A brief intro to romantic orientations
Romantic orientation describes who someone is inclined to form romantic relationships with. It often uses the same prefixes as sexual orientation (homoromantic, heteroromantic, biromantic, etc) but is considered seperate from sexual orientation, especially by asexuals who do not experience sexual attraction but often experience romantic attraction and desire romantic relationships. For most people who identify with sexual orientations other than asexual, their romantic and sexual orientations align but this is not always the case and conflicting sexual and romantic orientations do occur.
My original assumptions
For the past month or so, I’ve been so overjoyed at finding a label for my sexual orientation (asexual) that I didn’t really think much beyond that. I did some vague research on romantic orientations and applied the same logic to my romantic identity as I had originally applied to my sexual orientation. That logic being:
- I don’t really see males/females/non-binary people differently when it comes to attraction and relationships.
- As far as I’m concerned I would judge each person’s character individually when considering whether or not to have a romantic relationship with them and that would not be affected in any way by their gender identity or sex.
- Therefore I must be panromantic, possibly demi-panromantic.
So I went with panromantic and left it at that.
Then fate intervened
I stumbled across this post yesterday and read it completely out of curiosity. I didn’t expect it to resonate so strongly with my own feelings and past experiences and I left in a complete frenzy of questions about my identity. I’d never really thought about what it meant to have a ‘romantic attraction’ or what a ‘romantic’ relationship actually meant to me. All of a sudden it was like realising I don’t experience sexual attraction all over again – a niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I kind of always knew something was different there but I never really stopped to examine it.
Relationships almost always leave me feeling trapped
The post described a feeling of being ‘caged’ when in a relationship – like being in a romantic relationship is trapping you and wearing you down rather than building you up. And I do feel that in my romantic (and even close platonic) realtionships there has been pressure on me to behave, act and feel certain ways that have been in conflict with how I actually felt and wanted to behave. This left me feeling like my personality was being suppressed by the relationship – that I was losing my individuality and becoming an entity. I tell people – friends, close friends especially, and my partner – that I need a lot of space. I live with my partner but I have my own room because I need a lot of time to be me, to recover from the assimilation that I feel happens when I spend a lot of time with people. I plead with people not to be offended when I take time (sometimes a long time, months even) to myself, to just be and to get away, but ultimately I have lost a lot of friends, and significant others this way. Because how can they not take it personally? I don’t want to spend time with them. I’d rather be alone. And I can’t deny this. But I also know that I need them, and that I will need them when I come back from spending time alone.
I’ve often felt relieved when relationships have ended
The post mentioned feeling relieved when relationships have ended and I have definitely felt that with previous relationships. It made me feel awful and terribly guilty but as soon as the behavioural expectations associated with the romantic relationship (holding hands, cuddling all the time, kissing, etc) were lifted I felt like I could breathe again and it was such a relief. (I’m so fortunate my current partner is very understanding of my random and frequent need for space and lack of physical contact from time to time. He lets me do everything at my own pace and I am so so grateful to him for this).
What does ‘romantic’ mean to me? How is it different from platonic?
Finally, I realised that all of my romantic relationships have begun as strong platonic friendships that have morphed into romantic relationships.
I suddenly realised I needed to question whether I actually do experience romantic attraction at all. Where do I draw the line between platonic and romantic relationships?
I had to dig deep into my memories to try and recall exact thoughts and feelings. After a bit of soul searching, I found that I could answer that question. (That in itself made this experience different from when I was exploring my sexual orientation because I could not really answer what sexual attraction meant to me.) I can honestly say that I have felt romantic attraction a handful of times. I have felt the warm feeling in my chest that says I’m excited to see someone, to talk with them, get to know them. The feeling that allows me to read their body language easily and learn so much about them so quickly simply because I am interested and I want to. This, to me, feels like what I expect of a romantic attraction.
For my strictly platonic friends, I enjoy their company a lot, but I don’t get that same feeling, that buzz of excitement and anticipation when spending time with them. I don’t memorise their habits, body language, and words so I can analyse and understand how they think and respond with their own body language, humour and terminology. These are things I have only done when romantically attracted to someone that handful of times.
What do I want in this situation?
When I feel like this, I feel as though I want the friendship/relationship to be more and more intense, but in reality I know that it’s perfect the way it is, that there’s a fine line between having this fun, carefree, platonic relationship, and falling over into the awkwardness and complicated mess that is a romantic relationship. So basically, I feel like I want more from the friendship, but really I don’t. And if I’m put in the situation where the other person wants a romantic relationship, things get scary very quickly and the whole nature of the relationship takes a turn for the worse. Ultimately, the romantic attraction disappears very quickly.
Applying a label
As I have experienced romantic attraction (even if I can count all the instances on one hand) I don’t feel as though I’m truly aromantic, but rather somewhere under grey-aromantic since
- I experience romantic attraction infrequently
- I have to have a very strong emotional attachment with someone before experiencing romantic attraction
- When I experience romantic attraction I don’t truly desire a romantic relationship
- My romantic attraction is somewhat blurred with my platonic attraction
I revealed to myself a very clearly defined set of experiences, feelings and situations in which I experienced my romantic attractions. And when I laid it all out, I realised that I’ve read a word that basically covers all of this exactly. Lithromantic, an orientation on the aromantic spectrum, where someone feels romantic attraction but doesn’t need or want reciprocation of those feelings.
What does it mean to be lithromantic?
I went straight to google and one of the first things I stumbled across was this beautiful story. It describes to perfection the way that I take in, learn and memorise every minute detail about the people who I develop romantic attractions to. How every interaction with this person is electrifying and fulfilling and enough but not enough in its own way. How I don’t need (and really really don’t want) to be exclusively tied down, to be obligated to spend time with them and enjoy their company, how that would ultimately destroy the relationship by changing it so irreversibly.
This person has basically written out my soul into a story and it is so perfect and beautiful I can’t actually believe it’s real.
That brings me to the end of my journey to dicovering my romantic orientation (as of yesterday). I hope it’s been interesting/educational because it sure was an exciting experience for me and one more step on the road to self discovery!
Have you had a similar or interesting story surrounding the exploration of your romantic orientation?
If you are lithromantic/grey-aromantic/aromantic, how did you come to discover this about yourself?
What are your thoughts on lithromanticism?
I’d love to hear your stories and opinions.