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Struggling with guilt around sexual attraction, not sure what to do

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So not that long ago I started being in a qpr with my best friend of nearly a year, i love them so much and I’m determined to convince them they deserve love (their previous partners have been….. really really awful and repeatedly told them otherwise.) 


So my partner (I’ll call them M) is aroace, and M has been with some very “I’ll fix you” type people before. And has been pressured into sex by every previous partner.

im aro, but not ace. And as much as I hate myself for it, I do feel sexual attraction towards them and get horny a lot. (I want to clearify I would NEVER pressure them into anything and I can’t genuinely imagine myself doing anything that would make them uncomfortable)

M and I both feel communication is important, and they often say they want me to say if something is bothering me. But I don’t feel like I could ever bring this up with them, and I feel so much guilt about it even if sexual attraction and hornyness isn’t just something I can turn off. 
im not sure what to do, but advice would be great. I’m still new to relationships in general and I care so much about my partner and want them to feel happy. 

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I'm speaking as an asexual who's been correctively raped before and was in a long-term abusive relationship.

It's great for partners to communicate and share feelings.

it's great for partners to be open with their feelings.

But it's also important for us to think about what we are communicating. What do we want to achieve by communicating this thing? Is that a thing we can achieve or is it unlikely to happen? What are the impacts of communicating this thing to this person?

For example, it's common for abusers to weaponize open communication, such as with sexual coercion. A tactic of sexual coercion is playing up the disappointment/frustration of being turned down when you were hoping to have sex so that a partner feels guilted into complying. In this case, the impacts of communicating the upset at hearing "no" were harmful to the other person because the intent was to change the "no" to a "yes" which is inherently disrespectful. It's fair for someone to be disappointed that they were turned down for sex. It's not fair for them to mark their feelings as more important because it infringed on the other person's bodily autonomy, health, and comfort. Personally dealing with their disappointment isn't lying to or hiding anything from their partner: it's respecting their partner's feelings and also realizing that their own feelings aren't permanent. Being told "no" didn't do them any harm and the disappointment is something that would pass quickly if they accepted the situation, let themselves feel the disappoint, and then let themselves let go of the disappointment.

I think you are wise to pause and consider your attraction and if it's something you're supposed to communicate to your partner, as they've said you can communicate things that are bothering you to them.

Here are the mitigating factors and what I'm getting from your internal conflict here:

  • Your partner's past relationships probably had a lot of double standards. Your partner has told you to bring up things that bother you, likely stemming from a place of: A) it has their duty to solve their partner's problems/feelings in the past, and B) they have had to lock away their feelings and struggles in their past relationships because their partners weren't safe people to talk to about those things. So, they are both used to doing all the emotional labor for their partner AND they also know how it can destroy a relationship to not (be able to) communicate such things.
  • Due to being ace and sexually abused, your partner probably has trauma surrounding sex. This is compounding your feelings of guilt and self-hate over feelings you can't help.
  • You potentially have your own issues surrounding your identity and sexual attraction and libido underlying the feelings of guilt about this.
  • Their past and your feelings make you feel like being attracted to them is a problem or shameful secret, which now increases the guilt because it feels like you're lying to your partner about something, and you want an open and honest relationship. But you're stuck because having the feelings at all feels like an attack on your partner and communicating them feels even worse. So you're stuck in a cycle of increasing guilt and self-hate where you feel like you have to tell them but feel guilty for thinking of telling them but feel like you need to tell them - and so on.

Here's the thing.

You being sexually attracted to them is not a problem. You getting horny is not a problem. There is no problem to be solved here. Once you start breaking that down and understanding that, it will be a lot easier to break out of this cycle. Let's go through this.

-> People are different. They have different feelings. People often get into relationships where their and their partner(s) feelings are different. Intensity of love is different. Love languages are different. Attachment styles are different. Libidos are different. What matters is compatibility and consent. Sometimes these differences are outside the realm of compatibility that works for people, for example someone with a high libido whose standard for a relationship is sex multiple times a week won't be compatible in a sexual relationship with someone who is fine having sex every couple of months or less, no matter how emotionally/financially/familially/etc. compatible they are. In you and your partner's case, it sounds like they're fine dating someone who experiences sexual attraction, as presumably you didn't lie and tell them you were asexual with no libido. And it sounds like you are fine not having sex. (Or whatever your boundaries are. Maybe they're okay having sex in an actually consensual scenario and you're okay to leave the initiating to them. Whatever it is!) So, there is no compatibility issue here in this aspect. (Unless the underlying problem here is that there is? In which case, you both need to seriously consider the future of this relationship and if it might not need re-defining.)

-> Now your feelings of guilt and shame about being attracted to them might be something to address - but a far better person to address it with than your partner, if you're not sure or unable to work through it on your own, is a therapist (heavily suggesting a queer-friendly, sex-positive therapist here). Because while it's important to share with partners, it's also important to maintain an equal relationship and avoid turning it into an emotional caretaking relationship. Sort that out with a more subjective, distanced party. I don't know if you feel bad about your attraction in general or it's just with your partner due to their asexuality and past, but regardless. Your guilt and shame is misplaced, and you deserve to feel your feelings without punishing yourself for them. Having attraction to your partner isn't forcing them to do anything. It's just a natural reaction you have. It's your choices and actions that matter far more.

