An Aromantic Looks at Aromantic Relationships

An Aromantic Looks at Aromantic Relationships February 21, 2024

In honor of Arospec Awareness Week, I felt led to dedicate this week’s column to something personal. In early 2022, I realized something important about myself. I already knew I am demisexual, but at that time, I realized I am also aromantic. It was both shocking (it shouldn’t have been) and insightful, helpful in understanding more of myself as a person.

I am from an earlier time when people identified as gay or straight. Not identifying as gay, I assumed I fell into heteronormativity. The longer I work and minister with queer communities, the more I’ve learned important language. These terms help me identify both myself and others. Within myself, discovering I am aromantic was a bigger leap than discovering I am demisexual.

Aromantic pride flag
Aromantic pride flag. Wikimedia commons, Public domain by Cameron Whimsey.

Understanding aromanticism

For those unfamiliar with the essential terms of this column: aromantic means one does not feel or experience romantic attraction. This is not the same as asexuality (a separate identity). One can be in a sexual relationship without romantic connotation (such as a friend with benefits). It doesn’t mean we don’t experience nervousness at the idea of a relationship, nor does it mean we never experience what might be classified as a “crush” (although our interest in someone might vary from traditional concepts). It, likewise, does not mean an individual does not desire to be in a long-term relationship with an intimate partner.

“Aromantic” simply means that in contrast with individuals who desire their relationships to be determined by romantic gestures – those which are often scripted or stereotyped as being generally “romantic” and characterized by concepts associated with romance (“being swept off one’s feet,” for example) – aromantics develop relationships based on different principles.


To properly understand aromanticism, it’s important to know there was a time in history when such was the standard for relationships rather than the exception. Romanticism was a philosophical and artistic movement that profoundly influenced ideas about relationships beginning in the late 1700s. Romanticism had five foundational ideas:

  • Individualism
  • Nature
  • Emotion (rather than reason)
  • Freedom of form
  • Exploration of the unknown (especially those present in occult and spiritual ideas)

Marriage in older times

Prior to this time, romanticism didn’t exist. Romantic notions are absent in Biblical marriages. If anything, they are almost brutally aromantic. Marriages in subsequent centuries also lacked romance. They centered on survival, not idealism. Marriage wasn’t about love, romance, and personal fulfillment. Marriages were business transactions, existing to ensure family lines, property inheritances, and alliances among clans and tribes. Was someone unhappy? They figured it out. Couple doesn’t like each other? They figured it out. If married life wasn’t a fantastic experience…they figured it out. Too much weighed on maintaining a marriage throughout life. Such relationships were seen as more important than personal satisfaction.

One thing the ancients understood about relationships (that we often don’t today) is that the closeness of marriage comes from daily encounters. It doesn’t come from needing endless romantic endeavors, second (or third or fourth) honeymoon trips, constant getaways, special relationship retreats or conferences, or a ton of romantic gestures. They believed solid, intimate relationships came from the hard aspects of marriage: compromise, working together, partnering in family life and parenting, handling conflicts and disagreements, and sexual intimacy. Without the expectation of romance, marriage and family life was just that. People focused on sharing and contributing in a partnership or unit rather than on individual happiness.

The dangers of romantic expectations

I don’t mean to suggest individual happiness is totally irrelevant in a relationship. I will say from working with couples romantically inclined that romance is very individual-centered. It gives the impression that individual happiness is the ultimate achievement in marriage. This puts the burden on the other partner to bring about that desired happiness. Rather than seeing intimate relationships as a training ground for personal holiness and give and take, they see them as existing to fulfill themselves. When this goal is not achieved – and it never is – the relationship starts to experience problems. Instead of working together, the two turn on each other.

Romantic pretext

The problem with romance is the pretext that everyone wants the same things in their relationship. Turn on the Hallmark Channel and watch the various commercials for what seems to be a never-ending parade of romance movies. You will note the movies are literally all the same, just with different peripherals (such as settings or occupation): two people meet, they seem to instantly fall in love, and they are perfectly suited for each other. One makes a grand gesture to the other that lets them know how “in love” they are, and the two wind up married or poised to live happily ever after at the end.

