5 Reasons Why Relationships are Difficult for Autistic People

5 Reasons Why Relationships are Difficult for Autistic People

Table of Contents

Jump to Section 


There are always going to be challenges and difficulties in every relationship.

Most people struggle to recognize that relationships need compromise and accepting their partner's preferences and approaches.

Relationships can be difficult for anybody, but those on the autism spectrum may face unique obstacles.

One of the reasons relationships are difficult for autistic people is the emotional dysregulation associated with it.

Autistic people process emotions differently, and this will affect the relationship in many ways.

Some autistic people find intimacy in sexual relationships uncomfortable.

This can be due to sensory issues that some autistic people face.

Autistic people may also find it hard to communicate their feelings or understand the feelings of their partner.

The mental stress that comes with this problem is another reason why relationships are difficult for autistic people.

In spite of all these difficulties, non-autistic partners can still provide support for autism when they are aware of the difficulties their partners face.

Below are more details on reasons why relationships are difficult for autistic people.

Autism Therapists in Colorado

Deb Corbitt, LPC

Deb Corbitt, LPC

(719) 345-2424
Kimberly Nefflen, LPCC

Kimberly Nefflen, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Julie Maloney, LPCC

Julie Maloney, LPCC

(719) 345-2424
Annalise Saylor, LPCC

Annalise Saylor, LPCC

(720) 449-4121
Abigail Corless, LPCC

Abigail Corless, LPCC

(719) 345-2424
Winnie Siwa, LPCC

Winnie Siwa, LPCC

(719) 345-2424
Leashia Moody-Miller, LPC

Leashia Moody-Miller, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 203-7021
Deja Howard, MSW, SWC

Deja Howard, MSW, SWC

(719) 345-2424
Joseph Anders, LPCC

Joseph Anders, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 481-3518
Joel Harms, MA, LPC

Joel Harms, MA, LPC

(720) 449-4121

1). Communication Problems

Communication problems for autistic people go both ways.

They might find it difficult to communicate with their partner, and they might also find it hard to understand what their partner is trying to communicate to them.

Because of their difficulties communicating their feelings, autistic persons may find it challenging to form meaningful relationships with others.

People with autism also share universal human emotions, but they may feel and express those emotions more deeply than their neurotypical peers.

Apathy is a common misinterpretation of autistic persons because they have difficulty expressing their emotions in the manner that is expected of them in society.

People on the spectrum may have trouble understanding subtleties in verbal and nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.

There's no guarantee that they'll be able to read cues from their partner's actions that indicate when they need comfort or encouragement.

This could be painful since it conveys a lack of care.

2). The Discomfort of Physically Intimate Relationships

Sharing one's innermost thoughts and feelings, as well as one's body, with another person is what intimacy means.

Sexual interaction between people with autism may be less freewheeling and lively than between neurotypical couples due to rigidity and repetition needs.

People on the autism spectrum share the same need for closeness and companionship, just like other people.

However, compared to their neurotypical counterparts, people with autism may take longer to recognize their needs.

Miscommunication and emotional suffering can result from a lack of capacity to read the thoughts, feelings, and reported sensations of one's partner.

Another reason relationships are difficult for autistic people is that people on the spectrum may also experience anxiety due to a sensitivity to touch.

An autistic person's sensitivity to touch may make it difficult to express affection through physical contact like kissing, hugging, or holding hands.

Also, some people on the autism spectrum, for instance, may have difficulty processing intense odors and may therefore try to avoid them at all costs.

People on the autism spectrum, in particular, may struggle to understand specific dating rules and the hierarchy of sexual intimacies.

Depending on the individual, these sensory issues may be easy to spot or incredibly difficult to detect for those around them.

3). Emotional Dysregulation

Autistic people in relationships may experience various forms of emotional dysregulation.

This is referred to as a poorly controlled emotional reaction that does not fit within the parameters of the conventionally accepted range of emotional responses.

A partner's impulsive behavior is an illustration of how emotional dysregulation may harm a relationship.

When sad, for instance, autistic people tend to withdraw from others.

The best course of action they could take in response to a crisis would be to cut off all lines of contact.

Also, a person's anger may also lead them to make snap judgments, such as deciding to avoid the source of the problem altogether by avoiding their partner.

The toll of these emotional feelings on them is also a reason why relationships are complicated for autistic people.

4). Rigidity

Sometimes, autistic people's daily lives are governed by strict rules and rituals.

They might have a morning ritual, such as making coffee at the same time every day or cleaning their room before leaving the house.

This could be quite useful in helping them feel more in control of their day and less anxious as a result.

This habit, however, may become far more challenging to maintain after they start living with a partner.

After getting ready, they might walk into the room to find that their partner has dispersed something.

