So, I think I've got the whole sexuality thing figured out (because I don't feel any sexual attraction) but I'm a bit uncertain on the romantic thing. What exactly would you say are the difference between romantic love and platonic love, like the kind you'd feel for a queerplatonic partner?
how does romantic attraction feel different than platonic attraction? i keep thinking i’m in love and then think maybe it’s just platonic. i’m fine with switching between the two but my best friend is pissed that i can’t make up my mind so i’m interested in how to know if i’m platonically or romantically attracted to the guy in question. thanks(:
Hello… I didn’t know who to ask but I have difficulty with my sexuality. I think i have romantic feeling towards some people but i can’t tell between that and friendship and I feel like no one is ever going to be attracted to me. Please help. Sorry
When you want a relationship with someone, how do you know if you want a queerplatonic one or a romantic one? I’ve been thinking about romanticism a lot lately, and trying to distinguish romantic feelings from non-romantic ones.
Do you mind telling me how you(whoever saw this ask first) figured out your romantic orientation? I am teetering back and forth between aromantic and panromantic, but I’m not sure if what I’m feeling is romantic attraction or not.
Hi! I’m ace and questioning my romantic orientation. I’ve read the FAQ, but I’m still not sure what romantic attraction is supposed to be like. The problem is that I’ve never been in a relationship and I don’t think I’ve ever felt romantically attracted to anyone. Could you explain to me what it feels like to you? I found that the explanations of sexual attraction in the FAQ really helped me realize that I was ace, so maybe hearing how someone else experiences romantic attraction will help too.
If you can’t tell from the many questions above, this is one of our most commonly asked questions over the past year… so I’m going to try and tackle this in one fell swoop before adding it to our FAQ. (Please note - everything I’m about to say from here on out is just the opinion of one moderator. This isn’t intended to be a be-all, end-all example, but one person’s attempt at exploring and explaining a fairly complex topic.)
Let me start by saying that I completely understand how complicated and confusing this issue can be. Before my partner and I started dating, we had been friends for many many many years - it was only after a lot of discussion that I realized that what I had been attributing as platonic attraction was actually romantic attraction. Nowadays, I’ve been able to distinguish between the two better as a result, but it took a lot of time and thought on my part.
Why is this? This is just my personal opinion, but (and please keep in mind that I speak from a very Western-centric perspective, specifically one centered in the United States), a strong amount of emphasis is put on heteronormativity and amatonormativity. There are whole movies out there that try to tell us that men and women can’t be friends (When Harry Met Sally) and a distinct lack of movies that show the kind of strong affection one can have for their friends. We are conditioned by society to believe that we can only feel such strong feelings for someone that we are romantically attracted to, when that is absolutely not true. But how can we then tell them apart?
Unfortunately, there is no cut and dry way to distinguish between romantic attraction and platonic attraction, because what constitutes as “romantic” is different for everyone. Just like what counts as “sexual” and “sexual attraction” differs for some people, romantic attraction - and platonic attraction - can vary wildly.
One of the greatest commonalities between romantic and platonic attraction is a desire to spend time with someone, to be around them, to be a part of their life and vice versa. On the surface, a lot of romantic and platonic relationships do look very similar, particularly within a community such as the asexual community where romantic relationships often do not have a sexual component which is frequently used to “indicate” a romantic relationship.
So how do you know which you’re feeling, then? My personal advice is to think about what a romantic relationship looks like to you. Ignoring what society tells you romance should be or should feel like… what do you imagine romance to be? Is it long walks on the beach? Is it candlelight dinners? Is it buying a house together? Raising a pet? Raising children? Sending handwritten letters? Cuddling on a couch in front of a fire? Spending every weekend together? Talking on the phone every night before bed and every morning before work? Is it learning new skills together? Taking long trips to new places? Eating new food? Going out dancing late at night? Visiting a kink club?
The point is that any and all of these things can be romantic or they can be platonic. What differs is the intention you place on them. To me, only some of those might be romantic - to others, they might choose different things. And these are only a few examples I thought of off the top of my head - there are millions and millions more to be thought of.
Once you figure out what romance means to you, it becomes easier to distinguish between romantic and platonic attraction - and sometimes, they might overlap, and that is okay. I still very frequently feel platonic attraction towards my partner, and sometimes I have weird moments of romantic attraction towards my queerplatonic partner. But once you can separate them out for yourself, it becomes easier to say “you know, this is what romantic attraction feels like to me.”
So how does it manifest? Well, I may not have experienced sexual attraction, but from the descriptions people have given of how it feels, romantic attraction occurs somewhat similarly. So here is what I can tell you.
Romantic attraction is a pull to be with someone in a romantic sense. It is an unexpected and illogical reaction that has no identifiable trigger except for their presence - or even the thought of them. It may have physiological components involving heart racing, palms sweating, “butterflies” in the stomach, blushing. It may trigger thoughts of being in romantic situations with that specific person, in the immediate or long term future.
