Autism Awareness: Love

Can someone on the spectrum love? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

What does it mean to love? Sadly, love is one of the most meaningless words we have in our society today. This is not to downgrade love, but love is something that everyone says and very few people bother to define. The other word that comes to mind like that is God, and I’m certainly not one who disbelieves in God so consider the parallel.

The problem is we have so many different ideas all contained in one word of love. We can say we love pizza, a TV show, a video game, a sports team, a neighbor, a spouse, and God, and we use the same word for all of them. I certainly hope that you don’t love your family the same way you love pizza.

Meanwhile, when two people have sex, we often say that they are “making love.” I find this terminology strange, but not totally false since for a married couple definitely, the marital act is to build up love. Unfortunately, in our society, we also think that sex equals love, a trap especially young girls fall into thinking if a boy has sex with them, it means he loves them. No. The boy could really just be wanting to have sex.

But today, we’re asking if someone on the spectrum is capable of love. The answer to this is an unequivocal yes. Those on the spectrum can love, but it might look different from other people.

For me, love can have emotional highs, but those are the exception. I have more of a reality in my mind about the importance of the person. For a spouse, it’s a covenant relationship with them. For friends, it’s my willingness to do what I can to help them when they are in need.

Sometimes, this is difficult still as being on the spectrum, to a degree that could be higher than for others, it is often difficult to step outside of myself and see things from the perspective of the other. I don’t think we’re alone in that, but I think the degree for us is far more intense.

However, for many of us, loyalty remains something very special. I often think I would fit in wonderfully in the biblical world with honor and shame as this is how I examine my relationships with others. If someone betrays me or wrongs me in a great way, it is hard for me to ever trust them again. By contrast, if someone treats me right, I always want to honor my personal debt to them and show loyalty to them.

To return to love, something to keep in mind is that love is not an emotion. It can result in strong emotions, but it is not that. Just because someone has strong emotions does not mean that they have strong love. Love is shown in the actions someone does. I think it was Lewis who said it is your reactions that will show who you are more than your actions.

Love is seeking the good of the other for the sake of the other and if you truly love someone, you have to ask yourself regularly if you are seeking their good or not. There are times that letting go can be for someone else’s good. If you base it on an emotion, the emotion by nature cannot last forever and it will fade.

If you are in a relationship with someone on the spectrum, be it family, friendship, or romantic, be assured that they can love. Someone on the spectrum can also be hurt so watch how you treat them as well. We may not respond the same way as you, but the ways that we are similar are greater than the ways that we are different.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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