Autistic people often understand, build, and maintain their relationships differently than non-autistic people. This can cause challenges and misunderstandings, particularly in relationships between autistics and non-autistics. This chapter explores relationship management differences, and it distinguishes between social motivation (the desire for connection) and challenges with making, deepening, and maintaining friendships. The authors describe differences that include time spent nurturing relationships, understanding different kinds of relationships, attending to social hierarchies, social flexibility, and conflict management. They also discuss the difference between social motivation and social energy.
This chapter also reviews gender-specific differences in relationship management. One reason autistic women and girls have not been recognized as frequently as autistic boys and men is because they are more likely to engage in pretend play, less likely to be loners, and less likely to be overtly rejected by their peers. They tend to have higher social motivation than autistic males, report higher quality friendships, and manage interpersonal conflicts differently. The importance of understanding cultural differences in dating and marriage norms is also discussed.