei discusses 10 qualities that many male autistic adults possess that are material for a successful relationship: Loyalty, Extreme Interest, Innocence, Trusting Nature, Honesty, Eagerness to Learn, Different Way of Seeing the World, Lack of Social Drama, Good in Bed, and Patience. Details on each quality can be found on his article, “Benefits of Dating Someone with Autism.”
For an autistic adult, dating and finding love can be a combination of realizing what they already offer and where to find help for the areas their diagnosis affects.