Even back in primary school, it seemed almost every child was obsessed with the idea of romance. It was common to hear children giggling behind their hands and revealing the names of their crushes in hushed voices. On the outside I was just the same, but inside I already knew that something was different. I still distinctly remember choosing who I should pretend to have a crush on, just because not having a crush on anybody was unheard of. I didn’t want to be different.
Growing up I felt the excitement that so many feel about their future loves. I pushed the knowledge that something wasn’t quite right deep down and happily envisioned my future partner, the things we would do together, the songs we would listen to. I came out as bisexual and later as non-binary, but being aromantic was something I was determined to hide, even though I didn’t yet know that the term so much as existed. I felt like it was something shameful, something inherently wrong in a world where falling in love and finding your soulmate seemed more important than anything else to society. I even dated a few times and entered relationships, only to feel incredible guilt every time I realised, sooner or later, that something still wasn’t right.
It wasn’t a lack of love that I felt. On the contrary, I knew that I loved the people I dated. It just wasn’t the kind that they felt for me, the kind that everybody is supposed to feel at least once in their lifetimes. To me, this simply translated into the inability to love or, even, to feel anything at all. I had been through some emotional abuse growing up which led me to feel numb at times and, almost as an excuse, I latched onto this as a reason why. I thought that, if I could just ‘cure’ myself, I would be able to feel what everybody else was always going on about. So I tried therapy several times over the coming years.
Then, when I was eighteen, I began a relationship with somebody I truly knew I wanted to spend my life with. I truly loved and cared about him- the kind of love where he’s the first thing to pop into your mind when you wake up and the last thing you think about before you go to bed. I knew with every bit of certainty I had that I loved him. But it still wasn’t right. I felt suffocatingly anxious just as often as I felt blessed, and for a long time guilt threatened to consume me. I felt like I was leading him on, or somehow lying to him when I told him I loved him even though I knew it was the truth. I was excited when we discussed the future, the idea of living together and spending the most important milestones of our lives together. We shared everything, went on dates, bought each other flowers and supported each other through everything. And yet, as happy as I was, I felt like the worst person in the world.
Our breakup was both sudden and expected. I was in my second year of university, six hours away by public transport and three hours by car. Long distance was difficult and, following several heavy conversations we worked out that we wanted different things out of life. He wanted to get married, to live a life filled with romance, whereas nothing scared me more. I was heartbroken, and this feeling quickly spiralled out of control. I blamed myself horribly for the pain I had caused my partner, for not realising that the things we wanted were different earlier, for just straight up being myself. This breakdown lasted several long months and, in the midst of all of it, I finally admitted to myself what I had been trying to push away my entire life.
I am aromantic.
This revelation hurt, more than I could imagine it would, but slowly the pieces began to fit together again. I went to therapy again, this time to help me to come to terms with and accept myself rather than to try to ‘cure’ myself. I spoke to my ex and, although trying to be friends became too painful in the end, we reached some understanding. I began to join support groups on social media and slowly began coming out to family and friends once more. Learning about different types of love was the most healing thing for me- I learned that, although I didn’t feel romantic love or attraction, I still felt deep platonic love and that was just as valid and worthy. I would like to live in a platonic life partnership one day, but I’m just as happy being single and enjoying my own company.
It’s okay to be aromantic. Sometimes, it’s great! The understanding, love and positivity I’ve received from the community has really helped to drag me from a dark place of self-blame and self-hatred to a new appreciation and love for who I am. There are different types of love, and all of them are every bit as worthy as romantic love. I’ve still had to deal with people invalidating my aromanticism, saying that I just haven’t found the one yet, ignoring it and pursuing me anyway, or even asking if I’ve “sorted it out yet”. It’s not always easy, but I’m happy for who I am. I’m grateful to everybody who supported me, to my exes for helping me to grow and for being such beautiful people, and to the community for being so understanding. I’m proud to be part of the aromantic community.