Ten Year Anniversary Q&A (Part 1)

We recently celebrated ten whole years of Asexual marital bliss! To celebrate we're answering listener questions about exploring new labels and identities after getting married, how people perceive our relationship, what "date nights" and intimacy looks like for us, and more!

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Courtney: Hello, everyone, and welcome back. My name is Courtney. I’m here with my spouse, Royce. And together, we are an Asexual married couple who very recently had our 10-year anniversary. And, considering how mainstream society does not really understand Asexual marriage — we have discussed on the podcast before that politically there is debate about whether or not Asexual marriage can even be a legal marriage, let alone all the passive comments about “just being roommates” — we thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to do a little Q&A.

Courtney: So we asked you, our followers across various platforms, what questions you have for an Asexual married couple who have been together for an entire decade. And so we’re going to answer some of those today, and maybe it’ll be fun. I assume we’ll also get into some major life changes or milestones that we have made together and just generally how our lives as individuals and as a couple have evolved over this time.

Courtney: So, Royce, how do we start this little 10-year lookback? Do we want to just dive into questions and see where we go, or do we start by thinking back on some of the biggest moments or achievements?

Royce: Questions might be a good start and then just talk from there, because otherwise I feel like we’d just be looking through dates chronologically and trying to say, “Oh, is this a big enough deal to mention? Is this important?”

Courtney: [laughs] Scrolling through Google Photos to help put our timelines in order. [laughs] Well, let’s start at the beginning. We got a couple of questions about the beginning of our relationship. So first up, we have: “My question would be about defining the relationship. Did you go in expecting to become a couple or a married couple, even? Did the term ‘QPR’ ever come up? Or did you just go with the flow and went with what felt natural to you both?”

Royce: Well, the term QPR wasn’t on my radar when we met. I also don’t think QPR-type relationships have ever really happened for me. Given the way we met and the way we were talking, it felt to me like the intent the entire time was a romantic relationship. Now, the “Did you go in expecting to become a (married) couple?” — I guess the “married” was in parentheses; couple was part of it there too — that’s kind of a weird one for me, because I’ve never really understood how people will segment relationships and relationship milestones —

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: — as if dating and then being engaged and then getting married are, like, three distinctly different relationships, or, like —

Courtney: We did kind of throw all of those out the window, didn’t we? [laughs]

Royce: It’s just never made sense to me that your mindset early on in a relationship will be with the expectation that it isn’t going to work and that you’re going to go find someone else, up to the point that you get a ring. Like, that — just cognitively. It never made sense to me that you would suddenly… Like, an event would happen and you would be like, “Oh, it’s serious now. Okay.” Because it’s the same relationship the entire time.

Courtney: Which is interesting to hear you say, because I had more of a history of long-term relationships before meeting you, and you had more of a history of more casual or shorter-term things.

Royce: Right. But the intent of those things wasn’t for them to be short-term in the moment.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: I guess I didn’t go into any of them very rigidly defined either. It was…

Courtney: “This is just a thing I’m doing now.”

Royce: Yeah. “Let’s see what happens.”

Courtney: Yeah. I suppose I… When I start caring for someone, whether it is entering a relationship like this or even just a friendship, I always kind of go in with the assumption that this is someone that I am going to care about for life. That obviously doesn’t always happen. But even with my close friendships… Like, it is absolutely devastating to me if I lose a friendship. Because I go in hoping to care for someone forever, hoping that they will be a part of my life, at least in some way, forever — even if the nature of the relationship changes over time.

Courtney: So I suppose… It is interesting, because we technically did meet on a dating site. So people would think, “Well, you were intending to at least date.” I very much was not. I had on my OkCupid profile that I was just looking for friends. And I really wasn’t even engaging with it much, because a lot of people did not seem to actually be interested in using it for just friends. But, I mean, I probably wouldn’t have even reached out to you at all if you didn’t openly have on your profile that you’re Asexual. So I didn’t know where it was going to go, because we were also living in different states. I had never been in a relationship with another Asexual person. And, at the time, I wasn’t necessarily interested in a relationship. But from that first conversation there was definitely a connection. And when there’s a connection like that, my brain just goes, like, “Well, this is what we’re doing. This is your life now.” [laughs]

Courtney: So I suppose, in that sense, the answer to “Did you just go with the flow and went with what felt natural” was kind of yes, but I think my brain naturally takes things to a very serious, committed place faster than maybe the average person does.

Royce: And I guess another thing that I’m reading into a little bit in this question is, “Was a relationship the intent from the beginning, or was it kind of like a friends, then a closer friend, then a romantic sort of thing?” And for me, no. It was — a relationship seemed to be what was happening the entire time.

Courtney: Yeah, no, we got married that first conversation we had via text that first day. [laughs]

Royce: For those of you who haven’t listened to our catalog, that was a joke. It was actually, like, a little over half a year later.

Courtney: Uh, what are timelines? [laughs] But yeah, also, the term QPR didn’t ever feel right for us for reasons that I don’t think I could explain in a way that other people would really understand it.

Courtney: I can just sort of say that I kind of was in a QPR at the time we met. And I love them dearly. They are still an important person in my life. The nature of our relationship has changed over time. But, you know, that’s someone who is also family, someone I also hope will be in my life forever.

Courtney: And it gets more complicated when you try to rebel against, like, relationship hierarchies, and saying, like, “Oh, the romantic relationship isn’t the best one. It’s not the pinnacle of all relationships,” and “Friendships are also important. Platonic relationships are also important” — it’s then very complicated to say, “Well, my relationship with this person feels this way. My relationship with that person feels a different way. I’m not trying to put one above the other, but they just… they feel different somehow?” [laughs] It’s very vague. It’s very complicated to explain.

Courtney: But I would say, despite exploring the possibility of being on the Aromantic spectrum, I do think there is a romantic element to our relationship. And, at least for me, the way I conceptualize QPRs is with a lack of the sexual and romantic side of things, so.

Courtney: For that matter, we did get a question asking if we identified as Ace at the time we met. We have covered this before, so I will just say yes, and if you would like to hear more about that, our third episode was called “Our…” What did we call that? That was years ago at this point. [laughs]

Royce: I believe it was titled “Our Asexual Love Story.”

