Relationship FAQ

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General Questions

Can asexuals have successful romantic relationships with each other?

Yes! There are many asexual couples on AVEN, some married, and other asexual couples exist who met in different ways. The hard part is to find a compatible asexual person, but as asexual visibility increases and asexuality becomes accepted, this is expected to get easier. Asexual relationships work on exactly the same basis as sexual relationships minus the sexual part: communication, trust etc are still key but as with sexual relationships this depends on how the couple want their relationship to work.

Can asexuals have successful romantic relationships with sexuals?

Yes. The tension between the sexual partner's expectations and the asexual partner's needs can be very difficult to work with in some relationships, and many asexuals consider success so unlikely that they prefer not to date sexuals at all, but successful mixed relationships do exist. Some of these relationships are completely sexless; in others, the asexual partner "compromises" by having sex occasionally under certain circumstances; in others, both partners experiment with pseudosexual behavior and find things that work for both of them. Some asexual/sexual relationships involve the sexual partner seeking sex outside the relationship, this in no way invalidates the couples' relationship. Like with any other compatibility issue in a relationship, the key is to establish excellent communication, so that both partners can know and respect the other's situation. It is necessary to include the fact that some asexuals are Sex-positive and thus will enjoy sex with their partners.

I just don't see how asexuals can be close to anyone. How can you have a relationship without sex?

There are myriad ways for asexuals to form close bonds and relationships with others. Some asexuals keep close friendships, some enjoy 'traditional' (but not sexual) romantic couplings. Others form completely different, perhaps unique, relationships.

Asexuals can be 'more than friends' or even consider their relationships 'closer than lovers'. Asexuals can be part of traditional couplings, be a non-sexual loving partner of a polyamorous (loving many) person or perhaps part of a group marriage or some other non-conventional relationship.

Asexual relationships are a 'blank slate'. There are no rules dictating how non-sexual love is expressed. Many asexuals consider their relationships to be outside the experience of our culture. It's up to us to make up words to describe our bonds with other people.

The possibilities for non-sexual intimacy are vast. Some asexuals enjoy physical closeness, perhaps cuddling or stroking, with their partner. Some asexuals express intimacy through talking, maybe sharing their innermost fears and secrets or by making each other laugh. Some asexuals feel intimacy with their partners by sharing common interests and activities or by working together toward common goals. Others experience intimacy in other deeply personal ways or by a combination of some, all or none of the above.

Some asexuals, instead of establishing one-on-one romantic relationships, prefer to connect with the people around them in a community-based intimacy framework, establishing emotional intimacy with other people (including sexuals) without forming expectations of sexual or emotional exclusivity. For asexuals who are comfortable with this setup, it can alleviate the biggest source of tension in a standard mixed relationship (because the sexual person can have their sexual needs met elsewhere).

Is it possible to be asexual as well as lesbian, gay, straight or bi?

Yes, it is. Asexuals do not experience sexual attraction, but some experience romantic attraction, which can be directed towards either, both or all genders. Some asexuals therefore identify as gay or lesbian asexuals, while others identify as straight asexuals; others don't much care about the sex of their prospective partners, and still others don't want romantic relationships with anybody at all.

Why do asexuals want romantic relationships, anyway?

Not all asexuals do want romantic relationships. Some asexuals want romantic relationships because they experience romantic attraction. These asexuals get crushes and fall in love just like romantic sexuals do, except they do not experience sexual attraction to their partners. It is important to note that some asexuals are Sex-positive and will participate in sexual activities without the need to compromise - this of course depends on libido compatibilities.

For asexuals

I would like to date a certain person, but I'm fairly sure that they're sexual. How can I approach them without giving them the wrong impression?

First and foremost, be honest with them about how you feel and what you're capable of sharing as part of the relationship. It's important to talk about how both of you feel about each other, the relationship, and the possibility of sex.

Many people have low or no interest in sex. Don't assume that everyone else is sexual, even if it sometimes feels that way. Some sexual people will be willing to commit to a non-sexual person if they feel really strongly about them. It's worth taking the chance.

If my partner is sexually attracted to me, does this mean that their feelings are shallow and physical and they don't really love me?

There are some people in the world who enter relationships for the purposes of sexual gratification and not much else. Needless to say, these people shouldn't be paired with an asexual.

However, many sexuals really do love their partners very much. The fact that such feelings are mixed in with sexual attraction doesn't make them less "pure" or real, and sexual people don't have the power to magically take the sexual bits away from their feelings of love, even if some of them would like to for the sake of their partners.

Do I owe my partner sex because of things I've been doing with them, like flirting or kissing or letting them take me to fancy restaurants?

Absolutely not! Nobody ever owes sex to anybody else. People should always have control over what other people can do with their bodies, and you always have the right to say "no" to sex.

That said, sometimes there are situations that can lead a sexual person to expect sex, resulting in frustration for both parties later on when sex is denied. To avoid these situations, it is best to inform the other person about asexuality and your own boundaries before the opportunity for misinterpretation arises.

