Making Sense of Things

I’ve had a draft of this epic-length post sitting around since sometime in the middle of last month, but I’ve been vacillating about whether I should finish and post it because every time I reread it, it seems too self-indulgent to me, and too far off-topic (and also, because the time I have spent not finishing it has distanced me from it enough that it almost seems not pertinent anymore, but then of course I still keep coming back to it…). I suppose it isn’t really, and my dismissive attitude towards emotions just makes it seem that way. It’s hard for me to keep a balanced perspective about these things, since I am so heavily biased towards rational thought. Still, I try not to make too many posts like this because I don’t want to start getting annoying, and end up sounding like some twelve-year-old girl who can’t help but mention her crush at every opportunity. At the same time, though, I don’t want to deny my experience, and though it might not be outright denial, to not mention M’s contribution to my life would at least be a significant oversight. Indeed, it was his influence which ultimately led to the creation of this blog. I would never have done such a thing if I hadn’t needed to distract myself from the pain of losing him, if I hadn’t had the experience of being with him in the first place. I have no penchant for dramatic overstatement (especially not as clichéd as this)—really, I am much more fond of the ridiculously understated—but his effect on me was such that I don’t know where or who I would be today if I hadn’t met him. He changed me, permanently. For the better, I think. And even if at some point my love for him fades away, my gratitude at least will ensure that I always have a soft spot for him. So I will indulge, in the interest of getting it out, off my mind, and maybe making room to heal.

I am incredibly happy and grateful that M decided to get involved with me, because he enriched my life so much. And yet, I think he made the wrong decision by getting involved with me in the first place, if he wasn’t willing to listen to what I had to say and make allowances for my so-called “sexual disability.” It is bizarre to think that something which was, for me, so uplifting (no matter how frustrating it was at the same time), could have been, for him, a grave error in judgment. Maybe he does not perceive it as such, I don’t know; but I do, and I find it somewhat difficult to accept that he of all people could take such an attitude.

A lot of it was my own fault, I won’t say it wasn’t. I realize now I should have pushed him from the beginning to actually talk to me, instead of just accepting it when he (apparently not understanding what I was trying to do) cut off my attempts to start a discussion. We have two very different styles of communication, such that I really didn’t understand how to approach serious topics in a way that would be effective with him. He likes a very direct and straightforward approach, and although that was how I *wanted* and was *trying* to communicate with him, the problem was that he had absolutely no idea about any of the concepts I would have brought up. He wanted me to just say what I wanted to say, but if I had done that without any preamble, he would have completely misinterpreted me (and did several times). He had to be educated before he could possibly grasp what I was trying to say, otherwise he would interpret my statements according to the framework of understanding he already had in place, which would (and did) lead to many false assumptions. It was necessary to establish a new context before proceeding, but he resisted my attempts to do so because he thought I was only beating around the bush, and I wasn’t articulate enough to explain what it was I was really trying to do. I’m sure I sound articulate enough here, but when put on the spot, I find it extremely difficult to explain myself. There were so many times that I had figured out what I wanted to say beforehand, but then when I actually talked to him, I discovered that I had assumed he would understand certain things that I hadn’t thought about how to explain. Trying to think about it while he was pressuring me to say something made me lose my confidence in my decision, and it disintegrated from there. I wonder sometimes if he even has the capacity to understand my position, since it would require a grasp of subtlety and a level of compassion that he never once demonstrated, to say nothing of the amount of patience he would have to have to get to that point anyway. But I’m convinced that thought is unfair. Perhaps I overestimate him. But I do think that, if my ability to communicate with him had been perfect, he could have understood. He’s certainly smart enough, he just doesn’t seem to care enough to be patient with me, and understandably so since I am so ridiculously difficult to deal with, when it comes to spoken communication. So in large part, the failure was mine.

