A mini-rant about idealism

This post is for the August Carnival of Aros on the topic of “Relationships.” Content warning for mentions of abusive relationships.

One of the prompts for this month asks, “What does an ideal relationship look like to you?” and I feel annoyed by the question. Maybe a reasonable response to that would be to ignore it and leave it unanswered. Perhaps I should do that. But… I am of the opinion that probing this sort of emotional response can be productive and lead to interesting directions of conversation, so I am not going to do that.

I dislike the assumption that there is such a thing as an “ideal relationship” in the first place.

I mean, I think I understand what this question is getting at, and I understand that this was probably just unintended clumsiness in the wording that perhaps could have been ironed out with some editing, but it really feels overly narrow to me. I feel like, in the context of an aromantic setting especially, asking us to think about only one kind of ideal relationship is… odd?

My ideal relationship with my mother is going to be different from my ideal relationship with my partner, which is going to be different from my ideal relationship with a friend, which is going to be different from my ideal relationship with my sister, and so on. Even within a single category—let’s say partners, since this is the closest to a conventional interpretation for this kind of question—my ideal relationship with one partner is not going to be the same as my ideal relationship with another one. People are not interchangeable. Each relationship is different. What I get out of it and where I want it to go will vary, and what’s more, it will also change over time. What I wanted ten years ago is not necessarily the same as what I want today.

All that aside, I also have another problem with this kind of question. The entire idea of dreaming up an “ideal relationship” doesn’t make sense to me. I find it entirely unproductive to dwell on ideals, because they are inherently unattainable. Real people and real relationships will never match up with an idealized fantasy scenario, because people and situations are complex, and never perfect.

That doesn’t mean that I think it’s never helpful to fantasize about what could be different. In a relatively positive relationship, when there is a problem that comes up, it can be very helpful to imagine what you would have ideally preferred to happen differently, so that you can communicate that to the other person and hopefully work on changing it (although it may not be easy). And in an abusive relationship, the ability to imagine a completely different set of behaviors—positive, nurturing, caring behaviors—can be even more crucial, because losing the ability to imagine something better can keep people trapped in these situations for a long time.

But too much idealism can be dangerous, because ideals are what manipulative people prey upon. They are good at figuring out what people idolize and making themselves appear to embody those traits. Otherwise, the manipulation usually fails.

I also feel that having one very specific, detailed, ideal fantasy relationship in mind can keep people from appreciating the relationships that they already have, and lead to feelings of resentment and frustration as people fail to live up to that ideal.

So for all those reasons, I feel that it’s inadvisable to imagine what an “ideal relationship” is in sufficient detail to be able to answer the question, “What does an ideal relationship look like to you?” I am uninterested in people’s answers to that kind of question, unless they too are questioning the entire framing of it. I would rather hear about how people’s relationships work out in practice, rather than their hypothetical unfulfilled ideals.

Aro-ish: Permanent Questioning & the Aromantic Community

This post was written for the Carnival of Aces & Aros. The Carnival of Aros is a new sister project that will be separate from the long-running Carnival of Aces, but just to kick off its first round, The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project and The Asexual Agenda are hosting it jointly on the topic of “The Relationship Between the Aro and Ace Communities.” For further details, check out this introductory post. This post is cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.

Content note: This post has some discussion of trauma in relation to romantic orientation. Continue reading

Being Bi/Ace, Part One: Scrutiny About Attraction and the Kinsey Scale

This post is for the May 2018 Carnival of Aces on “Nuance & Complexity,” which I am hosting. Please check it out and consider submitting! Cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.

I have some frustrations with the way that attraction is discussed in the ace community, which are related to and further amplified by biphobia/bi erasure. This will be part one of at least two parts, because this is something that’s really complicated for me, and so difficult to talk about that it’s been sitting in my drafts folder for more than two years! So strap in, because it’s finally time to do this. Continue reading

Identity vs. Labels, Culture, & Change

This post is for the January 2018 Carnival of Aces, on the topic of “Identity.”

This is going to be completely off-the-cuff rambling, so bear with me if you will. There’s some stuff that I’m trying to get at that is very difficult to describe, so I’m doing it in a roundabout way. I’m also barely editing this post before I publish it, because I tried writing about this before and then scrapped the entire draft last minute because I didn’t like how it was going. Instead, I’m just going to do a “thinking out loud” style post.

