As you may know by now, gender, sexual, and romantic preferences exist across spectrums (e.g. the asexuality spectrum). And thanks to evolving language, many identity terms can be understood by looking at their prefixes. For example, the prefix “a-” derives from Greek and means “not, without.” As a result, the term “asexual” describes someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction. The same rules can apply when describing a person’s romantic preferences.
Simply put, “people who identify as aromantic tend to feel little to no romantic attraction to other people,” says licensed professional counselor Elizabeth Cruz, MS, who’s based in Dallas, TX and specializes in LGBTQIA+ sexuality.
Aromanticism could look like someone who has zero desire to go on dates, no interest to ever be in a romantic relationship, and/or no need to get to know someone above or beyond a friendship.
An aromantic person’s relationship status could very well be single, but it’s totally possible for aromantic people to have partners—they’d just have to be with people who understand that they will never feel a romantic connection to them, though they still might want a sexual one.
Moreover, aromanticism “isn’t to be confused with not loving someone; platonic love isn’t the same as romantic love,” explains Kim Sherva, MS, LAMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Minneapolis, MN. “People can love their friends and family but not ever feel like they’ve been ‘in love’ with someone they’ve dated or been in a relationship with. People can form really great relationships with their partners without romance because there is a great friendship and bond there.”
Still curious about this romantic preference? Let’s break down what it means to be aromantic even further.
The Difference Between Aromantic, Demiromantic, and Asexual
The term that people may confuse aromanticism with the most is asexuality. As stated above, asexual people (or aces) feel little or no sexual attraction toward others.
Nevertheless, identifying as asexual isn’t a choice like celibacy or abstinence are. Asexual people can still have sex if they want to, they just don’t often, or at all, experience sexual attraction to anyone, regardless of their gender identity.
To put it simply, an aromantic person doesn’t really want a romantic relationship, while an asexual person doesn’t really to have sex. And even if they do, how often and with who can vary. (Just like most people who consensually engage in sex or sex acts!)
When it comes to “aromantic”and “demiromantic,” both terms describe how a person experiences romantic attraction (key word here is “-romantic”). “While people who identify as aromantic typically experience little or no romantic attraction to others, those who identify as demiromantic may experience romantic attraction, but typically not until after they form a close emotional connection with another person,” explains Cruz.
Nevertheless, neither aromantic or demiromantic as terms provide any information about how people experience sexual attraction. So, for example, “a person might identify as both demiromatic and asexual,” says Cruz. “In this case, that person may experience romantic attraction after forming a close bond with someone, but this romantic attraction does not lead to sexual attraction.”
What Identifying As Aromantic Looks Like
Like many other sexual orientations and gender identities, someone who identifies as aromantic doesn’t have a specific “look.” It’s also def not okay to ask people about their identity or orientation upon meeting them—just wait for them to chose to tell you.
However, you might pick up that someone is aromantic if they mention they are “unable to feel romantically attracted or even nurture a romantic connection,” says Rachel Sommer, PhD, co-founder of My Sex Toy Guide.
Kathrine Winnick, a sex coach at LetsTalkSex.net, adds that sometimes people who are aromantic “feel that dating is a form of pressure, and nothing very natural.” She further explains that an aromantic person still appreciates and values beauty, as they might recognize that someone is handsome or beautiful. However, they still feel no desire to date them or be emotionally involved with them.
Nevertheless, aromantic people can still be in relationships or dating, and may even get married. Someone who is aromantic might not desire a romantic relationship, but still may want other types of relationships and experiences, such as a sex and/or a deep, meaningful friendship.
“You can’t look at someone and say, ‘That person is aromantic’ just by looking at them,” explains Sherva. “It’s more nuanced than that.”
Signs that You Might be Aromantic
First off, there is no one-size-fits-all here. Everyone’s journey toward identifying as aromantic looks different. And while, yes, it’d be helpful to have a guide that breaks down when and if you’re aromantic, it’s not that simple.
That being said, below are some expert-advised signs that you might be aromantic:
- You don’t understand why people get all emotional and ridiculous over love. Do you find it extremely odd when your friends do “silly things” in the name of love? Do romance novels and rom-coms make you cringe? If the things that your friends consider sweet are really just poor decisions in your eyes, it might be a sign you’re aromantic.
- You’re more excited about making a new best friend than a new lover. If the first thing that comes to mind when you meet a person is what a cool friend they would be, you might be aromantic. Of course, some couples can start off as just friends, but if there’s no desire to further the relationship into a romantic one, then this might be a sign. (That’s also not to say that every relationship you have or create with another person has to turn romantic—sometimes you legitimately just wanna be friends!)
- You don’t have crushes or fall in love with other people. If you’ve never had a crush before or have never felt “in love” with another person, this is a clear sign that you might be aromantic.
- You like the idea of romance, but don’t personally experience romantic feelings toward others. You just don’t feel it, and that’s okay!
- You feel uncomfortable with the idea of romance and have no interest in having a romantic relationship. If the idea of romance and love is a complete turn off for you, and you have no desire to pursue nor form a romantic relationship with another person, then you might be aromantic.
If you’re trying to decipher whether or not your lack of interest in a romantic relationship means that you are aromantic, you have some resources: You can visit an educational site like AUREA, which stands for Aromantic-Spectrum Union for Recognition, Education, and Advocacy, or you can listen to the podcast Sounds Fake But Okay hosted by college friends Sarah, who is asexual and aromantic, and Kayla, who identifies as a demisexual straight girl.
How to Support Friends or Partners Who Identify as Aromantic
There is no space nor reason to judge someone for their romantic orientation, especially if they felt safe enough to come out to you. Sommer explains that if a family member, friend, or even partner comes out to you as aromantic, it’s best to show your support and affirm their identity. “Regardless of how confused you might be at first, be open to learn more about aromanticism and be supportive.”
Cruz adds that you can further support your aromantic loved one by educating yourself on aromantic identities and calling out ace-erasure and ace-phobia when you encounter them.
It’s also recommended you don’t assume that everyone is looking for a romantic partner, no matter their identity or sexuality. “We live in a society that is hardwired around sex and romance. There are so many rom-coms in our mass media; so many stories of love and romance. Those who are on the aromantic spectrum can grow up believing something is wrong with them; they can feel like they don’t fit in with their peers and family because they don’t experience romantic feelings,” says Sherva. “It’s important to remember that love can be expressed in different ways. A partner can show love, care, and support without having romance attached to it. There’s really no ‘downgrade’ because loyalty, care, compassion, and platonic love can be just as steadfast and true as romantic love.”
Aromantic people deserve to be accepted for who they are and be loved by others, no matter how they feel (or don’t feel) when it comes to romance.
How to Be a Proud Aromantic
Aromanticism, like other identities and orientations, has a flag that members proudly show off to express themselves. The flag is made up of five stripes (one dark green, one light green, one white, one gray, and one black).
According to AUREA, the flag includes the color green because it’s the opposite of red, a color that’s often used to represent romantic love. Combined, these two colors (dark and light green) represent all identities underneath the aromantic umbrella. White is used because it’s often referred to as ‘the platonic stripe’ (other types of attraction other than romantic and sexual). The white is then followed by gray and black, which acknowledges how diverse the sexual identities of aromantics are.
Additionally, there’s a vast community of people who identify as aromantic online. You can find them using the hashtags #aromantic, #aromantictiktok, #aromanticawareness, #aromanticanthem, #aromanticism, and #aromantic with three hearts in green, white, and black.
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