This post is for the October Carnival of Aces.
There’s nothing gray or fluid about my aromanticism; as with my asexuality, it seems to be total and lifelong. Yet, I’ve always found it difficult to write about being aromantic, despite how much I’ve written about being asexual.
Part of it is that my sex aversion (which I don’t really separate from my asexuality) seems to have had a much greater impact on my life than my aromanticism has. After I’ve finished arranging my life to support my sex aversion, it doesn’t seem like there’s much for my aromanticism to “do”. Or I feel like if I experienced romantic attraction, it would complicate things, but I don’t, so it doesn’t.
To put it another way, because sex and romance are so tied up in modern Western society, when I seek to avoid sexual relationships, this also has the effect of avoiding most romantic relationships. I don’t want either kind of relationship, so I’m sort of getting two for the price of one here, lol.
For most of my life, I had assumed romantic/sexual relationships were the only kind of partnered relationships that were on offer. I assumed I was destined for a solitary life.
Since learning about queerplatonic relationships, I’ve come to realize that I would like to have one some day, something I’ve been writing about for awhile. But I don’t know how to get from here to there.
Part of it is that there aren’t very many other fish in this puddle, as Queenie once memorably put it. There aren’t even any potential candidates on the horizon, so all my talk about QPRs is hypothetical and abstract. Part of it is my own psychological blocks (I’ve written about a couple of these issues for Love InshAllah here and here).
But it’s more than that. I feel that, as someone who is aromantic, I don’t understand how to build the kind of relationship that I want. How do I get beyond friendship to build a greater emotional intimacy? Even if there was somebody in my life that was open to a QPR and a good match for me, what do I do? What steps do I take? This feels completely bewildering to me, and I think that sense of bewilderment is also (along with my confusion about romantic attraction discourse) why I sympathize with wtfromantic people, even though we may be bewildered by different things.
The most useful thing I’ve ever read about romantic attraction is Omnes et Nihil’s description of it as feeling a level of emotional intimacy with a person that doesn’t match with the work that has been put into the relationship that exists. I understand this to mean that people who experience romantic attraction are able to “jump ahead” in the process, but people who are aromantic (or on the aromantic spectrum) need to build emotional intimacy the hard way.
And that’s exactly where I’m stalling out. There’s no map for doing it the hard way. The cultural scripts that exist for building partner relationships assume the presence of romantic attraction. That’s of no use to me.
It’s like I opened the Book of Love and it read like this:
Romantic attraction is the “miracle” step, but I’m not able to do that. It’s completely inaccessible to me.
I’ve come to realize that, as someone who is aromantic, I relate to others in a profoundly non-normative way. (One might even dare to say, a queer way.) It’s actually really important to my life. I didn’t realize that before because I was looking in the wrong place.
The sex normativity of our cultural models of partner relationships alienated me so much, and triggered my sex aversion so strongly, that I completely cut myself off. I didn’t even try to relate to anybody beyond friendship so I didn’t discover that my way of relating is non-normative. (This is also why you can’t separate my experience of my aromanticism from my asexuality.)
Now here I am, 42 years old, trying to piece together a way forward from a few notes written by other aces. There are people who have gotten to where I want to go and some of them have been kind enough to leave a few pointers along the way. Perhaps these hints, along with putting myself out there for potential zucchinis (aroace Muslim women looking for a female partner, where are you?!) and working through my own psychological issues, will eventually be enough.