I started the draft of this blog post in June 2018, continued to work on it a bit in August 2018 after the month happened where the topic for the Carnival of Aces was “Nuance & Complexity”, and then… well… I just never finished it.
When the Carnival of Aros was launched in February 2019, I told myself I would host a Carnival of Aros one day on the topic of “commitment” and motivate myself to finish writing about this stuff when that time came.
In November 2020, I hosted the Carnival of Aros on the theme of “Commitment” and the call for submissions was here. I am also quite late into December finishing my own post, and posting the round up of all submissions. I sincerely apologize for the delay. Enjoy my finally finished post below. I tried to edit the draft from years ago to better reflect my views today, without scrapping all of it. I had to delete a lot of it though. I hope I didn’t miss anything I should have updated.
I have really jumbled thoughts and feelings when it comes to commitment, such as what commitment in the context of interpersonal relationships even is, or why I desire it, but I do think that deep down I am very “commitment driven”. Both inside and outside of interpersonal relationships.
My original draft mentioned how for many years now separated the concepts of sexual attraction and sexual desire in the asexual community. Sometimes we all struggle to agree on what it is we’re really separating, like in this post and its comments.
Now that this a Carnival of Aros post, I’m cognizant that in both ace and aro communities, “behavior” is often importantly differentiated from “attraction”, and people can have a “drive” or “desire” to pursue a certain behavior all while lacking a common type of “attraction” that goes with it. Some may not find people hot/sexy but still want sex, others don’t really get crushes but still could happily receive/give a bouquet of flowers or box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day, some people have friends without feeling “platonic attraction”, etc. Hopefully you get the gist of what I mean. We sometimes call aro people “romance-favorable” and less often talk about romantic “drive” or “desire”, but I think the concepts of drive and desire both can apply.
It took me years, even after figuring out I was asexual in 2013, to figure out I was gray-aromantic and gray-panromantic at the same time, and then I reconsidered again my gray-panromantic identity and feel pan-alterous may describe it better because I don’t ever experience an attraction which I want to call “romantic attraction”.
I’m pretty comfortable in this identity now. Saying I’m a pan-alterous, demi-sensual, gray-aro, sex-averse asexual captures in a broad way how and why I approach dating the way that I do, with enough nuance that I’m satisfied. Further clarification can be provided when I’m getting into the nitty gritty with friends or potential partners who are interested in all the nuance of what I experience and desire, but someone who doesn’t know me but was merely familiar with aspec community terminology could read just those words and have a fairly accurate idea of my orientation. The long-and-short of it is my asexuality is fairly stereotypical or what people might expect, I really don’t feel sexual things or engage in sexual situations etc. But my emotional connections with people and dating life is complicated and can’t be simplified too easily.
For the longest time I’d say “I guess I’m WTFromantic??” And while I still feel that I fit within the definitions for wtfromantic and quoiromantic, There is not yet any data on the actual percentages of aro people who want committed partnership of any kind vs. how many aros are intrinsically non-partnering, but I have for a very long time felt like I didn’t fully relate to the people most sure they were aromantic because of how much I desire committed partnership. People like me, who were asexual but wanted committed partnership, tended to be as unsure of where they fell on the aro spectrum as me, and identified with a variety of labels or none at all, or tended to be alloromantic. Other things besides a desire for committed partnership, like my ability to fall in love in an alterous way, has also made me question how aro I was at times, and it’s been a tricky process where I very often relate to both aromantic and alloromantic experiences once they are described. But the more I have tried dating on and off for the past 2.5 years, the more I don’t think I’d actually desire dating if I didn’t also want to be a parent, and crave finding a co-parenting partner. (I also feel disconnected from alloromantic narratives when they so often don’t have room for a kissing-averse person like myself, and often include strong aesthetic attraction, and/or strong senses of certainty that it’s distinctly different emotionally from platonic feelings whereas I just lack that certainty. There’s also more I could say about this stuff, but I’m getting outside the scope of this post.)
In a “bigger picture” sense, like beyond interpresonal dynamics, my personal tendency toward commitment plays out for me in quite varied ways.
It’s very hard for me to “let go”, to leave something behind… I always want to finish what I start. I don’t always succeed. But, for instance, sometimes I finish editing fanvideos years after I started the project, and it feels so good to finish something like that. Partial projects feel like commitments and I don’t consider the commitment broken, even years later – I’ve even been planning to finish writing a fanfiction story that I haven’t touched in over 3 years sometime in December, although we’ll see if I actually do. But abandoning something I committed to feels like failure, plus I really love the feeling of accomplishment after a commitment pays off. Only in the past few three or so years have I started making commitments to ace and aro advocacy, and it means a lot to me to be an activist fighting for the well being of ace people and aro people in varied ways.
