What is alterous attraction?
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Contrary to the belief that many films have portrayed, attraction is not bound to romantic feelings. Instead, it can be an interest, a desire, or an affinity that’s emotional, romantic, physical, sexual, or aesthetic in nature.

With many feelings qualifying as an attraction, it comes as no surprise that it’s possible to experience more than one type of attraction simultaneously and that these desires come in spectrums rather than single points. And it’s in one of these “gray area” middle grounds where we’ll find alterous attraction.

Let’s explore its nuances to gain insight into our own feelings and understand and express ourselves better.

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Alterous Attraction Definition: What Does It Mean?

To define alterous attraction, we first need to understand where the term comes from.

The term is derived from the same roots as “to alter” or “an alternative,” which all come from the Latin word “alternare,” which means “to change” or “to interchange.” Given this, we could define alterous attraction as “describing an alternative type of attraction” or, simply, “other attractions.”

The term is often used in the aromatic or asexual community. These individuals don’t experience a romantic or sexual attraction toward others and often have low to zero interest in related activities. Since romance and sex are commonly linked, alterous behavior is prevalent in both groups.

Aromantic and asexual individuals experience alterous attraction or intense feelings that cannot be categorized as a platonic or romantic attraction. Instead, their emotions land somewhere in the middle, where they want emotional closeness in a personal relationship without it being romantic or having the desire to explicitly act on or address it.

Alterous attraction can be a basis for your orientation and also exist alongside other orientations. For example, you can be heterosexual, bisexual, aromantic, or panalterous and still have an alterous orientation where you experience emotional depth not adequately described by romantic or platonic attraction.


What Do You Call Someone You Have An Alterous Attraction For?

You can use helpful terms to describe someone you have alterous feelings for. Two of the common ones are “squish” and “mesh”:

  • Squish: A squish is a non-romantic crush. Unlike a crush where you want something romantic to happen with someone, a squish is someone you want to have a strong, non-romantic connection with.
  • Mesh: Mesh is something in between crush and squish. In other words, a mesh is someone you want to have an alterous relationship with – not exactly platonic, not wholly romantic, but somewhere in between.

Both terms are used in describing alterous attractions, although mesh might be more applicable in most cases. This makes it easy for you to refer to someone you have more than platonic attraction for without struggling with the romance-related crush term.


What Does Alterous Attraction Tell Us About Love?

Alterous attraction is an important nuance in the aromanticism spectrum, as individuals with such orientation experience a different kind of romantic attraction than most of us are used to. Instead, they experience varying degrees of complex emotional desires to form an emotional relationship that goes beyond platonic connections.

Many people are used to separating platonic and romantic attraction in binary terms. But alterous attraction challenges the two confining classifications, proving that platonic and romantic love can exist together.

Our society is not bound to such amatonormative beliefs anymore, but rather, welcomes and values varying types of emotional closeness to the same degree.

The gray area captured by alterous attraction means that one can experience attraction without conforming to the norm or any cultural preconceptions and still have in-depth personal relationships. Just like how everyone often describes the color blue-green inconsistently, different people have different emotional boxes in life.

Alterous partnerships can also be somewhat of a substitute for “platonic soulmates” or “life partners,” where both individuals are attracted and attached to each other but without being wholly romantic.


Romantic Attraction Vs Alterous Attraction: How Are They Different?

Most of us crave emotional closeness. But when does that elevate to romantic attraction?

The answer may differ from one person to another. In general, however, romantic feelings often have more intense emotions, where people describe it as having nervous energy, heart-tugging pain, and butterflies in their tummy. They may also be more inclined to the stereotypical “relationship escalator” such as committing to a lifelong partnership.

Alterous attraction, on the other hand, is more relaxed, where an individual may wish that they can date someone, but also be completely fine to just spend time with them in whichever way. They want to be emotionally close to the other person, get to know them, and spend every waking moment with them, but without any expectation or need that it’ll involve dating or romance.

In other words, it’s to have the feeling that you want to date someone but also know that it’s nothing romantic, sensual, or sexual. And you won’t be heartbroken to have your feelings go unreciprocated.


How Will I Know If I’m Alterously Attracted To Someone?

The hard part about identifying this type of attraction is that it’s defined more by what it isn’t rather than what it is, and those things that “aren’t” are quite difficult to define themselves. So, the simplest way to find out if you have alterous attraction for someone is to first ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do you define a platonic relationship?
  • How do you define a romantic relationship?

As these questions might be difficult to answer, you can refer to your past or current friendships and romantic relationships to help you pinpoint your personal experience with different kinds of feelings.

Once the archetypes are clearer, answer these questions in relation to the person you have in mind:

  • What do you want to do with them?
  • What don’t you want to do with them?
  • Do you consider them only as your best friend?
  • Do you want your feelings to be reciprocated?
  • Do you want to have sex with them?
  • Do you want them to see you as a friend or a lover?

These guide questions are to give just a sense of what kind of emotional attraction you possibly feel towards others. You can also try putting “filters” on so you can see if you feel more comfortable having them as a friend or as someone romantically involved in your life.


More Than Friends, Less Than Lovers: Alterously Attracted To Each Other

Alterous attraction is a new concept for many. But it’s necessary, especially for the asexual and aromantic community. Terms like these exist to help you identify and describe your experiences, so you’re more comfortable with yourself and have an easier time explaining to others.

Moreover, even if you do feel that the term aptly describes your orientation and feelings towards others, it may take some time for you to accept it as part of your identity. That is completely normal, and you have nothing to worry about.

If they don’t serve you well, you don’t have to use them. But if they do, then you can now proudly proclaim the feelings you had towards others that were once unnamed.

Related: Mormon leader calls for including people of diverse ‘sexual attractions’

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