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#734: “I’ve just figured out that I’m asexual. How do I hook my husband up with other partners to meet his needs?”

Hiya Captain,

I wrote in a while ago with a fairly incoherent question of the “I think I’m maybe asexual but I already got married with the usual implicit understanding that sex would be part of the relationship” variety with a hefty side of “what is wrong with me and how do I not be this way” and other identity issues… I’ve kind of come to grips with the reality that, my personal label issues aside, the kindest thing to do is accept that sex is something that will not be happening for the foreseeable future and figure out how to move forward with the practicalities of making this marriage with a man I love less of an extremely unsexy anxiety limbo.

My desired outcome: husband and I stay in our loving partnership, he gets his sexy needs met with a sexy friend (or a few sexy friends?), I stop feeling utterly horrible and like I’m holding him against his will in my frigid financial clutches (Ed. note: LW is the breadwinner right now), everyone wins. Now how do I start making that happen? I need a script to bring this up with my husband, that regardless of our history this is how things are now, and I love him dearly and want his sexy needs to be met however he feels comfortable… just, y’know, not with me.

I also feel like I should have at least a few initial strategies for how to find him a low-stakes sexy playmate (OKCupid? Craigslist? How does Tinder even work?), since pressure to make friends or otherwise put himself out there socially is a huge anxiety trigger for him. I don’t want to micromanage him through the entire thing (I’ve thought a LOT about what my boundaries would be for this), but it would be nice to be able to approach it with “look, this doesn’t need to be so fraught, people do this all the time, here are some options for finding someone.” He’s my first and only partner, and we met in college, so I’m a little inexperienced in the “arranging casual sexy things as an adult” arena.

How do I negotiate all this?

— Ace Wife

Dear Ace Wife,

Before you worry about how to use Tinder, I recommend that you tell your husband where you are with sex and give him some time and space to think about what he wants.

“Husband, I need to tell you something important. I have slowly realized that I am asexual, and what that means for us right now is that I don’t see myself having sex with you in the forseeable future. I am open to lots of solutions, including maybe you seeking other sex partners to meet your needs. I want to tell you that I love you, and my choice would be to stay married to you and spend my life with you. I need to be honest with you about what’s going on with me, so that we both can take care of each other and make good decisions for ourselves.” 

Put it out there, answer whatever questions he has, and then give it some time. Consider couples’ counseling and possibly individual therapy for both of you. If he says, “I want to talk more about this ‘other partners’ thing,” you can explore the mechanics and the poetics of how to get that done. He may want to stay in the marriage on your terms, and he may not. He may find a perfect sex partner or partners to meet his needs and create equilibrium in your marriage, or he may not be open relationship-inclined. Other people, including your husband, including these theoretical “other partners,” are universes unto themselves and it’s impossible to predict or control how that will all go. While it’s tempting to offer your husband solutions, you have to give him some room to fumble around the way you’ve been fumbling around behind the scenes in figuring out your identity. The work you’ve done on yourself, on knowing your own desires and boundaries, won’t be wasted.

Be brave, be honest, be loving, and be patient. I hope both you and your husband get the love that you want and deserve.

———————

Now is the time here at Captain Awkward Dot Com where I hold out the tip jar for the summer pledge drive. Every bit helps, and I’m very grateful for the continued support of the community.

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116 comments
  1. Yeah, LW- I really suggests you talk this out with hubby. I’m ace myself, and in a relationship. I laid it out when we started that sex was not going to be a thing, and that I’d be okay with opening the relationship if my partner wanted to. He hasn’t wanted to, and I think it would be quite weird if I started putting him up on Tinder! Talk it out, maybe hubby’s sex drive is lower than you thought and he’s okay with a sexless marriage?

  2. stentord said:

    Talking to your husband is extremely important. Offering him other sex partners is not necessarily a solution even if he is nonmonogamously inclined. For some people, sex is a generic need that can be met with any available set of genitals. For other people, however, sex is an important part of the bond with each specific partner. It would be an issue for me (not a fatal one, but definitely one that would need to be addressed and worked through) if one partner wanted to stop sex entirely, even if I was getting laid on the regular by other people, because sex with *that partner* is important to me.

    Having him find a “low-stakes sexy playmate” is also not necessarily the ideal solution for *you.* It sounds from the letter like what you envision is a sexual relationship without romantic attachment (so, he’d remain emotionally monogamous with you but be sexually open). One of the most common pitfalls for couples opening up their relationships is believing that they can simply make a rule against forming emotional/romantic attachments, and that doing so will protect their relationship from outside threats. But things are a lot more complicated than that. You can’t simply legislate your own feelings, much less someone else’s. So think (and discuss) carefully about how you’d feel and what you’d do if he found himself falling for his sexy playmate. And if you do want to limit nonmonogamy to sex, think in terms of what *behaviors* are off-limits, rather than trying to stop particular *feelings.*

    And finally, remember that you are ultimately not responsible for his sex life. It’s great that you, as a loving partner, want to help him. But don’t let society, or him, or your own brain tell you that it’s your duty to make sure he’s sexually satisfied. Be clear about where you stand, and in the end it’s up to him to figure out his own way of making peace with the situation.

    • Big Pink Box said:

      Pretty much this, it’s great advice.

    • Laughing Giraffe said:

      For other people, however, sex is an important part of the bond with each specific partner. It would be an issue for me (not a fatal one, but definitely one that would need to be addressed and worked through) if one partner wanted to stop sex entirely, even if I was getting laid on the regular by other people, because sex with *that partner* is important to me.
      Thumbs up for this. I say this as a person who is in a long-term, reasonably committed relationship with someone who is also her creative partner. We are non-monogamous, have been since we got together, and have both had outside partners of varying degrees of frequency/emotional closeness. If my beloved said, “Nail whoever you want, but the sexy-times taps are off between you and me” – like Stentford, I probably wouldn’t end the relationship completely, but I would grieve, and I would miss that part of it very much. The LW’s husband may or may not feel the same way, but it definitely needs checking out.

    • ashbet said:

      As a longterm polyamorous person, and an active member/admin of a poly/open online community — I can say that this is fantastic advice, especially the part about not trying to legislate the degree of emotional involvement between your husband and any partners he might have.

      There is a prevalent belief that men just want “sex,” and that who they’re having it with is less important than the fact that they’re having it.

      Your husband may or may not be into anonymous/casual/no-strings-attached sex, and it’s important not to assume that’s what he is looking for, if the two of you are no longer sexual.

      I wish you luck, and I’ve seen longterm sexual/ace relationships work out, open/poly or not — but how your relationship ends up working out is highly individual.

      Just don’t forget that your husband may not want “substitute” sex from someone else — and that if he does have other partners, keep in mind that they are real people with their own hopes, emotions, and needs.

    • K. said:

      This. I’ll also point out that non-asexuals’ sex drives and preferences vary widely. You NEED to ask him what he wants and needs. He might be perfectly happy in a monogamous relationship with you without sex (I’m this kind, myself). He might want an open relationship. He might want to break up for the obvious reason. He might want to break up because he’s upset about a revelation that earlier things were, while consensual, possibly unwanted. He might need time to think about it and come to terms with what learning about your asexuality means.

      • Jenny Islander said:

        Or he might enter a polyamorous relationship involving you, him, and his sweet imagination. Sex doesn’t have to involve two bodies.

      • espritdecorps said:

        “He might want to break up because he’s upset about a revelation that earlier things were, while consensual, possibly unwanted.”

        My demi-sexual spouse had duty sex with me for years, while resenting it. When he told me, and admitted it was unpleasant, it was a huge blow. I felt it as a giant betrayal of trust that my experience of joyful lovemaking with him was a lie. It made me sick to know that I had hurt him with technically consensual, unwanted sex.

        I doubted my ability to recognize consent. Had this happened with other lovers? (I still worry about that)
        I can’t initiate sex with him. I don’t trust myself to read his signals.
        We’re monogamous, but if we were open, it’s hard to imagine having the confidence to initiate anything with another lover that I didn’t have a large degree of trust and connection with. I would need to be with someone who was extremely enthusiastic about being with me. Having had casual sex when I was younger, it’s hard to see a way to get what I would need to enjoy sex with another partner without forming an emotional connection with them.

        Spouse and I have children, and it was worth it to us to put in the hard work our relationship needed. I don’t know how things would have gone otherwise. It’s beautiful now, but it was wrenching to go through that process.

        It sounds like you are trying to make things okay, if your marriage has a chance of working, you need to accept that you can’t. It’s not okay for either of you, and attempting to short circuit his process through this with a Tindr account is not loving or respectful to his loss of the relationship he though he had with you.
        You can only be honest with him, and give him time to see if he would like to have a relationship with the person you are.

    • Exit Flagger said:

      For other people, however, sex is an important part of the bond with each specific partner.

      Yes, this! Both my spouse and I are bisexual, and while we’d both be okay in theory with no-strings-attached sex with same-gender partners, in actuality it’s not something that can happen. Some people are just wired for monogamy, and I’ve never been able to have sex without forming some kind of emotional bond with the person, either before or after. My spouse is the same. Just like asexual people, non-ace folks form a wide spectrum and your ideal set-up may not be his. I would definitely not bring Tinder to the table right away, let your initial coming-out sink in first, allow him to guide the conversation. Good luck to you, LW.

  3. Emily said:

    I think what you may be envisioning here – that your husband finds casual sex partners and they stay casual sex partners – is unlikely for several reasons. First, it’s not easy for most openly-married men to find casual sex partners. Second, casual sex partners don’t always stay solely casual sex partners. Sometimes they become people you’re in love with, people you want to live with, people you’ve gotten pregnant. These things happen enough that they ought not be surprising when they do.

    • People manage it, though, and LW has the right to want what she wants. She’s not asking him to sacrifice any part of the physical experience he presumably wants, other than where it’s entirely her right to dictate it: where it involves her. So while it might be wise for LW to be prepared for her husband not being on board with this concept it’s also not unreasonable to sit down and say “this is where my limits are and these are my ideas for dealing with this.”

      If his response is that he sees the world close to how Emily sees it than how LW sees it and this is not a plan he’s down with, that’s his right too. Maybe you’re right and it won’t be easy, maybe he cares whether it’s easy, maybe down the road he decides he wants a more traditional scheme and that’ll be the end of LW’s marriage. But unless husband and LW would rather end for certain now than maybe later, why not try?

      • Emily said:

        I’m not saying they shouldn’t try it. Maybe they should. But if they do, they should be really aware of the possibilities for how this might play out, which I think a lot of couples in similar boats aren’t. And one hypothetical reason for why they might want to end things now rather than try it is this: it’s better to end things now while you still like each other rather than spend the next year in conflict, setting boundaries and breaking them, and putting a third party through a whole lot of relationship drama and misery.

      • MadGastronomer said:

        She can want anything in the world, but she ought to be warned that it’s way more complicated than that, that she may not be able to have what she wants, that trying to get it has a risk of going entirely pear-shaped and wreck her relationship altogether.

