Life on the Autism spectrum

Love & autism

Although some people on the autism spectrum enjoy fulfilling relationships, there are others for whom emotional attachment can be difficult and this may affect intimate relationships, family relationships and friendships. Here we present the views of people on the spectrum and, in some cases, their partners.

Some people in long-term relationships, married or living together, sometimes with children, talked about positive and difficult aspects of their relationships. One woman thought that people with Asperger syndrome enter into relationships with people who are very caring and “they pick someone who compensates for what they lack”. 

A few partners said their husbands were very focused on them when they first met which they thought might be a characteristic of Autistic Spectrum Condition. For example;

“He fell for me and he wanted me and nothing was going to stop him… I am afraid he was so kind and thoughtful and loving and giving when we were courting but it changed the moment we were married.”

“It is definitely something you have to work at”
Some couples, where one partner was on the spectrum said they worked hard at their relationship and supported each other.

“I don’t play social games”
Some people were single but hoped to have a relationship at some point. Others were single after relationships had not worked and they had decided they were better as friends. A couple of people talked about the intense emotional difficulties past relationships had caused them which had led to a form of breakdown. John L said he was not sure he wants to tolerate the level of pain he experience after breaking up with his partner.

One man said that all the girls he had been involved with had “cleared off and married someone else” and he always thought it was because he wasn’t really “husband material”. 

Other people also talked about wanting a relationship but finding the social interaction involved in trying to begin a relationship too difficult. This was partly to do with communication difficulties but also to do with a desire to talk about specific interests that may not be shared. One man said that this was an area that he would like some training or support.

“Having a boyfriend would mean having to get on with someone”
Some people were single and did not expect to have a relationship in the near future. 

Daniel found living away from his parents’ house difficult; “I don’t know why, I just felt uncomfortable… I didn’t quite know what it was but it was some need for me to be at home. I just feel safer at home”. Another woman said she was asexual and while she had tried relationships in the past, because she thought she ought to, she had realised that she had no sexual desire and was happy on her own.

Some women talked about feeling vulnerable and not being very good at judging characters. Two women were divorced after being in abusive relationships, one of the women had had a few abusive relationships before deciding to remain single and bring up her children alone. 

Partners’ perspectives on relationships
Some partners of people on the spectrum had difficult lives because their partners often couldn’t understand how they felt about things or didn’t want to talk things through with them or make joint decisions. Some partners found it difficult to cope with their partners’ special interests; some felt isolated and depressed. 

One woman had been taking sleeping tablets because her husband’s behaviour had so distressed her over the years. Life became much more difficult when her husband retired because she had “the full volume of his personality”. She said:

“You know, people can do the most terrible, terrible things and I don’t think it is possible for people to know. I’m fortunate enough to be able to chat away and get on with people. There aren’t many people left now but he has done the most damaging things to both of us, really to me.”

Last reviewed July 2016.
Last updated July 2016.

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