Courtney: Yeah. Go back to the back catalog. It was, like, our third episode. We sort of talked about the meeting stage and how this came to be.

Courtney: Along the same line, we also had a question: “If you could relive your wedding, is there anything you would change, or would you keep everything exactly the way it was?”

Royce: We did not have a wedding, and I would keep it that way.

Courtney: [laughs] Oddly enough, I would too. We did not have a wedding. And I still kind of tried to tell myself and family members that, you know, “Yes, we are married now. We’ll have something down the line, you know. We’ll probably have a little ceremony, or at least a little reception, some sort of party to celebrate this.” And if you would have asked me before getting married if I wanted a wedding, I would have absolutely said yes, because I am me and I like the pageantry and I like fancy dresses and venues and dancing. So I would have never for most of my life thought that I would have gotten married without doing a wedding.

Courtney: But 10 years later, that was absolutely the best possible scenario. We did not spend a fortune on it. We were able to put an equivalent amount of money to a large wedding into a down payment of a house, and we bought a house. And that is, to me, far more valuable and has day-to-day long-term benefits.

Courtney: So, this is a fabulous question. “I’ve watched through episodes for a while, seeing you guys try on new identities / labels. Do you think both of you being Ace helped you to explore other queer labels and pronouns? If so, do you think it’s specifically because you’re both Ace or just because you’re both queer?”

Royce: Well, the identities and labels were both Ace and non-Ace spectrum labels, so both. Because there were gender identity things and reading through Asexual labels themselves, and both of those happened independently, to some degree.

Courtney: I think a lot of it does help that we are both Ace and we are both queer and, despite even being in slightly different places on the Ace spectrum, there are sort of just, like, fundamental aspects about the two of us that are cohesive and work. And within that, we have the freedom to consider other labels and explore different aspects of our identity because the important core is already there and established.

Courtney: And things like gender and gender labels — that’s not really important to either of us, in the sense that, like, I don’t think any gender identity we’d explore for ourselves would be, like, a deal breaker for the other. And that is a kind of freedom that you wouldn’t necessarily have in every instance of, like, a mixed orientation relationship. I know a lot of queer people who have been in a relationship with, like, a cishet person who then feel very nervous to express their queer identity, not knowing if it will really be understood or if it will fundamentally change the nature of the relationship for the worse.

Courtney: But even with — the way that we conceptualize a lot of parts of identity, I think, is incredibly heavily influenced by being Ace and Aspec theory. I think already kind of being the weird ones even amongst mainstream queer communities can sort of simultaneously give you a little more freedom as well. But also, we’ve tried to join some local queer communities who have said, “You’re not queer. We don’t consider you to be queer.” So I think it’s given us a more nuanced understanding of the grayer areas, the lesser-known identities, the least visible identities out there.

Royce: Yeah. I think, for anyone really, once you start looking inward and trying to figure things out, once you get sort of your first confirmation that you don’t fit whatever the status quo is — you know, the allocishet normative, all of what mainstream society would consider to be a typical person —

Courtney: All of the normatives.

Royce: Right. Once you get your first confirmation of that and start looking elsewhere, you’ll find a variety of things. Now, is that more centered on that first identity that you found and got comfortable with, or is it due to everything? I guess that’s hard to argue. One thing I could say is that one aspect of being Asexual that is somewhat unique amongst other orientations and identities right now is that the tools that our community uses to introspect are a bit different. People in the Ace community tend to try to fragment aspects of their experience and look at each piece individually, more so than I think other communities do.

Courtney: Oh, definitely.

Royce: And I think that does help find some similarities and differences with other people.

Courtney: Mhm. And, yeah, a lot of it just comes to tolerance and giving not only yourself the freedom to explore but your partner the freedom to explore, which could happen if your partner is queer or cishet. It’s really just going to, you know, come down to it. Because I’ve had a past relationship — I was in a relationship with a bisexual person. And on paper, you would have thought, you know — obviously, this is more than a decade ago, at this point — that, you know, this is someone who is queer, has been in queer relationships, but they also did not really understand or see or value my queerness. And that sucks.

Courtney: So it… I know other people have had similar situations. I’ve heard, for example, nonbinary or agender people who have been in community with binary trans folks who don’t see or value their identity. So I don’t think it’s quite as easy as being like, “Well, it’s just because we’re both queer,” because I also know queer people who are not tolerant of everybody under the queer umbrella.

Courtney: And in a case with, like, a cishet allosexual person, it is possible, it is absolutely possible, that that could be a partner who’s very loving and tolerant to a queer partner, an Ace partner. I think where society is right now, it’s a little less likely — at least, based on my personal experience. I’ve never found success in a relationship like that. But it is possible. I think in situations like that, there does need to be some level of education and tolerance and giving your partner that freedom, that might be a little harder for a cishetallo person to get their foot in the door to that kind of mindset. Because that’s kind of what Asexuality has been for us. That was, like, the core, easily identifiable identity, but it was also a foot in the door to exploring what else is out there.

Courtney: So, we did get this question a couple of different times, worded in a few different ways, but: “How do you guys deal with assumptions people have made about you upon being married? Does it bother you if others assume things about your relationship, and do you ever feel the need to clarify?” We also had other people word it as, like, “Do people make suggestive comments about you or spicy comments or make innuendo?”

Royce: That’s kind of a difficult one for me to answer, because our closer friends get it, and we’re pretty outspoken with them. But there have been public, like, looser friend groups, work colleagues where we weren’t out with.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: And so they just assumed we were, like, a cishet couple, I would assume.

Courtney: Yeah. I also feel like my experience with this has been a little different from yours Because, yeah, in public settings, our friends have always known, those closest to us have always known. Even right from the get-go — like, I mentioned my QPR at the time, like, knew I was Asexual before this relationship even started. And that was, like, before I even really officially came out to family or anything like that.

Courtney: But, yeah, there is a thing that does happen with married couples and, I would say, increasingly more just any relationship that is kind of long-term. I mean, you kind of get the “kids” comments, people asking if you’re gonna have kids. And I suppose, in situations where we have been in public settings where someone has made a comment, I tend to at least mention something, even if it’s just as simple as, like, “I’m Asexual” or “We’re Asexual.”

