The new-to-Netflix Australian docuseries Love on the Spectrum follows 11 young adults on the autism spectrum as they navigate romantic relationships, embark on first dates, and learn the ins and outs of love and dating. Some, like Jimmy and Sharnae, are already in love and planning to move in together; others, like Michael and Mark, are eager to find the one. “There is a common misconception that people on the autism spectrum are not interested in relationships or romance,” director Cian O’Clery wrote in a statement. “From my experience, this simply isn’t true.”
Before filming, O'Clery spoke with countless young adults on the autism spectrum, their family members, and psychologists. He noticed that, while there are some resources available for Australians on the autism spectrum looking to find a job, there aren't as many services for people looking to find love. Not all of the Love on the Spectrum daters find their perfect match on-screen, but the show’s stars say they now feel better equipped — and even more excited — to continue dating in the future.
After attending a dating boot camp and going out with several girls, episode 3’s Mark says he’s more confident pursuing future relationships. “I learned to ask a lot of questions and how to talk and behave when dating,” Mark tells Refinery29 via email. “Having these skills has really built up my confidence, and it’s given me a new lease on the wonderful but complicated world of love and relationships.”
Michael, like Mark, is completely new to dating at the start of the series, but he’s more than ready to get started. He already has a plaque he made for his future wife, a wedding ring picked out, and a list of qualities he doesn’t want in a partner (no one gothic or tomboyish, he explains).
After going on his first two dates, Michael now says he has an even clearer idea of the kind of person he wishes to marry: someone who comes from a good family, doesn’t get in trouble with others, and has a good heart. “Also, I hope to meet someone who is a hard worker, is very intelligent, and has the ability to challenge me,” he adds.
Both of Michael’s dates are with Amanda, a girl he meets at a singles dinner for people with disabilities. Although they initially connect over their shared love of toy collecting, the relationship doesn’t appear to work out. “I did learn that you have to feel some kind of connection with the person you are dating,” Michael tells Refinery29, also via email. “If it becomes clear that the person isn’t enjoying themselves, I don’t think the date should continue.”
Chloe’s story is a bit different. On the show, she says she’s dated several people before, but she has never been in love or had a crush. “At the time, I dated just for the sake of dating, not because I had any attraction towards the other person,” she says now, in an email to Refinery29. “Before the show, I would accept dates because I was asked. I thought it was rude to decline. However, being on the show made me realize what I’m looking for, and it’s okay to be picky. You don’t have to accept every offer you are given.”
She seems to learn this quickly in episode 1. Chloe, who is bisexual, is initially set up with Marcus, a drummer who is also on the autism spectrum. They get along at first, but the date seems to fizzle out. In Chloe’s words, “there was no chemistry ... and certain conversation topics made it very awkward.”
But Chloe gets another shot at love when she meets Lotus for smoothies. In what becomes one of the show’s sweetest dates, the two instantly hit it off and bond over Sailor Moon and their experiences in school. Afterwards, they share a tender moment picking sunflowers. “With Lotus, the conversation kept flowing and was hardly ever awkward,” Chloe says. “No one made me feel the same way as she did before. I kept smiling for hours after our date ended.”
The experience has Chloe ready to continue seeking out new relationships. “Though I’m still nervous about dating and meeting new people, the show has taught me it’s okay to put myself out there,” she says. “And I’m excited to start dating again when I meet the right person.”