        • rydra_wong said:

          that trying to get it has a risk of going entirely pear-shaped and wreck her relationship altogether.

          It’s absolutely true that the LW may not be able to have the ideal outcome that she’s envisaging (a non-sexual romantic partnership with her husband while he gets his sexual needs met elsewhere).

          Her husband’s an autonomous individual who’s got to absorb the information about her sexuality and figure out what his wants and needs here are, and they may or may not mesh with hers.

          However, I’m not sure what you see as the alternative to “trying to get it”: what would not taking a risk look like here? Not telling her husband that she’s asexual? There isn’t a risk-free status quo where the relationship is guaranteed to stay un-wrecked.

          • Women don’t get told this often, but: turning yourself into a pretzel to preserve your relationship is just as bad as your relationship going pear-shaped. You’re part of your relationship, and if you’re unhappy, the relationship is not okay.

        • I fail to see how that’s not true of anything. That’s like saying, “If you leave your house there’s a risk a meteor might hit it!” Yes, always true–life is full of risks and we take them as best we can–and also, it might happen no matter what you do.

          Maybe the point that people are trying to make is “keep an open mind and don’t be surprised if things turn out very differently than you imagine,” but it’s hard not to read as, “you’re going to fuck everything up here.”

          • Englyn said:

            “turning yourself into a pretzel to preserve your relationship is just as bad as your relationship going pear-shaped”
            should be on a t-shirt.

    • erica said:

      Hmm. Yes, these things sometimes happen, but they don’t always, and I find that there’s a much lower probability of these things happening if you deliberately seek out people who aren’t looking for more out of the relationship than you are. This is a difficult thing to be sure of, but if both partners are committed to be honest with themselves and with each other, that helps the success rate. (The poly community tends to emphasize this, so that might be a good place to start looking.) I have also noticed that in many cases it seems to be easier to form “secondary” relationships with folks who are also already attached? When someone already has a good relationship with one partner, it seems like they’re less likely to start craving more than their secondary partner wants to give them. (The poly community also tends to be a good place to seek out folks who fit this description.)

      This is, of course, all assuming that your husband is interested in other partners, which (as others have pointed out) is an open question.

      • Emily said:

        I totally agree that if this is a direction they want to go, seeking out other partners who are already attached is a great idea. It shrinks your options, but the outcomes are likely to be better if you do find something.

  4. tinyorc said:

    LW, I get the sense from your letter that you have a lot of guilt and fear about your asexuality and you are trying to deal with this by coming out to your husband armed with as many “strategies” as possible. Like, “Hey husband, I’m asexual and won’t be wanting to have sex with you ever again, but don’t worry about it, it doesn’t even have to be a problem because look at all these sexy solutions I have found for you!”

    Essentially, you’re putting the cart before the horse, except the horse is still a foal and the cart doesn’t have wheels yet. Staying in the marriage and seeking other sexual partners may indeed be a thing your husband wants to try, but it’s not going to happen tomorrow or even next week. And if it does happen, it’s not your job to help him set up a Tinder profile. I would highly discourage micro-managing (or even macro-managing) anything of this nature unless he specifically asks for advice or support.

    But first, you have to the conversation the Captain has suggested. And unfortunately, it probably is going to be fraught. He may never have he heard of asexuality and no matter clearly you explain it, he may still take it personally and feel hurt and confused. Whatever happens, he’s definitely going to need some serious processing time. You seem to think sex with you will be very easily replaced by sex with a random Tinder date, but I can guarantee you that it won’t be that straightforward for your husband.

    I know this is advice must be kind of frustrating; you’ve done the hard work of accepting your own sexuality and now you want to be pro-active and use your newfound self-knowledge to fix your marriage. But for the moment, the best strategy available to you is to say your piece and then take a step back. Good luck and I really hope it works out!

    • ianosmond said:

      I can attest to the “hurt and confused.” My first reaction was to wonder what was wrong with me that my wife isn’t attracted to me.

      But we got through it.

    • This. I am an asexual individual who figured that out slowly over the course of a courtship and marriage filled with uncomfortable sexual fumbling. He wanted to stick with me while I got comfortable with it; it took me a good long while to realize I wasn’t really ever going to be. I am also an individual who wants to gather all of my available resources to tackle a problem head on.

      I offered him a divorce, an open marriage, pretty much everything but an Ashley Madison account. I was this close to looking up annulment so he wouldn’t have to when he finally stopped me, like, “what are you doing? Let’s talk about this together, pls.”

      I was trying to handle my own guilt and frustration over “changing the rules” by pre-empting him.

      Still married. Still happily. No Ashley Madison needed, in our case. But you, LW, won’t know until you discuss it.

      • Braennare said:

        Yay for “Let’s talk about this together, pls.” I’ve had the experience of lovers who want to present me with a finished solution/picture, and I’ve felt really left out because of it. For me, working out relationship-relevant stuff together is an important part of bonding and intimacy, as well as of safety (i.e being reasonably sure that unless something is brought up for mutual consideration, nothing potentially catastrophic is going on behind the scene). Of course, if someone needs time to mull things over on their own to get a clear idea of priorities, hopes, limitations and such, that is great; but setting things up so that all that is left to me is to say yes or no… that feels to me really weird, and kinda lonely.

        I’ve also encountered another associated phenomenon: I bring something up, wanting to discuss it, and my partner/friend believes it is set in stone already and will deal with what I started with as impossible to compromise with. Even if I tell them it’s just a suggestion, or something that would work for me but I want to know what would work for them so we could reach a good thing for both of us.

        For me, relationship “solutions” works a lot like venn diagrams, I put my circle of want/need up, you put up yours and we’ll se where the overlap is. If there is no overlap we’ll do the “who shall sacrifice what”-dance, do things separately or decide to skip the thing, depending on importance and inclination.

        To get the other person’s venn diagram before things have been processed into a corner of mine (or out of theirs entirely), is highly useful and respectful. I find.

        • Paulina said:

          So much yes to this. It’s easy to feel railroaded, sometimes even after agreeing to something, if it’s been presented to you in an “I have thought about this extensively and here is my solution, are you ok with this?” way. It takes time for people to process things and figure out what they’re comfortable with, and it can be difficult for some to back things up when the other person is so much further ahead with the situation. Resentment can multiply if it includes having taken a “solution” that they feel was chosen for them and they later wish they hadn’t. It can also take time for people to determine what about a situation makes them feel uncomfortable, which is potentially relevant here given the husband’s social anxiety; being presented with a solution that involves having to meet new people, possibly many new people in succession, in order to have casual sex could trigger a reaction more about the proposed solution than the situation itself.

    • I do believe there is an important communication that the LW is attempting to make here. Although s/he does anticipate this being hurtful and confusing, it may be very important to acknowledge that a spouse’s needs/desires are still acknowledged and held in regard by the LW. I know one of the pitfalls of confessing that one is asexual is a partner taking it as a personal referendum on how little their needs matter. It can feel personally insulting and unloving. And the horror of being the bearer of this message has kept plenty of asexuals dutifully plugging away at undesired sex with teeth-marks all over their tongues.

      This desire to micromanage may be a manifestation of a desire to prove that although the LW cannot provide sex, they are eager to provide other services to assure their partner’s happiness and fulfillment. Lest anyone think they just don’t literally give a fuck.

      • omj said:

        The problem, though, is that LW is assuming what his/her spouse’s needs are in this area and not stopping to find out from him what they might be. I know that my sexual needs would never be fulfilled by a casual sex partner the way they are by my spouse; they’re completely, fundamentally different experiences for me. If he were to come to me and offer that as a decided solution it could potentially make me feel *more* hurt that my partner misunderstands me so completely. That’s why LW needs to be careful here, despite having good intentions.

  5. ianosmond said:

    I am married to an asexual woman, and this is what we do, and it works for us. So your potential solution IS a solution, but, as many other commenters have commented, its neither simple nor easy. Are you okay if your husband falls in romantic love with another person, rather than being simply friends-with-benefits? Because that’s a thing that can happen, and some people find it hard to deal with, no matter how prepared they are. And some find it easy, no matter how prepared they aren’t.

    Your other question includes, more-or-less, can you act as a matchmaker for your husband? And that’s ALSO a fraught question. How good a matchmaker are you in general?

    If you go to online sites looking for a woman who wants to be a sex partner to a married man, you may find professionals. Which might be a solution for some people — hiring an escort every once in a while solves some problems — the energy involved in finding and maintaining a relationship, the risk of falling in romantic love — and opens up others — it’s illegal, and expensive.

    As far as websites go, I’ve known some people to find success in finding people to date on FetLife, which is mostly focused on kink, but also has a lot of polyamorous people, so if that was the route you chose to go, that might be a place to look.

    • Are you okay if your husband falls in romantic love with another person, rather than being simply friends-with-benefits

      Hmm. And this is the part I did not think through when I told my husband I would rather he have an affair than run for public office.

      He didn’t have an affair – apparently, politics is more alluring than sex, but I would have meant an affair with no emotional involvement. I would be (in theory – and instead of two political campaigns) OK with a few physical-only romps, but I would be very unhappy if my husband fell in love with another woman.

      • Jenna said:

        I once did not actually get to meet a guy in an open marriage.
        Yes, I know, that came out oddly, didn’t it?
        He and I were chatting on okcupid and by text. Because we were both busy and such, we talked a lot before we actually got around to discussing a date…and then his wife pulled the plug because we were talking too much. Had we just fucked, she would have been fine, apparently, but, talking about similar geeky interests threatened her somehow, and so, she vetoed me.
        As far as I am concerned, it worked out well for me. I was at loose ends when a very lovely polyamorous guy contacted me shortly after, and we hit it off. My metamours are lovely too, so, I have no complaints about the fish that got away.

  6. MK said:

    LW, you should talk to your husband, but keep in mind that this could be a dealbreaker for him. He is a man who entered a sexual marriage to a woman he loves, a.k.a. he choose to be, for the rest of his life, in a relationship where he would fullfill both his physical and his romantic/emotional needs with one person. It’s possible that this is what he wants out of life and the solution you propose isn’t something that would satisfy him.

    I say this, because there is a strong “as long as he gets sex somehow, everything will of course be ok” vibe in your letter and you might get a nasty surprise. Naturally, you know your husband and maybe you have considered this and have reason to believe he will be open to such an arrangement.

  7. neverjaunty said:

    LW, there is amazing advice from tinyorc, stentord and many others here. I would only add that you almost certainly have your own (quite understandable!) anxiety around all of this, and you will need to be careful that you don’t try to manage that anxiety by managing your husband’s reactions and his sexuality. It can be very, very tempting to just rush up with a platter of “fixes” that you’ve worked out *and are comfortable with* and hope that he picks one, because it helps relieve some of your (again understandable) feelings of unfairness and guilt – see? I’m doing the right thing for you, husband, to make up for my feeling bad about being asexual! It can also be very tempting to manage things FOR HIM because it feels like that protects against outcomes you don’t want/can’t handle. (Like, maybe you are OK with him hooking up on Tinder, but not with him actually dating another lady, so steering him toward Tinder is a way of making sure that second thing doesn’t happen.)

