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nonmerci

Do we lack of empathy for alloromantics?

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Ok, my question must sound weird as most of the time, allo are the one who clearly has no empathy for us.

Also when I say "we", I mean in general, it aims at no one in particular.

The thing is : from what I read sometimes, it seems aro has difficulties to understand romantic feelings and heartbreaks, for obvious reasons. Also, as we have a lot of bad experiences with them when they don't try to understand us, which leads us to be on defensive sometimes. However, I think it leads us to be rude, in particular when allo come on an aro website to seek advice with an aro person. For instance, I saw some comments saying things like they are wrong to feel the way they feel. While I think we should try to understand why they react this way instead of blame them, the same way they try to understand us. (I'm of course talking of allos who are not reacting as jerks when someone say they are aros, but people who try to get it, like people who are in a Relationship with an aro for instance and are trying to make things right).

I'd add that this not only an aro thing. For instance, I saw in aces community people being completely unsympathetic (is that a word?) with allosexuals. Some people in a romantic relationship with an allo, who want their partner to understand them but will never make an effort to do the same (well, I Don't think we reach this point and I hope we never will, but that's it).

 

I don't know for you, but sometimes this lack of empathy makes me uncomfortable. I'm wondering if it is just me, or if this is something we should work on? Because clearly, we can't expect people to understand how we feel if we don't try to do the same.

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I completely agree. It’s hard as an aro to empathise with allo people’s experience and I think the issue is exacerbated by the fact that romance is everywhere, which can lead indifference towards romance to develop into annoyance towards it.

 

In my opinion, the golden rule is that if it isn’t hurting anyone then there’s no point getting angry about it. Romantic relationships are an enriching experience for many people, and I’ve had to learn that even though I’m somewhat romance repulsed, romantic attraction isn’t inherently a bad thing.

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Yeah, I think we'll likely lack some degree of empathy in this context almost by definition. Empathy means literally something like "feeling in/into"; it implies to me some kind of resonance of your feelings with the feelings of the person you're empathising with. Whatever "resonance" an aromantic can generate for the feeling of romantic heartbreak is never going to be as accurate as what an allo-romantic empathiser can generate here, so we'll always fall short in terms of "raw" empathy, IMO.

 

We might be able to compensate in other ways? But I think it means we need to be extra careful when responding to allo-romantics, as we're more likely to make mistakes because our empathy "machinery" won't be well calibrated in this context. I think I've made mistakes because of this in the past. I've tried to apologise where I thought I did; but I'm personally not super proud of everything I've ever written here in response to allo-romantics.

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This is a really interesting topic, actually. I'm going to focus mainly on 1-to-1 empathy with someone who isn't your partner.

 

I don't think we lack empathy for allos in general, I think it has to do with us practicing empathy on a regular basis. I think it has to do a lot with who we surrounded ourselves with how they interacted with us. I can only talk about myself here, so that's what I'll do: I was always the friend (and am, still, honestly) that gets approached when someone needs romantic advice. Why? Beats me. I'm a neutral party, mostly, and I've made my mistakes. I guess I look at relationships on a "platonic" level the same way I look at "romantic" relationships. I put the needs on the same plane, and often I don't consider particular romantic/sexual aspects of a relationship as observing one as a whole.

 

Empathy is something we lose if we don't practice it. I've been lucky enough to have the interpersonal connections around me to know how to empathize. The people who are confiding in you (or in a group) are looking not just for sympathy, but understanding. It's okay if you can't relate, it's okay if you don't understand. There is something powerful in standing in the rain with someone. It forces you to be vulnerable, and while that is a beautiful and scary thing, that is something I think everyone can relate to wanting and needing.

 

Granted, I'm used to empathizing with allos in this way, so if that's something some people struggle with, here are a few things I've picked up:

 

  1. Admit you don't always know. We don't know what it's fully like to be alloromantic! The nuances of romanticism may not click for us (or maybe it does! I'm not your parent!) The most simplistic phrase you can adopt is "wow, that's really hard. I can't imagine what that's like." You don't have to explain why, but it's really validating for people expressing their concerns to know that what they're going through is hard.
  2. They're coming to you! They've picked you! Find comfort in knowing they trust you for this, be it in person, online, or on a forum. People have come here seeking advice or an ear, let's try to do that.
  3. It's not just about the content. If the thing they are telling you about triggers you, that's different, but if this is something you can bear you don't have to focus entirely on the details. This is someone trying to share their story with you, and reach out in a way so many of us forget to. Try to keep that in the back of your head while someone is talking to you about a frustration.
  4. Still, Listen. More than anything, empathizing with someone involves active listening. Show that you're still interested. Try to repeat back what's going on. "So Dave dancing with Daniel bothered you since you both are dating?" These things might seem trivial to us, but they matter to whoever is talking to you. It also might help explain some things you don't understand, without taking away from the story telling aspect. "So let me get this straight, your partner is asking ____ and you need ____?"
  5. If in person, or over the phone, listen to their tones. Listen to their hurt, their anger, their grief. Watch their facial expressions, if you can. Often we can mirror these expressions without thinking. We mirror things such as posture and hand gestures and that in itself invokes empathy.
  6. Focus on the interpersonal. There's always an angle you can poke for in relationships. If you can't understand the desires for romanticism, you can certainly understand the want for honestly, responsibility, authenticity, and vocality. Does this couple communicate well? How have you had trouble communicating in the past? I can't imagine someone who's never had an issue with communication before. You can relate back to yourself without making it about you! "I know it's so frustrating when people get mad at you for not reading their minds. I'm so sorry that's been eating at you."
  7.  If there truly is nothing comparable, always make that known. "I can't relate to how troubling that must be, but I can tell you're hurting and I'm okay listening as long as you need me to, and if you don't want to talk I'm here anyways." I find that offering a second, concrete way to help is often so appreciated. Not just a "I'm here if you need me." but a "I can go on a walk with you or bring food/entertainment/myself over and we don't have to talk about it at all." goes a long way, especially for friends dealing with heartbreak.

