How do adults with autism handle intimate relationships? According to many adults on the spectrum, trying to work through an intimate relationship with someone is always a challenge. Many high functioning autistic adults do not choose to be in a relationship, while others truly enjoy being in intimate relationships. Some autistic adults prefer to be with others on the spectrum, and a smaller percentage of adults may choose to form a relationship with someone that is considered 'neurotypical' or normal.
Communication, autistic behaviors and social impairments can be a huge challenge for adults that are trying to maintain a significant relationship. Compared to the general population, fewer autistic adults marry or have children and live in a major metropolitan area. Although, it does seem that more autistic adults are forming relationships and marriages within the autism spectrum. To many, it is a way of being, a kind of autistic culture, and not a disorder to be cured. It seems that many on the spectrum may be attracted to others with an ASD because of similar obsessions and interests. While some do choose to form marriages with non-autistic individuals, as long as their partner accepts their challenges and differences with a warm heart and good understanding of their disorder. All ASD adults have passions and obsessions that require an enthusiasm for repetition that is usually very mind numbing to the average 'normal' individual.
Many times the employment status of the individual can also be a problem with those who would be in an intimate relationship. Very few high functioning adults further their education by going to college, and less than 6 percent of ASD adults are actually employed. Many ASD adults lack the skills to live alone. Relationships and employment can be complicated by many things, such as...
-difficulties understanding body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures (it is also common for normal individuals to misunderstand the body language and facial expressions of the autistic individual because they do not express themselves like non-autistics).
-unaware of what is socially appropriate and problems choosing topics to talk about
-finding communication difficult, so a lack of social motivation exists
-may choose not to socialize much and have very few friends
-group situations are a challenge
-small talk and chatting are challenging
-double meanings are difficult to understand
-choosing the wrong topics to talk about
-taking what people say literally
-interrupting conversations, due to short term memory problems. Information they want to express sometimes disappears quickly before they get a turn to talk.
-talking for long periods about a passion or obsession is very common, but usually during the most inapt times.
Flexibility of Thought
-obsessions with rigid routines, severe distress with severe anxiety that can lead to anger when routines are changed (such as when someone that is important to them is gone too often; to daily routines that are usually performed every day, thus bringing the individual into a constant feeling of chaos and stress. If it's something that is not continuously predictable, it is extremely stressful to ASD individuals to cope with.
-difficulties organizing life and making plans for the future
-problems with sequencing tasks, but may be able to do so if they can accomplish the task in a way that makes more sense to the ASD individual.
In reality, it takes a very special relationship in order for things to work out for the better. Watch this touching video of a married couple who are both autistic. Being able to make strong compromises when working with someone who is autistic is the pudding in the pie when needing to make relationships work when one or both partners are autistic. In most cases, if a partner is non-autistic, that partner is going to have to be the one to be willing to compromise most often, because the brain of the ASD individual is unable to do as much compromising when it comes down to making things work in an intimate relationship.
By Tina Elliott