People diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder may act, think, and feel a bit differently. However, they’re very much capable of maintaining meaningful relationships with friends, family, and a significant other. Although they have a disability, they can positively identify with romance and gender roles.
Romantic Relationships Of “Aspies” And “NTs”
Adults with Asperger’s (Aspie) may have difficulties in navigating the social world. They do not often exhibit signs of empathy and affection. They’re also not very conscious of other people’s emotions. Despite that, many relationships thrive with an Aspie partner.
A person with Asperger’s syndrome is no different from the rest of the normal crowd (neurotypical or NTs). Qualities such as beauty, personality, and intellect are also some of the criteria for attraction in Aspies. “Asperger’s Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is more common that we realize and there are increasing numbers of high-functioning adults who are self-identifying or being diagnosed.” Eva A. Mendes LMHC explains.
In some cases, people tend to find a partner who has the qualities they lack. Aspies are known for their awkward social skills. Therefore, Aspies may find a partner who is highly perceptive and can help them interact with people.
However, as a neurotypical partner of an Aspie, it will be a challenge to cope with his or her personality. Although many Aspie–NT couples who are still going strong, there are inevitably a few bumps in the road. Here are some traits you can expect from an Aspie partner:
- They Are Not Voluntarily Affectionate
We need to feel loved and secured as human beings. For people with Asperger’s, displaying such affections is not in their personality. Unlike NTs, the Aspie do not share the innate understanding for the need of warmth. For them, usual gestures of love are incomprehensible.
An Aspie in a relationship thinks of saying I love you, holding hands, and hugging as things in a to-do list to soothe their partner’s needs for affection. Sometimes they even need an explicit reminder to do these things.
They do not intend to hurt their partner by withholding these actions. It’s just that they do not feel the need for such displays of affection because they do not comprehend it as normal people do.
- They Are Too Independent
People with Asperger’s are not clingy. It would seem that they respect your space and independence for not always demanding to spend time with you. However, the reason they act this way is that they are very self-absorbed and do not pay attention to your interests.
Again, this is not intentional. They’re known to have incredible focus in doing tasks; however, this also implies that they have a narrow and concentrated focus on their self-interests. This results to unintentionally putting themselves first before their partner.
- They Cannot Take Hints
An Aspie has difficulty catching people’s subtle display of emotions. Often they do not recognize body language and sarcasm. This phenomenon is called mind blindness. Therefore, you should explicitly communicate your feelings and emotions with them.
Probably the best-known person in pop culture with Asperger’s is Sheldon Cooper, a character in a famous sitcom the Big Bang Theory. If you have seen the show, you can observe how unusual Sheldon interacts with his girlfriend in their relationship.
Sheldon appears to be very self-centered and would even require a written agreement or rules for the relationship. These are surprisingly in detail such as “what to do during a date” and “when to hold hands.” The television show has perhaps exaggerated it a bit, but according to some real-life Aspies, a written set of rules helps them in the relationship. Without it, they feel lost.
Although a person with Asperger’s Syndrome does not portray the ideal qualities of a romantic partner, just like any of us, they can still love. Only they show it a bit differently.
Gender Identity And Expression
Love and romance are one of the many things that we share with those with autism. Moreover, given their unique personalities, these people usually are resolute on their gender orientation. But unlike their NT counterparts, they typically do not identify themselves with non-binary gender identities. In most cases, they would only be heterosexual, gay, or lesbian. Catherine Davies, MEd, MSc,CPsychol, LMHC says, “Individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) progress similarly to their typically-developing peers in terms of sexual health.”
Regarding gender expression, Aspies are not very much inclined to identify with the constructs for males and females. Instead, they’re more focused on sensory experiences. Therefore, the way they dress and the way they project themselves would only be for comfort and practicality rather than style and fashion.
Some people may question the preferred gender identity of these people because of their disability; however, like in love and romance, they’re capable of determining their sexuality. Also, like the NTs, people with Asperger’s syndrome and autism are also susceptible to gender identity crisis and gender dysmorphia.
People diagnosed with Asperger’s and autism may be different from the abled crowd in many ways, but they’re still capable of loving and managing their sexuality.
Even though people in the autism spectrum think, act, and feel a little differently, it does not mean that they’re less capable than NT people. When you have friends like this in your circle, or you’re in a relationship with one, the key is communication to know better how they feel. “For the partner on the spectrum, confusion about doing or saying the right thing, coupled with an inability to grasp the unwritten rules of social engagement, can cause great anxiety, frustration, and often depression. The world is processed cognitively, with logical thought patterns.” Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC said.
It may be difficult to understand them at times, but to keep a healthy relationship with them, it is best to try to put ourselves in their shoes even if they cannot always do the same.