Never in love: what it’s like to be aromantic

It’s Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week this week![1] The Netherlands Organisation for Asexuality wants to use this opportunity to spread more information about aromanticism.[2] Of course, that means we also want to hear from aromantic people. That is why our chairperson, Amber Witsenburg, spoke to our volunteer Elin,[3] who identifies as aromantic and asexual.

Amber: What is aromanticism?

Elin: Being aromantic means that you don’t experience romantic attraction to other people (being in love).

A: When did you find out you’re aromantic?

E: I was 17 when I stumbled upon the term ‘asexual’ on Tumblr and started identifying with it. Back then I didn’t really distinguish between sexual and romantic attraction. I did see how people within the asexual community make that distinction and that’s how I realised I’m also aromantic. But I never really researched it.

A: Did you feel different from your peers because of your identity?

E: Yes, I did feel different. From year 7 onwards, my friends started getting crushes and when they asked who I had a crush on, I just made up someone. I didn’t realise I should have had feelings connected to that. When I finally discovered that fact, it seemed best to just wait and see, because those feelings would come eventually. That’s also why I never did things I didn’t want to do. But I did start to wonder when those feelings would come.

A: What was your coming out like?

E: I told my friends in a very casual way that I had found the term ‘asexual’ and that I thought that word described me. Later on I also added aromantic. Nobody ever had an issue with it. So I never really had a coming out with my friends, because that was just an automatic thing.

I told my parents much later that I’m aromantic and asexual. I didn’t have the courage to tell them face to face, so I wrote them a letter. Then later I got a text from them that said they love and support me. They had already seen it coming actually, because I had known for a while I wasn’t straight. My original plan was to just show up with a girlfriend one day, but that plan kind of fell through.

I did think it was important to tell my parents, because I want to let them know about this part of myself. I also want to stress that you don’t just have one coming out, but you keep having to come out of the closet.

A: How open are you about your sexual and romantic orientations?

E: I’m not that open about it at all. I don’t hide it, but it doesn’t usually come up. Only with people I feel comfortable with there always comes a moment when I indicate I’m not looking for a partner and I don’t have the same feelings as them. I don’t say that when people ask if I’m in a relationship. Then I just say ‘no’. But when I have deeper conversations with someone I do occasionally tell them.

It’s often tough to talk about it with someone, because it is, after all, kind of intimate. Why would people need to know this about me? Many people also find it weird I’ve never had a crush. You always have to explain everything in detail. That’s why I think I’d be more open about it if I were gay or bisexual.

A: Would you like to be in a relationship? (In whichever form.)

E: I’ve actually been thinking about it more lately, yes. I’m quite proud of the fact that I’m good at being on my own and I’m happy being in my own company, but especially right now with the Corona measures I think things would be nicer with a partner. All my colleagues have a partner at home, while I’m on my own. That’s why I’ve started to wonder how much I actually like being alone. However, that doesn’t mean I’m actively looking for a partner yet.

A: Which kinds of prejudice do you encounter?

E: What I mainly encounter is the idea that everyone is striving to get into a relationship and that people expect me to do so as well. People also sometimes think it’s sad that I’m single and have never been in a relationship. Or they think something is missing in your life if you’re not trying to find a partner.

Thankfully I’ve never had someone think I can’t love someone at all because I’m aromantic.

A: What kind of representation of aromanticism (eg. in films or books) would you like to see more of?

E: If there was any representation that would be nice. But it would already be an improvement if the media didn’t focus so much on romantic storylines. I want to see more stories about love between family members or friends.

A: You shouldn’t watch so many romcoms then.

E: But I don’t like horror!

A: What would you tell someone who thinks they might be aromantic?

E: I would say: that’s completely fine. Your experiences are your experiences and they are real. Embrace it and find the way in which you want to live your life. Whatever you choose, it’s all valid. You don’t choose to be aromantic, but you can choose how you want to live your life. If you want to be in a relationship, that’s possible. If you don’t, that’s fine too. Don’t let other people tell you what to do. Also important: you’re not the only one who feels like this.

[1] This is a translation of an article in Dutch that was published on the NOA website on February 22nd 2021. Read the Dutch article here.

[2] Find more information about aromanticism on this website.

[3] Elin doesn’t want her full name to be used for this article.

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