Translation by Jonah Evers
[Question 1] Before my current relationship I had several affairs at the same time, though all people involved knew about each other. Ever since, I have known that I don’t really want to live in a monogamous relationship, which is why „open relationship“ has been a subject for me and my current partner since the beginning of our relationship. When we gave an open relationship our first try at the beginning of this year I wasn’t sure whether my partner only consented to it to humour me, as I think he would have never had this notion by himself. Until now I have only become close to somebody outside of the relationship once; I talked to my partner about it and he said that it was okay for him. When I noticed that there was the possibility of me falling in love with this other person, I talked to them and, following that, mostly broke off any contact. But now I notice – again – that my attraction is mostly directed at people outside of the relationship. My partner says that this is alright with him, but when he actually notices me coming in contact with people I could potentially find attractive, he reacts hurt and resentful. Most of his friends say that they can’t really picture an open relationship being a good thing for him. I am scared that I am acting abusive towards him. Maybe he is scared of my reaction if he voiced his concerns? Maybe you can advise me how I can assure him that I don’t want to talk him into anything he doesn’t want and that he can talk to me anytime he feels uncomfortable.
[Answer] Hello B.,
Today, I will put the conclusion at the beginning: In my opinion it is of less importance to find out what is behind the incongruity between what is said (your partner consents to opening the relationship) and what is done (his resentment); you should rather ask yourself honestly what is to become of this relationship. I can see the following facts: Your partner consented to the opening of the relationship, but his consent/ostensible neutrality has turned to discontent with this situation, which you perceive as resentment. Even without a detailed account of your partner, I think it is adequate to trust your gut: your partner doesn’t like your agreement (anymore).
As a consequence, your ideal relationship model is poly and that of your partner is monogamous. You can continue the relationship in one direction or in the other. Either you keep acting according to your agreement and your partner is unhappy, or you listen to your gut feeling, live monogamously – and become unhappy yourself. Of course there are levels of „openness“ in a relationship, but your situation doesn’t strike me as one where a compromise both parties would be satisfied with is possible.
Believe me, I know these relationship situations, where one talks and talks and the problem doesn’t disappear and one believes if one would talk more, one could find a solution. But in real life one stands before the unsolvable conflict that derives from different needs. Just because the value of open dialogue in relationships is often stressed it doesn’t mean that two people can always find a solution, if only they talked to each other long enough. It’s understandable that you look for a solution in better communication, but deep within yourself you already realized that your partner is not content like this. In the hope that he would simply spill his beans and voice his opinion, so that you two can talk it out, you want him to talk. I fear that this is doomed to fail. He already showed where he stands on the current situation. Captain Awkward often emphasizes that one shouldn’t (only) be aware of what people say but that in the end what they do is what counts. That is what I advise you. Your partner shows resentment because he doesn’t want to continue the relationship on these terms. What do you want to do under these circumstances?
A few tips on how to proceed: First you could clear with yourself how you see your future together. What would be your ideal arrangement, no matter if your partner has similar ideas? Where do you see yourself and your partner in one year, or in five? When you have answered these questions for yourself, you can initiate the conversation with your partner. What would his ideal arrangement look like, no matter if it accomodates you? Where does he see you two in one year, or in five? Can he imagine himself living with the situation as it is now for another year, or two, or five? Could you in turn imagine living with the situation as it is now for 1/ 2/ 5 years? I don’t have a magic spell that will make you two always find the right words. But these questions can help you and your partner picture the future and your relationship more clearly. Good luck!
This time around I received an additional question, therefore now the bonus round.
[Question 2] Hello Esme,
i really like to read your column and this time I am brave enough to pose a question myself:
I am female, in the end of my thirties and married. In the last years I have concerned myself with a lot of different queer subjects and two things have become clear to me. The first thing: I am asexual. That was really liberating for me. I accept it (my husband does, too, implicitly, as I have not deliberately come out) and the pressure of having to want something – sex – is gone. The second: I am a GirlFag. Sometimes I wish I was born a gay man. I do not believe I am trans. Do you believe there is a connection between these two things? That I, because I am a GirlFag, don’t like (hetero) sex?
[Answer] Hello Anonymous,
A general warning: I will make wild assumptions, as I neither identify as asexual nor as a GirlFag. What I am about to say does not count for all, or even most of asexual people and GirlFags. Reality can be very different for everyone, which is why the same identity can be completely different for different people (see GirlFag-/GuyDyke articles in Issue 6).
The following text is to be seen as a buffet: take what fits for you and leave the rest.
So to finally approach the question: yes, i think there can be a connection between the two. While asexuality simply „is“ for some people, there are others who are/have become asexual through certain circumstances. Sadly, these circumstances can include negative experiences; others develop their identity in the context of how their body is perceived in society and sexualised/desexualised.² This is where different dimensions intersect, like fat, non-white/black or non-ablebodied, experimenting with feminine presentation as an amab* person or with masculine presentation as an afab** person. Especially in the intersection of these two, people are downright made asexual.³ Concerning this I’d like to offer you the two links in the footnotes, because I assume that you, just like me, are white and I want to let people speak for themselves.
Only you can figure out how strong the connection between your asexuality and your identity as a GirlFag actually is. A very real and well-known side effect of a trans identity is dysphoria, which can happen if your gender is not perceived as your own or if one is sexualised for gendered body parts that don’t go together with the own self-perception (for instance the strong sexualisation of breasts, when one would feel more comfortable without breasts). This can happen in a very sensitive situation if it happens during sex. Thus the potential of offense or injury is very high, which can lead to avoidance, unpleasant sensations or feelings of disgust/repulsedness. At the same time it could be that the „atmosphere“ isn’t right during sex because one expects a different dynamic from the one that actually develops. How people treat others is influenced by what gender they assign to themselves and their counterpart and which unspoken rules those gender identities bring with them. There are lots of tiny details that can lead to a situation where sex with a specific person doesn’t work and I think that the own gender identity, especially if it has changed in the course of the relationship, is a very big tiny detail. (Not talking about the fact that people sometimes come to the conclusion that they don’t want sex with a specific person or don’t want sex with them anymore.)
In the end, only you yourself can answer the question if and how there is a connection between your identities, but do I think it’s possible that they influence each other?
2 http://rumbaumeln.blogsport.eu/2014/01/30/kein-sex-ii-classsexrace-liebe-und-begehre-mich-trotzdem/, in leicht veränderter Form in Queerulant_in Nr. 7, S. 20 nachzulesen
*amab=assigned male at birth – sometimes also camab=coercively assigned male at birth
**afab=assigned female at birth – somtimes also cafab=coercively assigned female at birth