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What the heck am I feeling? (late-thirties aro-ace possibly falling in love)

Guest MCTlibrarian

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Guest MCTlibrarian

Hi everyone,

this is going to be a very long story - I apologize in advance. But I did put a tl;dr at the end :)

At 37, I thought I should have figured out what my deal was. Turns out - I'm even farther off than before.

I've had three crushes in my life, and I've been in love once.
Not one, but two of those crushes (one at seventeen and one in my early twenties) had the person in question send pretty strong signals that they were interested as well, until they confided in me, elatedly, that they were in love with somebody else.
It was then that I noticed - I didn't care all that much.
I should have felt hurt and betrayed and heartbroken, but all I felt was a short burst of "Oh - that's too bad, I guess" and then I just... made peace with it. Even ended up setting them up with the other girl in one case.
It confused me a lot. How come I took this in stride? And furthermore, what would have happened if we had ended up as a couple? Would I even have wanted that?

I fell in love for the first and, up to now, only time, at 21. We seemed perfect for each other, like an especially cheesy romcom screenwriter had created us specifically for each other. We had the same sense of humor, were interested in the same things, there were tons of chemistry whenever we saw each other. My heart beat faster every time I thought of him.
When we finally went on a date, just the two of us, and he bashfully told me that he had feelings for me, I was so sure I wanted to be with him - absolutely convinced this was the man of my dreams - and I kissed him.
That was the moment it all went sideways.
I immediately tensed up. It felt *wrong*, like I'd made a mistake; like enjoying a stroll through a winter landscape and suddenly realizing you're actually on frozen lake that's just about to break.

I couldn't bring myself to tell him, so I kinda played along. Not least because I was not ready to give up on the castle in the clouds I had built for us in my head. I liked him so very much, I had enjoyed spending time with him immensely - that couldn't just have disappeared into thin air after ONE kiss, could it? It made absolutely no sense.
So I strung the poor guy along for two months.
I tried to convince myself that the feelings that had led to me kissing him were just buried underneath a layer of fear, that my own courage of initiating a relationship - my first ever relationship - had overwhelmed me. I was hoping I'd get used to the thought of being in a couple, feel comfortable after a while.

But that feeling never came.
I found myself almost repulsed by his touch. I'd try to get out of dates, keep him at arm's length, all the while chastising myself for being heartless and abnormal. This was the nicest guy in the world and he liked me so much, what kind of a b* could not appreciate that?

When I finally broke up with him, he was devastated, and I was devastated for him. I was also very much heartbroken myself, but I did not allow myself those feelings - I didn't think I deserved them, nor any compassion from my friends.
Even years later I'd think back to that failed relationship with a pang of guilt and self-hatred.

I'd try flirting and dating in the years that followed, but my heart, as it were, wasn't in it. The third crush mentioned above fell into that time period - I was interested in the guy and I did flirt, but he wasn't on my mind all that much. I enjoyed getting to know him because he was an interesting person, but in the end I realized I didn't want to be more than friends.

And so my interest in relationships kinda just petered out over the years.
I did make a really nice life for myself: A job I love, close circle of friends, a great relationship with my family, godkids I love to bits - I was alone (and liked it), but never lonely; never felt like my life was lacking.

I started identifying as aro-ace. It made sense on so many levels.
I had never felt sexually attracted to any of the aforementioned people, not even that one almost-love-story. But even platonic, romantic gestures had seemed too much for me in the past, and the thought of being in a relationship set me on edge, particularly the thought of living together. I am an introvert to the point that I tense up when I spend too much time with other people without getting a few hours to myself inbetween, even if it's just at night in bed.
I was very content for more than 15 years with both this identity and my chosen lifestyle.

