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Gotta love the aro-cycle...

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After years of experience I can now ride the bi-cycle ("I'm definitely bi", "wait no maybe I'm totally gay", "wait no actually am I just straight and pretending?", "shit no definitely still bi", etc etc) with ease. But I think I need training wheels for the aro equivalent, jeez. I'm falling off and scraping my knees over here. Being an aroallo with a nice side of mental illness makes for a rough learning curve... 

I keep questioning my feelings and wondering if I'm just convincing myself I'm aro because I think it sounds cool or I want another identity-- because I do experience a lot of emotions and impulses that could easily be mistaken for romantic attraction. The good news is that if I take the time to meditate on it and figure out how I feel and what I really want, I come up with the same answers: I feel very strong physical and platonic attraction for people, and those both manifest in certain ways because of my past experiences and relationships-- and no, I don't want a romantic relationship. The bad news is that I have to meditate on it every time it comes up (at least for now-- it's only been about three months since I seriously investigated the possibility I was aromantic.) I want to trust myself, I want to be able to just trust that whatever I feel is some combination of emotions and attractions that have nothing to do with romantic intent, but I'm not yet in the place to do that. I still have to investigate and analyze all my feelings to stop from second guessing myself and worrying that I'm lying to myself, etc etc etc. 

I guess this is kind of just a vent, but I'm curious to hear stories from people who have been confident with their identities for a long time, particularly people my age (23) or older. What's it like to know you're aro and have that as a consistent through-line in your life? Did you go through long periods of doubt? Do you still doubt yourself? How do you work through that? 

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I don't know if I can really cite myself as having been confident in my identity for a long time. But I'm 26 and have been IDing as aromantic (or gray aro, or ??ro?? or oriented aro, or arospec, or oh who knows but not standardly -ro anyways) for somewhere in the ballpark of 3-5 years I think- which, to boot, I learned after I married an allo guy. Experiences and how much knowledge you have of terminology definitely change the context of feelings (I don't believe my attraction has changed in this time, but as I've become more confident in general, and divorced, and transitioned, and been able to feel things out some, I've gotten a better sense of what it is I think- but I still question the definition of it all the time).

I get a ton of aesthetic attraction, and more and more recently sensual attraction (I'm very ace but also very interested in cuddling). And do take to caring very deeply for a rare few people in ways that feel profound and Distinct somehow, more than standard friendship. And I very frequently go back and ask myself, "Okay, isn't that mix- aesthetic, sensual, emotional- functionally the same as romantic attraction? Probably?" Which might make sense, I think, but I've also found it more useful to ask myself what I want from whatever particular attraction I have toward whatever particular person, and whether it resembles the I guess classic "romantic" narrative- sweet cuddly things, the potential to eventually having a household together, sharing finances and maybe pets or children. Granted, this is pretty culturally informed, and maybe I have it wrong, but the stereotypical romance thing just... doesn't vibe with me. But it's also further confounded by the fact that I'm very poly, in some capacity, with whatever sort of partnering interest I have. That alone provides some disconnect from the societal norm, though I don't know if that explains everything for me or not. Regardless, I feel like my being poly is very closely linked with my aro/spec identity. It feels like it allows less pressure on putting everything on one person, and more freedom to explore different dynamics with different people, because it doesn't have to mean the same thing for each partner. For examples, I'm currently side-eying two folks as potential partners. One is almost certainly queerplatonic - long-time best friends, but a little warm and fuzzy, and we've generally known for a long time we'll probably share a household eventually, or at least live close together. The other feels closer to what would be classed as a romantic thing (and might be- I'm not honestly sure. It's possible I could be demiro), but I legitimately don't know whether or not I could imagine him being in the same sort of household situation down the line. But both of them I feel very close kinship with and have a very comfortable and trusting dynamic with, and feel very distinctly Close and Important and Valuable to me in ways that none of my other friends do. I don't know what those ways mean exactly in terms of attraction, but they're distinct enough from Friendship that I want to define them as something.

TLDR: I still haven't found a satisfying enough definition for romantic attraction to say for sure whether I experience it, or things that are just easily mistakable for it, or where the distinction does or doesn't really matter. But the societal norm of a romantic relationship is something that doesn't seem compatible with who I am or what I want from the types of attraction I feel. There's enough of a disconnect there for me, that "not normal romantic" puts me in the realm of arospec, in my mind.

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I'm only 18 and have been using the term aro for a year now but I related to your struggle of deciding whether you're really aro or if you mind is convincing you of stuff. Though my struggle was on a smaller scale of "Do I feel comfortable using the term aro or do I feel fake?". I also strongly related to the way you're dealing with it, specifically the terms you're using. Like analyzing and investigating. I work through my own thoughts in a similar fashion and haven't met many who do too.

 

My aro-cycle was easier though because I removed all need to seem socially "cool" ages ago. So, like I said, it was more of a "Do we have enough evidence to comfortably call ourselves this?".

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I'm 30+. I only learned about aromantism a few years ago so I did not really 'overthink' it until recently.

