Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mixed Relationships

A very dear reader recently asked me, "Would you be willing to be in a heterosexual relationship?" I'm pretty sure I just mumbled something inaudible, because I wasn't sure how to answer the question. Of course, I only realized why I couldn't answer the question until after the conversation was long over. This was why the question seemed impossible to answer: The only non-mixed relationship I could ever be in is an asexual one. If I dated a straight guy, it would be a heterosexual-asexual relationship, not a heterosexual one. Straight people don't absorb our orientations into theirs.

The issue of passing also presents itself here. If I was dating a bisexual man, we'd be an asexual-bisexual couple. However, we would be pass as a straight couple to almost everyone. Even people that know me well and know I'm ace would still probably view us as a straight couple.

The original question seems like a simple one, since most people are in relationships where the partners are the same orientation, usually straight. Only bisexuals, asexuals, and those who date them seem to encounter the "mixed relationship" situation. What seems to be a hard sell, even (or even especially) among asexual people, is that asexuality doesn't come with any attatched behaviors. If you're asexual, you'll always be in a half-asexual relationship, no matter who you're with or what you do or don't do with that person.

And there's something else worth mentioning-- the richness of expeience that can come with mixed relationships. In other sorts of mixed relationships, most of us can aknowledge the positive, whether it's learning the customs of a new culture or raising more accepting children. I have one parent that comes from a Catholic family, and the other comes from a Jewish family (hi guys). It was always great to have double the holiday traditions. Is there really a good reason why sexuality is so much more divisive than hot topics like race or religion? We usually just talk about the negatives in mixed-orientation relationships, but I think the outcome can be just as interesting, as long as couples remain open-minded (and that's a big "as long as"). I can't speak (much) of the heterosexual experience, but I know that someone could reap benefits from incorporating asexual culture into their own. It does, after all, involve cake.


willendork said...

ha ha, I love the cake line. it's true!

you make a really interesting point here that I hadn't considered before. I want to add (though maybe your reference to bisexuality implies this) that gays/lesbians end up in mixed relationships, too, specifically in dating bi folks of their gender. but that overall concept that we aren't absorbed by our partner's reality, even when it's more socially accepted/ understood than our own, feels like an important one. thanks for the food for thought.

Lanafactrix said...

Speaking as a non-ace, I couldn't envision myself in a romantic relationship that didn't have a sexual component. I think everyone would benefit from thinking seriously about it, though. Making assumptions about your partner's sexual wants and needs (and even sexuality) isn't a good idea.

Ily said...

Thanks for the comments! You're right Willendork, I was implying the other person in a relationship with a bisexual person, but I'm glad you clarified that point. Considering we're, at maximum, probably 3 in 100, the liklihood of a non-asexual dating an asexual is pretty rare. Much more likely is that 2 sexual people will just have unmatched libidos. I think even for aces, imagining a romantic relationship without a sexual component can be difficult. There's not a lot of models for it. Although, we're trying to figure it out...sadly, assumptions about sexuality have probably killed many relationships.

Zoe said...

Quick question...I'm going to be writing a post about asexuality for BlogHer and I was wondering if you could help me out. If so, would you mind emailing me, Thanks!

Ily said...

Sure! Just e-mailed ya.

The Impossible K said...

Excellent post!! In some ways, it's even easier for me to "pass" in a mixed relationship, since most people assume we're not doing anything before marriage anyway. What they DON'T realize is how easy that is for me... :)
Being in a mixed relationship does add a "richness of experience" too- there are still some differences, however subtle, that spark deeper conversations about each of our comfort levels and expectations. And as in any relationship, open communication is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I don't like cake, I prefer pie.

This idea of mixed relationships is an interesting topic. The fear of cheating is another point. I know straight people reluctant to date a bisexual because same-sex cheating would be worse for them than straight cheating. I know also straight people with bisexual partner who would only consider cheating if it were straight cheating. And with respect to asexuals, would it be cheating a non-sexual close-bond friendship?

