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When You're Just Not Interested in Romantic Love

A vivid memory of mine entails sitting in front of the television as a child, watching a Disney movie for the thousandth time, and finding the same question flit across my mind: Why do the princesses want romance so much?

Of course, in those moments, it was merely a fleeting thought; I didn’t quite take the time to think about why the thought of “finding a prince” was so foreign and discomforting to me. As I grew up, I was often faced with the same questions, but I kept them to myself. Again and again, I assured myself that one day, I’d understand. I just needed time.

“Truth or dare” games in elementary and middle school often presented me with an unusual dilemma: everyone seemed to have a “crush.” If I said I didn’t, I was “lying.” If I said I did, I truly was. And yet, since it seemed so common to want to find romance, I told myself the same thing I did as a young child: one day, I’ll understand. I’m just a late bloomer. For the time being, I would simply lie: I’d tell my friends the names of random boys in my class I “liked,” despite never having felt anything toward them, all while telling myself the same, tired thing: one day, these lies I’m telling will be real and I’ll finally be “normal.”

In high school, every story my friends told me of their dating life left me feeling, to some extent, terribly isolated — not because I wanted a significant other, but because I so desperately did not. It was at this point I started thinking something must be wrong with me. By senior year, I had never had a “crush” — on a girl or a boy. I’d never even come close to understanding romance; every time someone told me I just need to “wait” — that one day I’d find the “right person” — I felt myself feeling more and more broken. What if I didn’t want to find the “right person?” What if I was happy being single? But that answer never seemed to satisfy anyone.

The truth is, we live in an incredibly romance (and sex) oriented society. While we dote on children’s mini-crushes with classmates, the thought of a 20-year-old woman (or man) not wanting love or sex is indicative of a deeper mental health issue or something they’ll “grow out of.” No matter how many times I’ve been told I’m experiencing a “phase,” one thing remains certain: I’ve never grown out of it. Though I do enjoy listening to my friends’ stories of their love lives, watching Disney-like movies with romance and reading novels with love stories, there is always that part of me that doesn’t understand how romance and sex is considered appealing.

By the time I was a freshman in college, I was convinced that something was wrong with me. As someone who has grown up with major depressive disorder and anxiety, I began to wonder if my lack of interest in romance and sex had to do with my mental health. Perhaps, I thought, if I force myself into those situations, I’ll learn to like them. After all, everyone else seems to; I just need a little push.

I spent a year or so stepping out of my comfort zone and flirting with both guys and girls. Every time, regardless of the person, it ended with massive discomfort on my part and an abrupt cutting off ties entirely. I feel into deeper and deeper conflict with myself: what was wrong with me?

Near the end of my freshmen year, I decided to commit to having sex with a guy who had expressed interest in me. I told myself I’d do it, get it over with and never think about it again. It was essentially like checking boxes off a chore list — you don’t really want to do it, but you think you have to. It was then that my close friend asked me a question that completely changed my thinking: “Are you doing this because you truly like him, or because you feel you need to?”

We both knew what the answer was.

Later that year, another friend of mine introduced me to the terms “asexuality” and “aromanticism,” which, respectively, correlate to a lack of sexual and romantic attraction (though it is important to keep in mind there is a spectrum involved). Finding those words took an invisible weight of a thousand pounds off my shoulders. I had always considered myself just not very good at being “straight,” but finally having a word — finally knowing that other people felt the way I do — made me feel less broken.

That being said, I still struggle to accept myself. Hearing some people say that “asexuality” and “aromanticism” doesn’t exist ignites a deep-seated worry in me that maybe I really am just abnormal. The nagging voice in the back of my head still attempts to convince me that it’s all a result of my struggle with mental illness. But it’s in those moments I have to step back and understand that I’m happier staying true to myself than I am bending to what people think is “normal” and forcing myself into situations I don’t like. I have to remind myself that my lack of interest in these things isn’t because of my mental health or some repressed issue, but simply because this is who I am. No matter how many diagnoses some people will want to throw around, or how many people (including even myself) will claim that it’s all part of a larger issue, I will constantly remind myself to stay true to me. Because if I don’t, I’ve failed myself.

Don’t get me wrong: I do like romance, but when it has to do with other people. I love meeting my friends’ significant others and hearing about their love lives. I can’t wait to attend my friends’ weddings in the future. I will always love those things. But when it comes to me, something is different.

Perhaps, one day, I’ll find someone who has similar feelings and who I’ll bond with. Perhaps not. What matters most to me is being me and realizing that not having a significant other doesn’t mean I’m “alone,” because I have so many other relationships that I treasure with all of my being. Just because the relationships I personally value aren’t based on romance or sex doesn’t mean they’re “less,” and just because I don’t want those things doesn’t mean I’m “less.”

I will always sway in my confidence of who I am and what I want, and there will always be those who perceive me as “missing out” on something, but it’s in those moments of doubt that reminding myself there is no “normal” and that I’m happy staying true to myself is more important than ever.

And when I’m asked why I don’t have a significant other, I’ll always stick with the simplest response I can: that’s not me.

Getty image via petrborn