Love gets complicated no matter what your sexual orientation is.
While we tend to have different opinions on the legal aspects of being in a relationship, like whether getting married is worthwhile, most of us can at least agree on what love is. In broad strokes, love makes us think of romantic dinner dates, roses on Valentine’s day, and, in light of De Beers’ wildly successful marketing campaign, diamond engagement rings.
Obviously, romantic love is a lot of work. But for one group of people, it gets even more complicated and time consuming. While demiromantic people can fall in love, it typically takes them months or even years to start considering someone as a romantic prospect let alone develop actual romantic feelings for them.
Let’s take a look at this often misunderstood and somewhat less known group within the LGBTQ+ community.
The Demiromantic Orientation and the Aromantic Spectrum
I know you’re probably thinking, “What’s a demiromantic?” so let’s start with the textbook definition. While there are always some minor differences in how people on the aromantic and asexual spectrums describe their romantic and sexual orientation, demiromantic is a term that’s generally used for someone who needs to have an existing emotional connection to a person before they can develop a romantic attraction.
This doesn’t mean that demiromantic people don’t express any sexual interest in people they’re not emotionally attached to. Though it’s true that many demiromantics are also demisexual, meaning that they need an emotional connection with a person in order to feel sexual attraction, not all people who are demiromantic are demisexual.
Sounds a bit too abstract? Imagine it like this. Say you have a friend who you’ve been close to for years. When you first met each other, you developed a small crush on them. Maybe you’ve even slept with each other. But they never reciprocated your feelings before because they’re demiromantic. Now that you’ve known each other for years, they tell you that they have a crush on you. See? Emotional connection before romantic attraction.
So how about a demisexual person? Remember that for demisexuals, the requirement is that you have some sort of emotional bond with them. It doesn’t have to be romantic since many demisexuals are even aromantic, meaning they don’t experience romantic attraction. Demisexuals need to at least be friends with someone to find them sexually attractive.
The two are often confused with each other but they’re distinct in that demiromantic describes a romantic orientation rather than a sexual orientation. Yes, believe it or not, for many queer people the two are separate concepts from each other. It’s not that big of a difference if you think about it since even straight, cis-gender people can find someone sexually attractive without being in love with them.
Demiromantics belong to the aromantic spectrum hence why they share flag colors with the aromantic flag. On its own, aromantic means someone who doesn’t experience romantic attraction or “love” as we usually think of it. People on the aromantic spectrum express and experience romantic attraction in a way that doesn’t fit romantic norms, like how alloromantic people do.
Some of you might still find it hard to fathom how someone can split up their feelings that much. But for a few of you out there, all of this makes a startling amount of sense because now, you’re wondering whether you’re demiromantic as well.
Are You Demiromantic?
Maybe you’re wondering whether you’re demiromantic or you’re trying to figure out whether the person sending you mixed signals is. Either way, you need to know. So here’s how you figure out what makes someone demiromantic.
Let’s get the misconceptions out of the way first. Demiromantic people are not playing hard to get. They’re not emotionally damaged, sociopathic, or psychopathic people. Most importantly, they’re not actively trying to hurt you. They really just don’t experience love the same way.
According to the folks over at the Asexual Visibility & Education Network, sometimes called AVEN, there are actually four different kinds of attraction. We’ve talked about sexual and romantic attraction when we were differentiating demiromantics and demisexuals, but queer romantic communities have identified two more: sensual attraction and aesthetic attraction.
If you’re having a hard time figuring out if you’re demiromantic, it helps to know what these forms of attraction are so you don’t confuse other forms of attraction with romantic attraction.
1. Sexual Attraction
This is the easiest form of attraction to understand and it’s one that you’re likely to experience whether or not you’re demiromantic. Broadly speaking, it’s when you find someone sexually attractive and want to perform sexual acts with them or to them regardless of whether you have an existing platonic or romantic relationship.
If you’ve ever had random strangers slide into your DMs or if you’ve been that random stranger, then you’ve likely found someone sexually attractive before without being emotionally connected to them.
2. Romantic Attraction
This is where it gets a little trickier. We all want to have an established emotional bond with someone before saying we’re romantically attracted to them. As popular as the term “love at first sight” may be, it’s typically just an intense and often superficial crush some of us may develop.
So what makes demiromantics different in this regard? Demiromantic people won’t develop crushes on people who aren’t their friends. The idea of a “crush” as many of us think of it is entirely alien to their experience.
Some demiromantics might find it strange, even a little creepy, that you can have a crush on someone you don’t know very well. Or, as one friend of mine elegantly described it, “Chill, we’re not even friends yet.”
3. Sensual Attraction
While it’s easier for demiromantics and people on the aromantic spectrum to separate their romantic attraction from other forms of attraction, figuring out the difference between sensual attraction and sexual attraction comes easier to demisexuals.
Sensual attraction describes the need, urge, and desire to engage with people physically but not necessarily in a sexual way. If you sometimes feel the overwhelming need to be held or caressed in a way that’s nonsexual, like a hug from a family member, then you’ve experienced a form of sensual attraction.
4. Aesthetic Attraction
Have you ever found somebody so overwhelmingly attractive without feeling the desire to have sex with them? That’s aesthetic attraction.
Aesthetic attraction is easier to make sense of when you swap the object of attraction from a person to an actual object. Imagine a beautiful painting or a hyper-realistic sculpture from the Renaissance period. If it’s beautiful enough, you’ll want to stare at it for hours and enjoy the experience of viewing it as a physically attractive object.
But don’t get it twisted: this doesn’t mean you want to objectify the person you’re aesthetically attracted to. You just find them nice to look at and that’s it. Kind of like how some people will say they’re gay for Hozier but only Hozier. They’re not actually gay. They just find him aesthetically attractive.
Talk about complicated, right? But that’s human sexual and romantic orientation for you. At this point, you might have an inkling of whether you’re demiromantic or not. But with that dawning realization comes the fear that you might end up alone forever or that there’s something wrong with you.
Before you panic, remember that demiromantics can still live fulfilling romantic and sexual lives if they choose to. While things can be a little bit trickier for demiromantic people than it is for others, finding emotional fulfillment as a demiromantic is never impossible.