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What it's like dating as someone on the asexual spectrum

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What it's like dating as someone on the asexual spectrum
People on the asexual spectrum can face unique challenges when dating and keeping a meaningful relationship. But as with all connections, compatibility is key
I have a vivid memory of being with a group of friends, teasing one of them for having a crush. That concept of finding someone attractive was foreign to me, but at the ripe old age of 13, it only felt like a passing thought.  
In my early twenties, as people around me blossomed from silly crushes into romantic relationships, the passing thought solidified into an identity for me; finding someone attractive and the idea of experiencing intimacy with them induced a discomfort I couldn’t explain within me. 
Learning about asexuality was what put my turmoil of being “odd” to rest. For a few years, I was content and confident with who I was.

Wanting a relationship while being asexual  

Then at 20, I found myself attracted to someone, who made me feel warmed by the idea of a connection and life with them. Yet the idea of any sort of physical or sexual intimacy even with this person evoked only anxiety.
I still identified as asexual, but I wanted a relationship with this person who brought alive the romance within me.
"I realised that this person I wanted to hopefully build a future with had a very different idea of the life we would lead"
I was upfront about my asexuality with them even before we were in a relationship. They brushed it aside with surprising ease and understanding. We began a relationship.
Soon though, I realised that this person I wanted to hopefully build a future with had a very different—and incredibly conventional—idea of the life we would lead.
My first relationship eventually became my first heartbreak, when I came to terms with the fact that my asexuality was seen as a trait or habit that would change with time rather than a part of who I was.

Rejection as someone identifying as ace

I am not alone in my experience. Rhey, 22, a psychology student who identifies as queer/sapphic ace, shares, “A person had been interested in asking me out for a while. I was very unsure about it because even when they were flirting with me, they would only talk about sex and sexual attraction. When it finally happened, I mustered up a lot of courage to be upfront about my asexuality.”
“They promptly responded with ‘Oh, that's too bad! Then I would rather just stay with my on-off long-distance boyfriend.”
When Rhey says they “walked away feeling undateable,” it resonates intensely with me.

Trying again with relationships

Despite the blow I was dealt in my first relationship, I tried again and then a few more times. However, each time I found someone I felt I could connect with on a romantic or emotional level, anxiety set in soon.
First date
A million questions would flood my mind every time; Is it too early to have the conversation? Is it too late now since I’ve gotten attached to them? What if they reject me?

Anxiety and asexuality

Anxiety is a natural part of any "big talk" in a relationship, as certified psychology expert and life coach Bayu Prihandito explains.
He says, “The key to starting the conversation about your asexuality is timing and setting. Try to choose a moment when both of you are relaxed and comfortable, with no distractions, so you can fully focus on the conversation.
"Anxiety is a natural part of any 'big talk' in a relationship"
“Start by sharing your own experiences and feelings, perhaps saying something like: ‘I value what we have going on and our connection, but I think it's important for you to know that I identify as asexual’. This makes space for a deeper, empathetic, and understanding discussion and allows them to ask questions.”

Having hard conversations about being asexual 

Relationship expert and sex therapist Melissa Cook also advises that we try to mitigate the anxiety by “preparing some answers to potential questions to help you to feel more comfortable. It can also help to prepare and know that they are likely to need some time to process the information.”  
Niharika, 22, an activist raising awareness about asexuality and identifies as panromantic ace, reflects on communication in their relationship. They explain, “I had to deep-dive explain a lot of things when we first started dating. This came with trying to build a safe space to have conversations, entertain questions, send resources about asexuality.”  
Couple having a serious talk
Media and communication professional Love Nebo, 29, adds that it’s best to have the hard conversations early on in our potential relationship. 
She recalls her own relationship with her husband, saying, “I told him the first night we met. My asexuality didn’t stop us from bonding, dating and being married. If that person is your person, then get this talk out of the way as early as you can.”  

Compatibility and meaningful connections 

But it’s important to remember that sometimes despite all efforts to communicate and make things work, asexuality can be a dealbreaker for some.
In my case, it has been a gut-wrenching dealbreaker with people I genuinely wanted a life with. Both Prihandito and Cook tell me something that I—and many others on the ace spectrum—need to hear.
"Rejection is not a reflection of our worth, it’s just incompatibility"
Prihandito says rejection is not a reflection of our worth, it’s just incompatibility. He adds, “Remind yourself that this opens the door for a more compatible and meaningful connection down the line.”
Cook further advises, “Surround yourself with a supportive community—be it friends, family or other asexual individuals—for that much-needed advice and guidance.”
Prihandito uses the metaphor of two puzzle pieces. If they don't fit, you don't force them.
I am proud of my asexuality and despite difficulties in finding the puzzle piece that’s my perfect fit, there’s never any good reason to give up on something you’re proud of. 
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