Question of the Week: November 5th, 2014

Welcome to this Tuesday’s Question of the Week! Feel free to leave your two cents’ worth and get some discussion happening.

In the ace community we talk a lot about romance. But what does romance actually mean? What do you consider to be ‘romantic’, and what not?

I honestly think romance is one of the most confusing concepts in sexuality-ace-relationship conversations. I don’t consider myself romantic, but more because I have no real idea of how it applies to me. If I had to draw some sort of arbitrary line, I would say that kissing falls into the romantic category… But that in itself is kind of ridiculous. Apart from that, all the other things people usually associate with romance – holding hands, cuddling, etc, are all stuff I do. They’re just not romantic to me… whatever that does mean. *sigh*  guess in the end I see romance as some sort of state of mind that just eludes me.

About Jo

Jo is an ancient history honours student in Australia, with a particular interest in gender and sexuality in antiquity. In her free time she devours books, tea and Doctor Who, but is honestly not that into cake, and proudly calls herself a feminist and an activist. She identifies an an aromantic asexual a little bit more every day. Jo also blogs at A Life Unexamined on feminism and asexuality.
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12 Responses to Question of the Week: November 5th, 2014

  1. ace-muslim says:

    This is confusing to me too and I’ve said before, “I consider myself aromantic because none of the definitions I’ve seen of romantic attraction seem to fit me.” I think that there is a spectrum from platonic to romantic feelings and my sense is that quieter, more companionate feelings tend to be on the platonic end of the spectrum and that more intense, more passionate feelings tend to be on the romantic end of the spectrum. Specific behaviors like you mentioned don’t define a relationship but passionate relationships might be more likely to feature more of them.

    I feel like some discussions within the asexual community (as in, aces talking on their blogs) about romantic attraction are not very clear and I’ve seen a few definitions that quite frankly made me think, “I may not know what romantic attraction is, but I don’t think you do either.” I think there are some things that are fairly obviously romance (like falling headlong in love with someone) and a lot of things that seem like they might be romantic but could be something else (for instance, sensual attraction would explain a desire to cuddle with another person) and the people who are confusing the other things with romance probably don’t experience the obvious kind. This is purely my speculation, however.

    • Seth says:

      I can relate to that first paragraph. I’ve had some experience with the intense, passionate end of the spectrum. It was confusing and frustrating, and i was not at all comfortable with it. Ideally, I’d want a committed relationship to feel… I think ‘warm and pleasant’ is the best description I an give. Not how a typical platonic relationship feels, but not intense or passionate either, and probably not what most people would consider to be romantic.

    • Sciatrix says:

      FWIW, my suspicion is that the reason I find all of this terribly confusing is that I’m completely missing the intense, limerence/crush-like/storm-in-a-teacup feelings that people usually characterize a romantic relationship by, especially in the starting stages–but in most romantic relationships, those feelings calm down over time and get replaced by companionship after a few years. (There’s some interesting psychological research about this.)

      I’m pretty sure I get to the companionate part via a different path, but I’m also pretty sure the end results aren’t too different, so I’m not particularly bothered about it anymore. I’m sure I’d be more fussed about it if I wasn’t in a stable, long-term relationship, though. Worrying about how you experience the beginnings of relationships differently than other people is much less scary when you’re not really worried about beginning a new relationship any time soon.

      • ace-muslim says:

        I really like your point about how relationships develop over time and I think this is exactly right. I personally tend to think of romantic attraction as the limerence part at the beginning and love as the long-lasting companionship part, and, for that reason, think of myself as aromantic, but I can see why people might read it different ways.

        I’m really glad that Jo asked this question because I’ve enjoyed reading everybody’s answers.

      • Eponine says:

        Exactly. Even though I’m romantic, I really don’t think romantic relationships are so different from platonic ones in the long run, because the initial passionate stage is short-lived, and once it has ended, the companionate love is pretty much the same in romantic vs. platonic relationships. And the companionship or friendship is what really matters to me in any relationship.

