Romantic attraction is an emotional response, which most people experience at one point or another, that results in a desire for a romantic relationship with the recipient. Many asexual people experience romantic attraction even though they do not feel sexual attraction. Romantic attraction can occur with any person of any gender. It is important to understand the distinction between sexual orientations and romantic orientations. For most people both orientations are congruent within the same individual, but mixed combinations of romantic and sexual orientations are common in the aromantic community. Congruent romantic and sexual orientations can also occur, however. For example there can be an aromantic heterosexual who does not experience romantic attraction but is sexually attracted to the opposite gender.
Romantic attraction can be based upon various traits, qualities, or aspects. Physical qualities, while more commonly associated with Primary sexual attraction, are the most immediately obvious traits involved in romantic desire. Aesthetic attraction is often associated with this kind of romantic attraction. Qualities that are not instantly available, such as psychology, genetics, and cultural influence more often lead to a romantic interest as opposed to sexual. This form of interest develops into attraction over time, depending on how each individual relationship evolves and the formation of an emotional connection with the person of interest.
Different combinations of romantic orientations exist as counterparts to sexual orientations. These also result in different classifications such as heteroromantic attraction (romantic attraction to a person of a different gender), homoromantic attraction (romantic attraction to a person of the same gender) and biromantic/panromantic attraction (romantic attraction to two or more genders). Aromantic individuals by definition do not experience romantic attraction. The prefix "a-" means "without" so the word quite literally means "without romance." However, as with many orientations and identities, aromantics can fall somewhere on a spectrum.
It is common for aromantics to additionally identify as asexual. However, as mentioned in the Aromantic FAQ, not all aromantic people are asexual; there is just as much variance in sexual orientation with aromantic individuals as there is with romantic individuals. Sometimes aromantics will desire relationships for reasons other than just attraction. Some reasons may include companionship or desire for a deeper connection.
What exactly constitutes a romantic relationship or romantic attraction is difficult to define, as some asexuals reject the romantic/aromantic dichotomy altogether. Romantic relationships are typically defined by the involvement of romantic actions while disregarding any sexual actions. Romantic actions include dinners, movies, long walks on the beach, sharing hobbies, and even kissing or cuddling. There is no clear line where romantic action ends and sexual action begins.
Some people categorize the approach to relationships as either partner-based or community-based. Partner-based intimacy takes place between an exclusive pair of people, whether or not this pair of people are sexual or traditionally “romantic”. Community-based intimacy takes place between a group of more than two people. People who depend on community-based intimacy do not see a need to pair off into couples, but this does not necessarily mean that they are less capable of forming strong emotional connections with others.
Crushes and Squishes
A crush is an emotional desire for a romantic relationship caused by being romantically attracted to someone. It is a desire that is possibly temporary in nature and possibly never acted upon. With a crush there is often an overwhelming desire to have the feelings reciprocated. There are many components to crushes that make them difficult to act upon. The fear of rejection is the largest component that often prevent people with crushes from acting upon them. As the emotions and desires felt when a person has a crush are so powerful, there is a large, and arguably rational, fear that whatever relationship currently exists may be damaged. Therefore this fear often prevents the person from acting. On the other hand, there is also the potential for hope. The secret desire that no action would be required and the "crush" would make the 'first move'. The smallest of gestures can result in massive fantasies and hope. Gestures such as "They held the door open for me" or "They send me a text message!" are often taken as overreactions, amplified by the extreme emotions, that do not fit the situation.
A squish is the aromantic counterpart for a crush. A squish is an emotional desire for a strong platonic relationship with someone. These relationships often take the form of deep friendships, queerplatonic pairings and occasionally partnering. The envisioned relationship is usually more emotionally intimate than a typical friendship. A squish can be towards anyone of any gender and a person may also have many squishes, all of which may be active.
There is a fine line between a crush and a squish. Both crushes and squishes could involve persistent thoughts about the person of interest, self-consciousness around that person, desires to be with them, fantasies about physical (not necessarily sexual) contact with them, or any combination of these. However crushes sometimes entail jealous of partners of the person of interest, and a desire for romantic contact (such as kissing), a dating relationship, or marriage, while squishes often do not. In both cases emotional attachment can be formed between partners, regardless if it is reciprocated. The type of the relationship is defined upon the desired actions and the actions shared between the pairing. Romantic relationships, or desired romantic relationships, frequently hold more romantic or 'loving' behaviors versus a platonic relationship, or desired platonic relationship, where the purpose is to know them well and be close. The lines between the two frequently become blurred with one transforming into another.
The bottom line is that both crushes and squishes are both types of infatuations. But, a crush is a romantic infatuation, and a squish is a platonic infatuation.