Even if you forget to do this, you still have the right to say "no"! It is better to frustrate your partner a little than to let yourself be pressured into a sexual decision you may regret for the rest of your life.

My partner is pressuring me to do sexual things that I don't want to do. How do I resolve this tension?

Pressure of this sort is often a bad sign in a relationship and can be a problem for sexuals as well. However, different people have different comfort zones and your partner may not be aware that their comments or actions are being interpreted as unwelcome pressure. Make sure that you and your partner have both communicated clearly about your expectations and boundaries within your relationship. With good enough communication, you and your partner may find ways for your partner's sexual needs to be met without making you uncomfortable.

If your partner does not attempt to listen to you reasonably or take "no" for an answer, but continues pressuring you, this is a very bad sign indeed. It may be best to find a better partner who can respect your choices regarding your body.

For Sexuals

I think my partner might be asexual. What should I do?

Introduce the topic to them gently. Some closeted asexuals may be afraid to discuss asexuality because they don't know what it means. They may think you are accusing them of being broken or sick. Some people prefer to bring up the fact that asexuality exists without necessarily making any implications regarding their partner, and see where the conversation goes from there. AVEN or a similar resource can be very helpful in such discussions.

In the meantime, whether your partner is really asexual or not, there are some general guidelines that you may find helpful. The importance of communication cannot be overstressed. Take nothing for granted about your partner's sexuality. Do not assume that they necessarily want to participate in any particular act with you. Respect their body and choices, even if you have trouble understanding them. Avoid creating an atmosphere where sexual acts seem like a duty or an obligation.

If my partner isn't sexually attracted to me, does this mean that they don't really love me?

No! Asexuals feel love as strongly as anyone else does; it simply isn't connected to sex for them. However, your partner may feel confused and alienated from you because they do not understand how important sex is for you and why you desire it. Good communication can help bridge this gap.

I'm sure my partner is asexual but they won't talk about it with me. What can I do?

It is hard to know what to do in these situations. It is possible that your partner is asexual but is afraid to admit it, because they think it will make them broken or sick, invalidate their masculinity, cause you to reject them, or otherwise have negative consequences. It is also possible that something completely different is going on that they refuse to talk about for some other reason. Make sure that your partner feels they can talk to you without being judged. (The assignment of the "asexual" label may in itself feel like a judgement - in such cases, it may be better simply to bring up the fact of asexuality's existence and introduce your partner to AVEN or a similar resource.)

If you have a really unsolvable communication problem with your partner and are suffering as a result, it may be time to seek other avenues such as couples therapy. You may need to take stock of all aspects of your relationship and see if it is worth continuing.

We had great sex at first but now it is totally gone. I don't understand. Is it possible that my partner has suddenly turned asexual?

There are many reasons why sex may die off in a relationship. Asexuality is one possible reason. Sometimes an asexual person will allow themselves to have sex for a while, but bad feelings about sex will build up in their minds and they will find themselves unable to do it anymore. Or they may at first have sex because they see no other options, but then cease to do it as they learn more about themselves.

There are a lot of other reasons why a person could at first have sex with their partner but then stop. To some extent, a reduction in sexual behavior is normal once the novelty of a sexual relationship wears off. Further reductions can happen because of anything from stress to illness to a problem in the relationship. All of these things (including asexuality) should be worked through together.

My partner masturbates and/or watches pornography, but doesn't want to have sex with me. How is this possible?

Some asexuals (though not all) have sex drives, but see them as a private thing that should be taken care of alone, like going to the bathroom. Some of these asexuals find it helpful to use pornography to speed the process along. While not sexually attracted to the people in their erotic materials, asexuals with sex drives can sometimes pick up a general feeling of sexuality from such materials. Some asexuals even have sexual fantasies, although they do not wish to carry out these fantasies with real people in real life. However, it is also possible that your partner is sexual, but wants to avoid having sex with you for some other reason. The best way to know is to talk to them openly.

What exactly is it that asexuals will and won't do? (kissing / cuddling / fill in the name of a pseudosexual act here)

This depends entirely on the asexual in question. Some asexuals dislike any physical contact at all. Some like to cuddle, but nothing more. Some enjoy any number of activities that most people see as sexual, and some are all right with having sex provided that they trust the other person enough. The only way to tell what your partner enjoys, what they are comfortable with, and what's unacceptable for them, is to ask.

I want to stay with my partner and support them but the lack of mutual sexual feelings is killing me. What can I do?

Communication is essential, but it does not always solve everything. Sometimes, despite everyone's best efforts, a mutually satisfying compromise cannot be reached. Sometimes, people stay in such a relationship and put up with mutual frustration for the sake of their love and commitment to each other. Other times, the relationship must end.

You should know that there are places where a person in your position can get support. The "For Sexual Partners, Friends, & Allies" section of the English AVEN forums is visited by many sexuals in relationships with asexuals. There are also many unaffiliated support groups for people in sexless relationships. You are not alone.

About Asexuality
General FAQ · FAQ for parents of asexuals · Relationship FAQ · Objections to asexuality