This is a guest post by reader Eponine, who was inspired by recent discussions about relationships on this blog.
Let me start off by introducing myself and the basics of my relationship: I’m a heteroromantic asexual (or maybe somewhat grey-A) female in a polyamorous relationship. My primary partner, G, is a sexual guy. We’ve been together for two years: the first year in a monogamous long distance relationship (LDR), and the second year living together and being polyamorous. But neither of us had any romantic encounters outside, until 1.5 months ago when I started a long-distance romantic friendship with A, a demisexual guy I met on AVEN. He lives in another country and we’ve yet to meet in person.
As you can see, there are quite a few elements here: mixed relationship, polyamory, romantic friendship, and LDR (including the LD romantic friendship). But in this post, I’m going to skip the mixed relationship bit and focus on the other elements, mainly through my relationship with A.
Actually I was unaware of this concept until I came to AVEN, although I had always had a tendency to blur the line between friendship and romance. When I read the discussions about romantic friendship on AVEN, I thought, “This sounds nice to me!” But only with A did I get to experience it for the first time.
I started to message with A on AVEN several months ago, because his posts about polyamory and romantic friendship caught my attention. We hit it off intellectually right away, because we have amazingly similar views on sex, love, friendship, polyamory and so on. Soon we became good friends and started to exchange emails twice a day most of the time. Gradually, my feelings for him turned from a pure squish to a mixture of squish and crush (and swayed between the two on different days).
After I confessed my romantic feelings to A and had my feelings reciprocated, I was in a high romantic mode for a while. But it wasn’t long before I seemed to switch back to the grey area between friendship and romance. It’s a wonderful feeling, but kind of hard to explain. Of course there has always been a romantic touch in our relationship since we revealed our mutual feelings, but sometimes the friendship component is more salient, and sometimes the romantic one is more salient, at least for me. I think it’s mainly because our romantic attraction to each other is based on a very deep and solid friendship first, so the friendship component, the pure mental connection, is always a significant part in our relationship.
Romantic friendship is usually characterized by non-sexual intimacy like hugging and cuddling. Me and A are both the touchy-feely type, and we both think it’s the desire for physical touch that makes what we have a romantic friendship rather than “just friendship”. Before I knew what asexuality and sexual attraction was, I thought “romantic attraction = close friendship + sexual attraction”. Now I’ve realized, for me, it should be “romantic attraction = close friendship + sensual attraction”. And the sensual attraction can only develop on the basis of a strong mental/intellectual connection.
LDR: Mono vs. Poly
A and I live on different hemispheres of the earth, so it’s hard for us to meet up anytime soon. There are days when we’re depressed that we can only cuddle with each other in our dreams, and lament the distance between us. But having experienced both monogamous and polyamorous LDRs, I have to say the latter is much easier than the former. Admittedly, it’s easier for me than for A, since I’m living with G, while A doesn’t have a local partner to fulfill his cuddle urge. But we both think the nature of poly makes an LDR less stressful.
In a mono LDR, the central issue is – “when are we going to move closer?” I believe everyone has heard of such stories: A couple in an LDR breaks up, not because they don’t love each other anymore, but because they can’t see themselves ending the distance in X years, i.e., “no future together”. They’d rather give up this relationship and find someone local to build a life together. A and I would likely be the “no future” type if we were monogamous, but being poly takes the huge pressure off. Sure, the distance still hurts, and we hope to move closer someday, but it’s not a “make or break” factor in our relationship – why would it be, if he doesn’t have to break up with me to find a local partner?
A has been in a mono LDR too, and he said he’d feel guilty for not being there for his partner in her need, and for not being able to move closer to her. But in poly, one doesn’t have to center their life around only one person, because love can be shared. Now A says he’s happy that I have G by my side, and he doesn’t feel the guilt he used to feel in the mono LDR. Of course, I’ll be happy for him too if he finds a local partner someday. This is the opposite of people in mono LDRs worrying, “what if they find someone else locally?” and it leads to compersion, an important concept in the poly philosophy.
All in all, the poly LDR combined with the romantic friendship thing probably makes our relationship super fuzzy and unconventional to the mainstream world. We don’t have a clear “goal” in our relationship, like sexuals wanting sex or monogamists wanting a life-long pair bond. We hope to move closer, but the distance isn’t a big threat to us. Maybe we’ll only be able to meet up infrequently, but essentially, our relationship isn’t too different from a deep friendship, which we can sort of “pick up where we left off”. As A said in an email, “As long as there is enough compatibility to remain friends and stay in touch, we can have some form of relationship happening forever.”