‘The Good Doctor’: Can Shaun and Lea Really Make Their Relationship Work?

The Good Doctor Season 3 ended with Lea (Paige Spara) telling Shaun (Freddie Highmore) she loves him and wants to be with him. Considering all they’ve been through, Shaun and Lea have a lot of work ahead of them. How can they make their relationship work? What would they have to do to move past the obstacles and have a healthy relationship?

Tasha Seiter, a marriage and family therapist, weighed in. Here’s what she told Showbiz Cheat Sheet.

Lea will have to pay attention to the do’s and don’ts  

Freddie Highmore and Paige Spara on 'The Good Doctor' | David Bukach via Getty Images
Freddie Highmore and Paige Spara on ‘The Good Doctor’ | David Bukach via Getty Images

Lea tends to speak her mind and do things that feel good in the moment. This might not work if she starts dating Shaun seriously. She must take greater care with how she relates to him. Seiter says there are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to dating someone with autism.

“Individuals with autism are unique people,” Seiter tells Showbiz Cheat Sheet. “When dating someone with autism, get to know them before you make assumptions about them. You might have preconceived notions about autism or how it will show up in your relationship, but you’ll often find yourself surprised. Often, individuals with autism are more solitary people who need a lot of space and time to themselves. Respect your partner’s wishes here.”

Lea will need to respect Shaun’s boundaries when it comes to touch

As we’ve seen with Carly, physical boundaries are important to Shaun (he did loosen his boundaries for Lea because he’s more comfortable with her). However, there will likely come a time when Shaun needs his space.

“Physical affection can be difficult for individuals with autism to express and receive,” says Seiter. “Pay attention to how physical touch lands for your partner, and don’t take it personally if your partner isn’t as ‘touchy-feely’ as you would expect.”

Shaun and Lea need to work on their communication

Lea and Shaun have different ways of communicating, so they will need to get on the same page. Frequently checking in with each other is key. “Individuals with autism can often feel overwhelmed by their own feelings or find it hard to understand others’ emotions,” says Seiter. “Be patient with your partner; let them know clearly and honestly how you feel. You can even help them to identify and label their own feelings in a compassionate way.”

Lea will need to remain flexible

Flexibility is also another area that will be important, according to Seiter. Lea doesn’t seem to have a problem with this, so she should be fine in this area. “When dating someone with autism, you won’t have to live by the same relationship rules you have been with others,” says Seiter.

“Individuals with autism are very much their own people and won’t usually feel the same social pressures (like to get married, etc.) that many of us do. So, you get to set the rules for your relationship based on what is right for each of you, not what society expects!”

Advice for Shaun

Here’s the advice Seiter would give Shaun as he explores a possible relationship with Lea:

“My advice to Shaun would be to be himself!” says Seiter. “Don’t try to fit into society’s mold of a ‘normal’ relationship or be like anyone else. He has a lot of amazing qualities to offer; embrace that!”

Follow Sheiresa Ngo on Twitter.