Embracing Change, Navigating Asexuality in Romantic Love

This post was written over a month ago, so note that as you read any references to time and dates.

“How can I love this woman so much and not want to have sex with her?!” was the question he had posed to himself, probably many, many times as our relationship aged. He didn’t share this with me until today when I explained a term I had learned that I thought would give him some answers to our sexual disfunction: “Fraysexual” It means that he is only sexually attracted to someone that he is less familiar with, and loses interest when he gets to know the person. In my case, sex had gotten less frequent and harder to make happen. Erections don’t just happen when you aren’t sexual attracted.

I’m in a mixed orientation relationship. I’ve been in one quite a while but neither of us knew it. What do I mean by mixed orientation? Our sexual orientations are different. In our case, thanks to communication and my digging into the interwebs, we now know that I’m sexual and he is on the asexual spectrum. We did not know that when we entered our relationship. But we do now.

In fact, I had ended our relationship two weeks earlier. I had hit my limit. I didn’t understand him. I didn’t understand what I was gaining from being in a relationship with him. I couldn’t understand why we were together if we weren’t having sex. Not to mention, he was holding a huge space in my life that I feared was keeping a better match from coming into my life. I was not happy. My friends saw the change. I had to walk away. I didn’t see any other option. Neither of us wanted to end our relationship. I knew I was breaking his heart. But my heart was breaking too. Just in a way I had never experienced before.

Imagine, you are a 40 year old woman who has found her sexual self and she starts dating this strapping 20 something. He’s so affectionate. People see us together and they “know” we are fucking like rabbits. Except we aren’t. And every comment digs at this truth, twisting the knife in my heart. I had never been in a relationship with so little sex. I was lucky if I was allowed sex once a month. I was on egg shells afraid to be too aggressive in my pursuit of sex with him in fear that he would cut me off completely. Was it always like that? Of course not. We had sex the second date. In fact, that was about all our second date was. He arrived late due to work. We ate and headed to bed. That simple. Then I saw him once every two weeks for a few months. Soon we started spending every other weekend together, like the entire weekend, some with zero sex, some weekends with sex only once the entire weekend. Once he switched shifts and I found myself sneaking in daytime visits and sex still wasn’t happening, I knew something was off.

The sex geek in me started to suffer from what I call “relationship hypochondria”. I was in constant search for “what was wrong with us”. I honed in on a few things. First, I noticed that he felt disconnected during sex. That wasn’t the kind of sex I wanted. I felt like he was having sex with me because he knew I wanted it. Not because he wanted it. (I was obviously correct.) One night I had a conversation with him that went something like this, “I was in a marriage for nearly 20 years where a lot of the sex was out of obligation. I didn’t necessarily want it but I did it anyway. I love you and I don’t want that for you.” He seemed completely ok with that. So now I was thinking, “Is he struggling with his sexual identity? Is he on the asexuality spectrum?” Either would technically be a sexual identity crisis. I went looking. Being in a very sex positive, diverse community, I had people I could turn to. I had starting points for answers.

Even with all my searching, nothing ever really made sense. I was in a polyamorous relationship with a man that didn’t want to sleep with me yet I was listening to him tell me about the other people he was hooking up with or wanted to hook up with. It felt like cruel and unusual punishment. It took it’s toll and I finally threw in the towel…two weeks ago (at the time I wrote this, not when I published it). One of our last conversations before I decided I couldn’t do it anymore included me asking if he had ever considered himself asexual? I had avoided asking him earlier in my search as I had a friend ask her husband and it didn’t go well. I didn’t want to push him away from me by bringing it up. But that morning I just went ahead and asked. His answer, “I’ve wondered about possibly being demisexual.”

I quickly shot back, “Um, no. If that was the case you’d be fucking me right now.” (Demisexual means that you need a connection with a person before you become sexually attracted. This was definitely not our case.)

The two weeks without him actively in my life were hard. Ever since the first time I was in his arms, I knew I belonged there. We work on an energetic level. My energy is drawn to his. I can’t explain it. But I need him in my life. Ok, maybe not need. I’m sure I would survive without him. But there is just something about him. We work together that way. I’m drawn to him. I figured when I broke it off that we would eventually get to a point of friendship. We had that kind of relationship and I am the queen at transitioning relationships into something different. I wanted him in my life. I just didn’t know when I would be ready. Well I made it two weeks and I decided I was ready to add him back to my life. My energy missed him. I would find a way to make a friendship work.
When we ended it, I requested no contact between us for a month. I needed space to process my feelings. I made it two weeks. Two days ago I texted: “If you would be interested in breaking the no contact, just reply to this. Otherwise I will honor it.”

“I am”

I didn’t know if he was over me. I didn’t know if he had moved on, forgotten me. We didn’t really text much, we simply made plans to meet today. I did hint that it was going to be a positive meeting with, “My energy misses your energy. We will figure the rest of it out. But I look forward to talking.”

