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Wood Ofthemorn

To label, or not to label?

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Wood Ofthemorn

As a sexual male 5 years into marriage with a suspected gray-asexual female, I've only very recently begun to understand what 'asexual' really means and that it very likely applies to my wife.  Initially, our sex life was very satisfying (to me, at least) and we were having relations 3 or 4 times a week regularly.  However, after less than a year, it began a fairly rapid decline.  I know that much of this is normal even with both partners being sexual…and so I thought that was what was probably going on.  But then I start piecing together various comments and actions by my wife that really caused me to start considering that she just has a profoundly different view about sex and I do.  And this isn’t a case where I have an unusually high sex drive or anything.  Or that I’m a selfish lover.  I’m very much the ‘giver’ in the relationship.   Nor do I pressure, or even initiate sex with her (because I’ve learned that simply trying to initiate, however playfully/gently/lovingly, is interpreted by her as anxiety-inducing pressure). 

 

But in our efforts to compromise on frequency, she’s pretty much stated firmly that because mentally preparing for sex is such a huge effort on her part, she can’t possibly commit to anything more than once a week.  (And in reality, the average frequency is more like once every 12 days…and sometimes much longer).   Before I understood how people on the asexual spectrum are likely to view sexual relations in the context of a relationship connectedness, I did not view my wife’s decree as a compromise.  From my perspective, it seemed that I was doing 100% of the compromising.  After all, I’d be happy having sex more-or-less daily.  And when I compromised (in my mind, significantly) and offered that I’d be satisfied if we could at least have sex approx. 2x a week…the response was basically “no can do.  Once a week is my final offer.”  So, in my mind, if it’s a compromise for her to even have it just once per week, then that would mean that she would prefer to have it much less often than that, or not at all…and that couldn’t be, could it?  I mean, who doesn’t enjoy sex, right?  Surely, she’s just punishing me for not being the person I should be for her, despite my best efforts to be a model spouse.

 

And now that I’ve come to a new understanding of how she has probably viewed sex all along, I’m both saddened and in a way relieved.  I’m saddened because my whole ‘love language’ is centered on touch and intimacy, of which (as a sexual) sex is a huge part….and now I feel I’ll never have the connection that I’ve been craving.  But I’m also relieved because prior this new understanding, I’ve assumed that she simply must not care about me as much as I obviously care about her, and that she purposely changed the ‘terms of our relationship’ after we got married.  I can now see that she IS definitely compromising too.  And that helps to put out (at least some of) the fires of resentment about the situation. 

 

Interestingly, she was apparently talking to a good friend of hers recently about how I have such a high sex drive and how she is ‘normal’, etc…and her friend said to her “well, I’ve always thought you were asexual and so I’m not surprised this is a point of contention for you guys”.  When my wife recounted this story to me (and this was before I found this site), she expressed how offended she was and how rude it was for her friend to say that to her.    And of course, it was literally this conversation flipped the light-switch on for me.

 

So after all of that backstory – here’s my dilemma: She’s obviously already made it clear that she rejects this label, probably out of ignorance as to what it really means.  Also, I’ve read dozens of posts on this forum and found a number of sexuals who have stated that, much to their dismay, once their asexual partners came to the realization that asexuality was a ‘thing’  and that it seemed to resonate with them, they had even less sexual compromise in their relationship.  So – given this, since she already seems to be compromising to some extent…and that a completely sexless marriage would be a deal breaker for me…is it even worth trying to set her on a path to acceptance (or at least exploration) of the ‘asexual’ label?  I do know that she is hypersensitive to feeling that she is in some way ‘broken’…and I honestly don’t know if putting a label on this would make that better or worse.   Thoughts?

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uhtred

The label doesn't matter.  You seem to understand the situation - the sex life you have is what you will always have - once ever week or few weeks.   I'm in the same boat - my wife thinks of her sex drive as "normal", even though she wants sex about once a month, but can tolerate once every week or two.

 

I only discovered asexuality recently, after >30 years of trying to find ways to improve our sex life - and those of course were all failures.  Like you I spent a very long time trying to figure out what was wrong with *me*.  

