Awkward Conversations by Proxy: The Story of a Queerplatonic Triad

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah Beth Brooks commented on the Question of the Week expressing a desire to hear more about aces in relationships, especially long-term ones. I agree that this is a topic that really hasn’t been covered much but should be covered more. I suspect it tends to get glossed over because relationships involve at least two people by definition, and the “Hey, can I write about our relationship in public?” conversation is always an awkward one to bring up. Nevertheless, awkward conversations are my specialty, so here’s a post about my experiences within my long-distance queerplatonic triad.

About a month ago, I… completely failed to notice the one-year anniversary of the conversation I had with my zucchini Vir. (I would have liked to say we celebrated with something cute, but I’m not really… good with dates. Or feelings. Or conversations about feelings.) Vir and I actually met over AVEN, but didn’t actually talk to each other directly until some time after I left the site. Tay, who eventually reintroduced both of us, completes the triad; we met first through AVEN but more specifically through the old Transyadas group.

One of the things I’ve learned in the past year is to care a lot less about the names I give to things. I’ve often referred to Vir as my “Schroedinger’s girlfriend” on panels when I’m talking about my relationships or asked whether I date, but outside of that context I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about what to name it. The important thing is that everyone is on the same page and comfortable with where things are, not what label gets put on the existing relationship. Even if we hadn’t had that formal conversation about “hey, do we qualify as zucchinis now?” last year, I think we’d still be in essentially the same place, emotionally. The one place I do miss more formal language is in talking to strangers about each other, but even that is something that’s become less pressing over time.

I do think that for us, taking the pressure off about what it means to be in a queerplatonic relationship is really helpful. That’s one of the nicer things about having a weird fuzzy grey-areas relationship; you’re more or less understood to be making it up as you go along. I tend to worry about a lot of things, and it’s been really comforting to be able to sit back and take a breather and let this thing go where it wants to go without trying to direct it. I would probably be a lot more nervous if I thought there was some way in which I could do this “wrong.”

The long distance aspect of things sucks a lot, especially since we manage to all three be in different time zones and countries. When I was applying to graduate school, a program came up that would have let me live much closer to Vir, but funding wasn’t available at that program for American students so I wasn’t able to go to that school. It was pretty depressing to realize that I wasn’t going to be able to manage to move closer even though I had to move to a new city anyway.

It’s hard to maintain relationships long-distance. I had another queerplatonic relationship at about the same time that faded in part because for me, constant communication is really important to maintain that level of emotion and that wasn’t something we could sustain long-distance. (We’re still good friends; we’re just not as close as we used to be.) For me and Vir and Tay, it works in part because we all three talk to each other every single day. There’s a three-way Skype window that stays open almost all the time on my laptop, and on the uncommon occasions someone is out of town and won’t have internet access, we tend to send frequent emails back and forth.

Admittedly, the sex side of things isn’t so much an issue as it is in a lot of long-term relationships between allosexual people, but having a long-distance relationship is hard for us for other reasons. All of us are people who comfort each other with touch and who like to bond by cuddling with each other or hugging. Having to filter all your desires to touch one another through talking is not nearly as awesome as actually getting to hug someone is. Right now I’m sick and whiny and feeling slightly clingy, and I’d really like to be able to crawl on one of my people and be obnoxiously needy for a little while. (It is nice knowing that however much I bitch about my constant hacking cough that I’m unable to infect them with it, though.)

It’s also much easier to share things with each other if you can go out and physically do them together. Vir and I share a love of knitting, and Tay and I geek out about dogs all the time, but it would be so nice to be able to visit yarn shops or the dog park together once in a while. And it would be nice to try new things together, too; scout out a new grocery store, say, or visit local festivals. Right now, we share media a lot—we often synchronize viewings of TV shows or movies and have movie nights—but it would be nice to be able to do that while in the same room. There’s lots of things I would like to make more awesome by eventually moving in together, but for career reasons that’s very difficult for all of us right now.

I don’t really understand why some people would assume that an asexual long-distance relationship would be much easier than a sexual one. After all, if sex was the only thing that made long distance hard, that implies that the only thing couples do when they’re in the same room is have sex with each other. Obviously that’s not the case! There’s a lot of things people do to bond and take pleasure in each other’s company and presence that don’t have anything to do with sex, and sometimes I wish I could do more of them. All things considered, though, my life is much richer for having Tay and Vir in it.

About Sciatrix

Sciatrix is an American graduate student studying ecology, evolution and behavior. She identifies as asexual and has mostly given up trying to sort out the whole romance thing for now. She has previously blogged about asexuality at Writing From Factor X. In her free time, she trains in canine agility and knits oddly cabled hats.
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14 Responses to Awkward Conversations by Proxy: The Story of a Queerplatonic Triad

  1. Siggy says:

    I suspect it tends to get glossed over because relationships involve at least two people by definition, and the “Hey, can I write about our relationship in public?” conversation is always an awkward one to bring up.

    Haha, yes! I don’t have further comment, but thanks for writing a bit about your relationship.

  2. Asking to talk about a relationship in public is definitely an awkward conversation. I always feel weird writing about me and my girlfriend, even though she’s usually cool with it. It’s just such an odd question to ask. And then you think, gah, what if someone finds this and recognizes us from the description and then know about aspects of our relationship we probably wouldn’t have directed them to?

