CHRISTOPHER SMITH, a 25-year-old working in the education technology field, first learned the term “demiromantic” in college. Before that, he’d gotten into a few romantic relationships, but they didn’t really go anywhere because he didn’t feel a strong connection with his partners. He realized this was because he’d jumped into these relationships before developing a friendship.
“I need to get to know someone well before I can even consider dating them,” Smith says. “Casual relationships do not hold much interest for me. I prefer to focus on building meaningful connections and relationships that have the potential for growth and depth.”
Romantic attraction—the feeling of wanting to date someone and do other romantic things with them—may come quickly to some of us. But others need to establish a friendship, or at least an emotional connection, with someone before those kinds of feelings can develop. People who experience romance in this way may label themselves as demiromantic.
What does it mean to be demiromantic?
“Individuals who are demiromantic will only develop romantic feelings for an individual or partner after they have established an emotional bond,” says Dr. Jess Carbino, a sociologist who has worked with Tinder and Bumble. You may be demiromantic if you lack the desire for romance with people unless there is a strong friendship, even if you are sexually attracted to them or have had sex with them, adds Dr. Lee Phillips, a psychotherapist and certified sex and couple's therapist.
“Demiromantic” is not to be confused with “demisexual,” which is when someone requires an emotional connection in order to feel sexual attraction. “The distinction here is between physical, sexual desire and the emotional experience of romance or love towards someone,” says Elizabeth Mateer, a licensed psychotherapist specializing in sexuality, gender, and relationships.
Someone who is demiromantic may enjoy sleeping with someone they’re not emotionally close to, Phillips says. “But if they do not feel an emotional connection, they will not date them.”
Demiromantic people are more likely than others to identify as demisexual, but it is possible just to be demiromantic, according to Mateer.
What's it like to date as a demiromantic person?
Many demiromantic people describe being friends with people for months or years before getting into relationships with them. “It can be challenging for me to determine if I have the potential for a romantic connection with someone until we have spent significant time getting to know each other on an emotional level,” says Steven Zhang, a 39-year-old demiromantic blogger in China.
Ashley Flores, a 36-year-old writer in New York City, realized she was demiromantic based on a pattern of dating long-time friends. “The only two relationships I've ever been in prior to my husband now were with my closest guy friends that I knew for many years,” she says.
Rinal Patel, a 31-year-old demiromantic realtor in Philadelphia, got into her first relationship with Mark, her best friend from college, after three years of friendship. “Towards the end of the first year of our friendship, I couldn't quite say what had changed, but I knew something had,” she says. “We fought more and hung out more. In fact, sometimes we would just stroll around campus just so we could be alone together. We could talk for long hours.” Patel says that having this sort of bond with someone set the stage for a great sex life. “It was easier to tell him what I liked without feeling awkward about it,” she remembers. “I mean, it was Mark! Right?”
Smith, who words in EdTech, is also demisexual, so he doesn’t “see the point in pursuing something without the potential for a deeper connection,” he explains.
Demiromantic people’s hesitancy to get into romantic relationships may cause some to view them as cold or distant, he adds, but this is not the case. “Just because we don't experience romantic attraction easily doesn't mean we don't have the capacity for love and emotional connection," Smith says. "We just need to take the time to build those connections.”
What else should you know if you're demiromantic?
“For many individuals who are not demiromantic, demiromanticism may seem confusing,” Carbino says. “We are socialized to think about love and romance based on myths such as ‘love at first sight.’” These ideas about love may not be true for many people, demiromantic people especially.
If you are demiromantic or are interested in someone who is demiromantic, forget what the movies say and move slowly to give the relationship a chance to develop. It also helps to be clear about your identity and desires upfront so that people understand what to expect, Carbino says.
And embrace your way of doing things, because there are benefits to forming a friendship before jumping into a relationship. Taking time to get to know someone before becoming romantic with them may be a good idea for anyone, in fact, whether they’re demiromantic or not. As Flores says, “I think it is important to understand the person you are interested in and how they see themselves and what they are looking for in their connection with you—and vice versa—before you decide to be romantic with each other."
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