Until this year, that is:
There's now a person in my life who sort of nudges at a part of me I thought wasn't there at all.
We had a bit of a rocky start because he started to feel strongly for me after only a few weeks of online contact, when I hadn't even seen a picture of him yet, but had told him my position on romance and relationships. It took him a while to grasp that I was not "friendzoning" him, but genuinely liked him, tons, as much as I'm capable of, but that I have boundaries that are different from those of the vast majority of women he's met in his life.
However, by this point, I'm starting to feel a fondness I thought was out of the question for an aro-ace person.
I do like him in a different way than I like my friends, and I can't help smiling when I talk about him. My heart beats faster when I think of him. I enjoy spending time with him every day and even the worst day feels lighter as soon as I hear his voice. I even find myself fantasizing about "couple moments" we might share.
I'm starting to build castles in the clouds again.

It's not my biological clock: That ship has sailed and I'm not sad at all to see it go. I'm the best auntie in the world and that fulfils me plenty and then some.
It's also not loneliness: I feel very comfortable on my own - more so, most of the time, than I do in company.

We live 170 miles apart and, due to the pandemic, have not met in person yet. I'd love to, though: find out if these pictures in my head hold up in real life.
But what if I think they do, and we do kiss, and then everything feels wrong again?
Don't I have more to lose than to gain?

--- TL;DR ---
I've identified as aro-ace for more than 15 years but find myself falling in love at almost 40.

So: What is this?
Is it just a squish? But then how come I'm fantasizing about romantic situations?
If aro-ace means you're not interested in romantic or sexual relationships, why do I want to be in love?

Has this happened to any of you?

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 im only 22 so i cant even begin to imagine how it feels to question yourself after 15 years of identifying as something, but i can relate a bit in terms of your brain pulling the rug out from under you.  not much i can say to help im afraid but i do believe its ok to want to be in love despite being aro/ace.  wanting something, and then actually going and doing it are can have completely different feelings/emotions tied to it so i wouldn't make assumptions.  i find that, for me, i enjoy myself a lot more when fantasizing about things rather than actually going and doing them. i can create an almost perfect situation in my head, like when you imagine standing up to the school bully and saving the day. but in reality if i actually went and did that id be a blubbering mess lol  i think that can be applied to fantasizing about having romantic relations with someone, but when you actually go and do it in reality, it doesn't feel quite as good and can give you anxiety.  levels of attraction and the human brain to too complex to pin down a solid explanation for what your going through but i would just take it slow and really listen to your heart  (cheesy, i know, sorry XD) but yeah, i wouldn't draw conclusions until you meet in person to confirm these feelings you are feeling.


as for my experience, i started talking to someone online when i was in highschool. we were just friends, two lonely people with similar interests, but he was going through a breakup and looking for something more. despite not knowing i was aro/ace at the time it just didn't feel right, so i disclosed immediately that i had no interest in his advances. he respected that and we remained friends who occasionally flirt (we are furries its what we do lmao) anyway, fast forward a few years and he's kind of growing on me?  i dont know what it is but i have this fondness for him ive never had for another person and started to have thoughts of maybe being more than friends.  so i kind of freaked out and ghosted him for a few months (dick move on my part.. truly shameful but i had to take a step back)  in the time we spent apart i sorted out my feelings and by that i mean, i dont allow a label or what i think i am, dictate what i do and how i act.  my feelings for him challenged my aro/ace identity, so i got scared and  i ran hurting him in the process.  we have since reconnected and i only feel platonic towards him now. i still dont know why i felt the way i did before i ran. all i can say is attraction is complicated.. like, too complicated.. i try not to think to hard about it lol all i know is that im happy with the way things are now between us, so thats good enough for me


also im not sure, but i believe there is a word for when you like romance/romantic relationships in theory, but not in reality. https://www.asexuality.org/en/topic/119238-a-list-of-romantic-orientations/  here is a whole list of sub categories or aro identities you might find helpful maybe? 

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On 3/31/2021 at 5:24 PM, Guest MCTlibrarian said:

Don't I have more to lose than to gain?


If things feel wrong then that is fine. Understand that, pull back and get back to your life.If it turns out you get along and don't feel uneasy around him then go from there to build up a relationship. You know you best but from what you have described you get along well. Just talk things through and if things don't end up being romantic, you know this person kept talking with you after you mentioned your boundaries, It seems like you could get along as good friends. Sounds like you have a lot to gain by meeting this guy in person.

