hey! that’s a very subjective (but interesting!) question, and this might get a bit long winded but i’ll do my best to explain how it was for me c:
Trying to fit into the regular mold most of society slotted into just gave me horrendous bouts of anxiety and made me lose a lot of sleep while growing up. It also meant I’d go into overdrive in relationships, trying to make up for whatever it was I was so inherently lacking. Safe to say that was a bad move and it only ever lead to bad outcomes ;;;;
Essentially: it took a whole lot of sitting down and brooding, along with seeking out some help/advice from friends somewhere on that area of the spectrum as well. After discussing some things about patterns/ways I was attracted (or in this case, lacked attraction) to people, and compared it to how some of my friends felt, I found a bunch of similarities and went from there.
One thing I’d always noticed was: when it came to affectionate gestures/intimacy IRL, I would be struck down by a wave of dread. Not just oh I’m nervous what if blah blah blah nerves, but oh my god I don't wanna do this I just want to be friends why cant I hold their hand in a FRIEND way and be close to them PLATONICALLY without them assuming I want in their pants or to make out with them.
For the longest time i associated with being demisexual/romantic but even then I still didn’t tend to develop any feelings past platonic intimacy. I’d had squishes on and off, but if somebody approached me with the offer of a relationship that went further and was more involved, I’d panic because oh no what will I do, how can I backtrack, they’ll figure out that I’m faulty if they try to be close to me in THAT way, I don’t react/want the same things most people do, crap.
my other issue was: I’m very close and hands-on with my friends. I like being close to people, I enjoy company, and I can be affectionate. It’s just always on friendly grounds, and less on “I need cuddles w/ my partner ASAP i need intimacy/their body against mine”. So I’d ask: why can I be so close and comfy with my friends, but if it’s a relationship, I tense up and spook?
Eventually, I tumbled into the idea that maybe I was gray-romantic. After that, and some extra help from friends who had been in similar situations, I settled on being somewhere between gray and aro, but found it easier to say I was aromantic instead of having to explain how rarely I experience romantic attraction. Same goes for the sexual aspect ;;; (also please PLEASE never think that because you enjoy reading romance or smut, it means you have to actively want it IRL, I’ve been told that so many times and it’s not true)
what’s really important is having people around who are patient, understanding and willing to work within your comfort zone. If you’re clear about what you’re up for/comfortable with, the other person should be respectful and understand.
Maybe you’ll find somebody who you’re willing to explore things with; or feel comfortable engaging with sexually/romantically (again, important to discuss with them what you’re up for and what your boundaries/limits are). Or maybe you’ll be happy in a QP relationship. OR you may have squishes and that’s as far as your desire to be close to somebody goes. All of those feelings are valid and absolutely okay to have!
All that matters is being clear with the person(s) involved and not being ashamed of who you are. Don’t force yourself to feel things that aren’t there, or to participate in things like sex or romance if it does nothing for you and only serves to make you uncomfortable simply because it’s expected of you. Love is a very broad term and it can carry many meanings and whatever you have toward friends and cherished ones is just as valid as anybody else.