This post has been cross-posted to my tumblr. Read it there instead, if you’d prefer.
Pegasus hosted the November 2014 Carnival of Aces, and the theme is “Expectations in friendships/relationships” – you should consider submitting something for the current month, whatever it is! My submission is below.
When I was around 20 years old, in college, and an online acquaintance mentioned having asexual friends, I asked her to clarify and she sent me a link to the AVEN homepage. I vaguely realized, on some very far away/buried level in my mind that I might be asexual as I read the definition, but I had so completely convinced myself that I was actually a very (100%) inexperienced straight girl that no, that couldn’t be me. I’d had crushes before (although, now, in retrospect I’m not 100% sure they were actually romantic crushes, which contributes to my current WTFromantic orientation label I’ve embraced), I could find certain guys, especially celebrities, (aesthetically) attractive, etc. I had all these hopes and dreams and EXPECTATIONS that one day, I would be in a heterosexual romantic relationship and suddenly all the love songs, all the romantic subplots in fictional books/movies/tv series, etc would make sense and I’d feel what they felt too.
I was the girl who didn’t feel broken, who felt rather happy and whole and human and full of plenty of self-esteem, therefore I must have been a “sexual being”, too, and while every time people spoke of sexual desire I was confused, I figured once I got into a relationship it’d all make sense. Once I started dating, I expected to enjoy all aspects of dating, including the kissing & sex.
So when I graduated college and I was encouraged to get into online dating, I decided to go for it.
I graduated in May 2012, when I was 22 years old, had an extensive foot surgery in July and by November 2012 I was recovered and able to go on my first date EVER. And I tried to keep my expectations low. It was online dating and even though I liked this guy enough to pick him for my first date ever, even though we were compatible enough on OkCupid, I was wary to expect much of anything from my first date ever. And I was thrilled by how well we got along, how easily we were able to talk for hours, how even though our date was just supposed to be a movie and then dinner, we ended up talking for many, many hours and hanging out in a bookstore and just enjoying each other’s company. And at the end of the date, he leaned in to kiss my cheek – or rather, to kiss me, maybe on my cheek, or maybe it was my fault it ended up being a cheek kiss, I’m not sure if I jerked away awkwardly or what. But I really enjoyed the intimacy of the cheek kiss too, and I parted from him high as a kite. I was not disappointed by anything, because I’d had low expectations and everything had gone very smoothly.
However, on our second date, that’s when my expectations came crashing down into extreme disappointment. I expected to have a good time with him but many little things made it less-than-enjoyable. He was an entire hour late to our D.C. museum visit, and after 3 hours walking around the museum, he forced us to walk way further than my barely recovered foot and extremely out-of-shape body could really handle. He insisted upon us walking (rather than taking public transportation which we could have!) to a restaurant that I didn’t realize until we were already on the date that he’d never been to before, and the food ended up being pretty awful; neither of us enjoyed it. He suggested holding hands during our date and I quickly realized I hated hand-holding, my hand felt sweaty and uncomfortable, squeezed too tight or whatever, and I think deep down I had expected to enjoy finally being able to hold hands with a boy so that was a disappointment. This guy who I had adored my first date with continued to make this second late less than enjoyable for me in many ways, as he refused to be flexible about the movie we’d see once the one we’d originally planned to see was sold out and we ended up taking a taxi across the city just to see it. And then as we walked back toward a metro station at the end of the date, on the sidewalk, he leaned in to kiss me, and I experienced my first ever kiss. It was awkward so we tried again. And again. Just standing there on the sidewalk. He acted a little too surprised for my liking upon finding out this was my first kiss ever and I felt like bursting into tears from embarrassment. He suggested I try using my tongue more. We tried making out multiple times while on that sidewalk on our walk back to the metro that night. But the main problem that was contributing to me wanting to burst into tears, in addition to the overall disappointing date, and in addition to him reacting the “wrong way” to my inexperience level, was the fact that my expectation that kissing would make sense and be enjoyable once I tried it was not happening. I didn’t enjoy kissing him. At all. I instantly started analyzing (and overanalyzing) the whole exchange. I asked my brother if he experienced not enjoying kissing his girlfriend and/or the first girl he’d kissed when he’d first tried it. He said yeah, it’s awkward and takes time to enjoy it. I didn’t quite believe him that it’d be this ridiculously bad though. My first kisses this night had been gross and so pointless feeling. I may have felt kissing-repulsed, or just so entirely indifferent to kissing that it made me feel upset because I had been expecting to enjoy it. I looked up how to kiss online, lol, and I also explored AVEN and already was thinking this might be proof that I was asexual. Because I also was starting to think maybe I just didn’t like kissing this one guy. Maybe he just “wasn’t my type”. I liked his personality a lot, but did I find him attractive? I tried to think about it. I didn’t think he was ugly. But his looks didn’t matter at all to me. And then I tried to think about what type of person was my type, and I realized I was struggling. So I was heavily considering the idea that I might be asexual at this point. It took me about 11 more months before I finally accepted this truth about my sexual orientation, though.
