Many people are drawn to intimate relationships, and the desire for romance is a cultural norm. People imagine finding that perfect person and settling down to create a life with their significant other, and it’s generally believed that this is the only lifestyle that adults seek.
It may seem surprising, but there are some people who are not romantically attracted to others, and they don’t necessarily desire a passionate relationship with a lifelong partner. People who identify this way are referred to as being aromantic.
So, what does aromantic mean? Learn some answers below.
What is aromantic in a relationship?
People are called romantic when they have romantic desire for others. Many psychology experts describe romantic love as involving intense passion, feelings of euphoria, and focus on one specific person. Sexual attraction is often highly intertwined with romantic love.
The aromantic definition differs considerably from romantic love. In fact, it is the opposite. People who are on the aromantic spectrum do not feel a desire for romantic love.
They do not feel the need to develop passionate, intimate relationships with other people, and they generally are not bothered by their lack of desire for romance.
Because aromatic people do not feel a desire for romance, they are completely satisfied without a romantic relationship in their lives.
They may even find themselves being annoyed with their significant other when they are in a relationship, because aromantic people can perceive typical romantic behaviors, like the desire to be close, as clingy.
Studies looking to answer, “What does it mean to be aromantic” have found that individuals who define themselves this way describe their ideal relationships as being like close friendships. Aromantics can love, and they may even have loving, lifelong relationships that look more like deep friendships than marriages or romantic partnerships.
Nonetheless, the relationship is still healthy and meaningful for the aromantic person.
Beyond friendships, aromantics may have the following types of close relationships:
Individuals in these types of relationships may occasionally experience romantic feelings, but only under specific circumstances. They fall somewhere on the spectrum between romantic and aromantic.
Similar to this concept is the idea of gray-sexual relationships, in which people sometimes feel sexual attraction and fall between being asexual and having sexual attractions.
This type of person falls on the aromantic spectrum, but they can develop feelings of romance after forming a deep emotional bond with them. Similarly, people who are demisexual can have sexual attraction only after becoming bonded with a person.
Also on the aromantic scale, those who identify as lithromantic only have romantic attraction to people who do not reciprocate these feelings. As soon as they feel that the other party is romantically interested in them, the feelings fade.
On the spectrum of aromanticism, recipromantics may be seen as hesitant to engage in romantic relationships. These individuals may show romantic attraction, but only when they know the other person is also romantically attracted to them.
What this means is that the recipromantic is not like to pine over a “crush” who does not reciprocate their feelings of infatuation.
More recently, as advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community has increased, individuals who identify as aromantic are also identified as belonging to this community, because their views and experiences with relationships differ from the expectations that the majority culture has for romantic relationships.
Some people may identify their aromantic relationship as being queer platonic, meaning they live together and make shared decisions while having the same degree of commitment as a romantic relationship, but they feel no romantic attraction to each other.
People who belong to the LGBTQ+ community may also identify as aromantic, but have sexual attraction to others. They may be aromantic bisexual, meaning they have sexual attraction to both sexes.
Traits of aromanticism
If you’re asking yourself, “Am I aromantic?” It’s helpful to know about aromantic traits. Some of the signs of being aromantic are as follows:
People have told you that you tend to come across as cold in relationships.
You feel as if your partners are clingy whenever you’re in a relationship.
You’ve never experienced the feeling of having a “crush.”
When other people talk about their romantic relationships, you have a hard time relating to them.
You don’t feel any desire to seek out a romantic relationship, and you’re perfectly happy without this sort of relationship.
The signs above can help you to learn how to know if you are aromantic.
How to understand aromantic people?
Put simply, the aromantic definition is a lack of desire for romance. People who fall under what’s aromantic simply do not feel the need to become infatuated with another person or to develop intense passion for another person.
Some people may think that being aromantic also means being asexual, but this isn’t always the case. People can fall on the aromantic spectrum and lack sexual attraction, but some aromantic people do feel sexual desire for others; they simply do not feel an intense emotional connection with their sexual partners.
One study that sought to answer the question, “What does aromantic mean?” classified individuals as aromantic if they answered, “rarely,” “never,” “somewhat false,” or “completely false” in response to the statement, “I experience romantic attraction in the absence of sexual attraction.”
Aromantic sexuality can take on several forms. For instance, a person may be an aromantic asexual, meaning they experience neither romantic nor sexual attraction for other people. It is also possible to be aromantic and still experience sexual attraction for other people.
The study noted above also explored aromantic sexuality, and findings revealed that 25.3% of asexual individuals also identified as aromantic. This means there is some overlap between aromanticism and asexuality, but the two are separate constructs.
What you should know about aromantic people is they they are not motivated to seek romantic relationships, but they can still experience sexual attraction and desire. In fact, many do seek sexual relationships. Some may even be bisexual aromantic, meaning they are sexually attracted to both genders but do not desire romantic relationships.
