Autism & Romantic Love(?)

I was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism last year.

Now - I am a massive fan of pop music. And most pop songs are about... love.

So I just wanted to ask everyone here a question.

Do you think people with autism are capable of experiencing romantic love?

I just wonder if romantic love is such a fundamental emotion that it is one that people with autism don't ever get to fully experience?

Or even experience at all.

Now - since I also have autism - the one thing I appreciate more than anything is pure honesty. So please don't shout me down for asking this question. I think it is a reasonable question to explore. I am against this idea that the positive aspects of autism are continually promoted without some honesty about any possible downsides.

One nice thing about autism is that - in my experience - you never find yourself hating somebody. Since you are always able to keep your emotions in check, and use reason to try and understand other points of view.

So that is one of the strengths of autism.

Now - when it comes to hate - the other side of the coin is... LOVE.

So I wonder if this means we are not equipped to experience the wild feelings of romantic love that inspires my favourite pop songs?

Speaking for myself - I once had a weird bout of "oneitis" (unrequited love). But really - it was just a weird obsession that took over my brain. It was an intense feeling but I wouldn't call it love. I am not a stalker. But I imagine it must be similar to how stalkers feel when they suddenly develope an uncontrollable obsession over somebody. A bit like waking up and finding out your favourite Hollywood actor has moved in to the house next door.

Indeed - often I see partners of people with autism referred to as their Special Interest. And I have heard that it is common for somebody with autism to be obsessed with somebody during the "wooing" phase of a relationship. But once they have "caught" the person they go on to settle down with - the passion quickly fades away. As if the only emotional high came from the initial obsession rather than any deeper feelings of romantic love.

"An object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit.” — Pliny the Younger

I have done a lot of research into this question. And I also have observed my Dad as well (who I suspect also has High Functioning Autism). And there seems to be a common thread where people with autism make fantastic partners when it comes to kindness, honesty and being supportive. But one thing I never see is any real evidence of feelings of romantic love.

I would go even further and say that the thing the person with autism misses the most at the end of a relationship is not having the crutch or support (or simply the routine) of being with that person anymore. As opposed to having to deal with emotions inspired by the memory of a romantic love that has now ended.

I hope people will respond honestly to my question. I think it is interesting and useful to analyze these things objectively.


  • Now - when it coems to hate - the other side of the coin is... LOVE.

    Interesting, do you mean you don't feel hate at all, or you don't find worth to cherish it? 

    I thought love is more complicated because you d have to follow it, rather than ignore it like you do with hate. And to let yourself go would be losing your mind.

    But still I didn't get a diagnosis for autism.

  • I don't experience hate. Nope. I am very level-headed about people who I disagree with or who I think have done terrible things.

    I am an atheist but I still believe that only God can judge.


  • Hi Tom

    Having been in a relationship for over 20 years I can confirm that there is such a thing as "Romantic love" for those of us with Autism (I've been very recently diagnosed). I fell in love and still am in love with my wife, but like with so many other things Autism presents difficulties that neurotypical people will not experience. Not wanting to put you off, but in my experience; Increase work demand and children do make things even more difficult as the demands of trying to conform to normal take their toll.

    That said the rewards when it goes right are amazing and far outweigh the obstruction that Autism can represent. If you fancy a read, "The Journal of Best Practices" by David Finch is a great book and is a story of how he (with the help of his wife) works out how to overcome his Autism. There is also no doubt of his romantic love for his wife. If I had the chance to change anything, meeting my wife and falling in love would not be what I would choose.

    I have listened to more than my fair share of 80s pop music and seen romantic love in films and other media. But mainstream media isn't going to tell you or me what romantic love actually is, only what is the accepted normal: Put simply the writers simply are not writing with us in mind. It can guide you, "buy them flowers! What a great idea" but this can cause issues "what flowers?". 

    As to hate, it is a thing. I can assure you. And anger too, one of the outputs of an autistic meltdown is anger. Having suffered from many meltdowns I can only assure you that the urge to do something destructive is only to real. 


    "One nice thing about autism is that - in my experience - you never find yourself hating somebody. Since you are always able to keep your emotions in check, and use reason to try and understand other points of view.

