The dating show that isn’t going to make you groan, throw your TV out a window

‘Love on the Spectrum’ is a must-watch; provides a refreshing look at dating in the autistic community

Dating can be hard, you know? (Pexels stock image)

Finding love can be hard for anyone.

You have to meet someone, either organically or through the dating apps (which can feel impossible to navigate), you two have to be on the same page when it comes to expectations, style, communication, what you want out of a relationship, a potential family and life -- and that’s not to mention all the tiny things that can derail you along the way: Financial issues, timing, friends, your immediate families, jobs, physical location ... phew. It’s no wonder so many people say dating can be exhausting.

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Now, imagine having to do that if you’re an adult on the autism spectrum.

Exploring the unpredictable world of dating can be even more complicated.

But don’t take our word for it. A Netflix program, “Love On the Spectrum,” that debuted in 2019 will show you -- and although it’s not necessarily new to the streaming service, it was new to us, and in honor of Autism Awareness Month, we decided to check it out.

Here’s a preview, if you’d like to watch:

Looks good, right?

Here are some of the best parts:

  • Unlike a lot of the other dating shows you might find out there (like “Love Is Blind,” “The Bachelor,” “The Ultimatum” and “Are You The One?,” just to name a few), this one is incredibly wholesome. It’s more of a documentary-style show, rather than an attention-grabbing competition. It’s not at all a contest to see who can get the most screen time -- and at one point in one of the opening episodes of season one, you even get a real feel for how overwhelming this must be for some of the cast members. A woman who originally hit it off with a man in a speed-dating type of event, crumbled when the pair went out to eat one-on-one. You really feel for her in that moment. The show even lets viewers take a peek as the woman talks with producers, and she admits perhaps this was all too much; she got in over her head. This woman isn’t trying to make a name for herself or sell hair gummies on Instagram after this. She’s letting us into her dating life to help us understand. Hats off.
  • It’s candid. You can tell the show is NOT scripted or leading viewers to believe one thing while the truth lies somewhere else completely. Maybe it’s the documentary style to thank for this, but you truly feel like the fourth wall has come down, when you’re watching. It’s not 30 women clad in beautiful ballgowns and lavish rose ceremonies and over-the-top international destinations. It’s real life.
  • It’s relatable. Whether you’re neurodiverse or neurotypical, who hasn’t asked themselves questions before or during a date, like, “Should I bring anything? Flowers? Um, I’m NOT sure what to talk about next. Who’s handling the bill at this restaurant? Should I offer to pay?” You might even find yourself giggling along in some scenes, because it’s just so darn relatable. Some of the cast members will say things aloud that you’ve only thought in your head, which is what makes it endearing and so great.
  • There’s a therapist/relationship-type coach, Jodi, helping some of them along for the ride. So it’s not as if people are being dropped off on uncomfortable dates with 0 preparation, floundering. It’s kind of cool to see the cast talk through some of their concerns, post-date and pre-date, with the expert. And again, you’ll probably think to yourself at some point: I’ve wondered that! Or, “I see where he’s coming from!”
  • And of course, when you have autism, it’s not one-size-fits-all. It’s a spectrum. Some people featured seem REALLY ready to date, and others, not as much. You have to keep that in your frame of reference. You won’t come away from the show like, “all people with autism date in these specific ways.” Just like those of us who don’t have autism, everyone has his or her quirks -- so keep an open mind. Don’t assume you now know everything just because of these cast members. They’re inviting us into their lives for some perspective, but it’ll never be the full story. Still, it’s cool to see the representation and understand their lives a little bit better, you know?

So, what are you waiting for? You watching this weekend? Season one and two are streaming now.

This story was first published in 2021. It has since been updated.

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