We need to start talking about the harm aromantics and greyros are enduring in the name of ‘love’
Love is all we need, as the famous song goes, but society only ever focuses on one kind of love – romantic love. Our TV shows, our music, our films, even our own personal dramas are dominated by who is romantically in love with whom. Some kinds of love are more equal than others.
We’re supposed to romantically love one person at a time. Terrific concept. Make sure all the men get paired off, as according to The Economist, that stops wars. You know, nothing to do with toxic masculinity, poverty and the pernicious influence of the West but wars are caused by women who aren’t in romantic monogamous relationships with young men. Hell, even my favourite fantasy show says all we really need is one person who truly loves us (thanks, Lost). The problem is I never understood the limit was supposed to be one, or that love was valued only if it was romantic.
“Some kinds of love are more equal than others”
Yet, it’s the only way people ever seem to think of love. Maybe I am just fucked up in my head to be fighting off a panic attack for the umpteenth time as a friend has told me I will find love, I deserve love and I’ll be so much happier when I find it. The words feel like they’re forcing something on my identity. Something insidious and something I absolutely have never looked for. I don’t know why everyone thinks they know me better than I do but yet again I’m being bombarded with messages about how I’m just in denial, how I’m guarded, how I’m lying to myself and deep down my friends know what I truly want. They want me to live out what they think is the perfect match because I can’t be trusted with my own life. It feels every bit as violating as when I was 19, hammered and some guy shoved his hand up my dress in a crowded bar.
Being greyromantic is having to endure people killing you with kindness but it is still verbal violence no matter how nice it’s dressed up. I’ve asked that such nonsensical statements aren’t said in relation to me. I’ve asked not to have the ideals of love thrown at me, but still this boundary is ignored. From being a kid I’ve felt all wrong for not wanting a wild romantic story or to settle with anyone just because of feelings. It’s not that I look at relationships like the stock markets but that I rarely feel romantic love – however, everyone is always watching and waiting for me to. It’s funny because the people who go on the most about the virtues of romantic relationships and try to coerce me into wanting them are in the most toxic relationships themselves, often with elements of emotional abuse. If I wasn’t greyro, I still wouldn’t want to be them.
But everyone keeps telling me I’ll find the right one, that they’ll fix whatever is broken inside of me but honestly at this point I think if I buried my heart in the garden even the dogs wouldn’t dig it up. I’m sick of feeling that I’m not whole or that I’m not healthy. I’m sick of feeling like a freak because I don’t want relationships in the way everyone else seems to want to.
“I’m sick of feeling that I’m not whole or that I’m not healthy”
I do have numerous bad qualities. I’m obnoxious, my guard goes up so quickly everyone thinks I’m arrogant but actually I’m so nervous it makes me distant and stops me forming new friendships a lot of the time. I don’t suffer fools – well, at all. I’m impulsive and I’m stubborn as hell. I know there’s a hell of a lot more people who hate me than love me. Yet, I’m also loyal, devoted, I put the people in my life people before me – always – and I am more concerned with their happiness than I ever am my own. I think I am a better person than any of the dozens of bullies I’ve come across but I don’t think I’m special. That’s the point. I’m just as normal as anyone else. I shouldn’t be spoken about like I need fixing. I do not need someone to save me. Yet, still people tilt their heads, pat my arm and tell me I’ll find someone soon in the same way a nurse comforts someone throwing their guts up with food poisoning.
Biphobia is still an issue but most people in my life are happy to indulge my bisexual antics so long as they think it means I’ll settle down later on in the way they want (which is most definitely in a monogamous romantic relationship). My relationships have been valid and varied. But now there’s dread that comes with any attachment or meeting anyone new. I flinch at the thought of closeness. I wait for it to be my fault for being cheated on because I wasn’t loving enough. I wait to be the failure that depresses anyone with me because I’m just not right. I need someone to make me better because I’m just never enough and then when they can’t fix who I am, the blame starts.
Somehow it’s perfectly normal in society to try and force people to be in relationships they don’t want. Do you know how many greyro and aro (as well as ace and demi) people force themselves into relationships just because everyone else expects it? It’s degrading and crushing. The pressure is applied as soon as life starts. Parents dream about weddings, kids even act out those fantasies in the playground (sorry to the two guys I married behind each other’s backs one break time, should have known then I was also poly) and every on conversation on relationships focuses on two things only: romanticism and sexuality. These are only ever talked about in terms of heteroromanticism and heterosexuality, although there is increased awareness of being gay. There is little talk about the respect, intimacy or the mutual work that is needed to make a relationship even work. We make ideals and then try to make everyone fit around them rather than try to have conversations that include all people. The result is people growing up feeling utterly broken and not knowing how to navigate through a world that tells them they’re damned if they don’t have a relationship and despicable if they try to because they’re just so fucked up their existence will hurt anyone they’re with.
“Do you know how many greyro and aro (as well as ace and demi) people force themselves into relationships just because everyone else expects it?”
Maligning aro and ace people shouldn’t be the norm. Behaviour that violates people’s boundaries may seem nice to those not on the receiving end, but aro people are paying the price for people needing to feel great about love. Maybe the obsession with love is a way to mask insecurities – I don’t know. But the consequences of talking over aro people is isolation, depression and anxiety. To the world though, people who don’t experience romantic attraction are dangerous or something to be pitied. Yet, all aro people want is to be able to live without harm. Millennials are often thought of as the liberal generation. We’re the ones smashing through old attitudes about relationships. Let’s really try to do that then.