Exploring societies expectations for personal relationships and how they have affected me

This post is an answer to the November Carnival of Aces topic expectations in friendships/relationships.


When it comes to personal relationships society certainly has a whole lot of expectations for what behaviours, desires and qualities they should have. It feels like society expects everyone to desire a romantic/sexual partner and that this form of relationship is the highest form of personal relationship anyone can have.

For years I felt the need to peruse this illusive romantic/sexual partner even though I can now see it was something I felt everyone should want, and not because it was what I wanted for myself. As a young woman I often felt that it was expected that I find a special someone, live with them and become a family unit. I also felt that because I was a woman I was expected to want children. That somehow having these things would make me a “successful adult”.

Of course I knew that there were other ways to be successful in life, through career foremost, and other personal achievements, but the media always seemed to portray that going hand in hand with having a partner, creating a family. I think I also expected it of myself because that’s all I saw around me in my own social circle, be that my cousins getting married and having kids or my friends partnering up.

For years I never questioned whether I actually wanted these things or not. I simply expected to. I’ve come to realise that I personally don’t need these things in my life to be happy or successful.

When I discovered asexuality it was a relief because it meant I had a reason for my confused feelings about sex and relationships. I had a reason to questions the expectation that everyone should want to have sex as part of a healthy lifestyle. I realised that a sexual relationship had never really occurred to me as being an important part of my life.

Still knowing about my asexuality I never questioned the thought that I was hetroromantic. Everyone I knew and everything I saw in the media told me that romantic relationships were the ultimate. If you weren’t in one, you should be seeking one.  There is an expectation in society that your romantic partner should be prioritised as number one.

I did try romantic relationships, but that had me entering into a world of all new expectations. Once you’re in a relationship people expect you to act in a certain way, especially if they don’t know you are asexual and are viewing your relationship from a “sex is a part of a healthy relationship” perspective.

Innocent things like sleeping became an issue because at the time, my partner and I felt expected to share a bed when we stayed in the same place over night and we also expected to enjoy sharing a bed. This was a problem because I have a hard time sleeping with someone else in the same room, let alone the same bed. Not even my dog is allowed in my bedroom at night. But I still felt the need to try because it felt like a huge rejection of the other person to say that we would probably sleep better in separate rooms, even if it was the truth.

It took me a while to realise that perhaps I wasn’t actually hetroromantic, that this type of relationship wasn’t one that worked for me. I realised I had expectations on what my personal relationships should look like. When I got rid of this expectation I was able to discover other options I hadn’t considered before. There are different types of relationships which aren’t romantic or sexual, such as queer platonic partners which could be prioritised just as much as other people’s romantic/sexual ones.

In regards to expectations for friends, I think I had a few that I didn’t realise I had until even a few years ago. As I said before, society expects romantic partners to be a first priority but personally I hold friendship quite high. Possibly this is because I lie somewhere on the aromantic spectrum and so friendship is naturally a higher priority for me. I’ve encountered problems when my expectations for friendship have not been the same as my friends. For example I’ve had a few relationships where the level of commitment I expected of them was not the same as what they expected of me. I found myself putting more energy into the relationship than I was receiving in return. This has mostly resulted in our relationship dissolving from natural separation as we grew apart in our lives.

Learning more about myself and the asexual community has allowed me to question these expectations, especially the ones I feel were taught to me by society and popular media. I can rethink what kind of relationships I need in my life and adjust how I expect them to look. It doesn’t matter any more if my relationships are prioritised differently to others or don’t look like what other people expect. As long as they work for me.

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