Commitment, Family, and Friendship

Ace Admiral says “I would really like to see a community discussion about commitment, what it means in our unique kind of relationships, and how to get it. I would really like this to move to the top of the 102 discussion of asexuality, for people to talk to their friends and families and bring this issue to a broader audience for broader contemplation.”

I agree. Maybe this should be a Carnival of Aces theme (hint hint).

After I read that post, I realized that’s exactly the thing which makes my family relationships more secure than my friendships.

As I’ve written before, I trust my family relationships more than my friendships. It’s definitely not because I like my family more than my friends. I don’t. But that’s the thing. When I stop liking my friends, or when we simply stop spending time together/stop contacting each other, our friendship fades away. My family relationships do not do that, regardless of how much we don’t like each other or don’t contact each other.

In other words, my family relationships have a deeper committment.

This is not true about all families – but my family happens to have people who take family relationships very seriously. My father helps relatives who he actively dislikes merely because they are his relatives. My mother and aunt offered significant assistance a cousin from a branch of the family we hadn’t had contact with for over fifty years, and that was only because of her blood relationship. If that’s not committment, I don’t know what committment is.

Of course, the commitment in my family relationships are not absolutely unconditional. If someone in my family tortured and killed a young child, I certainly would not defend them, and I think most of the people in my family wouldn’t defend them either. But it would take something much more serious than being pissed off at somebody to break the commitment.

And knowing that the comittment is hard to break is what makes them feel secure.

But it’s a double-edged sword.

It means that, even if a relationship turns toxic, it cannot easily be broken off. I have ‘broken up’ with one of my relatives, I have clearly discussed this ‘break-up’ with my parents, and I am following their advice: talk to other relatives about this on a need-to-know basis. However, even though my mother is also now avoiding the relative in question, she has also said that we are still family, and that there is still a basic bond intact. In other words, it’s more like a separation than a divorce.

Since none of my friendships have ever carried that level of committment, they are much easier to break up, and thus carry much less risk of getting stuck in a toxic relationship.

I would be very interested in forming friendships or other non-romantic/sexual relationships with a high level of commitment. I am not sure how to do that. And I know that commitment comes with its own risks.


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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.


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Dancing as a Traditional “Nontraditional” Relationship

This month’s topic for the Carnival of Aces is “nontraditional relationships and polyamory.” At first, I thought I might talk about boundaries for future relationships, but that’s so ‘potential’ that I don’t feel I have much substance to hold onto right now. But what else could I talk about, since I haven’t personally experienced nontraditional or polyamorous relationships?

Then I realized … I have. Or, more accurately, I’ve experienced traditional romanto-plato poly-ness, if that makes any sense.

I am, of course, talking about partnered dance.

In various times and places (including the first half of the 20th century in the United States) partnered dance (swing, waltz, etc.) was a space for people to meet, enter a physical, and possibly intimate, relationship with multiple partners, and it was socially sanctioned. Of course, the social sanction means it is ‘traditional’ in a sense.

What about now?

Partnered dance is no longer mainstream. It has now become the domain of lindy hop clubs, waltz classes, and so on, in other words, a specialist hobby. As something that has fallen out of mainstream, it maintains some ideas from a previous era, including the idea that physical contact between people of different genders did not automatically mean they were in / needed to get into a sexual relationship.

And the traditional rules of partnered dance are becoming more flexible. It used to be that men always led and women always followed – but in my swing dance class, the instructor said it wasn’t important what the gender of the follower or leader is.

As I’ve discussed before, partnered dance ties into my own fantasies. I decided I wanted to be a leader, and even though my instructor told everyone that they didn’t have to follow the traditional gender roles, I was the only person in the class who took a role (leader) which is not traditionally associated with my gender (female). One of the other students asked me if I was a lesbian, so clearly somebody perceived this as a queer choice.

And is it necessary to have a follower and leader? No. In my experience, truly abandoning the leader/follower paradigm requires basically completely absorbing yourself in your partner and “listening” to all of their body cues without pausing to judge them. In my whole life, I’ve only pulled this off once. It was powerful stuff.

Maybe abandoning the leader/follower paradigm is like abandoning the dating/romance/sex script and forming a relationship built by listening to each other’s wants and needs?

I think I find the idea of partnered dance so appealing because it can satisfy, at least partially, my desire of physical intimacy without the expectation of sex or even romance. Of course, it’s ‘traditional’, but the rules can be queered, and the dance people I’ve been in contact with are generally open to queering the rules whichever way is necessary to give the participants the best experience possible.

And I’ve had the best experiences under queered rules.


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