    • Brooks said:

      Yup. A probably difficult, but certainly very important, thing here is to give him space to figure out his own feelings about all of this.

      This is a thing I have trouble with — I tend to worry about upsetting my partner, and so when I need to tell them something emotionally intense, it’s very easy for me to start immediately responding to their responses with things that make it all about me. What can I do to fix your sadness? Tell me something I can do to help! I’m sorry! Please reassure me that you’re not going to break up with me! And so on. It’s also a thing that my partner has trouble with (and, yes, we’re actively working together to get out of these habits), and from that side it means that when she tells me something emotionally intense I don’t have any space to process it because I immediately start addressing her fallout from having said it.

      So, to the LW: from a place where that happens a lot, I want to give you the advice to try (as much as you can) to make the moments after you say this to him all about him. If I were giving myself advice in this situation, I’d say: You are going to say something that causes him pain and fear; own that for yourself up front, do what you can to soften it, and then when you say it make as much effort as you can to swallow your guilt about having done so and accept that his pain and fear (or whatever reactions he has) exist and are not yours to fix or undo. Ask how he feels; don’t assume. Ask what he’s upset or afraid or angry or sad about; don’t assume. Ask if he would like assurances from you. Ask what he wants.

      You are not me, and I have no idea whether that advice is useful to you, but it’s what I’d give myself in that situation, knowing my own foibles.

      • EllenS said:

        I agree. If you are going to tell your husband, essentially, that you don’t want anything to do with his sexuality, then — well — you can’t claim responsibility/ownership over it. Offering “solutions” before he’s even had a chance to process the issue, comes off very much like telling him what to do. I know you don’t mean it this way, but there’s a strong odor of “take your nasty sex elsewhere.”

        For many people, rejecting them sexually after a profound commitment like marriage is not just about body parts. It’s a very profound rejection of them as a person.

        Make sure you are giving his boundaries as much respect as you want for your own.

        • scarybalkanlady said:

          “you don’t want anything to do with his sexuality” “rejecting them sexually”

          As an asexual woman this kind of framing makes me incredibly uncomfortable. LW’s asexuality is not something she is doing “to” her husband. The reason why LW is frantically offering up all these “solutions” is because she is already struggling with feeling like a burden and is literally afraid that her husband is going to leave her. Almost all of us have struggled at one time or another with profound feelings of alienation and self-loathing because we live in a society that tells asexual people–and asexual women in particular–that they’re frigid, broken, and incapable of “truly” loving romantic partners, and since LW is new to realizing her asexuality she’s probably feeling that pretty heavily right about now.

          I’m not sure how exactly you’re getting the impression that LW wants her husband to just “take his nasty sex elsewhere” but that’s….a really bad-faith assumption to make. Again, her asexuality is NOT some kind of value judgment against him. She’s just saying that she can’t meet those needs for him in the way he wants; she’s not somehow sneering at him for having them . One thing to keep in mind is that ace women who are in relationships with non-ace men are often told to just “lie back and think of England”, and this kind of toxic advice gets cloaked in language like “sexual compromise” that deliberately frames the ace partner as unreasonable (or even abusive) for having non-negotiable sexual boundaries. It’s pretty clear that LW has a lot of valid anxiety around this issue and she’s probably trying to pre-empt any accusations about not really loving/caring about her husband…not to mention suggestions that she should just have sex with him anyway because it’s not that big a deal, it means so much to him, etc. etc. She doesn’t need to be lectured on how important sex is for non-asexual people; I guarantee you that she is very much aware of that and it’s why she’s feeling so distressed and “broken” right now.

          Sexual incompatibility, especially between ace and non-ace people, is a valid deal-breaker, but it’s crucial to discuss this in ways that don’t implicitly demonize the ace partner. Especially since the majority of out asexual people are (for a myriad of reasons) likely to be women, and asexuality intersects with patriarchy and gender roles in ways that render asexual women very vulnerable to things like sexual coercion within relationships.

          • Baytree said:

            Thank you. You said what I was going to, except better.

          • MK said:

            I don’t know about a “take his nasty sex elsewhere” odor, but I do get a vibe from the LW’s letter that the problem isn’t their sexual incompatibility, but how to get the husband some sex in a way that will affect their marriage as little as possible.

            Also, when you really want to make love to the person you love and they don’t want that back, it’s going to feel like a rejection. That they are not doing to you, that it’s not personal since they don’t want it with anyone else, that they have no choise in how they feel, these things are not irrelevant, but they are a cold comfort.

          • EllenS said:

            Sorry I did not express myself better. I do not think the LW intends to reject her husband or be derogatory about his sexual needs.

            I meant that it is very likely to *sound that way to him.* I was simply agreeing with others that rushing in with solutions does not allow him his own feelings, which will be unpredictable, complicated, and deserving of respect.

            He may want to be okay with it because he loves her, and figure out later that he can’t live with it. It may take him as long to figure out his reaction, as it’s taken her to figure out her asexuality.

          • Coyote said:

            Thank you.

    • Adorkable said:

      At least in my city and age group, Tinder is dating- rather than hookup-focused. Just sayin’…

  8. Anyanka said:

    Yeah, LW, I really would recommend not trying to push him to hook up with other people quickly or at all. If you want to, go ahead and say that you think it could be a viable solution, but it honestly might not be. Sex isn’t quite like food–if you were vegan & your husband needed to eat meat, he could have a separate kitchen or something, but sex is so different person-to-person that it’s not replaceable with strangers. I personally cannot/would not ever hook up with people outside a marriage or long-term relationship, ever, and so this sort of solution wouldn’t be useful at all.

  9. OwlWhispers said:

    Oof. So, I’ve been in this position before, where my partner came out as asexual. An open relationship would not have been the solution to our issue because I am not comfortable with that. In your letter, you seem to believe it’s just an issue of having one’s sexual needs met, that any set of genitals will scratch the itch, but that’s not always what it’s about. I wasn’t interested in just getting my jollies with just anyone–for me, sex is an intimate, bonding experience I choose to do with a specific /person/, someone I’m deeply attached to and in love with and committed to. Being given a list of options like “you can go on tinder!” would have been…pretty horrific and insulting for me. Because it’s like, really, is that what you think sex is to me? :\

    You need to come out to your husband first and have a frank and honest discussion with him about this. And he needs time to process it. I definitely needed time to process things, and decide how I felt about things, and whether or not it was a deal-breaker for me or something I could work with. When he has time to process things, that’s when you can start to discuss strategies and compromises. That’s when you can ask him how HE feels about an open relationship. But let him deal with things and process things in his own way first. I know in my case, I needed that time and space, because I felt really hurt and like there was something wrong with me. Of course, he wasn’t being asexual AT me. xD And I knew that and was very familiar with asexuality! But I still needed time and space to process things. Maybe provide him with some resources about asexuality, too, to help him understand, since not a lot of people really understand it. That may help him realize it’s not about him, since even WITH my knowledge and insight, I STILL felt very insecure, and I think that insecurity and “is it me?” can be a pretty expected reaction.

    Either way, he may not be cool with an open relationship, but he may also be cool with staying with you and taking care of his own needs by himself. He may be cool with an open relationship! Or it may be a deal-breaker, as it was in my case. (But to be fair, in my case it wasn’t just because there was no sexual relationship–it was because there was no physical affection at /all/.) I tried for a good year after partner came out to me, because I wanted it to work, but it just wasn’t working for me for a variety of reasons. But I also know of pleeenty of other couples that HAVE made it work just fine. I don’t bring this up to scare you, just to prepare you, because everyone is different and every situation is different and we the readers have no way of predicting how your husband will feel.

    I wish you the best! Maybe look at AVEN for further advice, too, since I know their forums have a lot of discussions about this very topic, about negotiating relationships between asexuals and allosexuals. It CAN work. Just take it slow and one step at a time.

    • syrens said:

      Thank you for bringing up AVEN! Definitely a useful resource!

    • K. said:

      I’m sorry to say that AVEN’s changed quite a bit in the past few years. Proceed with caution.

      • OwlWhispers said:

        Gah, has it? :\ Bummer. It has been a few years since I’ve been there…

        • K. said:

          Yep, sorry. 😦

          It was a great resource while I was figuring some things out a few years ago. The forums might still be worth looking into for relationship advice.

    • Esk said:

      Thank you for posting this OwlWhispers, I think it’s really important to have explained what sex is about to you. It is hard for someone who doesn’t have an interest to understand what motivates that interest in others. Even if someone is told intellectually, it’s hard to really understand, and it helps to be told many different ways by different people. I’m demi, not ace, but I’ve spent a chunk of the last couple of years going Wtf, what IS this attraction thing that other people experience; so I think I get it.

  10. Clarry said:

    If you don’t want your husband to feel like he’s in your frigid financial clutches, you could, when you talk to him about possibilities for the future of his sex life, also talk to him about his future financial standing. In other words, tell him that you’d like to see him financially independent for his own sake, not just for yours, and talk to him about ways you could make that happen, i.e, you might pay for him to go to school or support him while he gets job experience. That way he could have options, and there won’t be even the hint of a possibility that he’s staying with you for financial reasons.

    • syrens said:

      This is true, but I would have that as a VERY separate conversation.

      This may or may not be the case for LW’s husband, but Manhood(tm) is heavily linked to both sex-stuff and money-stuff, at least in English-derived (is that even a word?) cultures. A dude who (a) is Not Man Enough because he’s not the bread-winner, and who has also just learned that (b) he’s Not Man Enough because his wife doesn’t Want Him Like That… is a dude who is going to have a shit-tonne of processing to do around the “Act Like A Man box”. I kind of think that giving him any reason to forge a link between those two things is… not going to help on the emotional front. (Like, yes, it’s his Stuff to deal with, but that’s still a LOT of really heavy Stuff to deal with, and in an already painful and stressful situation).

      If it were me (and I don’t even have to deal with the “Act Like A Man box”), what I would hear if these two things were brought up in a way that connected them at all is “I don’t want sex from you THEREFORE you have nothing to offer me, and I’m officially sick of supporting your undesireable ass”.
      That might not be what the LW’s husband would hear. But maybe it might be?

      I would tread really carefully around this one.

      • ianosmond said:

        Yep. I’m a guy in that position, and i’m NOW comfortable with my roles in which I contribute to the family and to the world in ways that don’t involve holding down a regular 9-to-5 job, but you’re 100% correct that it took me a lot of thinking and processing to define and be comfortable in a useful, productive role that involved neither attending to my wife’s sexual needs (because she has none), nor being the primary breadwinner (because she has a skillset and personality that’s far more suited to making money than I do).

        Yeah. One CAN process it, and become happy, but it definitely takes significant processing.