Courtney: But honestly, early on, the most I got it from was family. [laughs] I got it from family members I’ve mentioned. Like my grandmother making a lot of very suggestive comments. I think we talked about this in our coming out to family episode, way back in the day. And that was part of the reason why I felt the need to actually come out to her, was because of those comments and because I wanted those to stop. Which, you don’t talk to your family as much as I talk to mine, so I don’t know… Did you ever get anything privately, like, pulled aside when I was starting to meet your family or anything?

Royce: No. And neither of my parents, even before that, like, teenage age, really asked questions or said much. There are a couple of times when I feel like I got a couple of comments from grandparents just about, like, “Are you dating yet?” sort of a thing. And I think I just generally wouldn’t respond to those, or I would have one of those, like, neurodivergent misread moments where I’d be trying to think about how to respond and they would think I was angry at them, and that was fine because they got them to stop asking the questions. So that didn’t carry past teenage years.

Courtney: I also think that I was more often alone in public than you were, so I feel like I was just in more situations where someone might comment on something. But I also do wear a wedding ring. And I think being in public, perceived as a woman with the particularly sexy figure that I happen to have — I do think there’s also an element of sexism that predisposes me to more unsolicited sexual comments. Because, like, if you’re out in the bar and you’re getting sexually harassed by someone and then they noticed you’re wearing a wedding ring, you’re probably still getting sexually harassed, but now it’s like, “Oh, your husband’s a lucky man,” and… To which I also challenge gender, too. This actually happened to me pretty recently. Someone saw that I was wearing a wedding ring and, like, mentioned, “Oh, your husband, he blah, blah, blah, blah.” And I was like, “Bold of you to assume I’m married to a man.” And they just didn’t respond to that. If you challenge someone and they aren’t expecting it, it baffles me how often people will just, like, [laughing] stare at you dumbfoundedly and not know how to react.

Royce: Yeah, you went off-script.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: They had a pre-planned thing they were going to say. I hadn’t really thought about that dynamic, though, because I don’t wear a ring, because I fidget with rings. And I don’t think I’ve ever been asked about that.

Courtney: “What was it that convinced you to get married? As an Autistic AroAce in a country with strong common law, I have a hard time seeing marriage as anything other than wasted expense and legal entrapment. So I’m curious what value fellow Aspecs get out of it.”

Royce: Well, to separate things here, and to be distinct between marriage and a wedding ceremony, we did not have a wedding ceremony, so that expense was not wasted. And for legality and finances, there are actually some very strong reasons to do that here.

Courtney: Yeah, there are. And I’m not sure what country you’re in, but you say “with strong common law,” so you can listen to our episode called “Our Common Law Marriage.” Because the method to get married that we chose is not the typical one in the United States and, in fact, is not an option in every state. But since we got married in the state of Kansas, we had access to a common law marriage, which is, on paper and legally, the same as any other marriage. But the benefit to us, and one of the reasons why we wanted to go that option, was that you didn’t have to, like, pay for the marriage license, which even people that don’t do big weddings usually do — like, go down to the courthouse, buy the marriage license. So it did not cost us any money at all.

Courtney: I assume when you say “with a strong common law,” not knowing what country you’re in, that probably is more akin to what we would call a domestic partnership, which some states in the US do better about than others for benefits such as being able to be on your partner’s insurance, for example. Some states do allow domestic partnerships to do that. But then there are also a lot of really strange requirements. There might be some states, at least 10 years ago, that would say, like, “Oh, if you’re in a domestic partnership and you can prove that you’ve lived together for a year, then you could be eligible to be on your partner’s insurance.” So there were just, like, a lot more stipulations and checkboxes you had to make that would all immediately vanish if you just got married, because you don’t need those requirements to get married.

Courtney: So I guess, for us, in our situation, we could kind of just list some of the reasons why it was a benefit to us. Insurance kind of was a big one. I was moving to a completely different state when we moved in together, and so I was quitting my job where I had my own insurance.

Royce: This is to clarify. I guess, to some extent, this would speak to all kinds of insurance, but most specifically we’re talking about health insurance.

Royce: Both simultaneously: Health care insurance.

Courtney: Yeah. Because I also don’t know what country you’re in. But, hey, our health insurance is heavily tied to employment here. So, things like that. Being able to be added to Royce’s insurance was a big positive.

Royce: There are also just a lot of big-time expenses — like loans for property, vehicles, things like that — that are just easier. Joint bank accounts. A wide variety of financial things are easier.

Courtney: Right. And with things like getting a mortgage, for example, you can buy a house with someone you are not legally married to. That can and does happen. It is easier and faster if you are married. And a lot of that is an antiquated mindset, that much I acknowledge. But there are so many legal things having to do with finances or contracts that are just easier if you are married, because all of these companies and our entire country is based on the assumption that a married couple is, like, the strongest relationship, that is the strongest family.

Courtney: That’s why we have so many conservatives trying to push things like tax benefits for married couples. Which, there also are that: being able to file our taxes jointly was a big benefit to us. And we’ve talked about doing kind of a tax episode, so this might be a teaser of more to come. But not every single married couple in this country is going to benefit from filing jointly, but a lot of them do. So it kind of depends on tax bracket. It depends on income. There’s actually a big racial component that’s kind of hidden and not talked about very much. But for us, that did very much help, especially because I was also starting my own business, and very often, the first couple years of business, you have more expenses than you have profit. And when you’re a sole proprietorship and you are filing jointly, you know, tax breaks from those business expenses… The way it all works out, it was completely a benefit to us.

Courtney: Did we have any downside? I don’t think we have had any downside to getting married.

Royce: Going about it the way we did, I don’t think so. No.

Courtney: The only one, theoretically, which I don’t see happening, is if we chose one day to get a divorce, the divorce for common law marriage… Like, some divorces are messy. It’s the same as any other divorce, dividing assets. But I think if that was a big enough concern, we could have kept our assets more separate than we did in the first place.

Royce: Yeah, I was about to say, even if you don’t have the legal repercussions of a marriage, if you’ve lived together with someone for 10 years and have shared assets, separating is going to be messy. It might even be messier if you don’t have something to fall back on of how to divide things.