Generally I keep pushing myself and taking on more commitments. I feel… fulfilled, excited, hopeful when I have commitments lined up ahead in my future. It’s apparently a very common situation for people with ADHD to find themselves in, and I was just diagnosed with ADHD in September, after years of slowly figuring out I likely had it, and self-diagnosing.
I have felt locked in to the username “luvtheheaven” for over 16 years, since before I realized I was an atheist who didn’t believe in heaven, among other reasons for the name to become irrelevant and kinda misleading. But in some ways, it felt like a commitment once I had started using the name on many websites and I felt like I wasn’t “allowed” to change my username, even though other people do all the time. I chose this, I chose to create content that made me relatively popular or well-known under the name, I can’t go back now kind of thing. I thought this years and years ago. But only recently have I let myself think of that as silly. Only recently have I realized that even if it was a commitment in some sense, I’m allowed to change my mind, to break that commitment, and to choose a new name. And for months now I’ve been planning to change my name to VioletEmerald wherever possible, and something close to it other places – to commit to that name instead of luvtheheaven, and commit to the process of transitioning to a new identity.
A tendency I also have is to want to obtain all the information available and to know as much as possible about any given situation. I’ll feel out of control without information. Even if it’s upsetting information, it feels less stressful than knowing I’m missing out on details and facts that other people do have. I feel disadvantaged. I don’t know for sure why I have this kind of personality for sure, but I bet having been raised by an abusive mother who blames you for things that aren’t your fault, you internalize “I should have known better” in a way that leads you to want to make sure to avoid not knowing things for fear of making missteps that wouldn’t be made without more information. It can cause problems in my life to feel so anxious without more information, but I still don’t believe I have an anxiety disorder.
I think for me, commitment is often another way, in addition to knowledge, to obtain a sense of control of my world.
Making a commitment gives me positive feelings of knowing what to expect in the future, or at least having a plan for how I will be approaching that uncertain future. Of course, I don’t really know that I can guarantee that a commitment is what it seems, that I really do know what to expect in the future. But even if it’s an illusion, the sense of predictability about the future or of a clear plan and clear path I’ve committed to can feel so positive to me, so secure.
One big caveat is that it can be stressful to know people are counting on me; I might occasionally even have experienced stress-dreams/nightmares rarely after making certain kinds of commitments, like hosting an ace meetup as one of the many co-organizers of a meetup when it was going to be in an untested location!! I have also felt extreme weight of other responsibilities I myself signed myself up for, and have felt overwhelmed or on the edge of burnout because of being overcommitted to things – social plans, ace and aro related activism, fandom projects, podcasting commitments, work stuff, important stuff related to my own health and my home etc which I keep struggling to prioritize, etc.
When it comes to wanting to be a parent, I intend to fully commit myself to a child’s well-being, to doing everything I can to prioritize their happiness, but I also intend to be careful that I don’t lose myself or become burnt out and unhappy in the process. Committing to a parenthood is something that I’ve always wanted, that feels so intuitively fulfilling and I want to do what I can to have that in my life. I know it’s a big commitment that is overwhelming or too much for many other people in some of the circles I like to hang out in, and I know my mom failed to live up to what a mother owes her children by default. But I know I could do a better job than some people, and I’ve been studying my whole life for this test, and most of me feels ready, despite how daunting it also feels.
However, parenthood would be so much easier of a commitment to make with a committed partner, such as a queerplatonic partner, by my side. I want a partner who makes it so I don’t have to make decisions alone, and makes my job easier in many practical ways. This can include time, where two individuals don’t have to both spend 100% of your time being “on duty” as responsible to keep a kid safe, but it can also just means that errands are split up, and chores around the house, and when a big decision needs to be made, it doesn’t all fall to one person who might have forgotten to consider a key factor before making the decision. It also sounds so nice to me when I imagine going through my life with one or more person who enjoys my company, and I enjoy theirs, who experiences things alongside me and shares many of the same memories, where we can comfort each other in hard times and share in one another’s joy.
I don’t need a partner, and currently I have more friends than I can easily remember to make sure to keep in touch with. Many of whom are really good, close friends, or at least were before we fell out of touch. I am so grateful for my non-committed friendships, and sometimes my friendships seem to evolve where a bit of commitment is implied. Where we feel obligated, by nature of how long we’ve known each other, or for other reasons, to be there for each other, to make time for each other, etc. But we tend to keep it unspoken, most of the time, and I’m okay with that. Sometimes we have temporary commitments, like a plan to see each other or talk to each other at a set time, and sometimes they can even be ongoing, like how “Every Monday evening I will watch an episode of tv with Friend A over a synced streaming service like Teleparty” and that can be a fun thing to count on while it lasts. While it works for both of our lives. Even without a committed partner in my life, I can build shared memories, or find comfort or a sounding board for a big decision through my friends if I need those things.