 

Your wife is asexual, and won't change.   All you can do is make the best choice you you can give the situation you are in.   It sucks.  (I use that simple term because there is no word or phrase that describes the misery of spending a lifetime with the person you love, but who cannot return your love the way you need in order to be happy). 

 

If you do  not have children, my advice would be to divorce.  No ones fault, but I don't think either of you can be happy in your relationship.   If you don't want to divorce, then you *must* give up all hope of a typical sex life.  

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AceMissBehaving

I’m sorry you’re going through this, it’s hard on both sides. In my marriage I’m the asexual one, and figured that out after getting married.

 

I can talk a little bit about what that experience has been for me on the other side, and maybe that might help you find, and have some productive conversations together.

 

To start with I thought I was a totally normal sexual person, and my partner was the one who was “off” for being so obsessed with sex. The tricky thing about asexuality is that since it’s not a case of a drive being directed in a different direction, it’s the absence of said drive. It’s a bit like being color blind. You look at the world and assume you’re seeing what everyone else is seeing, so when someone says they are sexually attracted to someone, you might assume that the feeling of (in my case) romantic attraction is the same thing they are talking about and call it sexual attraction. Not kidding, I didn’t realize people felt attracted to people in a “I would like to have sex with them” way till I was in my early 30’s

 

I used to have the same amount of resentment you talk about, but towards my husband. I couldn’t understand why he would get so difficult the longer it has been since we had had sex, and I thought he was being selfish for constantly pushing me for sex, and turning every cuddle etc into something sexual. The resentment came from the same place, a total lack of understanding.

 

Always being told the problem was me was insulting, and made me defensive. Why was I the one who had to work on it? Why was I the one who had to have awkward conversations with a therapist? What was he doing to and work on to his weirdness? Why was I the one doing everything? Sure, I know the answer now, but at the time I resented him

for making me feel broken.

 

Every revelation I had about my husband’s perspective helped put out a part of that resentment fire, and helped conversations move in a more positive direction.

 

You are possibly very correct, your wife may be asexual. It’s possible this is something she’ll come to discover for herself. Knowing this finding ways to understand each other will probably be a huge help. 

 

I’d say avoid trying to label her, and making her feel bad, broken, etc. Communication is usually more productive at a time when folks are not already upset and defensive

 

You say sex is a big part of your love language. As a first step I’d suggest trying to figure out what her love language is. Does she like being touched in any way? Cuddles, light kisses etc. Look at how she shows you love as a starting point. It might be gifts, acts of service. What are the things you do for/with her that she treasures? Maybe do some research into love languages to find a starting point.

 

I think there is a good chance you can both work it out, and find a place where you can both be happy. It might be a different picture of happiness than you originally expected to have, but different doesn’t have to mean worse. 

 

 

 

 

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anisotrophic

it helped us a lot for me to talk to my partner about what sex meant for me and learn what it meant (or rather: didn't mean) for him.

I backed way off when I realized he didn't feel attraction, that he was just doing it to make me happy. If you're not backing way off and similarly thinking "oh shit, sex with me might be like how I feel about sex with men" then I think you might not have absorbed what "asexual" means. Because it's typical for a sexual partner to cease to want sex with someone that doesn't desire them.
 

And... I do think "daily" *is* unusually high, and I'm just going to point to some biology here: when trying to get pregnant, the recommendation is that it's actually best to have sex every 2-3 days for healthy sperm to conceive. But maybe the "daily" thing is a bit of hyperbole on your part, it's natural to think you want a lot of something you don't have.

My partner became conversely more supportive of sex, learning how much it meant to me. So we've muddled along with intimacy, but it's very very different now, and less and less frequent.
 

Setting aside the label, I'd recommend you just talk about what sex means to you and learn what it means to your partner.

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SithGirl

I haven't been with my bf as long as others (5.5 years I think) and am the ace in our relationship, but I wouldn't push the label onto her. Especially since she's expressed opposition and dislike to the term being applied to her, I think you pushing it would have more negative reprocussions. If it helps you come to terms with your relationship, I think that's good as labels don't really matter other than giving some people feelings of acceptance or legitimacy. 

