'He Decided I'm Worth It' - What It's Like To Have an Asexual Partner

No two relationships can be described as the same, a statement that rings especially true for this couple who are navigating through different sexualities.

Zak and Cat Kerr, both aged 30 and residing in Orlando, Florida, have been married for seven years and dating for ten.

Cat, a communications manager for an animal welfare science organization, discovered her asexuality during their relationship.

The Kerrs opened up to Newsweek about what a real-life relationship between an asexual and non-asexual person entails.

What is asexuality?

The Trevor Project - an American nonprofit organization which focuses on suicide prevention efforts among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth community - defines asexuality as an umbrella term and exists on a spectrum, referring to people who "may have little interest in having sex, even though most desire emotionally intimate relationships."

Common misconceptions about asexuality include that it's somehow linked to abstinence, celibacy or sexual repression when in reality it's a sexual orientation that is often considered part of the wider LGBTQIA+ community.

According to the Kerrs, neither of them had any previous knowledge or understanding of the concept of asexuality prior to 2016.

"After some time and several discussions about sex, she posed asexuality as why she did not seem to feel how most people do about sex," Zak told Newsweek.

Zak, non-profit editor and reporter, mentioned that his initial reaction was denial, though he eventually came around to the idea within a matter of weeks.

"Like any couple, we've definitely had our share of highs and lows, but I'd say overall we've found a good rhythm and grown together, as well as individually because of the other," he shared.

"Asexuality is still so invisible that I had never even heard of it until I was 24 years old," said Cat. "Looking back, I can see I was always kind of different. But I didn't know it had a name, and I didn't know how to cope with it. It probably would have dramatically affected our relationship early on if I had been aware that asexuality existed."

Zak shared that over the past decade, his relationship with Cat has lasted for the same reasons as why they initially felt the mutual inclination towards dating, including similarity in worldviews, passions, causes and values, as well as genuine interest in knowing each other better.

"Like many couples, we've sought counseling at various points to help each of us gain perspective and insight into how we can better relate, serve one another, and live together," he said.

Asexual identity

Zak and Cat Kerr
A wedding photo of Zak and Cat Kerr. "My partner is asexual and I'm not." Jennifer Catron

Despite their relationship, Cat highlighted that neither she nor her husband claim to be any sort of expert on asexuality.

"We can only speak from our individual experiences because there has been very little social or scientific research on asexuality to learn from, and nearly zero representation in media," she told Newsweek.

As was the case in their own experience, the Kerrs note that there's a misconception that asexual behavior is as overt as someone being sexual.

"How does one notice signs of the absence of attraction?," said Zak. "That's totally distinct, and because the assumption is some form of sexuality, it has probably led to asexuals being assumed for millennia as heterosexuals who just don't like sex."

According to Cat, she's only known two other people who openly identify as asexual.

"Maybe I've known so few because so many people haven't heard about asexuality, like me in my early 20s, so they don't know yet that they would identify with it," she suggested. "It's also possible that I've known people who are aware they're asexual, but they haven't made it known because there is still so much stigma."

Cat emphasized that the sooner asexuality becomes a mainstream social and scientific topic and is validated in society, the better. "Asexual people should have access to relevant resources and support the same way allosexual (non-asexual) couples have for a long time," she added.

Intimacy with an asexual partner

Zak and Cat Kerr
A photograph of Zak and Cat Kerr at home with their cat Haru. "My partner is asexual and I'm not." Zak and Cat Kerr

Zak believes that having an asexual partner in a relationship can affect each couple differently. "Some would deem it a deal breaker, but others not so much" he shared. "Although most humans have libidos, those libidos vary dramatically too, as does the importance each person places on sexual dimensions of life."

According to Zak, there's a broad assumption that intimacy and romance are "difficult or even inconceivable" for asexual people. Naturally, both he and Cat disagree.

"Though important, sex is just one form of intimacy, one facet of a relationship," he said. "There are healthy romantic relationships with very little or no sex – albeit relatively fewer simply because of the lack of awareness and low prevalence of asexuality."

To explain his relationship with Cat, Zak alluded to the 'The Five Love Languages' as defined by author Gary Chapman in 1992: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.

According to Zak, he and his partner connect deeply through three of the five, specifically words of affirmation, acts of service and quality time. Still, the couple admits that the "sexuality mismatch is a struggle, though we've made it work."

"The material gifts language is not as meaningful to us," Zak explained. And the author who developed the concept has always stressed that the physical touch language doesn't mean sex per se – we certainly still hug, kiss, snuggle, etc."

"Not long after we had started dating, we marveled at how well we clicked on the matters most important to us," he added. "I don't think I've ever resonated so deeply and thoroughly or so frequently with anyone else, whether friends or family."

Advice for relationships between an asexual and non-asexual person

Zak and Cat Kerr
A photograph of Zak and Cat Kerr on a hike. "My partner is asexual and I'm not." Zak and Cat Kerr

For people that are aware of their asexuality and are entering new relationships, Zak recommends extensive communication about expectations relating to sex. But at the same time, he notes that this is "not some one-time deal written out and signed like a binding business contract for the remainder of the relationship."

"Like aspects of any relationship, the specifics can change in time as the couple changes together and individually. But the asexuality won't go away," he explained.

For those that find themselves in a similar situation as the Kerrs – where one partner 'discovers' their asexuality during the relationship – Zak dissuaded either party from panicking.

"Take some time to work it out," he told Newsweek. "For some that might be an irreconcilable difference, which is valid – just don't be rash about breaking up without considering the full relationship. Give it considerable thought.

"Just like any issue for any couple, it's best to approach with compassion and openness," he added. "Every relationship has challenges across the various dimensions that comprise romance and togetherness."

Cat Kerr had high praise for her partner Zak for his understanding.

"I'm truly grateful for the grace and patience Zak has shown me as we've figured out ways to maintain our relationship in healthy ways despite the sexuality mismatch," she shared. "It has not been easy, but he decided I'm worth it, which is really a testament to how deeply he cares about me."