    • Emma said:

      I think it’s worth noting that LW didn’t say their husband feels like that; they said that they themselves feel like that. So the financial situation may not be something that’s bothering Husband at all, in which case such a conversation would indeed be entirely for LW’s sake. If supporting Husband financially makes LW uncomfortable then that’s certainly something worth discussing, but I think it’s inadvisable to couch the discussion in terms of Husband’s comfort/interests when it’s actually about LW’s comfort/interests, not least because Husband will certainly notice – and question – the discrepancy.

  11. Hi LW!

    I want to commend you on doing the emotional work to reach the knowledge that you’re asexual. Way to go! You are obviously a caring and thoughtful person.

    You’ve done all this work and I agree with the other commenters that he’s going to need some time to catch up. The sex with other people-menu….if it’s something he’s interested in, he can look for partners himself. It’s his choice. I’m sure you know him well, but not as well as he knows himself.

    I really think you need to give your husband room to figure out what he wants. The Captain’s script is great! If you need something to do, work on having some good links and information on asexuality on hand in case your husband wants to read up on asexuality. I’m sure he could google on his own but you might already know what’s actual helpful information and what’s not.

    I’d recommend reading up on polygamy 101 and opening up a relationship. Like others have said, it’s very possible that he’ll develop feelings for others along with any potential physical intimacy and sex. Make sure you know where your boundaries are and what you’re comfortable with. For instance, would you be okay with him staying overnight? Would kissing other people be okay for you?

    It’s also good to know what you’re comfortable with and what you can ”offer” (ugh, I’m sorry) when it comes to physical and emotional intimacy. For the physical part; sex is off the table, but how do you feel about cuddling or back rubs? If you don’t like those, is there something that you’re comfortable with? How do you show your love? The more you know about your wants and dislikes and your boundaries, the better you can answer any questions your husband has. Good luck, I’m rooting for you!

    • ashbet said:

      Quick aside — unless LW is open to him taking on another *spouse* (polygamy means multiple marital partners), they should look up “polyamory” or “open relationships” or “asexual/allosexual marriage.”

      (Not being nitpicky — “polygamy” usually brings up a lot of connotations about patriarchal religious multi-wife marriages, and that’s pretty far from what LW is interested in.)

      The words “polygamy” and “polyamory” are similar, but the Google results are very different! 🙂

      • Yep, my bad. Thanks for fixing it!

  12. sly c said:

    as the male half of a couple that struggled for a while with physical intimacy…

    this is going to be tough. regardless of your intent, your work to chose words, etc…there is the strong possibility that he will feel hurt and rejected. This is not only possible, but cannot be controlled for. We’re all responsible for how we act on and express feelings…but the elemental stuff that courses through our head and hearts? Not so much.

    The wife and I had a period where her giving me physical pleasure just weren’t working. too painful, too not what we wanted, too just not happening. Even when she was telling me that she wanted the same outcomes as I did, it was very hard to process the feelings of rejection. For us, it wasn’t as much about interest and more about unwanted pain. We got therapy help, medical help, and a big heaping of time. Things are better now (although now she’s postpartum, and so I should probably not say that yet.) We both wanted the same arc, and it was still tough to process the feelings I had. You want a very different arc than your husband (presumably) wants. Give space accordingly.

    The good news of living in the (somewhat) modern era? It is widely recognized that you own your own sexual and romantic expression, and never owe anyone sex under any circumstance. The corollary is not “we’ll always have Grindr/Tinder” but rather: he owns his sexual and romantic expression too. What you are asking may or may not be a deal breaker. That has to be okay. Just as “I know I don’t want sex” has to be okay.

    Cosigning all the folks who have said, this sounds very well meaning. Your care for his feelings and needs are clear. But that does not lessen the significance and challenge of the situation.

    There are many paths forward, and I hope you find the one that feels true and kind for you both.

  13. syrens said:

    Hey, LW.

    Having had, in the course of my life, a couple of partners (I’m poly, so all of these were already-open relationships) come out to me as asexual, I’d like to talk about some stuff.

    Listen. Hearing someone you love, and who loves you, say “I don’t want you ‘like that’ and… I never actually did” IS painful, and it IS confusing.
    Like: Your husband might wind up wondering if this retroactively means he’s your rapist (heaven knows I did…). And he might or might not be able to articulate that fear, if he feels it. He might just feel really angry and defensive and miserable and not be able to put words around why that is.

    Chances are really, really good that he’s going to need some time to process things.
    What he might (might) need, waaaaaaaaaay more than solutions for where/how to get his sexual needs met[1] is the chance to, well… to understand THAT you still love him, but also to understand (to really GROK) that you aren’t “lying” or “faking it”, on some level, when you do intimate things – like snuggling on the couch, or sharing dreams for the future – with him.

    ~*~

    [1] As a side note: Okay. I realize we’re in a sex-saturated culture, so you’re probably well aware of this, but none the less: If all I want is a genital sneeze? I have a vibrator for that. For non-aces, sex-with-someone-else (even – I say as an ex-escort – short-term, PAID sex-with-someone-else) is usually VERY tied to other forms of intimacy. Particularly when it’s sex within the context of a long-term/permanent love relationship. Jumping straight into “Here, sweetheart, let me help you set up a Tinder profile” might (maybe, not necessarily, but MAYBE) be heard more like “Here, sweetheart, let me help you find a *different* human being to use in lieu of an old gym sock for all your jack-off needs”. It might not go over so well, is what I’m saying. It might leave your husband with the impression that you think he, personally, is the kind of guy who treats *people he loves* like old gym socks, or that an intimacy that, for him, was super-meaningful and a way of expressing love and closeness with you has, for you, just felt like being used as an old gym sock. Which is a shitty way to feel, I gotta tell you.
    This is not to say that he’ll never be interested in exploring the possibilities available through opening up your marriage. Just that suggesting it *in the same breath* (or even the same week/month) as announcing “I don’t want to have sex with you ever again” is maybe not the best idea. Onwards…

    ~*~

    This isn’t a script for what to say, BUT:

    Be prepared to put some extra work into the romantic elements of your relationship – all those long walks on the beach or videogame tournements or easy talks over three-hour breakfasts or whatever physical-and-emotional intimacies the two of you enjoy sharing – over the next while. Be prepared to articulate frequently and out loud, that you enjoy doing Romantic Activities with him, that you enjoy being physically close (if you do?), that you enjoy being emotionally close. And then follow it up with actions that reinforce those statements.

    AND be prepared for him to struggle with the fact that those intimacies can still happen, and can still be true and real and Not You Lying To Him… even though they’re not going to end up going where he might want, or might have previously expected, them to end up going.
    You might hug him or snuggle him, and he might push you away – emotionally or physically or maybe both.
    Because, for him, it might feel like a really cruel head-trip that you want to touch him but also “find him repulsive” (which isn’t remotely what you’ve said, I know, but *is* very possibly how he’s going to feel when you bring this up).
    Or maybe he’ll be really uncomfortable with physical intimacy because, for him, maybe it exists on a continuum that also includes sexual intimacy, and now he feels like he has to watch himself like a hawk to make sure he doesn’t accidentally feel Pants Feelings that he’s maybe not sure he’s even allowed to *feel* for you anymore?
    He may flirt with you, during a romantic moment, and then fall all over himself back-tracking and wondering if he’s done something horribly offensive by implying that he thinks you’re sexy. And maybe that will be the case. And maybe (regardless of whether or not that’s the case) the back-tracking and “did I just fuck up” will be followed by a lot of anger and frustration around “Why can’t I have my Old Normal back?”

    I’m using a lot of “may” and “maybe” here because I don’t know your husband and I really, REALLY can’t assume how he’ll react to this. Brooks, above, has some really solid advice on that front about ASKING and LISTENING rather than assuming, and I would pay attention to that.
    It will probably get worse – or at least more awkward – before it gets better. (If it gets better). Marriage and/or personal counseling is potentially a thing to look into (if you go this route, try looking for counselors who are queer-poly-kink aware, since they’re marginally more likely to also have a clue about asexuality and how it’s a real thing that exists and doesn’t make you disfunctional or, for that matter, aromantic).

    It’s possible to uncouple Pants Feelings from romance and all the other intimacies that people share with each other when they’re in love. But, for those of us who are sexual people, it’s hard and heart-crushing (or at least can be) to do that. Your marriage might not survive this. Or it might, but you might end up sharing your marital home with your husband AND his other permanent romantic partner(s). Or any of the zillion other options between those two extremes.

    All of us who marry for love are marrying our best friends.
    That’s worth remembering.

    Good luck to you both.

    • espritdecorps said:

      This is very true and beautifully said.

    • You captured some amazing insight into sex, romance, relationships, and marriage. It really brought home the impact of asexuality (within a marriage that didn’t start out with that understanding) to me like nothing else has. Thank you for articulating all of that.

  14. Cafe said:

    LW, you you have to consider if your husband would want to be ever in a poly or open relationship? even if its just for the sex? Maybe that’s something that does not works for him, and tbh, it is not fair, he married you and you just want to hook him w/other people for sex…you are seeing a solution that only works for you at this point. This seems to come froma a place from getting rid of the blame than actually consider his feelings.

    People should explore and try to know themselves a little better before getting married (or being in a relationship if you are not shure or you don’t know yourself enough or don’t want to admit certain things) and ending up causing emotional harm to others. Like it or not, that is selfish.

    • erica said:

      This is not constructive criticism. Hindsight is always 20/20; that’s called being human. Also, people’s needs change over time, and if you feel that no one should get married until they feel absolutely sure that they know everything about themself and everything that they’re ever going to want or need…well, then you’re arguing that no one should ever get married.

      Which is an entirely different can of worms, but if that’s you’re opinion, let’s talk about how we can create healthier relationship models. Let’s have that be the focus of this conversation, and not make this about punishing LW for drinking the Kool Aid too.

      • Cafe said:

        It was mostly about your sexual orientation. Don’t engage in a relationship less a marriage if then you are going to say something like: “I’m sorry, I do not like this, I’ll try to fix it so I don’t feel guilty for putting you in this shitty situation”. People talks about thing in relationships, Sex, job, children and everything between, or at least people who actually cares.

        • Marvel said:

          You seem to have missed the part where the LW did NOT know this about themselves when they got married. Sexuality is a complicated thing, and many people never figure it out completely. It’s simply not realistic to expect people to put their lives on hold just because things may, at some point in the future, change.

          Things ALWAYS change, and often in unpredictable ways. This was one of them.

          • Neuroturtle said:

            Especially in cultures where you’re expected to be pure as the driven snow and not even *think* about sex… and then turn around and be an insatiable sex machine from the wedding night forward… except you can’t want it too much. It’s really hard to know yourself when you’re stuck in the madonna/whore dichotomy.

        • B. said:

          Hey, that sounded really judgy and out of line to me. We’re not even remotely qualified to determine whether the LW cares for her husband, but even if we were, I think her worry about her husband’s feelings and how this new knowledge about herself affects their relationship should be read as caring.

