Asexuality might be rare, but it's a real thing. According to DNews, approximately one per cent of the population identifies as asexual, meaning they have no sexual feelings or desires.
"Asexuality is not a choice," sex therapist Dr. Debra Laino explained to Medical Daily. "Anyone can make a choice to be celibate, say... but asexual people feel as though they're not making a choice, it's who they are. That's the deciding factor."
So what happens when your partner is asexual and you are not?
This can complicate things. After all, how can a relationship work when both partners have different sexual needs?
According to Chantal Heide, relationship expert and "Canada's Dating Coach," it is possible for these relationships to be successful — it just takes compromise.
"Relationships of all kinds can work when two people choose to love each other despite their differences, acknowledge where their differences can leave a partner with unresolved needs, and find middle ground that helps both people feel understood," Heide told HuffPost Canada in an email.
Relationships of all kinds can work when two people choose to love each other despite their differences.
Understanding what asexuality is is also vital in making these relationships work. "Understand that asexuality as a sexual orientation is diverse and like all elements of sexuality exists along a continuum; some asexuals experience romantic attraction and others identify as aromantic," sex and relationship expert Jessica O'Reilly told HuffPost Canada.
She also explained that asexuality can mean different things to different people, and its important to understand your partner's needs.
"Some people who identify as asexual are repulsed by sex while others feel indifferent (despite the fact that they don't experience sexual attraction to other people)," O'Reilly said. "Some asexuals opt to have sex as part of their relationship even if they don't experience sexual attraction. I worked with a client who identified as asexual and didn't experience sexual attraction, but did enjoy sex for the physical and emotional pleasure."
Here are five expert tips on how you can make a relationship work if your partner is asexual.
1. Change your mindset.
Some people use sex as a form of validation, however, this can be dangerous in a relationship where one person is asexual and the other is not.
According to Heide, when one uses sex to attain validation, this can not only lead to a destroyed self-esteem, but can also cause them to seek validation from somewhere (or someone) else.
"Either changing their state of mind and becoming more secure, or negotiating a different form of validation from their partner is vital to ensuring the survival of the relationship," Heide said.
2. Agree on a minimum number of times to have sex per week.
"Couples can agree that though one is not as sexual as the other, sex can still play an important role in the sense of unity and connection within their relationship," Heide said. "Coming up with a minimum number of times sex will take place can help ensure that even if sex isn't going through one partner's mind, it's still being satisfactorily maintained for the other person."
O'Reilly knows couples who still engage in intercourse even though one partner is asexual. This is because both partners understand that sex is about more than just sexual satisfaction.
3. Don't pressure your partner.
Putting too much pressure on your partner to have sex can actually drive them away. "Don't try to force so much from them you erode what little willingness they have," Heide warned. "Nothing kills sex like pressure, so be easy, patient, and willing to evolve with your relationship, and wait for your partner to respond."
"Be clear about their capabilities in terms of enjoyment and stamina," she continued. "Become a pro at enjoying every little bit of your sexuality together and encourage them to do the same. Sex should be fun, pleasurable, and interesting. Ensuring you're infusing your contact with these qualities will keep your partner coming back for more."
This might seem obvious, but people often forget they can take their sexual satisfaction into their own hands, literally. "Increasing personal masturbation will help you achieve the sexual satisfaction you long for," Heide said.
5. Find other ways to be intimate.
"Remember that there are many ways to cultivate closeness aside from sex," O'Reilly said. "Asexuals — like all people — have their individual needs, desires and boundaries. Talk about these! Share your own and support your partner's willingness to share."
Heide agrees and says there are many ways to be intimate without having sex, such as kissing.
"Take time each day to enjoy a lingering kiss," she said. "The oxytocin will make you feel warm and fuzzy towards each other and ensure you maintain a sense of intimacy."
She also suggests trying "massages with no expectations, shared simply for the purpose of exchanging touch as a beautiful form of intimate expression."
And finally, taking time to gaze into each other's eyes can build intimacy and connection. Doing this and "letting partners know exactly what's appreciated about them on a regular basis will tickle their brain and heart, filling them with knowledge regarding the important role they play in the relationship," Heide said.
Relationships don't revolve around sex, which is why couples with incompatible sexual needs can still find happiness.
"Love, when practiced as a verb together, always helps make relationships work," Heide said. "If you're entering a relationship with someone asexual, be prepared to take responsibility for your sexuality while practicing allowances and patience with someone whose sexual urges don't match yours."
"Healthy relationships should never be all about sex," she added, "and everyone should aspire to convey intimacy outside the bedroom on a regular basis."