What Does It Mean to Be Aromantic?

Happy single woman.

Flashpop / Getty Images

While dating and relationships are often seen as universal goals, not everyone shares the desire to experience a romantic relationship. A person who is aromantic does not experience romantic attraction or interest in romantic relationships. Romantic attraction refers to a desire to have emotional contact and interaction with a partner. However, the definition of a romantic relationship can vary depending on the individual.

Romantic love often involves feelings of passion, an intense desire for closeness, and emotional intimacy. During the initial stages of a relationship, romantic love can be strong—sometimes to the point of being overwhelming or distracting. Over time, these feelings often settle into what is often referred to as compassionate love

People who are aromantic, however, don't feel this way and don't have any desire to feel that way.

The opposite of aromanticism is alloromanticism, or the desire for a romantic relationship. The term aromanticism is also sometimes known by the abbreviated form “aro.” In the LGBTQIA+ acronym, the “A” represents aromantic, asexual, and agender.

The exact prevalence of aromanticism is not known, but one study suggested that around 1% of people identify as asexual and around 25% of these were also aromantic.

This article discusses aromanticism, how it affects relationships and offers tips on caring for your mental health if you identify as aromantic. It also discusses how you can support a family member or friend who is aromantic.

Characteristics of Aromanticism

Everyone’s experience is unique, so feelings about romance and relationships can vary greatly among aromantic people. Some may have different desires and expectations for physical and emotional intimacy. There is no standardized definition of what constitutes romance, so one person's definition may differ from someone else’s.

Some signs that you might be aromantic include:

  • You don’t experience feelings of romantic attraction.
  • You feel that you do not need a romantic relationship to feel complete or fulfilled.
  • You don’t experience “crushes” or being “in love” with someone else.
  • You have a hard time relating to romantic stories.

Being aromantic doesn’t mean that you don’t feel or experience love. You may experience strong feelings of love for family and friends. And research suggests that aromatic people often still desire sex.

Aromanticism vs. Asexuality

While some aromantic people are asexual, the two are not synonymous. Asexuality involves a lack of sexual interest or attraction. Some asexual people may not desire sex but can still want romance. And aromantic people may desire sex but not romance.

There is little research available on aromanticism, and the distinctions between romantic and sexual orientation are not fully understood. People sometimes have difficulty distinguishing between romantic and sexual attraction since they are often closely intertwined, making studying the topic more difficult.

Aromantic Spectrum

Both sexuality and aromanticism are part of what is known as the asexual spectrum identities. While many aromantic people are also asexual, people with various sexual identities may also describe themselves as aromantic. For example, a person may describe themselves as an aromantic bisexual, an aromantic lesbian, or an aromantic gay man. 

Other identities on the aromantic spectrum include:

  • Gray-romantic or gray-sexual: These terms refer to individuals who fall somewhere in the middle of aromantic and romantic and asexual and sexual. They may experience some romantic or sexual feelings but only under certain conditions.
  • Demiromantic or demisexual: These terms refer to people who only experience romantic or sexual feelings with another person after forming an emotional bond. 
  • Lithromantic or akoiromantic: These terms refer to people who may feel romantic feelings toward other people but do not wish for those feelings to be returned. If those feelings are reciprocated, the attraction fades.
  • Recipromantic or reciprosexual: These terms refer to individuals who only experience a romantic or sexual attraction if they know that the other person also feels the same way.

How Aromanticism Affects Relationships

It is important to note that aromantic people may still be involved in intimate or sexual relationships. However, these relationships may look different from romantic relationships.

Such partnerships may involve being in an exclusive relationship, living together, showing affection, and having sex. Aromantic people may get married, have children, and raise families.

  • Motivations beyond romance, such as a desire for family or children, are some reasons why people might choose to pursue a relationship.
  • Aromantic people may pursue relationships to give or receive affection and care. A lack of romantic or sexual interest does not mean that a person does not want intimacy, commitment, or emotional support.
  • They may develop relationships based on shared interests, mutual respect, or emotional closeness. However, such relationships may be based on a more familiar or platonic sense of love rather than a romantic one.