Still. Communication is a two-way street, and being willing to listen to a sexual partner and work around problems is, in my view, simply a part of practicing (emotionally) safe(r) sex, and that applies to casual partners just as much as committed partners. Granted, neither one of us is particularly emotional, but it’s still an important aspect to consider, and doubly so since I was going way outside my usual boundaries by even thinking about having sex in the first place. Not only that, but even without sex thrown into the mix, it’s an important part of friendship, which is where I wanted the emphasis of our “friends with benefits” type relationship to be. Normally, I refuse to be friends with people who aren’t accepting of asexuality. I don’t need to deal with the drama of being out to those people, so whenever I meet new people I make sure they know I’m asexual before I get close to them, and if they react negatively, I distance myself from them. I suspended that judgment for him because we got on so well otherwise that if in time he could begin to understand, it would have been well worth the initial frustration. It is disappointing, to say the least, that it never got there, but it’s something I prepared myself to deal with beforehand. I knew the most realistic goal to set was just to see him once more and enjoy being near him for a little while. Get a little bit of experience out of it. So I got what I wanted and expected, but not what I ultimately hoped for. After a year, it was clear I wasn’t going to get anything more out of him. His attitude was basically, “Your problem, not mine.” Which is unacceptable even for a friend, much less for a sexual partner.

And for him in particular, it’s so much more wrong because of his general attitude towards life. This is the part I have trouble making sense of. Physically, he is meticulous about practicing safe sex. Not only that, but he is unusually meticulous (and that’s one of those ridiculous understatements I’m so fond of) about health risks in other areas of his life as well. He makes a point of being aware of the health effects of products like shampoo and deodorants, which most people never give a second thought to (or even a first), and he acts on that awareness. He does not like putting anything harmful on or in his body, and I don’t see why that attitude wouldn’t extend to the emotional side of sex as well. The side effects of having sex with someone who is not emotionally prepared for it can be quite devastating, and I think he does know it. It’s one thing to have sex with someone you never plan to see again, and in that case there doesn’t need to be any discussion, but this wasn’t like that. By the time we came to an unspoken agreement to be “friends with benefits” (which his handling of was one other thing that bothered me, to the point that I was so angry with him that for a little while I wasn’t sure I would ever speak to him again), he knew I had issues with sex. I told him, and I thought it was pretty clear that my asexuality was a practical concern, which needed to be worked around (I suppose he was too busy trying to deny it to see it for what it was). Why, then, would he put himself at risk by continuing to associate with me without attempting to address those issues?

Maybe it’s unfair that I hold him to a different standard than I do other people, maybe it’s only that I seek answers about him because I was so closely involved with him (not closely enough, apparently) and he had such a profound emotional effect on me. (I do of course work through my emotions by overanylizing them.) Yet this was even more true of my ex (way back when, anyway), and I never bothered trying to figure out his strange behavior. He was also asexual, so he certainly didn’t present me with the same type of puzzle, that much is true, but he did have many odd emotional (over)reactions that I didn’t understand. I think, rather, that it is because M presents himself as a rational person, whereas my ex presented himself as a very emotionally sensitive person (with extenuating circumstances that would naturally cause him to be more so), that I hold one to this standard but let the other slide.

I suppose there is one other key difference in the way I interacted with the two of them, which may be driving my brain’s nagging insistence that I solve this puzzle once and for all: closure. With my ex, I had more closure than I could possibly want, and the two of us started to irritate each other so much in our attempt to remain friends that when he finally said, “No more!” I hardly missed him. There was no real heartbreak there because there had been so much drama in the latter half of our relationship that I didn’t really have the energy left to feel too hurt. Not that it didn’t hurt at all, but by that time it was actually somewhat of a relief, because at least he didn’t expect me to fix him anymore, and wasn’t blaming his own instability on me. It was just too much of a burden to place on me; the relationship had long turned codependent, so of course I didn’t miss it when it ended. With M, on the other hand… there was none of that. There was just one argument, and then he was gone. Just like that.

