In recent years, many of us have become more aware of the huge variety of different romantic and sexual identities that people have. We’ve also realized that these identities are better thought of as a continuum, rather than discrete categories.
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One term you might have come across is “demiromantic.” We’re going to look at what it means if someone says that they are demiromantic, and what you need to know about dating them.
Let’s start by understanding what being demiromantic means.
Being demiromantic is different from being aromantic. If someone is aromantic, they don’t experience romantic feelings at all. They might enjoy sex, but they’re not interested in having a romantic relationship.
Someone who is demiromantic does experience romantic feelings, but they take time to build up to them1. They will only develop romantic feelings for someone once they have gotten to know them, trust them, and have developed an emotional connection.
This means that they won’t have romantic feelings about someone they don’t know well. They won’t fantasize about dating the cute bartender or imagine having a romantic dinner with their latest Tinder match.
You can think of their approach to romantic relationships as the exact opposite of the “friend zone.” They expect friendship first and romance later.
Being demiromantic and being demisexual seem related from the outside, but they’re not. They are similar points on a spectrum, but they are completely separate spectrums. All of us fall somewhere on both of these spectrums but the two are unrelated2.
Being demisexual is describing yourself on the sexual spectrum. This spectrum runs from asexual (where they don’t feel any sexual desire) to allosexual (where they frequently feel sexual attraction).
Being demisexual means that you do feel sexual attraction but that you need to know the other person first.
Demiromantic describes your position on the romantic spectrum. This runs from aromantic (where you don’t feel any romantic attraction to other people) to alloromantic (where you regularly feel romantic attraction towards others).
In the same way that someone who is demisexual needs to know the other person before they have sexual feelings, someone who is demiromantic needs to get to know someone before they can develop romantic feelings toward them.
If you are demiromantic, the idea of having a crush on someone might feel like an alien concept3. You will probably hear other people talk about their crushes or the strangers that they are attracted to and struggle to understand what they mean by that.
If you are also allosexual, you might understand being sexually attracted to a stranger. You might empathize with someone wanting to have a one-night stand or brief sexual liaison with a stranger but not imagining cuddling up to watch a movie with them or having a candlelit dinner.
As someone who is demiromantic, you might find that you fall in love with people you already know and like, for example close friends.
You’ve probably heard about the “friend zone,” where someone doesn’t develop romantic feelings toward another person because they have placed them in the “friend” category rather than the “potential partner” category. This idea doesn’t make any sense to you.
The social expectations around dating definitely have a set order. Most people assume that a relationship starts with romance, such as having dinner together or going on dates. Sex is expected to come afterward.
People who violate these expectations are often called names, such as slut. This is both unfair and unhelpful. Your sexual and romantic identities don’t say anything about your ethics, morals, or value as a person. They’re just a part of who you are.
Just as you might not understand the thought of having a crush on a stranger, someone who is demiromantic will often be confused and uncomfortable with the idea of love at first sight.
If you’re demiromantic, you might have experienced the awkward situation of having someone you are dating say that they love you long before you feel able to do the same in return.
If this has happened to you multiple times with multiple different partners, there’s a good chance that you might be demiromantic.
This is even more likely if you do fall in love with them after a few more weeks or months. This suggests that it wasn’t just that you didn’t love them. It was just that it took you longer to get there than it does other people.
Someone who is demiromantic is going to be very aware that their feelings are different from general social expectations. They might have been shamed or criticized for their feelings in the past, or have been told that their feelings are hurtful4.
The last thing they need is to feel pressured into speaking and acting in ways that don’t feel right or natural for them.
If you want to open up about your feelings, try to find a pressure-free way to do it. You could say “I’m falling in love with you. I want to tell you because it’s important that I’m honest about my feelings, but I’m not expecting you to feel the same way. I’m not asking for anything to change. I just wanted you to know what’s going on for me.”
Have you ever felt as if you’re expected to be on a “relationship escalator?” Many people assume that there are a specific series of steps that all relationships follow. For example, dating, then sex, then cohabiting, before reaching marriage and having children.
In some cases, it can feel as though your partner is trying to get through these steps as quickly as possible.
If you can empathize with that, you’re getting an idea of how relationships can often feel to someone who is demiromantic. Take some of the pressure off by letting them set the pace.
Tell them that you’re keen to have a romantic relationship with them if and when they share that desire, but that it’s not something you need or want to push them toward… and then drop it.
Checking in regularly “just to see if anything has changed” puts them under pressure. Instead, trust that they’ll let you know if and when they’re ready to deepen your relationship.