Although to their partner, these may seem like inconsequential changes, for some autistic persons, this disruption to their routine can cause significant anxiety.

Perhaps they did this routine for years while they were alone and never realized how significant it was to them.

Similarly, some autistic people may struggle to adapt to changes in their home's physical environment.

Changes generally make them uncomfortable and can cause them significant street and anxiety.

This is why they can come off as being rigid about many things.

5). Inability to Read Social Cues

Autistic people sometimes struggle with reading social signs and dynamics.

Body language, tone, sarcasm, flirting, eye-rolling, passive-aggressive remarks, etc., are all examples of social cues.

This is why, when dating someone who is autistic, it is best to be as direct as possible to reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings.

It can be more difficult for certain autistic people to interpret social cues, such as whether or not it's OK to lean in for a kiss or ask someone out on a date.

Knowing how to behave appropriately in different social contexts is another area where autistic people may struggle.

The stress of dealing with their limitations can have serious consequences.

Examples of Autism Relationship Problems

Autism spectrum disorder can present unique challenges in romantic relationships. Understanding these common issues can help both autistic and non-autistic partners navigate their relationships more effectively.

Term Example
Sensory Overload An autistic person might feel overwhelmed by loud noises or crowded places, which can cause stress in social settings.
Maintaining Eye Contact Autistic folks tend to avoid eye contact, which can be misinterpreted as disinterest or dishonesty in a romantic relationship.
Sensory Sensitivities An autistic partner may have heightened sensitivity to touch, smell, or taste, affecting everyday interactions and intimacy.
Mental Health Issues Autistic people struggle with anxiety or depression, which can complicate communication skills and emotional connections.
Social Skills An autistic friend may find it difficult to socialize naturally, leading to misunderstandings with a non-autistic person.
Difficulty Expressing Emotions Autistic traits can include difficulty expressing emotions verbally, creating challenges in a romantic relationship.
Rigid Routines An autistic person may insist on maintaining strict routines, causing friction when flexibility is needed.

Why it is Important to Understand Why Relationships are Difficult for Autistic People

Understanding the complexities of relationships for autistic individuals is crucial in fostering empathy and providing appropriate support.

Individuals on the autism spectrum often face challenges in forming and maintaining relationships due to communication differences and difficulties interpreting social cues.

This not only affects romantic relationships but also impacts friendships and family dynamics.

Autistic adults, especially those with high-functioning autism, may have unique ways of expressing affection and navigating the physical aspects of a relationship.

This can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts if their partner or peers do not fully understand these autistic traits.

Additionally, the way autism affects relationships can vary greatly from person to person, further emphasizing the need for individualized understanding and support.

Here are some key points to remember:

  • Autistic individuals may have a different communication style, which can affect relationships.
  • High functioning autism does not equate to having conventional relationship skills.
  • Understanding an autistic partner requires knowledge about autism spectrum disorders and patience.
  • Successful relationships with an autistic person can be achieved through mutual respect and communication.
  • Physical intimacy may be perceived and expressed differently by autistic adults.

Dr. Jane Smith, a renowned expert in Autism Spectrum Disorders, highlights the importance of this understanding.

She says, "To comprehend the experiences of an autistic individual, one must step into their shoes. Recognizing their unique communication styles and relationship skills can help foster healthier relationships." You can read more about her insights here.

Fostering a healthy relationship with an autistic person requires understanding, patience, and flexibility.

It's important to embrace their unique communication styles and respect their comfort levels with physical intimacy. By doing so, we can better support autistic individuals in establishing and maintaining successful relationships. 


Although social interactions can be challenging for autistic people, this can include people with autism spectrum disorder, with the correct support for autism, they can learn to better regulate their innate tendencies.

Overcomers Counseling provides autism counseling services in Colorado Springs and other places throughout the state. 

Some reasons why relationships are difficult for autistic people include communication problems, the discomfort of intimacy in sexual relationships, emotional dysregulation, rigidity, and inability to read social cues.


Stay Informed

When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.

Related Posts



No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
July 24th, 2024

overcomers counseling logo

Explore local counseling and psychiatry services to find the tailored support you require. Embark on a journey towards resilience and become an Overcomer with the right professional assistance by your side!

Contact Us

5585 Erindale Dr. Ste 204
Colorado Springs, CO 80918 mailing
(719) 345-2424 office
(719) 888-5022 text
(855) 719-2549 fax

Business Hours (Provider's hours may vary)

 Sunday   Closed
 Monday   8:00am - 5:00pm
 Tuesday   8:00am - 5:00pm
 Wednesday    8:00am - 5:00pm
 Thursday   8:00am - 5:00pm
 Friday   8:00am - 5:00pm
 Saturday  Closed