I'm not aro or ace. But there is absolutely a third category of relationship in my life, in addition to partnership and friendship. I've been calling it "partner-level friends" or "my [name]" because I didn't have a word for it. And now I do. Wow. I haven't felt this seen since I read the relationship anarchy manifesto. (Which is very relevant.)
While discussing this with a friend, he asked how "romantic" was being defined, since both "aromantic" and "platonic" were being defined in opposition to it, and I realized I didn't have a good answer. (Merriam-Webster doesn't either. Their definition of "romantic" points to "romance", which points to "love affair", which points back to "romantic".) After some discussion on Twitter, numbathyal pointed me to this piece by a possible aromantic who asked a romantic to define romance. The definition that came out of their conversation was: "Romance is a natural high that occurs in the presence of certain people, without obvious connection to sexuality, 'good company', or emotional intimacy." That jibes pretty well with my experience, which I described as follows:
When I look at people I'm in love with, my body responds. My heart swells—that's literally a feeling I get in my chest, not a metaphor. My heart rate goes up and I feel a little breathless. My pupils probably dilate. I want to be physically touching the person in some way. I'm SUPER touchy-feely with X and J. Constant small touches as I walk past them. Always sitting as near as I can get.Some of the useful links that came up in conversation (h/t tgstonebutch and numbathyal):
When I look at people I'm in QP relationships with, I have a different set of reactions. Hardly any physical reaction at all. I do like hugging them, but I don't feel the same urge to be in contact. I get much more of a squee reaction. My brain lights up. It's still something I would call chemistry, but a different kind of chemical reaction.
Things romantic and QP relationships have in common for me: I feel a profound sense of safety. I can relax around the person. I say "I love you" and it's never by rote. I want regular communication of some sort. I feel more myself in the person's company.
All of this is shaped by my tendency toward feeling very definitely like I "click" with certain people. Often upon meeting them. A little alert box pops up that says "You and this person could have something amazing together! Pursue it!". I can tell you the exact moment that happened with both X and J, and with all four of my QP people. So I don't know what "romantic" looks like for people who don't have that zing or sniff test or instalove or whatever you want to call it. I spent literal months knowing I was going to fall in love with J and waiting for it to happen. Had to WD40 the "in love" switch. But it finally flipped hard and has never flipped back. <3
This is also not what my romantic relationships looked like when I was in my teens or 20s. Much healthier now. :) Twenty years ago, desperate longing to be loved and valued was part and parcel of romance for me. Now I love myself.
Sexuality and romance as pet elephants that are invisible to ace and aro people
Limerence and "platonic attraction"
How to write about queerplatonic relationships in fiction (lots and lots of useful links there)
Various concepts of greyromanticism
I was amused to choose "oblivious" as the userpic keyword and have this userpic come up, because at first it seemed totally inappropriate for a post discussing nonsexual relationships. In its original context (Sluggy Freelance, if anyone remembers it), it's being said by a guy who is very into topless women and sad that he missed a chance to ogle some. But I've always used it because I am genuinely the sort of person to not really notice that an attractive woman is topless, because we're too busy talking about other things and connecting on other levels. So maybe it's appropriate after all.