I did not always identify as aromantic.
For a long time, I did believe in the whole romantic myth that one is truly happier with a romantic partner, and I wished for one. I longed for the time when I would finally live those idealized shared moments with my beloved: having breakfast together, taking long walks hand in hand, talking about everything and anything for hours, kiss passionately like in my favorite love scenes in movies…
Each of my attempts at romance destroyed those ideals.
My first attempt convinced me that romantic gestures (offering flowers, for instance) are often not done out of a genuine desire to please the other person, but dictated by conventions which force people (whether they are actually in love with their partner, wish they were, or only want to appear to be) to act the part. The second one showed me that a close friendship was as rewarding a relationship as I could wish, and that there was no need for more. The third attempt finally made me realize that I did not want a romantic relationship, but only some of the things that are associated with it – and not enough of those to want to make a romantic relationship worth all the trouble that came with it.
Once again, the problem was that I did not want a romantic relationship for itself, but for everything that I had always seen associated with it. And it is hard to avoid those associations. Romantic love (like sex) is everywhere – in advertising, in fiction, in magazines. It is usually equated with happiness (very few books or movies have a happy ending which does not include the main characters being romantically involved) and represented as one of the most important personal achievements; the idea is that finding true, mutual romantic love is pretty much the most desirable event that can happen in someone’s life.
Of course, I wanted to be happy. And I had low self-esteem for a long time, so when I daydreamed about finding romantic love, I imagined finding someone who would see something valuable in me, who would love me for who I am, even though I did not really believe that could ever happen.
I am not sure I know exactly how I got over that. I remember two moments, both related to the person who was involved in my third and last romantic attempt, but I had had thoughts about aromanticism before, although I do not remember them very clearly. The first of those two moments happened when I realized I was interested in him, and thought he was not and would never be. I was very upset for a few days, and then I told myself it was ridiculous to hope for something that would never happen and to only get unhappiness out of it. I reminded myself that I had friends who did care about me and value me, parents (and a dog) who loved me. I vowed to stop daydreaming about romantic relationships and to dedicate my energy to being a good friend, someone my friends could count on. Then, I found out that this guy was in fact interested in me – very much so – and immediately I forgot my resolutions. Until about a week before seeing him again, when doubts began creeping in. I told myself I was a coward, afraid of change, and went to meet him. About one hour after, I realized it was a mistake and ran away (no, not because I had anything to fear from him – I was perfectly safe -, just because I really did not want to be there and could not bear it one more second).
It turned out that this guy was not a suitable partner for me, for several reasons. But I also realized that I was not suited to romantic relationships. The first time he mentioned a future visit (before I had actually gone to meet him and ran away), I felt trapped and pressured. I also realized that becoming romantically involved with him came with expectations that I was not sure I wanted to fulfil. It was all going too fast, I was no longer in control (not to say that he was; rather, the romantic relationship we were building was), I could no longer do my own thing… It was unbearable.
Going from one near-extreme to another, I have become rather cynical about romantic love. I now tend to say that romantic love probably does not actually exist, but that we are conditioned to want it and believe in it by our environment. I do believe in love in general – I love my parents, I love my dog, I love two of my friends -, just not in romantic love. To me, romantic love is just love with added expectations and behavior – both things which do not suit me, so I have opted out. I do value love very highly, but to me, romantic love is overrated.
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