 

Reminder that I'm just a college student without a degree. I don't know everything! This is just what I found helps.

 

Let me know if this is helpful. 😃

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Sunna,  you are now my King of Empathy. I think you perfectly understand it. Listening is the key. You don't have to feel the same to understand, even if it makes things harder (like this time when a friend of mine ask if I sometimes feel the same way as is, and that I had to come out to him lol).

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18 hours ago, nonmerci said:

Ok, my question must sound weird as most of the time, allo are the one who clearly has no empathy for us.

Also when I say "we", I mean in general, it aims at no one in particular.

The thing is : from what I read sometimes, it seems aro has difficulties to understand romantic feelings and heartbreaks, for obvious reasons. Also, as we have a lot of bad experiences with them when they don't try to understand us, which leads us to be on defensive sometimes. However, I think it leads us to be rude, in particular when allo come on an aro website to seek advice with an aro person. For instance, I saw some comments saying things like they are wrong to feel the way they feel. While I think we should try to understand why they react this way instead of blame them, the same way they try to understand us. (I'm of course talking of allos who are not reacting as jerks when someone say they are aros, but people who try to get it, like people who are in a Relationship with an aro for instance and are trying to make things right).

I'd add that this not only an aro thing. For instance, I saw in aces community people being completely unsympathetic (is that a word?) with allosexuals. Some people in a romantic relationship with an allo, who want their partner to understand them but will never make an effort to do the same (well, I Don't think we reach this point and I hope we never will, but that's it).


What is going on here is best described as a "double empathy problem".

There's also the situation of alloromantics: privileged majority and aromantics: dis-privileged minority.

What this leads to is the allo (privileged) position being seen as default position or "human nature" with everyone including aros (dis-privileged) expected to understand romanticism.
Conversely there's no expectation on allos to understand aromanticism at all or to feel guilty for not doing so.

This is a "privilege thing" rather than an "aro thing". 

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3 hours ago, Mark said:

This is a "privilege thing" rather than an "aro thing". 

 

That definitely resonates. There's a privilege that often goes unchecked with alloromantics, that they're a "norm" and how they feel should be obvious but it isn't to a lot of it. I think there's a link to getting frustrated when aro folk ask questions, because I feel that also plays into it.

 

I mean, how many times have I asked my mom what love feels like? My friends? My siblings? How long did I keep asking after getting answers like you'll know it when you feel it, you just know, and don't you know already? I feel like aromantics often turn away from empathizing with the struggles of alloromantics (and the struggles specific to their alloromanticism) because we're so used to being brushed off for not understanding, not getting what's in all the movies. So when these frustrations of romantic relationships come up, I even sometimes shrug and say, "Don't know that feel." Like, I don't, and I got tired of trying to learn. But that's not the way I want to live, you know? I want to learn and understand new things my whole life. I intend to do that as much as I can.

 

I've been lucky in my experience to come out to people who were eager listeners, who didn't understand but were curious as to how I felt that way, and not saying that I might feel that one day in the future. (Like, sure, maybe, but I feel that way now, and that matters to me the most.) Though I know the questions and dismissals well. I know that it gets annoying, and we don't want to reach out. The only real reason for all of that far as I can discern is that we haven't learned from each other. Outside of a situation when you're asked to be empathetic, setting up an interesting dialogue where you can ask questions with an alloromantic might foster that sort of understanding. (This of course, is a labor, and if you don't have the energy for it, perhaps find other sources? Maybe we could make a list of aro-friendly explanations of alloromantic common problems and feelings that we can use as resources for understanding, which might also help with the empathy issue?)

 

(And honestly, I got a month once finals are done. Maybe I can cook something up if I have the gusto for it to answer some questions. Am I fully qualified? God no, but I got spirit.)

