I’m a romantic. That’s an expression most people are familiar with. People may say they aren’t very romantic or might complain that a person they are dating isn’t as romantic as they would like. We tend to take for granted that some people are more into romance than others. Some people want a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day, others think that’s a ridiculous waste of money; the roses are just going to die anyway. Technically an individual who doesn’t experience romantic attraction is aromantic. Aromantic would be their romantic orientation.
While most people are familiar with the idea of someone being romantic, or feeling romantic attraction, or desiring romance in their life, many people are not familiar with the idea of romantic orientation. A person’s romantic orientation is their pattern of romantic attraction, it is usually described in terms of which gender(s) they are attracted to and the intensity, or lack of intensity, of that attraction.
Here’s a list of some examples:
Aromantic: individuals who do not experience romantic attraction
Biromantic: romantic attraction toward persons of the same and different genders
Heteroromantic: romantic attraction toward persons of a gender other than their own gender
Homoromantic: romantic attraction towards persons of the same gender
Panromantic: romantic attraction towards persons of every gender
Polyromantic: romantic attraction toward multiple persons, but not all genders
Gray-romantic: individuals who do not often experience romantic attraction
Demiromantic: an individual who does not experience romantic attraction until a close emotional bond has been formed.
Romantic orientation addresses the potential for attraction. Just because a person is generally romantically attracted to men, that does not mean that they will be romantically attracted to all men. Similarly, if a person identifies as aromantic, there may come a time in their life when they will be romantically attracted to another person. This attraction does not invalidate their previous identity as an aromantic individual. Humans learn and grow and change. Their understanding of themself, and their level of comfort in expressing their identity, may change over the years. Understanding this, we can accept people where they are, how they identify right now, and however they identify in the future as they learn more about themselves and have wider life experiences.
Not everyone wants the same thing from a relationship. Not everyone has the same expectations or desires when it comes to romance. When we take the time to consider our romantic orientation it gives us a better understanding of ourselves, while also making it easier for us to express our needs, desires, and comfort levels to potential romantic partners. This improved communication helps us establish healthier, respectful, more meaningful relationships, regardless of what our romantic orientation may be.