Oblivious: life and relationships of a (romantic?) ace

Anonymous, female, 26, United States.

Since I was little, I’ve always been somewhat of a misfit. I always acted older than I was, and my whole childhood was a struggle to be seen as an adult. I never doubted that I would get married someday, and even proposed to a boy in my in kindergarten class. He rejected me, saying “I can’t say yes. We have our whole lives ahead of us; there is so much we have to learn still, and we will both change a lot.” I was sad, but I knew that he had the truth of it.

I got bullied later in elementary school because I didn’t know how to read or do arithmetic in 3rd grade. When the material was finally presented to me in a format I understood, I rapidly improved, reaching the top of the class by 5th grade. Succeeding in school became my life, a way of proving that I wasn’t the worthless child everyone had accused me of being. I only ever had a few friends – ones who were willing to look past my rough exterior.

Most people seem to think that middle school was one of the worst times in their life, but it was definitely not for me. I had finally succeeded scholastically, had a couple of guys who were good friends, and was able to pursue my hobbies as well – everything was fantastic. However, I just didn’t understand most of the other students. They were madly chasing each other, but there was no purpose to it. What good is being boyfriend and girlfriend unless you are looking for a lifelong partner? My confusion was not helped by the fact that I couldn’t understand the motives of other people. I firmly believed that my peers acted randomly and had absolutely no concept that they might be rapidly pairing up because of some base urge, newly emerging in their hormone laden brains. It seemed more like the “cooties” games of elementary school than anything; immature and irrational. I was obviously just more mature than my peers. I had always been more mature than my peers.

Boys literally fought over me later in middle school. I physically assaulted them in response, angered that they had “betrayed” me. This happened again my freshman year of high school. Now, I began to question what their goal was. How were they trying to manipulate me with this fighting? I couldn’t fathom that they (or anyone) would be genuinely interested in me (or anyone). Dating was just some kind of predatory game played only by monsters and fools.

In my sophomore year, I began playing D&D with seven or so guys. It was great (except for that one wizard with his stupid phallus-shaped fireballs). I had a lot of fun until the DM sent me a late-night instant message saying that he loved me. I quit playing D&D and didn’t talk to him for two years. He had stalked other women, and I suspected he played the monster rather than the fool in the dating game.

Things changed when I turned 17. Another guy I had been good friends with asked me out. I was shocked that I didn’t feel like slugging him – I was actually kind of happy? Happy in a way that I had never experienced before. I thought it was True Love. Even so, it was three months before I let him kiss me, and that’s as far as we went. We dated for one and a half years before breaking it off. He said he didn’t know that he could truthfully say he loved me, and that he hadn’t expected our relationship to last as long as it did. In the end, it was an amiable break-up, and I was still friends with him when we went to college.

College was very hard for me. I had gone to a very nerd-rich high school, where the topic of sex didn’t come up all that often (it hadn’t come up at all in middle school). Only one couple, who were dating long-term and planned to get married, mentioned it on a regular basis. In college, though, it was everywhere. People who I met and seemed like decent people suddenly started talking about sex in group conversations. I was horrified. I cried when a girl that I had become friends with allowed a large group of guys to watch porn in her dorm room. Everyone except me was having sex, masturbating, watching porn, or condoning it. Why would they choose to be this way when they could be upright people instead?

For the first time since I was a little girl, getting bullied at school for being ‘stupid,’ I felt alone. My isolation was made worse when people started calling me “sensitive” and “prude.” With one word, they would completely dismiss my feelings, while spouting off how “tolerant” they were of people different from them. It made me angry.

Another good friend of mine asked me out. I cried and wailed and punched my pillow in frustration. He had been like a brother to me – what was wrong with everyone? In the end, I said yes, because I figured I wouldn’t have so many emotions about it if I didn’t like him. Maybe. I had no clue. He ticked off all the boxes in my list of qualities my future partner needed to have, anyway (no allergies, doesn’t watch sports, doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, no drugs, has hobbies and interests of his own, doesn’t play too many video games).

It was rough at first, but after half a year, I felt like I loved him and could share the rest of my life with him. We got engaged shortly after that. We were engaged for 2.5 years, so that I’d be out of college by the time we got married. With this relationship, I understood that guys need physical release, and I felt guilty about having my betrothed masturbate or wet himself at night, so I learned how to use my hands to please him. It was awkward and frustrating, but also intriguing (at first). I initiated some things to do with my own body out of curiosity later, but I was never interested in penetrative sex.

After we were married, we waited three months to do anything, because I didn’t want to ruin our (delayed) honeymoon abroad. I was running a 104 fever and was somewhat delirious when I decided, at age 22, that if I wasn’t ready now, I probably never would be. I felt guilty for not ‘putting out’ for my husband, which drove me to make the decision. This was probably the worst decision I have ever made, and it is my single regret in life that I ever did it. Whatever people say about it and “other” sex being the same, it was definitely not for me. It was soul-crushing, and many further attempts to try different positions, different lubricants, and toys sent me into a depressive tailspin for the next one and a half years. I did Google searches on “regret sex” and other terms, and went through thousands of pages of results, to the end of Google, without finding a single other person with a shared experience. I felt like something was wrong with me, because I thought I was completely alone in the world. I turned to doctors and psychiatrists for answers, but after multiple pelvic exams (which make me cry every time) and psych visits, I had a bill of clean health, and confused healthcare professionals. My college campus was very liberal, and mentioning not liking sex was even more taboo than being publicly homophobic. “If you don’t like it, you’re doing it wrong” was the war-banner of my peers, so I had no-one to talk to, either.

I had an open-minded female anthropologist friend accompany me on a summer research excursion. I was able to talk to her about my problems, and I felt better because of her acceptance of me for who I was. She is polyromantic, and asked all newlyweds why they chose to commit to monogamy. She confided in me that my answer had been the only one that had ever made sense to her (“because we love eachother, and I want to be with him forever” – wtf do other people say?) and that she didn’t think there was necessarily anything wrong with me or my relationship. I began to feel better.

It wasn’t until I was 24 – two full years after I had lost my virginity – that I discovered the term ‘asexuality’. It was a game-changer. I was finally able to find words to communicate how I felt, and find people with shared experiences. My husband and I were finally able to understand each others’ needs and that our mismatched sexualities went deeper than just libido. We talked it out, came up with firm boundaries, and both compromised on what we were willing to do. We no longer have penetrative sex, but have found other activities that make him feel close to me. I need cuddle time without the threat of harassment, and I have that in spades now! We are both finally happy, and our relationship is so much stronger for having gone through this struggle.