Dear Dr. NerdLove:
So, I have a husband that I recently married and I love him dearly. We both have autism and have dated eight years before we got married and he wanted to wait until marriage which I was totally fine with. As a demisexual, it took me three years to even want to have sex with him and I can kind of take it or leave it and my antipsychotics I take for my bipolar don’t really help my libido either. I feel like people are going to say “I told you so” because it turns out he has ED which we found out is most likely due to sleep apnea which we are working on fixing though due to COVID the sleep clinic is backed up so it has been a slow process. He also can’t give oral sex due to speech issues which makes moving his tongue and licking difficult so we haven’t really had any sort of sex even since marrying.
For some reason, I just feel like I am supposed to resent him when I do not. We are happier than ever and he doesn’t seem to really care either about sex either. We very much love each other and are happy, but I see a lot of what you saying about how waiting until marriage is a bad idea because stuff like this would happen but neither of us really found sex important to begin with so we didn’t really have any problems waiting which wasn’t due to any religious reason either because he is not religious, it was more that is just what his parents expected of him and he rebelled against his parents so much as a teen that he felt it was the least he could do for them. With me, sex is nice, but I could just sort of take it or leave it. I only really wanted to have sex just to say I had it.
But yeah, I just don’t know what to do because I feel like what I am feeling about this situation isn’t really how I am supposed to feel seeing how everyone else from what I have read on places like Reddit would resent their partner if such a thing would happen and I have heard people saying being fine in a sexless relationship is just a “cope” if you feel like this, but it isn’t just a “cope” we are legitimately happy and I am not lying to myself. With me, I am more concerned about his sleep apnea than I am fixing his ED which is merely just a symptom of a bigger problem because he has been so sleep deprived and it is affecting his life in other ways.
Am I wrong for not resenting him when everyone else I read about in a similar situation does?
Tell Me Now How Do I Feel
I wish I could say that this was a new one on me, but it’s not.
To be specific: I wish the question of “wait, am I wrong for being ok with this?” wasn’t so common. One of the things that I think gets in the way of otherwise happy and successful relationships are the times when someone’s relationships don’t follow the common path… and the fact that their relationship is different means that they’re supposed to feel bad about it. Maybe it’s a couple that had an infidelity and they didn’t break up over it and see it as being something that ultimately saved their relationship. It could be a couple where only one person gives oral sex and the other doesn’t, and that works for them. Or maybe it’s a couple who have an one-sided open relationship, but they’re cool with it. Or, in your case, TMNHDIF, you and your husband aren’t having sex and nobody is particularly bothered by it.
Here’s what’s going on: you’re reading stories or responses from folks who aren’t in the same situation as you are, and not taking in the difference of your circumstance. The folks on Reddit who talk about resenting their partner or insisting that being ok in a sexless relationship is just “cope” presumably find sex to be an important part of their lives. For them, a sexual connection is a vital part of their relationship with their partners — a way of creating and sharing intimacy, of bonding and, of course, (hopefully) mutual pleasure and satisfaction. To them, not having that aspect in their relationships would be a cause for concern, followed by dissatisfaction, then bitterness and resentment. And in fairness to them: yeah, that would be a source of problems in their lives and their relationships. Sexual compatibility and sexual satisfaction are an incredibly important part of a relationship’s strength and longevity.
But there’re some very important keywords there: “their relationship”. Their relationship, their priorities and their circumstances are not the same as yours. Part of the disconnect between your experience and theirs is that, because sex is a priority for them, they have a difficult time imagining being cool without it. And while I have some serious side-eye for anyone who insists that somebody else not having the same reactions as they would is deluding themselves — “cope”, in this case — they’re reacting to this theoretical from their perspective, based on their experiences, wants and needs. The fact that they can’t believe folks might be cool with it is a failure of imagination on their part.
But again: their relationships and their priorities aren’t the same as yours. You seem to fall somewhere on the asexuality spectrum; you’re demisexual and it sounds like you may also be what’s sometimes called “gray ace” — not terribly interested in sex but also not completely uninterested. It’s just not that important of a priority for you. While your situation isn’t common, it’s also not all that unusual; the increasing awareness of asexuality and resources like the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network have helped lots of people realize that they’re not alone and — importantly — not broken or defective. They’re just different.
Similarly, it sounds like your husband doesn’t find sex to be important or necessary either; I would assume that if he were upset by the lack, you would’ve mentioned it in your letter.
So what we have here are two people who… are actually sexually compatible. Because here’s the thing about sexual compatibility and satisfaction: it doesn’t just mean “has lots of sex” or “wants the same kind of sex at the same frequency as each other”. It can also mean “it’s not a priority for me or my partner and we’re both cool with that.” You aren’t feeling neglected or distanced from your husband because of this lack of sexual contact, nor is he (presumably) feeling like sex is being withheld from him or that he’s not satisfied with your relationship. And hey, that’s a completely legitimate way to feel. You’re happy, he’s happy… there really isn’t a problem here. It’s just how you all roll and that’s awesome!