Miriel said...

I actually think that mixed relationships are, generally, a raw deal for asexuals. Look at it this way: if gay people were expected to compromise and have hetero sex (c'mon, be open minded, you'll learn something about yourself, maybe you won't hate it if you try it, it's the best you can hope for anyway), would this be an ideal situation for them? Would this be a situation that's really and truly respectful of homosexuality? Would it be something they should settle for? I don't think it is. And I don't think it's any of those things for asexuality, either.

In addition, if your partner is "bonding" with you through an activity you're not interested in and that holds little meaning for you... well, that seems less about actual intimacy and more about using you as a prop of sorts. Like a close relative of mine who gives me gifts because she wants to, even though they mean little to me -- I suspect her gift giving isn't about forging an actual connection to me, but rather about *her*. I'm just filling a role.

Personally, on principle if nothing else, I won't get involved in a relationship that involves sex. I'm like the ace version of a political lesbian, I guess.

Ily said...

Hmm, yes, cheating is an interesting topic because everyone defines it differently. Maybe asexuals could have an "emotional affair". I wouldn't consider that to be cheating, but some people would.

And I agree, mixed relationships aren't for everyone. I don't think asexuals should be held to different standards, either-- that's not fair to us. If someone wanted to "bond with me" through sex, that would just prove they really didn't understand how I operate. But some asexuals do enjoy sex (or don't mind it), and because we're so rare, if you really want to date someone, broadening your base might be an option.

Anne said...

Well, I'm actually doing really well in a mixed relationship of sorts. It's really easy to just think of asexual and, uh, non-asexual people as being completely incompatible. And I know for plenty of asexuals, it just wouldn't work for them & that's cool. But it's been really awesome for me. Definitely not a raw deal for me. Just because I'm asexual, doesn't mean I *can't* enjoy sex, you know? It's not something I'm necessarily driven to have, but I get a lot of good things out of it too. So I don't feel like I'm settling, or really even compromising.

And... maybe some people will hate me for saying this, but hypothetically, couldn't some, say, gay men enjoy sex with women? Maybe they wouldn't be sexually attracted to the woman, but could be attracted to a woman in some way, & sharing sexual intimacy could actually be nice for them? I dunno... I feel like it's possible, but maybe it's just because of how I personally feel.

But yeah. I'm asexual, am in a sexual relationship, & am totally happy. But I also realize it's not for everyone, which is perfectly ok.

The Impossible K said...

I have a best friend who's gay, and we've actually talked about this before... I'm not sure how close the similarities between gay and asexual mixed relationships are, but I have heard of gay guys who had "straight" marriages and genuinely love the women they married- even though they are not sexually attracted to them.
I don't feel like I got a raw deal either. Not in the least. I think, as an asexual, I can appreciate the many other forms of attraction I do experience, and I'm lucky enough to have a guy that tries so hard to understand what I don't... I'm not disillusioned. I know it will be hard. But I also know there is more to any relationship - mixed or no - than sex.

Keely H. said...

I'm a bisexual in a relationship with an asexual. We've been together for three years. For the first two years we were monogamous and we managed. We love each other very deeply and have a lot in common. Last year my partner suggested that perhaps we should try polyamory. We've had an open relationship ever since with only positive results. My asexual partner is my primary partner and I now have a secondary partner who I've been with for about 6 months. They get along really well and the major source of friction we had in our relationship, the sex - whether it was a burden to him and whether I could enjoy it knowing he was only mildly interested in it, have vanished. We still have sexual encounters occasionally, he did sort of like sex in a 'hmm, this is different' kind of way but I feel confident that when he approaches me about physical intimacy that it isn't any tacit pressure I'm putting on him to perform. Usually we just find other ways to bond that he enjoys more. I'm not saying poly is the right path for every mixed relationship couple. I'm definitely not saying it's an easy path because we've had to really work on our communication skills to make sure every one including the secondary partner is happy with the arrangement. I am saying it worked for us and that it's an option.