romantic relationships

Blog Notes: Nomenclature?

Just a lil post to let y’all know that the person I’ve been referring to as “former spouseperson” (formerly just “spouseperson” (formerly “my spouse” (formerly called by a gendered spousal term because that’s how long I’ve been writing this blog :P))) will henceforth be known as my “complicated lifeperson“.

Because titles are hard sometimes, but that’s what feels right.

That is all.

Relationship anarchy and me: November 2016 Carnival of Aces Submission

[This post is in response to the November 2016 Carnival of Aces, hosted by It’s An Ace Thing on the topic of Relationship Anarchy]

Oh boy, do I have thoughts about this month’s theme! I suspect this post will be a bit of a rambly mess, but at least some of y’all seem to enjoy my rambly messes, so I guess this one’s for you!

Before I dive in, though, a quick(ish) definition: relationship anarchy is best described as the attitude that the only rules governing the function and form of your relationships with others are the rules set by the people in those relationships. In practice, this means consciously relinquishing (though not necessarily going against the tide of) societal rules and definitions for what relationships (of whatever kind) should look like, what they should mean, and how they should be valued.

The relationships a relationship anarchist participates in could look like anything: they may make monogamous sexual and/or romantic commitments, or they may not; they may prioritize biological family, or romantic partnerships over other relationships, or they may not. The point in relationship anarchy is not to fit  or to defy any particular relationship models, but simply to try to build relationships without any regard for those models in the first place.

Hopefully that makes sense?

Now, me!

I have long felt a great deal of affinity with relationship anarchy – because a lot of societal norms around relationships don’t work for me anyway (I’m not straight; I am demi*; I’m … um, just don’t ever tell me bio-family relationships are inherently valuable, mmkay?), I’ve naturally gravitated toward trying to finding my own path through the wilderness of human relationships.

I’ve also been thinking about this stuff a lot, because I’ve been dealing with a lot of disruption in my romantic/sexual (the two very much go hand-in-hand for me – at this point, I feel it safe to say that I don’t experience sexual attraction unless I am falling in love with – or already in love with – someone) entanglements over the last 1-2 years, and I’ve been actively trying to figure out what sorts of relationship structures I want to have in my life.

I haven’t had an exclusive sexual or romantic commitment in more than a decade, but at the same time I don’t take ‘polyamorous’ as one of my identities, particularly. Polyamory is something I’ve been practicing for some time, but it’s not fundamental for me; it’s the way my relationships have been built over the last while, for a complicated bunch of reasons, none of which are as cut-and-dried as they once were. For the first time in a long while, basically, it’s something that’s at least open to negotiation for me.

Weirdly, I started writing this post thinking I was going to get around to the reasons that I don’t really identify with relationship anarchy when it gets right down to it, but I actually think it’s a perfect fit for at least the way I try to approach all my relationships. While I’ve definitely internalized some of the messages I’ve been raised with about what various kinds relationships ‘should’ look like, and that impacts my own approach and desires within relationships, but ultimately my relationships are reasonably collaborative efforts, and I’m not bothered when they don’t look like the norm.

I also kind of suspect that this is true for most people when you get right down to it. Even those that feel the pressure of norms very often flout them when it is convenient; some people are more likely to hide the non-normative aspects of their relationships than others, I guess, but I’m not sure that’s a relevant distinction here.

What this says to me is that relationship anarchy is more important as a concept than an identity (at least for me). I think it is important to actively talk about how it’s ok and probably even important to let your relationships deviate from norms, because trying to use a one-size-fits-all model is a recipe for disaster in most cases. Relationship anarchy is a great model because it centres mutual consent and active communication rather than assumptions around relationship questions like sexual and romantic exclusivity, what does and does not constitute a breaking of any such commitments (since there is often a great deal of disagreement about this), and many other things.

I also think that the principles of relationship anarchy is particularly important and potentially useful for ace and aro people, simply because it is a model that inherently creates space for whatever kinds of intimate/interdependent relationships people want to build. The idea of making a lifelong commitment to someone that doesn’t involve sex and/or romance is still strangely revolutionary/unthinkable to many people, for instance, despite that fact that it may very be an ideal for many ace and/or aro people.

So, I guess I’m very happy to have this as a topic for the Carnival, and I look forward to reading everyone else’s submissions!

*er, ok, some kinds of relationship norms actually fit better with demisexuality than allosexuality (wait before having sex! Don’t do it with lots of people! or whatever), but nevertheless, within the (largely non-religious) dating eco-system where I find myself, it’s more of a problem than not.

Your first queer crush or relationship: 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge Part 25

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: Your first queer crush or relationship

This is a weird prompt to be a part of a genderqueer challenge, because um, wouldn’t any romantic/sexual crushes or relationships we enbies have be queer? They sure can’t be straight. Add to that the apparent prevalence of ace and aro identities in non-binary people, and it seems even more out of place.

But I digress.

My first romantic relationship was queer, even relative to the gender I identified with at the time. When I was 18, I told my best friend from high school that I was in love with her, and it turned out that the feeling was mutual! We dated long-distance (she was in Toronto for university, and I was living in Nova Scotia at the time, a whole tiem zone away) for a little over a year before she broke up with me.

