The first time I had the pleasure of working with Nik Hampshire, we were walking on Main Street in Nashua, New Hampshire & a man driving past yelled how much he loved his work on social media. To follow him on social media is to be inspired by how he expresses himself through his art without inhibition. You’ve probably seen the side of him that wheedles you in with his aesthetically pleasing photos & flair conversations. Now you get to know intimately how he feels concerning matters of the heart. When it comes to love, a lot of people including myself have subscribed to the idea that that it has to be a certain kind of way; the romantic way. However, there is more than one way to love and in a quest to know more about loving a different way, I asked Nik a few questions. He was happy to divulge details about aromanticism & share his experiences in past relationships.
I come from a culture/society that does not address issues about the different types of love. Until I met you, I had no understanding of who an Aromantic person is. So, who is an Aromantic?
An aromantic person is someone who is incapable of feeling romantic attraction and/or intimacy. Each aromantic person is different and falls on a different part of the “aro” spectrum especially since what’s considered “romantic” is really so subjective. Where some may be able to engage in romantic relationships even without feeling the romantic feelings themselves, others on the other end of the spectrum can be what’s called “Romantic Repulsed” and aren’t able to partake in romantic behaviors whatsoever. “Romantic repulsion” sounds a bit harsh but its really the most accurate way to describe the experience. It is when a person is literally repulsed by romantic intimacy or attraction. Some are so sensitive to it that even watching it in movies and tv or out in public makes them uncomfortable. As for myself, I can partake in “romantic behavior” in short stints but its more like I’m “playing a part” or pretending to be romantic because it can be fun to do those things but as I start to feel the person romantically/emotionally reaching out and seeking that deeper connection I become repulsed. It makes being with my partner very uncomfortable to the point where even to be touched by them causes me to recoil and withdraw. It can be especially frustrating because nothing necessarily has changed, its just the perception of the connection begins to switch to a more romantic connection and suddenly I can’t be with them anymore. The repulsion is mental but can become physical. I literally won’t even be able to be sexually turned on by my partner anymore once repulsion begins. And I don’t mean I just dont want them anymore, I mean physically I won’t even get aroused. My longest relationship has been 8 weeks because after just a few weeks of attempting to be romantic with a partner the repulsion typically sets in.
Is this how you identify yourself?
I do identify as an aromantic person.
When did you realize you were Aromantic?
So, knowing I was aromantic took some time but mostly because I didn’t know it was a thing until I was 26 or so. I knew I was different pretty early into my dating experiences tho. I had my first girlfriend when I was 17. The first 2 or 3 girlfriends I had and broke up with I kept convincing myself that something about their behavior was causing that repulsion I mentioned but even then I knew I was making stuff up to justify the breakup. I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling how I was feeling but by my 4th-ish girlfriend the same thing kept happening and I had to be honest with myself that the problem had to lie with me. After all, I saw my friends all jumping into long relationship after long relationship and I couldn’t get passed a few weeks. The more time that went by, the more I saw real couples actually in love and people really being actually heartbroken and it became more and more clear that whatever everyone else was experiencing was not at all what I was experiencing. So definitely as I entered my 20’s I knew that relationships probably weren’t for me. Then around 26 or so I first heard the term “aromantic” and looked it up and was like ‘OH SHIT! THATS ME!” It was very validating to know there were others out there like me and that I wasn’t broken, just different than how we were brought up to think people are “supposed to be”. Knowing there are so many other options out there and that they’re all ok was very comforting and empowering even.
Have you been in a romantic relationship before?
I have been in a romantic relationship before. Or I tried to be at least. As I said, none of my relationships made it past 8 weeks so could you really say they were romantic? I would say I’ve attempted to but realized I would not be able to reciprocate that kind of intimacy and love that most partners require and deserve so it simply didn’t work out and we broke up. I only tried 2 or 3 relationships in my 20’s and once I learned about aromanticism I figured out relationships definitely weren’t going to work out for me, at least in the way that most people need them to.
Does being aromantic translate into feelings of asexuality? Or are you red blooded male?
First off, since we’re trying to learn here, linking “sexual virility” to being a “red blooded male” is problematic because some men are asexual or simply have low sex drives and they are just as much a “red blooded male” as a dude that fucks a lot. I know its “just a phrase” but its that kind of language that feeds into toxic masculinity and puts pressure on men to act in ways that may not be true to themselves causing depression, anxiety or even violence against themselves or others from them as they can’t deal with that pressure or dissonance. We gotta do better.