        • Anonymous said:

          Unfortunately, sexual orientation is not static for everyone, so even people who are rock-solid certain of their sexual preferences before marriage may find that changes for them. And if all that was acceptable in a person’s social sphere was heterosexuality, they may not have had the ability to figure themselves out earlier on. Being in a marriage with someone they’re incompatible with sexuality-wise is really painful for both individuals, not just one, so I don’t see how it’s a matter of selfishness.

        • toxicnudibranch said:

          Wow. That’s a pretty uncool response. LW didn’t discover their asexuality *at* their husband, or jump into the relationship thinking “Hey, you know what will be *really* fun to spring on this man I love in a couple of years?”

          People change. People discover things about themselves. Life is a goddamn messy process and judgemental responses like “well, you ought to have known yourself better”, let alone saying the LW must not “actually care” or assuming the LW somehow withheld this info is super counterproductive and insulting. Like, really fucking insulting.

          • scarybalkanlady said:

            It also plays into the pervasive idea that ace people “trick” non-ace people by deliberately entrapping them in sexless relationships or something, which makes the conversation around disclosure inherently fraught for many of us since we can literally wind up on the receiving end of violence if we’re not careful–and again, that’s something that overwhelmingly falls on ace women.

            So, you know, maybe don’t contribute that?

        • Yeah, that’s not actually something you necessarily know about yourself before you get the chance to repeatedly try–and repeatedly dislike–sex, even sex with someone who otherwise activates all those stupid hormones that make you suddenly understand on a deep level what the feeling behind “Take My Breath Away” is. Some people might be able to recognize from early on that sex is just not a thing they will ever find enjoyable, but there are also plenty of us (myself included), who have been so inundated with the message that SEX IS THE END-ALL BE-ALL OF LIFE HELLZ YEEEEEAHHHH from an early age that we keep searching out some variety of it that doesn’t totally suck until we finally realize that, for us, it all sucks, and because we’re STILL getting the SEX IS THE END-ALL etc. message, it can take a very long time for an appropriate level of soul-suckage to build up to where we can finally say, “Enough.”

          So yeah. Good for you for knowing everything there is to know about life, and yours specifically, already. Most of us are continuous works in progress.

        • pyn said:

          Hell even if LW did know that she was asexual, it is entirely unfair to bar a large part of most lives’ (marriage) simply because she lacks a libido. Marriage isn’t exclusive only to a specific set of people

          • I hope you don’t mean that in the sense of “it was okay for her to marry her husband without telling him she is asexual, even though she already knew that about herself, but chose not to disclose that”.

            Because no.

            And for the LW: It’s obvious that this is not what you did. You’re obviously struggling, and you’re obviously trying to work things out in the best possible way for you and your husband. Good luck with everything. There are some really great comments on this thread.

    • Er, selfish? Things change. People change. When I met my husband, I couldnt get enough sexytimes with him, we earned similar amounts, etc. Now, Im too ill to work, meds and health issues mean I dont want sex, and so on. But I didnt know things would go that way. And we love each other, so we work with the situation.

      Nobody is expected to have full self awareness at any point in their life. As long as youre not deliberately and calculatedly lying, then I dont think that your comment is fair.

      • attica said:

        On the other hand, this ‘unfair’ reaction is one that might just happen with LW’s spouse. And it’s not a bad idea to prepare oneself for responding to it in a safe space like this.

        • pyn said:

          But it’s becoming increasingly clear that this isn’t a safe space for LW. For example: being told that hurtful comments are just “preparing” LW for the real world and actual arguments is dismissive and does nothing to help LW at all.

    • mossyone said:

      ‘People should explore and try to know themselves a little better before getting married’- Okay so I was raised Evangelical Christian and this is actively discouraged. No sex before marriage. Masturbation= lust and therefore sinful. When you’re married you have sex, but even thinking about it up until then is discouraged. The LW doesn’t mention religion at all but this is just one possible reason they may not have been able to ‘know themselves’ before marriage. Just ONE. There are SO MANY. The LW is clearly feeling a lot of guilt about discovering they are asexual after getting married, why would you add to it?

  15. erica said:

    I completely agree that your husband will probably need a little time to process the news before you jump in with offering solutions. But when you do feel like the time is ripe for that…do you think he’d have an easier time meeting potential new partners if you were with him? What I’m thinking is that you could try looking into polyamorous/open groups that meet near you, and see about going to some meetings together.

    I notice that a lot of people who aren’t in the poly community seem to think that you have to be looking for new sexual partners to participate in such events, but this has not been true in any of the circles I’ve frequented; it’s very common to meet people at poly gatherings who aren’t there to meet new sexual partners. Lots of people go because they want to make new friends, or because their partner is there looking for new sexual/romantic partners. Also, the poly community is a place where you’ll probably have a much easier time finding people who are looking for the same things out of a relationship/friendship-with-benefits that your husband is, simply because this community is a place where people try to communicate clearly what we want, where we make a concerted effort to avoid making assumptions based on cultural relationship norms or templates. The poly circles I’ve frequented have been far and away the best places I’ve found to try out nontraditional relationship models, and find people who are respectful about that and into trying it with me.

    This is all entirely based on my own experience, of course, and I should definitely point out that I do live in a city with a huge and generally wonderful poly community. But it seems like a thing that you could try looking into in your own area, and at least see what kind of community exists?

    Good luck! Whatever happens, I really hope the two of you figure out how to have exactly the kind of relationship(s) you want to have. I think you’re really brave for talking to your husband about this and I hope it goes all sorts of awesome.

    • Aris Merquoni said:

      Ha, this was what I was trying to say, basically. I’m not involved in the poly community in my city but I have friends (and FWBs) who are, and that’s the impression I’ve gotten. Thanks for backing me up with direct experience!

      I do want to back up, LW, that going to these events doesn’t mean that people will think you want to sleep with them. I don’t think I was clear enough about that in my comment. You can show up asexual and nobody bats an eye.

      • Lisa M. said:

        I would like to point out that this is not necessarily true. While I have very little experience with the poly community, I have had several negative experiences that seem to be centered on my sexuality (I am a lesbian and therefore not “sexually available” to men.) Now. I fully realize that all groups are different and that the experience I had was outside of the norm. But. It’s something to be prepared for, in a “Well, I guess this group is not the one for me, so let’s move on to another” sort of way.

        • Aris Merquoni said:

          Ugh, I’m so sorry you got that reaction!

          I suppose my general thrust was that not all poly groups are set up to be meat markets–you’re there to hang out and meet other poly people, but it’s not like going to a swingers’ club where your presence implies that you are actively looking to get laid at that moment. People may ask but they SHOULD accept a polite no. (And they should be polite and not creepy about it! There should be a good group leader/mod who can police creepy behavior for you!) This… is not always guaranteed. But I think of poly meetups as more like munches than play parties, to use the BDSM scene terminology. You’re there to get acquainted and the only thing you have in common relates to sex, but the expectation that people will be hooking up is lower. Does that make sense?

          And yeah, if people are being gross, you can totally leave. They are not Your People.

          The all-too-common frustrating thing about women’s sexuality in some poly/swinger circles–where queer women are happily accepted as long as they’re the kind of queer women who will sleep with men and have threesomes involving men and multiple women–is an entirely separate problem that too many poly communities really need to address.

    • Ha, yeah. I’m not into dating right now, but I’ve spent time at poly events just because I happened to be in the vicinity or visiting a friend who was hosting a potluck or whatever. The “poly community” often turns into a loose network of families of liberalish bent who like spending time together.

  16. Aris Merquoni said:

    The Captain’s words, and those of other commenters, are wise. You need to split this into two conversations. The first conversation you can have now (or as soon as you feel comfortable,) which is “I am asexual, and this is what that means for me.” In that conversation you can bring up that you’d be comfortable opening up your relationship as a possibility, but the “opening up a relationship” conversation is a DIFFERENT one that happens later, after he’s had time to process.

    However, if you both decide you want to talk about opening up your relationship, there are a lot of resources out there! I recommend the book Opening Up by Tristan Taormino, which has checklists for things to talk about, interviews with people in many different kinds of open relationships, and discussions of a lot of different models. Also, unlike a lot of books on polyamory that I’ve read, she doesn’t assume that all the people in a relationship have strong sexual needs, or unfulfilled sexual needs.

    But polyamory or an open relationship model needs to work for both of you, LW, and you don’t want to start off by assuming that it ought to work for you yourself because you have to offer him sex in some form, whether it be from you or from someone else. That is not your job! Please continue to reassure yourself that you are not broken and you did not trick or trap him somehow. Yes, you married with insufficient information, but that’s not your fault and you don’t owe him.

    If both of you decide, together, that you want to explore an open relationship, then it may be less fraught to go to a poly meetup of some kind (There are some planned via Fetlife, for example) and meet other poly people as a couple. That way he isn’t socially anxious about pulling some kind of pick-up maneuver himself and you get to figure out the vibe of the people involved. This is a totally normal thing that people do, and you can make friends who can potentially be low-key sexy friends for husband at a future time with no pressure.

    I wish you the best of luck, LW, whatever you decide!

    • Anonymous said:

      Seconding (or thirding, fourthing, fifthing…) that these need to be two separate conversations. Opening up the relationship is not necessarily the answer to the situation, and he’ll need time to process and think about what his own needs are – and express them to you – before you start thinking about making changes to the structure of the relationship, LW.

      It may also be worth pointing out that I don’t see any definitive indication in the letter that LW has thought about whether or not they are okay with an open relationship…it seems more like you just think it’s a necessary ‘consequence’ of being asexual, LW. Give some thought to if you’re really okay with this. As mentioned up thread, even if your husband has every intention of not developing feelings for anybody else, it may well happen regardless if he’s having sex with them. If you’re not okay with an open marriage, it really isn’t a good idea to try and pretend that you are in interest of being ‘fair’ to him.

    • hummingbear said:

      Heartily seconding reading “Opening Up” IF you both decide at some point that an open relationship is of interest to you. Open relationships can be exhilarating, rewarding, amazing opportunities for emotional growth and joy, but they are also a lot of work, WILL test your limits at some point, and require everyone involved to have good faith and great communication skills, including a lot more emotional transparency than our culture tends to encourage in the standard monogamous model.

  17. Polychrome said:

    I wanted to add just a small practical point, which is that a lot of the framing of your original letter and some of the discussion here rely on the idea that “relatively string free sex for married men” is going to be readily available to your husband should he agree with you that that is the way to go, and that is far from reliably true. Writing the ad [n whatever form that takes] does not equal getting the hoped for responses. Down the road a ways, if your husband says “okay I am willing to do this but I don’t want to hire sex workers” the feelers he, or both of you together, put out might encounter… crickets. Married guy looking for free sexytimes is a little bit of a saturated market, as a recent high profile news story has made clear. The fact that you are on board might not make much of a difference to response rates. The deal you are proposing for him to get his sexual needs met might result in no sex for him anyway. There are lots more women looking for emotionally partnered sex than for not emotionally partnered sex, and that consideration is one that could end up part of your eventual discussions / outcomes from this.

