Hi everybody! I hosted the Carnival of Aces in April 2019. This is part 3 of 3 of my submission.
So after I posted the Call for Submissions for this carnival theme on The Five Love Languages, I ended up reading 3 of the books and having so many thoughts that I’m writing 3 blog posts on the subject. This is part 3 of 3. I know it says part 2 in the title but it’s actually part 3 total, just part 2 of the personal life reflections… Sorry if that’s too confusing!
Part 1 was here. Part 2 was here.
This post below has more to do with asexuality and aromanticism than the previous two parts did.
For all the original Love Languages books’ faults, and there are a lot (see my previous post), one thing that I think most aces would actually really appreciate is how sex is very clearly not tied to love in the books, even in the marriage-specific book. Author Gary Chapman says problematic stuff about sex, for sure, but he also says if the only Physical Touch you go out of your way to give or receive is sexual, then Physical Touch is clearly not your primary love language. Other touch is kind of given priority in terms of what “counts” as Gary Chapman actually separates out sex and other touch, much like the ace community separated out Sexual Desire/Behavior from Sensual Desire/Behavior, defining “Sensual” as non-sexual touch. It’s an interesting way to look at a lot of this.
Also, from the aromanticism side of things, Gary Chapman doesn’t actually say or imply anything is “only true for romance” that isn’t also true for non-romantic dynamics, other than when he tries to explain about the “in love experience” and “infatuation period” based on what the audiobooks only cite as “research” [so I have no clue how sources are cited in the actual book]… But when it came to love, the theorizing was impressively inclusive of the forms of love aromantic people also usually experience and even of the spectrum of human experience from co-workers and college roommates to siblings to adult’s dynamics with parents, love as on a spectrum where even if love stops being a good word for it and maybe “appreciation” is better, it flows seamlessly from love to appreciation in these books and all of it is still important.
There is something oddly validating about the marriage counselor who “invented” the love languages terminology and system having so much to potentially offer in his system even to nonamorous aromantic people?
And the idea of the love languages and these books around them also have so much to offer to sex-repulsed or sex-indifferent asexuals as well! His advice would work well for aces and aros, in spite of his bigotry and what I believe might be a partnership with hate groups like Focus on the Family
(or at least I know FotF endorses him based on this image
exising). (I know that groups like these have brought about deaths of gay and trans people, I do not say they are a hate group lightly.)
Even if it was unintentional, sometimes I want to take inclusion wherever I can see it. Wherever I can squint and find it!
But enough about that…
Let’s bring this post to the things I said I’d talk about in my title for this post – Compatibility and Attraction.
I hope it’s not that hard to understand that not all asexuals are compatible with each other. For instance, not all sex-repulsed asexuals who say sex is entirely off the table would be perfectly happy trying to make a long term romance work. Even if their romantic orientations were compatible, like a heteroromantic man with a heteroromantic woman. Sexual compatibility is just one of so many facets of compatibility. There are so many ways for aces to not be compatible.
When the topic of mismatching Primary Love Languages comes up, the author of these books insists that you can learn to speak another love language and learn to have your partner speak yours to fill your “love tank”, that this isn’t a sign of your marriage or dating relationship being doomed. That you’re not inherently incompatible because of these things.
However I do think that I find myself not… willing to change to be that physically affectionate with people I just met on OkCupid, for example. Or an ace I met at an ace meetup only once or twice. I can’t see myself being compatible with these “big huggers” if it’s so vitally important to them that I go out of my way to touch them all the time. I think the Love Languages provide a clue as to some of the many ways people can be incompatible beyond sex, in ways that are useful for aces to have as explanations. If I value quality time so much more than someone else, unless they are willing to compromise and spend more time with me than they want, even if it feels stifling and overwhelming and like it’s “too much”, even if they would rather be doing other things… I don’t think I’m really going to be compatible with a person who feels content without spending much time with others. A person who feels content without engaging in the deep quality conversations that I value so deeply during that time we are together. I crave those conversations so desperately.
There is definitely more to compatibility than the love languages though, and the books on these love languages admit that too. You have to be in agreement on matters like if you want kids, where to live, and so many other factors like how you both feel about polyamory vs. monogamy.
One interesting thing though when you bring “Attraction” into all this though is that I’m not sure people necessarily have to be attracted to each other to mark all the other boxes of compatibility. The books casually mention that if you are excited on a first date but one thing happens that makes the excitement of the infatuation period die right then and there, the relationship probably won’t continue. I think that has to do with initial attraction, but also figuring out you’re incompatible hurting your changes of attraction.
I think though, “Attraction” is a nebulous topic. You can be attracted to a person who seems to be speaking a love language you value in their actions toward you, you can start to develop a squish or a crush on someone who is providing valuable acts of service, or is providing Words of Affirmation that you so rarely get from others, or who is the only person you have had physical touch from in ages. Attraction can grow with time, sometimes in a demi-way, like me identifying as demisensual (I crave hugs with people after I’ve like fallen in love, after knowing them for over a year lol), or sometimes in a quicker and more simple way. It isn’t always just based on aesthetics or whatever. It’s not just “this person is pretty so I’m attracted to them” – it can overlap with things like the excitement I feel at finding a person on OkCupid who also might be okay in sex-free relationship with me and with adopting kids… realizing we’re compatible in one or more ways and then the attraction builds… as I see what we have in common in other ways too! What parts we don’t have in common that are exciting and interesting rather than dealbreakers. Etc, etc.
