The following is a guest post for the Carnival of Aces by Olivier, who has been a very insightful and eloquent poster at AVEN for the past five years. I personally have found his and his wife’s story quite inspiring, as I find my own attitude/tendencies to be somewhat similar to his wife’s, and had I not discovered asexuality so early in life, I suspect my own story would might have ended up sounding a lot like theirs. Here is how he describes himself:
I’m a heterosexual in a 22-year relationship with an asexual. Like many longer term sexual/asexual relationships, my wife and I had not heard of asexuality until relatively recently (2007), and for many years struggled with the failures of other theories, such as sex-aversion or libido-mismatch, to adequately describe the dynamics of our relationship. I’m incredibly indebted to AVEN for helping us put a name to something that we’d known about – lived – for decades, but had always misunderstood by looking at it through weird normative lenses instead of just seeing it for what it is.
The post is pretty much as he sent it in, but I chose the title.
So. Sexual exploration. I’d been banging around, looking for an analogy (‘cos I like analogies!) when the one I wanted sort of slapped me in the face: exploration! Or in a less 19th-century-pith-helmet way, finding somewhere nice to go on holidays together.
First, a bit of personal background. I’ve always got the impression in asexual spaces that sexual exploration is seen as something natural for sexuals to do lots of, and very much an optional thing for asexuals. I don’t necessarily disagree, but that’s not really been my personal experience. I have pretty vanilla tastes, and so in some senses I’m pretty easy to please sexually – not much exploration required. Just pack me off to the nearest beach, or city full of theatres and museums, or rainforest with waterfalls, and I’m happy. My wife on the other hand, knows that these sorts of things are generally regarded as good holiday experiences, but they do nothing much for her. Some people might decide that they’re basically a homebody and leave it at that. But not my wife, her natural reaction is to go exploring.
And so it was for us at the start. We’d do sexual stuff that I found really quite fabulous, and that my wife was putting a lot of effort into. As people who’d never heard of asexuality, and who saw both ourselves and each other as heterosexual, this seemed to me to be a perfectly normal way to approach sex and relationships. But then it would stop. And when it started again it would be something different, approached with gusto. Until it stopped. In hindsight it’s easy to see this for what it was – an asexual who thought she was sexual trying to find the thing that would do it for her. At the time however, it just seemed like the girl I was crazy about was just way more sexually adventurous than I was. Now, that’s not a bad thing, at all, but it is really, really, really, the wrong expectation to take into a long-term sexual/asexual relationship. Drama and confusion, of course, ensued.
While I was wondering what was wrong with that nice beach town with cool places to hang out, my wife would be planning a few weeks in Afghanistan to see if an element of danger made travel more fun, or a month in a place where nobody spoke a word of English, just for a challenge. And some of these places I enjoyed, and others not so much, but being with her certainly broadened my horizons. Problem was, and is, that even places that ticked all the boxes for her in theory, she didn’t much enjoy in practice. For all that drive to explore, there turned out not to be anywhere she particularly enjoyed going. And while she liked some of them well enough once she was there, she still thought that none of them were worth what you had to do to get there – airports and expense and lots of boring standing in queues.
So what’s a guy to do? My first tactic was to deal with all that boring stuff for her. Spend weeks planning. Get all the details sorted. Have things she liked – good books, tasty food – on hand for every step of the way to make all the transit fun. But when you’ve planned the perfect holiday in your head, there’s only one possible outcome: disappointment. And so with our sex life, until we finally admitted what we knew all along – all that exploration and adventure is basically not going to work for us.
So what to do?
Firstly, take a deep breath and get some perspective. For all the fact that sex is not what either of us hoped or planned, we’re ridiculously well matched and happy in every other department. In travel terms, we may not to get to travel much, but we’ve made sure our home is a great place to be, too.
Secondly, our compromise is to do stuff sexually that’s quick and not very adventurous, but is still something. Ironically, this is what works best for my adventurous wife, and leaves less adventurous me wanting more. Not at all what we would have predicted, but it works well enough for us. So it’s like taking a short drive to a beach we both like instead of spending a week in a resort, which would be torture if one of us didn’t want to be there.
And, you know, that’s not the worst, or most uncomfortable way to live. Sometimes I still get the travel bug, and sometimes even a drive to the beach is too much for my wife, but on the whole, it works, and it works well – simply because it’s shaped by the sort of people we both are. Sometimes all that exploring just makes you want to stay close to home.