What Is Aromantic And What Does It Mean For Relationships?
By Joy Youell
Updated November 20, 2019
Reviewer Laura Angers
"Romantic relationships are so stressful. Why do my partners feel like they need to be around me all the time?" Have you ever felt something like this as you navigate relationships with others? Feelings like this are commonly associated with aromantic people, which essentially means non-romantic.
As an aromantic person, exploring the world of relationships can be confusing. Many people and cultures put a heavy emphasis on romantic partnering, and when you're someone who doesn't necessarily feel that urge, it can feel like you're wrong or dysfunctional somehow. However, healthy relationships don't necessarily require romance. If you think you may be aromantic, there are multiple ways you can find and sustain satisfying relationships.
Understanding an Aromantic Person
Aromantic people are not unfeeling or uncaring. Instead, they may feel overwhelmed by the pressure to express themselves romantically. They often describe their partners as clingy or needy, and they themselves may self-identify as someone who is independent or a loner. Some people feel this way occasionally. Others feel this way frequently, which means they're likely to be aromantic.
Essentially, a person who is aromantic does not usually experience romantic attraction to other individuals. (Note that romantic attraction is different from sexual attraction.) Someone who is aromantic typically does not feel the desire to pair up with another person in a romantic relationship.
Being aromantic is not a mental disorder. It is simply another way of being human with all of our various preferences. Whereas many people experience an emotional need to be in a romantic relationship, aromantics are emotionally satisfied without this kind of partnership. It's certainly possible for an aromantic person to enjoy activities that are commonly considered romantic, such as giving or receiving flowers. However, these actions are unlikely to prompt romantic feelings in them.
Even though they don't seek out romantic partnerships, they can still experience love. Love and affection can appear in many different forms and in different types of relationships. All people, regardless of romantic attachment styles, have multiple types of relationships in their lives, including family, friends, colleagues, and sexual partners.
What Aromantic Is Not
Being aromantic does not mean that a person is unfeeling or incapable of love. It also does not necessarily mean they are asocial or antisocial. Some aromantics are antisocial, just like some people who desire romantic relationships are antisocial.
Being aromantic does not mean that a person doesn't want to be around other people or has no social needs, nor does it mean that they're uncomfortable around others. All of these different social experiences are separate from the identity of being an aromantic person.
Various Styles of Romantic Experience
It's important to note that, like sexuality, romantic interest can be experienced on a spectrum. It is possible for a person who identifies as aromantic to experience some romantic attraction at some point in their life, just like a person who primarily identifies as homosexual can experience attraction to someone of the opposite sex without changing their overall sexual orientation.
- Heteroromantic. Romantic orientation is distinct from sexual orientation. Many people who are sexually attracted to people of multiple genders may only be romantically attracted to people of one particular gender. If you only desire romantic relationships with people of the opposite gender, regardless of which genders you are sexually attracted to, you are probably heteroromantic.
- Homoromantic. Similar to being heteroromantic, if you are homoromantic you can be sexually attracted to multiple genders. Your romantic desire, however, is aimed at people of the same gender as yourself.
- Demiromantic. A demiromantic is someone who only feels romantic attraction after they have formed a close emotional bond with someone else. This is different from someone with a romantic orientation because the romantic may experience attraction before creating a close bond. Romantic attraction without emotional closeness is basically what it means to have a "crush."
Aromantic Is Not One Size Fits All
What distinguishes romantic versus non-romantic feelings and behaviors can vary between individuals and cultures. The degree of physical intimacy, for instance, is often different in friendships and romantic relationships. Romantic partners are more likely to hold hands and cuddle.
Aromantics may not care for physical affection, or they may enjoy hugging their friends or holding someone's hand. Regardless of whether or not they intend to form a romantic bond with someone, most humans are wired to seek physical connection with others in some form. The amount of physical affection a person enjoys varies between individuals of all romantic orientations.
Be careful not to assume that an aromantic person does not require emotional support or community. They may simply fulfill those needs differently from people who acquire much of their support from a romantic partner. Aromantics are more likely to seek emotional attachments and support from friends rather than partners, and they may even develop especially close relationships with specific friends.
How Being Aromantic Affects Friendships and Other Relationships
Despite common misconceptions, being aromantic does not mean a person doesn't love anyone or isn't capable of love. Aromantic simply means a lack of romantic attraction, but attraction doesn't equal love. You can love your parents, your children, and your friends. All these relationships include valid expressions of love; they're just not expressions of romantic love.
Aromantic people can form bonds of attachment with others. An aromantic person may also desire to live with another person or to have a long-term living arrangement with a close friend. Not all aromantics want to be alone or live alone, though some do.
Some, however, explicitly want relationships or friendships that involve living together. They just don't feel romantic attraction toward their roommate. Although they may not feel romantic attraction toward this person, they are still likely to be picky about the people in their lives, particularly a roommate.
Some aromantics prefer to have a primary partner. This may be the person they lean on most for emotional support, and it may be the person they live with. They may or may not have sex with this partner, even though romantic affection is likely absent from this relationship.
How to Know if You Are Aromantic
If any of this information strikes a chord with you, you may be wondering if you're aromatic. If you're not sure, there is an aromantic online test available, and you can use it to get a better idea of where you stand. However, don't rely solely on such tests or quizzes to define yourself. In the end, you'll know if you're an aromantic person when you explore your feelings about the information in this article.
To learn more about being aromatic you may also want to join online communities for aromantic people. Tumblr has many aromantic blogs, and forums are a great place for discussing aromanticism with others.
Online Help for Aromantics
If you want help exploring your feelings about being aromatic, you can reach out to a professional counselor. They can offer an unbiased, non-judgmental space for you to express yourself and think about your identity. Being aromantic is not a mental health condition or a problem. It may, however, affect the way you think about intimacy, communication, and identity. A professional counselor is equipped to help you navigate this exploration. You may read below for reviews of BetterHelp counselors.
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If you identify with some of the characteristics of aromanticism, you may wish to call yourself aromantic. Being an aromantic person is a label like any other, and you are not required to label yourself in any way. That said, sometimes a label makes it easier to explain your preferences to others. It can also help you find like-minded individuals.
Remember that being aromantic is not a mental health problem of any kind. It is not something you need to "fix," even if dominant cultural messages tell you that romantic relationships are the norm or the ultimate goal. You are free to set your own goals and to live in a way that makes you happy. Take the first step today.