In a Romance focused culture
As a teenager I found friendship and romance extremely confusing. I always seemed to love my friends to much, and found romantic relationships baffling and nerve wracking. Though I couldn’t figure out quite how, I seemed to always be doing things wrong. Which my friends and lovers were more than willing to criticize me for while never explaining in a way that I could understand, what they felt I should be doing instead.*
As I entered my twenties I knew I was different than the people around me, in more ways than one, but one reoccurring way was more subtle and seemed to have to do with the fundamental way I related to other humans. I told people I was more concerned with honesty then fidelity in romantic relationships, while harboring sad ill fated romantic feelings towards my closest friends. I was confused a lot, and tried to communicate my reality, but usually we had no language in common. It wasn’t enough, relationships sheared away from each other. I was reactive, heartbroken, and self loathing.
By my thirties I’d made a bit more progress in understanding myself, I could explain that I loved everyone a little, my friends I loved a lot, and my lovers were like sacred beloved friends. It seemed like enough explanation, and yet over and over again relationship after relationship both romantic and platonic ended with mutually hurt feelings and confused expectations.
As I found language to describe this reality, it was a big part in me learning self love and acceptance. Maybe I wasn’t broken, maybe I wasn’t a toxic flake. Maybe, maybe I just loved differently.
So that more or less brings me to today. I have found language now to explain my ways of relating to people. I like nebularomantic** but most neurotypical people don’t understand it, and it explains the why but not the how.
For that, I use greyromantic or aromantic. I frankly have such a tenuous grasp on allistic, romantic parameters around relationships, that I’m not even sure which better defines me. I love incredibly deeply, but it all feels more or less the same to me, besides intensity, no matter the focus of that love. Is that no romantic love or is it that i can’t tell the difference? I just don’t know.
I can say that friendship is the dynamic that is the most important to me, the most sacred to me. This has lead to a couple different unfortunate repeating situations.
Friends whom fell in love with me at least in part because of the intensity of my “platonic” love for them, but were then hurt when I was unable to meet their romantic partner needs. I was ultimately also hurt that they didn’t want to be my sacred friend anymore, or at all.
Partners who loved the way I loved people as a friend but needed a solo emotional focus on them to feel held and loved. Something I could never possibly give someone without cutting off all other friendship, because all affection and love feels the same to me, which inevitably leads to both of us feeling alienated and hurt. (this is not about sex, I can and have been successfully monogamous.
Or conversely romantic relationships in which my hazy boundaries between the two relationship types, and their firm binary definition left a muddled hurt on both sides.
A repeat scenario in which I offer someone my love, focused, because I care so much about them, on my friendship, my knowing, embracing, and accepting of their selfhood, and wishing for a deeper more human connection. Which upon receiving, they rejected heartbroken because for them friendship was a consolation prize if romance was the goal.
I honestly still don’t know how to navigate these waters without hurt, so mostly I don’t. I have found my most fulfilling loverships and friendships have been with other autistic people, or those whom at least have a deep understanding of aromantic identities and an anti-hierarchical polyamorous approach to building loves and connection. They may not speak my love language but they can read it, and I theirs.
This has lead to me coming up with some language to explain these deep, intense, but often difficult to define connections between myself and other autistic people.
Autilove- a relationship in which one or both parties are autistic, the nature of the connection is intense but difficult to label, at least in part due to the autistic people’s way of interfacing with other humans, as autistic people, and eschewing or total lack of comprehension of standard relationship model tiers.
Autilover- an autistic friend/lover in which our autistic energy is extremely in synch, we may have a specific, intense emotional connection that defies traditional allistic/romantic relationship definition boundaries and is not easily or accurately defined simply as friend.
Nebulasexual- (this is in part borrowed from nebularomantic which is a blending of labels that is common and accepted in queer culture, as I understand allistic queer culture anyway.) Nebualsexual is when all aspects of one’s sexuality and sexual nature is influenced by their neurodivergency. There are other words for this more or less already, but none so far resonate with me as much as Nebulasexual.
I’m a mother fucking Galaxy.
These days when people ask me about my relationships, I’m at a genuine loss, some people I know are definitely included, but what about my beloved friends? what about the people I only see once a month but feel like coming home? what about the people i talk to online whom I share emotional labor with when we have the spoons?
How do I define these relationships? Do I have to define these relationships? How do we build these connections in ways that are respectful to all parties?
Is it Possible to bridge the gap between Aromantic and Romantic on a personal level?
All I know for sure is that I love you.
and that matters.
*I was by no means a victim, nor am I claiming perfection. I’ve made many mistakes in how I handled interpersonal relationships in my days, and am sure I will make many more no matter how hard I try. I can only hope I keep learning from each mistake.
**definition: being unable to or having a hard time distinguishing romantic attraction from platonic attraction, specifically due to ones neurodivergency. Derived from nebulous, a Latin word for clouded or unclear.
Learn more about aromantic relationships in polyamory via Michon Neal’s many writings and creations, both fictional and real world. Ze is leading the charge in making space for aromantic multiply marginalized people. Ze is someone to pay attention to.