I don’t really like writing about (my own) identity.

There. I said it.

Maybe that’s surprising to you, I don’t know. Maybe not. It seems like it might be surprising to some, considering that the entire reason I started this blog was to discuss a particular identity, asexuality—and more specifically, gray-asexuality, which I no longer identify with. There, I suppose, is part of the reason I don’t like talking about identity. When you’ve come to be known for having a particular identity, and then that changes? Well… Continue reading

Updating the Map: Romantic Attraction and Friendship vs. Romance

This post is for the October 2015 Carnival of Aces. The theme is aromanticism and the aromantic spectrum. Cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.

Until relatively recently, I never considered whether I might be on the aromantic spectrum. It was patently obvious to me that I’ve experienced whatever feeling it is that people refer to as “romantic attraction.” It didn’t really matter that I’ve only had that happen (with complete certainty) once—if it happened once, then surely it could happen again. The potential was all that mattered. Except as the years went on, and I tried very unsuccessfully to find someone (else—I’ve been polyamorously partnered for the past seven years) to date, it’s started to seem less and less like that potential feeling is accessible. So after much consideration, I’ve started identifying as greyromantic. Continue reading

Guest Post: Interview with C on Aromanticism and Relationships

Back in 2012, I had my partner C* do an interview with me, because I had been getting requests from non-asexual partners of asexual people for advice and I thought her perspective would be helpful. Since then, we’ve been through a lot, including becoming totally celibate and far less romantic. In the past year, she’s started to identify as aromantic. So I thought it was worth revisiting.

For context, she is bisexual and trans. We’ve been together for seven years, minus a short breakup, and have been polyamorous from the start. Right now we’re sort-of viewing our relationship as basically a queerplatonic type of thing. These questions were mostly submitted to me by readers, although I tacked on an extra question at the end today based on an interesting comment C made last night.

I’d like to thank everyone who submitted questions! There was one she really had no idea how to answer at all, so that one has been taken out. Sorry! But she really tried her best with all of the rest, and I hope you enjoy her perspective. If you have further questions for her, she’s open to answering them in the comments. :)

(* C stands for “Cupcake” which is her original chosen pseudonym on this blog. She may comment here using that name, or she may choose something else again. She doesn’t tend to stick with the same pseudonym, but generally they all start with C.) Continue reading

Romantic Confusion

I got to thinking a little while ago about how we usually talk about asexuals having two distinct orientations (asexual, x-romantic). According to this way of thinking, asexuals then fall into two categories: romantic, and aromantic (with further categorization of the former according to gender preference, but those are the basics). I’ve always found this categorization system rather confusing, because it’s not clear at all what we mean by “romantic.” Romance means different things in different contexts, and in trying to apply this word to a new context, we get confused about which definition we’re trying to apply.

Obviously, it’s clear we’re not talking about styles of prose or poetry, nor does this have anything to do with the Romans. We all know we’re in the general ballpark of love, but beyond that, there are several different ways to interpret it.

If I were to hear someone called “romantic,” the first thing that would come to mind is a personality trait: I would imagine that person as someone with a very idealistic, fanciful outlook on love relationships, which calls to mind princes on white horses. I would think sappiness, naivete, and rescue complex. Red roses, starry skies, candlelit dinners. A person who likes all these things (which are anathema to me). From the context, I can eliminate this interpretation, because I know from my experience with the asexual community that that’s not what we’re referring to, but a person who doesn’t have that background with asexuality would likely be confused. It has always bothered me that the words we use to describe someone like me has this connotation as well, because I am much more of a realist when it comes to love affairs.

But in the context of asexuality, it’s fairly clear that’s not what we mean. According to the AVEN Lexicon, a romantic person is one who experiences romantic attraction (to whatever gender is specified). Okay, then. What’s romantic attraction? According to the wiki:

Romantic attraction is a feeling that causes people to desire a romantic relationship with a specific other person. …

What exactly constitutes a romantic relationship or romantic attraction is difficult to define, and some asexuals reject the romantic/aromantic dichotomy altogether.

See, we even outright acknowledge that it’s not well defined. It seems to me that there are two different components to this so-called “romantic attraction:” structure, and feeling. Continue reading