Obviously, that does rely on your being willing to continue with your relationship without their romantic feelings. Make sure that you’re being honest with yourself. It’s important that you get your needs met as well.
If you realize that your partner’s lack of romantic feelings is upsetting you, it’s ok to talk about them. Just make sure that you are treating both of your needs as equally important and valid.
When you’re dating someone who is demiromantic, you might find yourself having very different ‘couple activities’ and dates. Rather than focusing on labeling your time as “romantic” or not, just enjoy spending time in their company.
This often means throwing out your expectations of how you might spend time with them. Rather than focusing on doing typical ‘dating activities’, such as dinner or a movie, ask them what they would like to do.
This can be especially important during special occasions when there are strong social expectations about what you do.
Valentine’s Day can be particularly awkward if you’re dating someone who is demiromantic and isn’t at the ‘candlelit dinner’ stage with you yet, but birthdays and other special events can be just as challenging.
Don’t try to impose your (or society’s) expectations on them. Instead, work with them to find something that both of you will enjoy and feel comfortable with. If this means that you watch action movies and eat pizza on Valentine’s, that’s completely ok.
Being demiromantic in an alloromantic world isn’t always easy. Even if no one has actually said that their identity is wrong, they’ll almost certainly have picked up that message from a variety of different cultural sources5.
Be supportive by providing the antidote to that message. Respect their identity and show them that you recognize that it’s just as valid as your own.
If your partner is demisexual, that’s going to have an impact on you but it isn’t actually about you. So don’t try to make it about you.
In the same way that someone being gay or asexual has nothing to do with the people in their life, your partner’s romantic identity has nothing to do with you. It’s not that you’re not good enough for them, or that they like someone else better. It’s just who they are and how they feel.
It’s ok to ask for reassurance, but it’s not ok to keep the focus on your feelings and ignore their identity.
For example, you might feel insecure because your partner hasn’t said that they love you yet. That’s understandable, and it’s ok to ask for some reassurance that you’re important to them.
You could say “I know it takes you time to develop romantic feelings and that it might not ever happen. I fully respect that and I’m so grateful for your honesty. I am feeling a little insecure about myself though. I’d really appreciate a little reassurance that you think I’m a good person and you like spending time with me.”
That’s far better than saying “what is so bad about me that you can’t love me? I love you. Why can’t you love me back? What am I doing wrong?” The aim should always be to show that you value your partner’s needs and identity whilst also getting your own needs met.
If you love someone who is demiromantic, it’s important to understand as much as you can about what that means and how it might affect both of you.
Being curious is great, and it’s important that you can ask your partner questions and show that you care and you’re engaged and listening.
Having said that, your partner is not your personal Google for all things demiromantic. They don’t owe you a degree-level education on the benefits and pitfalls of life as a demiromantic or how it differs from other identities on the aromantic spectrum.
If you’re reading this article, the chances are that you’re already taking steps to educate yourself and look for information. That’s great. Carry on looking for helpful resources.
A good way to balance being curious about your partner’s needs and not expecting them to educate you is to use online research to understand the general principles behind being demiromantic but ask your partner about how their demiromanticism works.
Having a partner with a different romantic identity from your own doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. In fact, it can be freeing as you realize that you can work together to find a relationship system and structure that works for the pair of you rather than following a set of expectations.
Having said that, moving off the ‘normal’ path can bring up challenges, insecurities, and uncertainties. Having someone unbiased to talk to about this, such as a relationship coach, can help make sure that these issues don’t get in the way of your relationship.
There is no set timeline for someone who is demiromantic to fall in love. It can depend on how quickly they get to know someone well and begin to trust them. It’s also not inevitable that they will fall in love with someone, no matter how long you wait.
Many people who are demiromantic have no trouble dating. They’re capable of having a great time getting to know someone without having romantic feelings. They may also be happy having sex with people they date. The biggest obstacle demiromantics face when dating is social expectations.
Some demiromantics are also demisexual. Others aren’t. The two identities aren’t related. Assuming that someone is demisexual because they’re demiromantic is like assuming that they will like baseball because they’re vegetarian.
Being demiromantic, or dating someone who is, doesn’t have to be difficult. It just might be a little different from how society has taught us that relationships work. This can be a good thing, as it helps us recognize ways that social expectations are preventing us from expressing what we really want.
How does this fit with your experiences? Are you demiromantic? How has it affected your relationships? Or maybe you’re dating someone who is demiromantic. Let us know in the comments.
Raising awareness about different sexual and romantic identities helps all of us, especially people who are demiromantic. Please share this article and help get the message out.