As the comment above says, it is possible to enjoy romance in abstract but be repulsed when it happens in person. If that describes you then so be it, it can be tough but you can understand it and make life work around it.

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You might benefit from talking to some other people who identified as aro-ace for most of their lives and then ended up falling in love... Maybe try asking around over on AVEN? More users = more chance of finding people with similar experiences. I think regular user Skycaptain had such an experience, of falling in love, and experiencing sexual attraction, for the first time in their... late 40s I think?

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Hi everyone,

thank you so much for your replies!
I've since arranged to meet this maybe-special-person on May 1st and... I'm not even nervous yet. This is so confusing ?
He seems to have made peace with the fact that we may never end up as lovers, but I get the feeling he can appreciate my genuine affection, limited as it may be (and without getting the feeling I'm just playing games with him). So I believe - I hope - we'll be fine either way.

Anyway, I will repost this on the AVEN forums, thank you for recommending this!

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  • 1 month later...

Hi you guys, I just wanted to give you a little update on this story.

So, last weekend, I went and met the guy and it was... different from what I was (almost) expecting.

First of all, I wasn't nervous. Like, at all. Usually, I'm a bundle of nerves whenever I meet somebody new, no matter my feelings towards them. I may have tensed up a little when my bus arrived and I saw him waiting there for me but the whole why-are-my-legs-knotted-and-where-the-heck's-my-tongue I was counting on never manifested.

On the other hand, neither did any butterflies. I had successfully talked myself into thinking this was a crush, against my better judgement, and I can't say I wasn't disappointed when it turned out I enjoyed the company a lot, but did not feel any inclination to make googly eyes and hold hands and smooch (for the record, while I'm very comfortable with the ace part of my orientation, the aro part's been giving me grief for years and years and, apparently, I'm still not quite over it).

I did, however, feel comfortable enough around him that we did end up cuddling on his couch which, he had told me after we'd had a long talk about my orientation back in December, is pretty much all he wants out of a relationship at this point, anyway.
Nevertheless, I was stunned that I wanted this! Frankly, it was more physical contact than I had had in the last 17 years (and far more enjoyable than what I'd had before that).

When I'd gotten back home, and he asked if we'd chat later that evening, I had a freak-out moment, thinking "Oh no! He wants to know what we are to each other. He needs a label. Have I committed to anything? Does us cuddling mean I'm responsible for his happiness now?!?" - turns out, no, he really just wanted to chat like we always did ?

I may have stumbled into something good. I'm even (so far) managing not to feel responsible for whether or not this is enough for him - he's a grown man, he can decide that for himself.

This... may work out just fine, after all!

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  • 2 months later...

Okay, few new developments here:

We've decided to call what has developed between us a relationship. Not a QPR, just a relationship; I call him boyfriend and he calls me girlfriend (which is super weird in and of itself because I'm friggin' 37, I haven't felt like a "girl" in 20 years, but okay). However, boundaries are clearly defined (and not discussed with friends and family who, for all we care, are free to think that we're makin' out and whoohoo'ing all day like bunnies every time we see each other). He has confided in me that he'd really like to kiss me one day, but won't try anything unless and if I ever want him to.

I keep struggling with bouts of "what the hell, I can't do this" feelings, and surmising expectations on his part that he hasn't given me any reason to assume are even there. Also, I have pangs of guilt for not feeling more... elated? Into the whole thing?

I mean, I really, really like being around him, and I enjoy cuddling a heck of a lot more than I would have imagined possible, and I smile like a big old doofus every time he texts me (so, basically, every few hours). But no butterflies, and certainly no inclination to be physically intimate or move in together at any point in time.

I am, however, very calm in all this up and down between doubts and warmth/comfort, which is new and a pretty nice feeling.

I'm learning tons and tons about love in general and my version of it in particular. This is fascinating!

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