Autism is a diagnosable condition labeled as a developmental disorder. This means that symptoms of autism typically appear early in life, during the early childhood years.
Individuals with autism demonstrate symptoms such as difficulty communicating with others and rigid and repetitive behaviors.
For example, they may have a very intense interest in certain topics, such as farming, and focus only on these interests. This means that dating someone with autism requires an understanding of this disorder and an ability to adapt to symptoms of autism.
All relationships have their challenges because every person is an individual and has their own interests, pet peeves, and quirks. Dating someone with autism can bring unique challenges, given the features of this condition.
For example, autism is linked to rigidity, which means individuals with autism may have a hard time adjusting to changes in routine. Given their fixation on specific interests, people living with autism may also show a lack of interest in their partner’s hobbies.
Autism is also associated with difficulties with communication and social interaction. For example, individuals with autism may appear uninterested in conversation, as they tend to not main eye contact or to not look at people when they are speaking.
Other behaviors associated with autism include struggling with back and forth conversation, talking at length about one’s own interests without giving others a chance to talk, or struggling to understand the perspectives of others.
Given these symptoms, dating someone with autism can be difficult, especially if you don’t understand the answer to “How do autistic adults behave?” On the other hand, knowing about the symptoms of autism and how to respond to them can make autism relationships more successful.
Is it possible to have a relationship with autistic person?
Autism dating may seem challenging given the symptoms of this condition, and some people may even believe that autism and love are impossible. The reality is that this is a misconception.
While individuals with autism may have difficulty with communication and social interaction, many do desire intimate relationships with others.
A recent study with over 200 individuals with autism found that those with autism had the same interest in romantic relationships that individuals without autism did.
That being said, those with autism had more anxiety surrounding relationships, and their romantic partnerships tended not to last as long when compared to those without autism.
What can be concluded from this is that individuals with autism want to experience relationships.
The answer to “Can autistic people love?” appears to be yes, but autism dating may be more challenging since those who live with autism can have difficulty meeting new people, leading to anxiety with autism and romantic relationships.
Dating someone with autism and having a happy relationship is possible if you are willing to learn about the condition, be supportive of your partner, and make some compromises to accommodate their needs.
The autism dating tips below can help you with loving someone with autism.
Dating an autistic woman or man requires that you know how to manage the symptoms of autism in love.
The following 15 tips for dating someone with autism can make all the difference if you are falling in love with an autistic person:
1. Understand that large gatherings may make them uncomfortable
Individuals with autism tend to enjoy time spent alone, focusing on their unique interests.
Since they require this alone time, crowds, parties, and group outings can be challenging for them. If they seem uninterested in going to a birthday party for your mom, for example, try not to take it personally.
2. Respect their routine
Someone on the autism spectrum will probably have a pretty fixed routine, and sticking to it makes them feel more comfortable. Sudden changes in routine can therefore be quite upsetting.
If you foresee an unavailable change in the schedule, such as a need for you to be out of town for work, it is important to warn your autistic partner as soon as possible to give them time to process the change.
3. Know that they may become overwhelmed by stimulation
Part of the rigidity of autism is sensory sensitivity, meaning that a significant other with autism is likely to become overwhelmed by loud noises or certain smells or textures.
If your partner appears agitated, it may be that they are overwhelmed by sensory stimulation.
4. Try to avoid sarcasm, or be prepared to explain it
Due to their difficulties with communication and social interaction, someone with autism may not understand sarcasm. Dating an autistic man or woman may require you to avoid sarcasm, as it can lead to misunderstandings.
If you have made a sarcastic comment and it appears to have gone over their head, take time to explain it. Remember that your partner doesn’t mean to be annoying; they simply view communication differently than you do.
5. Be honest with them
When you recognize, “I love someone with autism” you may feel that you need to hold back your feelings to avoid upsetting them, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Individuals with autism may have some anxiety surrounding relationships, so they may not always know the best way to act toward their romantic partner.
If your partner with autism does something offensive or is moving too fast in the relationship, be prepared, to be honest with them. They want to understand and have successful relationships.
Autism is referred to as “Autism spectrum disorder” for a reason. There is a range of different presentations of autism.
Some people may have severe communication deficits with autism, whereas others may just present as somewhat quirky with atypical interests.
Therefore, it is important that you avoid jumping to conclusions and assuming that because a person has autism, they will act in a specific way.
