Setting boundaries is, in my opinion, the key to maintaining successful relationships as a demisexual.
When you don’t experience sexual attraction as much as most other people, and can’t see yourself finding success in the online dating arena, you begin to see dating and relationships as a minefield of emotional entanglements, awkward moments and unmet expectations.
Online dating, first dates, blind dates, one night stands, random flings … these things are enough to make a demisexual breakout in a cold sweat and contemplate running for the hills.
Do Demisexuals Want Relationships?
The easy answer here is: some do, some don’t. Being demisexual simply means that an emotional connection be necessary before feelings of sexual attraction come about.
Emotional connections don’t necessarily need to be built within the confines of a romantic relationship. Once they’re established, they also do not need to lead to a romantic relationship.
Knowing how to set boundaries is a valuable skill for everyone (demisexual or not) in many situations (in a relationship, at work, with your family). But, this post is targeted to the demisexuals who are or want to be in a romantic relationship. Read More
How do Demisexuals meet people?
The same way as everyone else, really. We might have a profile on a dating app or website, our friends probably set us up on blind dates, there’s a chance that we’ll bump into someone at the grocery store or coffee shop… there’s nothing unique here.
Being demisexual poses a unique set of challenges. A demisexual might be more than happy to get to know a person by messaging back and forth on a dating site/ app, or to exchange numbers and share witty texts throughout the day.
The problem arises when the person on the other side of those messages and texts takes our banter as a sign of sexual attraction or romantic interest when our feelings toward them are completely platonic in nature.
Why are Boundaries Important in Relationships
Whether you identify as demisexual or not, boundaries are important in a relationship. Boundaries are what set the tone for the relationship, they outline who you are, what you want and how you expect to be treated.
In general boundaries are basic guidelines that we set to establish how we expect people to behave around and toward us. As with everything, there are no right and wrong boundaries. There is no clear cut expectation regarding which boundaries we can and can not establish.
It’s also important to remember that boundaries don’t need to be set in stone. They can change for different people, different situations and at different points in your life. The key is knowing what you’re ok with and being able to speak up if something isn’t acceptable.
Your Rights in a Relationship
Let me be very clear about something before we start this discussion. Everyone in any type of relationship has rights.
It doesn’t matter if the person is demisexual, asexual, allosexual … gay, straight, bi, pan, trans… It doesn’t matter if the relationship is romantic, friendly or professional in nature. We all have rights and we all deserve to have those rights respected.
You have the Right to Feel Safe
I hate that this even has to be said. It should be a given, but sadly it’s not. Remember you have the right to feel safe in any situation, romantic or otherwise.
Whether you’re in a long-term relationship, on a first date, talking to someone online or anything in between no one has the right to make you feel unsafe.
Unfortunately, this might also be the trickiest boundary to enforce.
You have the Right to have your Privacy and your Boundaries Respected
Seriously, respecting boundaries goes beyond the immediate moment. If your significant other tells your friends things you told them in confidence, complain to others about your boundaries or shares intimate details that people outside of the relationship shouldn’t know, it’s not ok.
The important thing about setting boundaries in a relationship isn’t that your partner understands the reasons behind them. They likely won’t. Sometimes, you might not even understand the reasons behind them.
What is important is the mutual respect and support in not only setting, but respecting and enforcing whatever boundaries you need to set.
A relationship is, after all, a partnership.
You have the Right to be Heard and Listened To
Don’t be afraid to speak up. We know from lots and lots of research that communication is an important part of cultivating a successful relationship.
When you had a bad day at work and your feelings are threatening to boil over; when you just need to vent; if you’re bothered by something, talk about it.
Your relationship should be a safe place, one where you can express yourself, your opinions, thoughts and fears without risk of judgement or retaliation. Give your partner a chance to step up and show you how much they care.
You have the Right to Feel Validated, Appreciated and Valued
Now, obviously your partner isn’t going to agree with your on everything or understand why you do the things you do. They don’t need to.
What they need to do is support you unconditionally. It’s always nice to know that your partner has your back, that they value and appreciate you regardless of any external factors.
When push comes to shove, your partner should lift you up and help you be your best self.
You have the Right to Expect that “no” means “no”
Period. Full stop. No matter what.
This one is particularly relevant to my experience as a demisexual. Often it seems when I tell someone I’m not interested, don’t think of them that way, or would like to get to know them better before we take our relationship further, they take it as a challenge.
It very quickly stops being about respecting my wishes and turns into a game, a quest of sorts, with the end goal being turning that no into a yes.
Remember you don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with for the purpose of maintaining your relationship. It’s totally ok for goals, needs and desires to change with time and for things to become more comfortable as your bond with that person deepens.
You have the Right to have your Needs met
Having your boundaries respected isn’t a tit for tat endeavor. Your partner will respect them or they won’t and you’ll react accordingly, it’s as simple as that.
Relationships are a partnership not a competition. Rights and boundaries should be respected if you do something for them in turn. Things you like, enjoy and want shouldn’t be withheld until you loosen your boundaries.
Don’t ever second guess boundaries you’ve set. If you want them to remain in tact, someone else wanting you to give up on them is of little consequence.
You have the Right to be Treated Respectfully
Obviously I don’t want to see anyone in a relationship plagued by abuse of any sort – emotional, physical or verbal. However, this right goes beyond our right not to be abused.
It’s not uncommon for a demisexual to feel as thought they’re broken, damaged or otherwise incomplete and have to make it up to their partner. While understandable because there is such a small community and precious little information to remind us that we’re not broken or being difficult and that we certainly don’t have to put up with bad behavior just because we need to be loved a little differently.
