By Hannah Slattery, LPC, NCC
If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who defines as asexual there are things you and your partner can work on together. When your partner is asexual, it doesn’t mean the relationship can’t work, it just means there might be more learning for both of you.
Sex, Sexuality, Sexual Orientation: What’s the difference?
To begin, let us become a little more familiarized with the basic differences between sex, sexuality, and sexual orientation. In general terms, “sex” refers to the biological differences between males and females, such as the genitalia and genetic differences. Sexuality is an important part of who we are as humans. Beyond the ability to reproduce, sexuality also defines how we see ourselves and how we physically relate to others. Sexual orientation is a term used to refer to a person's pattern of emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction to people of a particular gender (male or female). Sexual orientation is usually divided into these categories:
Heterosexual: Attracted to people of the opposite sex
Bisexual: Attracted to people of either sex
Homosexual: Attracted to people of one's own sex
Pansexual: Attracted to people of any gender identity
Asexual: Not sexually attracted to other people
To be clear, sexual orientation is not a choice, it is how we are born, just like the color of our skin or eyes, we had no control over it.
A huge difference between being asexual and someone who doesn’t have sex, is that being celibate is a choice and sexual orientation is not. Asexuality is complex and doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone, some might be repulsed by sex, others might experience romantic attraction and others can be indifferent entirely. Some may even opt to have sex in their relationships because of the emotional connection they receive from being intimate.
5 Tips on How to Make a Relationship Work if Your Partner is Asexual
1. Accept and Seek Understanding
This means both parties need to show empathy and support for these differences. It’s probably very difficult to be with someone who might not be sexually attracted to you the way you would like. It’s important to note that denial won’t change your partner's sexuality and when acceptance comes, you’ll be more willing to put forth the effort to understand. The most important way to understand is to just ask, figure out what it means for them to be asexual. Everyone experiences their sexuality differently, so don’t try and put them in a box.
2. Change your Mindset
In this type of partnership, validation cannot be placed with the physical act of having sex. Self-esteem can become destroyed because one partner believes if they don’t have sex, they’re not needed or valued in the relationship. Be aware of other contributors to a healthy relationship and thrive on those.
3. Acknowledge that Their Sexuality isn’t a Personal Jab at You
Your partners’ lack of sexual desire has nothing to do with the way you look or dress or if you do have sex how pleasurable it is. Your partner is asexual because they are asexual and there’s nothing you can do to change that. The society we live in places so much value on our sex appeal that we often miss out on other opportunities to connect with our partner not based on sex. Other forms of attraction can become the stronghold of your relationship like being intellectually or romantically attracted to you.
4. Communicate about Needs and Boundaries
While you need to respect your partners’ sexuality, as a non-asexual it is also imperative you are able to discuss your needs in the relationship. The goal is to find a middle ground. It’s important to check in with each other and talk about if others' needs are getting met or not while staying in the confines of healthy boundaries.
5. Find other Ways of Intimacy
It’s important to note that there are other ways to bring upon closeness aside from sexual intercourse. People who are asexual- just like anyone else- still have individual needs and desires. Discuss these needs together, potentially your partner enjoys kissing or cuddles or receiving or giving massages(with no expectations). Any relationship could benefit from taking some time to gaze into each other's eyes, sharing your gratitude towards each other, just finding those simple moments to connect.
Relationships aren’t only about sex, which means partners with incompatible sexual needs can still be happy together. All relationships require hard work, communication, compassion, and honesty.
It’s not you. It’s not me
This link guides you to a video called “ It’s not you. It’s not me.” A short film about a woman who was in a relationship with a man who hadn’t yet defined his sexuality but felt it might be asexual.
If you and your partner struggle to communicate about your relationship and sexual intimacy, contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our clinicians! We are here to help.