The world is a confusing and uninviting place for an aromantic person who hears their friends, family, social media pages, and fictional characters echo this sentiment every single day: “We’re all looking for romance and a love life!” While an aromantic person, by definition, may not experience romantic attraction, they do desire an intimate relationship. Yes, an aromantic relationship is not an oxymoron. However, it does look pretty different from the one involving alloromantics – someone who experiences romantic attraction.
An aromantic person on Reddit shares that when they were younger, they thought they would lose their romance aversion. But even after realizing they are aromantic, they still waited four or five years, hoping that they would “magically get romantic attraction”.
Aromantics might not experience, understand, like, or need romance, but they do pursue relationships that are rooted in non-romantic love and are intimate, lasting, and joyful. Romance is not a precursor to a fulfilling, healthy life after all. Let’s talk about aromantic relationships and unravel the negative bias against people who belong to this spectrum.
What Is Aromantic?
Romantic love is just one of the many kinds of love out there. And if someone feels little to varying to no romantic attraction at all, that person would be aromantic. The aromantic definition is different for every aro. Aromantics may:
- Not desire romantic relationships with anyone
- Not experience romantic attraction at all
- Feel romantic feelings selectively and be able to have a romantic relationship
- Have romantic feelings toward someone only to have the feelings fade away
- Never fall in love and be completely okay with that
- Maintain happy, committed, and platonic relationships
- Be repelled by a romantic relationship or anything that constitutes romance
- Not like to hold hands, kiss, or cuddle with romantic intent
- Have any gender or sexual orientation (you can be aromantic bisexual, heterosexual, lesbian, etc.)
- Keep romance and sex separate, and not be romantic toward the person they have sex with
- Keep their aromantic dating casual or they may look for commitment or anything in between
- Be found on apps catering to their romantic orientation – like aromantic dating sites or dating app for asexuals – to find people with shared interests
- Prefer to get to know a person through online dating as it allows them to filter out arophobic people
- Feel pressured to pretend to understand stories of romantic love, and lie about having had romantic crushes – in order to not be alienated/mocked
- Experience feelings of guilt for “not doing enough” in the relationship even though they have nothing to be guilty about
Aromantics are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. The A stands for asexuals (aces) and aromantics (aros). Aces feel little to no sexual attraction, but can be alloromantic, i.e., they can have romantic feelings without sexual attraction. Meanwhile, aros feel little to no romantic attraction, but they can be allosexual, i.e., they can feel sexual attraction without romantic feelings. And of course, there are people who are both aro and ace, regardless of sexual orientation and gender.
This aro-ace distinction is important as people often confuse one with the other. So, what does it mean to be dating someone if you’re aromantic? Well, dating for asexuals and aromantics can be a minefield, as we’ll soon find out.
What are the different identities on the aromantic spectrum?
If you identify as aromantic, you may have some questions: What does it mean to be dating someone if you’re aromantic? Am I aromantic or do I just hate dating? There are many, many aro terms that you can read about here. See if your dating experience resonates with any of these labels.
Below are a few of the aro identities from that list — just to give you a glimpse of what aromantic dating looks like:
- Grayromantic: Someone who experiences very limited or rare romantic attraction
- Demiromantic: It’s a romantic orientation in which someone can only feel romantically attracted to a person they have a strong emotional bond with
- Recipromantic: Someone who only feels romantically attracted to someone who is romantically attracted to them first
- Akioromantic: Someone who can feel romantic attraction but doesn’t want those feelings to be returned
- Frayromantic/Ignotaromantic/Protoromantic: Someone who experiences romantic attraction toward strangers and acquaintances, which fades away when they get to know them more
If you’re here to learn how to date an aromantic person, you need to first know about their struggles in an amatonormative world. Let’s talk about this so you’re prepared to be a compassionate partner in your aromantic relationship.
Related Reading: 21 LGBTQ Flags And Their Meanings – Know What They Stand For
What is amatonormativity?
To understand why aromantics are discriminated against or willfully misunderstood, it is vital to understand amatonormativity — which is a set of societal assumptions that everyone prospers with an exclusive romantic relationship.
