5 Myths About Aromanticism
Aromantic people don't experience romantic attraction. Think you know what that means? Let's find out.
1. MYTH: All aromantics are also asexual.
Aromantic people do not experience romantic attraction.
Asexuals don't experience sexual attraction.
Romantic and sexual attraction are actually two different types, even when they coexist toward the same person or the same gender(s) in someone's experience. While aromantic asexuals make up a large portion of the asexual population, there are also plenty of asexuals who do feel romantic attraction, and likewise, there are aromantic people who do experience sexual attraction.
It is possible to be aromantic and heterosexual, aromantic and homosexual, aromantic and bisexual, aromantic and pansexual, aromantic and queer. (Aromantic sexual people are actually a type of varioriented sexual people: those whose romantic and sexual orientations do not match but who do experience sexual attraction.) Aromantic sexual people do not experience sexual attraction any differently than their romantic peers, nor do they enjoy or desire sex less than their romantic peers.
2. MYTH: Aromantics don't love anyone.
Aromantics don't experience romantic attraction.
Attraction is not love.
There are types of love other than romantic love.
Therefore, aromantics can experience love in a nonromantic way. They can love their friends, their family, their children, their pets, themselves, and their partners. Not only can they feel all these different types of love, but aromantics can also feel love as deeply and intensely as romantic people. Whether it friendly love, familial love, parental love, or partner love, nonromantic love can be as passionate and emotional for some aromantic people as romantic love is.
3. MYTH: Aromantic people don't want primary partners.
Actually, some aromantic people have a strong desire for a primary partner or more than one partner, and their idea of a partnership can include any combination of the standard partner-type stuff: cohabitation, formal commitment, exclusivity, physical affection, child-rearing, financial interdependence, making major life decisions together, moving from one state to another to stay together, owning property, even sex. Other aromantics don't want a primary partner, but do desire strong friendships that they can depend upon for emotional satisfaction.
Instead of falling in love with someone and making that romantic companion the primary partner with whom to share all of those things, aromantic people who desire partnership basically want a best friend or friends who they can have that kind of bond with. Aromantic asexuals typically want that best friendship to be both nonromantic and nonsexual. Some aromantic sexual people want their primary friendship to be nonsexual and others would be happy if it was sexual.
Aromantics created the word "queerplatonic" to describe the kind of nonromantic relationships they desire that go beyond common friendship. (The terms "platonic partners" and "quirkyplatonic" are also in use.) There's a wide variety of queerplatonic friendships and primary friendships possible: in terms of commitment and practical involvement, some look very similar to the average romantic partnership and others are more of a blend between common friendship and romantic partnership.
4. MYTH: Aromantics do not like physical affection.
The truth is, it varies. Like the romantic population, the aromantic population includes people who are very physically affectionate, people who hate to be touched, and people who are everywhere in between those two extremes.
Who they feel comfortable sharing physical affection with also varies: some aros link affectionate touch to close emotional bonds, some associate it with partnership or best friendship, and some liberally engage in it with anyone they like and are friendly with.
Aromantic asexuals are no less likely to desire affectionate touch than aromantic sexual people. No matter what an aromantic's sexual orientation is, the full spectrum of nonsexual physical affection can be appealing to them. Aromantic sexual people don't necessarily reserve physical affection for sexual partners either; they can like physical affection with friends, for nonsexual reasons.
Note! If you meet a cuddly aromantic person, the fact that they like being physically affectionate with you does NOT mean they have romantic feelings for you. Never make assumptions about anyone's orientation, desires, or feelings. Communicate and believe what they tell you about themselves.
5. MYTH: Aromantic people don't feel romantic love only because they're mentally ill, commitment phobic, jaded and cynical, slutty, evil, or because they haven't met the magical "right person" yet.
All of these stereotypes are based on our culture's twisted ideas about romance, love, relationships, etc, most of which can be summarized under the concept of amatonormativity. In her groundbreaking book Minimizing Marriage, Professor Elizabeth Brake defines amatonormativity as:
"the assumption that a central, exclusive, amorous relationship is normal for humans, in that it is a universally shared goal, and that such a relationship is normative, in the sense that it should be aimed at in preference to other relationship types" which results in "the sacrifice of other relationships to romantic love and marriage and relegates friendship and solitudinousness to cultural invisibility."
Amatonormativity is the privileging of romantic relationships and people in romantic relationships over all other types of relationships and single people. It perpetuates toxic messages, like: You can't be happy without romantic love and Your life is empty and has no meaning without romantic love and You're worthless unless someone loves you romantically. If your instinctual reaction to hearing about aromanticism or meeting an aromantic person is negative, amatonormativity is why.
Aromanticism is not about fearing intimacy and commitment (because hey, those two things can exist in friendships and nonromantic partnerships). It is not a side effect of illness, mental or physical. Aromanticism is not the same thing as a desire to have lots of casual sex (not that there's anything wrong with casual sex). Aromanticism is not a temporary stage of disillusion with romantic relationships resulting from a bad breakup, romantic rejection, unrequited romantic desire, divorce, infidelity, or anything else that might hurt a romantic person's feelings. Aromanticism is not the same thing as being happy single temporarily. Aromanticism cannot be changed by someone awesome coming along and wooing the aromantic person, any more than a hot guy with a great personality can make a lesbian into a straight woman (or even bisexual).
Aromanticism means you cannot feel romantic attraction. Like any romantic or sexual orientation, it is a part of a person's nature, and while attraction patterns can be fluid, no one can force their romantic/sexual orientation(s) to change, not even by behaving contrary to those orientations. Dating someone won't make an aromantic person feel romantic attraction or love. Great sex won't do it. Even loving someone strongly as a friend won't suddenly flip the switch in an aro's brain and lead them to feel romantic attraction. Either you feel attracted to someone in a particular way or you don't.
Our sexual and romantic orientations don't reflect on our health, worth, or the potential for happiness in our lives, no matter who we're attracted to (or not attracted to). They're simply parts of who we are.
BONUS MYTH: Aromantics have no feelings.
If romantic attraction is the only feeling you have, I think there's a problem.