Courtney: Yeah. So… And we were also — I mean, at the time we got married, we were open to discussing having children and things like that. And I know some couples who have been together a long time and have had children, and they have issues with, like, their kids’ school, with childcare and things, because they aren’t married. I don’t think it should be that way, but that is the way. The system is designed in this way. And I would simultaneously advocate for overhauling the system, because I don’t think it’s fair to everybody and I think it should be different, but also acknowledging that, yeah, I would still do things exactly the same way.

Courtney: And end-of-life stuff as well. When we got married, my really, like, only two family members I had were my mother and my grandmother. My grandmother has since died, but that would make my mother my next of kin. But when we’re getting to a point in our life where we are living together, we are spending every single day together, we are planning our entire life together, then being married kind of also… It’s kind of a built-in default will.

Courtney: It’s kind of a built-in default advanced directive for things like medical care, medical power of attorney. Even if things aren’t that dire or progress that far, even just being able to visit your loved one in the hospital — there are lots of hospitals that will not let you have visitors if you are not, like, legally family. And being a disabled person, I have heard horror stories from other people in my community about, like, “Yeah, my partner of many, many years was not able to come see me in the hospital in this situation. Was not able to, you know, speak to my doctor about this. They wouldn’t let them into the ER just because we weren’t married.” And I was like, “I don’t want to chance any of those things happening.”

Courtney: And plus, for me, I think… Even though I do think the system needs to be changed and I do advocate for a change in it, there is still a little nugget of defiance in me where things like consummation laws — growing up in a country that largely did not even allow gay marriage, and then seeing gay marriage legalized with the argument that, you know, gay couples are also sexual and romantic and exclusive and can also have kids, so therefore… — there is a little act of defiance that’s like, “Yes, I am Asexual and I am going to get married and I’m going to do it my way.”

Courtney: I think we kind of already answered this one while answering another question. But someone asked how much we share about being in an Ace/Ace relationship and, before the podcast, if we just preferred to pass as an allo-straight couple. No, not me. If anyone had an assumption to the contrary, I would correct.

Royce: Yeah, I’d agree with that. I think that in most of these situations where I was around people, things like this is just not what we tended to talk about. If it was work friends, we’d talk about work things, or we’d talk about video games or TV shows or board games or activities and interests. And relationship/family stuff was just hardly ever a topic, or if it was, it was very surface-level. And that was just… Those were the people that I was around. I also —

Courtney: Well, I’d say it was surface-level with straight people we knew. We had queer friends who would come over to the house, and in the midst of, like, a board game party or something, would hear something or we’d slip or correct someone, “We’re Asexual.” And that turned into many, like, very late night conversations, one-on-one, discussing Ace identity, even some folks who were maybe questioning being Asexual themselves and just wanted to pick our brains about it because they didn’t know any other Ace people to talk to.

Royce: That’s true. I guess I was thinking, for me, those were situations where I was sort of coming in halfway through the conversation a lot of the time. Like, they were not people that I knew and I had invited to said party. It was someone I was meeting through someone else.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: And I guess the other aspect of it, too, is: I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t really feel a need to be out to a lot of people. Again, I think a lot of these other, more casual friendships — or acquaintanceships, whatever you want to call them — it wasn’t important to me in those situations, and I kind of had to weigh the cost analysis of slipping something like that. Like, “Am I going to have to put my lecture hat on? Is it going to be well received? Do I have to break away from whatever activity that we’re doing, to teach, essentially, to run through any confused comments?” And oftentimes, I just didn’t want to spend my evening doing that [laughs] in that social setting.

Courtney: Mhm. Gosh, you know, I’m just remembering. I feel like I shared at least part of this story but then after we got done recording, I was like, “There were other things that guy said and I didn’t even share!” [laughs] But, like, I got weird comments at business networking events. Like, the people who were very like business acquaintance who just, like, knew I was married and had either seen your face in a picture or heard your name, “Royce,” and, you know, that straight assumption.

Courtney: But this one wildly inappropriate guy at a business networking, like, breakfast meeting had already known me and already knew that I had moved down here after I met you and was, like, so angry that he went to meet a girl he met online in a different state and she wasn’t on birth control, and he was so angry because why wouldn’t she be on birth control when she knew that he was coming? And he, like — I was already, like, trying to make it known that I am uncomfortable and don’t want to have this conversation. And he, like, directly asked. He was like, “Well, if you were in a long-distance relationship…?” And he was like, “Well, you did move down here, right? Didn’t you?” And he’s like, “Wouldn’t you be on birth control?” and “Isn’t that the woman’s job?” And I was like, “First of all.” I was like, “Royce and I are Asexual. Second of all, we are at a business meeting breakfast, and you’re the only one here who doesn’t even own a business.”

Courtney: So, yeah, I mean, there were times where you could just throw in “I’m Asexual” and you kind of go off-script, like we talked about before, where the person doesn’t necessarily know how to respond, or maybe they’re just being polite and don’t want to ask something that sounds ignorant. But in my experience, for as much as we talk about, like, the Ace PowerPoint — like, “If you tell someone you’re Asexual, you have to break out the PowerPoint and explain this and explain that” — that doesn’t happen all that often in real life, I find.

Courtney: Maybe now and then, someone will ask a question that opens a whole can of worms. But for the most part, people online are a lot more bold about saying openly bigoted things and openly Ace-erase-y things. And good-natured Aces online who think, “Maybe this person just doesn’t know any better; let me help educate them” will start breaking out the whole, like, “This is what it means, and this is the nuance.”

Courtney: But a lot of the times, the PowerPoint isn’t even how people tend to talk in real life. Because if I’m telling someone I’m Asexual, I’m probably gonna tell them what Asexuality means to me. I’m not going to do what we do here on the podcast, where I talk about other ways of being Ace or other people on the spectrum. Because I’m connecting with a person one-on-one now. I’m deciding to share a part of me with them, and I’m going to tell them what that means to me if they ask.

Courtney: [laughs] I can’t believe it took us as long as it did to realize, “Wait, maybe we’re Autistic.” Because every single question I’m reading here, I’m, like, probably analyzing way deeper, or I’m trying to be like, “How am I interpreting this, versus how was this actually intended to be asked?” [laughs] It’s so silly.

Courtney: So, for example, we got a couple of different people asking, “What do date nights usually look like for you guys?”

Royce: What’s a date night?

