Photo of young man smiling at the camera and waving, alongside a purple quote

With surprise gifts, full restaurants and unwritten social rules, many people on the autistic spectrum can find the expectations of Valentine’s Day overwhelming.

Twenty six year old Andy makes YouTube videos to improve understanding of autism and is engaged to Nicola, his girlfriend of five years, who is not autistic. Andy talked to us about his experiences of Valentine’s Day as an autistic person and shares his top tips for making Valentine’s Day special for autistic people and their partners…

How did you meet Nicola?

Nicola and I met through online dating in 2013. I was a music student at the time and when I met Nicola she was listening to a lot of rock music, which made the conversation and meeting up easier as we shared interests. We didn’t do any of the conventional stuff like getting coffee or going to the cinema on our first date, we just sat on a bench on a cold Sunday in September and talked for hours. It sounds cliché, but something between us just clicked.

Do you celebrate Valentine's Day with your partner?

Yes, but we don’t go overboard. All we do is give each other a card and a little present, maybe go out for some food. We just enjoy each other’s company so wherever we are, we can celebrate in our own way.

How do you feel about Valentine's Day?

I’ve never really seen the massive appeal behind Valentine’s Day or the pressure to find someone for ‘The Big Day’ when there are 364 other days in the year. The way that Valentine’s Day is sold in shops can make the whole idea of love seem cliché. Now that I’m with someone, I do enjoy the sentiment behind spending time with your loved one, but I didn’t know the true meaning of love until I met Nicola.

Do you and your partner's expectations of romance differ?

When it comes to romance, I’m more laid back than Nicola. I’m not the sort of person who goes for grand gestures, I’m more subtle and do things little and often, which I think also shows appreciation. Nicola says she doesn’t like grand gestures, but I know she does. In my logical brain, if I’m giving someone flowers I know that the flowers will eventually die, but if someone tells me exactly what they would like me to do, I’ll do it happily!

How would you recommend making Valentine's Day special for an autistic partner?

I would recommend doing anything surrounding an interest of an autistic partner on Valentine’s Day, or even better, an interest that both people in the relationship share.

One of the first things that comes to mind is going on a date to a museum as it is quiet. Walking around can be really therapeutic and there will be easy conversation about the exhibition.

I also recommend planning your date ahead of time. Everybody on the autistic spectrum is different, so as Nicola and I both share an interest in music, we love going to concerts together. Many autistic people don’t like uncertainty. If I was surprised with tickets, I would struggle with changing my plans for the day and if I wasn’t excited then I wouldn’t cope with the noise of a live music event very well. This may be the opposite to people’s expectations of a romantic surprise, but I recommend planning a date with your partner ahead of time you know you’ll both enjoy.

What tips do you have to help autistic people find love?

When I was looking all those years ago, a key thing for me was to look at someone’s personality and interests first rather than their appearance. You can get a sense of someone’s personality from the way they have chosen to represent themselves. That way, you can talk about things you both enjoy and get to know each other.

You can watch Andy and Nicola talk more about their relationship in this video from Andy’s YouTube Channel:

Hear more about what autistic people have to say about relationships

Read our stories