Aromantic Awareness Week | The Hierarchy of Love: When Your Partner is Aro

When you create a relationship with another person, communication is key. We often hear this phrase, and it can be just as often ignored because of how cliche it sounds. We know relationships are very complicated, so a solution for helping a relationship flourish can’t be simple. You’d be correct in assuming so. What’s important to understand, however, is that the word “communication” actually has a ton of implications. Communication should be mutual, open, honest, respectful, patient, frequent, and done with integrity. It’s unfortunately not yet common for everyone in a relationship to value communication. And when discussing relationships involving a-spec (“a-spectrum”; aromantic and asexual) people, there is always a growing list of misconceptions to thwart on top of the rest.


Difficulties communicating can be a big reason why a-spec people struggle more to connect with people. It’s not necessarily because we all hate relationships (though some of us do, and that’s valid), but rather because we also end up having to educate other people on our orientations. Most of the time we also have to advocate for our orientations, and constantly validate the feelings of our partners to assure them that yes, we really do want to be with them; that our aromance doesn’t detract from our enjoyment of the relationship. We’re unwittingly expected to take this responsibility on, and it’s draining. One of the biggest things standing in the way of alloromantics (people who are not aromantic) appreciating what we aro people can give is the hierarchy of love. I’ll explain this by exploring the definitions of both "hierarchy” and “love”.


The word “hierarchy” is a reference to authority. It’s about ranking things based on certain criteria or values, where one item ends up on top and has more authority, and everything else is somehow “lesser.” This might not sound terrible in itself, relationships have priorities. However, we have to look at this in the context of our culture and society. In contemporary Western societies and cultures, everyone is shamed for their relationships and urges in some way or another. Some things should be shamed (such as relationships that lack consent), but other things not so much. For example, the world is rapidly learning that there’s nothing wrong with being gay. Homosexuality, in itself, does not cause problems. The same goes when it comes to aromantic people in relationships. Many people ask, “How can you have a relationship if there’s no romance?” I will get more into what aromantic people have to offer; first, we have to talk about insecurity.


There is a difference between having a preference, versus seeing your preference as superior. This is a common misconception made even prior to a relationship; this occurs constantly in discussions about attraction. Not only are there many different types of attraction (sexual, romantic, intellectual, aesthetic, so on), but there are also different ways people handle their attraction. Some people may not be attracted to certain body types. In this case, the appropriate way to handle the matter, if someone with said body type approaches you for a relationship, is to simply say, “I appreciate you being open about your feelings, however I do not feel the same way about you.” This is valid. BUT... what many people will do instead, is be very, publicly vocal about their lack of attraction to someone who may not even be seeking them out in the first place. They will make social media posts about other people, stating something cruel, such as, “Look at this ugly cow, I’d never in a million years date a troglodyte like that!”


Again, there is a big difference between your desires, versus pretending that your desires are everyone’s objective reality. Your desires are not superior to someone else’s, just like their desires are not superior to yours. What we as aromantic people have to offer is not inherently lesser than the romantic needs you have. If what we have to offer is not what you need, it only means we are incompatible as partners, nothing more or less. This is why communication, at the beginning of your relationship and throughout, is so important. If you find that a need of yours can’t/won’t be met by the person you’re interested in, then you have conversations about who can healthily compromise and where. If you find that these boundaries are too important to compromise, then you simply may not be a good match for each other, or for the type of relationship you’re seeking.


Lastly, this leads to the definition of “love.” Love is about affection and pleasure. This is where language becomes even more important, because we are all taught the same thing about relationships: “All you need is love.” This is somewhat hypocritical, considering how (as I introduced this article) relationships are complex. Love isn’t all you need; you need respect, integrity, humanity, health, and more, regardless of the type of relationship you have with someone. What’s more, we all need to figure out for ourselves what we each value most in the relationships we seek. Why are we seeking a relationship in the first place? Many of us are actually trying to fill in the gaps of attention and affection that we should just be giving ourselves (this doesn’t make for stable relationships, because these things are your own responsibility). Beyond that, maybe you’re seeking someone like you because you don’t relate to anyone else in the world and you want shared experiences, or maybe you want someone very different so you can experience new things.


What this all boils down to is (a) a lot of self-responsibility, in terms of your own urges, desires, and aspirations, (b) respecting the innate differences in other people and not regarding them as lesser for those things, and (c) mutually communicating to find out whether you and someone else are compatible as partners. Many of us aro people either experience fleeting/low levels of romance, or don’t experience romance at all, or are even romance-repulsed... AND most of us can still love or otherwise enjoy you as a partner. Aromance does not automatically mean we are all incapable of attraction, love, or kindness. For those who are polyamorous or in open relationships, it’s worth considering that these types of relationships give people the flexibility to experience different things from different people, where you don’t necessarily need everything from just one individual.


Again, communicate. Have conversations with someone who’s aromantic to figure out what kind of attraction we do experience (for example, I personally experience a very powerful, alterous attraction to those I seek partnerships with, and I DO enjoy partnerships despite being "apothiromantic", or romance-repulsed), and share experiences with us to see how our aromance feels to you. You may even find that you won’t feel like your relationship is lacking, because relationships don’t always have to revolve around romance. Long-lasting relationships are always evolving; you may find it worthwhile to re-examine what you prioritize in a relationship. That’s not to say alloromantics need to toss away romance or all love, but rather, again, that it’s often important to make room for and prioritize more than just romance. If you find that you’re attracted to someone who’s aromantic, and they’re interested in you as well, it can be worth exploring what all they have to offer as a human being.



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