    • Emily said:

      Yup. It’s a difficult dating market for men. The men I know who are successful in it tend to be significantly above-average when it comes to social skills. And even in those cases, emotions are happening. Girlfriends are meeting wives. Lives are being disrupted (sometimes in positive ways!)

  18. misspiggy said:

    Could I also add Dan Savage’s point if a marriage doesn’t last, it doesn’t have to mean it was a failure? The options are not just asexual marriage forever, open marriage forever, split up unhappily. The couple could decide that they will stay together as long as it’s beneficial for them both, and they may amicably split at some point. Marriage can be a way to support each other through career goals, build financial or property strength, and/or boost emotional development. When you’ve got where you both want to be, it should be possible to move on to other lives, without having to feel that you’ve failed in any way. The option of a supportive and loving ‘starter marriage’ could be useful to discuss with the husband when he’s ready.

  19. Braennare said:

    LW, since sex is/does different things for different people, I think it would be a good idea to discuss with your husband what sex means to him. And also what you still want that is physically intimate or exciting (if anything).

    I am starting to come to terms with being some sort of demi (?) myself, in general wanting nothing to do with people’s genitals and being put off/confused by the thought of sex, but at the same time wanting some other erotic/sensual stuff. And there are a few people whose genitals I actually take an interest in (two or three people in thirty years). Unfortunately this realisation is too recent for me to have been able to explore the alternatives to staying out of romantic relationships I am not genitally ok with, but I can see from the discussions in the ace/gray/demi community that the alternatives are plenty. I also have some friendships that I have started to explore as romantic friendships (I am not monogamous).

    If sex is intimate and bonding for your partner, you can together and deliberately explore other mutually enjoyable ways to cultivate intimate bonds, and to do personal exploration together can itself be very intimate and bonding. If sex is something that makes him feel welcome, appreciated, safe, there are other ways too. Maybe focus more on how you can and want to care for eachother than how you can’t?

    I know that I have, in some relationships overestimated my lover’s need for genital interaction and the importance it has to them, and in that underestimated my own importance to them as a person, which some of them have found insulting (and rightly so). I hope you are married because you are important to eachother, and that you’ll be able to follow that importance to greater intimacy, trust and understanding. A challenge can in my experience deepen love rather than kill it, if handled lovingly and respectfully.

    And with anxiety, it is probably a good idea to go slow and keep reassuring eachother that you’re safe.

    I wish you well.

  20. LW, it seems like you have put in a great deal of time, thought, and personal work into coming to this realization about yourself. You’ve even reached the point where you are able to stop asking yourself “What is even going on?” and started asking “Where do I go from here?” This is all wonderful, and I’m happy for you.

    I just wanted to throw out the reminder that your husband has *not* done any of the aforementioned.

    All of the above advice is wonderful. The first most important thing that you need to do is talk to your husband about your asexuality and what it means for you.

    The second most important thing you need to do is give him time and space to think about what it means for him. He has some thinking and personal work to do on his own, to come to terms with the changing shape of your relationship. Give him a chance to get a good grip on what is going on before you start asking him where he wants to go, or showing him all of the roadmaps you’ve worked out.

    Best of luck to both of you.

  21. Marie said:

    Fellow ace woman here!

    LW, I would like to congratulate you on figuring out your asexuality. Gaining clarity on who you are is not an easy thing to do, and you did it! You definitely deserve to give yourself a gold star and a cookie for that.

    I totally understand your anxiety at the idea of coming out to your husband. Coming out as anything is a stressful business, and coming out as asexual to your partner is even more difficult, if only because there are so many stories around of people who break up as soon as they’re come out to. I don’t know if these stories are statistically significant, but they do nothing for anybody’s self-confidence.

    Before you have the dreaded conversation with your husband, maybe you can remind yourself of everything you bring to the relationship that is non-sexual and that your husband appreciates? Like, if you make him a cup of coffee just the way likes it every day, or if you know exactly how to give him a foot massage, or how you helped him get the perfect outfit for job interviews, or you give the best birthday gifts… I know how easy it is to slip into the notion that, because you don’t have pantsfeelings for someone, you don’t have anything positive to bring to the relationship, but that’s not true. You have plenty of good qualities that make you an excellent lover, and reminding yourself of these qualities, and all the ways your husband appreciates you, can help you cope better with whatever reaction your husband will have.

    I agree with the other commenters that it’s important to give your husband some time and space to react. As much as we would like people to react positively when we rock the status quo and embark on a journey of truth, most often they freak out. This reaction is not about you (even though the situation *is* about you, not them), it’s about them. Try to hold on to the positive things about your marriage while he works through his feelings and figures out what he wants to do next.

    But the idea that your husband will freak out is a worst-case scenario: none of us here have any idea what’s going on inside his head. Maybe he’ll be relieved, maybe he’ll be supportive from the start, maybe he will say something along the ligns of “I’ve known it for years, I’m glad that you figured it out.” Maybe he’ll freak out but he’ll have the good sense to do it away from you in a way that won’t hurt you while being supportive to you.

    Good luck, and take a deep breath. I wish you the best.

  22. Og said:

    Just wanted to say, LW, if you do pursue couples counselling: be very careful – ask in advance – that you find a counselor who has a solid understanding of what asexuality is. I would hate for them to do more damage to your self-esteem over this. You do not need sessions focused on “rekindling the spark” or otherwise trying to negate your identity.

    • boutet said:

      YES very much

    • True story. We aces are a small community who haven’t really needed to be out in the way that other non-cis-hetero communities have in order to be granted basic rights, so just in my own anecdatal observations alone, the awareness of asexuality and what it means seems to be somewhat lacking.

  23. Dear LW:

    I think you are very brave and I wish you and your husband all the best.

  24. LW734 said:

    Hey everyone, LW here.

    Thank you for your sensitive responses, I’m still working my way through them.

    Just to add a little background: the Captain noted that I’m the breadwinner, in reality I pay like 90% of the bills. My husband is borderline-disabled in a way that leaves him effectively unable to work full-time but also ineligible for any sort of assistance. I’m prepared for the possibility that our marriage could end. I would be sad, but I’d survive with my life pretty much intact. He, on the other hand, would lose his home, his health insurance, his current job that doesn’t pay enough to support him, and probably would have to move back in with his parents 300 miles away (and therefore lose a good chunk of his social support network).

    I’m an overplanner by nature, but I also just don’t feel comfortable dropping in his lap “this is the situation” with even an implied take-it-or-leave-it because of the reality of how dependent he is on me financially. Other partners felt like the most likely option to explore given discussions we’ve had about sex in the past, but hey, it’s been like five years and he may surprise me! The next step remains “just talk to him, already” but I hope that sheds some light on why my letter went the direction it did.

    Also we haven’t had sex in like… three years. So he probably already knows. (I’m stupid sometimes. /facepalm) I guess what I’m really afraid of is detonating the Schrodinger’s resentment-bomb my jerkbrain tells me is festering in the center of our marriage, but at the same time I’ll never know if it’s really there or not without poking it. Like I said, the kindest thing to do now is lay out that the basic situation isn’t going to change… and give up some of my compulsive anxiety-control and let him decide what that means before I jump in with solutions.

    • catefish said:

      Good luck, LW. You are doing a whole lot of heavy emotional lifting here, and no matter what happens, you’re doing the kindest thing for you both.

    • Philippe Saner said:

      Good luck.

    • No Longer In Academia said:

      You’ve probably already thought of this, but before you talk to your husband it would be a good idea to check with an attorney to find out what the likely situation would be with regards to spousal support in the event of a divorce. I don’t want to say that you should be assuming the worst case scenario will happen, but it’s good to have complete information when there could be a big financial impact not only on your husband but potentially on you, also.

      Good luck, LW, and I hope things turn out as well as possible for both of you.

      • espritdecorps said:

        Yes. It’s really worthwhile to have the information an attorney can provide.

      • Mary said:

        I disagree with this, actually. I think the LW needs to do *less* contingency planning and control around this. There needs to be a conversation with a lawyer about the husband’s financial position in the event of divorce? The husband can do it. Or the LW can do it after the discussion with their husband. Or they can do it together.

        I cannot think of anything scarier for the husband than his partner sitting down and saying, “So here’s the thing. And here is all the work I’ve done behind the scenes to imagine and process and arrange every possible contingency. I have all the answers! I’ve planned this whole thing out in enormous detail, and, oh yeah, I did all this without ever mentioning it to you!”

        If the LW wants to stay married, they need to work *hard* at making their husband part of the solution and including him in their thinking. Checking things with a lawyer is a great thing to do in a situation where you are worried you might be disempowered, but in a situation where you are worried about someone else feeling disempowered, it sounds like a very bad idea.

        I think this has come about because asexuality is not well-known, and it feels like a secret and a stigma that the LW has had to accept themselves before they can share it. That is a crap-society problem, and I’m not blaming the LW for that. But for everything outside that, they need to learn to let go of the control and figure out problems *together*, not to try and plan for and control every aspect of the conversation in advance. That’s incredibly disempowering for their husband.

        • No Longer In Academia said:

          I’m not suggesting she does it for her husband, I’m suggesting that she does it for herself. She’s about to drop a huge bomb in the middle of her marriage, with completely unpredictable consequences. Maybe everything will work out, which would be absolutely awesome, but maybe it won’t. It would be smart for the LW to have a thorough understanding of the potential outcomes, which might not include the ‘my husband is left with nothing and I walk away with my lifestyle intact’ that she’s currently envisaging. Divorce is an emotional business, but it’s also very much a practical, financial business, too, and it can get messy and nasty. This is the one part of the process where I don’t think it’s possible to be too prepared.

          • The Aphid said:

            But what are you imagining that the LW will do with this information? Decide that there’s more risk to her than she thought and maybe not “drop a huge bomb” by saying that she thinks that no sex is going to continue as the status quo indefinitely and she would be OK with opening the marriage if that’s something her husband wants to do? Just – keep not having sex and not talking about it? Lie back and think of England? (Though after three years, that might be a bomb in its own right.)

            It seems like the conversation with the husband needs to happen, no matter what the attorney says, so it would make sense to me to start with the husband and see where they stand. If divorce is something that comes onto the table, then yes, definitely go straight to an attorney. Or talk with the husband and then talk with an attorney just to get an idea of the worst-case scenarios or to get more info about their options, etc, if that feels right. But first going to one behind the husband’s back just seems really unnecessary to me, and like something that will make it harder to start the conversation going and might distract from what she actually wants to say to him. (So basically, what Mary already said.)