Some aromantic people may enter what is referred to as a queer-platonic partnership or QPP. These partnerships are platonic in nature but have the same degree of commitment as a romantic partnership, including cohabitating and making decisions together.

Challenges

Societal expectations can create challenges for people who identify as aromantic. There is a tremendous amount of societal pressure on people to find a partner, commit, and have children. People who don’t desire that are often pressured to settle down, get married, and have kids anyway. Those who don't are often made to feel that there is something wrong with them or that they are missing out.

Romantic content in popular media can also sometimes present challenges for those who are aro. While some aromatic people might enjoy romance-centered movies, books, and tv programming, others may feel indifferent or even repulsed by such depictions.

Amatonormativity

Amatonormativity is a term that has been coined to describe society’s expectations concerning romance. It has been used to describe the pressure to find and prioritize romance, marriage, and monogamy.

Some researchers have suggested that amatonormativity creates a social stigma surrounding being single and can pressure people into entering or staying in unhealthy relationships.

How to Support Someone Who Is Aromantic

If you have a friend or loved one who is aromantic, there are things that you can do to be a supportive friend and ally:

  • Respect their romantic orientation: You might not fully understand all of the aspects of what it means to be aromantic, but you should show respect for what they feel. Listen to what they have to say and ask what you can do to accommodate their needs and show your support.
  • Don’t be dismissive: Remember that people understand themselves and their own feelings better than you ever can. Don’t dismiss what they feel or insist that they’ll change how they feel. Don’t try to push people into romantic situations they are not interested in.
  • Don't make assumptions: Avoid common misconceptions about aromantic people, such as the idea that they are cold or simply haven't met the right person. Be respectful if you have questions and be aware that the individual may not want to share. Ask if it is okay for you to ask questions and learn more about them.

Caring for Yourself

Aromantic people often face stigma and misconceptions about their romantic orientation. Others sometimes think they are not loving or that they will eventually change and develop romantic relationships. Dealing with these myths can sometimes make people feel isolated or pressured to conform to other people's expectations.

While you might not want romantic relationships, having social support is important for your mental health and well-being. Focus on cultivating strong relationships with other people outside of romantic contexts. It is important to remember that other forms of love are not any less important than romantic love.

If you are aromantic, don’t feel pressured to participate in romantic or sexual situations you aren’t comfortable with. Don’t force yourself to do things to meet someone else’s expectations or because of social pressure.

A Word From Verywell

While aromantics are often mistakenly viewed as cold or prudish, it is important to remember that people who identify as aro have diverse feelings and experiences. Some may enjoy physical intimacy, and some may not. Some may want a commitment without the expectations of a romantic relationship, while others may prefer to have no romantic relationships at all. 

If you think you might be aromantic, it is important to remember that you alone get to decide how you feel and how to share those feelings with others. For more resources and information being aromantic, visit some of the following resources:

If you are seeking support for issues with coming out, relationships, bullying, self-harm, and more, contact the LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564 for one-to-one peer support.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Antonsen AN, Zdaniuk B, Yule M, Brotto LA. Ace and aro: understanding differences in romantic attractions among persons identifying as asexual. Arch Sex Behav. 2020;49(5):1615-1630. doi:10.1007/s10508-019-01600-1

  2. Fischer NL, Seidman S. Introducing the New Sexuality Studies. Routledge; 2016.

  3. Bogaert AF. Understanding Asexuality. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc; 2012.

  4. Pasquier M. Explore the spectrum: guide to finding your ace community. GLAAD. Published October 27, 2018.

  5. Miller SJ, ed. Glossary of terms: defining a common queer language. Teaching, Affirming, and Recognizing Trans and Gender Creative Youth. London: Palgrave Macmillan; 2016. doi:10.1057/978-1-137-56766-6

  6. Brake E. Minimizing Marriage: Marriage, Morality, and the Law. New York: Oxford University Press; 2012.

  7. Singal J. The new science of single people. The Cut. Published August 16, 2016.

  8. AUREA. A beginner's guide to being an aromantic ally.