These movies give us dangerous ideas about what to expect in relationships. For one, the uniformity of the movies and especially their characters gives the impression that relationships are effortless, easy, and instantly completing. As long as one follows the specific steps of a, b, and c, a relationship can be eternally fulfilling. Mates can be perfect; if we will only hang out in remote areas or make huge changes to our lives, we can find the perfect partner as they fall into our laps. It also gives the idea that everyone wants the same things: huge gestures, candlelit dinners, rose petals on the hotel bed, huge bouquets of flowers every night, and over-the-top proposals that make everyday life seem mundane.

Orientation or construct?

Whether or not romanticism is an orientation or a societal construct is a matter of considerable debate. What I can say, from both personal experience and working with romantics and aromantics alike through the years is that there are a few notable differences between the two. Here, I’ll be looking at that contrast – and celebrate what makes aromantic relationships unique.

A word of note: relationships are always a little different, and while some might not identify with every point on this list, they still might be aromantic. This post is here to inspire discussion, not stand as an end-all, be-all guide. There’s much to add, and much to say, so I hope this can be a starting point for that conversation.

Aromantic relationships thrive on unspoken communication

I believe relationships form not on what’s said, but what’s not said. (What is said or unsaid can be healthy or unhealthy). Some call it a “vibe,” some call it “a feeling,” and I’ve also heard it described as a “presence.” Whatever you call it, it is the very foundation of a partnered aromantic relationship. Somehow, some way, the two “get” each other and speak each other’s unique language in a way that doesn’t merit constant communication. They are frequently very comfortable with each other from very early on, almost as if they’ve known each other for a longer period of time.

Romantic relationships often focus on communication about the relationship (how they feel about each other, what they want to do to each other, relationship expectations, and what the two want). Aromantic relationships are often more direct: talk might be less expressive, love is displayed in more practical ways (being upset when one puts themselves in harm’s way or makes some sort of gesture for the other), and the couple is more comfortable with silence rather than the need to fill time with a lot of meaningless talk. Conversations, when had, are often deeper and more expressive of the individuals themselves rather than standard talk that couples expect. They also tend to speak their own private “love language” that sounds a lot like banter to outsiders. It is an unfiltered honesty that doesn’t hide its feelings in a given situation.

Aro relationships can be complicated

To be fair, all relationships have complications; aro relationships are no different. They are, however, complicated in different ways from romantic relationships.

Romanticism is based in ideas. The central idea is there’s that one person in this world who can complete another as a person. In romantic ideal, one envisions their lives a certain way and hopes and expects their partner will fit in with their vision perfectly – while their partner envisions them to do the same.

Aromanticism, in contrast, is based around the people in a relationship, rather than ideas or concepts one might have about how a relationship should be. Because they are about learning and discerning another person (as well as discovering things about themselves through their relationships), aromantics often engage in more in-depth conversation that is more meaningful and less standard than romantics. They also put in more effort earlier on in relationship dynamics: many have certain things they consider important in a partner and are less willing to tolerate bad behaviors or habits than romantic counterparts. Why? They are less likely to believe “love will solve all their problems” and overlook issues due to infatuation. Aromantics generally have a better understanding of each other as people, recognizing individuality instead of absorbing into couple-mentality right away.

They are slower moving

I remember looking at the relationships of my more romantically inclined friends. I was shocked at how fast they moved. It was like they’d go out one or two times and already talk about wedding plans or moving in together. While yes, aromantics talk about marriage and sometimes that is a clear end-goal at the beginning of a relationship, aromantic relationships don’t tend to move as fast. They are often quieter, with less fanfare, less attention, less need for PDAs, and less outside involvement than romantic relationships. Aromantics move at their own pace, as a couple finds their own personal comforts with one another.

