My boyfriend broke up with me today, and the worst part is that I’m not even surprised.
I got back from visiting him (several states and two two hours flights) for the past week at 2am this morning. Around six this evening, he called to say this:
“Time to be upfront about it - I’m in a relationship with someone else. So whatever we had is over.”
He was at the someone else’s house (also in another state and plane trip away) for their child’s tenth birthday. I’d picked up the wrapping paper and bows for him over the week, and helped him pick out a card yesterday. We watched Netflix while he wrapped the present.
I wished him well over the phone, but told him I was going to hang up. I didn’t know - I couldn’t think of anything else to say. My stomach felt like a pit, and there was something thick but permeable in the back of my throat. I want to say I was blind-sided, but I didn’t feel blind at all.
I spent the next few hours angry. The other person had visited him earlier that month. They were his ex. I didn’t think anything of it - he was close with a lot of people, and was close with their kid, too. I wasn’t angry at him. I wasn’t angry at me, although I maybe should have been. I thought about the long hair I’d found in his bed. I have short hair. I thought he just lent them the spare comforter I was using when they visited.
I don’t feel stupid, but I had thought maybe something was amiss in our relationship. I have anxiety, so after talking to him about it, wrote it off as my mind’s insidious whispers. He’d been working late for a while, and I assumed he was just tired. But he never really reassured me.
I am asexual. He is not. We talked about it. When I first brought it up, it was the first time I had realized it myself. He claimed to accept it, but I don’t think he really did. Because I am sex positive, I don’t think he really understood. When I explained I didn’t find anyone physically attractive, including him, I knew it hurt him - but I was just being honest. After a while, he came to realize that I really was asexual, and actually understand that. I know, because we talked about it.
He told me that he wasn’t sure how I could differentiate my love for him from my love for my friends, and that he felt like our relationship was more like a friendship. Without sex as a backdrop, I didn’t know how to explain that it felt different. That even if it seemed the same to him, I could tell the way I loved him was different. It was romantic, and not platonic.
We were together for about four years. I had never dated anyone before him.
We had been dating a few months when I realized I was asexual. I came across someone talking about their experience, and it led me to research more. And I had that moment - the there’s a name for that moment. If you’re also queer, you know what moment I’m talking about. My ex-boyfriend is straight. He’d never had that moment. He didn’t understand why I felt like I needed a label. I tried to explain, but it never stuck. He didn’t mean it in malice, and I understood his point of view - I wish we lived in a world where acceptance was so high that labels for orientation were superfluous. But we don’t, and it’s really fucking hard to explain the way it feels to know you aren’t alone in something treated as an outlier or variance from the norm to someone who has never felt that way. We talked about me being asexual then. He asked if I was sure. I was mostly sure, and only grew more sure after. I am asexual.
We had sex pretty regularly. Like I said, I’m sex positive - I greatly enjoy sex. It just has its own box for me - a box separate from romantic love. He told me that for him sex and romance were tied together, and I understood. I worried that our incompatible orientations would lead us to breaking up - this was still in year one. I never once wavered from considering myself asexual from that point on.
I would ask him if he thought I looked pretty - after telling him I didn’t find him physically attractive, I thought I was being unfair, so I stopped asking when he wondered why someone that was asexual would wonder why they were pretty. Because I didn’t want to drive in the knife that I wasn’t attracted to him that way. I still thought he looked handsome in a suit. I didn’t understand the difference between aesthetic and physical attraction then, even though I could identify other people as pretty and handsome. Just nothing beyond that - I couldn’t tell if someone was sexy, and had a hard time telling the difference between levels of beauty without a dramatic difference. I can find people ugly, but never repulsive, because to be physically put off by someone, I have to have the ability to be physically put on.
He said he was working through things. By things, I mean my asexuality. He was figuring out if it could work. I was trying to make it work. He was pulling away. He was always introspective, so I let him. I told him the week before my visit I was excited to see him soon. He didn’t say the same. I figured he just forgot because he was tired and busy.
I stayed at his house for a week. I ran errands while he was at work to help out. We started to have sex the day I got in, but I was so tired I was passing out in the act. I apologized, he said I had nothing to apologize for. I was comfortable, and didn’t feel the urge to start anything the rest of the week. Neither did he. I thought he was tired. He played Starcraft while I watched TV. I asked him to join me at some point each night, because I didn’t want to force him away from his stress relief after working ten plus hours. We watched Ever After, one of my favorites, because he hadn’t seen it, and The Seven Deadly Sins anime, because he hadn’t seen that either and didn’t have anything else he wanted to watch.
His ex that he’s with now reached out to him after breaking up with an abusive spouse. He’d showed me the conversations they’d had. They were benign. His partner now was on track for a much better life. He had always liked to help people in bad situations, so I didn’t think anything of it. I knew about this ex before we started dating. They deserved someone supportive like him. When we first started dating, I thought I wouldn’t measure up to this ex if they wanted him back. I guess I was right.
I have anxiety. I had finally gotten to the point in our relationship where I’d quieted that voice telling me I wasn’t good enough, that he deserved better. I had finally stopped worrying that every serious conversation would end in a break up. I knew there was a possibility that things would end, but I was no longer afraid of it. And I trusted him.