I went on a third date with this same guy and hoped maybe if I was less exhausted, if we tried kissing while sitting down rather than standing on a sidewalk, etc, that maybe I’d enjoy it more. We went to a restaurant on a Tuesday night, then went back to his apartment to watch a movie on DVD. We walked in the door and he took off his shoes so I began to do the same, and then he started to lean in to try to kiss me while I was busy trying to take off my shoes! I backed away and felt awkward and like that wasn’t the right time at all. He didn’t have a convenient set-up for two people watching a movie. He had no couch, for instance. He tried kissing me anyway as we were sitting in chairs watching My Fair Lady on his laptop at his desk. But it was very important to him that I see this film, and I felt like I was going to miss it, so I suggested we pause it. He didn’t want to pause the movie because then we wouldn’t have time to finish it before the last metro train of the night – it was a weekday, after all, so metro stations closed earlier. So we ended up… not kissing at all on that date. And watching the movie/eating dinner with him was fairly enjoyable, so I was quite disappointed when he texted me to cancel our plans for a fourth date. He cited, among other reasons, not having chemistry, and I was confused. I had been convinced he liked kissing me, rather than us both having less-than-enjoyable experiences while kissing on that second date. I had been hoping for a chance to ease into the experience of kissing him. I’d been expecting to have more chances to test out if my brother was right and I’d like it more over time. So I cried over that “break-up” even though we’d only been on 3 dates and weren’t officially even in a relationship yet. I was disappointed and hurt and scared I might be asexual and overall I liked the guy, despite him not being perfect.
So I waited a long while before continuing to give online dating another chance. We’d “broken up” around the end of 2012 (our 3 dates were in November/December), and it ended up not being until June 2013 that I tried going out with a second guy. A different guy. One I met on Plenty of Fish rather than OK Cupid. He was a flawed date, and I didn’t enjoy my dates with him as much as I had with the first guy. I still went on two dates with him too. I kinda liked him. He seemed to like me. He had never kissed anyone before either and we were on equal footing in that sense and there was a reason I had decided to meet this guy in person after our online messaging. He was nice enough, even if he too wasn’t exactly my dream guy and did a few things that were slightly off-putting to me. I wanted to kiss him, to see if it’d feel different than it had with the first guy. At the end of our second date, when we still hadn’t kissed yet, I expected him to want to kiss me, and I tried awkwardly leaning in a bit close, but I didn’t go all the way. And he was too busy trying to offer me a ride home in his car despite me telling him my dad was already on his way to give me a ride home and Didn’t he hear me when I’d made that phone call to my dad to pick me up? and this was weird, no, I am not getting in your car, sorry…. anyway we didn’t end up kissing at all, and I’d wanted to go on a third date for the sake of trying kissing him, but he never initiated it, and I wasn’t dying to date him that badly so I kept putting off bringing it up with him, and eventually I just ended up deciding to go on a date with a new OK Cupid guy.