    So that is one of the strengths of autism"

    Surely this is the wrong way round?  As someone with severe autism all my life I've NEVER been able to understand some things from other people's viewpoint.  I've learned some stuff in a rote fashion but don't always have the feeling to go with it. eg someone I know lost a baby. It is beyond me why they celebrate the birthday of a child that never lived and was now well over 10 years ago. (only lived a few hours after birth) but then I've never wanted a baby and hate all physical contact myself so maybe it's just beyond me to understand the link with something you've given birth to.

    I can understand marking the anniversary of the death of a parent or family member who was in your life and by your side (even pets) for 10+ years though cos I can 'see' how you could have built up a bond with them that would mean you'd miss them.  I don't understand why a pet thats been with you 15 yrs is seen as less important than a baby that only existed for a couple of hours. I don't understand why the person would be hurt I' d never mention 'the child that never lived', and the fact I'd  personally never met it, so how can I have ever had a relationship with it to miss it or feel anything? ,,and I'm now in my 50's and have a degree (so no 'learning disability' in that respect).

    re  emotions mine used to feel like waves swallowing me and drowning me I could go from calm to screaming banshee within seconds (as a baby/child) so not sure what type of autism you have?  ..but that's not my experience of autism!

    I have a dictionary definition of what 'unconditional love' is that would come from a parent/sibling or dog but have never felt 'love' or 'connectedness' to anyone else.

    It seems these days 'milder and milder cases' are being accepted as autistic.  If you can't fundamentally relate to anyone how can you be capable of having an intimate relationship with anyone to be able to cope with marriage and kids and a 'normal NT life? ...and if you can then you can't be seriously be 'that autistic' to start with?

  • To answer your question - yes! There are lots of people with autism that fall in love, get married, and live a life of happiness together. There are also lots of people with autism that don't ever experience it. Depending on all the typical things (personality, values etc), and in this case, how your autism affects you, can make it easier for some people to find love. 

    It's also important to remember that not everyone views marriage in the same way. Some people think that you marry the person you love no matter what. Some people think that you marry the person who is right for you, and then you learn to love them as you spend time together. Some people think that you marry the person who will help you to raise your children best, and you learn to love each other as you raise your family. So when you say that a person will autism can make a fantastic partner, that might work for some views of marriage, but not necessarily for others. 

    Love is a tricky subject! <3

  • Someone quoting Pliny the Younger. That raises the tone.

    No, autistic people aren't capable of experiencing romantic love, only pon farr.

    ^That was my attempt at an intellectual reference. <^That was my attempt at a joke. To be a bit more serious, I think there can be several things going on with autistic love:

    • romantic love is surrounded by social constructs and interpretations, which we may not internalise, particularly if we haven't seen much romantic love when growing up. We may doubt its reality at all because of its facade (I think A Field Guide To Earthlings had something to say about that).
    • is love just caring? it could be that autistic emotions as experienced are more discrete. Unless suddenly tipping over into rage or infatuation or other passion, the normal state may be a kind of equanimity in which every human animal seems equally worthy.
    • there is 'alexithymia', not knowing what you're feeling. You might have the expected oxytocin, dopamine and other love chemistry going on, but it doesn't noticeably affect your thinking. Sometimes I only know how much I loved someone when they're gone. Sometimes not even then.
  • Having been in a relationship for over 20 years I can confirm that there is such a thing as "Romantic love" for those of us with Autism (I've been very recently diagnosed).

    Absolutely. I agree that it is a social construct and a lot of how you conceptualise it depend on what you have read (I am old school:))

  • On the opposite I had the experience where thinking was completely dominated (or dazzled) by my loved one. I couldn't nor did I want to get rid of theses feeling before I met her again. It is romantic but is actually unhealthy, and doesn't bring real life resolutions. It is actually too big an emotion to be dealt with and may be disabling for me and for her and the construction of the relationship. But I haven't experienced the same in a while... (pon farr ?)

    Also I believe a romantic relationship is rare whether you are disabled or not. It's about finding the right person, and if 2 like each other they stick together for many years without many second thoughts.

    On another side sexually active people don't show any belief in love and romance, they even may show some sober disbelief... they just appreciate the lover for a while, till the next one...hopefully tomorrow :)

  • (pon farr ?)

    Yep, pon farr.

    Dilbert cartoon; Dilbert & Alice as engineers are both in pon farr, but criticise each other for vague specifications

    I used to get it every three years when I was younger.  I mentioned 'suddenly tipping over into rage or infatuation or other passion'.