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What being grey-romantic looks like in practice (for me)


Buy this pin here (technically it's the aromantic pin)

"Why have you been single so long?"

"They're great, are you sure you don't like them?"

"How can you have casual sex and never fall for someone?"

These are three, potentially well-meaning, questions that I've received throughout my life from my friends, family, and a professional psychologist I had to be vetted by before going on a dating show (it will be aired in March).

The short answer to all of these questions is that I don't experience romantic attraction very often.

Aka grey-romanticism, to give it its exact word.

I've been like this my whole life. I've never been too invested in the idea of a romantic partner, though I will (very) occasionally meet someone who makes me feel otherwise. I've also never been particularly bothered by it, though other people seem to be. People who don't even know me all that well have shown a very bizarre level of interest in why I'm long-term partnerless and very rarely go on dates.

I had a bit of ride accepting that I was bisexual. This has been very well documented. My sexual orientation used to keep me up at night and was something that I tried desperately to pretend wasn't true, until it came spilling out in my mid-20s.

I wasn't actively aware that the way I experience romantic attraction was considered weird until I was in my mid-20s. That's when the comments began to come in about clocks ticking and questions about why it had been so fucking long since I'd had a boyfriend (I wasn't out as bisexual yet).

This time last year was when I began pondering my romantic attraction and orientation. I even wrote a whole blog post about it. I became drawn to the term aromantic but I knew it didn't quite fit me as I have experienced romantic love a few times. Then I found grey-romantic: a term for people who are on the aromantic spectrum but can still experience romantic love, albeit rarely.

And the identity fits, a lot.

I know grey-romanticism isn't something we talk about widely enough as a society. The comments I receive from random people demanding to know why I've been single so long showcase that society isn't quite on board with people who just don't fall in love all that easily (or ever). If you're new to the idea of grey-romanticism or aromanticism, I've pulled together some personal anecdotes and examples below of how it actually works for me in practice.

I've never understood society's obsession with romantic relationships

Like, ever.

Even as a little girl I didn't daydream about weddings and babies. Getting married has never been a goal of mine. When family members teased me about male friendships, it sometimes made me spark up in rage. Partially because I knew inside of me that I didn't exclusively like men, and I also just didn't understand the obsession with romantic relationships. Why couldn't I just be friends with a guy?

I can count all of my romantic crushes on one hand

It's five. Firstly, there was my high school crush, who was the only person I liked while in school. Then in my second year of university, I met my second boyfriend. Not long after that ended, I dated someone else that I had strong feelings for (and we're still friends). After that, I was sans-crush for about three years. Finally, once that crush had passed, I would wait another four years to experience my most recent crush (we're also still friends).

Reminder: I'm 30 this year and five crushes in three decades isn't exactly a high number.

I only crave a formal relationship when I actively fancy someone

I very rarely go on dates (I only went on two last year: one I met on Tinder and one person I met in real life). Largely this is because I don't crave a relationship unless I'm having one of my rare crushes. When I don't have a crush on someone, I just get on with it and don't really bother actively looking for someone. I'll still flip through Tinder just to see what's out there (and maybe arrange a hook-up because your girl definitely has sexual needs). But even the thought of going on a date with someone who I don't already have an active crush on drains me.

When I do get a crush, however, it's intense 

I've been told by multiple people that when I do get a crush on someone it can be a bit, uh, over the top. This might be potentially due to my obsessive, over-thinking personality but it's also just really easy to get carried away when it's your first crush in four years!

The 'plenty more fish in the sea comments' don't make me feel any better

When my most recent crush didn't work out, I was understandably upset about them not feeling the same way. Partially I was also upset because this had been my first crush in four years and I knew it might be a long time before the next one would come along.

I have a very particular type 

When it comes to my physical and sexual attractions, I have a type - but it is flexible. When it comes to my romantic attraction, my type is not really all that flexible. It's not a choice either or just me being fussy; I literally cannot develop feelings for people who don't display certain characteristics.

Every single person I've ever developed a romantic crush on ticked all of the following:
  • outgoing and extroverted
  • have a lot of hobbies or a big passion project
  • the potential to be a creative partner (similar to a power couple)
  • I could imagine them giving me a life that I couldn't build for myself
  • sexual, physical, aesthetic and sexual attraction were also present
Know somebody who could fit the bill?

I find it really difficult to understand why people fall for unsuitable people

I've had a few friends over the years get their knickers in a bit of a twist over people who they really love but who they know are also wildly unsuitable.

I really can't relate to this. While I can be sympathetic on an intellectual level I really can't grasp the situation emotionally. 

Even though none of my five crushes worked out, only the first two (when I was a lot younger and not the person I am now) were daft choices. The other three crushes were not bizarre choices; it just didn't quite work out due to bad timing or them not feeling the same way (the fact that I'm friends with 2 out of 3 of them shows that we were not ridiculously mismatched, we just weren't meant to be romantically).

Casual sex is very easy

I know some people who struggle with casual sex because they fall in love easily. I also know people who won't cuddle someone after sex unless they are also romantic with that person.

