top of page

Autism & Relationships - Our Tinder Love Story

For most of my life, I have been alone and I would never feel like I’d fit into society or find love. I thought I was going to be alone for life and die alone. Finding love felt like a never-ending hopeless task, like I was unworthy of love and feeling like this for so long killed me inside every day and I got used to that feeling.

Autism & Relationships - Our Tinder Love Story Joe Plumb Emily Plumb
Tinder photo from Unsplash - Credit: Good Faces Agency

I joined Tinder is 2017 and I never held much hope for any sort of online dating at all. Being autistic, I have always found any sort of socialising and understanding emotions so difficult.

You find it hard to communicate and you can feel isolated like no one will fully understand you. Also, as it is difficult to read body language and non-verbal communication it is difficult to understand if someone likes you unless the explicitly tell you. Online dating however, helped with this although I suffered so badly with athazagoraphobia (the fear of being forgotten, ignored, and rejected) which online dating also didn’t help with this.

I was diagnosed with Autism, ADHD and Asperger’s (now formally referred to as ‘high functioning autism) in 2004, aged 7. My diagnosis came about after my parents noticing that I was different for many years, alongside my challenging behaviour due to the things I struggled with. I was referred to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) for assessments where I very quickly received my diagnosis, which I may add, is something which is extremely challenging to get now due to the pressure and the state of the mental health system today.

Being so young and quite a long time ago, I can’t remember how I felt at the time, but it has caused many challenges all throughout my life, but I only see my autism as a part of me and part of what makes me who I am today.

My autism affects me in a multitude of ways, including:

  • Panic attacks and breakdowns due to changes to daily life and routine

  • Social anxiety

  • Struggling to understand emotions and facial expressions, as well as finding the vocabulary to express how I feel

  • Struggling with social skills

  • Athazagoraphobia (Fear of being forgotten, ignored, and rejected)

  • Struggling to maintain eye contact

  • Difficulty with maintaining concentration

  • Sensory overload. Mainly too much background noise or too many people talking at once

My motivations to join Tinder were quite simple. It was to at least make new friends and maybe find love. I never held much hope for finding love, but I felt it easier to communicate with new people this way due to the social anxiety and because of how I struggled in social situations. However, there were also down sides to this. Because I wasn’t meeting others face-to-face, I felt that I could never know for sure if the person I was talking to was who they said they were and because of not getting matches or not getting replies, this made the Athazagoraphobia much worse. I didn’t know why, and my self-worth was destroyed more and more, making me feel like I simply don’t have a place in society.

From very early on whilst using the app, it very quickly became apparent that male behaviours on the app were quite disgusting and I often felt like I was being judged because of how other guys behaved. Lots of female’s were disclosing how they’d get unwanted nudes, or they were experiencing sexualising behaviours and that makes me angry because I am not like that in the slightest, but the behaviour of other guys gives the whole male population and bad image. Now this is something which I have noticed in male behaviours generally towards women and this I feel, needs to be tackled from a young age through education and a big improvement in the law to punish people who behave like this.

Many people also seemed to look down upon the autism as if it would be embarrassing for them or they simply thought I was ‘weird’ purely because they didn’t have a clue what autism is.

My first impressions of Emily were that she was beautiful, genuine with only good intentions (not trying to promote this false glorified lifestyle) and I saw we has the same top songs and artists on Spotify. When we matched, I was shocked, and I felt so nervous. I still didn’t think anything would come about from it, but it gave me a sense of self-worth again.

We both opened the conversation with ‘hello’ gifs with mine being “how you doin?” with Joey from friends. We both asked to know more about each other where we very quickly saw how similar we were. We had both lived through similar trauma, we both has autism and mental illness and shared a big love for binge-watching crime series.

I could always just be myself when talking to Emily with no judgement or shame from her and she just accepted me for who I was which made me feel the best I had every felt. We would speak all day, every day, always send ‘good morning’ messages and leave a cute message at night for both of us to wake up to or read before falling asleep. Getting close like this was one thing that terrified me and felt quite suffocating, but with Emily it was completely different.

We spoke for 2 months through text and phone conversations and then finally met up at Peterborough city centre and went for a coffee and McDonalds. The conversation flowed straight away. I felt butterflies so quickly and when the day came to an end, we shared our first kiss and it felt like the whole world around us had just stopped. About a month later, we officially got into a relationship together.

After a year of being together, we moved in together. We did clash many times due to how similar we both were and because we were so used to living independently and the change was very difficult, but we worked through this together with daily debriefs to know how we both were, what we were struggling with, and we did this so we knew where we were both at and how we could help each other. We still do this now and I would suggest it for any couple. Then 2 years later, I ordered a Chinese takeaway (which was her favourite), with candles lit and her favourite wine and asked her to marry me. I didn’t know what to expect at this point but, she said ‘yes’, and I was made the happiest man alive.

Our Wedding is on Tuesday 6th of September, and we are keeping things nice and simple as we both don’t do things the traditional way. We both wanted to save money, fund things ourselves so we are having a simple ceremony at the registry office. We have planned this about a year in advance and gone over things repeatedly. This is one of the common autistic traits and we will suffer immense panic if we both don’t do this. A week later, we are flying out to Corfu for a week at an all-inclusive hotel for our honeymoon and we are really looking to it.

I still can’t believe I’m getting married to my soulmate. I would never have thought in a million years that joining Tinder would have led me to this point in my life. I do feel for Emily having to take the surname ‘Plumb’ but it makes us laugh.

I really want others who don’t know about or understand autism to know a few things.

  • We are not ‘weird’

  • We are still people and deserve to be treated like people

  • ASD varies massively as the spectrum it huge

  • If you meet or match with someone with ASD then please, be patient

  • If the person with autism finds maintaining eye contact difficult, encourage them to focus on your nose or forehead instead for example.

  • Ask your partner open questions, for example, “What are your plans for this weekend?”

  • Offer to buy your partner a drink on a date.