Aromanticism and the aromantic spectrum

Aromanticism describes not experiencing romantic attraction. The romantic spectrum is a spectrum of its own, separate from the asexual spectrum. Some aromantic people are allosexual and some are asexual.

Some asexual people identify as aromantic, which means that they do not experience romantic attraction. The aromantic spectrum is a spectrum of its own, similar to the asexual spectrum. Some aromantic people are also allosexual, which means they experience sexual attraction but not romantic attraction. The words used to describe the aromantic spectrum often mirror those seen in the asexual spectrum.

  • Some people never feel romantic attraction, and may choose to call themselves aromantic. This is also commonly shortened to aro.
  • Some people experience romantic attraction only very rarely. These people may use the term grey romantic or arospec (short for aromantic spectrum) to describe themselves. This term can also be used by those who aren’t sure if they experience romantic attraction. As with sexual attraction, it can be difficult to know what something is if you have never felt it, or if you have only experienced it briefly. Some people choose to use the term grey romantic while they are figuring things out, while others are satisfied with this label and don’t want to define things further.
  • Some people only experience romantic attraction to someone after forming a strong emotional bond with the person over a period of time, and may identify as demiromantic. These people may not have ‘crushes’ or a sense of initial romantic attraction to other people, but may experience romantic attraction and fall in love with someone after forming a close emotional bond first.

People who fall on the aromantic spectrum can be anywhere on the asexual spectrum, or not on the asexual spectrum at all (allosexual). As with asexual people, aromantic people may choose to combine terms to describe their sexuality. For example:

  • An aromantic asexual person is someone who does not experience either sexual or romantic attraction.
  • An aromantic heterosexual person is someone who experiences sexual attraction to members of a different gender, but does not feel romantic attraction.
  • A demiromantic bisexual person is someone who is sexually attracted to men and women, but only experiences a romantic connection after forming a strong emotional bond with a person first.

Sometimes identity terms can be more complicated for those whose romantic and sexual identities are not straightforward. So for example, terms such as aromantic bi-demisexual may refer to someone who does not experience romantic attraction, but can experience sexual attraction to multiple genders after forming a close emotional connection with them.

Aromantic people experience some of the same problems that asexual people face, such as not having relationships or a desire for relationships that society deems ‘normal’. Aromantic people may feel alienated in a culture that often prizes romantic relationships above any other kind of relationship. They may also feel alienated or confused by the extent to which our culture seems obsessed with romantic relationships in movies, books and everyday life. We even have a day of the year to celebrate romance; Valentine’s day. People who find themselves on both the asexual and aromantic spectrums may find themselves particularly confused by the amount of importance other people and society place on romantic and sexual relationships.

Aromantic people may also form very strong emotional bonds with close friends. For some aromantic people these friendships are very important. Some aromantic people will do things typically associated with romantic relationships with friends, such as live together, raise children together etc. Aromantic friendships of this nature may be referred to as queerplatonic, which means a strong platonic friendship that can sometimes look similar to a romantic relationship. Strong platonic interests in other people may be referred to as ‘squishes’ (to differentiate them from crushes).

You may be aromantic if:

  • You find romantic themes strange and confusing.
  • You struggle to understand what other people mean when they say they have crushes, or why they behave the way they do when they claim to be in love.
  • You find the jealousy present in many romantic relationships confusing.
  • You find other people’s apparent obsessiveness over romantic interests hard to understand.
  • You enjoy spending time with friends and other loved ones, but don’t want to do the things typically associated with romantic relationships, such as kissing, sharing a bed, getting married etc.
  • You prefer friendships to relationships and possibly wish everyone just wanted to be friends.
  • You find romantic plots in books and movies to be boring and/or unnecessary.

After describing what the aromantic spectrum is, it may be helpful to describe what it is not. Aromantic people are NOT:

  • Robots, or people who lack emotions. Many aromantic people desire and have close emotional connections with their friends and/or family. For people who do not experience romantic attraction, it is common to place a much higher value on friendships, as this is a place where aromantic people can have their emotional needs met in a platonic way.
  • Cold, or emotionally unavailable. As above, many aromantic people have strong emotional connections to other people, but these are not romantic feelings. A lack of romantic attraction does not necessarily mean someone is not available emotionally – just romantically!
  • Sociopaths. A lack of romantic attraction does not indicate that someone is a sociopath. This word can often be used as an insult to aromantic people, especially those who are allosexual, with the implications that they are just manipulating people for sex but don’t actually care about anybody. This is untrue, and aromantic people can care deeply for those close to them – just not typically in a romantic way. Aromantic allosexual (or arospec) people can have sexual relationships with people important to them, or may choose to have sexual encounters with people they don’t have a close relationship with. As per the above point, many aromantic people have very close friendships that may include a sexual component. Many aromantic people are just as confused by the obsessiveness and jealously that can characterize romantic relationships as other people are confused by their lack of romantic interest.  
  • An excuse not to date after a bad relationship breakup in the past. A person’s previous dating history does not determine their sexuality. Many people have gone through bad relationships and breakups, and it is ok for these people to choose not to date again for a while (or ever). However, aromanticism is a lack of romantic attraction that typically becomes noticeable to the person around puberty, not the result of romantic heart-break.

Interested to learn more about asexuality and related phenomena? Read more about the intersection of asexuality and age here.

Learn more about aromanticism elsewhere.

  • First aimed at asexuals, AVEN is now also a leading source of information about aromanticism.
  • The Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week website also offers a community based FAQ section to help empower aromantics and other individuals to understand aromantic topics and experiences. 

The Asexuality New Zealand Trust has no control over, accepts no responsibility for, and does not necessarily endorse the content of external websites.

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