Personally, someone I'm having casual sex with could cuddle me closely while playing with my hair and I'd simply just enjoy it as a hug. It took me a while to realise that a lot of people only hug after sex if they are into the person romantically. I also used to be confused by casual sex partners who would leave straight after we were done claiming "I want to keep this light". So do I mate, but that doesn't mean I don't want a hug.

Asexuality and Aromanticism are not the same things

If my casual sex story above didn't give anything away, let me make it clear: I'm not asexual.

Some aromantics are asexual as well, but the two don't always co-exist. It definitely doesn't for me. I'm sexually attracted to people very easily.

I still have sensual needs

Prior to realising that the way I experience romantic love wasn't the way most people did, I accidentally hurt a lot of people. Usually, it was because I didn't realise that for a lot of people sensual behaviour is synonymous with romantic behaviour. For example, a friend playing with my hair was taken as no more than hair playing by me, but they were actually trying to move in romantically.

Despite the fact that I don't fall for people very easily, I still enjoy behaviour associated with romantic relationships. These days I am a lot more careful in engaging in non-romantic sensual behaviours and make my intentions very clear.

I'm lucky that I have several friends who get that my sensual needs aren't in-line with romantic feelings. I have a demi-romantic friend (meaning they can develop romantic feelings, but only if they know the person) who offers me a lot of hugs and we get each other because of this. 

I have dated people out of societal pressure

A comment that aromatic people receive a lot is that we're not actually oppressed and nobody really cares. 

I can assure you that there are a lot of people out there who care far too much about my lack of interest in romantic relationships. Have a look in the mentions of any aromantic Twitter account and you'll find comments from aphobes calling us broken and offering conversion therapy. 

On a personal note though, when I was younger I've dated people out of societal pressure (which I'm sure some alloromantic people have done too!). Sometimes it's been because someone was laying on direct pressure to become romantically involved with a particular person (even though you can't ever force romance?). Other times it was my own desperation to experience a feeling that I know I'm capable of, but just don't get very easily.

That's definitely not fun, and shows that society just can't leave people on the aromantic spectrum alone.

I really value non-romantic relationships

I know alloromantics might still value their familial and platonic relationships in a way that is on par with their romantic relationships. I really value them. Not just because I think it's a bit weird to expect one person to fulfil all your emotional and social needs. I might realistically never have a romantic partner, so I'm going to make sure my platonic relationships are in tip-top shape.

Some of my favourite fictional characters can be read as aromantic

Samantha Jones and Elsa are my favourites. 

I don't have to necessarily get to know someone to have a crush on them

An assumption people make a lot is that I have to get to know someone really well before I can develop a crush. I actually don't, and this behaviour is technically known as demi-romanticism (where a deep bond has to be established first before romantic feelings can emerge). 

Out of my five crushes, two took a while to form while the other three were pretty quick. As long as I have gotten to know someone well enough to know that they are my romantic type, then a romantic crush can form.

I began giving people 'more of a chance' two years ago

Nothing changed. Still rarely had crushes. 

If you do like me romantically, move in slowly and naturally

I get nervous talking about being grey-romantic publicly, in case it puts potential suitors off. If you are reading my blog because you have a crush on me, my advice for grafting me is to move in slowly. As mentioned above I don't enjoy going on dates with someone I don't already fancy, so if you open up with "can I take you out for a drink" I'll probably assume you're being platonic (it's where my aromantic brain automatically goes). If I'm going to fall for someone it will be because they are incredible, so you're better off showcasing your amazing personality without telling me about your crush.

My ideal life would still involve a romantic partnership

Being single doesn't bother me all that much. Saying that though, my ideal life would still include a romantic partner. I've been in love and it's an incredible feeling. Especially when that person feels the same way. I do miss it sometimes, and my ideal life would include someone who makes me feel that way.

I literally can't help it

I've been called fussy, a lot. But fussy, to me, would be someone who does develop crushes easily but keeps their standards high (and there's nothing wrong with that). I literally cannot develop romantic feelings for people on a regular basis. I just lack that feeling. There isn't any choice or fussiness about it.

If it's not a 'big deal' or I'm not 'that different' why do people care so much? 

In the Twitter mentions of aromantics, you'll find people commenting that it's not noteworthy behaviour and we should all quit using these labels. If it's not noteworthy behaviour then why does society always default to the idea of everyone needing romantic love, or experiencing it?

Being grey-romantic doesn't bother me. I've been like this my whole life and I only began to realise I was different somewhere in my 20s. The only thing that ever gets under my skin is when other people demand I go on a date with their friend or comment on how long I've been single for.

Honestly, just let people live.

I'm really glad that we're talking about aromanticism more. 

I didn't even know aromanticism was a thing until a year ago, and I'm glad I now have a label that allows me to orientate dating. As well as helping me understand myself and the way I interact with the world.

Give your aromantic friends some platonic love!

Oh, and don't try and pressurise us into going on dates. We don't really like that.
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