Autistic couple felt ‘unworthy of love’ until finding each other on Tinder
It’s hard to picture a dating landscape without having the ability to swipe left or super-like. While staunch traditionalists still believe in the power of finding connections organically, many of us can thank dating apps for sparking romantic flames and long-term relationships.
Ten years on from Tinder ‘s explosion onto the app market, the way we meet our future partners, casual hook-ups and even friendships has changed irrevocably. The app is revered for revolutionising our access to human connection, and this couldn’t be more true for Joe Plumb and Emily Masi, 25, a couple who found love on the app in 2019.
As they are both diagnosed with autism, the pair found it extremely difficult to forge relationships in real life before stumbling across each other on Tinder.
The dating app unlocked a fresh sense of confidence for the duo as it allowed them to truly express themselves without the added pressures of social anxiety.
Three years on, they are getting married this month and thank the app for helping them find their ‘best friend’.
Opening up about the realities of dating as someone with autism, Emily tells The Mirror: “It makes it difficult to understand people’s true intentions and you can often find yourself in situations you are uncomfortable in because you couldn’t read the social cues.
“Also, if you have sensory issues or need to complete tasks in a certain way not everyone is understanding as it can be inconvenient”.
The couple’s everyday lives are impacted by their autism, as communication and reading body language can be overwhelming, often leaving them feeling isolated.
These challenges make the first ice breaker with a potential love match even harder, but Tinder’s ‘music mode’ helped the couple find a shared interest without the instant pressures of traditional conversation.
The feature allows users to share their favourite songs on their profile, and this extra medium of expression proved incredibly helpful for Joe and Emily as they were instantly drawn to each other’s tastes – giving them a springboard for their first conversation.
After they matched on the app, Joe, who works as a mental health ambassador for a charity, reveals how the couple immediately hit it off: “We both opened the conversation with ‘hello’ gifs with mine being ‘how you doin?’ with Joey from Friends.
“We both asked to know more about each other and very quickly saw how similar we were. We had both lived through similar trauma, we both have autism and mental illness and shared a big love for binge-watching crime series”.
Praising the app’s inclusive features, Emily added: “O n Tinder you can state that you are autistic in your bio because it is part of who you are. There is always someone out there who will love you for you”.
“As soon as I saw Joe’s top songs and artists were James Arthur ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’, The Script ‘ The Man Who Can’t Be Moved’, The Fray ‘How To Save A Life’ – I knew it was a match,” she added.
Surprised by their budding connection, neither Joe or Emily expected to find love on Tinder after dating struggles had left them feeling disillusioned.
Admitting that he had low expectations of finding a partner, Joe said “I didn’t know why someone so perfect could ever love me” before revealing that meeting Emily gave him a new-found hope.
“I could always just be myself when talking to Emily with no judgement or shame from her and she just accepted me for who I was which made me feel the best I had every felt.
“We would speak all day, every day, always send ‘good morning’ messages and leave a cute message at night for both of us to wake up to or read before falling asleep.
“Getting close like this was one thing that terrified me and felt quite suffocating, but with Emily it was completely different.”
The couple enjoyed their first date in McDonald’s along with Emily’s son, and instantly knew they’d found their forever person as the ‘conversation flowed straight away’.
Emily explained: “When we started talking, we found out we had very similar lived experiences, values, and goals in life. Also, we had the same humour and developed inside jokes very quickly”.
After a year of being together, Joe and Emily moved into their first home. Adapting to living with another person after being independent was tough for the pair, but they focused on strong communication to help each other along the way.
Joe says: “We worked through this together with daily debriefs to know how we both were, what we were struggling with, and we did this so we knew where we were both at and how we could help each other”.
Two years later, Joe popped the question in an intimate engagement that felt perfect for them.
“I ordered a Chinese takeaway (which was her favourite), with candles lit and her favourite wine and asked her to marry me. I didn’t know what to expect at this point but, she said ‘yes’, and I was made the happiest man alive,” Joe reveals.
The happy couple are getting married on this month, and want other people with autism to know that there’s someone out there for everyone.
“We are keeping things nice and simple as we both don’t do things the traditional way. We both wanted to save money, fund things ourselves so we are having a simple ceremony at the registry office,” Joe explains.
“We have planned this about a year in advance and gone over things repeatedly. This is one of the common autistic traits and we will suffer immense panic if we both don’t do this.”
Opening up about the whirlwind romance, Joe added: “I still can’t believe I’m getting married to my soulmate. I would never have thought in a million years that joining Tinder would have led me to this point in my life”.
“I do feel for Emily having to take the surname ‘Plumb’ but it makes us laugh.”
Offering up advice for other love hopefuls using dating apps, Emily said: ” Be yourself unapologetically, especially the parts others have made you feel insecure about yourself. There is always someone out there who will love those parts – if they don’t love the quirky parts, they don’t deserve you”.