    Long distance got a lot harder on me when my girlfriend and I did have the ability to meet up and do things together. Like you say, it makes a difference. When I visited her last we got to do normal stuff like grocery shopping and it was just such a treat to be in each other’s company.

    On people’s perceptions, and this might be kind of a segue — I think that it’s a pretty pervasive opinion that distance takes away the value of a relationship, no matter what value the people in it assign to the relationship. I know a ton of people (mostly from people who aren’t internet-inclined) who think that friends are only really friends if you can regularly hang out with them in person, and a few obnoxious people who have insisted to others in long-distance romances that their romance was just a friendship whenever the people involved were separated.

    It’s odd to me to see people insisting that for a lot of reasons. Not just because it’s obnoxious to people who maintain any kind of LDR, but also… Recently I read a nonfiction book on the lives of the USA “Founding Fathers” and their wives. And every single one involved letter writing, and even if people only wrote to each other every few years, or fell out of touch, they could still consider themselves intense friends. Traveling was harder back then, but from the little I’ve read, it seems like people thought that you could still maintain relationships when distance was involved. I feel like even though there’s more ways to bridge distance nowadays, there’s also a lot of disdain for it. I don’t know if that makes sense.

    • Sciatrix says:

      Oh, writing it was so weird. And I gave both of them veto power and asked them to read it before it went up, too, because that made me feel better about doing it at all, and just–yeah. Awkward city. (Also awkward: questions about your personal relationships in panels, but then I’m pretty sure you know that.)

      Yeah, I suspect not having the ability to do that–none of us have ever lived near by each other–make it easier than going from living near-ish to one another and then going to completely long-distance. Getting to have something and having it go away is way worse than not having had it to begin with, I think.

      Oh, you totally make sense to me. Also, I think the fact that our Skyping tends to be text and not videocalls would make that perception worse if I was a little more open about it. I think there’s this definite privileging of ways in which people communicate, with face-to-face talking being prioritized as “most intimate” and text–especially time-lapsed text like letters and emails–being ranked “least,” and if you don’t have access to more ‘high-ranked’ types of communication clearly the relationship itself must be less emotionally intimate. Which is silly for a lot of reasons. The medium in which you communicate doesn’t actually control the nature of what you’re communicating, and some of us process text better than verbal communication anyway.

      One of the things that struck me recently when I read up on Boston Marriages was a case study between two women I found where the women had been in contact almost entirely through letters for much of their friendship, and yet they were described by contemporaries and their biographers as extremely close. I do wonder if the fact that travel is cheaper, easier, and faster these days is part of the reason for the devaluation of long-distance communication. Maybe it’s less easy for some people to understand why you wouldn’t be able to be in the same place as often? I mean, the distance people can effectively travel in a given space of time is much greater than it used to be, so the area that any given person visits regularly is also consequently bigger. Maybe that means there’s less scope for long-distance relationships or physical separations, so it’s harder for people who haven’t decided they’re worth it to understand them when they do come up.

      • Veto power makes it marginally less weird, definitely. But it’s still odd to talk about your relationship(s) as … an example of something. (Ohhh yes. That one panel we did and then what people have said about panels in other places.)

        I think that it is possibly more difficult to have something go away than it would be not to have it in the first place. The long-distance stuff for my girlfriend and I probably gets harder, at least for a while, every time we’ve managed to meet up. The status quo suddenly seems different afterwards.

        if you don’t have access to more ‘high-ranked’ types of communication clearly the relationship itself must be less emotionally intimate is a very good phrase, I think, for summing up a lot of people’s attitudes about LDRs or any kind of relationship that doesn’t primarily consist of people hanging out in person. It is silly, of course! There are things that are much easier for me to say online than in person. I feel like even the friendships I developed primarily in person were aided by the internet for that reason. And definitely sometimes it’s easier physically/mentally to talk through text or just sound or whatever. The medium does not necessarily dictate the relationship.

        Yes! I started a historical fiction today and it didn’t involve Boston Marriages (which I should probably read up on at some point) but there were friendships maintained across the Atlantic where people would go half a year without getting a letter. It’s amazing. Ohh, that does make sense. (Although it makes me want to go “You want to buy me quarterly plane tickets, then?” at them.) Travel being physically easier, I guess people think that long-distance communication shouldn’t stretch so far or for so long, but crossing that distance can be expensive. And for some people in some relationships, they might prefer the distance or not mind it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship means less to them.

  3. ❤ ❤ <3!!! Thank you for sharing your relationship story, Sciatrix.

  4. Eponine says:

    I really like the discussions about LDR and communication medium in the comments above. I’m someone who likes time-lapsed text (emails) much more than those more instant and “intimate” ways of online communication (IM, voice/video chat, etc). I express myself best when I can take my time to organize my thoughts. My online romantic friend and I (I talked about our relationship in my guest post “Poly + Long Distance + Romantic Friendship = ?”) have been communicating via emails exclusively. It’s very fulfilling for us, and neither of us desires to talk on IM or Skype. Actually, in general, I also tend to bond better with those who prefer emails, because such people tend to be introverted thinkers like me.

    I think it’s a bad idea to rank communication styles based on “intimacy”. Different things work for different people, that’s all.

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