Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Talk It Out.

Something I express strong opinions about is setting up and negotiating boundaries within your relationships, especially if they have romantic and/or sexual components, in order to avoid dysfunction, pain, cheating, etc. This boundary setting can happen with friends, family, romantic partners, your friend's romantic partners, your romantic partner's other partners, your study buddies, etc. Stating how you feel about a relationship and checking in regularly is a good way to maintain your own health as well as the health of your relationships.

However, I have to admit that this doesn't always play out well in my own life. Today I had a conversation with a friend on the subject of communicating about the direction or shape a relationship takes while within it. Personally, I tend not to communicate beyond "I want to be your friend," "I enjoy your company," and "let's hang out." I do not usually bring up behaviors that I expect to be reciprocal and tend to let my friendships develop as they do. I don't enjoy setting up boundaries or giving names to my relationships. If I express discontent or try to set up boundaries and expectations, it's usually because I have been hiding my feelings.

This has posed a huge problem when it comes to romantic relationships for me, and I wonder if this is similar for other asexuals who have difficulty forming romantic relationships. I have very little practice at making my intentions clear and asking for what I want, and so what happens is that I either treat the situation as if it were a typical friendship, or I end up putting a lot of emotional pressure on the person I'm interested in without fully explaining what's happening for me and what I want. I need to work on this more seriously and hope that this post will help motivate me.

In my ideal world, however, communicating about relationships would happen all the time. I feel almost silly bringing up this topic because I think most people would agree that communication is important. Yet, so many of us (asexual or not) are desperate for love and/or cynical about it, not knowing how to obtain it or how to share it. I also think that this trouble is related to difficulty with communication. I don't mean to suggest that one has to communicate their feelings face-to-face all the time--I tend to express myself best in writing and know that many people have a similar communication style. What really matters, in my mind, is taking the time to express yourself and being willing to step back and listen with an open mind. How long this takes would vary each time that it happens and with each person. Like all good things, healthy communication takes patience.

People express their feelings of love in many different ways. Someone told me a couple months ago that they considered sex to be the highest expression of love. In some families, offering care is a way of expressing love. Sometimes giving gifts or doing favors is a way of expressing love. These are all expressions which are valuable, but in and of themselves none of these is love and none can take the place of communication. One can have sex without communicating and without loving; one can care for another without communicating and without loving; one can give a gift without communicating and without loving. Communication itself is not love either, but I believe it is the only method that is guaranteed to express your feelings about a person and about a relationship as accurately as possible.

Note: I was inspired to write this post after a community discussion on consent and intoxication that my friends and I put together. I believe that obtaining consent before engaging in any activity with someone, sexual or otherwise, is of utmost important. This post arose out of the realization that before we can even talk about obtaining consent, we have to acknowledge the importance of communication, period. If consent is an ongoing process, then so is communication. And if communication is blocked, difficult, or avoided, how can one even begin to practice consent?

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