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Oriented and/or gray aros, and romantic vs other attractions


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So. At the local lgbt+ club today we were talking about bi+ folks a lot in celebration of bi month, and while I stayed quiet because I don't identify as bi, it got me thinking again about how I define my orientation. 

 

I'm definitely ace, and I identified as full-on standard aro for a while as well, but lately I'm questioning that. I know there are multiple types of attraction, and that even with or without any of those people can want relationships or different versions of relationships or not want relationships at all for a number of reasons, so it gets pretty messy as to where the distinction really matters. But I'm someone who likes to have a fitting label, as a tool to help understand my experience yknow. 

 

I definitely experience aesthetic attraction- people are pretty, and cute, and I adore people! And I've had the odd case of sensual attraction- just wanting the casual cuddles / arm around kind of interactions with someone, but I don't know if those were Really Crushes of some form or just "I'm touch starved and this person was nearby and therefore a handy daydream component" (not that I acted on any- each of those cases were someone I just newly chatted with a bit). I'm also prone to, when a person does or says something that can be construed as having possible subtext regarding interest in me, I'll get excited sort of hyperfocusing on my interactions with them? Even if I wouldn't have thought about them at all previously. And on occasion, there will be someone I find myself admiring/appreciating intensely, and it's like... I don't know if that's what a romantic feeling is, or alterous, or if I'm just soft toward people I admire

 

All this, adoring people, loving their aesthetics, and naturally tending towards being tender to people I care about... it feels like muddy territory, and I'm always baffled when I encounter a distinct sort of feeling about someone, and am always determined to identify what that is. 

 

At the same time, I theoretically like the idea of a relationship (though I don't know how much time/focus I can really put into one- I like doing my own thing, and not being expected to check in with someone specific I guess)- I like the idea of being tender towards someone, and having that sort of standard dynamic of allowing casual touch, putting an arm around or cuddling or whatever (especially since I have a large personal bubble in general- I do not initiate touch unless it's already established as the norm with that person). And I guess I'm trying to figure out how that fits with the feelings I have (though of course I understand that a relationship can be whatever all parties agree to, regardless of attraction or lack thereof). 

 

While I have this sense of "there are people of some different genders I have found myself feeling various intrigued or adoring things about," I've been sort of (noncommital ehhh noise and wavy hand gesture) about considering myself Oriented Enough To Identify That Way, I guess because I feel like feelings are hard to pin down and it's difficult to get a satisfying enough definition of what they are.

 

Anyways, I'm interested in hearing about experiences of folks who are gray aro, or oriented aros- what do your various attractions feel like to you? Why do you identify the way you do? How do you differentiate the different sorts of things you feel for different folks? And where does that distinction matter or not matter for you personally?

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Up until recently, I thought that all of my squishes were crushes. I would really want to spend time with someone and become close with them but I would confuse wanting to be like their best friend with wanting to be in a romantic relationship with them. I would think that it might be nice to cuddle with them or hold hands but it wasn't until I was on dates or in situations that had "romantic vibes" that I realized that thats not what I wanted at alllll lmao. Any attraction (platonic or otherwise, I'm still questioning) that I would have, would disappear immediately once it was reciprocated. I could only think about how much I wanted to get away from the person (girl or guy-I used to think I was bisexual) no matter how nice they were. Now, I know how to differentiate platonic attraction from what could possibly romantic attraction. Ex. I get super excited, fond and/or "soft" towards people and I'm like "is this romantic attraction?" but then I think about kissing them or something and I'm like "nooope"😂. Like you, I tend to have aesthetic attraction and the occasional bouts of sensual attraction where I really want to hug someone for a long time. I sometimes consider that I might be gray romantic because, in theory, I might be open to having a QPR or a plantonic relationship in general with someone; like a platonic life partner or something.  

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I experience something very similar, actually.

 

I'm pretty confident in my aro identity. It's the one thing I hold a lot of weight in because it's so... concise for me. It's something I've known about myself for years but only recently started embracing. For me, aesthetic attraction falls toward my orientation (I'm pretty confident that I'm gay, because I've tried to make myself like girls In That Way for years.) sensual attraction often tilts toward my orientation. I do experience sexual attraction, even though I'm asexual. That's a whole 'nother pack of worms, but I'm pretty sure I just want to control that as well, so it gets shoved under the weird mattress I keep. I'm aware of these parts of myself and know where my comforts are.

However, I have a lot of struggles with affection. I worry a lot about coming off romantic to other people, so I don't touch a lot of people. It's exceptionally isolating and makes me feel worse, but I'm learning to have more physical relationships with my peers. Platonic intimacy is something I feel so strongly for, because when I have someone I care about, I want to hug them. I want to give them affection, which sometimes involves kisses. Sensual attraction is something I feel strongly, but it might be some.. uh, major touch starved bs.

 

I don't see these actions as inherently romantic, but I wouldn't dare do this with anyone who wasn't fully aware of a.) my identity and b.) wasn't fully comfortable with it. I just find those things comforting and a way to silently distribute affection to my friends and the people I care about. I know I'm not romantically attracted to people, because that affection being turned into a relationship? Nopes me out hard.

 

I never considered something like a platonic life partner before, I guess I didn't know it was possible, but I like the notion of it actually. I guess I never thought it was possible?

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