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ConcernedSister

Supporting My Little Sister

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I love my sister very much, and I've known that she identifies as aromantic for a few years now, probably since she started college. I'm bisexual, and romantic myself.

 

Things have been rough for my sister for the past two years. She's been dealing with major depression, and it's been taxing for me and my family. When she has a bad day, she is very impulsive, and tends to immediately jump to some kind of suicidal gesture. Otherwise, when her days are good, she is like the person I've always known her to be; outgoing, funny, opinionated, and strong. 

 

She is in therapy, and takes anti-depressants. Recently, she got accepted into nursing school. Things have been tough because her best friend of eight years moved away and she's been heartbroken about it. I recently moved as well because I started my career as a teacher.

 

She called me today to talk about her aromanticism. She had a bad day in class, and felt like no one there gets her. She told me she really wants another relationship like she had with her friend that moved away, but she is worried she won't find someone who wants to be platonic friends with a strong, almost romantic bond (minus the romance.) We live in Kansas, and she is feeling very much like there isn't anyone out there for her to be close to, or anyone who will want the kind of relationship she wants. 

 

I told her to join this forum, and reassured her that there are people who want the same thing she wants. I think she just feels extremely isolated right now. I'm feeling powerless to help her, mainly because I'm not aromantic and I worry that I "don't get it." I want to change that, I want to educate myself so I can be there for her. She tried to kill herself again today - I just want to help her manage her pain and to embrace who she is.

 

if anyone has advice, or good resources for aromantic allies, I would really appreciate it. Thanks.

 

 

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Hi there. Welcome. Sorry to hear that your sister is going through a tough time :( (and that you're not introducing yourself to us under happier circumstances)

 

I'm not sure how much help I can be here, as I'm not somebody that's suffered with depression myself and I've not been active in the aromantic community for very long (if being on a forum even counts as 'active'...). But I read your post shortly after you added it and I've been thinking about how to reply since then, so I'll try and at least say some things. Hopefully some of it can help.

 

On 12/09/2017 at 3:44 AM, ConcernedSister said:

but she is worried she won't find someone who wants to be platonic friends with a strong, almost romantic bond (minus the romance.) We live in Kansas, and she is feeling very much like there isn't anyone out there for her to be close to, or anyone who will want the kind of relationship she wants.

 

I think that's a very common thing that a lot of people here want - and worry about how to find (and maintain). People that want this absolutely exist, so your sister isn't alone here; but they might be geographically spread about a lot, so not necessarily easy to meet in real life :(

 

On 12/09/2017 at 3:44 AM, ConcernedSister said:

I'm feeling powerless to help her, mainly because I'm not aromantic and I worry that I "don't get it."

 

I think it almost doesn't matter if you "get it". Just be there, be supportive and give her space to express her feelings* (the last one might be the most important?). It sounds like you are already doing all that :). A friend of mine recently ended a long term romantic relationship and was quite upset over it. I tried to be there and be supportive, even though I didn't really "get it", as I've never experienced romantic relationships and breakups myself - so all of the infatuation and heartbreak surrounding them is a bit lost on me. I hope I helped a little, despite that (and I never once said "why does this matter so much to you?" or anything dumb like that!)

 

On 12/09/2017 at 3:44 AM, ConcernedSister said:

if anyone has advice, or good resources for aromantic allies, I would really appreciate it.

 

The impression I get is that there are limited resources out there for aromantics and allies (more seem to exist for asexuals and allies). I could be wrong though (does your sister identify as asexual by the way? the problems that asexual aromantics and sexual aromantics experience can be quite different...) However, I did some googling around and found this: http://anagnori.tumblr.com/post/71315914431/how-to-be-a-better-ally-to-aromantic-people

 

In your sister's specific case, you mention that her long term friend recently moved away. That will be one of the most significant relationships in her life. I think this kind of thing can hit aromantic people harder, for a few reasons. So, if a romantic person makes a careless comment like "but why are you so upset? they were just a friend" then that could be really hurtful for your sister to hear. I'm sure you won't do this; but just be aware that other people might have done so already and done some damage this way...(in general, we really don't like it when people create hierarchies placing romantic relationships above platonic ones in terms of importance and 'legitimacy'; so even just having more romantic people recognize and acknowledge that we consider 'platonic' relationships every bit as significant as 'romantic' ones, even if they don't themselves, can be significant).

 

Sorry for not being able to think of more than this :/ I'm hoping somebody else will reply too...

 

 

* Do be honest about your own feelings as well  - if you don't "get it" then that's okay and you don't need to try and pretend. There are experiential things that, I suppose,  you will never be able to "get" as a romantic person; you'll only ever be able to "get" some intellectual understanding of  the aromantic experience. By the way, do feel free to spend some time here and ask us some questions for help with that.

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Wow thank you so much for replying. I got a lot out of this. My sister isn't asexual, but she's also told me she doesn't feel like she needs to have sex to live a full life. But I know she does experience sexual attraction. 

