This article is written because in a book was stated that a mother doubted that an autistic could actually love, or be able to fee love, or be able to be a father of a child (which is an act of love, for me).
First to make this work, we have to find a definition of love to work with. I will take a look at philosophical concepts for this.
In Philosophy, they distinguish love as 3 concepts: Eros, Philia and Agape.
Eros is the desire. This is were the english work erotic comes from. It means a passionate, intense desire for something. When seeing the word Eros and that erotic is derived from it, most will make the natural leap that it is most often used for sexual desire. The desire to just be with someone and to miss them when they are gone, to me, also falls under Eros. Eros, the god, is where cupid is derived from. When Eros shot his arrow, you felt an intense desire for the person you, and you fell completely in love. You couldn’t be away from that person. This intense desire is Eros.
Next is Philia. With Philia, you will make the natural leap to all words ending with philia. Most of them have a negative connotation, but philia in itself isn’t negative. Philia means a fondness and appreciation for the other. This is the phase of a loving relationship where you like to be in eachothers presence, where you just like eachother. Where you like to be in eachothers company. Philia is a friendship. Friendship can be something short, like a business friendship that only lasts as long as the deal is on, or something that takes up your whole life.
Agape is the concept of loving all equally. A sort of universal love, like a love for humanity and that you would never harm another human.
I think with these 3 concept we can begin to see if autistics can love. Autistics can feel passionate and desire for something, be it a subject or a person. I will use myself as an example. When I am in a relationship I don’t think about myself. I always try to take the other person into account. For example: when I buy something for myself, I will always try to buy something for my partner as well, even when it’s with coupons that I got for a special occassion, like a birthday. I will always take my partner into account.
I also show love in small things, like doing to dishes or bringing her coffee. Just telling her I love you, or putting extra effort into cooking and dressing up the dinner table, with candle lights. Forgiving when a person has made a mistake is also an act of love. My partner and I are both humans that make mistakes, some graver than others, but if you are a good couple and you truly love eachother than you forgive (up to a certain extent).
I like being with my partner, otherwise I wouldn’t be in a relationship. I couldn’t be in the same room or be in the same village with a person I don’t like or love. I have a period of at least a year when a relationship ends to put the memories and the emotions at the back of my mind and still then. When my partner told me that my ex was pregnant, that threw me into a shutdown. Although she has been abusive towards me, something inside me still loved her. It is weird to admit this, but yes, I feel something for my exes still, not for the abusive one, but for the other two, yes. I am not afraid to admit this. Loving a person and wishing them well doesn’t end because one person doesn’t want to be anymore. I would still do a lot for my exes if they asked, but as another kind of love. More like friendship.
I will try to treat all humans kind and in the same manner. I will not harm them, unless they have harmed me, but I am not flawless. I will make mistakes.
But as you can see, if you take all these things into consideration, autistics can love. Maybe even more so than neurotypicals, as I have still to meet the first neurotypical that couldn’t get a new relationship in a year because he was still not over his last relationship.