          • JenniferP said:

            If you (not necessarily the LW, but global internet you) live in the United States and are contemplating divorce, go to an attorney sooner rather than later, and do it “behind the spouse’s back” since there is an adversarial aspect to divorce and discussions of divorce. Talking to a divorce attorney about options doesn’t commit you to a course of action, it just arms you with information that can help you make decisions. I know it sounds scary and final, and maybe isn’t the first step here, but attorneys consult all the time with people who end up staying married. I think No Longer In Academia is correct in that the scenario the LW imagines if they break up (husband destitute, her continuing on with all assets & income) is one of *many* possible scenarios and that she may in fact be obligated to pay some kind of support for a while or set him up financially should they separate.

          • Mary said:

            Oh, OK, it makes more sense if you mean for the LW to find out what their own position would be. I did think you meant so that they could present their husband with, “And here will be your financial position should you decide to leave me!” which seemed … way over the top!

            I still feel a bit like – in the absence of any expectation of abuse or ill-treatment from their husband, preparing for the possible end of the marriage seems kind of disrespectful. Generally speaking I am all about people understanding their own financial position and I would fully support my partner taking legal advice about what would happen if we broke up, but in the context of “have figured this out about myself”, “have thought about what my boundaries and issues would be in an open marriage” and “have figured out which websites you ought to use”, “have also figured out the financial issues if we divorce” – I would feel pretty blindsided by the fact that “actually talk to me” was the very *last* thing on their list. I would feel pretty betrayed by that.

          • Amtelope said:

            In response to “in the absence of any expectation of abuse or ill-treatment from their husband, preparing for the possible end of the marriage seems kind of disrespectful” — but realistically, the end of the marriage is one possibility for what happens now. It may not happen! There are plenty of other choices they may make, including agreeing to an open marriage or her husband deciding that he is okay with not having sex with anyone. The LW needs to talk to her husband, and then to give him time to figure out what he wants to do, as the Captain says.

            But it’s likely that divorce will be one of the options on the table, even if it’s not the option they choose, and I think it would be worthwhile for the LW to get some information about what her financial and legal situation is likely to be in that case.

          • espritdecorps said:

            “I’m not suggesting she does it for her husband, I’m suggesting that she does it for herself.”

            Exactly.
            The tone of the conversations LW has with her husband may be different knowing that she might be required to pay $900 a month in spousal support and keep him on her health insurance for the the duration of the separation and five years after the divorce is final.
            Which is a thing that could and does happen.

            Also when you’ve been married to someone for a long time, the thought of not being with them feels universe-shattering. As though the laws of physics themselves have been broken and anything could happen. The possibilities that fly through your head are both giddy and terrifying.

            It’s very grounding to be reminded that 300 years of martial law does place limits on those possibilities, good and bad. Knowing that makes it easier to be kind and realistic with each other during the process of figuring out whether and how your marriage will continue.

    • lizborino said:

      Please don’t call yourself stupid. You’ve been through a lot lately, so please give yourself a break. ❤

    • msethyl said:

      Hey there, LW, thanks for chiming in! You’re not stupid, you’re doing your best in a pretty tough situation. Good for you for being so compassionate and also for doing the hard work in figuring out who you are and what you want, even as it’s probably not exactly fitting the “happily ever after” that we’re all supposed to want.

    • 30ish said:

      Good luck with everything, LW. It’s obvious you want to do right by your husband and I think that’s great, but please don’t feel like you are 100% responsible for how his life turns out, and don’t feel like you somehow owe him to stay together. Don’t let the financial dependency be the factor that makes you stay in a relationship you’d otherwise leave (not saying that that’s what happening, just that it’s a situation that should be avoided if possible, as it tends to make everyone involved feel bad). It’s a very difficult situation to be sure, but people can adjust even after difficult break ups, and while it may seem now like your husband would be out of options without you, it’s entirely possible that new opportunities would open up that you aren’t aware of yet. And in any case you don’t have the responsibility of securing that.

    • Marvel said:

      It sounds like you’ve really thought this through–and honestly, it sounds like you have a really strong marriage, even if there are sexual compatibility issues!

      I think you are handling this all really beautifully, and I hope everything works out positively for you.

    • Dear LW:

      Given that you and he have not had sex in three years, it’s possible that when you tell him you’re ace, he’ll feel free to open up about his sexual wants and needs (whatever those may be) and will express no resentment at all

    • syrens said:

      Hey again.

      Regarding the potential resentment bomb: It may also be a relief-bomb. (It might not be, true, but it might be).
      If you’ve had talks about this in the past – and I’m so glad to hear that you have – there may well be some relief mixed in with the mourning. Which is worth being aware of. 🙂

      As for the financial situation… Thanks for clarifying that one.
      I’m not totally sure how to discuss that bit, but… If you’re trying to avoid an implied “take it or leave it”… Maybe you can say “Here’s the situation […] I love you and really, really want to keep being your wife. If, after you’ve had some time to think about this and sort out how you’re feeling, you *don’t* want to keep being my husband, I will be really, really sad, BUT we can start talking about how alimony would work, if that turns out to be the case”. Or something. (Other folks have mentioned checking in with a lawyer to make sure you know what’s what on that front). That way you can tell him up front that you’re not going to pull the financial plug on him without making that the focus of your initial discussion.

      If you’ve had talks about this already, and multiple partners seems like a likely choice he’ll make? You know your husband way better than any of us here, so there’s a good chance you’re guessing right. You might not be. But there’s a good chance of it. Maybe your anxiety-control Weasels can be fended off a bit with the knowledge of how things have gone so far?

    • LW, first off, I wanted to thank you for even writing in with this question. I’m ace and demi-verging-on-aromantic, have been happily single for nearly three years, and could be happily single for the rest of my life, but since I’m not completely shutting down the possibility of a romantic relationship in my future, I’ve read the advice and the comments with great interest to figure out how I myself might be able to navigate discussions of sexuality and open relationships in case I ever meet someone whom I like in a more-than-platonic manner. I appreciate your bravery in bringing this up for discussion!

      Secondly, I wanted to echo everyone who’s saying to just go ahead and level with your husband, because you really never know. When I broke up with my ex for reasons that were completely unrelated to our differing sex drives*, he told me that he would’ve been okay continuing to have a “passionless relationship.” Which, wow, great wording there, ex! But I bring this up to illustrate that 1) if you haven’t had sex in three years, your husband probably knows something’s up (…sorry…not great wording on my part…), and 2) if you haven’t had sex in three years and your husband hasn’t said much about it, he just might be okay with that. But you’ll never know until you talk things out with him.

      *I didn’t realize I was ace until somewhere over a year after the relationship ended. I thought I just didn’t like sex with him or with any of the partners I’d had prior to our relationship. It wasn’t until that year went by and I had a (poorly advised, as it later turned out) hookup with someone I thought was cute who nonetheless left me feeling like that was an hour of my life I wasn’t going to get back and in fact I hadn’t missed that physical intimacy at all in the past year and would never have sought it out, it just happened to get dropped in my lap, so to speak…yep. Didn’t figure that one out until I was almost 28.

    • anotheranon said:

      Like I said, the kindest thing to do now is lay out that the basic situation isn’t going to change… and give up some of my compulsive anxiety-control and let him decide what that means before I jump in with solutions.

      I think you’ve really put your finger on it here, LW. Until you tell him you’re both kind of stuck in stasis, you feeling guilty, he wondering what’s going on (because he probably is if you haven’t had sex in 3 years). I sympathise with not wanting to give him a take-it-or-leave it deal, but you can try to do that better by being clear you’re open to hearing what he has to say, what he wants to discuss, what he thinks, what solutions he has, on his timetable (with the one thing not on offer being sex with you), than by pushing options at him and saying “Option A is off the table, now pick B!”

      He might be relieved to know what’s going on and decide that he loves you, values your relationship, and he wants to stay as things are forever. Companionate marriage works as a thing for many people, and being honest that that is what you have can make it work best. He might decide he never wants anything to do with you again and that he’d rather move back in with his parents. Or he might be furious, want a divorce and pursue you for maintenance. Or very likely he’ll go “err..” be confused, angry, upset, understanding, relieved, baffled and everythign all at once and in succession and need time to think about it 🙂 In the long term, though, your biggest chance of making things work is to try and work together. The form of how things work may be unknown, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t out there.

    • Mel Reams said:

      I guess what I’m really afraid of is detonating the Schrodinger’s resentment-bomb my jerkbrain tells me is festering in the center of our marriage, but at the same time I’ll never know if it’s really there or not without poking it.

      In my experience resentment is really hard to hide. I mean, it’s not impossible that your husband is extraordinarily good at hiding his real feelings and venting to friends in private, but that seems pretty unlikely. Given how sensitive you are to even implied financial coercion I think if he were resentful about the lack of sex in your relationship your letter to the Captain would have been very different.

  25. Fangirl said:

    Ace person here in a committed relationship. I’m demisexual specifically and I just happen to be attracted to my partner. But when I came out, he and I had a serious conversation about what would happen, what his expectations were, what mine were, etc. It was important that he understood what being ace meant and that I understood his needs. He wanted to have a romantic relationship where sex was a natural and wonderful part. Again, he happens to be on the receiving end of my.sexuality attraction. But, I’m also someone whose libido is sleepy, so to speak. I told him that I’m comfortable having sex with him even if it’s more like doing laundry sometimes. That’s something I’m comfortable with, and if I wasn’t comfortable I would speak up and he wouldn’t push me.

    Nowhere in this conversation did we talk about possible “solutions” because we needed to have the first conversation first.

    Continue talking to other ace people about their experiences and how they handled these conversations. We’re a pretty awesome community and we have a range of experiences when it comes to these things. You’re definitely not alone!

  26. bunwat said:

    How about a script something like, “so here’s what I’ve realized about myself. I know that is going to be something you will need some time to consider, but when you are ready in the process of learning about myself I have also learned a little bit about some of the choices partners of ace people make. So when and if you are ready for that I’d like to share what I know with you and also work together to learn more so we can find the best way forward for both of us.

  27. Reb said:

    Sexual person in a very happy relationship with an asexual person. My partner didn’t realise she was ace until some time into our relationship — though it was different from your situation, in that we talked about it as she was processing stuff, so by the time she told me she was definitely ace, it was a hug-and-high-five conversation, rather than anything particularly fraught.

    I totally agree with the other commenters that this is a conversation about telling him you’re ace and letting him process it, not trying to present him with solutions that make a lot of assumptions about how he’s going to feel, but I thought you might find it useful to know what I felt when my partner first started trying to talk to me about this:

    1) Relief. Our sex life was not good, we hadn’t had sex in a while, I was worried that the problem was me. You said in your comment that you haven’t had sex in three years — your partner already knows something’s up. Having a name for it and knowing that it’s about what you want and need, rather than about him being repulsive/bad in bed/etc, might be really good for him.

    2) Concern for my partner. How was she feeling about this in the context of the sex she’d had previously? Had I ever pressured her into sex she didn’t want? Had I or anyone else contributed to making her feel shame or embarrassment about her identity? I think if she’d immediately started talking to me about all the casual sex I could be having with other people, it would have intensified the worry that I’d ever pressured her.