Courtney: [laughs] Exactly.

Royce: What is a date?

Courtney: I was like, I feel like the people — because we got this a few different times — asking this question have an idea of what a date night is, and now I’m questioning if I have an idea of what a date night is. [laughs]

Royce: One thing I have slowly, over time, been getting more comfortable with is separating out activities that I legitimately enjoy with activities that I have historically felt like I’m supposed to enjoy doing. And in the past, maybe, like, 15 years ago, it started to become apparent that I would go hang out with friends and it’d be fun, and I would come out of it thinking, like, “That was a good evening. That was a good night.” And as I thought about it more, I didn’t really care about where we were at or what we were doing. It was just being around other people who are having fun and being a part of that and contributing to it in some way, and that the location didn’t matter. Like, being at a bar, going to see a movie or, you know, going out to eat at a restaurant: it didn’t really matter. It was just contributing to the group environment.

Royce: And so, when it comes to date nights, I’ve kind of learned, I don’t actually like going out and doing things that much. Sometimes they’re actively stressful. Sometimes they’re more just neutral. But I don’t tend to actually like that. It’s just, you know, the people in the conversation.

Royce: And, of course, since the pandemic, going out and doing things has changed drastically. We have had some cases where we have thought, like, “Oh, we haven’t played a board game in a while. Let’s clear the dining room table and make something to eat and play something this evening.” We’ve had some nights that were more dedicated to starting a new video game or TV series or something like that.

Courtney: Mhm. I think a lot of, like, “Key to a happy marriage” advice that you see thrown around is, like, “Make time for dates.” And you see that for new parents, also. Like, “Make sure you set aside a day for date night.”

Royce: But that kind of assumes that you actually like traditional dates, and I don’t think I do.

Courtney: [laughs] Well, and the thing is, too, when you say that you just like the social element and not necessarily the thing — there are some “the things” that I do enjoy doing. But for me, I also really enjoy spending time with you, and I do not necessarily need to be enjoying spending time with you while doing the thing.

Courtney: So, like, before the pandemic, I would, you know, go out to one of our local gay bars for karaoke. And I had sort of a group of karaoke friends, because the regulars — like, we got to know each other. And so if I felt like, “I need to go out tonight,” I didn’t feel like, “I need to make this a date with my partner,” because I just want to go sing, I just want to go dance, I just want to be in a group environment with different people for a change. But I think we spend a lot of time together, and we have had a lot of different interests together and hobbies and games that we play and things we do, that I’ve never really felt the need for, like, a date night.

Royce: Well, how close does this get to a date night? Because there have been times when we’ve lit a couple of candles, poured some wine, and had a what we call a Nintendo Bath together.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: Which is where we grabbed a spare monitor —

Courtney: Nintendo Bath night!

Royce: — and a RetroPie, an emulator installed on a Raspberry Pi that has a lot of just NES, SNES, GameBoy games installed on it.

Courtney: That’s probably gonna tie into other questions, because a lot of people asked, like, “What is intimacy?” and “Do you feel comfortable changing clothes in front of each other?” So, we do have Nintendo Bath nights sometimes, which…

Royce: Which have been expanded outside of old-school emulation games. Sometimes it’s a visual novel or something.

Courtney: Yes. Sometimes it’ll be a new visual novel. Which, the thing is, yeah, I guess we could call it a date if we want to call it a date.

Royce: I think it’s kind of funny because, like, if our life was an Ace sitcom —

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: — you could lead into it with the uncorking of the bottle of wine and the lighting of candles, and then we’re just playing video games —

Courtney: [laughs] — in the bath with our little controllers. [laughs] Well, the… Oh my gosh, yes. We had… My cousins recently kept telling me, like, “You’re like a sitcom character.” They’re hearing all my wacky shenanigan stories and seeing things happening in our life, and they’re like, “You’re like a sitcom character.” [laughs] I never even thought of Nintendo Bath being part of the Ace sitcom. [laughs]

Royce: It’s an allo subversion.

Courtney: I’m trying to get those cousins on the podcast, too. Just you wait, listeners. There’s a fantastic story here, but that’s for another day.

Courtney: So the thing is, though, we don’t usually schedule it that far in advance. Sometimes it might be, like, that morning, like, “Man, we’re gonna have a long day. Nintendo Bath tonight?” “Sure!” But at least my concept of date nights — and maybe this is just from broader society, from cishet allo marriages, from the kind of marriage advice that’s like, “You need to set aside time to have dates with your…” “You need to still date your wife,” like that’s a thing you hear. And the assumption’s usually also like, “Scheduled sex will also help save your marriage and help you be in a marriage long-term.” And none of those things feel like this, so.

Courtney: Because it’s been a tremendously long time since we had, like, “Here’s a thing we’re gonna do on this date.” Because, more often than not — like, I enjoyed before pandemics, like, going to shows, like touring Broadway shows. I did take you to, like, an opera or ballet a couple of times.

Royce: Yeah, we saw a few, and that was something where… There were certain interesting things about new mediums that I hadn’t really been exposed to. That was interesting, but it wasn’t something that I think I would enjoy making a habit out of.

Courtney: Right. Like, I would absolutely get a season pass and go to like every show, but you would not want to do that that often. So, yeah, because, really, how different is Nintendo Bath from anything else that we might decide to do that we don’t do literally every day, but we do occasionally? Like, how different is that from, “Let’s play a board game tonight?”

Royce: I don’t know that it is, but I have trouble answering some of these questions about intimacy because it’s very fluid.

Courtney: Mmm, yes. It is very fluid.

Royce: There was a question about love languages, for example.

Courtney: Ohhh. Let’s get into that. So… [laughs]

Royce: So the big five that are normally mentioned are words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: And I think I tend to operate on acts of service and quality time. Physical touch is something that’s nice, but I don’t think it’s something that my brain usually goes to. It’s like, “This is nice in the moment, as long as I’m not too anxious,” because then I have sensory issues. But it’s not something I tend to initiate very often.