 

I'll be sure to check out that link you sent me. I just texted her a few minutes ago, because I came to the realization that being "just friends" with someone is a whole lot more than people give it credit. It isn't "just friends." Being friends is amazing! Why should it be downplayed in favor of a romantic relationship? As someone who is alloromanic, a close platonic friendship is really nice because you don't get wrapped up in it the same way as a romantic relationship. Romance is hard, and stressful. It can be rewarding for me when it is right, but it definitely can be very hard. Friendship doesn't hold that same stress in my eyes. 

 

Being friends is different, not less than being romantic lovers. Both are valid forms of human attachment, and can be equally satisfying.

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NullVector's said some good stuff and I doubt mine will match up but I will try. (Warning: somehow it seems to have turned into a sad rant?) 

 

I had my best friends move away twice and it is hard because they had become my 'go-to' person and I had become complacent about seriously making new friends, so when they left I found myself with few friends and feeling isolated. You say your sister is also feeling this, and if she is an experience sharer personality having no go-to person can be crippling. It is possible that her personality doesn't mesh with the new people she has met in her studies, but it is probably more likely her feelings for instant connection and regaining what is now moved away is keeping her from seeing potential new friends (I know that happened to me). 

 

If your sister is a person fine with non-instant screen interactions  you could encourage her to join an online aromantic community which might provide the 'we understand' and shared experiences she seems to be seeking, though that might not be what she is actually seeking, and she might need other interactions to feel connected to people (some people need instant replies, and some people need face to face experience to feel connected, so this wouldn't help them much). Most aromantic people probably don't even know the word, and the few of us that do are widely scattered, but it is possible you may find someone nearby by being active online (or maybe even aro flag searching at the local Pride parade?) 

 

Starting new friendships can be very hard, and getting to the intimate best friends stage can take years, and there are almost no platforms to find friends in the way that there is for finding romantic partners. Friendships should be based on more than romantic orientation but the sad reality is some friendships will be lost over it. The best thing I can think of is to join clubs and groups to meet lots of people who already have some of the same interests so she can have friendly interactions while she grieves, while also laying the foundations for new friendships. 

 

Just being there at the end of the phone or screen for support and sharing your small joys and achievements can be very helpful, and thank you @ConcernedSister for getting a gut understanding about friendship importance! (so many hurtful things can slip out when someone doesn't understand that). I grieved my best friends, not because we weren't friends anymore, but because they would be moving in a different direction in their lives without me, so showing your sister she is still very much a part of your life by telling her about that stubbed toe in the morning and a picture of the flowers you saw on the way to work might be very comforting. One of my best friends did this for me when I told her how I felt and it did help me get the motivation to join those clubs and groups, basically so I would have something interesting to tell her back. Don't know your situation, but could you reach out to your sister's friend and see what their interaction is, and encourage support if it isn't happening already?

 

You seem like a pretty good ally already! Have you spread the understanding of romantic orientations amongst your own friends and family? There are no spokespeople for aromantics that I know of, and many of us only come out to a few people, so having alloromantics spreading the fight against amatonormativity (the tendency of society to treat romantic relationships as more valuable than non-romantic ones) hopefully makes it a more thoughtful and accepting society. 

 

I may not have been helpful at all as there are many ifs and maybes in my wall of text, and if your sister is an experience sharer who needs a face to face connection most of it won't work as I pulled from my experience as a text based loner. 

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@Apathetic Echidna Your answer was really good :) 

 

@ConcernedSister I thought of a few more things since yesterday...

 

So, I said i hadn't experienced depression; but when I've experienced periods of low mood that you could characterize as a mild sad/numb/distanced emotional state, I do notice that I have a tendency to actively remove myself from social spaces. Like I can't be bothered and I don't want to be a bother to others. When I get like this, I  have to really force myself to interact socially, and my natural tendency is to opt-out of human interactions indefinitely, which doesn't help at all with lifting my mood (things just stall or get worse). So, I would recommend  watching out for this tendency with your sister. She might need to force herself to interact with other people for a while, even (especially?) when she doesn't feel like it. Fake it till she makes it, so to speak ("it" being a return to normal). For example, I think there have been studies that show smiling (even when you don't feel internally happy and as long as it's not too forced) can lift your mood because it triggers certain physiological and neurological response mechanisms (e.g. I heard in a talk by one Buddhist monk that his meditation teacher gave him an exercise to smile at himself in the mirror every morning! He thought it was a pretty silly exercise, but he did do it! And maybe it helped. I'm not recommending this for your sister necessarily! xD) Similarly, having good body posture vs. being slouched all the time can help to lift your mood. There are probably some simple non-mental things you can try to help with the mental side. They're all quite trivial, facile even, but they all add up, perhaps. Are there any physical activities that your sister enjoys? Again, my experience is that this can give your brain a break from 'fighting itself' for a while. Having something enjoyable and non-mental to concentrate on can be healing. Just a few more thoughts I had since that last post, take them or leave them :)

 

I would add a  similar disclaimer to @Apathetic Echidna : I'm also something of a "text based loner" and these are just some things that have worked for me.

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