And here’s the thing: what you two have right now isn’t exactly unknown. What you have is what’s frequently referred to as a “companionate marriage” — that is, a marriage that’s based on love, commitment, companionship, mutual respect and affection, but a sexual connection simply isn’t something you need or necessarily want. And while, on average, folks in companionate marriages tend to skew older, there are young folks who have them as well, and it works wonderfully for them.
So, no: you’re not wrong for not resenting him because there’s nothing to resent. If you’re happy with how things are, and he’s happy with how things are — minus the issues with sleep apnea — then there’s no problem. The great thing about relationships is that everybody gets to define how theirs work and what the rules are for them. If everyone’s cool with one partner being monogamous and the other having outside sex partners? More power to them. If everyone’s cool with sleeping in different rooms? That’s awesome, rock the righteous fuck on. And — as with you and your husband — sex just isn’t a priority and nobody’s feeling neglected or left out? Then all that’s happened is that you and your hubby have found someone who is wonderfully right for each other and that’s terrific.
Forget the haters or the folks who insist that there must be something wrong. They have their own relationships and you have yours and there’s no need to borrow trouble or misery when there’s no reason for it. You two have your own thing going, a relationship that is as unique as you two. And if y’all are happy, and it sounds like you are… well, honestly, that’s all that matters.
You’re ok. I promise.
Hi Doc, thanks for taking the time.
TLDR: Should I continue pursuing a casual relationship with a friend, and, if not, how do I go about ending things in the healthiest way possible? I made a move on my friend/crush and it went well! Lately though I’ve been getting mixed messages and am unsure of how to proceed. Now that the cat is out of the bag, I don’t know that I can go back to being just friends if this doesn’t work out.
Okay here is the long, soapy version:
About three years ago I met a girl (Call her “C”) and we hit it off well. After 3-4 months of knowing one another, I started to get the feeling that C might be interested in me. She asked, in a very roundabout way, if I was single and when I said that I was, she got very excited. What had been brief, casual conversations turned into long, flirty ones. After two weeks of this, I decided to ask C out to dinner. She said yes, and we went out that same night. (We were more “friendly acquaintances” than “friends” at this point.)
Our dinner went GREAT. Seriously, I’ve had first dates in the past that went as well as this one, and those ended up leading to bigger, better things down the road. When I asked C out for a follow up date, however, she seemed shocked and told me she had a boyfriend!
I felt a bit dumb for having misread everything but it was mainly a “No harm, no foul” situation and that probably would’ve been the end of everything… BUT C’s interest in me seemed to increase. She started sending me flirty snapchats at work, commenting on my posts and texting me things at night like: “Hope you had a good day, can’t wait to see you!” When we did see each other, she would hang around for me to finish up (something I hadn’t asked her to do), so I could walk her to her car (something I hadn’t offered).
This extra attention went on for about a month or so, and then died off but by then I had a full blown crush. Now to be clear, I don’t think any of this was a sign that C wanted to fool around or that she was just teasing me for a cheap ego boost. Though, and this is important, I have always been confused as to whether this behavior was just an outgoing person being friendly in response to unexpected flattery, or if it was a sign of legitimate attraction that C felt strongly enough to respond to but not act on, since she was already in a happy relationship.
Since then, we’ve become friends and while I haven’t gone around announcing things with a bullhorn, I also haven’t tried hiding my crush either. In fact I’ve tried to take your advice about dealing with a crush. I acknowledge it when I feel it and have tried to use it as motivation to become a better more, well rounded person so that I COULD date someone that I like as much as C eventually. (That intent has led me to pick up new hobbies, try out new careers and address my depression and anxiety more fully. I’ve also dated other people but nothing ever panned out)
When the pandemic came along, C and I stopped seeing each other in person, and I though it might be best to put our friendship on the back burner. After awhile my crush started to fade, but then about 3 months in C reached out to say that she had been thinking about me, that she missed me and suggested we meet for coffee. I agreed, we had an enjoyable time and I went back to focusing on other things. Another 3 months went by and we did it all over again with the same outcome.
I figured this might be our friendship going forward and that was fine. It was fun, felt good and didn’t cause me to feel any crush related anxiety.
Now fast forward to the beginning of this summer. After not having heard/seen each other in some time, C reached out to me same as before with the suggestion to meet up soon. We spent the next few days texting back and forth but something seemed off. Eventually it came out that C had ended her relationship. I was kind of stunned so I told her that I was sorry to hear that and hoped she was doing alright. She said was doing OK but asked if we could postpone meeting up so that she had more time to “decompress” to which I agreed.
We then spent the next week doing a lot of heavy flirting via text/snapchat and when we finally met up, it felt more like a date than just friends catching up. It felt like the dinner we had gone out on way back when but even better since we had already gotten all the “getting to know you” stuff out of the way. Over the course of the evening C told me that ending her relationship had been mostly her call, that she always felt like she should’ve dated around more before committing like she did, and specifically mentioned the time I asked her out as something she would’ve pursued.
There was a lot of sexual banter throughout the night and playful intimate touching. When the time felt right I kissed C which led to an impromptu (and fairly heavy) make out session.
Before parting ways we had a lengthy talk about where we stood. I told C that I wasn’t trying to take advantage of her situation, but that it felt dishonest to bury my feelings also. C said she needed time to herself for awhile but that she wanted to see more of each other when she was more comfortable.