But to answer your question: while many aromantics are also asexual, I’m not. I am heterosexual and aromantic. I have a fairly significant sex drive actually which can at times be difficult to deal with haha.
How do you deal with the disappointments of women who would rather want more than you can give?
I never want anyone to ever feel mislead or as if they were lied to so I’m always up front about being aromantic and what that means with any potential partners before we get involved in any capacity. Sadly, some partners do still get hurt despite my best efforts. Sometimes, partners think they can manage sex without a romantic element like I do but they can’t and get upset or disappointed when they catch feels and I can’t reciprocate. Sometimes, in their disappointment and pain, they can lash out and be rude or offensive which can actually be really hurtful but I know most times they don’t mean it and they’re just in pain. I do my best to understand and comfort them as best I can even at the expense of my own feelings which was really difficult when I was younger and didn’t have as clear an understanding as I do these days. But yeah, since finding out I was aromantic I really just do my best to make a potential partner understand how I am as clearly as possible so they know what to expect so there is no disappointment to deal with after we get involved.
Are you ever going to find a partner to share your life with? What would that be like for you?
Good question! I guess, to start, I’d say at this point, I have zero desire to find a life partner. I like my alone time and my space. So to even CONSIDER a relationship with someone, it would have to more or less add value to what I already have going and since “love” is not a factor, I’d have to be sorta sold on why a relationship is better than living as i am now. That being said, I think if I found the right persons we could work something out.
So, while traditional monogamous relationships are definitely out of the question, I think if I could find a partner that didn’t require romantic intimacy from me, we could potentially manage a relationship. For starters, I think we’d both very much need to be independent. Free to make our own schedules and do what we want when we want. We can choose to do stuff together or separately without any presumption the other would join and no hurt feelings one doesn’t join the other for whatever. It would need to be an open relationship as monogamy doesn’t really make sense when you aren’t in love with your partner. I think I could probably live with a partner if we both had our own rooms. I’m really not sure if I could share a room with a partner. I do love cuddling but sharing the same room for an extended period of time might end up feeling too romantic and thus the repulsion may set in. Realistically, I would just need a partner that isn’t IN love with me. From there it’d just be a matter of figuring out if our wants and needs were compatible and if it logistically made sense to be in a relationship. It’d be almost more pragmatic than emotional. I do really want a kid someday with a friend tho so we’ll see!
Do you sometimes feel like you’re missing out on something more?
I do feel as though I’m missing out. So much of our art and pop culture and even connections with people seem based around romantic connections. I’ll never know what it’s like to be in love nor what it’s like to be heart broken. I’m missing the high highs and the low lows. It’s so often depicted as the pinnacle of human emotions short of having a kid maybe. Being aromantic feels like being an alien sometimes because romantic themes and connections are constantly around us and I’m on the outside looking in all the time. We’re constantly inundated with romance stories and marketing and people literally every day of our lives from the day we’re born. From Disney princesses to horror movies and everything in between, romance storylines are always present. So yeah, I definitely feel like I’m missing out on something but I’d also say by not having the desire to be in love, I waste no time looking for it or feeling upset I dont have it and I’ve lost no time or sleep being heartbroken over it either. I feel like I’ve watched people lose MASSIVE amounts of time pursuing these things or dealing with the fall out of them and having never spent any time on them myself has really given me more time to know myself, build my personal foundation of who I am and pursue my own goals with less distraction and more certainty than someone waiting for or looking for a panther to build with. So, while I would really love to see what it’s like to fall in love, I think overall, I’m better off the way I am. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Apart from the fact that you’re an amazing creative, you’re also comfortable with sharing the physical parts of yourself on social media. What goes into being that expressive?
I’m just an expressive, creative and open person by nature. My dad was naked quite often around the house as a kid so nudity has always been a non-issue for me. Your body is just your body. It doesn’t nor should it be automatically connected with sex. The human form is beautiful and natural and I like to be an example of how nudity is separate from sexuality. Anytime I do nude shoots I do my best to avoid sexually explicit or provocative poses because those are not the types of thoughts I wish to inspire in people (at least not in that context). I think the link we as a culture have between nudity and sex is really detrimental and dangerous, particularly to women so trying to get people to separate these two things is really important and is a big reason for why I do what I do. I also just like to be naked! Haha.