 

I don't know about how it would affect your relationship as I discovered asexuality before I became involved with my boyfriend and we've built our relationship along finding compromise. It's quite possible it might push her into having sex less often, and if that happened then I would unfortunately also support the idea of divorce as it wouldn't be fair to you. So unless the label is super important to you, I'd say don't push it. I don't see it helping much. 

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Wood Ofthemorn
20 hours ago, AceMissBehaving said:

You say sex is a big part of your love language. As a first step I’d suggest trying to figure out what her love language is. Does she like being touched in any way? Cuddles, light kisses etc. Look at how she shows you love as a starting point. It might be gifts, acts of service. What are the things you do for/with her that she treasures? Maybe do some research into love languages to find a starting point.

@AceMissBehaving I really appreciate your perspective on this.  Exactly why I'm here! ;)  Her love language is 'words of affirmation' - which comes easy to me WHEN she's also speaking my language (physical touch) on at least a semi-regular basis.  But I must admit, things regularly get out of sync when she shuts down the touch...then I start being less verbal.  Someone has to suck it up and keep putting in the effort to speak the other's language even when their own language is neglected, this is usually me...but it's a role I've come to accept as mine to bear.   But because she's coming from an asexual frame of mind, she tends to always think of my love language as being 'just sex', despite my assurances that, while sex is part of it, it's certainly not the only vocabulary I have and other kinds of touch matter too.  I did come up with an analogy to help her understand how I view touch - which might resonate with other sexuals to some extent and may be helpful for some asexuals to understand:

 

My sense of connectedness is like a battery.  I feel completely connected when the battery is fully charged.  But in the absence of a charging source, that battery (and my sense of being connected) will decline over the course of several days.  Since Physical Touch is my love language, it is what re-charges my 'batteries'.  And like your cell phone, no all charging sources are equal.  Sex is like a rapid charger...topping off my battery very quickly.  Holding hands is more like a 'trickle charge' - as it mostly just helps to delay the battery's discharge, rather and refilling it.  Any kind of sensual touch (kissing, long hugs, affectionate caressing of or near erogenous zones - even when it does not lead to sex) will increase the battery charge to some degree.  That last part seems to be a huge paradigm shift that my asexual wife struggles with.  For her, she would never want to be touched in erogenous zones until she is fully 'warmed-up'...and once fully 'warmed-up', she just wants to 'get there' and be done with it.   She cannot seem to wrap her head around the fact that I LOVE to be touched and even aroused, even if it doesn't lead to sex.  It re-energizes me.  Makes me feel desired.   But since she can't relate, she pretty much NEVER does this for me, despite my 'positive-reinforcement' on the rare occasions when she has.  Consequently, I go long stretches in a mostly depleted connectedness battery state.

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Wood Ofthemorn
18 hours ago, anisotrophic said:

Setting aside the label, I'd recommend you just talk about what sex means to you and learn what it means to your partner.

@anisotrophic  Agreed.  I've come to the decision that this is probably the best path forward.  I have spent a fair amount of time and energy trying to help her understand my perspective since she seems to have such a distorted and overly simplistic view of it.  Unfortunately, I don't really feel I'm getting much traction with that as she either doesn't believe what I'm saying...or it's just so foreign to her, it's going to take awhile to 'stick'.    But perhaps if I can re-ignite the conversation more focused on better understanding HER perspective, she will eventually start to more fully 'get me' as well.

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AceMissBehaving

@Wood Ofthemorn that also sounds pretty familiar, I personally love touch that feels safe (safe for me means no pressure for sex), no touch at all has to be especially hard.

 

I also recognize the I shut down, and my husband starting to stop talking, and getting terse cycle.

 

Has she talked at all about what she would like/need? I agree with your comment to @anisotrophic a conversation about her needs might be helpful, and a good way to open further dialogue. 

 

Try stay away from blame, and try keep the focus on what she wants instead of what she doesn’t want. That was a surprisingly helpful thing for me. One day my therapist asked me to think about what I wanted not didn’t want. I honestly hadn’t thought much about that till then, I just knew I didn’t want. That little change of perspective made a huge change, and conversations with my husband got a lot more productive.

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