Sex, Love, and Autism

Question: You and your wife seem to have a good relationship. I worry that my child isn't going to find love, since he struggles with friendships. He's an Aspie, and says he wants to have a girlfriend. What should I tell him? I don't worry about sex, since he doesn't date, but maybe he will. Any thoughts?

I am not the best person to answer questions about relationships. I don't know what "normal" is for anyone, autistic or not.

I've had brief discussions about this with some of the more well-known autistic adults. Some have said they simply don't think about relationships. They have friends, but they don't really think about connections. If you don't have a desire for friends, I cannot imagine you have a desire for love. Others, however, have indicated they really, really long for a romantic connection. Then, I've met autistics who are hypersexual, but they don't seem to realize that sex isn't love or even friendship.

My first bit of advice: meet people by doing things with small groups. That seems to be how I've met most people who might consider me a friend. Join clubs and organizations that value knowledge and special skills, more than they value charm — though "charm" always matters.

In high school, my wife was involved in math club, science club, and similar groups. I was involved in science, newspaper, and yearbook. Today, I'm active in a local theater group, a programming group, and some other organizations. For both of us, a group with a purpose is better than a group focused on drinking and socializing.

You'll never find my wife or me "clubbing" for fun.

Q: How did you meet your wife?

A: We attended the same junior high and high school. We were both honors students, not athletic, and not student government types. We were science geeks, and still are.

College was more social than high school. I believe that's because I was surrounded by other honors students. My wife, who attended a different university, was also surrounded by smart people interested in science and technology.

I hosted parties in my apartment, but I liked to stay behind the counter and serve the food and drinks. I still love baking cookies — which were a popular part of some gatherings. Movie nights, hosted by a roommate, were also popular. Parties allowed me to socialize, without being social. I can't say the parties led to any friendships or connections, since the guests tended to be the other honors students I already knew.

(Tangent: As a store owner and manager, I also liked hosting events. Again, I didn't need to do anything. Book a band, hang some artwork, or whatever. The events weren't about me — people came for other reasons. My networking skills are minimal; it is best if I socialize for a "reason" like an art event, live music, or a book signing.)

Q: When did you start dating your wife?

It was after college, in the early 1990s. Our dates, or what I can recall of them, involved a few movies and dinners. Mainly, though, we did free things, like walking in parks and going to the beach. Free was all I could afford.

Q: When did you get serious?

We moved in together. That was pretty serious. It was a nice apartment, except for some ants. We moved to "less nice" place to adopt Fido, our first cat. Fido was living with my parents, but he didn't get along well with the other pets.

Q: What about physically serious?

Beyond "that's personal" — the truth is that we're not as "affectionate" as some couples. We don't often walk holding hands, and we don't "cuddle" much. We both like our space. At night, I sit in my chair and she sits on the sofa with a book or project.

It isn't that we are never affectionate, but it isn't often. We would rather have a nice dinner and walk though a park. We like to be near each other, not touching.

For people with a greater need for physical intimacy, I don't have any advice. I know couples with very different physical needs. It doesn't seem to work well. I imagine that's a problem for all couples.

Q: Do you think autistics should date each other?

I don't know. Some people claim autistics understand each other better, but I think "geeks" understand each other, too. My wife doesn't mind my preference for educational television, especially History and Science. We have similar tastes. That seems important to me.

But, my wife and I are also different. Maybe just different enough.

I doubt this post answers much of anything…


  1. Actually,

    I thought it was excellent advice for everyone.

    My Dh and I have been acused of not being "married". We are very independant but as you said... he watches the tv, and I enjoy my books.

    I read once in a Reader's Digest that the secret to a long marriage wasn't love/sex etc but whether or not you could live with the person. I believe that to be very true.

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  3. 40 years of painful failure as an aspie with both spectrum and NT women tells me to give up and accept that I will always be alone, but even hopeless hope dies hard.

  4. The truth is, it looks like your marriage relationship is a pretty healthy and happy one overall. Levels of physical intimacy vary from marriage to marriage. What matters is that you're both understanding of each other and content with your current state.


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