What is Romance?

What is Romance?

Just as we can have sex without romance, we can have romance without sex – but what is romance?

So asexual people still might like romantic relationships. Others don’t want sexual or romantic relationships. Some people might want sex but not romantic relationships.* Soooooo people can be interested in: sex and romance together; just sex; or just romance; neither; a bit of both; or on a scale.

So if romance doesn’t have to come with sex, what is romance?

if romance doesn't have to come with sex, what is romance

(*We’re all about people having the freedom to choose how they do or don’t do relationships and sex. So this is all perfectly nice and wonderful..If you think you may be asexual (ace), or aromantic (aro) you might like the AVEN forums.)


I think romance is about intentionally and consensually doing things that can bring about joyful moments. So doing it’s about doing something meaningful or special – big or small. It can be small and everyday: spreading the butter or mayo all the way to the edge of a bread in a sandwich. Or it can be big and rare: like going on a big trip somewhere, or saving up and buying something nice. Or it can be about making a big commitment to them (like buying a ring, or having a tattoo).

Romance is about intentionally and consensually doing things that can bring joy

If we’re doing romance with someone it’s important to do it with, rather than at them hashtag consent. This means talking about the kinds of acts of romance that you might appreciate and what you might not. For example, lifting up your shirt to show a giant tattoo of their face and name might not go down very well if you haven’t talked about this first.

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Doing romantic things

There are lots of things that we can do, or take part in, that are romantic. I’ve got a list of them over here at my blog about how to be romantic on a budget. There are things like: making mixtapes; making cards; celebrating anniversaries; compliments; sharing nice food or drink; making some nice food or drink; going for a nature walk; having a culture trip.

Things get very romantic when you take a minute to slow down and really let everything sink in. Just how great that sandwich tastes because of the extra care you took. The sound of the birds in those trees you don’t know the name of. The smell of the candy floss stand at the seaside. Feeling surprise at seeing something that you could never have imagined. Intentionally having these kinds of experiences leads to memories of those moments or days and that can also be super romantic to think about.

So what is romantic is very much up to you. Just like there should be no rules about how to do self care, or how to look after a mate, or how to have sex: there should be no rules about how to do romantic things (so long as they are consensual). The romantic thing is the process and the feelings of joy, not the thing itself.

What is a romantic relationship then?

This is also up to you. To an extent, if you both agree ‘okay we’re in a romantic relationship’ then you’re in a romantic relationship. You could talk more about what that means (and I’ve got some help for you to define the relationship here) or you could try and guess or make assumptions. The problem of guessing and making assumptions is that, as I said above, not all relationships are romantic and not all relationships are sexual.

if you do loads of romantic things, and have romantic memories of things, then whether or not your relationship is capital R Romantic Relationship, your relationship is romantic AF

But if you do loads of romantic things, and have romantic memories of things then your relationship is romantic (even if it’s not a Romantic Relationship). It’s a shame that we get taught that we can only do romantic things in romantic relationships because I really don’t think that’s true. However, if we started to call all of our relationships romantic then it might get a bit confusing and sometimes a bit strange – particularly if we are talking about a family member, a pet, or God.

Because there are so many different kinds of love there are lots of opportunities for you to do romantic things in lots of different kinds of relationships.

There’s more than one love

Doing romance in relationships

So even if you’re not in a romantic relationship with someone you can do romantic things with them, so long as everyone is on the same page about romance ≄sex. So you can be doing romantic things (or ‘special’ things, or ‘nice’ things if that’s easier) with:

  • friends (eg making them a birthday card),
  • family (eg bringing a nice cake to a birthday party),
  • colleagues/classmates (eg starting off a conga on their birthday),
  • pets (eg painting ‘happy birthday’ on the side of their favourite cardboard box),
  • and, crucially, yourself (eg taking yourself off to a city farm to pat a llama on your birthday – hey I don’t make the rules!)
doing romantic things with people we aren't in a romantic relationship with is well important

How to love yourself

Being able to do romantic things with people we aren’t ‘in a romantic relationship with’ is super important and super super important to do for ourselves. If we can only do romantic (or special or nice) things with romantic partners then that’s just so sad and missing out on so much love. It also puts a lot more pressure on romantic relationships to give us all the love – the whole ‘The One’ thing. It also makes people not in romantic relationships feel shitty about being ‘single’.

Being a friend board game

So have a think about your closest relationships (yes that includes you) and consider how you might be able to bring in a bit more romance and joy and love.

Love, BISH x

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© Justin Hancock, 2024 Find out more about me and BISH here.

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I’ve been a sex and relationships educator since 1999 (with a background in youth and community work). In that time I’ve taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. I’ve worked with many charities, local governments, schools and youth organisations facilitating training and workshops. My two books, Enjoy Sex (How, When, and If You Want To) and Can We Talk About Consent? are widely available around the world. I’ve been on the telly and the radio and have written articles for newspapers and magazines. I’m also a member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Read more about me and BISH here. Find out about my other work here Justin Hancock

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