I think it’s interesting though that throughout all Gary Chapman’s examples in these books, he often mentioned people having incompatible love languages but still feeling attraction so strongly at first, during the “in love experience” that lasts roughly 2 years, the infatuation period, and that after that time they then lose all the positive feelings toward their partner because their partner isn’t “filling their love tanks” by speaking their primary love language. That attraction fades within 2 years almost without fail in his theory. That attraction is definitely not enough for a sustainable long-term relationship.
I don’t know what I’m trying to say here, but if I use examples from my experiences with dating:
My boyfriend in 2013 who I dated for 3 months, we cuddled a lot and I didn’t really feel loved from that because cuddling isn’t my primary love language. We cuddled while watching TV. We didn’t spend the time watching TV pausing and talking and turning the time into “Quality” time though, which would’ve been my primary love language. I didn’t fall in love with him, didn’t feel particularly loved or good in that relationship. I felt guilty and broken for not being sexual enough and was having an existential crisis lol, or more specifically a sexuality crisis where the entire time we were dating I was overwhelmed with figuring out I wasn’t heterosexual and what being asexual would mean for the rest of my life and all that. We weren’t compatible in many ways, but I was at a particularly lonely point in my life so the “Quality Conversation” we did have occasionally was more than I got from a lot of people, including over emails and texts, including as I talked out my experiences that had to do with being asexual with a kind and caring listener. He helped me figure out my orientation and I felt grateful and appreciative toward him for that. We could’ve been less compatible, is what I’m saying. His kindness made me attracted to him on a small level as a friend. But my initial crush or squish or whatever it was when I first met him on OkCupid, to be honest it faded on our second date as soon as we tried kissing and I felt uncomfortable with it but he liked it. The attraction wasn’t strong anymore after that.
My friend-turned-queerplatonic-partner (turned “just a friend” again, turned “queerplatonic again), Robert, was someone I felt really compatible with and really attracted to because he spoke my love languages well. While we didn’t physically touch, almost at all, and I knew other people valued touch so much (it is more of a primary love language for them), I could tell I personally did not value it much and so it did not matter to me at all that we didn’t touch. We did everything else. I don’t know for sure what he was thinking or feeling and how much he did long for physical touch or not because he didn’t ever really express that to me very explicitly. But there were a lot of ways we just seemed so compatible, which boosted my attraction and infatuation and had me experiencing the “in love experience” in a way I kind of never had before. I might’ve been blinded by how strong my feelings were and afraid to lose that high, so I didn’t notice warning signs or address them as quickly as I should’ve, before he blindsided me and broke up with me, on two separate occasions. I want to correct the mistakes I made with him in future relationships I enter. I want to make sure not only that all my love languages are being spoken, but that the other person feels equally loved by me. I certainly tried to communicate my love to Robert but I can’t be sure I succeeded to the same degree. I feel like it was hard to tell. We had deep conversations about his life plenty of times, things weren’t just one-sided about me, but I don’t know for sure if he really knew himself what he wanted or needed. He seemed so unsure about so much throughout our 2 years of knowing each other.
I dated a girl last year for literally just one week. I had so much attraction because her excitement was contagious and we had a few things in common. It was such strong feelings so fast that I don’t usually feel because she seemed to have the same priorities and goals, and that’s so hard for me to find in anyone. A relationship without sex not being a dealbreaker but actually an exciting thing? And the desire to adopt kids? We clearly could talk for hours and had Quality Time both come naturally to each of us, and even Words of Affirmation, my other primary love language. And then it all fizzled out. We weren’t compatible, and my attraction made me want to look past that and try to force it anyway, try to see if I could compromise and become compatible, because I felt so strongly, felt such potential for love between us. But I knew, in my intellectual/rational side it would never work.
Now I’m dating someone new – we’ve. Been on one date but it’s already a “longer” relationship if you count all the time texting than what I had with the girl last year. This person in my life uses they/them pronouns and it might be more like hanging out as friends. But we seem pretty compatible and that’s a nice, comfortable-so-far feeling, without too much attraction getting in the way. It’s like a low-key good positive set of feelings and hope. I can’t say much about the love languages yet and how the two of us fare with them but because I’m going to try polyamorous dating for the first real time with them, if they desire more physical affection than I can comfortably give, or if I desire more Words of Affirmation or whatever else than they can give, maybe we each can get that side of our “needs” from others in our lives! Maybe we don’t have to be the end-all/be-all of receiving love in our lives because not only are we polyamorous but because friendships too can be fulfilling and provide a lot of those things. Maybe we will learn to adapt to understanding the more nuanced ways love can be communicated and not feel any need to ask the other person to change. I really like that idea.