Elizabeth Brake, American philosopher and Professor of Philosophy at Rice University in Texas, described the term amatonormativity as:
- A disproportionate focus on marital and amorous relationships
- Based on assumptions that exclusive relationships are normal for humans, and it’s a universally shared goal
- Trivializes friendships, family relationships, and solitude, and the care you invest in them because non-romantic relationships are not considered as important as romantic ones
- Fosters the cultural norm that romantic partners complete us
- Makes it difficult to imagine a happy life without romance, and creates enormous pressure to find a romantic partner
An aro user on Reddit shares that amatonormativity is “identifying with a fictional character that doesn’t want to date anyone, only to find the general audience demonizing the character for declining a date request.”
Aromantic Dating – What Kind Of Relationships Do Aromantics Choose?
Aros may not feel romantic love for their partners. But we all know that people get into relationships for a lot more than just romance. Intimacy, consistency, safety, reliability, sharing expenses, sharing a home, building a life and support system together, having a child, desire for sex, etc. are all valid reasons to have a partner.
These are the kinds of aromantic relationships a person might choose:
- Squishes: Aromantic dating can start with platonic crushes. These are called ‘squishes’ and they might develop into a meaningful queerplatonic relationship
- Queerplatonic relationships: These are intimate/advanced friendships where people seem to be in traditional, loving relationships, but without the romance and sex. They might even have shared responsibilities, a child, or a home together too
- Friends with benefits: Some allosexual aros prefer to have sexually intimate friendships. This way, they have a beautiful, loving, emotional connection with someone they cherish but without the commitment or gestures of romance
- Casual dating through aromantic dating apps: Since some aros don’t need romance, they are happy to fulfill their sexual needs through casual dating in a safe, healthy manner
- Polyamorous relationships: The scope of polyamorous relationships is so large and so personal that anyone can create a novel relationship structure within its confines. This gives aros a lot of freedom to explore, find intimacy, and nurture a support system
- Aromantic dating can also lead to marriage/partnership: Aromantics do marry or partner with someone based on sustainable values, affection, and goals
According to this thesis by an aro-ace individual, in our society, a hierarchy of relationships is created in which romantic relationships are at the top, and non-romantic relationships exist below that. Aros challenge that quite well and frequently.
Related Reading: Different Types of Relationships | Find Out Yours!
11 Things To Keep In Mind Before You Enter An Aromantic Relationship
So you’ve decided: “I’m dating an aromantic.” And if you’re an alloromantic, then dating an aromantic person will come with its unique set of challenges. Most of them have to do with the rewiring of your own hopelessly romantic mindset. Here are some things you need to keep in mind before you enter an aromantic relationship:
1. Make sure your aromantic partner wants to be in a relationship with you
Yep. Some aromantic individuals, due to the unbelievable pressure to fall in love, enter romantic relationships just to fit in. Like the protagonist of Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. If they haven’t accepted their romantic orientation yet, your relationship with this person would look like this:
- Even if they feel romantically disconnected from the partner, even if the performance of it makes them miserable, suffocates or repels them, they try to stay in a committed relationship with you for as long as possible
- Your aromantic partner might feel pressured to tell you that they are in love with you just to keep you happy and keep the relationship going
So once you get to know about their romantic orientation, ASK them how they actually feel in this committed relationship, and what they need. If your needs align, tell them that it’s okay if they don’t feel any romantic and sexual attraction. Reassure them of your commitment regardless of their romantic orientation.
Related Reading: Platonic Relationship Vs Romantic Relationship – Why Are Both Important?
2. Aromantic dating would require you to learn, learn, and unlearn
Asexuality and aromanticism are relatively new identities and are often misunderstood. There are a ton of myths and stigmas around aromantic individuals. It’s your responsibility to start deconstructing your ideas and conditioning around romance, intimacy, and sexual identity. To navigate dating as an aromantic person’s partner, you can also read up on relationship anarchy.
Learn as much as you can about the aro community through online platforms, ask questions, read books with aromantic characters and articles, watch videos, look up aromantic and asexual sites, listen to people in aromantic relationships, and destigmatize aromantic dating.
