Am I demiromantic, or just afraid of love?
This is a fair question that I spend several therapy sessions mulling over. It’s true that I have a lot of trauma surrounding love and relationships. Those traumas come both from watching my mother’s abusive marriage in childhood, and from my own toxic relationships in my teen years and early adulthood. With all that in mind, it’s not surprising that I put up walls to protect myself from getting hurt. But are the walls I put up what’s keeping me from developing romantic feelings for the people I date? Am I avoidant, or is this just how I am?
What is a demiromantic anyway?
A demiromantic is someone who does not feel romantic attraction toward others until they form an emotional bond with them. It’s important to note that romantic attraction is separate from sexual attraction, and even from platonic interest. While romantic interest and sexual desire are often experienced together, you can have sexual interest for someone you have no interest in dating, and you can have friendly interest in a person you don’t want to have sex with. So, in the case of a demiromantic, they may be sexually or platonically interested in a person long before they develop a romantic “love” for. The key to their romantic affection is a true emotional bond. Without that emotional connection, the love cannot form.
So, what by that definition, am I demi?
Yes. I don’t’ feel romantic love or attraction for most of the people I date. I am interested in them on a personal, friendly level. I enjoy spending time time with them, getting to know them, and even having sex with them (more on possible gray-sexuality later). Despite all this positive regard, however, I simply don’t love them in that way. Not until I have formed a deep emotional connection with them. That’s where the trauma comes in.
I refuse to form an emotional bond.
Turns out, the answer to my question is both! I am a traumatized demiromantic. Subconciously, I know what I won’t get hurt if I don’t develop feelings. I also know what I won’t develop feelings if I don’t form an emotional connection. So, I don’t. It’s like a “dating without feelings” loophole! It’s effective, but not probably not the healthiest approach to life. While I am okay with being alone, I don’t want to be lonely. I am selective and protective over the people in my life, but that can quickly turn toxic if taken to an extreme.
I’ve never minded being single.
I have friends, family, pets, and hobbies that occupy my time. But, maybe I am preventing myself from having more. While I don’t believe that you need romance to be complete, I do see how having a partner could add to an already fulfilling life. Maybe love is like adding salted caramel to your chocolate chip cookies: not necessary, but adds some delicious complexity to an already great treat. In that sense, my fear of romantic attachment isn’t taking anything away from my life, but it could be preventing me from discovering something special to increase it’s enjoyment.
Can I change? Should I change?
I can’t change the way I experience love. I can’t stop being a demiromantic any more than I can change my sexuality. It is a fixed part of my being. However, I can work on opening myself up emotionally. I can allow myself the opportunity to be vulnerable with those I date, and allow myself to form the emotional bonds that frighten me. I can tear down the walls I built around my heart, and use them to build a bridge to connect with someone else. I can, and I should. But not just for romance. Emotional vulnerability is an important part of all relationships, from parental care, to sibling squabbles, to friendly gossip- it relied on emotional connection. Love of any kind is frightening. Vulnerability is terrifying. Connection is scary- but isn’t that what being human is all about?