What Is Aromantic And What Does It Mean For Relationships?
Updated October 10, 2018
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? This feeling is something that has been expressed by an individual who identifies as aromantic, though you may also feel this sometimes without identifying that way.
Being an aromantic person, or are, exploring the world of relationships can be confusing. Many people and the culture at large put a heavy emphasis on romantic partnering, and when you're one of those who doesn't necessarily feel that urge, it can feel like you're wrong or dysfunctional somehow.
The good news is that you're not, and many other people feel just like you do. Read on to find out exactly what it means to be an aromantic person, and what kind of an impact it can make on your relationships with others.
What Is Aromantic?
What exactly is an aromantic person? Aromantic is a term used to describe people of a particular romantic attachment style. A person who is aromantic does not usually experience romantic attraction to other individuals. This is different from sexual attraction. Someone who is aromantic typically does not feel the desire to pair up with another person as romantic partners.
Being aromantic is not any mental disorder. It is simply another way of existing, amongst all the myriad ways that humans can be. Whereas many people experience an emotional need to be in a romantic relationship, aromantics are emotionally satisfied without seeking out romantic partnerships.
Source: pairedlife.comNot seeking out romantic partnerships, however, does not mean they don't experience love, which can be felt in many different ways and different types of relationships. Remember, all people, regardless of romantic attachment styles, have multiple types of relationships in their lives, including family, friends, colleagues, sexual partners, and yes, romantic 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 there are people who desire romantic partnering but are antisocial.
Being aromantic, however, is not the same as hating people or not wanting to be around them. It doesn't even necessarily mean a person is 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 that changing their overall sexual identification.
Romantic orientation is distinct from sexual orientation. Many people who are sexually attracted to multiple genders may only be romantically attracted to one particular gender. Regardless of which genders you are sexually attracted to, if you only feel the desire for a romantic relationship with people of the opposite gender as you, you are probably heteroromantic.
As with being heteromantic, 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.
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 who is of a romantic orientation because the romantic may feel emotionally attracted to particular people or types of people without being close to them yet. Romantic attraction without emotional closeness is exactly what it is 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 between different cultures. A distinction often made between friendships and romantic relationships is the amount of physical interaction. Romantic partners are more likely to hold hands and cuddle, for instance.
Aromantics may not particularly care for physical affection, or they may enjoy hugging their friends or holding someone's hand. Most humans are wired to seek out the physical connection with others in some form, regardless of whether they intend to form romantic bonds. How much physical affection a person enjoys varies between individuals who do experience romantic feelings, as well.
An aromantic person may even enjoy activities that are commonly considered romantic, like giving or receiving flowers. The difference is they probably don't have any romantic feelings for the person they give flowers to or receive them from.
The assumption should not be made 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 misconceptions, being aromantic does not mean a person doesn't love anyone or isn't capable of love. Aromantic means lack of romantic attraction, but attraction does not equal love. You can love your parents, your children, and your best friends. All these types of relationships involve valid expressions of love. Those expressions are just different from the romantic expression of love, as pretty much everyone is aware.
That means that yes, aromantic people can form bonds of attachment with others.
An aromantic person may also desire to live with another person or have a long-term living arrangement with a close friend. Not all aromantics want to be alone or live alone, though some do. Just like other people may not enjoy being alone, some aromantics desire some relationship or friendship that involves living together. They just don't feel romantic attraction toward that other person. Not feeling romantic attraction does not, of course, mean that they can't be choosy about who they may want to live with.
In fact, 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, but it may or may not be a person they have sex with, and romantic affection may be absent from this relationship. Of course, different aromantics do friendships and partnerships differently from each other.
The Difference Between Aromantic And Asexual
Many people are both aromantic and asexual. That being said, romantic orientation and sexual orientation are mutually exclusive from one another. An asexual or demisexual person may experience no sexual attraction, but find themselves romantically attracted to others. An aromantic person may experience sexual attraction to others, but not feel romantically attracted to their sexual partners.
What this means is that an aromantic person can be on any part of the sexual orientation spectrum. Although many people associate romantic attraction and sexual attraction together, it is not a requirement that both types of attraction be targeted at the same individual.
How To Know If You Are Aromantic
If any of this information seems to strike a chord with you, but you're not yet sure whether you consider yourself a romantic, you may be asking, "Is there some aromantic test I can take?" There is an aromantic online test available, and you can use it to get a better idea of where you stand, but certainly don't rely solely on such tests or quizzes for defining your own identity. In the end, the way you know whether you're an aromantic person is searching for how you feel and how you identify yourself.
Another great way to explore the idea of whether you are aromantic is to join online communities for aromantic people. Tumblr has many aromantic blogs. Forums are also a great place for discussing aromanticism with others.
You can also reach out to a professional counselor to help you explore your feelings of romanticism. They offer an unbiased, non-judgmental space for you to express and search your identity.
What To Do Once You Identify As An Aromantic Individual
If you find yourself identifying with some of the characteristics of aromanticism, you may wish to identify as aromantic yourself. Being an aromantic person is a label, like any other, and you are not required to label yourself in any way. Sometimes, however, having a label available can make explaining your preferences easier to others, it can help you feel solidarity with similar individuals, and it can help you find like-minded or accepting individuals to spend your time with. And having friends who accept you as you are is an important part of happiness for many of us.
Remember that if you feel you might be aromantic, it is not a mental health problem of any kind. It is not something you need to "fix," even if you get cultural messages from everywhere and everyone that romantic relationships are the norm or the ultimate goal. You are free to make your own goals for your life, so do what makes you happiest.