Many adults with ASD have a desire to interact, but they often do so in an odd way. Many of them long to form romantic relationships (as they understand them) but may have little idea how to make the relationship work.
They may have very little insight into how they are perceived by others due to the fact that they have problems reading social or emotional cues. Their approach is often awkward and one-sided and reflects a lack of understanding that the other people in the exchange have needs and desires that have to be taken into account. As a result, some of these people may come off as pushy, insensitive, or strange.
The person with ASD may be able to describe correctly (in a cognitive and formalistic way) the other person’s emotions and desires - but is often unable to act on this knowledge spontaneously and intuitively. As a result, the tempo of the interaction gets lost.
The lack of spontaneous adaptation and poor intuition is often accompanied by a significant reliance on rigid social conventions and formalistic rules of behavior. These traits are basically responsible for the impression of behavioral rigidity and social naiveté and that is often witnessed in the Aspie. Such social skills deficits may be somewhat masked in the early going of a romantic relationship - but may stand out in sharp relief once the individual begins to feel comfortable with his or her partner.
It is often said that the person with ASD “lacks empathy.” In fact, some “neurotypicals” (i.e., non-autistic people) go so far as to say that he is sociopathic (e.g., extremely intelligent, but has no feelings for others). While this view may be understandable (especially in the eyes of a hurt, embittered neurotypical spouse), it’s far from being the case.
Many people with ASD are also accused of being rude and critical. Why? Because they tend to say what they are is thinking without the “social filter” that neurotypical people make use of. The Aspie may make a comment on somebody’s appearance, level of intelligence, disability, race, or political affiliation without any awareness that such a comment is hurtful.
The unapproachable and aloof individual has often been likened to Mr. Spock of Star Trek (all logic and no emotion). The less aloof individual may resemble Mr. Data (also of Star Trek fame). He was an android who, like Pinocchio, wanted to be a “real” person, but had great difficulty understanding romance, emotion, and humor. Both of these characters offer an opportunity for insight into what it may be like to be a person on the spectrum– so smart in some ways, so lost in others.
Resources for Neurodiverse Couples: