I find romance confusing. In the abstract, some aspects of it appeal to me: emotional intimacy and support, companionship, having a stable partnership. I enjoy well-developed, true-to-character romantic storylines, and I’m as much of a shipper as the next person. But for myself, I can’t quite understand how it would work. I spent a long time wondering how other people made the seemingly arbitrary decision of who to date. Did they just pick someone good-looking and go for it? That seemed unlikely to be pleasant. Someone they wanted to get to know, then? It still didn’t make sense. I couldn’t imagine acting in such an intimate way (and I’m not even talking sex) with anyone I wasn’t already close to–and in that case, why risk ruining a friendship?
I realize now that I don’t experience romantic attraction in the same way as the average person. I occasionally get ambiguous maybe-romantic, maybe-platonic attraction to people I’m getting to know, but I very rarely have a true crush on anyone. The two major exceptions I can think of were both distinguished by some heavy-duty limerence. This was the main thing that convinced me my feelings were romantic; it was also deeply unpleasant. I’ve had a few other minor attractions that could probably be classified as romantic, but they’ve been fleeting.
As far as romantic love goes, I’m not sure how it would be qualitatively different from other forms of love, aside from the elusive attraction component. I have felt, and continue to feel, deep love for one of the people to whom I’ve been romantically attracted. We were already fairly good friends before the attraction began, and it took root during a period when we were building a good deal of trust and intellectual/emotional intimacy. But I perceive my love for her as an independent entity from my romantic attraction and limerence. Indeed, it acted in opposition to them in some ways. That love actually prevented me from acting on my romantic attraction, because I knew that any declaration would bring up stressful recent history for her, and probably damage our friendship. Now that I no longer feel attracted to her in the same way, I still love her deeply, companionately, and (I’m fairly certain) NOT romantically. I could still see us as partners, but more in a platonic way.
So I’m still not quite sure what romance is, or how it works in real life. But I feel a lot better about that confusion now that I know the aromantic spectrum exists. It’s good to know that I’m not somehow defective, that there are others who don’t “get it,” that some are interested in prioritizing platonic relationships. The idea of forming a (queer)platonic partnership feels so much more comfortable and less daunting than going through confusing romantic rituals over and over in order to find a relationship I may not even want. I will probably experience romantic attraction again. One of these times it might even lead to a romantic relationship. But for now, I’m ready to stop beating myself up for something I don’t feel, and start doing whatever makes me happy.