Can an aromantic be in a relationship?
So, is an aromantic relationship possible? In some cases, yes. People who fall on the aromantic spectrum may not desire romance, but they can still pursue relationships for other reasons.
Lacking romantic attraction doesn’t mean that a person doesn’t want a family. Someone who falls on the aromantic spectrum may seek out partnerships in order to have children and enjoy the benefits of marriage.
While an aromantic relationship may lack romance, people may enter relationships for the sake of companionship. Two people may enter a partnership based on mutual interests rather than romantic attraction.
These relationships may seem platonic in nature, but it is possible to have a successful and fulfilling marriage based on companionship and shared interests.
Lack of interest in romance and passion does not mean a person doesn’t need emotional support. People who are aromantic may still desire lasting relationships in order to form a bond and receive emotional support.
In fact, without emotional support, people may fall victim to problems like loneliness and depression.
To enjoy sexual intimacy
Remember that aromantic people are not always asexual. Some individuals who identify as aromantic may still enjoy sexual intimacy. They may have casual relationships for the purpose of sexual intimacy, or they may enjoy multiple relationships that allow for the opportunity of sexual exploration.
The following video provides more insight into why aromantics may enter relationships:
How being aromantic affects relationships?
Now that you’ve learned the answer to, “What does it mean to be aromantic?” You may be wondering how aromanticism influences relationships. Certainly, people who are aromantic can experience satisfying, meaningful relationships, but they may experience them differently than romantic individuals do.
In some cases, being on the aromantic spectrum can make relationships more challenging. For instance, aromantic people do not desire the same level of passion and closeness in their relationships, which can make them appear rather cold and unnurturing at times.
In the context of a committed partnership, a romantic partner may feel rejected or distant from their aromantic significant other.
At the same time, someone who shows signs of being aromantic can also struggle in relationships.
While their partner desires closeness and intimacy, the aromantic person may become overwhelmed by this level of closeness. Committed relationships can also make a person on the aromantic spectrum feel smothered, and as if their freedom is being threatened.
Ultimately, an aromantic relationship may experience some of the following challenges:
An aromantic person may feel pressured to demonstrate romantic desire in order to please their partner.
A romantic partner may feel as if their aromantic significant other does not care about them.
The aromantic partner can feel overwhelmed, as if their partner is too clingy.
The aromantic partner may have a greater need for freedom and alone time, compared to the romantic partner who may want to spend more time together.
An aromantic person may enter a relationship simply because they feel pressure from society to be coupled with another person; ultimately, this leads to dissatisfaction.
In the end, an aromantic person can have a healthy, happy relationship if this is what they desire. They simply need understanding from their partner. Open communication can be helpful in an aromantic relationship, because it allows for each member of the couple to discuss their needs.
While aromantic relationships can look different from those in which both people have romantic desires, they can be incredibly meaningful.
The aromantic partner may need more alone time and more freedom to experience their own interests, and they may have to put forth intentional effort into reminding the other partner, especially if that partner is a romantic, that they value the relationship.
Ultimately, despite the differences in the ways aromantic people approach relationships, they may still have exclusive relationships, in which they share affection with their partner and/or engage in sexual intimacy. Aromantics can also marry and have children; they simply don’t desire the passionate, head-over-heels love that the media portrays as being ideal.
To sum up
Being an aromantic can have a negative effect on relationships, especially because those on the aromantic spectrum view relationships differently than those who have romantic desires do.
That said, it is possible to have a successful aromantic relationship, especially if both partners are on the same page and are willing to openly communicate and compromise to have their needs met.
If you’re in a relationship with someone who is aromantic, or you are an aromantic yourself, you may benefit from working with a couple’s therapist. In therapy sessions, you and your significant other can communicate about your needs, while in the presence of a trained, neutral third party.
In counseling sessions, you and your partner can process your emotions, learn more about each other, and develop strategies for strengthening your communication, all in a safe setting. These sessions can ultimately improve your satisfaction in an aromantic relationship.
If you find yourself asking, “Am I aromantic?” Perhaps you are having difficulty making sense of your feelings, or determining how you identify. In this case, working with an individual counselor can help you to process your feelings, validate your experience, and develop a stronger sense of self-esteem.
If you determine in therapy that you are aromantic, or you’ve already decided that this is the case, remember that you are free to choose how you live your life.
Perhaps you will form a committed, lifelong relationship with someone who understands your needs, or maybe you’ll decide to fly solo, while investing time in meaningful friendships along the way.
Either option is acceptable, so long as it is what you desire.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker with a master's degree in social work from The Ohio State University, and she is in the process of completing her dissertation for a Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology. She has worked in the social work field for 8 years and is currently a professor at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. She writes website content about mental health, addiction, and fitness.
Licensed as both a social worker through Ohio Board of Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage/Family Therapists and school social worker through Ohio Department of Education as well as a personal trainer through American Council on Exercise.