Third time’s the charm, right? Well the third guy was for me. I hit it off with him much faster in online messaging and instead of taking weeks of messaging back and forth first to feel comfortable meeting in person, and waiting to be asked out first, I was excited enough to ask him out, on our very first day of messaging back and forth. We went on one psuedo-non date and then a first real date and I kind of wanted to kiss him at the end of our first real aka second date, but I wasn’t in the hugest rush. He texted me after we parted and was like “wait, did you want me to kiss you or something” and I replied to the text “well, kind of” or whatever and he replied “sorry” and I told him it was fine and we could try it next time. I also told him I’d only kissed one other guy before and I had not enjoyed it so I was looking forward to kissing him and hopefully enjoying it more. He admitted he’d never kissed anyone before.
So… on our second/third date, we finally tried kissing while sitting on the couch in his basement. And… it felt quite the same as what I’d remembered from many months prior with Guy #1. Again we jumped into making out, me and Guy #3, almost immediately, and we talked about it, and Guy #3 was enjoying this kiss more than me. He found it not to be earth shattering or anything, but yes, pleasurable, and I just… didn’t. I admitted to him, on the spot, that I now feared this was proof I was asexual, and explained what that meant clumsily, then promised to email him links/a better explanation once I went home. I also told him I was hoping I was just demisexual, and what that meant, because it was honestly already so freaking clear I did not experience sexual attraction. But I was in denial. Such deep denial.
I had worked myself up to expect to enjoy kissing him, and so I was quite disappointed. I still continued to date him, though. Guy #3 didn’t mind just cuddling and watching a lot of TV with me most of the time and only trying kissing briefly every other date or so to see if I enjoyed it yet. We tried doing kissing different ways.
More details about my relationship with him were explained in this post of mine, but basically… idk. He started expecting things of me. I did NOT expect him to be patient with me forever, and he expected me to start liking something sexual over time. He was disappointed to find out that I was unable to get aroused by anything, to find out I didn’t have any sexual fantasies at all, not even abstractly, etc. He expressed disappointment after we’d been dating for about a month and I still didn’t feel any differently when we attempted kissing. Still? he’d asked in a general-speaking tone, not angry but just… sad… and I had felt so sorry that I’d disappointed him. That I had inadvertently built up expectations in his mind that it’d change over time when no, it never changed.
After I decided to break up with him, so that he could hopefully find a romantic partner who enjoyed sexual things and would be more sexually compatible wit him, I wasn’t sure what to expect for my future. I had loved parts of dating all three of these guys I’d met on online dating sites, especially my only ever boyfriend, Guy #3. I initially felt sure I was asexual but thought I was heteroromantic.
I kept my OK Cupid profile, at first, but edited it to say “I’m asexual and for me that means I’m never ever going to want to have sex, and I don’t even enjoy kissing, so if you want to date me but not kiss/have sex then that sounds good to me” or something along those lines. I tried to be as clear as possible, right near the top. I also searched the site for asexual guys, and found a few guys who put in their profiles that they were ace spectrum too but they lived like, across the country (and the USA is a huge country)… and when I messaged them only 1 person replied and we messaged back and forth a bit and it was nice, but the online friendship eventually fizzled, mainly because I don’t think either of our hearts were fully in it. I didn’t need this new online friend in my life. I wasn’t lonely. What was I doing? Why was I forcing this? I had enough friends already. I didn’t need to make a new one who I had not that much in common with, even if we both were friendly in our conversations.