When I was 23 years old, I was in a romantic relationship, and despite us following pretty typical romantic relationship scripts, I don’t think we really had that much commitment. It depends on what you call commitment, but internally for me, there was a pretty big part of me that was not that committed to this working out. I knew the guy (my boyfriend) wasn’t sure if he wanted kids, whereas I was sure I wanted kids, and this would in the long run potentially be a dealbreaker for me. But we were both committed for the short term to not date anyone else (monogamy/exclusivity), to prioritize each other a bit in our lives, to see each other often. We would watch a couple TV shows together and not watch on our own without the other person. But it didn’t really feel like the kind of commitment I crave, or that drives me.
Later in my life, I’d experience a queerplatonic partner, and a couple years after that an alterous partner. Those partners intended to really build a future with me. They wanted parenthood and the official conversations where we’d define our relationship as whatever type of partners was also with that goal in mind, that knowledge of intent for the future. We would also discuss other big, “adult”, building-lives-together things. My most recent relationship was polyamorous, so it’s not that monogamy feels necessary for the kind of commitment I am craving. But that most recent partnership is what I’ve had that got closest to that kind of commitment I am so desperate to find. We actually moved in together and began to do things that made it clear what sharing finances would be like long-term, etc. I want a future where financially I’m not reliant on only myself, and it’s hard to imagine that kind of commitment outside of the context of some kind of life partner, be they queerplatonic, romantic, or some other type.
I’ve been single again for six full months, and I think I’ll be ready to date again soon. I’m not seeking a person I’m attracted to necessarily, in any way at all, even though it’s possible for me to feel certain kinds of attraction. I would be okay never feeling some of those types of attraction again in my life. What I’ll be seeking is compatibility for the type of commitment I’m hoping to find, which first and foremost is a partner who wishes to foster parent with me, as I’ve now decided I very specifically want to go down a fostering path.
But it also includes a comfortable friendship as a perquisite for the level of commitment we’ll be striving to have, and reliability in a way I didn’t have in my last two partners. We need to be able to count on one another in certain concrete ways – when plans are made, the person needs to be good about sticking to them. When I want to have a conversation, it’s not fair to just ghost me without a goodbye. When I want to talk share the things that excite me in my life, like fandom related stuff, the person can have reasonable boundaries but cannot be a jerk about my hyperfixations and joys, and I deserve to not feel insulted. Similarly, I deserve a partner who is sensitive to my sex-aversion and kissing-aversion and doesn’t make me feel ashamed or guilty that I can’t provide more for them, and who doesn’t push the limits of those boundaries of mine by leaving sex toys out in front of me etc. There are many things that will need to be figured out only once I meet a person, once I see what feels comfortable for both of us, but I want to head into the big huge commitment of finding someone with whom to co-parent while having a sturdy foundation of friendship, trust, and comfort between us.
I wrote a post slightly over 5 years ago about being 25 years old at the time, being aro ace and desiring a certain type of parenthood. A few months ago, after I’d already turned 30, a 15 year old commented and told me, “I really hope you’re happy whether you adopted / fostered or not”. It kinda stings, to be reminded of just how little has changed for me in the past 5 years, but how to a young person like that it might feel like such a long time, such a time for me to have achieved my dreams.
I am still as commitment-driven today, at age 30, as I was at age 23. It’s as inherent a part of me as any of my orientations, I now know. And hope knowing myself as well as I do will be an asset as I go into the future. I’ll be better at many types of commitment than I used to be, now that I know my own boundaries and orientations and desires clearly, and know I have ADHD. I will be better at “my commitment to aro activism” after spending time learning about as many different aro experiences as possible. I also feel more able to start to pursue my ambition to write a novel, to commit to such a huge project, than I ever have in the past, and I plan for 2021 to be a year of getting back into writing fanfiction often and writing frequently – getting back into the groove of writing and prioritizing writing in one way or another as part of what I need in my life.
I am working on strategies to become more successful at meeting the deadlines I’ve committed myself to, including for the Carnival of Aros (😅), but at least now I understand better why I struggle with deadlines than I used to understand. Additionally, I’m looking forward to continuing to improve my ability to finish the things I’ve committed to starting within a reasonable timeframe. I’m never going to stop feeling fulfilled and accomplished by completing a project I’ve committed to, and I’m finally on a path where I likely can actually determine better ways to be consistent in my life where I want to be. I’m also looking forward to continuing to explore all that I have not yet gotten the chance to experience when it comes to interpersonal commitment – within my friendships, my dating life, and my eventual experiences with parenthood.
I’m indeed committed to making a few of my dreams come true. 💚