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21 hours ago, NullVector said:

Yeah, I think we'll likely lack some degree of empathy in this context almost by definition. Empathy means literally something like "feeling in/into"; it implies to me some kind of resonance of your feelings with the feelings of the person you're empathising with. Whatever "resonance" an aromantic can generate for the feeling of romantic heartbreak is never going to be as accurate as what an allo-romantic empathiser can generate here, so we'll always fall short in terms of "raw" empathy, IMO.

I think it's just a biology thing. When we feel empathy, part of our brain emulates the experience the person we're talking to feels (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy#Neuroscientific_basis_of_empathy. The problem is that with aromantics and allos it's like trying to emulate a quantum compute using a regular computer and the other way round (sorry for using a comparison nobody will understand but I couldn't think of a better one). For some tasks it works just fine, but others are impossible. As we have never felt the emotions of being in love or being heartbroken and our brains just aren't wired to feel it, we can't simulate this emotion in our heads and feel empathy. We can come close by comparing it to something we know, but ultimately we have to fail.

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On 12/9/2019 at 7:01 PM, sunny said:

I mean, how many times have I asked my mom what love feels like? My friends? My siblings? How long did I keep asking after getting answers like you'll know it when you feel it, you just know, and don't you know already? I feel like aromantics often turn away from empathizing with the struggles of alloromantics (and the struggles specific to their alloromanticism) because we're so used to being brushed off for not understanding, not getting what's in all the movies. So when these frustrations of romantic relationships come up, I even sometimes shrug and say, "Don't know that feel." Like, I don't, and I got tired of trying to learn. But that's not the way I want to live, you know? I want to learn and understand new things my whole life. I intend to do that as much as I can.

And when we do try to give advice or understand we might very well be dismissed with. "Well, you've never been in love so you don't know what it's like."

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I’m definitely an empathetic person... sometimes too empathetic.

I try to understand romance for my friends so I can support them. But I do feel like they don’t try to get me.

Tbh though... it’s hard to imagine and empathize with a feeling you’ve never had, that’s true in almost every case. 
 

Edit: I mean, there’s a lack of empathy on both sides because we can’t see why the other feels the way we do 

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I'm new here and I definitely see aros being rude to allos sometimes. Allos are just different. Different doesn't equal bad.

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On 12/9/2019 at 7:07 PM, Tagor said:

The problem is that with aromantics and allos it's like trying to emulate a quantum compute using a regular computer and the other way round (sorry for using a comparison nobody will understand but I couldn't think of a better one). For some tasks it works just fine, but others are impossible. As we have never felt the emotions of being in love or being heartbroken and our brains just aren't wired to feel it, we can't simulate this emotion in our heads and feel empathy. We can come close by comparing it to something we know, but ultimately we have to fail.

 

I think I'm an empathic person -- or at least my therapist does -- and this is basically exactly what's going on.

 

When another person feel joy, I feel joy. When another person is angry, I get angry.

 

Now the thing is, when talking about heartbreak with an alloromantic, we gotta break it down to the basic emotions: Anger, pain and sadness in most cases. These we can connect with. So whilst we can't understand the concept of heartbreak itself and might even think of it as silly, we can still understand it when changing the situation a bit. For example: Your best friend you came out to outed you against your will and declared that they want nothing to do with you anymore. This will lead to feelings such as anger, pain and sadness -- very similar to a broken heart, just without the romantic connotations.

 

We can't experience the emotion itself, but we can come close to understanding it, if we try enough to understand it. And making that effort is basically, what your friend will see when they talk to you about their heartbreak and they will see that you care.

 

If instead you brush them off entirely by saying "not my problem; romance is silly anyway" it will just lead to resentment on both sides.

 

Generally, if you want allos to make an effort to understand what you're feeling (or in this case maybe not feeling), you gotta try and make an effort to understand what they're feeling. Neither side will completely comprehend the other side's feelings and that's impossible. But that doesn't have to ruin any relationships you have with allos.

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On 12/9/2019 at 3:50 PM, Mark said:

What is going on here is best described as a "double empathy problem".

There's also the situation of alloromantics: privileged majority and aromantics: dis-privileged minority.

What this leads to is the allo (privileged) position being seen as default position or "human nature" with everyone including aros (dis-privileged) expected to understand romanticism.
Conversely there's no expectation on allos to understand aromanticism at all or to feel guilty for not doing so.

This is a "privilege thing" rather than an "aro thing". 

I'm gonna say that this is even more simple. If an alloromantic comes here and asks a question, it does cost those who write a decent answer time and effort. I don't think that it is rude not to put in this effort and time. This is an extra-courtesy on top of polite behavior.

 

What can justifiably regarded as rude is that we make a lot of disparaging comments about romantic love and associated behavior. This is something we do actively. It can be excused perhaps because this is a little club here – we don't like plaster the city with giant aro billboards at Valentine's day (BUTTERFLIES 🦋 in your STOMACH?? 🥰 No, you confuse that with HELICOBACTER!”), run aro TV ads or Google adwords (so that when searching for "crush" you get a link to a site that informs you about "the dangers of romantic love").

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