Courtney: I have never liked the love language model. And I know some people who swear by it. They, like, religiously — they know their love language, they know what kind of love language they want their partner to have, and —

Royce: I think it’s overly simplistic to the point where it can be kind of reductive, but it at least can… I think the framing of taking something like affection and getting people into the habit of separating it out to where there’s there are different ways to do this is a good exercise. Because I think, oftentimes, we’ll be reading about someone, you know, struggling in a relationship because the way that they express affection or the way that they expect affection is different and it’s not matching.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: And if they pull back and look and say, “This is actually a meaningful thing that the other person is trying to do,” and it’s just not being communicated in a way that you’re both understanding, maybe they can resolve something there.

Courtney: Yeah. And I would say that the closest thing to that that I think has maybe changed or at least gotten more awareness of… Because I think you can have a different love language with different relationships, too. I don’t think each individual person is like, “This is my one love language that I use to express to every single person I love.” I think that can change. But I am a big gift-giver. I love giving gifts to people. And we talked about this a bit in our gift-giving episode. You’re, like, aggressively ungiftable.

Royce: Aggressively? It feels very passive from where I’m coming from.

Courtney: You’re passively ungiftable! [laughs] A lot of gifts that a lot of people might consider to be romantic or thoughtful are things that are just not meaningful to you.

Royce: Yes. I don’t really care about things that much. I don’t collect things. I don’t tend to look back on items with a lot of nostalgia or to buy things as a symbol or token of a memory or anything like that.

Courtney: Yep. Your closet looks like a cartoon character’s. And I’ve heard tropes, too, where it’s like, “Oh, once you’re married, your gifts become like socks for Christmas, because you know your spouse needs new socks.” And it’s like, if there’s anything you need that’s brand new, like, you just get it for yourself, so. Even if it’s, like, a practical day-to-day thing.

Royce: Gift-giving in a relationship with a joint bank account, too —

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: — is kind of odd, because there’s also the, like, if you do try to surprise someone and it’s not something they like, it’s like, “Why did you spend our money on this?”

Courtney: [laughs] Yeah. Yeah. So that was something… Because I tried for the first few years. I really did. Because there was a time where I think maybe you started expressing, like, “Oh, I think my skin’s getting drier,” or something, and I was like, “Keep a note of that. Get some kind of moisturizer, a lotion, a something.” [laughs] And I think I did for Christmas one year. And I think you probably used it. But I also think you didn’t get as much appreciation out of that as just, like, trying your own products and seeing what worked.

Royce: Yeah. It was some aftershave, I think, and I still have it. I still use it occasionally when I remember to.

Courtney: You still have it? You go through products so slowly. This was years ago.

Royce: I forget about it.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: Like, I do have a series of bathroom-related things that I’ve been gifted somehow, some way that I just… They’re nice sometimes, but they’re not important enough for me to use regularly, so I just kind of forget about them.

Courtney: Well, sometimes with a, like, bath product, sometimes you’re, like, my secondhand gift. Like, I have had people who have given me scented things — like a bath scrub or something — and some scents just really don’t work for me. Some will either outright give me a migraine or will just be deeply unpleasant — like, really sweet, fruity-scented things usually. And so, if I’m given something like that, you are not as picky or particular about those things, so I’ll be like, “Here, Royce, have this bubblegum scented bath scrub” —

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: — and you’ll be like, “Okay, I’ll use it.”

Royce: Scents don’t bother me, and there really isn’t anything that I’ve found that, like, is too harsh for my skin, for example. So if you say, “I’m not going to use this thing. You can use it or we can throw it away,” I’ll at least try it. And sometimes I’ll use an exfoliant or something.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: But it’s… A lot of those gift things, I guess they’re kind of nice when they’re around, but I wouldn’t make the choice of at least buying that same, like, brand and kind. I found some lotions that I like, but they’re also, like, pretty cheap.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: Like, value containers.

Courtney: Yeah. And it is interesting, too, because, like, when you talk about love languages, it’s like, even though I know that giving you this gift is not meaningful to you, there’s still something inside me that’s like, “I want to do it! I want to do it!” So, like, finding ways to channel that into something else that also feels meaningful… Because it’s kind of a two-way street. Like, I do want my showing of affection to you to land, but I also want to feel like I have actually done something. And I think a lot of those love language things just aren’t especially meaningful to you. Like, even things like physical touch — we’ll get into this a little more — like, that’s a thing that we do, but I also don’t think it’s like, if we went a week without touching each other, I don’t think you’d be like, “Oh no, Courtney doesn’t love me anymore.”

Royce: Yeah. It’d mostly be, like, something about our day-to-day habits has changed. Is it stress? Is it, are we both really tired and busy? Because there have been times when, particularly early on in our relationship, you were trying to find your footing working down here and got into some positions that were weird hours or long hours —

Courtney: Ugh.

Royce: — and we felt that in our relationship and had to talk about, like, “Is this actually…”

Courtney: “Is this worth it?”

Royce: “Is this worth it? Is it working?”

Courtney: It was not working. But yeah, and I mean, I’ve tried more to channel it, and I’d like to do so more as well. But the problem is, when you go from giving an actual gift to giving, like, well-thought-out, created, time-driven things, now, do you have enough time to do this as often as you want? But being able to channel that into, like, running a D&D campaign for you.

Royce: That’s the one thing I was going to mention, because we have one that’s on extended hiatus.

Courtney: We do. We need to finish it. There’s only one chapter left. But, like, that is a thing. So that’s at least something where I’ve been able to be like, “This still feels like I am giving something, but it just takes a lot more time. And it’s not physical, but it’s also a fun thing that we can do together.” Because I guess that also goes back to the question: when we sit down and play two-player D&D, whether you’re DMing for me or I’m DMing for you, is that a date night or is that just one of the many things we do in this big blob that is our shared life? [laughs] I don’t know if I know the answer, but I’m curious to hear how you’d answer. “How often do you guys say ‘I love you’?” I haven’t exactly been keeping track. [laughs]

Royce: I feel like if it isn’t daily, it’s pretty close. But it’s…

Courtney: It’s a lot.

Royce: It’s sometimes situational. I mean, we aren’t always on the phone, but there are some times where one of us is out of the house and we need to have a quick phone call about something that’s going on. You tend to say it spontaneously throughout the day, which is why it might be daily.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: Or close to.

