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Fellow aromantics, beware.

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Not once did we hear about the typical alloromantic person who is trapped in a toxic relationship because the abuser manipulates them emotionally by having them feed on the hope that it is either just a phase or that they will eventually understand that what they’ve been doing is wrong and will therefore change. The classical scenario where the abuser promises they will never do those harmful things again and claim how much they care about their partner and how devastated they are without them. What if I told you, based on my own experience, that being aromantic doesn’t grant you immunity to falling into such a dangerous trap? 


Many years ago, there were dark times for me. Not only had I gone through two heartbreaks at the age of 21 (the first one based on a rejection which came as a shock because I hadn’t expected it, the second one, which happened much later, involved abandonment and was very nasty), but life also decided to give me a hard blow friendship-wise, namely people I had used to trust leaving one by one. My broken heart started healing in a most unexpected way: it all started the day I discovered my passion for chess. I started taking classes at a local club and participating in tournaments on a regular basis. It was at the beginning of 2019 that I met this man from Germany at a tournament. He was temporarily living in my country, but in a different city, as part of some cultural exchange programme. We were paired against each other at some round, so we talked. I was fascinated because I like the German language a lot and both me and him shared the passion for chess. We became friends on facebook and a few months after that tournament, he contacted me and we started talking. It felt nice chatting to him and I felt blessed for having a new friend. He visited my city once again several days later and we met in person to play chess, only for me to find out that he was smitten with me. Now, I do want a relationship with someone, but the attraction I experience is alterous as opposed to romantic. However, as far as this man was concerned, I could never, ever have dreamt myself having alterous and/or sexual feelings for him because there was one major issue: he was 48, while I was only 23. I explained to him gently that he was way too old for me, but that I would never say no to a friendship and he understood. Or so it seemed… Fortunately, if I may say so, all the encounters happened online via chat. The first red flag showed the day he was angry with me for wanting to travel to a chess festival with my club colleagues rather than with him. He told me some hurtful things which brought me to tears. I was emotionally vulnerable at the time because I had fewer than average friends left and there was some void and the idea of losing his friendship saddened me deeply. He apologised soon after and I forgave him. In the meanwhile, he was fortunately due to leave my country and find another school to teach in another city. Despite my having made it clear I didn’t want a relationship with him, he was desperate to find a job in my country, even in my town if possible. I prayed that he wouldn’t find it and God listened. So he went back to Germany. Several weeks later, he did something very unsettling. When talking to some friend of his, he referred to me as his girlfriend despite the fact that I’d made it clear I didn’t want a relationship with him. When I confronted him about using this title without my consent, he flew into a rage and a few days later, I also learnt that he’d got drunk that night because of me. He apologized and swore he would never act like that again and I forgave him again. Part of me wanted to help him, or better said, felt it was my duty to. Why? Because I know exactly how much rejection hurts. (I’m not going to elaborate on how I dealt with it in a mature and rational way at 21 unlike him at 48)  I hoped that by offering my friendship, I would help him heal, but I was wrong. After that incident, he would often act in a passive-aggressive way and put pressure on me, until the day I broke down and told him to get the hell out of my life. And so he did, he blocked me and I could sigh in relief, but a week later, he sent me a text, telling me how he realised that any form of connection would be better than losing me altogether. As you have guessed, I believed that this time he had changed, only to get burnt again. He would make passive-aggressive comments again and again: 


You love your cat but not me. 

You are shallow because you like grinning beach boys in their 20s.” 


Furthermore, he put more pressure on me, trying to persuade me into liking him by showing me examples of celebrity couples with a significant age gap. And then, several days into 2020, I finally realised what I should have known many months before: he would never accept the fact that I didn’t reciprocate his feelings. Thus reads my last message to him: 


Alright… I’ve tried everything to make this friendship work, but you can’t seem to understand that I have no interest in you relationship-wise. I’ve given you countless chances and it was all in vain. I wish you all the best, but I have to block you.”


Aftermath: There was this little boy who competed in chess tournaments with me and who resembled that man in terms of appearance. I was unable to look that kid in the eye halfway through 2020, but I got over it eventually as I held on to the voice of reason, like a mantra: That child didn’t choose to look like him. It’s not his fault.


I was talking on the phone with a very close friend of mine in 2021, when I suddenly got a text message. When I saw his name on the screen, my flesh turned to ice. I had forgotten that he had my phone number, too, which is why I hadn’t blocked him there. My friend helped me calm down quickly and then I blocked that phone number straight away. 


However, there is one place I cannot block him out of: my nightmares. Some were about his managing to contact me, as if hacking through my blocking, while others are about much nastier encounters. After all these years, albeit on a much less regular basis, I have them even now. I find myself unsettled by as little as coming across his name randomly in a chess database. What’s more, I struggle to prevent my subconscious from taking the better of me because it seems like whenever a guy expresses interest in me, all that part of me sees deep down is the man from 2019… 


In conclusion, aromantics can be manipulated and lead down a spiral of toxicity as well. I am grateful to all those who have read my story until the end and I hope they’ve learnt the right lesson out of it, namely cutting all contact with any toxic person as soon as the first red flag is in sight. Do not make the same mistakes as I did because waiting too long may mean you will never be truly free from that person. Their presence is gone, but the nasty memories and the trauma remain. 

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I was also in a formally toxic relationship, thankfully I was able to leave as it was an LDR. It was still scary and traumatising. And the fact I had no community to vent of my heartbreak was frustrating.

The biggest takeaway anyone can come out of this, is that nobody is immune to toxic and abusive relationships, no matter what their orientation is. I'm tired of acting like it's an exclusively allo "trait".

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I am aroace, I have been manipulated into relationships and sex that I didn't really want in the past.  Things like this happen to aros too.  We should talk about it.

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