This was all about 6 weeks ago. In that time I’ve tried to give C the time and space she asked for and initially everything felt good. C left town for awhile on a family trip but we’ve stayed in contact. We did a lot of fun, light flirting via phone but when C got back she went radio silent on me for about a week. I reached out a few times, nothing serious, but backed off for fear that I wasn’t giving her the time she asked for.
Eventually C did reach out and we did see each other in person. (Though it wasn’t a date.) We had another long talk that was equal parts fun, flirty and serious. I apologized for coming on too strong and C apologized for not responding. It turns out C has been very busy with her job, adjusting to her new digs (she’s living with close friends but there’s tension among all the roommates) and is generally in a “weird place” right now. C suggested another dinner together soon and we went right back to flirting as before.
I gave it a few days and attempted to pin C down for another dinner date. C demurred but suggested we try sometime the week after. This is where things left off and I’m feeling stuck.
Am I not giving the C the appropriate amount of time? Or is the answer just not the one I want to hear?
On one hand the heavy flirting (it’s not sexting but it’s definitely sexual), the late night back-and-forths and the seemingly genuine desire to reschedule things all seem like interest. On the other hand the intermittent radio silence and “kick the can down the road” replies feel like indirect “no’s”.
I’m not looking for a serious commitment, not that I’m opposed to it, but I know that’s not what C is looking for either. I’m also not looking just to get laid though I’m certainly interested in sex. These are all things I’ve been honest and upfront with C about from the jump and she has seemed receptive if sometimes vague.
I don’t regret making my move and I knew it was a risk going in but I’m worried about what comes next if C’s feelings are strictly platonic. It would be a painful and impossible task for me to try and go forward with our friendship as before. I don’t want to needlessly hurt someone I care about deeply but I also don’t want turn a real friendship into a fake one.
Where do I go from here? Do I need to just relax, quit over analyzing, back off and leave the ball in her court so to speak or do I need to start figuring out how to end a very meaningful relationship? An outsider’s perspective would be greatly appreciated.
Running Hot And Cold
This one’s simple, RHAC: you just need to relax.
Here’s what’s going on: C seems to like you. In fact, she seems to like you quite a bit — to the point that, when you two were working together, her behavior was starting to verge on “actively interested in leaving her boyfriend” territory. That, to me, sounds like it was a case of a mutual crush; she was grooving on the same sort of feelings you were having, and getting that same thrill of limerence from being around you and finding reasons for the two of you to spend more and more time together. In fact, I suspect that part of why this came to a halt the first time was because either she realized or someone else pointed out how her behavior might be starting to be a little much for someone in a committed relationship with someone else. But by that point, you and she had a genuine friendship going, which was great!
And hey, congratulations are in order for you, RHAC, because you’ve done everything right. You handled your crush like a champion, you channelled that energy into becoming an awesome person and you and C were able to be friends, even with your (now obviously) mutual attraction for one another. You should be proud of yourself and what you’ve accomplished.
And if I’m being honest: the way you handled things is probably part of not only why you and C were able to be friends, but also why she’s been open to pursuing something with you. If you’d done things differently, I strongly suspect that this mutual attraction would never have gotten off the ground. Either the crushes would have faded or the friendship wouldn’t have lasted and y’all would’ve gone your separate ways.
But you didn’t, they didn’t and here we all are.
So where do you go from here? Well, honestly, I think you just need to sit back and give it some time. One of the things I’m always telling folks is that relationships need three things to get off the ground: the right person, the right place (in life) and the right time. And while you two have two out of the three, the third isn’t quite there yet. The issue at hand is that C is going through some shit — leaving her boyfriend, stress at work, the stress of a new place to live, all the attended worries about COVID and so-on. That can make it difficult to want to add yet another complication to one’s life: a new relationship with you. That’s not to say that she’s not interested in it… just that she doesn’t have the mental or emotional bandwidth right now. Shit’s tough, she’s likely pushing the limits of what she can handle and adding more to it — even something she wants and would enjoy — is likely too much right now. When things settle down and she frees up some of that bandwidth, then odds are that she’ll be ready to circle back around to the possibility of a relationship with you.
Everything you describe sounds like someone who’s into you and interested in more, but just can’t add anything else to her plate right now. The fact that she said “ok I can’t this week, but what about next week” is a very good sign; as a general rule, folks who want to see you will make an effort to do so. If she wasn’t interested, she wouldn’t have made a point of trying to fit you in where she could. Now, if “maybe next week” keeps happening? That’s a warning sign. It’s not an indication that she’s not interested — sometimes you really do just get stupidly busy or booked — but it’s at least cause to be a little concerned.
That being said: that’s not the situation here. She’s flirty, she’s responsive and she wants to see you. Those are all good signs. My advice is to focus on being happy with how things are right now and enjoying what you can. While this isn’t where you’d like to be, you seem to be on the path to getting there. If you can be cool and be flexible for now and wait while she sorts through things, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how things go.
Like I said: you’ve been doing everything right and it’s been paying off for you. Stick with it, and I believe it’ll likely turn out well.