It was my first love, and it was beautiful and mind-bending and gave me so many feelings I had never had before and it was great. It was also scary and I was had no idea what I was doing, and I wasn’t as good a partner as I could or should have been.

Yeah. Not sure how interesting that is to anyone, but there ya go!

Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

Rethinking what works

A problem I am having right now: even though I am feeling a very strong urge to be *doing* things to move toward the life I want to be living (specifically with respect to the building-a-family part of that), because I always feel less anxious about things when I am actively taking control of the things I can control, I also just, like, really, really (really) am not into the idea of dating.

Part of this is almost certainly that I just need to be nice to myself; I am still very much in the midst of healing from having my marriage end, and that is taking up a lot of emotional bandwidth, and it will tke time tomove through that.

But I also know that there has never been a time when the prospect of dating actually seemed exciting to me. It is just stressful to think about really, almost all the time.

To clarify: by ‘dating’ here I don’t even really mean ‘pursuing romantic relationships’ in general – actually hanging out with and developing relationships with people I like is great and not stressful. It’s the part where I go on first dates with people that I don’t know how I am going to feel about that I hate.

Ok, I mean, maybe most people hate that? I guess what I mean is more, like, it just straight-up doesn’t work, because that kind of dating doesn’t give me the emotional space I need to connect with people in the first place, somehow?

And I actually read a thing recently that threw thse feelings into relief for me. It’s a comment from this reddit thread:

Dating isn’t for everyone, I think. It definitely wasn’t for me. Friend-to-relationship is the only thing that’s ever worked for me

Which, like, this both does and does not apply to me. I don’t really need to have a developed friendship with someone first, and I don’t even think that’s the ‘best’ thing for me, but I kind of think that *all* of my romantic relationships (even with people I met on OKCupid) have come from a place where on first meeting the person, I wasn’t really looking for something romantic necessarily.

My first two romantic relationships were with people I had known for years. Then there’s my ex-spouse, who I met on OKC, but I wasn’t looking for anything serious at the time (oops). I had another short relationship with someone I’d known for years. I met another person on OKC (again, with a very “well, whatever” attitude going in). And my current boyfriend I met at party for a mutual friend.

…I don’t even really know what I’m saying here. The main point I wanted to make, though:

For whatever reason, reading the above quote suddenly made me give myself permission to reconsider the way I’ve been trying to think about approaching finding new partners. It’s ok for me to say “this approach doesn’t work for me”. That’s ok.

I hate that it takes someone else saying it openly and with self-acceptance for me to also accept that in myself, but it did.

Anyway, I think that for now I will be focusing my energies on doing things that let me expand my social circles and meet new people in non-dating contexts. And I’ll probably be taking even that slowly for now.

And I’m writing it down because I’m more likely to remember it this way.

Dating while genderqueer: “Who cares if you’re genderqueer?”

A while back, I wrote a response to someone who had tried to reassure me about my dating prospects by saying “who cares if you’re genderqueer?”. The person’s point was that I shouldn’t sweat the folks who won’t date non-binary people, because I wouldn’t want to date those assholes even if I was cis. Which is true, but also misses the point.

My primary response, which is that my genderqueerness is actually important to me, and someone down-playing its role in my life and relationships isn’t really a good thing either, also missed the big picture, though.

I’ve since realized that my genderqueerness impacts my relationships in ways that go well beyond questions of allyship and affirmation. The thing is, even someone who totally gets me, and is into me and everything, might (unless they are genderqueer themself) ultimately decide that pursuing something serious with me is nor worth it. Because I am genderqueer.

Let me explain that.

What my genderqueerness does is makes the bar higher even when people are into me, because by dating me (and especially, y’know, parenting with me, since that is the thing I am really looking for), they will have to have more awkward conversations, potentially face bigotry, and their lives will be made harder in many of the ways, big and small, that being genderqueer makes my life harder.

Choosing to be with me isn’t just about choosing me, it’s also about deciding I am worth dealing with all of the other crap that comes with me, which I can’t wish away, but which they might decide they can’t handle.

And when I read this post on Neutrois Nonsense, it resonated with me deeply.

I worry a lot about my partner: that by choosing to love me, she has chosen difficulty. She has chosen awkward pronouns, chosen tricky explanations, chosen to allow my identity as a genderqueer person to shape hers as a queer woman, chosen a life that will come with footnotes and caveats.

It matters that I am genderqueer. My life is harder because I am genderqueer, and the lives of those around me are, in some ways, made harder by their association with me.

So, yeah. Can we just fast forward ourselves into a post-cis/hetero/patriarchal world already? That would help.

Be yourself (but stretch): dating while demisexual (April 2016 Carnival of Aces submission)

This month’s theme is a very challenging one, and I want to thank our lovely host over at A3 for coming up with it!. For this post, I am going to focus specifically on ways that I can affirm and celebrate my demisexuality in a dating context, since that has been on my mind of late anyway, and because I do feel that it can be a perpetual struggle for me.

