My first real boyfriend and I broke up in 2019, yet I still find myself learning from that relationship. Learning about myself, about sexualities, about loving a person and about what I need as a person.
We dated all of senior year of high school and were very lowkey about the relationship. We told each other that we loved each other, so it seemed pretty real to me. We didn’t really go on any dates, but I thought that was normal; I thought that we just took things slow. It wasn’t until the end of our relationship that I learned why we never held hands in public or barely ever kissed. My boyfriend told me, after eight months of dating, that he believed he was asexual.
Having never really heard that term before, I immediately turned to Google. The Asexual Visibility & Education Network describes, “an asexual person does not experience sexual attraction – they are not drawn to people sexually and do not desire to act upon attraction to others in a sexual way.” The Trevor Project describes asexuality as an umbrella term existing on a spectrum. Asexual people may still experience romantic, aesthetic or sensual attractions. They may also only experience sexual attraction after forming a strong emotional connection. Asexuality is an identity, and one that my boyfriend had probably been his entire life.
But understanding the term didn’t give me an understanding of what I was supposed to do or how I was supposed to react. I wanted to support him and be there for him, but my fragile confidence and self-image couldn’t help but put doubt in my mind. I began to doubt our relationship and the love we claimed to have those past few months. Not only did I doubt our relationship, but I doubted myself. The logical part of me told me that his sexuality had nothing to do with me, but I was a naïve teenager who already had self-image issues. In the back of my mind, it felt like a rejection. It felt like I was being betrayed by the man who claimed to love me. I was shattered and terrified that no one would ever be attracted to me then.
This fear has followed me for three years, but it’s also taught me important lessons about relationships and about myself.
I am the only person with ownership over my own body. A lot of the fear and hurt I possessed came from the idea that I had given him this intimate part of myself and my body, and he had chosen to reject it. I’ve learned that my body is mine and mine only. It is never given to anyone else. Being in a relationship or an intimate experience doesn’t mean giving up control of myself or my autonomy. I was naïve in believing that relationships require giving oneself to another, and once given, it’s something that is lost. I have the ability to choose what I do with my body, my mind and myself, and how it is going to affect me.
Love and relationships look different. I have no doubt in my mind now that he loved me and I loved him. His sexuality did not change the emotions we expressed, the secrets we shared or the compassion we felt towards each other. We truly cared for one another on a deep level. And maybe from the outside our love did not look like the “conventional” idea of what love or a relationship should look like, but what is this “conventional” idea anyways? Love and relationships can take on so many different forms, and each one of those is valid and deserving to be acknowledged and respected.
I need to find a relationship where we love the same way. Just like love and relationships look different, so do the different forms in which people love. Although I loved my ex-boyfriend, we couldn’t express that love in the same way. We could love each other without meeting each other’s needs, and that’s why the separation was necessary. I’ll always love him, but he couldn’t love me in the way I wanted to be loved. I’ve learned that to be in a healthy, productive relationship, I’ll need to find someone who loves me in the way I need. And now, I have a better idea of what exactly that will entail.
Three years later, I’m proud to say that I’m a better person than I was then. Fear tore me apart, but I’ve learned to put those pieces back together in a much better way.