Personal relationships

3 minutes

Learning objectives

After completing this unit, you will be able to:

  • Describe the impact that coming out as ace or aro has on various personal relationships.
  • Identify the unique struggles that ace and aro youth might face in their personal relationships.

Coming out and invalidation

Coming out as ace or aro is often accompanied by many of the same anxieties involved in coming out as another LGBTQ+ identity. An ace or aro person might worry that they won’t be believed, or they might fear being rejected or discriminated against if they come out. Beyond these issues, ace and aro people typically have to explain asexuality or aromanticism to the people they are coming out to, making the process even more difficult and stress-inducing.

Sometimes people don’t believe that asexuality and aromanticism are real orientations or that the ace or aro person who has just come out is correct in their identity. This may happen when the ace or aro person:

  • has had prior romantic or sexual relationships,
  • has another identity that is typically seen as nonsexual or nonromantic (such as being East Asian, disabled, or autistic), or
  • is young, and the person they come out to assumes that their orientation is a phase or that they are a “late bloomer.”

Along with potentially invalidating their identity, people might tell an ace or aro person that their non-sexual romantic relationship isn’t a real relationship or might tell them that their committed platonic partner is “just a friend”.

Family

Family members, particularly parents and grandparents, might expect that their children, grandchildren, and relatives will eventually get married and have kids of their own. Many ace and aro people are not interested in getting married or having children, and this can create tension or division among family members. Sometimes this comes from those family members’ personal desires or cultural expectations, but other times it is born from a worry that the ace or aro person will end up alone.

Ace and aro youth face additional stress when coming out to their parents. These youth may fear disbelief or rejection from their parents and may feel like they aren’t living up to their parents’ expectations. Because these youth are often highly dependent on their parents, they may have few options if coming out goes badly.

Romantic and sexual relationships

Ace people may feel the need to come out as ace to their romantic partners in order to explain that sex might not an option for the relationship. When coming out, an ace person’s date or romantic partner might get angry or feel like they were led on; in some cases, the ace person might even be at risk of sexual violence.

Aro people who desire non-romantic sexual relationships may struggle to find partners who will not become romantically attached to them. Aro people who desire some form of platonic relationship may find others prioritize romance, and they may have a difficult time building relationships for which they have few models.

Friends and other peers

Ace and aro people may face invalidation and ostracization from friends once they come out, and may have a difficult time connecting with or trusting people who they have not shared their identity with.

Because many young people begin to explore romance and sexuality in their adolescence, and because youth are typically dependent on family members, ace youth face additional challenge. Constant sexual and romantic discussion among peers leads many ace and aro youth to feel broken, especially when peers assume something is wrong with them for not participating in these discussions. Ace and aro youth might be bullied, might be called names like ‘prude’ or ‘frigid’, and might be the victims of sexual harassment or assault because of their identity. School administrators are often uninformed about ace and aro issues, making them ill-equipped at preventing these behaviors.

Further reading