i’ve been off-handedly questioning whether i may be somewhere along the aromantic spectrum or not for a while now, but since i felt no rush to tack on yet another identity label onto my already crazy-long list of identity labels, such thoughts have mostly gotten swept under the rug before really getting anywhere. well, since i have a bit of free time on my hands now thanks to spring break, i promised myself that i’d explore this topic more.
what follows is just me putting thoughts into words… many, many words… for my own sake. may Cat God be with you if you attempt to get through this.
first of all, what is “romance” and “romantic attraction” to begin with?? i read a post recently (wish i could find it) asking just this, pointing out that more often than not people give completely nonsensical, circular definitions of these things. for example, when asked what romance is people often say something like “romance is doing something romantic for someone you love,” then proceed to rattle off examples that don’t necessarily have any logical connection to each other other than sounding like the script of a romance novel/movie. HOW CAN YOU DEFINE SOMETHING USING THE VERY WORD YOU’RE MEANT TO BE DEFINING (ie. using “romantic” to define “romance”)?? and then you ask the same person what “romantic attraction” is and the same thing happens: “being attracted to someone in a way that makes you want to have a romantic relationship/do romantic things with them.” when you are still unclear on what exactly “romantic” and “romance” even mean, such a definition of “romantic attraction” is unhelpful as hell.
that said, it really wasn’t even until recently that i started questioning my understanding of “romance” and “romantic attraction”. to me, romantic attraction has meant being attracted to someone in such a way that you want your life to be entwined with someone else’s. it’s wanting to wake up to that person, go to sleep with that person– to do EVERYTHING with that person, including grow old with that person.
is that “romantic”? i don’t know. i used to think i knew, but my rising awareness of platonic love & attraction has me more confused now than ever.
and like everyone, i reexamine my past for clues, if not answers.
i’ve been in two serious, long-term relationships. both involved me being beside myself in love. love that i’m fairly certain was “romantic” in nature because despite me despising certain romantic tropes and gestures, there were elements of my feelings/desires that did line up with what society seemed to think of as “romantic”.
- jealousy– something i absolutely despise about myself, honestly
- the expectation that certain dates (anniversaries) should be celebrated
- the expectation of exclusivity– although this has more to do with monogamy
- etc etc
but see, this is where things get confusing. looking back on things, this thing that i’ve considered to be romantic love & attraction wasn’t even present in me at the start of either of my relationships. in fact, i don’t believe i’ve ever had an actual “romantic” crush on ANYONE, not even my partners. i’ve only had squishes of varying intensity. both relationships started out with me being strongly attracted to my partners in a platonic way. i was friends with them for a while (in the case of the 2nd relationship, we were friends for over 6yrs) before they asked me to be in a relationship. both times i decided to roll with the idea since i felt strongly attracted to them platonically and it seemed like the way to get to know them more “intimately”; not because i was “in love”. it wasn’t until having gotten closer to both of them within the context of being in a “romantic” relationship that strong platonic attraction turned into love. a “crush”, in the romantic sense, wasn’t really ever part of it? things just went from “you’re a great person that i really want to get close t–OMG LET’S GO THRU LIFE TOGETHER, YES?.” even though the relationships were considered by society, my partners and even myself at the time to be “romantic” from the start, the actual “romance” didn’t start for me until later.
but wait, let me backtrack a bit.
in both cases, it was my partner who initiated our relationship. not once have i ever had the drive or desire to pursue a relationship with someone other than a friendship, even when it came to my partners. my knowledge of romance novels and movies suggests that my complete lack of initiative or desire to pursue anything “more than” a friendship is unusual. at the very least i should have some secret desire to be “asked out” by a person who interests me, but no. such thoughts never even occur to me until someone else plants the idea in my head by suggesting we be in such a relationship.
and to complicate things further, there is the puzzle that is/was my last partner/relationship. no matter how many angles i look back on that relationship from, and despite knowing that i can’t and shouldn’t label anyone else, i can’t help but feel like that relationship was mixed in terms of more than just sexual orientation and gender.
my partner was sexual. me, asexual.
my partner was cisgender. me, non-binary.
but what if that wasn’t all?
i swear, sometimes it genuinely felt like perhaps my partner was somewhere within the aromantic spectrum– lithromantic and/or romance repulsed, perhaps? i even approached him once about this before the relationship ended, but he had no interest in questioning or even looking into his own sexual/romantic identity, so i dropped the subject. as such, i will not label him as something he himself didn’t/doesn’t identify as, but i still couldn’t/can’t help but feel like we were very much at odds romantically. it was like he experienced romantic attraction/wanted a romantic relationship until it actually happened, then he had no interest in it; meanwhile i was the opposite, having no romantic feelings until it was there on the part of someone else that i cared for and then i craved it.
…yeah. that relationship was complicated, to say the least.
anyway, when i look back on my relationship with my ex and compare my desire for romance with his seemingly complete rejection of it, i can’t help but feel like if his feelings/behavior is somehow related to aromanticism, then i can’t be aromantic…?? not entirely, anyway, or at least not like that.
perhaps i’m gray aromantic, experiencing romantic attraction infrequently but intensely when i do? perhaps i’m demiromantic, experiencing romantic attraction only under specific circumstances involving a specific person?
or maybe i just don’t care enough either way to compound upon my current biromantic/panromantic identity by adding another prefix?
or maybe what i consider to be romantic attraction is really just ridiculously strong platonic attraction compounded on by society telling me from birth what i should want in a relationship and how i should feel?
eh… iono. all i know is that right now i’m single and yet i have a strong desire to be in a “romantic”? “intimate”? relationship with someone again… and yet, at the same time, i feel like for me personally a “crush” isn’t something that i’m likely to ever experience. i’m just not attracted to anyone in that way, no matter how long i’ve known that person or how badly i WANT to be attracted to that person in that way… at least not until the stars align and something happens to make me feel that way, which thus far has been being in a very “close” (”intimate”) relationship with someone.
it’d be nice if feelings would be more logical. given that i’m not going to find anyone romantically attractive on my own, i wish my “romantic libido” would GTFO already. srsly.
and now i feel like i’ve just made much ado about nothing. zzzzz…..