How to Set Boundaries
One of the most difficult things to explain about being demisexual is that an emotional connection on it’s on isn’t always enough to form that sexual attraction. It is true that having an emotional connection might make it easier for a demisexual to set and enforce boundaries with a person, it’s still not an easy feat for anyone.
The mere act of setting boundaries is uncomfortable. It requires that we be assertive, that we express our wants, needs and expectations to someone who may or may not accept or understand them.
You’re putting yourself out there, letting yourself be vulnerable and while setting boundaries is a great way to put yourself first, it’s a nerve-wracking process.
1. Communicate – Be Clear and Direct
The first step in setting boundaries involves defining them and letting your partner, or any one else for that matter, know they exist. Be very clear about the behavior that needs to stop or change.
Sadly people aren’t mind readers so we have to tell them exactly what we expect from them if we expect them to follow through.
2. Recognize the Signs of a Boundary Being Pushed
These are the feelings and things that let us know someone is pushing our boundaries. It’s that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, the little voice in your head saying this isn’t ok, the stiffness in your back, or just a general sense of unease.
When you start to feel those things, ask your self what is causing the feelings. Is it the person, the subject matter, something they’re asking you to do? Once you know where the threat is coming from you can react accordingly.
3. Plan for Challenges and Set Backs
One of the first things you’ll notice when you start setting boundaries is that people will push them. For any number of reasons, perhaps to test the waters and see how serious you are about enforcing them.
Think about how you’re going to respond when this happens. What will you say? What will you do?
The most important part of this step is making sure you keep yourself safe.
4. Give yourself Permission to Have and Enforce Boundaries
You deserve to live a happy well balanced life and any boundaries that will help you achieve that goal are worthwhile.
I know that’s easier said than done. Especially if we’re not used to enforcing boundaries it’s really easy for fear, doubt and insecurities to creep in. If we’re not careful our doubts can cause our boundaries to wither away before they’ve been truly realized.
It sometimes helps to remember that boundaries are more than a sign of a healthy relationship, they are a sign of self respect. Boundaries are you saying you deserve better than you’ve been experiencing and making sure you get it.
5. Seek Support
If you find it difficult to enforce your boundaries and despite your best efforts people continue to push and push, get the support of a trusted friend, loved one or significant other.
It is never a bad idea to surround yourself with people who make you fell loved, validated and respected.
6. Be Assertive
One of the best things I ever did for myself was take an assertiveness course. I spent an entire weekend just learning how to say no and ask for what I wanted. It was offered for free at my university, and it changed my life.
The assertiveness course helped me realize I’m not responsible for the actions of any other adult, I’m not responsible for any one else’s happiness and it is not my job to justify my desires or expectations to anyone else. I also learnt how to use I statements, set consequences and follow through.
I highly recommend a similar course for anyone who struggles with this.
7. Start Small
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re not going to become a boundary setting extraordinaire over night.
But small and build on your momentum. Setting boundaries is something that gets easier with practice. The more boundaries we set and the more boundaries we enforce the more people expect it from one.
Once the rest of the world gets the message that we’re serious about making sure our boundaries are respected they stop pushing and start respecting them right away. It’s a very rewarding feeling when that happens.
Some Boundaries a Demisexual Might Set
It’s entirely possible to enter into a relationship without sexual attraction. There are many completely valid and reasonable explanations as to why someone would do such a thing.
The key to successful boundary setting in a relationship starts with communication. It’s important to talk to your partner and make sure you are both on the same pages in the relationship.
I’ve always found the best way to set boundaries is to have a conversation. While I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation, I think people are more likely to stick with it if they understand why it’s necessary and important to you.
Remember, you’re in a relationship with this person and trust is a necessary part of that. It’s important to be comfortable and willing to express your needs, wants and expectations.
Think about the last time someone asked you an incredibly personal question.
How did you handle it? Perhaps you got flustered, maybe you answered it even though you didn’t want to, or you might have told them exactly where to shove that question.
Relationships tend to open a person up to personal questions and there’s nothing wrong with that. As demisexuals we crave that emotional connection, and personal conversations are a great way to start building it.
Sometimes personal and uncomfortable questions are necessary – the conversation about STI’s and protection before becoming intimate, for example. This is an uncomfortable conversation that we need to have with our partners before the relationship progresses to that level, it’s a matter of health, safety and being able to provide informed consent.
However, if a conversation or line of questioning is making you uncomfortable, it’s perfectly reasonable and valid to change the subject or not answer at all.
Some conversations that might lead to setting a boundary include – specific sexual histories (number of partners, names, etc.), fetishes, what turns you on. Even less sexual topics like reasons behind past break ups and why you’re single may be off limits.
Boundaries exist to prevent uncomfortable situations. If you find yourself uncomfortable it’s perfectly acceptable to say so, put a stop to the conversation, or leave the room.
Whatever your limits and comfort level is, the important thing to remember is that you can, at any time, say I don’t want to talk about this and end the conversation.
This is another big one for demisexuals. Since we don’t experience sexual attraction without a strong emotional connection we may not want to have sex at all, or for a period of time.
There is no reason why a relationship without sex can’t be highly rewarding and successful. The key here is to be honest with yourself and your partner. What do you want, what can they expect.
Is sex an option right now? Will it be in the future?
Is it acceptable to hold your hand or put their arm around you?
Are you opening to kissing, cuddling, etc?
This can also include matters such as the days of the week or time of day when you’re comfortable with certain things.
If you’re repulsed by or indifferent to the thought of sex, it’s important to let your partner know as much.
Setting these boundaries will help to ensure you and your partner are on the same page with regards to physical intimacy.
How do you know if a Boundary has been Violated?
Honestly, you’ll feel it. It’s that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, the little voice in your head saying this isn’t ok, the stiffness in your back, or just a general sense of unease.