the possible difficulties of the couple

Many people with a autistic spectrum disorderwith communication problems and understanding of social signals, they often have difficulty developing and maintaining relationships.


Announcements Finding a partner and having a romantic relationship is considered by many to be an important goal in life. In fact, romance relationships are important experiences and can provide security, a sense of belonging, and positively affect mental and physical health and well-being, reducing mortality, the risk of depression, and developing chronic and mental illness (Karney 2014). In addition, relationships provide social support, physical intimacy, camaraderie, and have a positive impact on self-esteem and self-confidence (Rhoades et al. 2011). But maintaining a solid long-term relationship can be a challenge; some of the indicators that make a quality relationship are satisfaction and stability. The latter refers to the confidence that each individual perceives in the relationship, while satisfaction refers to the degree of satisfaction of a couple (Shafer et al. 2014). Therefore, communication and the ability to resolve conflicts are key to initiating and maintaining relationships, as well as the ability to demonstrate empathy: both partners must support and understand each other’s changing needs.

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Relationships

Many people with autism spectrum disorder, who have trouble communicating and understanding social cues, often have difficulty developing and maintaining relationships that begin in childhood and persist during adolescence and adulthood, key moments. for the formation of long-term relationships (APA, 2013). ). Most people with autism in fact, it reports having difficulty initiating and developing intimate relationships, so much so that for some of them difficulties in communicating and interpreting social cues can lead to limited social interactions and fewer opportunities to develop romantic relationships (Cunningham et al. 2016 ). Only 14% of them, in fact, are married or have a long-term relationship, although numerous studies have shown that they want to have a romantic relationship (Strunz et al. 2017). Sometimes it happens that people diagnosed with it autism spectrum having relationships with couples who, on the other hand, do not present any diagnosis; these relationships present several challenges to which both members of the couple must adapt (Strunz et al. 2017). The main ones are the communication difficulties, highlighted as a central tension: the subjects with autism they adopt a more direct, literal, and logical style of communication, which is sometimes misinterpreted. Some studies have reported that many people expect to partner with a autistic spectrum disorder you change the way you communicate as the relationship progresses, which you often feel the relationship can’t do (Hode 2014). Research that explored women’s satisfaction in a relationship with a partner with Asperger’s syndrome, for example, showed that women experienced a decline in their overall health and well-being, primarily due to the inability to couple to communicate effectively, offer emotional support and participate in shared activities. activities (Bostock-Ling et al. 2012). A subsequent study stressed the importance of both partners learning to adapt to each other’s differences, but this requires skills and knowledge that not everyone has; in fact, many need help to address these challenges in their relationship (Lewis 2017).

Announcements Since there is no research that has explored romantic relationships from the point of view of the couple diagnosed with the autism spectrum and the needs of each member of the couple, a 2021 study by Smith and colleagues attempted to explore the challenges and facilitators experienced by both neurotypical (NT) and autistic (neurodiversity; ND) partners in an intimate relationship. (ND relationship). Another goal was to explore the experiences of couples with ND regarding the relationship support services they had access to during the relationship. The authors then used a phenomenological approach to interview thirteen people who had this relationship. The results suggest that these relationships begin and develop in three stages: honeymoon, beginning, and end, as proposed by Reese-Weber in The Theoretical Model of Relationship Development (2015).

Difficulties in relationships when there is an autism spectrum disorder

The main challenges within couples were especially the early difficulties of communication between couples, although as the relationship progressed, couples found more effective ways to communicate. In addition, some idiosyncratic characteristics emerged such as sensitivity to light, sound, or touch that created problems in the relationship. Another challenge was the big difference in the interpretation and expression of emotions. On the other hand, facilitators were found to focus on positive aspects of the relationship by achieving mutual understanding and supporting each other in social contexts and receiving a diagnosis, although for study participants it was delayed: this provided the two partners with an explanation for the idiosyncratic characteristics that were always present in social relationships and situations. Finally, subjects were asked to share their experiences with health professionals and relationship support services to whom they had access regarding the challenges they face in their relationships; all couples reported seeking support for relationships or support groups both locally and online, with little success. In conclusion, ND relationships appear to develop at the same stages as other relationships, but include a set of unique social and communication challenges at all of these stages. Therefore, it is important to understand and adapt to differences in communication and use the strengths of others. Finally, the results show a lack of support for couples with ND and the need for health professionals to be educated about the difficulties that may arise in these relationships to understand how to better support both couples.

Recommended by publishers


  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.
  • Bostock-Ling, J., Cumming, S. and Bundy, A. (2012). Satisfaction with the lives of neurotypical women in an intimate relationship with a partner with Asperger syndrome: a systematic review of the literature. Journal of Relationships Research, 3, 95–105.
  • Cunningham, A., Sperry, L., Brady, MP, Peluso, PR and Pauletti, RE (2016). The effects of a romantic relationship treatment option for adults with autism spectrum disorder. Research and Evaluation of Counseling Outcomes, 7 (2), 99–110.
  • Hode, MG (2014). Just another aspie / NT love story: a narrative investigation into neurologically mixed romantic relationships. Interpersonal, 8 (1), 70–84.
  • Karney, BR (2014). On the benefits and challenges of expecting personal fulfillment of marriage. Psychological Inquiry, 25 (1), 84–87.
  • Lewis, LF (2017). “We’ll Never Be Normal”: The experience of discovering that a couple has an autism spectrum disorder. Journal of marriage and family therapy.
  • Reese-Weber, M. (2015). Intimacy, communication and aggressive behaviors: variations according to the stages of the development of romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 22, 204–215.
  • Rhoades, G., Dush, C., Atkins, DC, Stanley, SM, & Markman, H. (2011). Breaking up is hard to do: the impact of dissolving the unmarried relationship on mental health and life satisfaction. Journal of Family Psychology, 25 (3), 366–374.
  • Shafer, K., Jensen, TM and Larson, JH (2014). Effort, satisfaction and stability in the relationship: differences between the type of union. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 40 (2), 212–232.
  • Smith, R., Netto, J., Gribble, NC and Falkmer, M. (2021). “At the end of the day, it’s love”: an exploration of relationships in neurodiverse couples. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 51 (9), 3311-3321.
  • Strunz, S., Schermuck, C., Ballerstein, S., Ahlers, CJ, Dziobek, I. and Roepke, S. (2017). Romantic relationships and relationship satisfaction between adults with Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 73 (1), 113–125.
State of Mind © 2011-2022 All rights reserved.

Images (from top to bottom) of:

Leave a Comment