11 common misconceptions about aromanticism

11 common misconceptions about aromanticism

There are many misconceptions that aro folk have to deal with when they come out. Some people think we’re incapable of loving anybody, while others think our lives are this way because we are desperately damaged.

In this post, we will look at some of the common misconceptions about aromanticism. Add any others in the comments or on our social media feeds.

  1. That something terrible must have happened to us to make us like this. Now, sure, there are plenty of abuse survivors in the aromantic community but this is because, if you dig deep enough, there are plenty of abuse survivors in nearly every community. The two things might correlate but that does not imply that one caused the other. And if abuse caused aromanticism, there would be plenty of bewildered aros out there who are not survivors of abuse, wondering how they got there, and there would be lots of survivors wondering why they weren’t aromantic. Aromanticism is valid. It does not represent damage.
  2. Two young women huggingThat aromantic people are childlike and that their lack of interest in romantic relationships shows a lack of development into full adulthood. This does not represent what real-life aromanticism is like. Many aromantics are not asexual and have sexual relationships that are very much not childish or underdeveloped and even those who are asexual carry out fully adult lives, just missing out this one thing that many others find so key.
  3. That people who are aromantic but not asexual are sluts or players if they engage in casual sex with someone they are not romantically involved with. Actually, they are acting like adults and putting their needs and desires before outdated societal stereotypes.
  4. That aromantic people are incapable of loving anybody else. The truth is that we probably love our BFFs and our nieces and our dogs and our teachers and that movie star and the singer we can’t stop listening to… It goes on and on. Our love is felt just as intensely, just as meaningfully, as people who aren’t aromantic.
  5. That aromantic people “just haven’t met the right person yet”. I know asexual folk get this one too, and it is offensive, just like it’s offensive to suggest that a lesbian “just hasn’t met the right man yet”. Trust us to know our own orientations and preferences. Things can always change, of course, but if we say we are aro, it’s not because of a lack of eligible bachelor/ettes.
  6. That we can’t know we are aromantic because if we avoid relationships, we don’t know what we’re missing. That’s like suggesting that the only reason somebody doesn’t want to eat a cockroach is because they have avoided eating them in the past.
  7. That there is no such thing as an aromantic woman. Um, hi.
  8. Two people sitting on a benchThat aromanticism doesn’t exist and is not a real thing, it was just made up for the Tumblr generation. The fact is that, if it didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be so many people relating to it. People don’t assign themselves a label for the sake of it, they do so because it fits their lives in a way that the usual tropes just do not. We have a sense of recognition of a shared experience with each other, especially one that movies and books just don’t reflect.
  9. That there is only one way to be aromantic. In fact, aromanticism, like other romantic and sexual identities, is a spectrum. Some people are repulsed by the idea of romance, others rather wish they could be romantic, they just can’t find it in themselves. I’ve had a couple of successful relationships, not everyone can do that, and none of us are any more or less valid for it.
  10. That we need to be “fixed”. We are not broken, this is just the way we are. Like I’m not “broken” for being gay, I’m also not broken for being aro. This worried me a lot but my interaction with the Struggle Bus Podcast helped to reassure me, and made me realise that I’m just fine as I am. It’s a different way to be but it’s not wrong.
  11. That aromantic people are all asexual, and vice versa. There are people who are aro/ace combos, but plenty of asexual people feel romantic love, and plenty of aromantic people feel sexual attraction. There is a feeling that it is understood that asexual people may be aromantic or alloromantic, whereas for aros, it is assumed we are “probably” asexual, when that is just not true. Allosexual aromantic people exist, and we need to make a space for ourselves in society. It’s not that we don’t want to be associated with asexuality awareness, we just don’t want to subsumed by it.

Tell your aromantic story

Tell your aromantic story

Some people like to talk about every detail of their personal lives, while others keep quiet about everything that isn’t absolutely necessary to say out loud. But having the ability to tell our stories, as members of the aromantic community (as well as possibly other intersected communities, for instance that I am a lesbian and a woman and disabled – these are all intersecting identities) can help to validate our experiences and, additionally, ease the passage of someone else who has not yet discovered their aromanticism, or who have not yet dared to tell anybody.

Validate and empower your own identity

A lot of people have never heard of the word ‘aromantic’, and even more believe they have never met an aromantic person. (They probably have, they just don’t know it.)

By talking about your aromanticism, you have the opportunity to educate people. You are not obliged to do so – the internet allows everyone to educate themselves if they want to – but, if you find it gratifying to teach people about something new, it can be a great way to validate your aromantic identity.