        • Norah says:

          This is exactly it. And why I think the attempts at categorising and identifying it won’t really help. I’ve seen people describe what I feel (as far as it is possible to tell if these things really match or differ from text/verbal descriptions), and they will think of themselves as aromantic. Then I’ll see someone else describing things and I won’t even understand a bit of it, and they’ll call themselves romantic and maybe I’ll wonder if in that area we have anything in common at all.

          I know some people don’t experience limerence, and for me that would make a big difference, but obviously it doesn’t for everyone: some people experience it and think of themselves as aromantic, some people don’t experience it and think of themselves as romantic. There are a bunch more things like this that people think are significant or important in this area, but to others they really aren’t.

          The line probably is arbitrary, and everyone draws it for themselves. Some people seem to try not to draw it at all (which would be hard for me). Mostly what I probably did (not directly like this but in essence): I take all the things I feel and experience and the kind of relationships I want to have and then I look at the categories and such that are already in existence and decided I fell under one of them because they look like they match well enough, and really: because it works for me (probably the most important thing). And someone else might have picked a different one. For me it really isn’t important (anymore) how and if romantic relationships feel or are different from platonic ones as such, just that they are for me.

  2. Seth says:

    I’d say that ‘romantic’ is a subjective label applied to limerence or a deep emotional connection, and there can be no universal objective definition. Personally and objectively, I don’t know what I’d want in a romantic relationship beyond more time together and more physical contact (not to include kissing, whereof I cannot understand the appeal), as compared to my platonic relationships.

  3. Brin says:

    People who have experienced both say it’s very much like autistic perseveration. (You usually see this in the context of trying to make perseveration more understandable by comparison with romance, but things like that work both ways.) This does seem to fit with both the way people act and the vaguer attempts at description by people who have not perseverated, as well as providing a useful point of reference for people (such as myself) who have perseverated but not fallen in love. (It’s much easier to feel confident about having never seen an elephant when you’re familiar with what woolly mammoths look like. I think I would’ve noticed a furless one go by.)

  4. Cleander says:

    Well, romance is a super fuzzy concept so it’s hard to really define it since it’ll vary a lot based on context and personality, but in general my litmus test for “romantic” (at least in the context of romantic attraction/relationships) is basically “things that aren’t necessarily sexual but that you still wouldn’t do/feel with a sibling”.

  5. Eponine says:

    For me, the difference between romantic and platonic relationships are:
    1) Romantic relationships have a limerence/infatuation period which is somewhat “crazy” and obsessive. The emotional response in platonic relationships is much less dramatic.
    2) I only desire physical affection (especially cuddling) with people I’m romantically attracted to (I’m open to cuddling with very close platonic friends, but only if they want it).
    I suppose 1) is the universal difference (but it’s still very subjective), but 2) only applies to some people.

  6. Siggy says:

    I’ve never been able to pin down what romantic attraction feels like, because as far as I can tell it doesn’t feel like anything, and I can only deduce indirectly that it’s there. I often get euphoria around my partner and when we do stuff together, but little clue to the cause, except based on when it happens. I do not feel that way about friends or any other relationship. I also experience sensual attraction only to my romantic partners, so that’s a major clue for me, even if it’s not the *essence* of romantic attraction.

    (Another place where I have to use deduction is in my aesthetic attraction. I know I have a “type” because my aesthetic attraction is systematically directed at people with a certain set of features. But I don’t actually feel any way in particular about those features, I just recognize the pattern in my attraction after the fact. Somehow, I doubt that this is the way it works for everyone.)

  7. Victrix says:

    I’ve taken to calling this the unanswerable question. I think any time it’s come up everybody has had a different description.
    I’ve taken to defining it along the lines of dating and following the relationship escalator (though given that a lot of people stop at various steps these days that gets less clear). But I do many things with people that could make us seen as a couple or as dating but only in a platonic way, as soon as it is labelled dating I find my enjoyment goes down, also expectation starts to creeps in.
    When I started my blog I tried to define romance with the help of a dictionary I could only conclude that it was “idealised” relationship as defined by society, so still terribly vague, thus the reason I now use dating as my line. I know others that use kissing but (like limerance/infatuation) it doesn’t sit right with me.
    So really I would say I’ve got no idea.

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