This romantic orientation is often misconstrued, so here are the facts.

Aro, or aromantic woman speaking with her intimate platonic friendShare on Pinterest
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Long gone are the days when there were only a few recognized romantic and sexual orientations: The spectrum is now broader and more colorful than ever.

While this is undoubtedly a positive development, an abundance of choice can also lead to confusion and inaccuracies.

One term that often gets lost in translation is aromantic, which typically finds itself muddled with descriptions of asexuality. So, we’re clearing things up and providing a better understanding of what aromanticism can mean and look like in everyday life.

In the broader orientation spectrum, aromantic — typically shortened to “aro” — is a newer addition, with the term thought to have been introduced in the early to mid-2000s.

Essentially, “aromanticism is considered a romantic orientation in which a person experiences little to no romantic attraction to other individuals of any gender,” explains Dr. Vanessa Dominguez, therapist and director of the Old Dominion University Community Wellbeing and Support Center in Norfolk, Virginia.

And it isn’t just something experienced by heterosexual individuals. “Aromantic people can have any sexual orientation or no sexual orientation,” she adds.

Types of aros

As with many things in life, aromanticism isn’t one-size-fits-all. “There are a wide range of identities within the aromantic spectrum, or ‘arospec’ for short, that people can align with,” Dominguez says.

These are just some of the identities recognized within aromanticism.

Type of aromanticDefined as
GreyromanticAlso known as “greyro,” greyromantic people experience romantic attraction very rarely, Dominguez says.
AliquaromanticThis refers to someone who doesn’t usually feel romantic attraction but can in certain situations and circumstances.
Demiromantic“Demiromantic people only experience romantic attraction once they are platonically attached or bonded to someone,” Dominguez says.
CupioromanticDominguez says this is “someone who is aromantic but still desires a romantic relationship.”
InactoromanticThese are individuals who would like a romantic relationship and feel romantic-based attraction but are not interested in the associated actions (such as date nights and affectionate touch).
Quoiromantic“Quoiromantic people are often unsure what romantic attraction is or feels like,” says Dominguez, “and struggle to distinguish it from things like platonic attraction.”
DreadromanticThis is when a person’s sense of romantic attraction fluctuates. When felt, it’s accompanied by a sense of dread.
AkoiromanticThese individuals, Dominguez says, “experience romantic attraction without the desire to have it reciprocated, or romantic attraction that fades upon reciprocation.”
FrayromanticThese individuals experience romantic attraction toward another but find their feelings fade as they get to know them better.
RecipromanticThis is an individual who doesn’t feel a romantic attraction toward someone until the other individual feels/expresses it first.

With the span of aromantic identities, there’s no one defining trait or characteristic to look out for — but perhaps you might be able to relate to one of the descriptions in the table above.

Ultimately, the way one person identifies as aromantic might be different for another. But there are a few commonalities you might want to consider, such as having mixed to heavy disinterest in romance.

Or, “if you notice that you don’t really relate to romantic novels, stories, and fantasies, or you don’t feel romantically attracted to anyone, it could be a sign you could be aromantic as well,” explains Dr. Britney Blair, a clinical psychologist in the San Francisco Bay area and co-founder of sexual wellness app Lover.

Definitely. Although they’re often mistaken for the same thing, “there is a significant difference,” says Blair.

“Typically, folks who are asexual have no interest in sexual contact or connection with another person but may very well want a romantic connection,” she explains.

Meanwhile, “a person who is aromantic may very much want a sexual relationship but not the romantic aspect of the relationship,” Blair adds.

So what’s the difference? “Romantic attraction includes activities like going on a date, holding hands, spending your life together, etcetera,” says Dominguez.

“Whereas, with sexual attraction, the focus is more on the physical, involving the body, and includes sexual acts,” she adds.

However, there can be an overlap between the two — and research suggests between 19% and 28% of asexual individuals also identify as aromantic.

Aromantics aren’t consigned to a life of solitude. They can still form strong and meaningful connections with others or develop attachments based on nonromantic types of love.

“Even though aro people may not wish to engage in romantic activities with other people, they do experience emotions, have needs, and many find and engage in fulfilling relationships with a partner or partners, friends, family, or pets,” Dominguez says.

To help distinguish from their other nonromantic relationships — particularly friendships — some aromantics refer to their partnership with a significant other as a “queerplatonic relationship” (QPR).

So, while heart-filled candlelit dinners and Valentine’s Day are likely not high on the agenda, QPRs can still involve activities you might expect to see in a romantic relationship, such as getting married, raising children, or physical intimacy.

While it’s often confused with asexuality or misunderstood as having a “cold” personality, aromanticism is far from either.

Individuals who identify can — and do — still experience and demonstrate strong feelings and desires for connection.

Aromanticism can present in a variety of nuances and differs between individuals, so there’s no “right” definition to be applied. Typically, though, the orientation is associated with disinterest in romance.

You don’t have to fit into a particular label or category. You’re free to go with what makes you feel comfortable and happy.

If you’re still feeling uncertain, AUREA, the Aromantic-Spectrum Union for Recognition, Education, and Advocacy has compiled a one-stop resource for online and in-person aromantic-focused groups that offer advice and support.