I realize I am taking the risk, by putting this up here, that he will eventually find it. Not that he would have any reason to be sniffing around asexual blogs, really, so it’s a low risk, but a risk nevertheless. There is enough detail here that he would most certainly recognize himself, and I doubt he would really care what I have to say about him, but still. That’s not my concern; but I am, to some extent, making myself vulnerable to him by putting everything up where he could read it if he wanted to do so. I am giving him this potential window into my life, my self, that otherwise he wouldn’t have. He could, if he wanted to, take this information and use it to his advantage; he could easily manipulate me if only he is willing to lie. But that’s not like him (at least, I don’t think, but maybe I’ve been duped this entire time, who knows. If so, then he ought to act professionally, because that performance is worthy of an Oscar). I don’t believe he would do that, even if it didn’t require so much effort. He’d sooner needle me about it than lie to me. I trust him. Yet even so, I am wary of that feeling, because I don’t want to be gullible enough to get myself into a bad situation. In a very real sense, I don’t trust myself to trust; instead, I act on calculated risk. And the risk is there, but it is very, very low, so I will post this with the expectation that he will probably find it someday (because it would be stupid not to prepare for that contingency, especially since eventually I will probably break my own anonymity), but not worry about it unless the time comes that we are in contact with one another again, and at that point, I will carefully monitor his behavior to see if there are any unhealthy patterns, and determine whether it’s worth it to continue associating with him. Just the same as I did before.

This is my process. This is how I go about making decisions: with the (often acute) awareness that I can be manipulated, not just by others but also by my own emotions as well. So I tend to watch both myself and other people carefully, and dig deep for the real meanings behind whatever I’m immediately feeling, which are usually not obvious right away. I have been told I am overly cautious and risk not having any fun, but often the people who tell me that have a very different idea of fun. Although I do occasionally make bad decisions, it’s extremely rare that I have any major regrets; most of the time I am quite satisfied with the way I’ve done things, so if that’s a good measure of how well my way of doing things works, then I guess I would have to say I’ve been successful.

The one time I had a major problem with M (or rather, the time when that underlying problem came to a head), I tried to explain this process to him, and he completely misinterpreted me. Completely. He didn’t understand that I was not seriously suggesting that he would have raped me (even though that is exactly what I said), but explaining that was the (sudden, unexpected) fear I had at the time (which, in retrospect, I think I probably would not have had if I hadn’t so recently suffered such an egregious betrayal by K; she really made me paranoid). I think he just spooked at hearing the word “rape” and didn’t actually listen to what I had to say. He cut off all contact with me immediately, giving me no chance to clarify. Which, personally, I think is hardly the best action for him to have taken even if I had really been as malicious and spiteful as he imagined me to be. Hasn’t he ever heard that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? If I really had been manipulative and unstable enough to threaten legal action against him, wouldn’t it have been unwise to risk rousing my vengeance by cutting me off like that?

He seems not to be a very good judge of other people’s emotional reactions, in general. Of course, he is a thinking type, and emotions are expected to be a weakness, but even so, I’m a thinking type too and these things are, to me, just common sense. I suppose he’s at an additional disadvantage in that arena because he’s an only child, and apparently did not have enough interaction with other kids to know such basic things as not to trust them not to tattle. He fails especially at understanding subtle hints—he has a very straightforward, simplistic way of thinking, and any kind of complex, layered speech goes right over his head (like hints, for example, that one would like to speak to him alone). Since women are taught to communicate with so much hinting and hedging, as if they have to apologize for having any ideas at all, of course he would find it difficult to understand what has long been a socially-enforced habit for me (though I would dispense with it if I could get away with it, I already have enough social difficulty as it is, without that added weirdness). I have serious doubts, too, about his ability to put himself in another person’s shoes. He seems so stuck in his own way of thinking, and unwilling to even consider anyone else’s point of view. Part of that comes from being so privileged (as a man, why would he consider my previous example of the way that women are pressured to speak, and what constraints that puts on my own (already somewhat strained) personal expression?), and the other part is arrogance, which he admits has long been a problem for him.

