Aromanticism often goes under the radar. Here are the signs that romance isn’t for you — and why that’s totally natural.

A conceptual revolution has taken over relationships and sexuality recently, as different needs, desires, and tendencies are identified and understood. Increasing numbers of people are awakening to their authentic way of relating, and language and terminology are catching up. This is a conceptual revolution as these diverse behaviors are part of the natural human spectrum, and have been overridden by the predominant worldview of Western society, known as amatonormativity.

RELATED: Breaking Down the 4 Types of Polyamorous Relationships (And Their Complications)

There’s necessary unlearning when it comes to the narrow definition of gender, sexuality, and types of love. As we undergo a process of creating more expansive maps, labels become both validating and reassuring, not only showing you’re not alone, but that your experience is normal, healthy, and experienced by others. Without that, it’s easy to compare yourself to societal expectations and invalidate your personal experience.

With that in mind, let’s explore one of the lesser-known definitions in this new relational landscape — aromanticism. If you’ve often questioned the conventional approach to romance, and if friendships are much more appealing than sexual relationships, this may describe you.

What Does It Mean to Be an Aromantic Person?

aromantic flag

An aromantic person doesn’t experience romantic attraction. Of course, the experience of this is much more nuanced and unique than one statement, and the term can apply to a broad range of people, existing somewhere on the aromantic spectrum. The term itself was likely introduced in the early 2000s, linked to a survey about asexuality, as the two identities are related, but not the same.

In detailing the history of aromanticism, AUREA (Aromantic-Spectrum Union for Recognition, Education, and Advocacy) points to fascinating early examples that could have described aromanticism. In detailing the difference between love and limerance, psychologist Dorothy Tennov noted that some people seemed to be non-limerent, in other words, not prone to falling in love or experiencing infatuation with others.

In the 1200s, the Medieval French communities (beguinages) were formed for women who wanted to live solo lives. Later, around the 17th century, The Golden Orchid Society of China, which ran for 300 years, was established for women who refused to adhere to society’s expectations of marriage and family life. There are many more examples of aromantic people in history, again pointing to the fact that, what seems like a “new” label, is a natural and long-established tendency.

The Difference Between Aromantic and Asexual

Aromanticism is distinct from asexuality. Someone who is aromantic may enjoy sexual relationships. Someone who is asexual may experience romantic attraction. Someone who is aromantic could be asexual, too, just in the way they could be straight, bisexual, pansexual, or any other sexuality on the spectrum. The world of attraction, sexuality, and desires is complex and depends on each individual. Accordingly, only the person themselves can identify where they are on that particular map, and the boundaries may not be so clearly defined.

Characteristics of Aromanticism

romantic dinner

To better understand aromanticism within this field of complexity, it pays to take a closer look at what is known as asexual spectrum identities. Aromanticism isn’t as straightforward as not enjoying romance but encompasses a much wider, and more varied, set of likes and dislikes. Within the spectrum there are additional identities:

  • Gray-romantic or gray-sexual: landing in the middle of both, these people may experience sexual desire or romantic impulses only under certain conditions.
  • Demisexual and demiromantic: people who only experience sexual desire or romantic desire once a strong emotional bond is formed.
  • Lithromantic: someone who is only romantically interested when there is no reciprocated interest. If the interest is returned, attraction fades.
  • Recipromantic: someone who only experiences romantic desire when they know if it is felt by the other person.

The next question is to consider what behaviors qualify as romantic. The notion of romance has been largely instilled into the collective mind by the arts, in particular storytelling machines such as the film industry or the music industry. Within these cultural definitions are healthy and unhealthy behaviors. For example, things like possessiveness and codependency are often conflated with romance.

When it comes to actual behaviors, romance includes a mixture of different forms of intimacy, from cuddling, holding hands, sharing poetry or art, and making romantic gestures, such as cooking a candlelit meal. An aromantic may enjoy any of these behaviors. Their lack of romantic attraction is broad; aromantics don’t develop crushes or fall in love in the same way, as they don’t experience the foundation of strong romantic attraction.

It’s worth noting that aromantics can still develop strong emotional connections with others, in what is known as platonic love (love without sexual desire or romantic attraction). They can still enjoy intimacy and different forms of connection. The asexual and aromantic community have a term — squish — to describe a type of “platonic crush” which comes with the desire to spend time with, and to get to know, someone in a platonic setting.

How Aromanticism Affects Relationships

In addition to the inner validation that comes from understanding different identities and styles of love and connection, wider awareness can help create understanding in others. Aromanticism comes with challenges in relationships, for good reason. As previously noted, the standards and conventions of Western culture, amatonormativity, create expectations around relationships — including monogamy, marriage, children, and settling down with one person.

RELATED: Open Relationship: What Does it Mean & What Are the Rules?

Although times are changing, anything that deviates from this runs the risk of being misunderstood. This applies to all identities, as much as it does aromantics. By not feeling romantic attraction, it may be difficult to develop deep connections or to find a healthy balance when it comes to sexual relationships, especially if partners question why the lack of romantic desire is there.

Aromantic people still desire intimacy and connection. Finding others who understand their particular form of intimacy is crucial, otherwise, the feelings may not be reciprocated. Some aromantic people will develop what is known as queerplatonic relationships. This is the term given to platonic relationships that go beyond the standard definition of friendship. They involve deeper levels of intimacy, and can even include living together or co-parenting.

Aromanticism and Love

LGBT

Because romance is so closely intertwined with definitions of love, there’s a common misconception that aromantics aren’t loving, which isn’t the case. In an interview on AUREA, aromantic Tate Lin describes the biggest misconception from their experience:

“It’s the idea that aros cannot love, that we are robots, that we are lesser for only having platonic and familial love, and that we cannot have a fulfilling life without romantic love.

I held a secret skepticism that it was possible to lead a full and happy life as an aromantic. To me, it couldn’t be possible — not without romantic love at least. It’s actually kind of scary to think about, huh? Romantic love is so entrenched in society that it took me two years to navigate myself around it.”

Fortunately, as the map expands, so does our understanding of the borderless nature of love and relationships. Perhaps one day all terms, from aromantic to asexual and beyond, won’t be required, as people will be approached and understood for their uniqueness. Until then, these terms will continue to empower. And if that allows people to feel seen, valued, and develop relationships in their own way, that alone is a huge result.

KEEP READING

Demisexuality: When Emotional Bonds Are Essential For Sexual Attraction