I highly recommend listening to or reading the NPR article below, Titled,
"Learning to Love and be Loved with Autism"
The article features Jack Robison and Kirsten Lindsmith, doing an excellent job of talking about many aspects of relationships between two people with Asperger's.
This is my response:
I am smiling at this because much is familiar to me, being a person with Asperger's and an individual with various experiences. As is mentioned early in the talk for Robison, kisses were a matter of two people smashing their mouths together and getting a wet face. Hardly a lovely idea to him, I feel the same way about hugs.
Realizing that other's need this activity, I've developed a choreography that works for me. (I'm so tempted to say, "Don't try this at home," but it's up to your discretion, and how you feel at any given moment.
Usually one person puts their arms around me (for whatever reason), and they compress me until they are, (for whatever reason) done. I'm held still and smashed. This is honest, but now funny, because so many have hugged me, "for my own good" Clearly, it has been for theirs, but they don't love that being pointed out, and I can bend on things, if I think it benefits someone I care for.
I can get used to hugs from particular people, but it takes me months to a year to figure out how they move, how much smashing is required for them, where they put their arms, and following, where mine go. It's totally choreographed, but once I get hold, I'm good with it.
I hear, "Stop analyzing it, and just enjoy." a lot. Well, "enjoy" isn't going to happen soon, rather after I get the hang of it. I couldn't enjoy singing a song for the first time, having never heard it before either. I need to learn the rhythm, the notes, and a meaning would be nice, but it's not necessary. I don't have to understand everything. After, I can sing it and enjoy.
Disengaging is a tough one. I've figured out that for most people, if I wait for them to loosen their (death) grip, then I release slowly, they seem pleased. I've let go too quickly many times, and that hurts their feelings. (Weird people!) It's not just that they need hugs, they need it done right for them. (Did I mention they are weird?) Turns out I can like hugs, it just takes me a while to figure out how it's done. If I initiate hugs, it all goes so much more smoothly, so I put myself on a schedule of doing this, because if I don't, I'll forget. There is something about two people coming directly at each other that is unnervingly confrontational to me, so if the opportunity arises, I will sneak up either beside or behind them. Surprisingly, they really like being accosted! I smash them, until again they start to try to escape, as I would, then they smile and are pleased.
Certainly, I absolutely never hug, unless I want to. The reason I do, is because I'm aware of the needs of others (be they ever so strange), but I also put my own needs first. In this way, I am sure I'm ready for contact. I plan hugs, make sure I'm not near a meltdown (I'd never make it) and I've learned to plot for hug opportunities. I love to do these things, so we can get on to other interesting things, like discussing the meaning of life or painting or how light plays on tree limbs, or the weird stuff other people do.
The great news is, relationships stay new and exciting for me, far longer than they do for others. I can be as clumsy and nervous at the 2nd or10th year kiss or hug as I was on the first date. I'm still not sure where the noses go. It's doesn't get boring. That's for sure. hehe.
As for why people hug, I still don't know, but my internal organs seem to be ok with a little smashing, and this may increase blood flow, which is good for the body, as long as no parts turn blue for lack of lung space.