DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: So, I have a husband that I recently married and I love him dearly. We both have autism and have dated eight years before we got married and he wanted to wait until marriage which I was totally fine with. As a demisexual, it took me three years to even want to have sex with him and I can kind of take it or leave it and my antipsychotics I take for my bipolar don’t really help my libido either. I feel like people are going to say “I told you so” because it turns out he has ED which we found out is most likely due to sleep apnea which we are working on fixing though due to COVID the sleep clinic is backed up so it has been a slow process. He also can’t give oral sex due to speech issues which makes moving his tongue and licking difficult so we haven’t really had any sort of sex even since marrying.
For some reason, I just feel like I am supposed to resent him when I do not. We are happier than ever and he doesn’t seem to really care either about sex either. We very much love each other and are happy, but I see a lot of what you saying about how waiting until marriage is a bad idea because stuff like this would happen but neither of us really found sex important to begin with so we didn’t really have any problems waiting which wasn’t due to any religious reason either because he is not religious, it was more that is just what his parents expected of him and he rebelled against his parents so much as a teen that he felt it was the least he could do for them. With me, sex is nice, but I could just sort of take it or leave it. I only really wanted to have sex just to say I had it.
But yeah, I just don’t know what to do because I feel like what I am feeling about this situation isn’t really how I am supposed to feel seeing how everyone else from what I have read on places like Reddit would resent their partner if such a thing would happen and I have heard people saying being fine in a sexless relationship is just a “cope” if you feel like this, but it isn’t just a “cope” we are legitimately happy and I am not lying to myself. With me, I am more concerned about his sleep apnea than I am fixing his ED which is merely just a symptom of a bigger problem because he has been so sleep deprived and it is affecting his life in other ways.
Am I wrong for not resenting him when everyone else I read about in a similar situation does?
Tell Me Now How Do I Feel
DEAR TELL ME NOW HOW DO I FEEL: I wish I could say that this was a new one on me, but it’s not.
To be specific: I wish the question of “wait, am I wrong for being ok with this?” wasn’t so common. One of the things that I think gets in the way of otherwise happy and successful relationships are the times when someone’s relationships don’t follow the common path… and the fact that their relationship is different means that they’re supposed to feel bad about it. Maybe it’s a couple that had an infidelity and they didn’t break up over it and see it as being something that ultimately saved their relationship. It could be a couple where only one person gives oral sex and the other doesn’t, and that works for them. Or maybe it’s a couple who have an one-sided open relationship, but they’re cool with it. Or, in your case, TMNHDIF, you and your husband aren’t having sex and nobody is particularly bothered by it.
Here’s what’s going on: you’re reading stories or responses from folks who aren’t in the same situation as you are, and not taking in the difference of your circumstance. The folks on Reddit who talk about resenting their partner or insisting that being ok in a sexless relationship is just “cope” presumably find sex to be an important part of their lives. For them, a sexual connection is a vital part of their relationship with their partners — a way of creating and sharing intimacy, of bonding and, of course, (hopefully) mutual pleasure and satisfaction. To them, not having that aspect in their relationships would be a cause for concern, followed by dissatisfaction, then bitterness and resentment. And in fairness to them: yeah, that would be a source of problems in their lives and their relationships. Sexual compatibility and sexual satisfaction are an incredibly important part of a relationship’s strength and longevity.
But there’re some very important keywords there: “their relationship”. Their relationship, their priorities and their circumstances are not the same as yours. Part of the disconnect between your experience and theirs is that, because sex is a priority for them, they have a difficult time imagining being cool without it. And while I have some serious side-eye for anyone who insists that somebody else not having the same reactions as they would is deluding themselves — “cope”, in this case — they’re reacting to this theoretical from their perspective, based on their experiences, wants and needs. The fact that they can’t believe folks might be cool with it is a failure of imagination on their part.
But again: their relationships and their priorities aren’t the same as yours. You seem to fall somewhere on the asexuality spectrum; you’re demisexual and it sounds like you may also be what’s sometimes called “gray ace” — not terribly interested in sex but also not completely uninterested. It’s just not that important of a priority for you. While your situation isn’t common, it’s also not all that unusual; the increasing awareness of asexuality and resources like the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network have helped lots of people realize that they’re not alone and — importantly — not broken or defective. They’re just different.
Similarly, it sounds like your husband doesn’t find sex to be important or necessary either; I would assume that if he were upset by the lack, you would’ve mentioned it in your letter.
So what we have here are two people who… are actually sexually compatible. Because here’s the thing about sexual compatibility and satisfaction: it doesn’t just mean “has lots of sex” or “wants the same kind of sex at the same frequency as each other”. It can also mean “it’s not a priority for me or my partner and we’re both cool with that.” You aren’t feeling neglected or distanced from your husband because of this lack of sexual contact, nor is he (presumably) feeling like sex is being withheld from him or that he’s not satisfied with your relationship. And hey, that’s a completely legitimate way to feel. You’re happy, he’s happy… there really isn’t a problem here. It’s just how you all roll and that’s awesome!
And here’s the thing: what you two have right now isn’t exactly unknown. What you have is what’s frequently referred to as a “companionate marriage” — that is, a marriage that’s based on love, commitment, companionship, mutual respect and affection, but a sexual connection simply isn’t something you need or necessarily want. And while, on average, folks in companionate marriages tend to skew older, there are young folks who have them as well, and it works wonderfully for them.
So, no: you’re not wrong for not resenting him because there’s nothing to resent. If you’re happy with how things are, and he’s happy with how things are — minus the issues with sleep apnea — then there’s no problem. The great thing about relationships is that everybody gets to define how theirs work and what the rules are for them. If everyone’s cool with one partner being monogamous and the other having outside sex partners? More power to them. If everyone’s cool with sleeping in different rooms? That’s awesome, rock the righteous f--k on. And — as with you and your husband — sex just isn’t a priority and nobody’s feeling neglected or left out? Then all that’s happened is that you and your hubby have found someone who is wonderfully right for each other and that’s terrific.
Forget the haters or the folks who insist that there must be something wrong. They have their own relationships and you have yours and there’s no need to borrow trouble or misery when there’s no reason for it. You two have your own thing going, a relationship that is as unique as you two. And if y’all are happy, and it sounds like you are… well, honestly, that’s all that matters.
You’re ok. I promise.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org