Hi Dr. NerdLove,
I’m a 21 year old girl, and I’ve known I was ace since I was about 17. I’m pretty aromantic as well, though the most accurate label is probably gray demiromantic — I’ve only ever had romantic feelings about two people, both of whom were my close friends. I’m not even sure that they were really romantic feelings, because they occurred very, very infrequently (like every 1-2 months). I would say the primary feelings I remember identifying were kind of a glowy, warm feeling, wanting to sit a little closer, and an overwhelming sense of “wow, I’m so, so incredibly lucky that this person is in my life”. But I don’t know whether those types of feelings count as any sort of attraction, because I don’t really have any other experience to compare them to.
Anyway, there’s a couple different things going on. My great-grandma is 96 and in memory care right now, and we can’t see her for pandemic reasons, and the whole experience of worrying about her has had me thinking a lot more about my own mortality than I ever had before. Not in the sense of wanting to die, but in the sense of realizing that my subjective perception of reality will just suddenly stop one day, and anything I don’t do/feel/experience in the next seventy-odd years is something I’ll never experience ever. I won’t ever know what it’s like to not be aro or ace, so I’ve been thinking that I should start trying to find ways to create the life that I want for myself, regardless.
I’m pretty sex-neutral, and while I’d be enthusiastic about trying it at some point with the right person (provided they were cool with the fact that I don’t experience sexual attraction the same way they do), I wouldn’t be too bothered if I never had it.
But romantically, I’ve been feeling not so great recently about the fact that my brain can’t really seem to fall in love. I’m not even that lonely—I love my friends, and I’m a pretty self-sufficient person with plans to maybe go the ICI/sperm bank route when I’m older and settled in my career. But I grew up really, really loving romances in books and movies and other people’s stories about their lives, and it’s been hard for me to accept that I’ll never know what that’s like for myself.
A bit of background: the friend who I most recently had a “squish” (ambiguously aromantic crush-ish thing) on is another student at my small arts school. We’ve been friends for three years now, and become really emotionally close. It’s been a rough three years for both of us—I had never been away from my family before college, which did a number on me, and she had a TON of shitty, traumatic experiences, one with a creepy, borderline harassing/emotionally abusive professor, and one where her roommate stalked her and made death threats against her.
(When another friend and I talked her into going to administration about the roommate, my friend had her entire reputation dragged through the mud, the other girl spread a bunch of straight-up lies about her to the rest of the student body, and after being briefly suspended, this other girl is now back at school and basically free to keep hurting my friend.)
I am almost constantly furious about the way she was treated and is still treated, but every time we try to call out the perpetrators (for example, a kid in our creative writing class posted a nasty essay about her to the whole class), they react even more violently, whether or not we involve the authorities.
The point is, after all this shit, we’ve become SUPER emotionally close, closer than I’ve ever been with someone who isn’t part of my family. She says she loves me and calls me her “North Star” friend because I’m someone who was always there for her and never doubted her. So my tiny, intermittent possibly-romantic-maybe-not feelings for her are really, definitely off the table. My common sense is telling me that that is in NO WAY WHATSOEVER something that she needs from me, what with all the stress in her life right now. I care a lot about her, and I would feel incredibly terrible if I ever did anything that hurt her. And there’s no good reason to try to tell her that I’ve been feeling this way, because I’m actually really happy with the current extent of our friendship. It’s not like I secretly really want to try kissing her or something—emotional closeness and occasionally sitting together on the couch is pretty much all I need or want from a relationship, at least for now.
But the fact that I’ve even BEEN recently having recurring feelings for her that I could characterize as possibly romantic (the other time was much less strong, and only once) has made me wonder about possibly trying to develop that for myself. Not with my friend, obviously—see above. But I want to try to see if “falling in love”, or whatever my brain chemistry’s version of that is, is something that might work for me once I’m not quarantined with my family and it’s safe to see other people again.
So my question is, how do I go about that? I don’t really even know what to look for. Everything I’ve felt that I could categorize as romantic attraction has been towards someone I already knew super well, and I just literally don’t experience sexual attraction. What little I know about romantic interest indicates that it’s generally based on reciprocity, by which I mean that two people subtextually communicate that they find each other cool/hot/compatible/ whatever and mutually agree to try it out. But I don’t know how to navigate that for myself, because I don’t even really feel like I know enough to have a “type”, if that makes sense. It doesn’t help that I have a sensory processing disorder and get really overwhelmed in large groups of people!!
I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by expressing an interest that I’m not sure exists. But I don’t know how to find someone I might be interested in without somehow expressing interest myself. Writing all this down, I’m thinking my best option might just be to accept that I don’t feel romantic attraction and that’s okay, and maybe one day I’ll meet another aro person and have a queer plantonic relationship (QPR). But I’m scared that if I only look for aro people, I won’t be able to find someone whose interests and emotions are very compatible with mine.
I don’t have any delusions about asking for exclusivity. I know that what I have to offer in a relationship is basically nil compared to an allo person, and that anyone I was partnered with would probably have romantic and sexual needs that I wouldn’t be able to completely fill on my own, no matter how willing I was to try. I’m prepared and happy to make compromises, whatever they will need to be. I feel like I have things to offer as a potential partner beyond sex and romance (and I want to be able to DO both sex and romance as well, I just know that I don’t feel either form of attraction very strongly/at all, so people would probably generally rather be with someone who “feels that way”). But I give good cuddles, I listen well and care a lot, I love discussing all sorts of weird niche things, and I’m super loyal and devoted to the people in my life. I just want to know how to get started finding people who want that from someone and are willing to look past the ace/aro thing!!
I have a thick skin and I’m not afraid of tough truths. Whatever I need to hear, I’ll listen, and any insight/help you can give would be really, really appreciated.
Thanks for your time, Doc!
Best Friends Forever