Forming Romantic Relationships For Young Adults In the Autism Spectrum

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or simply known as ASD, is recognized as a developmental disorder since the symptoms generally appear the first two years, but may be diagnosed later in life. This disorder dramatically affects the person’s behavior, and ability to interact and communicate with other people.  





Last 2014, 1 in 59 children aged eight years old have been identified as having ASD. Studies also show that males were more likely to have the condition more than females. Autism not only affects the individual, but also those around him, especially their family and friends. Autistic individuals may be interpreted as non-affectionate, distant, and solitary. However, these traits may be signals of a deeper issue, such as their lack of knowledge in recognizing their emotions and translating it into action towards other people.  


It is the reality that individuals with ASD will have a harder time to find a romantic partner and to make their relationship work, but it is NOT impossible to do so.  

“While a young adult with classic autism may appear content with a solitary “monastic” lifestyle, this is often not the case with young adults who have Asperger’s syndrome or high-functioning autism. Clinical experience has identified that the majority of such adolescents and young adults would like a romantic relationship. However, there is remarkably little research examining this aspect of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) or strategies to facilitate successful relationships.” – Tony Attwood, clinical psychologist.


For individuals with autism, hygiene and grooming may become more bothersome as they age. Sensory problems are encountered which may cause difficulty in hygiene activities such as brushing teeth, applying deodorant, getting a haircut, or putting napkin or tampon. All these are essential to have a good first impression with your potential mate. Here are some basic steps to ensure you’re keeping yourself clean: 



  • Take a bath every day. Keep temperature changes to little or no change at all. Use 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner.  
  • Use of roll-on deodorants. Roll-on deodorants are more preferred since they’re less “shocking” when applied. 
  • Brush teeth at least two times a day. You don’t want your date to see what you had for dinner last night. 
  • Groom your hair and nails.  
  • For girls, use tampons/napkins/menstrual cups. 

Cassandra Newsom, PsyD, advises parents to assemble hygiene kits. “The two of you can create hygiene kits for specific tasks,” she says. “On the outside of each box, place a picture illustrating the task along with pictures or a list of the items in the box. For example, a hygiene kit for brushing teeth would include a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss and perhaps mouthwash.” 

Potential Partner Identification 

People with ASD may have a harder time identifying their feeling towards a romantic interest as “love” or “attraction.” It does not mean that they lack the emotion, it just means that they have a harder time to recognize it as such.  





Many times, partners of individuals with ASD (especially men) are their opposite when it comes to sensitivity and sociability. Their partners are understanding and sympathetic, and often, they advise their AS-partner during social events and situations. 


Interaction And Starting The Relationship 

At an early age, the individual may learn how to interact with other people from his/her parents. However, simple gestures for neuro-typical people, like subtle flirting or hints, may prove challenging for ASD-identified individuals. There are dating skills programs available for people on the spectrum. One of these is the UCLA PEERS which teaches individuals on the autism spectrum how to interact and communicate with peers, including the romantic aspect. 

Eva Mendes, LMHC, suggests a calendar to keep track of important events. “In an AS marriage,” she explains, “adding to this calendar quiet time, times for conversation, sex, shared leisure activities, exercise, and meditation/prayer can be very beneficial to keeping the partners connected on a day to day basis.” 

One should understand and learn the signals of disinterest or likeability. For starters, long stares will make your romantic interest uncomfortable. It is also good to note the “three strikes rule.” When the other person rejects going out on a date with you three times, it sends the message that he or she is uninterested in taking your relationship to the romantic level.  


Body language during dates will give you a general idea of how the other person perceives you. Crossed arms, looking away, body turned towards another direction, and not responding to the conversation are some indicators that the other person may not have the same feelings towards you. 




Love, trust, and honesty are all critical to maintaining the relationship healthy. Both individuals should continue being understanding and kind towards each other as their relationship progresses. Having a relationship with an individual with ASD is challenging, but open communication, having an open mind, and a kind heart will go a long way for both parties involved.