When my friend called me to tell me about a new dating show, I was thrilled. There’s nothing I love more than smutty attempts at romance.
He informed me that this show, “Love on the Spectrum,” was different from everything I’ve seen before — that this show had the potential to change my life.
Shot in Australia, the show chronicles multiple young-adults with autism as they embark on journeys to find love. Filled with misread social cues, heartbreak, and laughter, it offers a unique perspective of that one emotion we all hope for.
If you’re a fan of “The Bachelor” or “Married at First Sight,” this show isn’t for you — there’s no drama, only real reactions to rejection, heartbreak, and companionship. This show is about the hardships that come with getting to know someone and all the quirky ins-and-outs of casual dating — something we can all relate to.
Due to their difficulty understanding social cues, autistic people generally have a harder time understanding and expressing emotion. Initiating and fostering relationships requires sociability, but social relationships are desired, required, and enjoyed by everyone — no matter their place on (or off) the spectrum.
After discovering that the show featured autistic individuals, I was immediately afraid it would make a mockery of people on the spectrum — that it would exploit them for cheap laughs and views.
Thankfully, the show does the opposite; it offers a perspective on how important love is. For everyone. Even though autism makes it harder to find love, disabilities don’t dull the need for it.
Take, for example, 25-year-old Michael, who was instantly charming with his opening line, “An A+ partner looks like me.” And honestly, it does. Michael’s dream in life is to get married; he’s already picked out a ring, is attentive to girls he’s interested in, wants to learn how to care about other’s interests, and has genuine and sincere intentions. Michael’s gentlemanship is remarkable, and not just because of his Aspherger’s.
Then there’s Jimmy and Sharnae who (spoiler) got engaged on the show after running around Las Vegas for hours trying to find the anxiety-ridden Jimmy a pair of navy blue socks to match his navy blue suit. He later told the cameras he couldn’t propose without matching. Luckily, Sharnae understood, and the heartwarming duo finally got hitched after a moonlight serenade.
There are so many more contestants, each one just as special as the last.
Too often, we take for granted the ability to look at, identify, and understand love. How refreshing it is to see a group of individuals who intentionally devote time to finding true love. Stereotypically, autistic individuals have a much harder time communicating emotions in a dating environment — but with the help of Jodi Rogers, a qualified sexologist who has spent over 10 years working for Autism Spectrum Australia, the contestants explored their emotions and feelings, and received advice on how to date and understand social cues.
Emotional attachment is one of the most difficult aspects of autism, and human life in general. It can be frustrating, disappointing, confusing, and frankly incomprehensible. Here’s the kicker of the show: love is that way for everyone. Everyone can relate to a failed social outing, an embarrassing date, or an awkward encounter.
Everyone can learn something from the show: if you have an intense desire to identify love — I mean truly, wholly, identify the feeling — you’ll find it in its purest form, no matter how socially inept you are. Despite challenges, and people on the spectrum face many more than you or I ever will, love is possible.
Watch the show. If you find yourself laughing at small quirks in the beginning, stick around for a couple of episodes. I can’t guarantee a change in heart, but you may want to consider approaching relationships with the same amount of care and thought as the contestants do.