Romantic Attraction and Orientation


Romantic Attraction is a form of emotional attraction where one may desire romantic interactions with a particular individual. This may include actions such as:

  • Experiencing infatuation
  • Being physically close
  • Using affectionate speech
  • Living together
  • Wanting to make a family
  • Sharing time, belongings, and experiences
  • Lifelong Commitments
  • Being with another exclusively
  • Valuing the relationship over others
  • Mutual protection
  • Providing emotional, financial, and physical support

However, romantic relationships are primarily defined by intent, and any relationship or activity can be considered romantic when actioned with romantic intent, and be considered non-romantic if one actions it with non-romantic intent.[1][2]

One's pattern of romantic attraction towards certain genders typically (but not always) forms that individual's romantic orientation. Romantic orientations are often identified by the usage of the '-romantic' suffix, such as heteroromantic, or biromantic.

An individual who regularly experiences romantic attraction would be alloromantic. Someone who does not regularly experience romantic attraction may be aromantic or otherwise aro-spec.

A romantic desire for another individual may be called a crush.

Romantic attraction is particularly difficult for many individuals to understand due to the nature of romanticism being unclear and similar to other types of emotional attraction. This confusion is especially prevalent for some neurodivergent individuals (coined as nebularomantic). Unlike sexual attraction, romantic attraction shares many qualities with attractions such as platonic and queerplatonic. The most notable difference is that romantic attraction usually involves the desire for a life long commitment with another, the act of 'breaking up' with a romantic partner being typically more devastating compared to the ending of a friendship. The care between family members (familial attraction) shares the same desire for protection and bonding as romantic attraction, however romantic attraction can involve sensual acts that are not appropriate for family relations.[3]


Early predecessors to the concept of romantic orientation date back over a hundred years. For example, in 1879, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs classified bisexuality into two types: conjunctive and disjunctive bisexuality. The first is described as one who has both "tender" and "passionate" feelings for both men and women. The second is one who has "tender" feelings for the same gender, but "passionate" feelings for the opposite gender.[4]

Later, in 1979, the psychologist Dorothy Tennov published Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love, which described "limerence" (or being "in love") as something distinct from sexuality.[5]

Sometime in the 1980s, the term "affectional orientation" started becoming more common, though the exact origins are unknown. For example, the term was used by J.W. Wells in 1989.[6] Prior to that, it was used in 1959 by the American Bar Association.[7] In its contemporary form, the concept of romantic orientation was popularized by the online asexual community in the early 2000s. For example, it became common for asexuals to identify as gay, bi, or straight to express a partnership preference, and the term "aromantic" entered circulation in asexual spaces around the year 2005.[8]

Flags and Symbols

Romantic orientation flags are commonly symbolised by the usage of love-hearts, but this is not always the case.citation needed


  1. "Romantic attraction and romantic orientations" aces & aros, Accessed on 24 Feb, 2023.
  2. Boom , Kesiena. "What Is Romantic Attraction? 6 Signs You're Experiencing It" MBG Relationships, 5 Nov, 2022,
  3. "Types of Attraction" Types of Attraction, Jeb_CC, Accessed on 24 Feb, 2023.
  4. Kennedy , Hubert. "Karl Heinrich Ulrichs: First Theorist of Homosexuality" AngelFire, 1997,
  5. Yee , Danny. "Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love" Danny Yee's Book Reviews, 1999,
  6. "Journal of Humanistic Education and Development" WIU, Wells, J. W., 1989,
  7. "Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities Newsletter", American Bar Association. Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, 1959,
  8. "The Aromantic Threads Index" The AVEN, ithaca, 27 Apr, 2012,