Earlier I was not thinking enough about it. I forgot about romance before it even started to feel relevant for me. Aromantism was overall consistent with my feelings but I had some moments of doubt in the past. My (almost non-existant) sexuality and other types of attraction got me confused a few times.

I gave up on amatonormativity a long time ago. I feel sufficiently isolated from the Collective now 🤖 to understand my own identity. I feel like I have enough evidence to comfortably call myself aromantic today.

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I identify as aromantic since 3 years now I think; at the time I must be 22, now I'm 26.

First I identify as greyro because I had one crush I think, and aso convinced myself that I had more, but in fact not. i had been in denial because getting married was in my plan (mostly because I want children, and because brides have super cool dresses... the fact that the husband was almost optional in this plan was a hint lol).

Now, I am more confident that I am aro. And since then, I don't think about romance for me at all. Before, I saw it as something I should find, so I picked boys that seems cute and nice to be my crushes.But since I'm aware that I'm aro, I don't do that, and I never had a "crush" again. And that for me proves that I'm aro. If you are certain you don't feel romantic attraction, you shouldn't doubt yourself.

 

When I was doubting myself, it was when I didn't want to be aro. Because as I said, I wanted to get married, have children... OK, I still want the children, but it is a lot more difficult when not in a heteromantic relationship. So I didn't want to be aro, and tried to analyze my feeling to convince myself that I was not. That's also why i admit immediately I was ace (litterally, I read the definition, and my only doubt was about this definition not being the norm lol), but that my aromanticism took moreintrospection. It was only when I get rid of the amatonormative thooughts that I fully embrace the aro label.

I'm not saying you have the same problem as I do. But for what you say, it seems you fear to be a "special snowflake" who identify with a new label just because it is cool. I don't think you are; but maybe, this fear makes you less confident in your identity? I don't know.

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@Whistle Thank you for the extremely detailed reply, it was a wonderful read! The bit about having something that feels stronger than most other friendships rings pretty true for me. I've experienced this several times by now.

I feel platonic attraction very intensely-- I have a slightly abnormal perspective and reaction to making friends; it's always been really hard for me to connect with other people because as a young kid I didn't know how to identify or control my mental struggles, so even now as an adult I'm very intimidated by others and finding friends is a challenge-- which means when I do find friends I get very excited and nervous. That manifests itself in very romantic-crush-stereotypical impulses and behaviors, which makes it kind of a challenge to figure out whether or not I actually feel romantic attraction at the time.

But I do feel that Close and Important feeling with a few select friends that I don't feel with others. I've been struggling with how to define it, because when I look at it objectively it seems like a combination of strong platonic and strong physical attraction-- and then in real-time it feels like something else that I just don't feel around other people. It's definitely not the desire for a romantic relationship in any capacity, though, and I can at least be confident about that. I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that I might just not know what it is and that's fine-- it's still just a little frustrating and confusing to feel these conflicting things, like having indescribable feelings around someone and also a strong averse reaction to the idea of an actual relationship with them (or anyone, for that matter.) 

Your last paragraph really hit, and that's the headspace I aspire to find. I want to make peace with myself and find a balance between the things I know for sure and the things I might never know. Thank you again for your response!!

@JustVibin' Ooh this sounds like what I went through when I was figuring out I was bi. It was exactly what you're describing, building up evidence and checking in with myself to see if the label still seemed like the right one. After about a year of it still fitting I decided to keep it and now that's what I tell people I am. I wanted to use that same process for my aromantic identity, but it's a little harder. The evidence itself is a little more nebulous and undefined than straight-up sexuality. Romantic attraction is so hard to describe, which makes it really hard to figure out if you don't feel it (or if you're grey or some other label that boils down to "well yes, but actually no".) I think it still works, it's just taking a lot more effort to dig through the details than my sexuality did. 

Thank you for your reply!

@nonmerci Thank you for the response! I had a slightly different experience; I never wanted a wedding and I figured out pretty quickly that the traditional romantic ideals that most others subscribe to weren't really for me. That's been pretty consistent, and I'm really confident that I don't want a relationship and more than likely never have-- and to that extent, finding the aro community has been really cool and helpful because I don't know many other people in real life who share my aversion to relationships. It's been wonderful to see others who also throw out the societal norms surrounding relationships-- even within the queer community, celebrating LGBT relationships, it's mostly about relationships. I can't always relate to that. But here, I can relate to a lot more people who share the same impulses and experiences that I do! 

I just struggle with wondering if I feel romantic attraction or not. I don't believe I do-- though there are times when I feel something for people that I don't always know how to define. I'm pretty sure it's platonic and physical attraction- but in the moment it feels like I have a real honest-to-god crush. 

You hit the nail on the head with the last bit- I do feel that fear. I'm also kind of ashamed of it. I don't want to look down on anyone for finding a label (however hyper-specific) if it makes them feel more comfortable with themselves, or helps them find a community of like-minded people. I also don't want to label myself that specifically. Those two facts butt heads a little. 

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