3. Don’t be arophobic in the relationship under the guise of ‘concern’
Don’t invalidate your crush/partner’s identity, and then add, “I’m saying this because I care.” Here’s a list of what NOT to say to them when they come out to you:
- “You’ll get over it, it’s just a phase”
- “You’re just sad because your previous relationship didn’t work out”
- “You’re just afraid of heartbreak”
- “You’re scared to be in a relationship, isn’t it?”
- “Of course, you can feel romantic attraction! What normal person can’t? Be serious”
- “You just haven’t met the right person yet”
- “This isn’t normal or natural, don’t talk like this”
- “You are not making sense, you should speak to a therapist or a doctor”
- “No one will date you if you continue to believe such things about yourself”
4. You’ll need to be your aro partner’s fiercest ally
If your partner is unable to take part in a group conversation regarding the types of love affairs and crushes everyone seems to be an expert on, they might be judged, alienated, or sympathized with because of their ‘brokenness’. Stand up for them if this happens in front of you. Educate others too. In an aromantic relationship, be your partner’s ally privately and publicly.
Take inspiration from the Netflix series, Wednesday. The central character has always been an aro-ace icon. In an episode, she says, “I will never fall in love” in her matter-of-fact, unapologetic manner. This scene instantly became a hit among the ace-aro communities. They were happy to see someone in an aromantic relationship and exist without the need for falling in love. Your partner is basically your Wednesday, just less murderous.
Related Reading: Platonic Soulmate – What Is It? 8 Signs You Found Yours
5. Establish needs, boundaries, and expectations before you enter an aromantic relationship
Talk endlessly before you decide to commit to each other. Is this a casual or an exclusive relationship? Are you both friends with benefits? What are the expectations and needs? Also, ask:
- Do they like to hug? Does it require a specific circumstance?
- Do they like to kiss in a non-sexual setting?
- What are their boundaries related to these gestures?
- What would your date ideas look like, say, on random weekends or romantic situations/days like Valentine’s Day?
- How okay are they with romantic displays of love?
- What about sexual activity?
- What is a relationship for them?
- Do you need verbal reassurance of their commitment to you once in a while (if they are not in love with you)?
Sexologist Carol Queen (Ph.D.) says, “It’s a really good idea for an aro person (or any person) to be as clear as possible about what they want out of dating and life. That way, they’ll be able to find compatible partners, be clear with their wants, focus, and boundaries, and build the life they want with informed consent for others.”
6. Talk about polyamory/open relationship before you start dating an aromantic person
If you’re alloromantic and wish to come up with a mutual arrangement for your romantic needs to be fulfilled elsewhere, talk to your partner beforehand. You can both decide upon an open relationship or try polyamory. This would be a great way for you to be romantically intimate with one partner while continuing to build a life with the other. If you’re married, there are ways to make a polyamorous marriage work as well.
7. Know what you’re getting out of your aromantic relationship
Why are you committing to this aromantic person? Amatonormativity WILL hit you at some point even after all the unlearning and learning. When you see your friends doing cheesy things that couples do, you’ll need to remind yourself why you’re in this relationship.
If you’re dating someone who is aromantic, be clear about your needs, priorities, and relationship goals. Define a committed partnership for yourself and don’t get influenced by others. Which of these are you looking for?
- Simple companionship based on shared interests
- A beautiful, intimate friendship
- Sexual compatibility
- A partner in health and sickness, in joint finances, and someone with whom you take care of the logistics of life
- A support system
- A consistent relationship with someone you are in love with
8. Aromantic relationships might have sexual intimacy, just no romantic love
“Desiring sex and not romance does not make someone predatory. Romance isn’t inherently good or pure, and sex isn’t inherently evil or dirty. Putting sex and romance on an equal, neutral level and either destigmatizing or deromanticizing them respectively, is the only way to truly support allo-aros and confront negative biases,” Magpie, a follower of the Instagram page, @theaceandaroadvocacyproject shares their thoughts in one of their posts.
