Home > Adults with autism, Autism Speaks U, In Their Own Words > Love and Autism: My Progression in Relationships

Love and Autism: My Progression in Relationships

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro.  Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a rising senior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management. He started an Autism Speaks U Chapter: Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

Ohhh relationships. At the age of 22, I’ve had several relationships throughout my life. I’ve also had several breakups. When I talk to families with children on the spectrum this is usually one of the big subjects, but also one of the most sensitive. How does a child on the spectrum even go about having a relationship while many neurotypicals today, cannot? It’s a difficult road with no clear answer.

Looking back at my experiences, some of my main problems in relationships have been due to “social awkwardness.” This social awkwardness could be attributed to many factors, but for me it was always based on “small talk” and “mind blindness.” With small talk, many times (especially when I was younger) I couldn’t hold a conversation, making any type of interaction awkward in the sense of the silence and long pauses involved. The only way I would be able to keep a conversation going was to change the subject randomly to something that was of interest to me (such as basketball).  This was hard because while I did have friends who play and like basketball, for instance, it’s not something you want to hear about 24/7. How do you make strides without having the capabilities of conversation?

Confidence, as well, became an underlying issue because of these tendencies. These moments, where I wouldn’t have anything to say made people think I was a shy person who wanted to be left by myself (which was never the case). Could you imagine a scenario where you wanted to be talked to, in many cases even loved, and you just didn’t know how to acknowledge it?

Mind blindness, which is typically known as the inability to develop an awareness of what another person is thinking, made for some difficult scenarios for me. The inability to do this, to “put myself in the shoes of another,” limited my understanding of others, and made it difficult to develop anything but basic friendships/relationships. People  in today’s society are are very complex and reading them, not only by a relationship standpoint but to advance in life, whether its through school, employment, etc. is a necessary skill.

At nine, my doctor recommended against mainstreaming me in a public school because she said I would have never understand social cues and worried about me getting beat up.  Granted, I survived those days, a testament to having developed coping mechanisms, splinter skills and/or growing up. The one thing I wish though, looking back, was that I found someone who understood what it was like. Whether it was an intimate relationship or just a friendship, someone who, on the spectrum knows exactly what I’m going through. It’s not the same case as others, where maybe you relate with someone because you both came out of the same background, for example. Being on the spectrum, no one case is the same. Every case is different which means that you would always find something close but not exactly to what you are looking for. Especially on the college level, many students on the spectrum don’t go to college. This is where some of the difficulties lie for those on the spectrum who are having trouble with relationships in college. How do you approach it when you are the minority filled by a majority that may or may not be accepting of who you are?

I leave these questions up for debate but my standpoint on relationships is pretty simple. Whether you are on the spectrum or not, all relationships are hard work. Whether it is within the relationship or not, the best thing you can do for yourself is be who you are and to negate all the negative energy that may come your way. Yes, there is definitely a need to branch out and find what interests you have which can expand the pool of who you may be interested in. Ultimately, we all know the expression; there are many fish in the sea (but not quite as many if you are not looking). This is where relationships begin.

(This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to to this post I can be reached at kerry.magro@autismspeaks.org. Thanks everyone!)

  1. Dina Lawless
    August 25, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Thank you so much for your insight, Kerry! I’m one of those neurotypicals that cannot have a relationship. Well I CAN have a relationship, but I CHOOSE not too ;). My seven year old son is on the spectrum. This is an issue I can definitely identify with. As he grows older and is more socially aware I worry about his future and what that holds for him relationship wise. Thank you, again. I appreciate your perspective and look forward to more blog posts :).

  2. benjamin
    August 25, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    what do you mean by nuerotypicals who cant have relationships.almost all non autistics have sexual relationships.thats very good youve had several relationships by 22.i had one girlfriend in all my twenties.

  3. Brenda
    August 26, 2010 at 9:44 am

    My son is eleven and a moderately funtioning autistic. I’m also very worried about his future and whether he will have any relationships beyond family members. When I think about what might happen to him once I am gone I cringe.

  4. Judith Varias
    August 26, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Kerry, thank you so much for your honesty concerning your relationships. My beautiful 3 1/2 year old grandson is on the autism spectrum. He is such a happy child and brings all his huge extended family such joy. Kerry, you are a talented writer. Please keep sharing your insights. Thank you…

  5. Leonie Hope
    August 27, 2010 at 7:15 am

    I am a teacher of children on the Autism Spectrum, and of the thousands of fascinating things I have learnt about people with ASD it’s that there are so many people who manage to get through school, get decent jobs, find someone to love and have families …… and many of them without ever being diognosed. So stay positive and stay true to yourself Kerry… and never let ASD stand in your way of anything!

  6. Kellie
    August 27, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Hi Kerry!
    I have a 12 year old son with Mild to Moderate PDD- NOS. Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. I took him to Middle School this past Monday August 23rd. I wondered after I dropped him off would he ever be able to date? I saw a couple of young ladies walk past “in cheerleading outfits” and wondered would he ever go on a date with young ladies like that. Well you are an Awesome Young Man for sharing insight with us. I appreciate it. Best Regards!

  7. Kristina
    September 3, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    I am 46 with Asperger’s Syndrome. Didn’t know until I was 42 but that explained why so many boyfriends came and went in days or weeks, or why even friendships seldom last. I have been blessed to have been married to a saint of a husband for 25 years. It has been rough at times – communication, of course, being our worst problem but now that we at least know what the problem is, we have found ways of dealing with it. Our lifestyle is quite limited due to my needs and “episodes” and I often feel bad that he is with me instead of an NT. Saint that he is, he stays with me. My husband has often suggested to parents with AS teens that seek dating relationships that a family discussion with the NT be had to explain that the AS is nothing to be afraid of, what to possibly expect, and how to retry communication mishaps with patience. I am living proof that there are people out there with which AS individuals can date and even marry. Education and patience is all it takes.

  8. Chele
    June 14, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks so much for your post Kerry. Our 5y/o son is PDD-NOS, and an only child; I worry daily about his life since we are older parents. He is so smart, and loving, but he is extremely touchy and yet evasive around children his age. I pray he will be “okay” and reading your post gives me hope!

  9. November 10, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    My youngest son was diagnosed three years ago with Autism/ADHD and a friend introduced me to a natural product made primarily from milk.
    I used this product and saw results in two months. Today my son shows no signs of Autism/Adhd, he is doing great in school and takes the initiative to do everything, truly a turnaround from the way he used to be. After the production of this milk it is the closest to mother’s milk and it is recognized by many Doctors today, if anyone is interested in finding out more about this, please email me at asha.persaud@gmail.com. Thank you.

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