I am asexual, and my partner of four years told me that our relationship felt like a friendship because it lacked a sexual component on my end. And when he broke up, he didn’t call it a relationship - he called it whatever we had. I love him. Romantically. I told him so, but he doesn’t seem to have believed me. And you know what? I forgive him.
Don’t get me wrong - what he did was shitty. He cheated on me before I arrived to visit (over $400 on the plane tickets) and didn’t tell me we were breaking up until we were states away (I lost my luggage on the way back, and since it wasn’t checked in, I probably will never get it back). I want to punch him in the face - and I have no doubt he deserves it. But I don’t wish him any ill will beyond that.
I called my mom. She suggested whiskey. I hadn’t felt like crying until I talked to her. I did my make-up, put on a short dress with a plunging neckline and went out to the movies with friends. I had two drinks, but enough food and water that I didn’t even get buzzed. I felt tired. I feel tired now. Drained. I doubt I’m done with feelings about this. But I don’t have regrets.
I was honest about who I was and what I felt. I tried to make him understand, and it’s not my fault that he never did. I still love him right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen to my Friday night RPG games over Skype - all the other participants are his friends from college. I’ve come to call them my friends as well over the past five years (we were friends a year before we started dating), but they were his friends first and his friends longer. And he’s in those games too. I don’t want to give them up, but I also don’t know when I’ll be able to face him.
I’m not mad we broke up - I’m sad, and I’ll miss our relationship. But I’m not mad about that - I’m mad that he wasn’t adult enough to break up with me sooner. If he had broke up with me because he wanted to pursue another relationship, I wouldn’t have been mad - that’s life, and there’s nothing wrong with admitting that. But that isn’t what he said - he said he was already in a relationship. That means he waited until after his new relationship started before breaking up with me. And that’s shit.
We broke up once before, for a couple of months. I don’t remember why - probably the same reason we broke up now. But he didn’t cheat then, he was just honest. Said he’d needed time to get his own head straight. That’s fair - I wasn’t mad. I was upset, but I wasn’t mad. It was mature. It hurt, but it was the right thing to do. This was not.
I remember why we broke up now the first time, but won’t put it here, because it was personal for him. It was still the right thing to do at the time.
I don’t regret a thing - my relationship with him helped me to grow as a person in leaps and bounds. I’m a more secure, confident person now than I was then. His friend told him that, being several years younger than him, I was holding him back as a person. He’d told me about it. I thought it was a shitty thing to say, and asked if he agreed. He’d said it was more like he was helping me catch up. He’d said it with a smile in his voice.
We were long distance for half our relationship, so most of our conversations were by phone and text. Staying in touch with him was easier for me than staying in touch with anyone else, family included. I have ADHD in addition to depression and anxiety - I have a hard time keeping in touch. For me, it was a marvel that it felt so natural to maintain our communication. But it got harder in the past few months, as I realized I was initiating every conversation - leading to gaps in communication. Sometimes a day, sometimes up to a week. Never longer than that, as I always reached out. I thought he was tired, but asked if he was pulling away. I already talked about that, though.
I’m writing this to share with other asexuals who might find themselves in a relationship with an allosexual that doesn’t get it. To let you know to be honest about your asexuality, and how you feel. Repeat it if you need to. Don’t run if they say they need time - they really might just need time. But make yourself heard, so that even if your relationship ends in a shitshow like mine did, your self-worth is intact. That you will never feel angry at yourself, or assume that you’re not good enough because of your asexuality.
I know my story isn’t as extreme as what other asexuals have faced - I wasn’t abused, and he did try to listen. He tried to understand - he did. But his inability to reconcile my asexuality and his allosexuality isn’t my fault, and I don’t feel bad about that. I don’t feel like I didn’t love him enough, because I put in the effort. I tried to make him see the stars in my eyes, but when I compared him to the cosmos, he thought I was being co-dependent. I don’t hate him. I know him too well. But I am disappointed.
I am proud to be asexual, and proud I stood by it even when I could tell it wore on my partner. Because you can lose a partner - but you’ll always have yourself when it’s over. Don’t hide yourself for the person you’re with, because if they can’t handle who you really are, they’ll leave no matter what. And you’ll wonder if it was because there was something wrong with you, and that’s hardly ever the problem.
My ex-boyfriend probably broke up with me because of my asexuality, but I don’t see my asexuality as a problem. And I think others should know about that, too.
Aurora Lee Thornton is an asexual author of fantasy that lives in the United States. She’s not overly fond of giving out much more personal information than that. Aurora also quite naturally likes books – she’s been reading and writing since kindergarten (yes, writing too) and has yet to stop. Everything from cyberpunk to high fantasy is fair game – Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women sits next to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series on her shelf of favorite books (not physically, she sorts her books by genre first, but you understand the meaning). The one thing that has always captured her interest and stayed close to her heart, however, is dragons. If you’ve had any dragon sightings you’d like to share, she’d love to hear about it.
All works in The Asexual are created by writers, artists, and creators who identify under the ace umbrella. Owner retains copyright of work upon publication, but agrees to give The Asexual first serial/electronic rights and print rights as well as electronic and print archival rights. Owner also agrees that if the work is published subsequently, either online or in print, credit to The Asexual is provided.