Plus, it is empowering to turn something (that started off perhaps terrifying and shameful in your mind) around and make it something you are open and honest about. That will give you pride and strength in a way that pre-out you couldn’t have ever imagined.

Encourage others to speak out and feel the benefits

When you speak out, you might well inspire those who feel timid to the point where they consider speaking out themselves. You are paving the way for so many to follow you and, in these relatively early days when aromanticism and other states such as asexuality are being first spoken about, there are a lot of aros and aces who have never heard their situations being discussed by people experiencing the same thing as they are.

So, when you speak out, you can encourage others to follow your lead.

Give a voice to those who are silenced

When somebody gets their voice out there and talks about issues relating to minority communities, all members of those communities can benefit. Some people don’t want to speak out, and others do not dare to; there should never be any pressure to come out about, or talk about, anything that is just too difficult for the individual to discuss.

But if you – a real-life aro yourself – are speaking out, those aros who are in intolerable or unsustainable situations can both feel and be heard, through your words.

An invitation…

If you are feeling inspired to speak out, one way to do it is to write a guest post for this blog. You can do so anonymously or using your real name or a pseudonym. If there are words you want the world to see on the topic of aromanticism, contact me here.

How to know if you are aromantic

How to know if you are aromantic

Do you feel completely bewildered when your friends and family talk excitedly about falling in love? Do you shudder at the thought of reading a romance book or watching a romantic comedy? Does the thought of going on a blind date, or having a partner move into your home, fill you with more horror than you would like to admit to?

If so, there’s a chance you may be aromantic, or aro.

If you are questioning whether or not you are aro, it’s probably sensible to start with a definition. One website¬†describes it like this:

An aromantic person is an individual who does not experience romantic love or attraction, although this does not preclude them from feeling other forms of love or attraction, such as platonic love. Keep in mind, aromanticisim is a spectrum, so people may experience different forms of attraction, but still consider themselves to be aromantic.

Aromantics may be interested in relationships without romance involved, such as platonic life partnerships. Platonic, for lack of better definition, is like friendship.

Aromantics may feel sexual attraction or be on the asexuality spectrum. Being aromantic does not determine sexuality but can impact a person’s ability to act on their sexuality.

Aromantic is sometimes abbreviated as “aro”. And aromanticism is the noun that refers to aromantics.

If that resonates with you, you need to start finding out more. There are many sub-categories of aromanticism so, if the broad definition doesn’t feel quite right, read descriptions of those, which are more specific, to see if any of those click with you.

Read, read, read. Find out everything you can and see whether it seems to fit your life.

It could also be really useful to talk with someone, especially someone who has an understanding of what being aromantic means. You could even break the ice by giving them an article to read first, then explain that you think this is affecting you.

The prospect of this conversation might feel awful to you, but having people on side is vital to our self-esteem and self-acceptance. Like with most ‘comings out’, there will be fear and anxiety, but it might well feel important to you to know that there are people who know who you truly are.

Of course, you don’t need to tell anybody yet – or tell anybody at all. It’s entirely up to you to work out what feels safest.

If, after reading and talking and reading and talking some more, you decide that you are aromantic, you can start to explore what this means for you. You will be able to start to make decisions about how you want your future and your relationships (platonic or romantic or sexual) to look, and this is empowering, wherever you are in your process of self-discovery.

I hate romcoms so much that my aromanticism should have been obvious

I hate romcoms so much that my aromanticism should have been obvious

God, I hate a romantic comedy. The two people who argue a lot at the beginning are going to be together by the end of the film, with lots of pointless shenanigans having taken place in the meantime. More arguments, increasing amounts of flirting, and attempted (and failed) misdirection of the audience all take place in the middle third of the movie.

I can’t stand it.

In the days when I would still agree to watch them, I would will the director to take it a different way. To subvert the genre and give me a genuinely shocking ending where the ‘couple’ agree with each other that they’ve done so much disagreeing that getting together at that point would be misguided at best. Or where one of them would join a polyamorous commune, leaving the other weeping and heartbroken.

Enough sickly happiness!

Yet the wild success of romcoms mean that I am very much in a minority, and I imagine that this can only be because of my own aromanticism. If I cannot comprehend the attraction of romantic relationships, then dedicating 90 minutes of my life to watching a hapless couple seek one is always going to be a disaster. I only wish I had known about the existence of aromantic people years ago, and put two and two together before yet another friend suggested a trip to the cinema to go and see the latest beautiful woman fall embarrassingly in love with an inept but somehow charming leading man.

But if you know of any brilliantly subversive rom coms, however, let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.