Here’s how to navigate dating as an aromantic person’s partner. Remember the following:
- Your partner is not heartless, they are capable of love. They do love you in their own way; they are simply not falling ‘in love’ with you
- Their natural inclination to not associate romantic love with sex has nothing to do with you and your worth
- Their lack of romantic attraction has no bearing on the amount of affection, care, and loyalty they feel for you. They may experience emotional attraction but not in the quintessential romantic sense
- They are not using you for sex just because they are sexually attracted to you and stay away from romance
9. Know that they might fall out of love with you
Brace yourself. This could happen. But being in love may not even be a reason for an aro to stay in a relationship, so them falling out of love with you may have nothing to do with their commitment to you.
Talk to them. Find out where you both stand before you panic. Some aros are perfectly content in emotionally and sexually intimate relationships without romance. Phoenix, an aro and a follower of the Instagram page @theaceandaroadvocacyproject, shares on the page, “I don’t want a sickly-sweet love story. I want a good friend who wants to be sexually intimate.”
Related Reading: Falling Out Of Love In A Long-Term Relationship – Signs And What Should You Do
10. Be okay with the fact that your relationship may never see an ounce of romance
This would happen if your partner is romance-averse. If you can’t change the fact that you are an alloromantic, they can’t change the fact that they are a romance-averse aromantic. Don’t think, “But they desire sex frequently. Maybe they will also become more romantic with time. Maybe I can change them.”
No. You can’t. What this will do instead is demean and hurt them, and create huge trust issues in the relationship. Either tell them you can only date them casually and stick to sexual activity, or accept them the way they are in the relationship.
11. If your partner discovers they are aromantic ‘during’ the relationship, discuss the next steps
They might have been masking and putting themselves through the discomfort of pretend romance when all they wanted was a consistent, intimate relationship. If your partner has finally come out to you, validate and hear them out, and then introspect about your own needs.
- Can you be in a relationship with an aromantic person, especially someone who is romance-averse?
- How important are romantic gestures to you?
- Is it fair to you to be in a relationship where your basic need isn’t being met?
- Is it fair to them that their basic need isn’t being met either?
As hard as it is, if your needs are incompatible, the best way forward is to part ways and wish each other well. Find a relationship that both of you deserve.
- Aromantic people (aros) experience little to no to varying degrees of romantic attraction, but they do experience love of other kinds
- They are judged, mocked, alienated, criticized, and invalidated for who they are
- They are thought to be broken, unnatural, sex-obsessed, heartless, or confused. This is queerphobia, specifically arophobia
- Alloromantic partners of aro people should educate themselves about the aromantic community, establish boundaries and needs before dating them, and deconstruct their ideas around love and romance
- Aromantic relationships can be very fulfilling. Some of the dynamics aros choose to be in are: queerplatonic relationships, friends with benefits or casual dating to fulfill their sexual desire, polyamory, and marriages/partnerships
- We should learn from aro and asexual communities about the negative effects of allonormativity and amatonormativity on all of us
Jennifer Pollitt, an assistant professor and assistant director of gender, sexuality, and women’s studies, shares in this interview, “There is so much that people can learn from asexual and aromantic people because these individuals are teaching us entirely new ways of creating relationships that are not founded on systems of oppression.”
Of course. Some aromantics experience romantic attraction toward the person they have a strong emotional bond with. Some don’t feel it at all. But even though romance is not a priority or need for them, they date in order to: have sex, build a family, nurture emotional support and intimacy, enter deep, queerplatonic friendships, marry, raise a child, share expenses in a relationship, or commit to someone without romance.
If you’re dating as an aromantic, you must establish your needs and boundaries before you commit to someone. You should only be in a relationship that feels right to you and validates your romantic orientation. You can also navigate dating as an aromantic by opting for a friends-with-benefits situation or dating people casually (with consent).
An aromantic person may desire sex but might not like romantic feelings or to cuddle, kiss, and talk about romance. They may not desire a romantic relationship and may not fall in love with you, but will be committed and consistent in the relationship. Their ideas of fulfillment and partnership are not rooted in romantic love, and this is something you’ll need to learn, understand, and accept before dating them. Dating an asexual aromantic means you will also need to talk about sex, have sexual boundaries, and conversations regarding desire, physical needs, and intimacy. Some ace-aros do enjoy sex with certain people, while others don’t like sex at all.
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