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Heavy Meddle: Help! I Fell In Love With An Asexual

Sexual intimacy plays an important role in all of our romantic relationships -- or does it? (johnhope14/flickr)
Sexual intimacy plays an important role in all of our romantic relationships -- or does it? (johnhope14/flickr)
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Welcome Meddleheads, to the column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions via email. Right now. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.

Hugs,

Steve

Dear Steve,

My boyfriend and I met two years ago when we were sophomores in college. It was love at first sight — we've practically been inseparable ever since, and he's my best friend. The only problem is, he's recently confided to me that he is asexual. While I'm relieved that I finally understand why we've never had the kind of sexual relationship I imagined for myself in my early 20s, I can't help but question if it is fair to either of us to continue in this relationship.

Since he confided in me, we've had a few conversations about how best to proceed: I am not sure I can stay in a relationship where my partner doesn't find me sexy or want me in that way, and he feels like I am obsessing over sex and blaming him for his lack of libido. Most of the time these conversations end with me promising not to take it personally when he isn’t into it, and him trying to be more open to sex a little more often than he'd like to. However, we go months without it and I feel like he hasn't held up his part of the deal — but again, I don’t want to attack him for his sexual orientation. Is it possible to have a strong, loving romantic relationship with someone without a sex life? And is it wrong of me to consider ending it over something as trivial as sex?

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Sincerely,
Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

I’m sure it’s possible to have “a loving romantic relationship” with someone without having a sex life. But only if your own definition of a “loving romantic relationship” includes very little sex. Which yours clearly doesn’t. That’s the bottom line here. You want the person you’re in love with to feel desire for you and to act on these desires. That doesn’t make you a bully or a nag. It makes you a human being with a functioning libido.

Expecting your boyfriend of two years to make love to you more than once every few months doesn’t mean you’re “attacking” him for his “sexual orientation.” It means you have natural intimate needs that he is neglecting. He may not be a bad person, but he’s a pretty bad boyfriend for you, in particular.

Because let’s face it. When the person you’re with evinces little interest in you sexually, it’s not just frustrating physically. It’s deeply humiliating. It deprives you of one of the central pleasures of being alive. (Actually, a whole range of them.)

you do have the right (and I’d argue, the obligation) to seek out a partner who can fulfill your basic desires.

Some part of you may believe that if you’re just patient enough, he’ll come around. Or that you’ll stop feeling desire. Based on what your boyfriend has told you, and his behavior (along with your letter to me), I don’t think either of those things is going to happen. Which means you should break up with him and make space in your life for someone who can give you both companionship and the erotic attention you desire.

I realize that ending this relationship isn’t as simple as snapping your fingers. This guy is your best friend. You’ve been with him for two years and built a life together. You love him. That’s deep and real and will have to be mourned.

There’s no need for you to abandon his friendship, if he’s open to remaining friends. But it’s absurd and painful all around to ignore this basic incompatibility.

To me, the more compelling question here isn’t whether you should break up, but how it is that you consented to stay with this person for two years when your own needs weren’t being met. That’s the pattern I’d be worried about. And I’d be worried about it whether the issue was a lack of sexual interest, or emotional support, or willingness to have a family.

Nobody has the right to demand any of these things from their partners, if their partners can’t, or won’t, supply them. But you do have the right (and I’d argue, the obligation) to seek out a partner who can fulfill your basic desires.

As for the idea that sex is trivial, I don’t think that’s you talking, Frustrated. It’s your (soon-to-be ex) boyfriend. I hope he settles down with someone who feels the same way.

Onward, together,
Steve

Author's note: As a person who openly identifies as "horny," I am perhaps not the best person to answer this question. Unfortunately, I also know almost nothing about asexuality. That said, I’m not sure this question is about sex so much as it is about honoring one’s needs. What do you guys think? Please feel free to leave a comment below. And please send your own questions along, the more detailed the better. Even if I don’t have a helpful response, chances are someone in the comments section will.

Steve Almond is the author of the book "Against Football." He is the co-host, with Cheryl Strayed, of the WBUR podcast, Dear Sugar.

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