Courtney: I mean, sometimes you do something cute or silly and I just can’t help myself. [laughs] It is really often, but I don’t have an answer for it because it is kind of spontaneous. And I guess maybe that’s my same problem answering the date question because it’s spontaneous. How do you quantify spontaneous things that you just do consistently? But I don’t think we make a specific, like, intentional point to say it. I know that’s another, like, marriage advice things that people say: like, “Say ‘I love you’ every day.” “Don’t go to bed angry.”

Courtney: So, I think two questions we’ve kind of hinted at that maybe we can try to answer simultaneously is: “Do you feel comfortable doing things like cuddling or changing around each other?” And also just the general question about intimacy. One commenter said, “It would be great to hear how you define intimacy and what types of non-sexual intimate activities you do together to bond.”

Courtney: So as far as changing in front of each other: yeah, now. I wasn’t early on. I think I’ve said before that we lived together for, like, three months before you ever saw me unclothed. You… I don’t think ever really cared, but I think early on you were — just maybe in an attempt to be respectful to me — a little more reserved than you would have been on your own.

Royce: Yeah. I don’t have a lot of memory of that. I don’t think it ever really mattered to me. Early on, there was definitely, like, trying to figure out comfortable boundaries in the relationship and kind of just going along with that. But yeah, none of that’s ever bothered me.

Courtney: Well, because there was… I remember the first time we ever, like, slept in the same bed together, you were like, “I usually sleep naked, but I’m not going to for your sake,” and I was like, “Thank you so much.” [laughs]

Royce: Well, I think I asked what you were comfortable with. ’Cause, like, I can sleep with clothes on. I generally don’t, but, like, I have shorts and T-shirts and things. I have never owned pajamas as an adult, I think. I don’t think I’ve owned pajamas outside of elementary school. But yeah, that was just a, “We haven’t talked about what the expectation is for this area of the relationship. I can do whatever. I just need to know what… [laughing] I need to know what the rules are.”

Courtney: But yeah, I mean, at this point, we take Nintendo Baths together. [laughs] We change in front of each other. We do also cuddle quite a bit, which early on, I found kind of surprising, because historically, in previous relationships, I did not like cuddling very much. So that’s another thing where it’s like, love languages can change with different relationships, because I like cuddling with you more than I ever did anyone else.

Royce: Changing together is an interesting one, too. Because, I mean, now it’s pretty common, if I happen to be around, for me to help you hook your bra. But very early on, it was like, “Okay, let’s learn how to cinch a corset.”

Courtney: That was so nice. Because I was cinching my own corsets before I met you, so it was nice to have an extra set of hands. [laughs]

Royce: I’ve never been good at tying things. Turns out, I think that is some part of the larger procedural processing things that comes with dyslexia that isn’t spoken of very often, but I’ve always had trouble tying things. So getting the corset bound was an ordeal, but I guess it was easier with two people than one.

Courtney: It was also not as big of an ordeal as when QPR friend and I tried to strap you into a corset once. Do you remember that?

Royce: I don’t remember it being an ordeal. Basically, it was like, you had this and you were like, “It doesn’t really fit anyone of the group here. Let’s try you, because you’re also here.”

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: And it’s like, no, it didn’t fit on anyone.

Courtney: But QPR friend and I, we were both — we were, like, bending you over the stair banister and, like, foot on your back trying to cinch you in with two of us. [laughs]

Royce: Yeah. [laughs] I guess I wasn’t the one putting in effort, so I don’t really remember that.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: I was just kind of holding still and monitoring my breathing.

Courtney: Oh my gosh, they’re gonna be listening to this now and just start cackling. [laughs] Because that was… That was quite a day. But, yeah, intimacy in general. There is some level of physical closeness because of the fact that we do cuddle. I mean, I guess you could argue, just being in a bath playing a game together is intimate. We have always kind of said that being able to, like, play with your partner is really important. And I know there are plenty of allosexual people that consider sex a type of play. Obviously, people in the kink community will see it as a type of play. I don’t think it’s the only type of play. I think that when we do play board games, when we play TTRPGs, when we play video games, there is something very intimate about just being able to explore a story together, or…

Royce: There’s also a lot of vague, difficult to pin down feelings of intimacy that just revolve around not needing to mask in any varieties of ways. In one instance, there is the neurodivergent masking as neurotypical, but also just the… you think about all of the expectations that are pressed upon us from, you know, all measures of society, and being able to being comfortable enough to drop those and just act naturally without worrying about perception. Like, those kinds of things. I think that ends up making a lot of, I guess, what might be seen as mundane situations from the outside feel intimate.

Courtney: Mhm. What was it that you said not too long ago about not registering me as another person or something?

Royce: I’m not sure if I know what you’re talking about.

Courtney: There was something you said when we were on a call with some friends about, like, your social battery or your social anxiety or something.

Royce: Ohhh. I think I was just talking about how… It may have been after we had your cousins over or some of your family staying with us for a little bit. And even if it was just one or two people, and even if I wasn’t always in the room and always a part of the activities, there was something that was just very draining about having company over or about, you know, going and hanging out with friends. I was talking through this with some friends and just kind of threw in that you were the exception to that, that our time together doesn’t really affect that in the same way as…

Courtney: Anyone else.

Royce: Anyone else.

Courtney: We’ve also mentioned before, reading books aloud together is really nice. Cuddling up in bed and being able to read. During the pandemic, when I wanted just a little bit of a change — because I do benefit from more venues, more people, more different kinds of stimulation, and I wasn’t able to go out and take care of those needs on my own anymore — you built the most adorable little blanket fort in the basement for me: moved our couch out of the way, made this giant fort, and we played some games down there and read down there, and it was very cute and very sweet.

Courtney: In fact, I’ll link an article down below. Yasmin Benoit wrote about non-sexual intimacy and mentioned us and our reading books aloud together in that article. So you can read that, because there were some other Aces who were mentioned. But, cautious warning to the sex-repulsed among us: if you read that article, don’t click anywhere else on that website except for that article. [laughs] I think the website is called Get Cheeks, so do with that what you will. O

Courtney: ther types of physical closeness that isn’t necessarily, like, the standard cuddling. Um… I paint your toenails, sometimes. I paint my own toenails, but then I paint yours.

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: Because you don’t like the smell.

Royce: Yeah. I noticed that was the first time that I had had that done, and I think that the contrast of just having some black toenail polish is nice, but —

Courtney: It’s beautiful!

