What To Know About Being Grayromantic

Love is all you need, right? Well, not so fast. Catching feelings isn't so simple for everyone. Society would have us believe that butterflies-in-your-chest love is universal, thanks to dramatic pop ballads and cheesy rom-coms. But some people, called aromantics, don't experience romantic attraction this way (via WebMD). In fact, they rarely feel romantic love at all.

Others do feel romantic attraction and develop crushes and love interests, yet they don't experience them to the degree that social norms might dictate, landing them somewhere between aromantics and alloromantics (people who, according to AUREA, regularly experience romantic attraction). These individuals in the middle are sometimes given the label "grayromantic."

In a world obsessed with romance and finding the elusive soulmate, grayromantics can stick out and may be misunderstood for their preferences. But what exactly does grayromanticism look like, and how can you tell if you're grayromantic? Here's what you need to know.

What does it mean to be grayromantic?

The grayromantic orientation is not quite aromantic and not quite alloromantic, so what is it exactly? According to The Asexual Visibility & Education Network, grayromanticism can involve experiencing infrequent romantic attraction, experiencing romantic attraction but remaining uninterested in romantic relationships, or desiring a non-romantic relationship that is more intimate than friendship. Grayromantics may still find others attractive, without wanting a committed relationship with them. One Reddit user summed it up by saying, "It's like the difference between thinking 'oh hey, that girl's pretty' and 'oh hey, I want to go on a date with that girl.'"

The term "grayromantic" has existed since at least 2010 when it appeared on an online forum run by The Asexuality & Education Network, and since then the concept of grayromanticism has slowly gained mainstream popularity. Like graysexuality, which describes people who experience only infrequent or low-intensity sexual attraction, the grayromantic label suits those who experience romantic attraction to a lesser degree (via Healthline). As a result, many grayromantics don't identify with society's expectations for romantic relationships or marriage.

However, that doesn't mean that grayromantics evade romantic relationships entirely. In an essay on her website Formidable Femme, sexuality writer Sarah Brynn, who identifies as grayromantic, explained, "I don't ever desire to be in a romantic partnership when I'm single. I don't even seek them out. They just happen, which usually evolves from something I've intended to keep casual and nonromantic."

The different shades of grayromanticism

Being grayromantic can look and feel differently to different people. For example, some people may identify as both grayromantic and demiromantic, a type of grayromanticism where romantic attraction only occurs after developing an emotional connection, per The Asexual Visibility & Education Network. And in a discussion on Reddit, grayromantics reported experiencing romantic attraction in a variety of ways. Some have only experienced romantic attraction once or twice, while others feel it every few years.

Some Redditors also say they experience mild romantic attraction that is hard to distinguish from other "fuzzy" feelings. This is also true for YouTuber Candyde, who identifies as grayromantic. They describe experiencing frequent crushes and infatuation, though the attraction they feel is unlike the head-over-heels love that many alloromantics experience.

It's worth noting that romantic attraction and sexual attraction are two types of attraction that exist separately. Grayromantics can experience sexual attraction, unless they identify as asexual, per LGBTQ and ALL. In fact, they may even be sexually attracted to people who they don't feel any romantic attraction for, in what is sometimes referred to as "mixed-orientation" or "cross-orientation."

It's okay to be gray

A lack of intense or frequent romantic attraction is just as valid as having romantic feelings often, or not at all. Identifying as grayromantic can bring a sense of relief to those who never related to society's expectations of romantic relationships. As Sarah Brynn wrote in her essay on Formidable Femme, "... for so long, I've been trying to fit into a premade, compulsory model of attraction that didn't match my needs. Having the language to understand myself better is quite literally life-changing and makes me feel like I'm not cracked around the edges."

Sex therapist Claudia Johnson also tells Cosmopolitan that while grayromantics may feel left out from popular discourse on love and relationships, there's no need to try to fit the mold. "Nothing is wrong with you, you're not broken," she explains, "and what a frickin' treat it is to know that something doesn't resonate with you and that's not part of what feels good."