Heterosexual Vs. Heteroromantic: What's The Difference, And Which Resonates With You?

Have you ever seen a person and immediately felt a very strong sexual attraction to them, only to realize that you don't really want to have a relationship? What did you do? Well, there are two ways you can react to this scenario. First, you can ignore the strong urges because of romantic incompatibility and part ways. Or, since the sexual chemistry is there, you may simply decide to keep it strictly physical and search for a romantic partner somewhere else.

You may also have experienced the opposite scenario. Suppose you find a perfect partner — you are fully compatible, love spending time with each other, and dream of sharing your future. But the problem is, while you may have deep romantic feelings for this person, having sex with them is actually the last thing on your mind!

Many times, feelings of sexual attraction and romantic attraction coincide. But they might not always overlap. Romantic and sexual attraction are just two of the many different types of attraction people can feel (via Very Well Mind). With romantic attraction, you seek to create a deeper bond, experience emotional security and may envision a future together. But with sexual attraction, you just want to get busy between the sheets. If the same partner brings out both in you, great! But, sometimes, that may not be the case.

Difference between a romantic orientation and a sexual orientation

There is a distinct difference between romantic and sexual orientation. Romantic orientation refers to the gender a person falls in love with (via The Asexual Visibility and Orientation Network). Types of romantic orientation include heteroromantic (seeking romantic relationships with the opposite gender), homoromantic (seeking romantic relationships with the same gender), biromantic (being romantically oriented towards people of the same and opposite gender), panromantic (being romantically attracted to people irrespective of sex and gender) and aromantic (not feeling any romantic attraction).

Sexual orientation refers to the gender a person feels sexually attracted to. Types of sexual orientation include (but are not limited to) heterosexual (sexually attracted to people of the opposite gender), homosexual (sexually attracted to people of the same gender), bisexual (sexually attracted to people of both genders), asexual (not sexually attracted), demisexual (only sexually attracted to people they have a strong emotional bond with regardless of gender), allosexual and pansexual (where sexual attractions are not limited in the confines of sex or gender binary). However, which factors determine a person's sexual and romantic orientation?

Factors influencing one's sexual and romantic orientation

When it comes to sexual and romantic orientation, several factors come into play. There is a clear consensus among scientists that biological, hormonal, environmental, and emotional factors can all contribute to orientation (via WebMD).

While there is no "gay gene" that will determine a person's sexual orientation, hormones and biology play a pivotal role. An article published in Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology suggests that levels of hormones like androgen and estrogen may influence sexual orientation. Moreover, according to the Karolinska Institute, brain activities and brain structure vary between people of different sexual orientations. Environmental factors, including prenatal exposure to stress and hormones, may also impact sexual orientations.

Ultimately, while multiple factors influence a person's sexual and romantic orientation, and a person's desire styles, it is important to understand which romantic and which sexual orientation best resonates with you, to lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

Heteroromantic vs. heterosexual

Heteroromantic is when a person feels romantically attracted to people of the opposite gender. For example, women who want to form a romantic relationship with men (or vice versa) may identify as heteroromantic. However, being heteroromantic does not necessarily mean that a person is also heterosexual. Some people might want to be in a relationship with someone of the opposite gender, but still feel sexual attraction to people of the same gender.

Heterosexual is when a person feels sexual attraction toward people of the opposite gender. For example, if you are a woman and want to get intimate with a man, you may feel sexual attraction, but not necessarily envision spending your life with them. Some people who identify as heterosexual might find it difficult to emotionally connect and bond with a person of the opposite gender and prefer to form a relationship with a person of the same gender.

Sexuality can be very diverse and results from multiple intertwined factors, including identities and mentalities. So, while you might be heteroromantic, you might also be gay. Or perhaps you identify as asexual, but are also heteroromantic, and enjoy emotional intimacy with people of the opposite sex. On the flip side, you might be aromantic and still want to have casual sex.

The split attraction model

Since attraction is such a complex issue, including both sexual and romantic preferences, the split attraction model was created to help people better understand where they stand and give them a sense of belonging (via Ecounseling.com). In a world where sex and romance play a paramount role, being heterosexual without any romantic impulses (aromantic) or with romantic inclinations towards people of the same gender (homoromantic) can be challenging to navigate. Similarly, being heteroromantic without any sexual drive (asexual) or with sexual attractions to the opposite gender (heterosexual) can also be difficult to come to terms with.

The split attraction model acknowledges the complexity of romantic and sexual attractions and recognizes that each person can experience attraction differently along the continuum of the paradigm's preferences. For example, according to the split attraction model, a heterosexual-biromantic would be a person who is sexually attracted to the opposite gender but looks for a romantic relationship with both men and women. On the other hand, a graysexual-heteroromantic person may want to create a romantic bond with people of the opposite gender but experience very little sexual attraction to either men or women.

Which one resonates with you?

If you experience romantic attraction toward one gender but sexual attraction towards another, then you could be cross-oriented. So, while being heterosexual, you could be homoromantic, or you could be homosexual and heteroromantic. Or, of course, you could be both heterosexual and heteroromantic.

This leads to the question, do labels really matter? While many people find that identifying with a label empowers them and helps them navigate their relationships and connect, others prefer to simply embrace their feelings without putting a specific name on them. Sexuality is fluid. Someone who identifies as pansexual could find they have a preference toward one gender or another. Someone who thinks of themselves as heterosexual could experience attraction to the same gender, or find they need a solid emotional connection in order to feel sexual attraction. 

So, heterosexual or heteroromantic? Are you one despite the other? Or are you both? And which one resonates with you? Knowing that our sexual and romantic attractions may not always be the same is very liberating. It can remove self-doubt or even shame that a person might experience when new sexual and romantic attractions enter the picture. But on the other hand, knowing that you can experience a strong sexual attraction to someone but want nothing to do with them outside the bed is also normal. And so is being head over heels in love with someone without wanting any sexual intimacy.