My romantic orientation as an experience might be constant, but the label I use to describe it has changed many times. It was only last week that I realized I’m probably demiromantic. Even after thinking about my romantic orientation for years I didn’t even realize it myself; my boyfriend pointed it out to me and then demiromantic just clicked. For the October 2015 Carnival of Aces on Aromanticism and the Aromantic Spectrum I am writing about what has led me to finally identify as demiromantic, coming to the other romantic orientations I’ve identified with along the way, where my exploration of romantic orientation intersects with my asexuality, and what this all might mean for my sense of community.
I identified as panromantic after I learned about romantic orientation on the AVEN forums. I was equally not sexually attracted to everyone and figured my partner preference must lie in my romantic orientation. Since I didn’t have a preference, that must mean I liked everyone! In retrospect it would have been good to ask myself, do I not have a preference because I’m equally romantically attracted to people regardless of gender, or do I not have a preference because I’m equally romantically attracted to no one? I once asked this question about sexual attraction and came to identify as asexual. Somehow it didn’t occur to me to ask for my romantic orientation.
When I first started dating my ex-partner we did a lot of romantically coded things. We went on dates, held hands, I felt butterflies when we kissed, said “I love you,” “I want to be with you forever,” wanted to get married one day, and probably looked like every other stereotypical couple in romantic love. Over the seven and a half years that we dated we started to do less and less romantic things. I didn’t miss the romantic activities and was happy having a permanently committed best friend. I continued to identify as panromantic and never felt the need to question that. If I’d been trying to date someone new, or attempted to join a panromantic community, I might have felt enough disconnect to think critically about my identity. As it was, everything was going smoothly.
I stumbled across the idea of queer platonic relationships (qpr), once again in the asexual community, and realized that my relationship with my then-partner looked very similar to a qpr. I read further and reflected that while I did seek out a committed partnership, it did not appear to be out of feelings of sexual or romantic attraction. I had a very platonic drive and began to wonder if I was aromantic. I confided in my ex. At first they were worried, wondering if our relationship would have to change. I explained if I was aromantic, I’d been aromantic all along, and nothing about our relationship was going to look different. They were very supportive.
At the time I assumed I was aromantic because I didn’t have romantic attraction or feelings for my then-partner or anyone else. In retrospect this has only become clearer. Now that we’re broken up our relationship looks remarkably similar to what it did before – rooted in very strong platonic feelings. We remain extremely close friends.
When I started dating my current boyfriend I told him I was aromantic. He was a little concerned and wasn’t sure our relationship would meet his needs, but after I told him I loved holding hands, cuddling, kissing, and being in love, he was just confused. As our relationship progressed from close friends to calling each other partners, I happily participated in and initiated romantic coded activities. Movie dates and fantasizing about our shared future are still my favourite things to do with him. My boyfriend didn’t care what romantic orientation I identified with because he was happy with our relationship. However, he did point out very politely now and then that it really looked like I was romantically attracted to him.
For a short while I identified as greyromantic and then as wtfromantic/quoiromantic. I thought I might experience very low romantic attraction since I seemed to have a lovey dovey romantic attitude toward my boyfriend. It was just less than what the stereotypical alloromantic. Later I couldn’t tell if I was experiencing romantic attraction at all. Was all of my attraction just platonic? Had I initially had romantically attraction to my ex and then we comfortably transformed into a platonic relationship? Maybe I just wasn’t romantically attracted to my ex and I was to my boyfriend? Was what I felt for a partner different from what I felt for close friends? How different? I embraced my not knowing and used it as an identity.
It wasn’t long after that that I decided romantic orientation wasn’t for me. Sure I could identify as wtfromantic, but what was the point when it didn’t practically do anything for me or help me answer the questions I had? I started to say romantic orientation is useful for many people, but I don’t identify anywhere along it, and it can’t explain me.
About a week ago my boyfriend and I were having another conversation about romantic attraction and if I were to date other people. When I first identified as panromantic, I never thought about personally being in a romantic relationship with anyone other than my ex. Over time I’ve realized that even thinking about being in a romantic relationship with almost everyone makes me feel repulsed/aversive. I get upset by the idea of having feelings for people I’m not already close to. I feel trapped and icky. My boyfriend said something along the lines of, “yeah, I think you have a hard time imagining romantic feelings or romantic attraction to people you don’t know very well. But it doesn’t seem to bother you when it comes to me. Maybe that’s because you know me.” I paused. If we were talking about sexual attraction, I would guess I was demisexual. Might I be demiromantic?
I read out the definition of demiromantic to my boyfriend; demiromantics experience romantic attraction only after a strong emotional bond is formed. We both agreed I definitely didn’t have romantic attraction for people I wasn’t already emotionally connected to.
Thinking about being demiromantic is still very new to me, but so far I think I have a romance drive and am capable of romantic attraction for some people that I am already close friends with. I don’t know where my romantic orientation is going next.
Maybe I’ll keep identifying as demiromantic.
Maybe I won’t.
I’m learning to live in the fluctuations and embrace who I think I am right now. If I turn out to be wrong later, that’s alright.
I think part of my being okay with a constantly in flux romantic orientation comes from my being in the asexual community; no matter what happens to my romantic orientation, I’m still ace, and I have all of you. This makes me wonder, on the flip side, does my embededness in the ace community make me less likely to be open to challenges to my asexuality? I was sure I was panromantic, aromantic, greyromantic, wtfromantic, nothing, and now I’m pretty sure I’m demiromantic. I was so willing to change how I identified because I had no stakes in staying with a label.
Alternatively, would I have realized sooner I wasn’t panromantic, aromantic, etc. if I had joined a community and regularly thought about my identity? The more I read about and discuss asexuality the more convinced I am of my asexuality.
Maybe you’ll see me sometime soon, dipping my toes in the demiromantic community, exploring if I really do belong there.