Similarly, platonic attraction is a pull to be with someone in a platonic way. It is an unexpected and sometimes illogical reaction that has no identifiable trigger except for their presence - or even the thought of them. It is a strong feeling of admiration, wanting to spend time with them, wanting to get to know them and be around them. It may trigger thoughts of spending time together in specific platonic situations, in the immediate or long term future.
Honestly, if they sound very similar, it’s because they are. I tried to make them sound as different as possible while still remaining generic enough to apply to anyone’s life, but the more generic you get, the harder it is to determine the difference, which is why I strongly suggest that anyone who is unsure or questioning take the time to sit down and really think about what romance means to them and for their personal life. The harder that task is, to decide what romance means, the more it may be a sign of aromanticism and not experiencing romantic attraction.
Finally, let me give you several distinct examples from my own life, using my own experiences of romantic and platonic attraction. As a disclaimer, both my “versions” of romantic and platonic attraction involve components of aesthetic and sensual attraction.
Before I started dating my partner, I had crushes on a variety of people, and went on several dates. Towards them, I would often find myself feeling romantic attraction from very early on, before I even really knew them. I would see them and immediately get caught up in imagining what it would be like to not only get to know them, but to date them, to spend time with them one on one, to do some “traditionally” romantically coded activities, to interact with them sensually such as romantic hugging, cuddling, hand holding and kissing. Spending time with them often left me feeling flustered, nervous, shy, bashful, and yet also giddy, silly, and excitable. Learning new things about them would get me excited and enthusiastic and add new things to daydream about. Just thinking about spending time with them would give me butterflies, and I’d find myself craving spending time with them again in the future.
I’m currently dating my partner whom I have known for fourteen, going on fifteen years. We met long before either of us went through puberty, and our relationship developed initially, as I said before, as a strictly platonic one. The romantic attraction I feel towards her is in some ways similar to what I described above, but it is also different simply due to the sheer amount of time our relationship is built on. We also spent a significant amount of that time in a long distance relationship. My romantic attraction towards her often involved wishing I could be with her in person. I would - and do- daydream frequently about a future spent with her, what day-to-day life will be like. I dream about an ideal future together, and ways to accomplish it. I crave physical contact with her, and am constantly hoping to impress her, to “earn” her approval, to make her smile or laugh. We have a very clear set of boundaries in our relationship and a great deal of communication that has gone into it, regarding what sorts of physical affection we are and are not comfortable with, yet my romantic attraction towards her means that I will occasionally daydream about things that will never actually happen - such as kissing. This is okay, however, because it is fantasy and I have no expectation that it will actually happen, and I am happy to respect her boundaries, just as she respects mine. Being around her still gives me butterflies, and I find myself constantly looking around when she’s nearby just to see her, and it never fails to make me smile. While I still like to do things on my own, I like to daydream about doing them with her even more.
I’ve known my best friend, whom I feel strictly platonically towards, for slightly less time - approximately eleven, going on twelve years. I am extremely close to her, but our relationship is dramatically different. I imagine what our friendship will be like in the future, but I do not feel the same desire for day-to-day closeness. I celebrate her successes as much as my own, and I always want to make her happy. I strongly associate certain songs, activities, movies, TV shows, and other such things with her and with our friendship. I love talking to her but I do not feel nearly as bereft when a more extended period of time passes without talking, because our lives are not as closely twined nor do we need or desire them to be. I always want to visit her and see her, but I am more content over longer periods of time to satisfy those feelings with things such as talking on the phone, video chatting, texting, instant messaging, and other forms of communication. While I am very comfortable around her physically and love physical contact with her, the instances in which I desire specific forms of phsyical affection are much less common, and usually only extend to wishing I could give her a hug during difficult times or because it is specifically associated with a particular activity, such as hanging out playing games curled up on her couch - not for the physical contact alone.
My queerplatonic partner, I have known for five years, going on six, and feel primarily platonic attraction towards, with much more mild and infrequent romantic attraction vaguely involved. I want to spend time with her in person much more frequently, but am not as bothered when our schedules do not allow it. I want to talk to her frequently and find it odd when we do not. I find myself wishing she was around more frequently, and occasionally experience a lower amount of sensual attraction involving wanting to do more physical touching but never in what I would consider a romantic way. I want to see her more frequently than my other friends, and it makes me indescribably happy to have reminders of her friendship with my partner. I find myself daydreaming about the ways in which our futures will coincide, and I frequently imagine ways in which her life will more directly intertwine with that of mine and my partner’s, while still remaining separate.
There are no specific lines between the three specific relationships described above. All three of them have aspects in common, and there is nothing that specifically makes one platonic, one queerplatonic, and one romantic other than my relationship with the way I feel about each of them, and how they also feel about the relationship, and what they want out of it.
It’s confusing, but give it time, and be willing to challenge your own perceptions of what you feel, and know that whatever you feel, there is no one “right” way to feel, nor is one “better” than the others. All forms of love are important. And not feeling one form of attraction in no way means that you are missing anything, because who you are is wonderful.