7. Be patient with them during times of change or transition
Since individuals with autism have difficulty deviating from their usual routines, big changes or transitions, such as starting a new job, moving in together, or getting married, can be quite stressful for them.
Never rush them into making big decisions, and be sure to give them time and space to process their feelings.
8. Don’t assume that your partner knows how you are feeling
Autism and love can be challenging because your partner may not always be able to read your emotions.
Keep in mind that autism involves difficulty with communication, so dating someone with autism means that your partner may not be able to tell from your body language or tone of voice that you are upset.
When your autistic partner wants to spend time alone or doesn’t recognize when you need support, it can be difficult not to take this behavior personally. You may feel that your partner doesn’t care about you, but this is not the case.
Autism dating may require you to give your partner extra alone time and directly ask for support when you need it. Don’t be offended by this; your partner still loves you, even if they may appear indifferent.
10. You may have to advocate for them
Having autism means that social interactions and relationships can be difficult.
Your autistic partner may therefore have difficulties interacting with others at work or have a conflict with family members or friends who do not understand the implications of an autism diagnosis.
You may have to step in and advocate for them by standing up to friends or family members who do not understand the symptoms of autism or helping them get the services they need or the protections they need at work.
11. Be prepared to deal with some unusual eating behaviors
Due to their sensory sensitivities, individuals with autism may be intolerant of certain foods.
For instance, they may find some textures or tastes to be offensive. This may mean that you have to stick to a few “safe” meals, or they may be opposed to eating at certain restaurants.
12. Try to be supportive of their interests
Dating someone with autism means partaking in their interests. A person with autism likely has a few areas of interest they focus on, and they may be uninterested in activities or topics unrelated to these specific areas of interest.
When they share one of their interests with you, try to be supportive and take part in it, at least sometimes. At the very least, you must be prepared to give them time to explore their interests and not take offense if they seem uninterested in the things you love.
13. Understand that they may be resistant to touch
Research shows that individuals with autism are overly sensitive to sensory stimulation, including touch. If your partner is hesitant to give or receive hugs, remember that it is likely a manifestation of autism.
Dating someone with autism may require you to be mindful of their sensitivities to touch and take time to explore what touch they find to be enjoyable or appropriate. You may also have to learn to give and receive affection in ways that do not involve touch.
14. Learn to deal with some social awkwardness
Autism comes with some difficulties with social interaction, so you may find that dating an autistic man or woman means that you have to be present for some embarrassing moments when socializing in groups.
They may behave in a way that is not considered appropriate for a certain social situation, or they may not pick up on social cues from others. Learn to be supportive or find humor in these situations instead of being critical of your partner.
They are probably doing the best that they can, and if they have agreed to go out and socialize with you, they are already stepping outside their comfort zone as it is.
15. Don’t interpret their behavior to mean that they are apathetic or unemotional
Autism relationships may sometimes be confusing because your partner can come across as lacking in emotion. This is because autism leads to difficulties with expressing oneself through communication.
A person with autism may speak in a monotone voice, lack eye contact, or appear emotionally blank. This does not mean that they do not experience emotions or empathy; they simply have a harder time expressing it.
If you are dating someone with autism and are unsure of how to navigate your way, watch this video.
Dating someone with autism means developing an understanding of their symptoms and the way that autism can affect their behavior.
While no two people with autism are exactly the same, a person with autism will likely have difficulty with communication and social interactions, so they may have some anxiety surrounding relationships.
None of this means that someone with autism can’t fall in love. Individuals with autism seek relationships and belonging just like anyone else, but they may need your support to feel accepted and safe.
Autism dating tips can help you to better understand autism and what to expect from autism relationships.
If you are dating someone with autism, be prepared to support them and advocate for their needs. You might consider attending counseling together to learn ways to support them and cope with their symptoms.
If you’re looking for advice regarding autism relationships or dating in general, Marriage.com offers various articles and tips on dating, communication, married life, and much more.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker with a master's degree in social work from The Ohio State University, and she is in the process of completing her dissertation for a Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology. She has worked in the social work field for 8 years and is currently a professor at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. She writes website content about mental health, addiction, and fitness.
Licensed as both a social worker through Ohio Board of Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage/Family Therapists and school social worker through Ohio Department of Education as well as a personal trainer through American Council on Exercise.