To honor Valentine’s Day, I’m writing about something that garners almost no attention in the discussion of ‘Sexuality and The Spectrum’: aromanticism.
The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network defines ‘aromanticism’ simply as experiencing little to no romantic attraction toward others.
It’s real, it’s a thing, and I think it saved my life (or my sanity, at least).
In 2011, my then-boyfriend ended our 1.5 year relationship. From then until present, I have not had a serious boyfriend or dated anyone for longer than two months.
And this is something that used to stress me out daily.
Dramatically, I would lie awake at night and count how many days I’d owned my queen-sized mattress; the only times a guy had spent the night with me, we’d been awkwardly smashed together on a twin-sized bed in my college dorm. It wasn’t fair that I now had the real deal of mattresses, and I was alone. Why mattress size was my metric of success, I don’t know.
I was obsessed about my singledom and treated it like a disease. I was young, good looking (enough), financially independent, smart, and made puns. What was wrong with me? Was I lacking in some way? During my darkest hours, I internalized the hell out of it, to the tune of, “If you weren’t so chubby and ugly and acne’d and short and annoying, then you for sure would be married by now.”
I couldn’t seem to connect with anyone romantically, but not for lack of trying. I literally went on hundreds of first dates over the years. The process was cyclical and my stress levels approached infinity: meeting a guy, agonizing over the Best and Most Witty Text to send, wrapping myself in a sad little blanket burrito when he faded on me or I just wasn’t feeling ‘It’. Meeting a new guy. Repeat.
It f**king sucked.
The Heart of the Matter
That’s just the dating scene and it sucks for everyone, right?
However, there was a major plot twist to the story:
I loved being alone. In fact, I loved it so much that I wanted to stay that way… maybe forever? The independence and autonomy to be myself gave me euphoric highs. I made decisions for my life that only I had to answer to. I never had to compromise on anything. The idea of bringing someone else into my highly exclusive club was terrifying, and I couldn’t exactly see what the advantages were.
- I didn’t want a partner.
- I was trying my damnedest to find a partner.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty, and writing out the above two statements makes my source of stress incredibly obvious. At the time, though, it overwhelmingly felt like something was wrong with me. Who, in their right minds, doesn’t want a relationship? Who wants to be alone? These two things, respectively, have always been portrayed in popular media as The Ultimate Goal & The Greatest Fear.
It was a race for a prize I didn’t want yet hoping that the prize would be worth it in the end. Or, it was actually all about the journey. Or some bullshit platitude like that. I told myself, “You just haven’t met the right guy yet. The Right Guy will give you all the butterflies, and the horrific idea of devoting time and effort into a relationship you don’t want will pass.”
Aromanticism and the ‘After’
Desperate for an answer–any answer–I toyed with the idea that I was a lesbian. Or, at the very least, not completely heterosexual. I wanted it to be true just to have an excuse for why I couldn’t make it work with a guy, but I had no internal evidence of repressed guilty fantasies about ladies to support it.
At another point, I wondered if I were asexual. I didn’t think so; sex with a partner was (and still is) awesome. But, I Google’d ‘asexuality’ anyway and eventually stumbled across three legitimately life-changing ideas:
Sexual attraction and romantic attraction are separate from one another.
There was a word for what I was experiencing: aromanticism.
I was not alone.
The days after, it was like waking up to a new world. I allowed myself to ‘be’ aromantic, and I stopped caring about what I was ‘supposed’ to want. I allowed myself to stop feeling like it was a Bad Thing for not having ‘it’. There was a deep sense of satisfaction when I deleted my OKCupid account. Best of all (I think), I talked to men not for tricking them into being my boyfriend, but getting to know them and grow friendships.
Not insignificantly, I continued having sex. I enjoyed it even more, as I’d let go of the unnecessary constraint of “No sex unless in a committed relationship”. I stopped counting each night how long I’d had my mattress (me and Queenie are celebrating our five-year anniversary).
It was freeing, and I’d never felt better.
I don’t tell too many people nowadays; almost everyone I do tell don’t think it’s “real”. Besides, it’s quite a challenge to prove the absence of something. If/when I do tell someone, I usually get the counterargument I’ve used on myself ad nauseum: “You just haven’t met the right guy yet.” Maybe it’s true – there’s a whole lot of fish in the sea. There’s no reason to lock myself into a box labelled ‘aromanticism’… but I’m not lying when I say the lightbulb (figuratively) just flipped on in my brain, body, and soul when I read up on aromanticism. Telling me that I’m not aromantic seems awfully similar to telling a homosexual that they just haven’t met the right partner of the opposite sex.
Without the constant inner negativity, I’m alone and enjoying it more than ever. I bought my dream house all by myself, and then I quit my life to work on a cruise ship. Most likely, these are things I wouldn’t have done if I had been in the same brain-space as ‘before’.
In the end, the only person whose opinion about your identity matters is your own. No one else can define you. Aromantic, romantic, or somewhere in between… it’s all right. Be who you want to be and know that you’re not alone.
You’ve got me.
Internet gathering grounds and resources for aromanticism:
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