From the moment we can comprehend we are told love is a very powerful thing: 'Love is what you need to be complete. A spouse, a picket fence house, and children are the meaning of happiness'. Books always seem to have love interests for the protaganist. You never see someone staying with their amazingly successful career when it means giving up on a love interest they just met a week ago.
We're told that family love is important, friends are important. But that the most important kind of love is when you're in love with someone. One someone. Of the opposite binary gender to you. Someone that will 'complete' you, and make you happier than anyone else ever could.
Growing up, I believed it. When other kids were having crushes, I picked the most logical options for me to crush on. When I reached the age I was allowed to date (16. I have really cool old school parents) I threw myself into it. I dated the first guy who showed interest in me. And promptly broke up with him when he asked if he could kiss me. I dated long distance with a boy I met when a high school band visited our school. Still don't know what happened to him, he just stopped talking to me one day. I did online dating without my parents knowledge or consent, dated a seemingly perfect boy in Running Start (a program that allows high school students to take college classes and earn a college degree).
That college boy is the one who confused me more than anyone. The first boy I could explain that I had been desperate to date without really knowing him. The second boy I could explain that he had just disappeared from my life, so didn't matter. The online boys I could explain away with the fact I had never met them in person and romance chemistry had to be something you find in person. But this boy. I met him in person. We would spend after class hours together working on homework. In our art class we apparently flirted openly (I had no idea what flirting even was. I thought it was fun to smear charcoal on him when my hands got coated during an art project). I quite brazenly told him that I liked him one day, because obviously he was my best friend and a great date candidate. But still, I didn't have that 'I want to drop everything and give him everything because I love him.' He said the 'L' word first, and I said it back because I didn't want to hurt his feelings. But the words were empty and hollow on my tongue.
What was wrong with me? He was everything I could ask for. He did his best in school, loved and participated in sports and in a band, he was intelligent and fun and romantic and ideally perfect. But I was still missing something. This still wasn't like the books, or movies, or anything like what society promised me. When we kissed, there wasn't sparks. I didn't want to hold his hand or plan a life with him.
I finally broke it off with him because I didn't feel like I could ever love him the way he deserved to be loved. He was so full heart on everything it felt like I had none. My dad had often joked about how heartless I could be when I shouted at characters in movies 'No! Don't give up your CEO position for him! He's not worth it!' and so on. My mom told me it was okay, that if I didn't like kissing him and holding hands then I couldn't have loved him anyway.
Years went by where I continued to throw myself into dating. It was so important to me to find someone to spend my life with. Because you can't be happy without romantic love.
And then I met her. The girl that changed my world. We went to the same college together but were in different class groups so I only saw her in passing. I found out we live in the same direction and offered to start driving her home. One day, while I was driving her to her house, she laughed at something silly I had said and my brain just 'clicked'. There was no other way to explain it. It was like my soul went 'oh, there you are' and I definitely knew I wanted her in my life.
But, and here's the but! I didn't want to date her. I didn't want to hold hands or kiss or cuddle or go on romantic dates. I just wanted to spend time with her. Even though I was nervous to drive to new places, I would gladly take her wherever she wanted to go. I would almost always accept an invite to hang out with her, because even though I am not a people person she didn't drain my social battery.
She broke everything I had ever understood about love. That there wasn't something missing when I didn't feel romantic attraction to someone, just that my bond with people worked differently. And that wasn't a bad thing.
Years down, I would actually discover I am aroflux (under the aromantic umbrella and fluctuating between feeling no romantic attraction, to demiromantic) because I finally felt romantic love for someone. And it still wasn't what the hallmark movies promised! There was that click of a soul recognizing a soul but it wasn't greater or more important then the love I feel for her. Society shouldn't enclose love in a toxic box, saying only this one kind is the best kind. All kinds are the best kind, and aromantics aren't missing out on anything. They just get to enjoy a different flavor more strongly, and that should be celebrated. It doesn't have to be romantic to be fulfilling because platonic love can be just as potent.