Autism, Sex and Affection
on 19 Jun 2020
A married couple from Scotland, Alex and Louise met on a night out in Edinburgh 11 years ago. Although the relationship has changed a lot over the years, they are just as much in love today as they were back then. Unfortunately, a car accident six years ago left them both in chronic pain.
They hope by talking about the issues they face and how they might overcome them, it might help others in a similar situation. Here, Alex talks about being autistic and in a long-term relationship.
"For most of my life I felt out of place, like a puzzle piece that just doesn't fit. It wasn't until a few years ago that I finally understood the reason why.
I always knew I was different, that was pretty obvious if I am honest. I went to a school for children with learning difficulties but it wasn't until I was much older that I discovered the cause.
When a friend first suggested I was autistic, I was sceptical to say the least but I can't deny he was right."
I began researching autism and for the first time in my life the pieces finally fell into place. Not only did it help me feel more comfortable in my own skin but I began opening up to my wife and friends as well.
I'd spent most of my life trying to change and adapt to the world around me but it finally felt like the world was beginning to adapt to me.
The one area that I struggled with the most was sex, it could be exciting and terrifying all at the same time. When you find it hard to express yourself at the best of times, it makes it so much harder to open up in the moment, even if you really want to.
I was always worried I would say or do the wrong thing and spoil the mood, so I kept quiet. I don't need to be in control, so to speak, but I can't feel like I am out of control.
Support and understanding
Unfortunately it can be all too easy to feel overwhelmed... sight, smell and sound can all cause sensory overload in daily life, and unfortunately the same can be said for sex. For example, I love watching a woman climax. The facial expressions can be such a turn on, but it can also be louder than I can mentally handle. Obviously you can't control how loud your partner's orgasm is going to be, which is why having support and understanding is so important.
I know micromanaging your sex life is hardly sexy or romantic, but it can help. I have found that openness and honesty have to be at the heart of it, even if it's not with a long-term partner. After all, if your lover doesn't understand why you need certain things a certain way, they may not be willing or able to provide them.
When you're autistic feeling anxious can come all too easy. Returning to your previous mental state, that is so much harder. If this is something that you face in your own relationship, the following suggestions may help. At the end of the day, though, communication really is the key.
Tips for others
1. Reduce external sensory input: If you are being intimate during the day try closing the curtains. At night, try using a bedside light as opposed to main lighting. Personally I have found that some lighting is important, being able to feel but not see can lead to frustrations.
2. Avoid open-ended questions: Asking what do you want can be a very hard question to answer, especially in the moment. Try asking your partner if they'd like to do something, or if they'd like you to do something, and mention something specific. Remember, autism is essentially a difficulty communicating, something you don't want to have to deal with when making love. Simple directions and questions make it a lot easier to feel like you have input without it being overwhelming.
3. Talk about sexual interests and tastes beforehand: Because of my lack of sexual experience I learnt a lot about sex and developed my tastes through porn. This has been an issue in the past, so I found the best way to deal with it was to talk about sex when we were not being intimate. It makes it much easier to find a balance and reduce anxiety when we're actually having sex.
Being autistic doesn't mean I don't have an interest in sex, in fact I have a very high sex drive but it does mean I find it hard to express. However, it is important to remember that autism is on a scale and I would be considered high functioning.
There are some autistic people who would really struggle with any physical contact. I do occasionally feel like that, but it only ever becomes an issue for me during periods of unusually high stress.
I have to admit I do feel quite lucky, I understand myself so much better now. As does my wife, and that has led to something I never thought possible: a long-term intimate relationship, and finding more moments of genuine peace and happiness than ever before in my life.
A married couple from Scotland, Alex and Louise met on a night out in Edinburgh 11 years ago. Although the relationship has changed a lot over the years, they are just as much in love today as they were back then. Unfortunately a car accident six years ago has left them both in chronic pain.
However, they live their lives determined not to let pain get in the way of love, passion and intimacy. They hope by talking about the issues they face and how they might overcome them, it might help others in a similar situation.