Most disturbing to me is his unwillingness to re-examine his beliefs about the world. This probably requires a bit of background information, since I suppose it would be fairly normal for most sexuals to reject the idea that someone could not feel sexual attraction and still be considered normal (speaking in terms of health, not demographics). However, M’s background and general attitude toward life gives me different expectations from him when it comes to being faced with challenging new ideas. He is an ex pastor, now a staunch atheist. Fundamental to his worldview is the idea that many Christians exist in a state of denial, and will go to extreme lengths to protect their ideas about the world. He finds this attitude quite unhealthy, and has himself on several occasions (besides his de-conversion, as I understand) had to re-examine his beliefs and come to the conclusion that he was wrong. One would expect, after he had suffered this state of denial for so long, that he would become more open-minded to guard against the possibility of doing the same thing in other areas of his life (well, I would, if it were me). I suppose this tendency to stick so adamantly to his convictions might actually be a part of his personality, which made him more likely to adopt these religious views in the first place, rather than a result of what he was taught to believe. I used to have a very hard time believing that he could have ever been religious, but after a while I began to see (discomforting) parallels between his way of thinking and a Christian mindset, and it began to make sense why those ideas would have appealed to him at one point (still, it is only a vague sort of sense, and I would rather hear him explain it himself, if ever I have the chance). Given this background and set of values, I would have expected him to (eventually; I also realize he is quite arrogant and stubborn) at least learn about asexuality and consider it as a possibility.

That was a requirement for a continued sexual relationship that he would not fulfill, so he was demoted to being “just” a friend. After that, I would have been happy if he had at least heard me out, and agreed to disagree, as friends usually do. He wouldn’t even give me five minutes, even though I was used to listening to him rant for hours, and that’s not the kind of friend I want to make. Of course, our history of sexual involvement doesn’t help either, because that’s what informs my interpretation of his actions now. I noticed that his attitude towards me took on an unacceptable pattern of being extremely reluctant to listen to what I had to say (which made it all the more difficult to explain, self-reinforcing cycle, etc). Ultimately, it comes down to him not caring enough about me as a friend or otherwise to treat me the way I expect and need to be treated. I would be surprised, if he ever found this, if he even bothered to read this far, because I don’t think he cares that much. He thinks asexuality doesn’t significantly affect him, so he doesn’t want to learn about it. (Isn’t that exactly what other people think about the those chemicals in shampoos and deodorants?)

I don’t know in what universe it makes sense that asexuality hasn’t affected him (although I guess it makes sense that it no longer affects him, now that we aren’t friends anymore), given that he has been in a sexual relationship with an asexual person with the result that, due to his unwillingness to listen long enough to understand and try to accommodate it, he ended up so afraid of me for a few weeks that he felt it necessary to completely cut off contact with me. The way I am reading this is, and this may not be the way he meant it, is that if he doesn’t think asexuality has affected him at all, then that necessarily implies that I haven’t affected him at all. And I absolutely cannot, and will not, invest in someone who makes it so clear that I mean nothing to him, even as a friend. I’ve had enough “friends” who don’t care about me at all to last a lifetime already, and I’ve learned my lesson. I’m glad I met him and had what experiences I had with him, but it would be a very grave error on my part to continue associating with him after that.

If indeed I didn’t affect him at all, I suppose that means that he didn’t really make a mistake after all, because he could afford to not take emotions into consideration, but that two-week fiasco in April would seem to indicate otherwise. It comes back down to not practicing emotionally safe sex, and not being aware enough of the risks involved to make a good decision. I am glad, however, that he didn’t make the right decision (based on his own values as I have derived them), since if he had been aware of what he was getting into in the first place he probably wouldn’t have done it at all.

It seems almost manipulative enough to make me uncomfortable, that I let him get into this “mistake” without understanding anything, knowing it was probably going to turn out this way, except that I wasn’t being manipulative, because I did disclose and he made the choice not to try to understand what that meant (of course, arrogant as he is, he thought he did). I should have pushed him more, yes, and if I am ever in that kind of situation again that’s what I’ll do, but I can only make half of the decision for how a relationship turns out. It is difficult to convince someone so stubborn, especially since at the time I really didn’t know what I was doing. It’s hard to communicate boundaries and limits when you don’t even know what they are. Now that I do know, I will have a much better idea of how to act next time I am in a similar situation. If nothing else, by writing this post I’ve been able to articulate several of the things that went wrong, even if I don’t necessarily understand his point of view any better than I did before. Now, I can start to put this behind me, since I have some semblance of closure (though how can I truly have “closure” if everything is out in the open like this? Still, I need to air it out, or I won’t heal). It is my hope that reading my personal experiences will be able to help some other person in a similar situation. And if by some small chance M ever does read this… who knows, maybe he, too, will begin to understand. I won’t hold my breath.