Among the many terms people use to describe their romantic and sexual preferences, one word you might not be familiar with is aromantic. According to Merriam-Webster, this adjective is used to describe those who "have little or no romantic feeling toward others," and it's the opposite of the term alloromantic, which describes people who do experience romantic attraction.
In 2015, aromantic identity was officially recognized by GLAAD when it expanded the term "LGBTQ+" to "LGBTQIA," with the "A" representing asexual, agender, and aromantic identities. Though it may not be a word you hear often, it's a wide-ranging identity that resonates with many.
Generally speaking, the definition of aromantic is nuanced, meaning it can look different from person to person. Some aromantic people may never experience romantic attraction, whereas others may experience it in specific situations. It's also true that some aromantic people may experience sexual attraction, whereas others may not. All that's to say, there is no one-size-fits-all definition of aromantic.
So if you're wondering, "Am I aromantic?" or you just want to learn how to be a better ally, consider this your all-encompassing guide to aromantic identity - including information about the aromantic flag, the aromantic spectrum, and what it means to be aromantic vs. asexual.
Related: What Does It Mean to Be Biromantic?
Being aromantic means you experience "little to no romantic attraction and feelings for another person or don't share the desire to form a romantic relationship with anyone," says certified sex therapist Aliyah Moore, PhD. That said, she adds that being aromantic doesn't mean someone has never experienced love or felt it.
The term "aromantic" actually falls across a spectrum, which encompasses many different variations of the aromantic orientation, Dr. Moore explains. For example, someone could be grayromantic, which means they "fall somewhere between being romantic and aromantic," says Dr. Moore. In other words, they rarely experience romantic attraction or may feel something romantic toward others under very specific conditions. Someone could also be demiromantic, which means they "only experience romantic feelings toward other people after forming an emotional bond with them."
All of these terms fall under the aromantic umbrella, and as such, the meaning of the term varies a lot depending on the individual using it.
It's also worth noting that, contrary to the belief that aromantic people might be seemingly cold when it comes to relationships, "they can still feel and give love," Dr. Moore says. Whether it's with friends or family, Dr. Moore says it is very much possible for aromantic people to build strong relationships with others outside the realms of romance, even sexually in some cases.
Aromantic vs. Asexual
The biggest difference between being aromantic and asexual (the term used to describe people who do not experience sexual attraction or a desire to have a sexual relationship) is the two fall on completely different spectrums, says Dr. Moore. Aromantic is a term that refers to someone's romantic preferences, while asexual describes someone's sexual preferences.
This means it's very possible for someone to be both aromantic and asexual. It's also possible for someone to be aromantic but still interested in developing a sexual relationship with someone. And it's possible for someone to be asexual yet still interested in developing a romantic relationship with someone.
Am I Aromantic?
There's no definitive list of signs that could tell you if you are or aren't aromantic, as it's really up to each individual's preferences, feelings, and interpretation of the term. However, Dr. Moore says there are a few signs that could help you determine whether you could be aromantic. For example:
You haven't experienced the feeling of having a crush or being in love with someone.
You've lied about having a crush when other people ask you. (It's very common for aromantic people to pretend they're into crushes or romance because that's what society dictates as normal, says Dr. Moore.)
You find it hard to relate to romantic stories you've read in books or seen in movies.
You don't feel any excitement about the idea of finding a romantic partner or aren't interested in pursuing a romantic partner at all.
You make excuses for why you aren't looking for a romantic partner.
You don't see yourself happy in a romantic relationship.
Romantic gestures (receiving gifts, cuddling, kissing, holding hands) from another person don't mean anything to you or are a big turnoff. For some, these gestures may even feel uncomfortable.
You don't reciprocate romantic gestures, even if you think you've connected with the person.
You're happy to remain single.
The aromantic flag in popular use today consists of five horizontal stripes in green, light green, white, gray, and black (from top to bottom), according to Dr. Moore. "The first two green colors signify the aromantic spectrum. The white color in the middle recognizes the importance of nonromantic relationships - familial, friendly, platonic. Lastly, the gray and black colors at the bottom stand for the sexuality spectrum." (The asexual flag also has gray and black stripes, but at the top.)
- Additional reporting by Lauren Harano
Related: What Does It Mean to Be Asexual?