-> You get horny a lot. I'm assuming you know your options for dealing with this. Generally: ignore it/take a cold shower or masturbate and take care of yourself. These aren't things you need to run by your partner, especially every single time it happens (unless perhaps you're in a domestic BDSM relationship where you've both agreed to that - with safe words and terms, ofc). It's okay to just take care of the feelings and move on.

-> Choosing to keep something private doesn't mean you're keeping a secret. You don't have to share absolutely, positively 100% of things you think, feel, and believe to any one person. Privacy is not secret keeping. Everyone has a right to privacy. If you have to go pee in the middle of a movie at the theater, I'm assuming you don't announce to the theater that you're leaving to use the restroom. You don't even need to tell the people you came with - just excuse yourself and say you'll be back. And I assume you don't feel like you're doing wrong by depriving all moviegoers of the knowledge that you're going to pee. Because it's not a secret - it's just private! Same thing here. Unless you're getting so bothered that you're self-sabotaging the relationship, then this is privacy, not a secret.

Which brings us back to spending some time considering what it is you want to achieve by communicating these feelings. And I don't say this because I want you to craft a conversation that leads it to your desired outcome. I say it because if you figure out what you want to achieve, that will help you determine what you should actually be communicating.

For example! My sister has been helping me out since I got surgery. She took my clothes to do laundry a couple of times because she has a washer/dryer, and I have a little apartment washer that when filled with water goes WAY over the amount of weight I was allowed to lift. A pair of my pants got separated from the rest of my clothes, so she forgot to return them the first trip. She was having trouble having enough energy at the end of the day to come return my pants to me, so she texted to ask if it'd be okay to enter my apartment during the afternoon when she got off but I was at work. I was upset about this but knew it was ridiculous to make her do even more work when she was the one helping me out in the first place, so reluctantly said yes and then sat with my feelings for a day. I realized my upset stemmed from the fact that I had been looking forward to visiting with her and chatting with her and felt a bit snubbed that she wanted to help me but not see me. So the feelings I wanted to communicate were that I wanted to hang out with her. By sitting with my feelings and figuring out what I wanted, I was able to turn an initial reaction of "um, no!!! wtf, just wait until you've stopped hating me enough to come see me yourself" (which was reactionary, unfair, would have been terribly hurtful, and caused her a lot of guilt) into "it was nice getting to see you regularly. Are there any movies you're interested in? Maybe we could go this weekend?" (which communicated what I actually wanted to say, was much nicer, and resulted in plans for next weekend).

I certainly don't suggest barging into this conversation with a comment like: "I'm attracted to you, and it makes me feel like the worst person." That would certainly pressure them to address this in some way, whether that be affirming that you're not a terrible person (which is generally something a partner can be there for but if your partner is uncomfortable hearing about your sexual attraction to them, it is a very awkward, uncomfortable, unfair position to put them in) or feeling pressured to act on your attraction so that you feel less bad about experiencing it.

If anything, the conversation I would suggest you and your partner have be about understanding boundaries and comfort zones better. You starting that conversation might look something like, "I've been feeling a bit weird recently because I am attracted to you but I've realized that I don't really know what some of your solid boundaries around this look like. Maybe you don't know yet either, and that's totally fine, but I'd like to talk about it so we can at least come up with some starting places." And then you could give an example of some comfort zones you'd like to understand better. Are there certain types of kissing that they are uncomfortable with (for example, making out might be fine as long as it doesn't involve tongue)? Is cuddling something you two could try? Is it too uncomfortable to watch movies together if there's sex scenes in the movie? And if you don't feel like you have any of these questions, then perhaps this is a conversation you've already been having and there's actually nothing to bring up!

Anyway, this feels both too long and not long enough. I hope it's not too ramble-y, and that it helps you out!

Edited by hemogoblin
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I agree with all the sentiments above. I think there's probably a good way to say something like "something IS bothering me, but you've expressed to me before that it isn't something you are comfortable hearing about. I appreciate your concern, and something you can do to help me is _____ (helping me find a therapist, just being there with me, etc.)."

Because you don't want them to think you are hiding things (because you aren't), but you don't want to cross a line, especially one tied to trauma.

Edited by Neon
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What about pursuing sex with other people?  That seems like the obvious solution to me but maybe there’s some reason that doesn’t work for your partner or you?  In any case try not to  feel guilty because like you said it’s not in your control and you’re respecting their boundaries.  

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I've been there. Its a tough situation to be in. 

When I was with my partner they didn't like being touched at all and that was very difficult for me. I felt like it shouldn't be difficult because i should be happy just being with it and that i shouldn't want to be physically intimate with it if it didn't want that and that made me feel pretty guilty, weak, and gross as a result. These weren't healthy feelings to harbor and the one or two times we ended up talking about it probably just made us both feel worse, because it probably both felt uncomfortable about the way i felt towards it and like it was failing me on some level or that me feeling bad was its fault, which made me feel guilty too, for making it feel that way. We weren't the healthiest people in a lot of ways, clearly, and i hope that if you do decide to talk to your partner that it goes better. I shouldn't have felt guilty and neither should my partner have. Neither of us were responsible for feeling the way we did, and we both would have been better off if we accepted that.

Despite that particularly hangup our relationship was still very good for me and i enjoyed being with it. I believe it felt the same way about me. No relationship is perfect.

You know your partner and we don't, so I'd trust your own instincts as to whether or not communicating about your issue with them will be productive for either of you.

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