I have adopted a strategy of being reasonably upfront about my demisexuality in some (largely passive) ways, in the way I date. My sexual orientation is listed as queer and demisexual on my OKC profile, and I have a link to this blog from my profile as well, for anyone going for extra credit.

People tend to miss those indications, though. Which is fair. I don’t often look at people’s basic stats when I’m on OKC either – I do filter by some of them, but once I’m at a profile I’m far more interested in what people have written there then which boxes they checked.

And I don’t talk about being demisexual when I am on dates with people. So I think a lot of the people I date don’t know about it really. It’s weird, because on the one hand I am afraid of discouraging people, but on the other hand, I want to discourage the kind of people who would be discouraged by that, anyway, so. I don’t know.

I’ve… gotten pretty good at seeming kinda allosexual (mostly accidentally, in how I coped with the weirdness of dating while demisexual back when I had the extra challenge of not realizing that I was demisexual) over the years, in small ways. I usually know within a couple of dates if there is just going to be nothing happening with a person, to be honest, so I can cut things short before people start really expecting sex to happen, so there’s that. And I think there have been times when I have just faked it til I made it – I don’t have to actually be attracted to someone to enjoy sex with them, though I do enjoy it immensely more when I am.

So yes. I guess my approach to dating while demisexual is very much a case of being myself, but stretching that self to fit more closely to expectations. Though I don’t entirely know why I do that, other than a long-standing ingrained habit of avoiding awkwardness, or more specifically, of avoiding disappointing people. I’m… not entirely comfortable with it though, when I think about it.

I am definitely interested to see what others are contributing to this topic, and whether my feelings of discomfort around it are shared!

Societal Conflations of Primary and Secondary Sexual Attraction

A lot of the time, I see people making moral claims and/or just arguing about whether it’s better to be (sexually and/or romantically; the two are usually treated as the same thing) attracted to people based on who they are on the inside, or if it’s ok to have preferences based on appearance.

Often times these conversations get totally gridlocked, and it is pretty clear to me why that is, although the people having them rarely manage to see it. It’s that people think they’re talking about the same thing (usually sexual attraction) when they are in fact talking about two different things: primary and secondary sexual attraction.

Brief definitions: Primary sexual attraction is the kind of sexual attraction that a person might feel for another person more or less immediately after meeting them. My understanding is that it is a visceral response based mainly on superficial (or otherwise immediately recognizable) characteristics of people. I don’t totally know, y’all, because I don’t experience primary sexual attraction, so if anyone wants to help me out in the comments that’d be great.

Secondary sexual attraction is a form of sexual attraction that develops only when a person knows someone really well and has formed an emotional bond with them. It’s based on things like the ways in which those people relate to each other and positive emotions they feel toward one another.

I’m going to go out on bit of a limb here and say that most allosexual people experience both kinds of sexual attraction. The way I think about secondary sexual attraction in an allosexual context is that it’s the thing that allows people to remain attracted to each other over time in long-term relationships, as their bodies inevitably change drastically from however they used to look, and stop having the characteristics that caused the initial primary sexual attraction they may have felt for one another.

My impression is that this sort of thing, over time, can also change the characteristics to which a person is primarily sexually attracted (i.e. if an allosexual person falls for/develops secondary sexual attraction for a person with some characteristic they are not usually primarily sexually attracted, they may find themselves subsequently developing a primary sexual attraction to that characteristic, and responding to it viscerally in the person they are attracted to, and possibly in others.) I’ve seen this in action, for the record; more than one person that I’ve had a long-term sexual relationship has mentioned at some point that they were surprised by how attractive they wound up finding some characteristic in me that they weren’t usually attracted to.

So, secondary sexual attraction is important. And primary sexual attraction is, at least to some extent, and/or at least for some people, malleable.

But, that’s not the same thing as saying the primary sexual attraction is controllable, or that it is fair to moralize about people’s visceral sexual responses to people. I don’t think that most people are capable of completely eliminating their primary sexual urges, nor are they capable of somehow making them egalitarian or whatever the fuck it is that proponents of non-superficial attraction think people should do. You may be able to moralize about someone’s behaviour when they have a visceral sexual attraction to someone but the fact that they experience it (or don’t, for that matter) in response to whatever characteristic they do or do not respond to isn’t in and of itself worthy of judgment. If they use the presence of lack of primary sexual attraction as a measure of other people’s general worth as humans, or are more likely to be friends with or give jobs to people they are viscerally attracted to, that is fucked up and wrong. And that is a real pattern that we see happening to people. But the problem is not inherent to the fact that some (I guess most? this still confuses me to be honest) people do feel this kind of attraction, the problem is with what they do with that fact.

For the record, I also have a *lot* of thoughts about things like people specific preferences for (or against) certain races of people, etc. I do not think these sorts of claims are even remotely benign, and despite what I have said here, I don’t believe that sexual preferences are somehow magically above criticism, but I am going to save further unpacking of that issue for a future post. I simply want to set a foundation here for the idea that I understand that primary sexual attraction exists, and that I don’t believe that it is inherently wrong or less moral than secondary attraction.