They are more private

Big engagement rings. Big weddings. Lavish honeymoons. Proving to the world that your relationship is better than everyone else’s. Romantic relationships are considered “successful” by outward displays. These displays (i.e., spending money) supposedly “prove” something about a relationship. Aromantics often don’t require so many outward signs (although there’s nothing wrong with wanting an engagement ring, a wedding, a honeymoon, etc. – it’s why these things are done, not that they are done) and do not involve many people in their relationships. They typically rely on a few close friends or family members for advice when necessary, but focus on learning how to read one another.

They don’t have to have everything in common

Commonalities are part of romantic ideals. Others tell us if we have enough in common, we won’t have conflicts. This undermines the millions of divorced people who had everything “relevant” in common: religion, politics, aspirations, socioeconomic background, and the like…but couldn’t make their relationship work. Why did they have so much in common and still fail? They spent so much time on commonalities, they were unprepared for their differences. When those popped up, they learned a hard truth about differences: having tons of things in common doesn’t outweigh differences, no matter how few there may be.

Aromantic couples don’t have to have everything in common. They expect disagreements, because resolving conflict is part of life. They don’t need to be power couples, spending every moment of their lives together. There’s no pursuit of joint power. It’s fine to have different interests and goals, as long as those don’t cancel out the relationship. Maintaining individuality is essential in an aromantic relationship. Being an individual doesn’t take away from the two as a couple.

They are more disciplined

Aromantic relationships are often, at first glance, seemingly “less fun” than romantic ones. Their partners put in the time and effort for commitment. Time and money might be spent on different things. For example, instead of spending money on a second honeymoon, the couple might put a down payment on a house. Dates might be more low-key and private. It’s not so much about what they do or how much time they spend doing it as in the quality of time the two spend together. Aromantic relationships function as partnerships: they are more “adult” and mature, thriving on a love that focuses on friendship as much as intimacy.

Sex is a conversation as much as an action

I am including this point because many people assume romance and sex are one and the same. They are not. I also want to add that some aromantics are also asexual. As a result, they might have different ideas about sex or sexual interaction. Aromanticism exists on a spectrum, much like all queer identities. Also remember, each couple is different.

It is possible to have sex with romance. It’s also possible to have a loving, intimate sexual relationship without romance. The difference is the pretext of the two. Romance thinks sex is automatically fantastic when had with the “right person,” without any communication. Aromantics often discuss sex before it happens, not anticipating the mood to make everything right on its own. Better communication leads to better sex and less expectation that a partner should automatically know what to do. This also makes for clearer insight into desires, likes, dislikes, and explorations of a physical relationship as a couple.

They are more intimate

Aromantic relationships thrive on intimacy. The partners know and love one another rather than their ideas about who the other should be. Instead of trying to force someone into a desired role or ideal, aromantic relationships thrive on partnerships. Partnership dictates helping in hard times, surprising each other throughout life with new dimensions or little gifts, encouraging each other, listening, and affirming. It’s about finding meaning in everyday life rather than in waiting for the next romantic connection or event. Aromantics love a person rather than an ideal.

Thoughts on aromantic relationships

No relationship is perfect. This is true whether a relationship is romantic, aromantic, or platonic.It is my belief, however, that queer relationships of all sort offer us great insight and thoughts into relationship success. Instead of assuming everyone wants the same things in a relationship, it’s better to listen and learn. Aromantic relationships offer everyone thoughts and education about partners: respect, structure, and intimacy as we strive to live together in our everyday lives.

About Lee Ann B. Marino
Dr. Lee Ann B. Marino, Ph.D., D.Min., D.D. (”The Spitfire”) is “everyone’s favorite theologian” leading Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z as apostle of Spitfire Apostolic Ministries. Her work encompasses study and instruction on leadership training and development, typology, Pneumatology, conceptual theology, Ephesians 4:11 ministry, and apostolic theology. She is author of over thirty-five books, host of the top twenty percentile podcast Kingdom Now, and serves as founder and overseer of Sanctuary International Fellowship Tabernacle - SIFT and Chancellor of Apostolic University. Dr. Marino has over twenty-five years of experience in ministry, leadership, counseling, mentoring, education, and business. You can read more about the author here.

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