For as long as I can remember I’ve thought of myself as being strictly asexual but still seeking romantic relationships. Recently I’ve started to think that maybe I may be fazing out of asexual into more demi-sexual. It feels like such a weird middle place because dating someone strictly asexual feels weird but dating someone who might be uncomfortable with me not wanting to go there hasn’t gone well either. I’m afraid that if I decide to try it and conclude that I never want to do it again I could end up getting hurt. Do you have any advice about how to talk to potential partners about this in a way that helps them understand?
I hope it’s not too forward for me to say that this is something I can actually come at from a very personal place, because everything that you’ve said pretty much mirrors how I’m feeling right now. So, I’m going to talk about this from a personal place and from very personal experience, but I don’t want to make this NOT about you, and I hope I succeed in that. I’ve never dated anyone asexual, but this has never been a problem for me. My asexuality has always been on the table; I’ve had two significant relationships, and both of my partners knew that I was asexual before we starting dating. However, the fact that this was understood from the beginning only really helped us break that initial barrier of talking about it. If we hadn’t continued to talk about it after the fact, these relationships would have been far less healthy than they actually turned out to be. Both of my serious partners read through a lot of stuff on AVEN (two great subsections of the forums that I think you might find useful are the ones on relationships and “the gray area“), which I think really helped them get a more flexible understanding of what it meant that I was asexual, but more than anything, the question of “is this okay?” and “are you comfortable with this?” was always on the table – and not just in regards to me! I mean, that’s a huge part of being in a healthy relationship to begin with. Whether it’s romantic or not, casual or committed, you and your partner should be doin’ whatever you’re doin’ in a way that’s mutually beneficial. I know I keep linking to stuff, but Dr. Doe’s video Sex Is Not Black & White really rings true to me and I think is especially relevant just with the concerns you’re having. Regardless of whether or not a member of a relationship is asexual, everyone’s wants and needs are different. Some differences are smaller and less pressing, but they’re still there and your relationship will be all the better for recognizing that and addressing it.
My biggest piece of advice would be to set the pace for communication of any potential relationship you have. If you start dating someone you like, take some time to tell them your reservations. I don’t think the word “asexual” even needs to be a part of this conversation, but that’s completely and totally up to you and how you want to talk about it. Honesty is important when it comes to something as potentially uncomfortable as sex, so maybe say something like this: “I have historically not been interested in sex. I think I might be interested in having sex in the future, but it’s something that makes me nervous and I want to be able to talk about it openly and honestly with you. I still don’t know if that’s something that I want, how do you feel about this?” Asking for their response is what will make the communication healthy. You are 100% entitled to have a healthy sexual relationship on your terms, and believe me when I say there are literal boatloads of sexual people who won’t be too bothered about moving at a glacial pace when it comes to sex. That said, there are also sexual people who want something more their speed, as I can infer you have a bit of experience with. It’s okay if a relationship doesn’t take off because of this disconnect. Sometimes things just don’t work out, and wouldn’t you rather come to the mutual understanding of “maybe this isn’t the best idea for us” rather than stumble through a relationship where both parties are uncomfortable and frustrated? Keep a stress of consent (I’m seriously so sorry for all the links, also that one has nudity) on the table where it belongs, because that’s also a huge part of healthy relationships that is criminally overlooked. Be open about the fact that yeah, sex is kind of a big deal for you! That’s okay, dude. It’s a big deal to a lot of people.
I hope this helped some. I know that it wasn’t super asexual focused, but this is a conversation that I think exists in its own right. Starting a conversation about something that can be so serious is very difficult, and it will probably take a bit of pumping yourself up, but it’s so worth it. Both you and your potential partner will be better for it if you work with each other to break down the assumptions you both have about relationships and sex and build up something that is best for you both.