I Don’t Want to Be in a Couple

Recently, I’ve read a bit about ‘couple privilege’, specifically in the context of polyamory, but it definitely exists in society at large too.

This has set off a lightbulb in my head.

I don’t want to be in a couple.

I don’t completely reject the relationship escalator, but I want to be able to hop on an off at will, skip the steps I am not interested in, and be able to stay at a step as long as I want, or even go backwards.

I always known that I wasn’t interested in marriage, but my interest in joining any kind of couple has always been, at the very most, mild. And right now, I would strongly prefer never to be in a couple.

That isn’t to say I don’t want close, intimate relationships – I definitely do! – but I don’t to have one primary partner. While I’ll always prioritize some relationships over others, I want some fluidity in how those priorities evolve, and I feel entering the ‘couple’ mold would interfere with that.

But I think what rankles me most about being in a ‘couple’ is that I want to be perceived as a complete person on my own, not seen as completing/being completed by ‘my other half’. I am okay with being perceived as a part of a group, such as a club, or my family, etc.

This is why, in my ideal family structure, I would have two intimate partners, not just one. Maybe I’m lucky to be on the ace spectrum – I think I am more likely to form satisfying non-coupled close intimate relationships in the ace community than in society at large.

The big snag I see ahead is parenting. I am interested in, eventually, having a biological child, and I want to have a personal relationship with my biological co-parent. Yet having a biological child together is one of the most couple-ish things people can do, at least according to society at large. My parents are perceived as a couple primarily because they raised a child together (if they were not co-parents, they would seem much less like a couple). I don’t want to be in a ‘couple’ with my co-parent. Yet it seems that between having a child with a stranger (via sperm donation, for example), and forming a ‘couple’ with the co-parent, society does not offer much intermediate space. This is why sometimes I think it might be best to co-parent with a queer man in a primary relationship with someone who cannot get pregnant (most likely another queer man) – since he would already be in a couple, he wouldn’t want to get in a couple with me, and since a) they would be queer and b) his partner is not capable of being pregnant, I think it would be much easier to engineer a set of relationships which would be satisfying to all parties.

*sigh* This is complicated.


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

Finding That Co-Parent…

When I found out that the theme for this month’s Carnival of Aces is “Dating and Significant Others”, at first I thought “but I have no experience whatsoever with dating, and I have little interest in dating or getting a romantic partner” (at most, I would be interested in spontaneous non-sexual romantic one-night stands).

Then I realized … I have written about this before.

If ‘significant other’ means ‘someone with whom I have a committed, intimate, romantic relationship’ then I am not too interested. But I am interested in ‘partnership’. Which is how my parents define their own relationship.

I like the idea of partnership more than the idea of having a ‘significant other’ because it seems a lot more flexible, which makes me think this kind of relationship would do a much better job of satisfying my social needs.

In fact, I want different kinds of partners. However, the partner that I want which I think I’ll have the hardest time finding is a ‘co-parent’.

In spite of everything, I would still like to have a child (in the future, not right now). And I would like my child to have a close relationship with hir biological father. What I want in this co-parent is, at a minimum:

– someone who would actually be a good parent (willing to actually take responsibility for the child, minimal competence in dealing with children, etc.)
– someone who would not require me to be a reliable romantic or sexual partner (I am open to compromise on this to some degree, but I think expecting me to satisfy all of the romantic or sexual needs of a sexual and/or romantic person would be unrealistic – this is why I think poly is an option to consider)
– someone who respects me (love is not required, respect is)
– someone who I like (again, I don’t think I need to ‘love’ this person, but since we would have to spend a lot of time together, I think I need to like this person)
– someone who actually wants to be a parent

The above criteria (well, mostly #2) go against the social norms of every society I have lived within. On the one hand, having to build such a relationship from scratch will make things harder than if I followed conventional formulas. On the other hand, I think I am much more likely to build a good relationship by making such an investment.

I don’t expect to find an asexual/aromantic co-parent because the population is so small. At the same time, I am daunted by the prospect of working this out with a sexual/romantic person because I would almost certainly have to teach asex 101, and since most people who make sperm are cis-male, I’d also have to deal with a lot of sexist/patriarchal baggage to boot.

This would be a lot of work. But probably still less work than raising a child.

At least I have a clear idea of what I’m looking for, which means I’ve already taken the first step.

Why We Blame the Parents

My mother tried to raise me bilingual.

I only started talking when I was 4-5 years old (my father jokes that I learned how to read before I learned how to speak, which might be true if by ‘read’ you mean ‘recognizes the 26 letters of the alphabet’).

My mother blamed herself, thinking that by trying to raise me bilingual she ‘confused’ me.

Many years later, I actually researched the matter. It turns out there is no evidence of a correlation, let alone a causal relationship between a bilingual upbringing and speech delay. It was just a coincidence.

Now, some people – very subtly – blame my mother for not raising me bilingual. Because if a child can’t do something, or has any kind of problem, it’s obviously the mother’s fault.

First of all, it’s worth noting that mothers get more blame than fathers in these matters. Mothers are supposed to single-handedly bring up perfect kids, whereas fathers are only expected to provide material needs and play with their kids once in a while. Well, my anecdotal evidence indicates that my father was much more involved in my upbringing than the majority of fathers in the United States, so if someone wants to criticize my upbringing, they ought to put as much blame on him as my mother (then again, I think it’s also fair to criticize fathers who choose to take less responsibility for their children, since they are, you know, choosing to take less responsibility).

But I think one reason why people blame parents so much for the outcomes for their children is that the idea that parents have near-absolute control over the outcomes of their children is less scary than the alternative. The alternative, of course, is that much of life is subjected to random chance, and that there might be no to stop the horrible things that bad luck might send one’s way.

I think, even to my mother, it might have been more comforting for her to believe that it was her fault that I had a speech delay than that to believe there was nothing she could have done to prevent it. While self-blame hurts, it still lets one believe one actually has power and agency.

(Actually, the situation with my speech delay was more complicated than I’m making it out to be … but I’m trying to make a point about blaming parents, not give the most accurate impression of what happened with my speech delay).

Sure, parents sometimes really are to blame – in cases of neglect and abuse. But without evidence of neglect or abuse, I don’t think people should assume that it’s the parents’ fault if something ‘wrong’ happens with a child. And the evidence indicates that parents have less power over how their children turn out than most people think they do.