Hi! I was hoping to get some clarification regarding whether I experience romantic attraction, and am just a relationship anarchist, or whether I am actually aromantic. A complication in figuring this out is that I don’t have a clear definition on what constitutes romantic attraction separate from activities that are coded as romantic, like kissing and flirting, neither of which I’m inclined toward (though I enjoy candlelit dinners, mutual gift giving, and am happy to go on dates).
Here’s a bit of background information, I’m 22, I’m asexual, I identify as female (AFAB) and I’ve never been in a relationship. Until college, I never considered dating. I surrounded myself with books, school and adventures with my friends. I made my whole high school think I had gone on a blind date, when it had actually been a blind date with a book, an event that my library had for Valentine’s Day.
I’ve had some intense crushes, daydreamed about dancing at my wedding, been on a couple dates, which were great learning experiences for me regarding my attitudes toward romance, and I’ve talked to countless numbers of people on dating apps; with a few, it almost felt like being in a full blown relationship, even without having met in person. My friends come to me for objective relationship advice and despite my sparse dating experience, I’m knowledgeable in this area since I often read different advice columns and books about relationships.
When I discovered the term amatonormativity, I realized how my views were so different that I didn’t have a name for them. I had been discussing with my friends that although I theoretically wanted to be in a relationship, I hated the idea that both partners should seclude themselves into a relationship, as I had seen many of my friends do. In my view, relationships, no matter what kind, should make your community bigger, not smaller. I would hate to be kept away from my friends because my boyfriend felt threatened by them. I would also like to be able to hang out with each other’s friends and build those relationships as well, together and individually, and the idea of the couple being treated as a unit is odd to me.
Another idea that I’ve struggled with is the idea of emotional cheating, and by extension, the perception of what emotional intimacy should be in a relationship. There’s this idea that you should tell your partner everything that you would normally tell your friends (like your secrets and stuff), the relationship between you and your partner shouldn’t be discussed with others, and that sharing confidences outside your relationship constitutes emotional cheating if you’re not telling your partner those things too.
I am struggling to understand how emotional intimacy can exist in a relationship where its existence is dependent on whether the person is still attracted to you or not. I’ve heard of relationships ending after one party told the other some relatively innocuous secret about themselves that rendered them less attractive in their eyes. I’m aware that friends can grow apart too, but romantic relationships appear to be more transient by nature. With this in mind, if emotional cheating is such a valid concern in romantic relationships, I’m not sure I want to be in one. It seems like a high price to pay to exchange my constant confidants for someone who could easily decide that what I share with them is a dealbreaker, and when I think about this as I’m dating, it makes it difficult to want to continue.
A major aspect of romantic attraction that I don’t identify with is the desire for physical affection and flirting. I’m not instinctively physically affectionate, but I don’t mind hugging people or even hand holding, though I wouldn’t initiate it. I’m not particularly interested in cuddling or kissing, and I have always struggled to express the appropriate sentiments when someone tells me (in an apparent advertisement) that they’re a great cuddler (good for them?) or that they’d love to cuddle me (my inability to muster up genuine enthusiasm has caused some to doubt my interest). I always wondered whether that was just something I had to grin and bear for the sake of a relationship, but my friends have told me that I shouldn’t agree to do something I don’t actually want to do, even if it’s an acceptable compromise.
*I should note, cuddling is not a euphemism for sex here.
i also don’t flirt, which has probably sent the wrong message that I either liked someone when I didn’t or vice versa. If there’s something specific that I like about someone, I’ll mention it, but I don’t really do the verbal banter that appears to be the foundation of romantic attraction.
I’d also like to speak to the nature of my crushes. I tend to like guys who have a lot of charisma, who I can learn from, and who have interesting hobbies. Over the past few months, I have come to a somewhat concerning realization: I don’t know if I’ve actually wanted to be in a relationship with the people who I went on dates with or whether I just appreciated qualities that they had that eventually became mine. When I cultivated those traits that I liked about them within myself, I found that I didn’t really have any interest in dating them, though I wanted to remain friends with them for as long as possible.
I’d like to say that the lines I have drawn between my platonic and romantic relationships are nonexistent. Looking back, I can find no differences except that I was significantly nervous among those I was hanging out with in a romantic context because I didn’t want them to leave or get offended by my direct nature (I either met my dates online or I didn’t know them very well beforehand). I don’t necessarily want a partner that is my “best friend,” I want someone who is as kind to me as my friends are. I would even be happy to live with a friend forever and raise children together without the romantic involvement, that sounds absolutely ideal to me. I’m happy to have kids (whether artificially or through adoption) and live alone as well.
I know this is kind of long, and if you read this, I’m extremely thankful! I’m well aware that you can’t state to a certainty whether I am aromantic or not and that the decision to use that label (or not) is mine. My question is whether my experiences are inherently aromantic, merely a sign that I should explore relationship anarchy (and other nontraditional relationships), or both! I’m happy to hear about all of your experiences as well, and thanks for having me!