A few new guys contacted me – allosexual guys, from what I could tell – on the site. And I replied to their initial “hello”s with “hey, um did you see that I’m asexual?” and some of them were like “what?” and I replied “you know, the thing at the top of my profile, did you even look at it?” and others, especially one memorable guy, acknowledged it and didn’t care. He wanted to meet for coffee and said “Sex wasn’t everything” and… and I just couldn’t believe him. I didn’t find myself willing to trust that he’d want to date me without the possibility of sex, EVER. He seemed like a typical heterosexual guy from his profile, and besides, I wasn’t so sure I was that desperate to date anyone anyway. I felt like maybe I was actually more aromantic than I’d thought and I was just clinging onto being heteroromantic/romantic in some way because I’d been convinced for so many years that I was straight and would end up married with (hopefully adopted/foster) kids someday. I still desperately want that future, at least the parenting side of it, preferably with a co-parent to help me. I also don’t like the idea of living alone. The idea of a live-in queerplatonic partner – or multiple queerplatonic partners – sounds ideal to me. Especially ones that for whatever reason I can feel comfortable EXPECTING to respect my boundaries and wishes to never do anything sexual/never kiss. Whether that means they are ace spectrum too or just have their own sexual partner(s) who isn’t (aren’t) me or some other thing that has convinced me that they can be trusted.
I ended up getting rid of my OK Cupid dating profile and started trying AceBook (an asexual dating site that sounded like crickets when I logged in, it had apparently been virtually defunct/unused for years) and a tumblr ace-online-dating blog and I found an ace genderqueer person through tumblr who was pleasant to talk to. Xe lived nearby. We emailed back and forth a bit, but I had not much to talk to this person about because my life is so boring right now. I’m unemployed and embarrassed about my job search failures. My whole life is basically just fandom.
But I realized I no longer knew what I wanted out of this potential ‘relationship’. I had no expectations of what “void” in my life a romantic or queerplatonic partnership with an ace person would fill. I wasn’t sure what was expected of me anymore either. What was I supposed to do for them. Were we going to do romantic things together? What are romantic things? I could ask what xe wanted, but… Did I want to do them anymore? I’d enjoyed doing certain things with my allosexual dates, but now was I looking to do those things again? I wasn’t sure.
I decided I needed to get a job first, consider forming organic friendships with co-workers, since right now I have so few friends and none I see frequently, and also nothing interesting going on in my life and no clue where my life is headed. Then, eventually, I could get back into considering forming a romantic or queerplatonic relationship with a fellow ace person of whatever gender, because I no longer feel restricted to guys.
I started going to a local asexual meet-up group too starting in July 2014 and have made “friends” with some of the members, like… I mean idk if I consider any of them my friends yet or not, but I enjoy hanging out with them and talking to them, even about personal things.
I think truthfully, I have no “expectations” for a future romantic (or queerplatonic) partner, but I do have hopes/wishes/desires.
My… my friendships so far have always been super casual and contained no significant expectations from me toward my friends, nor expectations of me. I don’t expect them to be there for me if I am hurt or sick or grieving – I have family for that. I don’t have close enough friends for that. I mean, I expect them to care, but from a distance, via Facebook only – or for my fandom friends in other countries, YouTube messages/twitter/email. And I do the same for my friends. I kind of don’t expect my friends to fully understand my asexuality. I would have a higher standard for a romantic partner. I’d expect a level of commitment, of in-person interaction, of frequency of seeing each other and talking about personal matters that would mean I’d feel SURE they understood my asexuality. I’d expect them to care enough to actually ask me some questions and if they didn’t, I’d probably feel like our relationship was unfulfilling and too close to what I have with my friends.
From all of my friends and family members who I care about and who care about me to any degree, I expect a certain level of caring about understanding me and my life, my sexual orientation, my fandom obsessions, and whatever else is important to me at the time. I’d also expect a certain level of caring and understanding about my history with my abusive mother and why I’m not in contact with her (and why I don’t expect anything at all from my mother anymore other than for her to consistently be a toxic person who I should avoid, and why I’d be surprised/why it’d defy my expectations if she did something to warrant me talking to her again).
If you don’t accept me as a person who is shaped by these things, if you don’t accept asexuality as real/if you try to convince me I’m wrong about my orientation, if you think me loving fandom is unhealthy or makes me a freak or something, if you think it’s wrong for me to cut my mom out of my life for my own emotional well being because ‘she’s my mom’ and she deserves me in her life – you are not my friend. You are not a healthy person for me to love to any degree.