That night I was sex-geeking in another attempt to explain what had happened to our relationship and ran across the term “fraysexual” and it all clicked. I couldn’t wait to share it with him. I felt this was probably going to help him make sense of not only our relationship but of probably many others. I also felt this weight lifted. It wasn’t me. His lack of sexual interest wasn’t personal in the way I had thought. I found a person on facebook that was willing to answer some questions about fray and I could see that he could possibly really love me. She explained it: “It’s like once you really get to know someone and the emotions get deep you see past the physical and sexual parts of them. Sex just doesn’t express your feelings.”

I started making my list of what I would need if we were still going to have a relationship beyond “just friends” because suddenly it felt like it might be a possibility. I needed to take care of myself first though. I went into our meeting prepared. Maybe he hadn’t moved on? Maybe he was just as relieved as I was to see each other? Maybe he was happy to just be friends? I had no idea. As I made the hour drive I went from calm to anxiety. I only knew my feelings. I didn’t know his.

I parked outside his house. He came out to my car and got into the passenger seat and turned and looked at me. That face. He has these cheeks and these eyes and this warmth. I put my hands up to his face and I just started to cry.

Long story short, he missed me terribly too. He was as miserable as I was. He had been counting down the days to the end of my no contact. He wanted to honor my wishes. He had been re reading a letter I had wrote him the day after the split, waiting for time to pass. I was relieved that he felt so strongly. It wasn’t just me. I hadn’t even pulled away from the curb, to head to lunch, before I had to share my new term with him.

We went to lunch and discussed what this meant for us. He discussed how he was going to have to share this information with his other partners and any new partners. We agreed that we were more than a “lovership” and that our relationship wouldn’t change too much just the resentment (of no sex) was gone and we might not see each other as often. I shared my list of needs, saying how I couldn’t attend sex related events with him and probably would bow out of a lot of events with him in general. We were renegotiating a non sexual, romantic, poly relationship. You might ask, “Aren’t you really just friends then?” Friends that love each other more than I even love my “loverships”… friends that still spend time together holding hands, kissing, dancing, laughing, playing, spending the night, cuddling, walking hand in hand, all the things we did before, just without sex. I will say, I don’t desire him being my primary partner anymore, that is one thing that definitely changed, but everything else is the same. I don’t have to not have him in my life. I don’t have to choose. I can still actively love him. I can still grow my other relationships. It’s just the container of our relationship is much more clear.

The things I’ve learned about relationships and learning to structure them for what works for us, not norms, has been so valuable. I have so many really important relationships that don’t look like traditional friendship nor do they look like traditional romantic love relationships. I think that’s kind of the best part of this lifestyle. I can love freely. Surprisingly, it’s not all about the sex. (A shout out to a podcast called Polyweekly)

***Update written January 4, 2016

It’s working. It’s hard. It’s easy. And it’s working. Just the other day, sitting on his bed, waiting to head to dinner, he just looked at me and said, “You are so beautiful.” He sees me in a different way than I’ve ever been looked at. I know when he’s looking at me it is for something other than sex. While I would rather have a sexual relationship with my loves, this one is teaching me so much.

It’s hard when he tells me about other people he’s having sex with or wanting to have sex with. Could I ask him not to talk to me about it? I could. But I don’t want him to censor himself. What do I do instead? I ask him to reassure me and tell me why he loves me. I still have to remind myself that sex and love are separate. We’ve been taught you can have sex without love but we, as a society, think that if you love someone, you need to have sex with them or it’s “just friendship”. We aren’t just friends. His response? Something about me being the only person that can calm his mind..

Imagine what it’s like to know you will never have a “traditional” relationship, meaning that you will fall in love and maintain a healthy sexual relationship. I’m his “stable”. He’s mine. It doesn’t come easy but it is worth it. He’s not someone that I want to walk away from. In fact, he worries that it’s too hard on me. But I assure him that if I ever can’t handle it anymore, I will in fact walk away. I will take care of myself.

It’s also hard to find time to see each other. Not being primary partners, we aren’t prioritizing around my schedule any longer. We go much longer between visits. For the most part, it’s ok. If he wasn’t an hour away, I’m sure it would be easier. But sometimes I start to really miss him.

It’s easy in that the sex situation is off the table. When I spend time with him, I know what to expect. Before I always had this hope that we would have some sort of sexual contact as a way of connecting. That hope or expectation is gone now. I can relax and we can just enjoy each other’s company.

It’s working in that we are both happy with our situation. We are both still able to have our bdsm connection. We are both still a part of each other’s lives in a very loving and supportive way.

Expect me to write about this non traditional relationship more, as more time passes. We want to share, if for no other reason than to help others that might be in a similar situation.

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