    3) Embarrassment for myself. I’m not proud of this, and I got over it, but one of my first reactions was really strong embarrassment — embarrassment not to be wanted by my partner, embarrassment to have her witness my lust for her without reciprocating it, embarrassment at not having a sex life in a subculture that sneers at “lesbian bed death”. So, yeah, maybe your partner doesn’t have the same cultural baggage I carry around sex, but if he shares some of it, I think your proposed solution, while coming from a really, really good place of loving your partner and wanting him to be happy, might just add to those sources of embarrassment.

    Good luck! I hope it goes well.

  28. Dear LW: I didn’t have the vocabulary for it until recently, but I’m pretty sure I’m grey-A / demisexual given that I am not particularly attracted to anyone until I have a strong emotional connection with them. (At that point, romance and sex are fine, and all is well. But it takes a lot of time and trust to get to that intense emotionally-connected stage.)

    I originally put it down to being “picky,” as my friends were always having crushes left and right and talking about how “cute” other people were, and having one-night stands or hook-ups they seemed to enjoy well enough. Whereas I knew I was heterosexual because women weren’t physically interesting to me at all (and emotionally connecting with them, while easier in some respects, just never led anywhere and never would, for me, even if my female friends with whom I got close emotionally actually liked women as partners), I could look at attractive men and feel mostly “meh.” I could also be strongly emotionally connected with a guy friend and yet still keep him firmly in the friend category because there was some unsuitability factor at play that prevented the right kind of emotional bonding that would enable dating. In other words, I am not the target demographic for “Magic Mike” movies or, I dunno, Playgirl magazines (pretty sure on that one), and I find it hard to grok someone being attracted to a famous actor or musician beyond recognizing that the famous person has nice features. But it isn’t just pickiness, actually, it is that lack of emotional connection because the person in question is a stranger. The closest I can get to a typical “fan crush” kind of feeling is an appreciation of the creative output of a particular person, and relating strongly to it, and having a glimmer of understanding about that person and a human connection based on that appreciation or on empathy and understanding. That’s still a “crush” on the feelings and thoughts inspired by the art, though, much more than a crush on the person, though I can feel a lot of affection and a kind of abstracted, impersonal, non-sexual / non-romantic love for them–a nice “human beings can be wonderful / we are connected in this way” positive warmth and fondness, just for being generally awesome and making or collaborating on fantastic things–and that is what can make them beautiful to me in that particular way.

    It also doesn’t help that I have been treated badly by male friends and friends of friends who refused to respect boundaries or soft “no” rejections (or who tried to swoop in and change mere acquaintanceships or long-term platonic friendships into something more intimate while I was reeling from heartbreak and depression and also appeared to be weak, wounded and vulnerable–this was not a welcomed tactic at all and I never spoke to them again beyond social niceties) or that I have been actually stalked twice (nothing like feeling unsafe in your own home and getting hang-up calls at 3 and 4 in the morning). It makes me extra gun-shy, slower to trust, less willing to meet new people and hyper-aware of safety-related issues. Obviously I didn’t need the added psychological barrier there, but we all have to play the cards we get dealt, even if they are really crappy cards. Boy, these cards can be crappy, especially if you can’t read them (i.e., don’t have the vocabulary to describe why you interact–or fail to interact–with others the way you do).

    When I have been in relationships (which was always a slightly miraculous event to me), I have tried to explain my feelings to my friends by saying something like ‘my partner is the only man I see, all other male people are just guys,’ which is a rather inadequate way of phrasing it. Most non-grey-A people seem to think they get what I am saying, but it goes beyond just being really devoted to and putting all your sexual and romantic interest into one person by choice. There was no choice made. It’s a literal statement: Instead of no men being attractive to me, now I have one to whom I am attracted, hooray, life is pretty sweet right now, I, too, can enjoy romance and sex like I keep being told I am “supposed to,” which is nice, because I do actually very much like those things once the emotional connection is there.

    Being wired this way certainly is not a choice I would have made, frankly, because it would be nice to feel all giddy and fizzy about attractive new people, and to find celebrities pleasant to gaze upon, and to enjoy the fun parts of crushes (but you can still keep the miserable parts). It would be nice to feel the possibility of instant attraction when meeting new people, rather than feeling like you are broken or an emotionless android or frigid and picky because there is never any spark and the idea of “love at first sight” is as alien a concept as waking up one morning and realizing you suddenly understand a language as arcane as ancient Aramaic. The “out of all the male people on the planet, I feel only my partner is a MAN” thing means I’d never be tempted to stray or cheat or be non-monogamous (not that non-monogamy of any consensual flavor is bad or anything, it just isn’t for me) because I literally do not see any other people as sexually attractive when I have a partner, and I’m unlikely to flirt with or become emotionally attached to anyone else when coupled up.

    The worst part may be that it takes a while to shift gears if the relationship doesn’t work out and to turn off that feeling. It can take literally years. It is heartbreaking to believe that out of approximately seven BILLION Earthlings, you may have run out of any who would be compatible with you because your interpersonal wiring is all screwy or differently-aligned. (Well, it’s OK for me to say I feel a little screwy, but I don’t want to imply ace-spectrum folks are screwy in general. I don’t believe that.) Logically and statistically that can’t be true, but it FEELS true. Personally, it is gut-wrenchingly awful to think that something is terribly wrong with you that you have only found a small handful of people attractive, ever, and that your most recent partner-person who “got” you (or used to grok you but maybe no longer does) and who you have slowly come to trust and to whom you have finally become emotionally vulnerable and attached, does not return your feelings any more (and, worse, may not ever have felt love for you with the same intensity as you did for them, once you became attached to them). You might feel like you are doomed to be Forever Alone, especially if you combine the demisexual attraction wiring with introversion or depression or geographic isolation or low self-esteem or health issues or extreme poverty or overextending yourself so your calendar is packed tight with solo or family activities or a HAPPY FUN COMBO PLATTER–there can be any number of factors that make getting out of the house and meeting new people face to face much harder. You will also have a list of Reasons Why You Suck because you aren’t conforming as expected, at least in this way.

    I’m sharing all this personal stuff mostly to say that I understand why the LW might not have known in advance what was going on, because there has not, even now, been much discussion about it. There was no Face of Ace Spectrum Feels as an example to point to when I was growing up. There were no books or TV specials or magazine articles…or anything. It unfortunately didn’t make the acey-demi-ness not exist just because I didn’t have a label for it. I certainly didn’t have the concept in mind until recently, though now that I have read up on it a bit, it seems to fit. And, obviously, aces and grey-a / demi folks do couple up and marry and can often do so happily, so it is unclear how many ace-spectrum people are really out there.

    I thought of myself as simply being extremely picky (and felt horrible about how picky I supposedly was, and emotionally beat myself up a lot about it, too) but didn’t know how unusual (but ace-spectrum, thus “normal” for ME) my feelings might be. As noted, I’ve had a couple of very happy and fulfilling relationships and still feel warmly about all my exes (even though there is one I don’t communicate with by choice, I’ve always made it clear that he’s not a bad person) and I generally have always kept myself so busy with other interests and projects that I really didn’t stop to unpack these things. I just assumed I was broken in some way, and that there wasn’t much I could do about it, and yet, thankfully, my brokenness in this area was of some minor and annoying flavor that was less important to other things about me which were much more obviously awesome. 🙂

    Even now that I don’t view the way I seem to be interpersonally-wired as a broken-ness, I am not entirely sure what to do with the knowledge that there is a label that might describe what is going on, though it explains why online dating was such a chore when I got nagged into trying it years ago. I felt terrible that I didn’t find anyone attractive on the entire site. Not a single person! I could tell they were perfectly OK people. It was much easier to find reasons to eliminate people (some, to be fair, were very good Red Flag-style reasons…but not all!) just because we weren’t face to face and talking in a setting where an anvil labeled “THIS IS A DATE” on one side (and “IS HE THE ONE?” on the other and “YOU ARE GOING TO DIE ALONE” on top and “YOU AREN’T GETTING ANY YOUNGER” on the bottom) and made up of personal and social pressure and anxious expectations wasn’t looming overhead like a kind of Sword of Damocles (instead being the Anvil of Wiley), pretty much aggressively harshing the mellow and disturbing the calm of everyone involved.

    I have no idea if this is Within Normal Limits behavior for ace-spectrum folk or not! That’s kind of why I am sharing, albeit very self-consciously. Everyone is different, right? Maybe online dating will never work for me, not only because I am in no hurry to repeat my prior stalking experiences and find going on dates with strangers about as comfortable and exciting as getting wisdom teeth pulled or going on a job interview with a hole in my shoes, but also because I just can’t connect with enough emotional depth through a computer screen to enable me to see someone as potential partner material. Now, however, I have a name for what’s going on, which makes me feel less alien, weird and wrong, and it really helps–much like it helps when your doctor can help you turn your complaint of “I feel tired, faint, weak, crabby, spacey and just generally uber-cruddy all the time, but I don’t know why” into an explanation like “you have all the classic symptoms of hypoglycemia, you dork, and here’s what to do about that.” And then you know you have hypoglycemia and you can work with that knowledge and eat when you’re HANGRY so you don’t fall out on the floor. That’s always helpful!

    So now you have a label that seems to fit a particular quality or aspect of you, LW. That was probably a wee bit of a relief, right? And you’re still the same awesome LW you were before you had the word that resonated and felt “right,” too. And your husband likes YOU, and you’re still YOU, even if you learned a new label and perhaps you thought something like, “maybe that a-word is an adjective that can sit next to my name sometimes in descriptions of me. Metaphorically, it might be like a shoe that fits, and so far my foot does not feel pinched. I will walk around for a while and listen to how my feet feel about this new shoe-thing.”

    I will say that I think that human beings are remarkably flexible, more flexible than they even know. You may think you could never be friends with someone who likes or does X thing, because you emphatically dislike and would never do X thing, and then BOOM, you meet a cool person who likes or does X thing and you STILL become friends. My suspicion is that LW’s Husband, because he loves LW, will be at least open to hearing what is on LW’s mind. And, as others have said, it may cause a light bulb to click on over his head as he gains a deeper understanding of things (and of LW). You never know. I think the only big mistake possible here is not Using Your Words and discussing it, because everyone’s Jerkbrains will always turn those little niggling pings when something unsaid hangs heavy in the air into being ALL ABOUT THEM, and then Jerkbrain will delight in telling them how terrible, unlovable, unsexy, unwanted, wrong, bad, etc., they are. (Or maybe that is just my Jerkbrain. If that does not apply to your Jerkbrain, disregard.) I suspect that an unexpressed heavy unsaid word-weight in the atmosphere is almost always worse than something laid on the table in digestible little chunks of personal truth,which is then discussed with kindness, respect and understanding.

    Best of luck, LW. I hope everything works out for the best. You are certainly not alone.

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