Royce: There was… One night — Well… I always knew that I hated the smell of nail polish remover from just being around it with my mom and my sister occasionally. Turns out, I also hate the smell of nail polish itself. And there was, I think, like, the second time we tried to do it, where I tried to do a toe myself and I, just, I would rather not.

Courtney: Like, “Nope. My face needs to be too close to this if I’m doing it on my own.”

Royce: Yep. I would rather not.

Courtney: [laughs] So I paint your toenails and then I paint mine. There have been some times we’ve cooked together. More recently, we’ve done a little bit of gardening together. I would say gardening is primarily your interest and hobby, but I also like to help sometimes.

Royce: Yeah. You picked a bunch of mock strawberries recently.

Courtney: So many mock strawberries.

Courtney: I think we should probably do a Part Two, because I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface. We already eliminated some questions, and there are still a lot of good ones we haven’t even gotten to yet. But let’s leave off on this old classic: “Do you think pineapples belong on pizza?” Royce, you have the opportunity to say the funniest thing.

Royce: Really? Because I was going to take this question seriously. Like…

Courtney: Oh. Okay.

Royce: You can say the funniest thing, and then I’ll answer.

Courtney: Always enabling me. Only if it’s not Chicago pizza.

Royce: Oh, I don’t know why you expected my brain to go there. What I was going to say is that… [laughs] You picked this one to end on expecting it to be a simple answer.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: But speaking of things that feel intimate: During our relationship, I’ve… I don’t think it’s quite right to say that I’ve gotten more into cooking. I do cook more than I ever used to. I know more about cooking than I ever used to, but I don’t particularly… I wouldn’t consider it a hobby. It’s not something I particularly like to do.

Royce: But with cooking, and also with, for example, drinks, I’ve had groups of friends in the past where we would get together for some kind of collaborative alcohol tasting, where we’d bring a bunch of bottles and talk about it and compare. And I always found it really interesting to try something, look at how you experience it, and then someone else do the same thing. And there’s something about the process of being able to translate from your experience to someone else’s experience and understand that well enough that you could try something and then suggest it to another person or determine whether or not they would enjoy it based off of that understanding. That knowledge of another person’s experience, I think, is somewhat intimate if you get to know them well enough that you can actually translate properly.

Royce: And so when it comes to a very diversive pizza topping, there is something very interesting about experience there. Because I have heard people say the common refrain for a variety of foods — like, “Oh, this is the perfect blend of sweet and savory” or “sweet and salty” or something like that. And people’s taste buds and texture preferences and things like that are just so different. So there are some cases where I do like sweet and salty things — like caramel toppings on, say, ice cream, or caramel-flavored candies and things. Salted caramel has always been something that I’ve liked. But I’ve always hated kettle corn. I’ve had cases where someone has put an alternative flavoring on popcorn, like cinnamon, and I’ve thought that it was worse than just having the plain popcorn.

Royce: With pineapple, the sweet flavor of the pineapple and the savory flavors of the rest of the pizza don’t blend to me at all. They actually contrast so heavily that I have an extremely strong flavor of pineapple on one side and then everything else about the pizza on the other side, completely separate and diminished due to the overpowering nature of pineapple. So I experience pineapple pizzas very differently than the people who like them, apparently, because it’s not a blend at all. They don’t combine or mix whatsoever. And I just think that that’s interesting.

Courtney: So every time I see this question, I don’t think I’ve actually taken it to a very serious place. But if I try to take it to a serious place, I genuinely don’t know if I have ever had pineapple pizza since going vegetarian, which was a million years ago, long before we went vegan a couple years ago. And it was always pineapple and Canadian bacon, but I didn’t care for Canadian bacon. So I didn’t love the pizza, but I think the Canadian bacon was more a put-off to me than the pineapple. So I think, theoretically, if I had a vegetarian pizza put in front of me that had pineapple on it, I don’t think I’d hate it. I wouldn’t, like, viscerally dislike it and not eat it. But I wouldn’t order it for myself. I mean, my pizza order is thin crust, mushrooms and black olives, sprinkle some crushed red peppers on top. That’s my pizza order.

Royce: I like pizzas that are savory and spicy, and for me, pineapple does not mix with that. I like pineapple on its own. I’ve eaten pineapple out of a can.

Courtney: That actually also does bring up an interesting point about just, like, knowing each other and knowing each other’s tastes. Because there also is something kind of intimate, where it’s like, “Oh, we’re ordering takeout and I already know what Royce is going to order.” Like, I know your order from this store; I know what you like to eat. And you do that for me with… I haven’t really been drinking much. I think I have lost my taste for alcohol. But in the earlier years of our relationship, we did drink a moderate amount, and you would be, like, the one keeping a running mental tabulation of the things that I have tried and liked, so.

Royce: I think I had a decent mapping of the things that would be too sweet for you or the things that would mix flavors in an odd way that would make you, like, noticeably shudder. Like, there is a very specific “I didn’t expect this and it’s not really my thing kind of drink” face / body reaction that you would make.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: And I think I had a decent enough understanding that I could taste something and say, “Oh, this would probably cause this reaction for you.”

Courtney: Mhm. This is so interesting. I kind of like doing this Q&A format. I feel like we just got started, and yet we’ve already done an entire episode and still have more questions. So, we will make this a Part Two, just because some of these questions are very interesting. And taking some input from outside sources, I think, might get us thinking in different directions than we would if we just had our own conversation in isolation. So, stay tuned for next week. We’re going to answer even more questions.

Courtney: But before then, I would love to direct your attention to this week’s featured MarketplACE vendor, Jackson Gal Art, where you can find portrait commissions and Procreate brushes created by a Black Demisexual Nonbinary visual artist and 2D animator. All these links will be in the description, as usual, but you can check out their Ko-fi page with some awesome prints and wallpapers. And also, definitely, if you are an artist, check out these brushes. There are Afro textured hairstyle brushes as well as Black hairstyle accessory stamps. And this is all by the artist Taylor Jackson, and they are based out of Houston, Texas, according to this Ko-fi.

Courtney: As always, thank you all so much for being here and for being a part of our now decade-long journey, and we’ll be back at you next week with some more Q&A. Goodbye!