(oh look, I wrote something, who knew that would ever happen again?)
For the last few months, the idea of what my relationship is with “romance” has been on my mind, and in thinking about it a lot this summer, here’s what I’ve come up with about my (current) romantic orientation “label”.
I have now drifted into calling myself “quoiromantic” while previously I had been more inclined to go with “aromantic.” Aromantic might still in some sense be correct since I personally in real life have no interest in or desire for a personal romantic relationship, but what I want to focus on now is my understanding of relationships in general.
First of all, I have yet to actually understand what “romantic” is, how romantic love and relationships are defined against any and all other loves and relationships. And I’ve tried. I’ve done lots of mental gymnastics over the years and still I’ve got nothing except vague notions that seem to be taken for granted as universally understood, though they are certainly not and come packaged in all sorts of other social constructions that are just as deserving of deconstruction.
So, my thing is, I love relationships that are deeply intimate and based on mutual respect, trust, attraction (broadly defined), desire (also broadly defined), and intense empathy—seeing the partner experiencing joy brings joy to themselves, and the same is true for pain, sorrow, disappointment, excitement, etc. I love those relationships where they are so comfortable with each other that they just naturally share everything with each other without even thinking about it, where they feel so strongly for each other that they would do anything for each other, where they don’t even need to say anything because just being close to each other carries significance and its own language. That kind of intimacy—knowing each other like they know themselves, being the only ones who see each other’s every face, communicating openly and honestly and consistently, being the one each other relies on to be a better version of themselves, feeling like they would lose a part of their own soul if they lost the other—it seems like such a powerful, beautiful thing.*
But it’s not inherently “romantic”—not in my eyes.
To me, that kind of relationship can exist without “romantic” love (whatever that is) and certainly without anything having to do with sex.
Not meaning to get on religious terms here, but that kind of relationship has a more “spiritual” vibe to it, in the sense that it encompasses the heart and soul and mind and very identity of the people involved, and “romantic” and/or sexual dimensions don’t add or change the main dynamic of the relationship—that deeply ingrained intimacy. I’m not saying that romantic and/or sexual dimensions are bad, I’m saying that to me, having them doesn’t make the relationship any better or more loving or more intimate. To me, there’s nothing more intimate that that emotional intimacy of trust and respect and desire to just be together, so when I see that existing between two people, that feels like the climax, the ultimate height of their powerful bond, and I don’t interpret it as meaning that they are obviously romantically and/or sexually attracted to each other, or that that is the foundation leading to them becoming romantic and/or sexual.
I get the feeling that for a lot of people, when they are watching two people develop as a couple, they are waiting for that first kiss or that first declaration of “I love you” as a climactic moment, a milestone in the relationship. Again, I’m not saying those can’t be important or meaningful, but I am saying that for me, my focus is elsewhere: for me, the most climactic milestones are those moments when they first realize that they want to open up and share something with the other person that they’ve never told anyone else before, or they realize that because of their trust in this one other person they feel free to be a better person, or they realize that they don’t need to say anything in a particular moment because just by being together they can exchange powerful messages of love. Those moments carry so much more meaning for me than kissing or hand-holding or declarations of love. Those are the times when I know that they have a deeply intimate bond that is unique when compared to the bonds they have with anyone else in their lives. Those are the moments when I know they love each other deeply more than anyone else. Romantic and/or sexual stuff doesn’t do that for me so I don’t find it fulfilling or satisfying. I’m not “anti” those things (though of course as a sex-repulsed asexual I personally avoid sex stuff like the plague) but because I’m mired is a romance/sex-obsessed culture, I feel so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of romance/sex material both in canon and fandom that it just annoys me. If there was an actual balance of interest in diverse types of relationships then it wouldn’t be so bad, but if you look around you get the impression that the only kind of relationships anyone cares about or that are worth anything are romantic/sexual ones: if a relationship isn’t romantic and/or sexual, then it isn’t worth exploring.
But for me, even if a couple is romantic, I’m much more interested in exploring their intimacy and everything that goes into their relationship besides the romance (though again this is a tricky thing to say since again I don’t actually know what defines romance, but I say it this way because the things I’m interested in can exist in any relationship whether romantic or not so I’m going with the assumption that what I’m interested in isn’t what defines romance). And when I see a couple that is supposed to be romantic but I don’t see the kind of intimacy that makes a relationship attractive to me, then the couple doesn’t actually seem loving and so doesn’t interest/convince me.
I’ve heard the phrase come up several times in several different anime that I’ve watched lately “the most important person”/“taisetsu no mono” and I get the feeling that most people interpret this to mean the person the character in question has romantic feelings for. I don’t know if that is actually the connotation the Japanese is meant to have, but to me, this is not inherently romantic—for me, the most important person is my mom, and I definitely don’t have romantic feelings for her. I’ve seen characters who, for them, the most important person is their sibling (and without the sibling-romance thing going on). For others it’s their child. So my guess is that it doesn’t have an inherent romantic connotation in Japanese, either. I’m not saying it can’t or that the most important person can’t be the romantic love interest/partner, but again, it seems that whenever possible this gets interpreted as romantic and a sign that AHA these two are officially canon romantic! And that’s just not how my mind works. I basically have to be blatantly hit over the head with clear, explicit evidence in order to interpret two people as romantic because I don’t look for it otherwise. I don’t examine every scene looking for fodder for a romantic interpretation.
If the creators want me to believe two people love each other, they have to really make me believe it—and most of the time I just don’t believe the emotional journeys people go on that lead them to fall in love, probably because the things that happen between the two characters wouldn’t be nearly enough for me to fall in love with someone, so to my mind it seems forced and unrealistic even if it might actually be what does lead other people to fall in love. (Case in point, I despise love-hate relationships: I cannot understand falling/being in love with someone who annoys you or who you get angry at all the time or who is rude and callous toward you, but apparently this is a common thing??)
So, because I feel like such an outsider who can’t understand this mindset of looking for romance in any and every interaction, I’m going with the idea that I’m quoiromantic: the idea of romance does not compute for me and I find it irrelevant in my own interests regarding relationships and the dynamics between characters. For me to interpret characters as romantically involved, there basically needs to be a big flashing neon sign pointing at them saying “These are a romantic couple!!!” because otherwise all I’m doing is watching them and interpreting their level of intimacy based on the way they communicate, the level of trust and respect they have for each other, and whether they show a shared desire to be around each other and get to know each other at a uniquely deep level. I’m not repulsed by romance the way I am by sex, but personally I don’t find it an important or interesting aspect of intimate relationships so I don’t think about it, I don’t look for it, I get annoyed by how supersaturated culture is with it, and I purposely leave it out of most of my own fiction that I write for my own enjoyment.
*I don’t mean to say that they aren’t “whole” people without each other, as if they are each other’s half, more like they are supports for each other and that they have invested great portions of themselves into each other so that they are closely linked. I understand not liking the idea that you need another person to be whole or to live, but I also think there’s something beautiful in feeling like there is this one person in all the world who really really knows you and appreciates you and loves you and every little aspect about you.
**I say/focus on ONE person and on this kind of unique bond because as an introvert I like to limit the amount of relationships I have in general, so while I certainly agree that no type of love is or should be “more important” than any other and that there shouldn’t be a hierarchical conception of love, personally speaking I would only want one person to feel that intimate with otherwise I’d feel too stretched out.