Luckily, people have not (vocally) been like this in my life. None of my friends have explicitly rejected my claim that I was asexual, made fun of my fandom obsessions, nor criticized my choice to end my relationship with my mother. But most of my friends don’t fully understand any of it. I don’t feel comfortable talking about most of those personal things in too much depth with them because I feel I’ll come off as self absorbed or I’ll confuse them or I’ll reveal too much and I fear they’ll then judge me so I keep it surface level most of the time. I also tend to hang out in groups with my friends, rather than on-on-one, which is part of the problem. I think it’s easier to have more personal, intimate conversations on these kinds of topics one-on-one.
But from a “partner” – I’d expect more of all of that. I’d expect more understanding and more time spent together, including actually looking at websites together, talking about my fanvideo editing extensively, discussing asexuality-related concepts in depth, more understanding of exactly what my mother is like, etc, etc. I’d also reciprocate and expect to enjoy spending a lot of time dealing with what is important to my partner. I’d be interested in discussing their life in depth. That’s part of what makes it a partnership, both of us doing it for each other. I’d expect them to want those same things from me. I’d expect them to have invested as much of themselves in our relationship as I have invested into it, and to respect that our relationship is important, not just important to me, but I’d expect it to BE important to both of us. That’s what’d make it something other than “just a typical friendship” in my life. I’d expect “breaking up” to be the only possible end (or well, one of our deaths) to the relationship, a significant moment of ending things, rather than it being possible for us to just slowly drift apart. I’d expect us to call each other “partners” or something similar, rather than simply “friends” – even “best friends” would maybe be okay, but something with weight behind it that would mesh with my expectation that our relationship would never end, or would only end under extreme circumstances.
In the Call for Submissions for this Carnival of Aces topic, one of the suggested discussion points is:
How do you feel about having expectations when starting a new friendship/relationship?
And my answer is usually I feel worried. I’m worried the relationship itself won’t live up to my expectations. I realize that if I have expectations, I then I have room for being disappointed. But I also know that expectations are helpful.
How do you handle friends/partners having different sexual, romantic, or platonic expectations to what you want in the friendship/relationship?
Expectations are helpful because if we have concrete expectations, we can both discuss them. We can learn to either shift our expectations OR we can choose to end the relationship because our expectations are not able to be met. I don’t have to keep worrying about what the other person might be expecting of me because if we communicate with each other enough, I can figure out what it is they’re expecting, and let them know what expectations I can and can’t meet. They can’t expect me to have sex with or kiss them, but there are more things they can’t expect. And finding out what they expect of me will be useful in me deciding whether or not I can live up to those expectations.
Have you felt expected to behave in a certain way in a relationship/friendship?
Not really. I mean, yes, sort of, I guess. For example, now that I think about it, I was of course expected to be excited for two of my friends when I found out they were engaged/when they got married, but I didn’t “feel expected to behave in a certain way” because it was just so natural for me to easily live up to those expectations. I was happy for them.
In my romantic relationships, I felt expected to enjoy kissing/sex, but at the same time I didn’t really feel overly pressured by those kinds of expectations, because I knew it would be impossible to change how I felt – enjoyment or the lack thereof is not a “behavior” – and so I didn’t feel pressured to start enjoying things I didn’t enjoy. That was nonsensical to me. What I could do is pretend to enjoy things I didn’t, but I didn’t feel pressured to pretend, because I felt like I was expected to be honest. And that was an expectation I felt quite comfortable living up to. 😛 I wanted to remain honest with my romantic partners.
Overall, I went into my 3 potential romantic relationships carefully, after screening quite a few candidates via online dating, and I expected to not have too many expectations placed upon me, because I’d made it clear I was inexperienced and what type of person I was… and I had gotten under the impression that behaving how I felt was “right” on a date couldn’t be “wrong” because it was all about feeling comfortable and enjoying the experience… so if the guys I dated were expecting me to behave a certain way, I was fairly oblivious, and not overly concerned with living up to their expectations.
I hope this post about my relationships and the role “expectation” has played in them was a good enough submission for this Carnival of Aces topic. I look forward to reading what other people have to say on the topic as well. 😉