Relationships are a significant aspect of life, and romantic relationships are a particularly touted subset. Often, in Western society, a romantic relationship begins when two people encounter each other, find themselves compatible, couple together, and advance from there, whether it be a short term or long term relationship and potentially marriage or cohabitation. When it comes to exclusive pairings, there are certain expectations or components within those types of relationships that, if they are not met, the relationship is suspect to many outside of the relationship even if what occurs within the confines of the relationship is mutually determined by the participants.
Such components as commitment, trust, interdependence, and mutuality are inclusive of friendships and romantic relationships. However, people, if asked, tend to distinguish between the two types of relationships on the basis of sex and whether or not it is being had, citing it as one of the most important aspects of a romantic relationship and discounting relationships that are without it.
This can be unfair to people who are waiting until marriage to have sex and to those who wish to be a part of a romantic, committed relationship that is sexless. The former is excused on the basis that sexual desire is present, and the two participants are abstaining until they are married. However, the latter is where contention often lies, and it is the situation of many asexual individuals who still desire romantic relationships.
Asexuality is the absence of sexual attraction. It is not a physical ailment. Many asexual individuals, or asexuals/aces, experience variety in their individual libidos, from low to high, like any other sexuality, meaning, in most cases, their bodies can still be aroused through stimuli, and many have gone out of their way to be medically cleared of having any other underlying issues. Also, asexuality has since been removed from the DSM-5 as a mental disorder as well.
About one percent of the human population is believed to be asexual though others speculate that it may be an underestimated number for an underreported phenomenon. Aces come in their own variety. Some are sex-averse while others are indifferent or even favorable. Some desire romantic relationships while others are aromantic, feeling no romantic attraction to others.
The romantic aces have difficulty defending their romantic relationships to those close to them and to those unfamiliar who see their relationships as just friendships by another name or as something wrong, unreal, or unsatisfying to the point of torturous if one member of the relationship is not asexual but willing to forgo sex for their own various reasons. Many people believe romantic love cannot exist without sexual attraction and often accuse aces of being immature, prudish, or broken.
Many romantic aces do not view sex as the ultimate or only way to experience intimacy. Quite a few are perfectly content without sex yet still want a committed partner to build a life with despite what others have to say about it. What is puzzling is that people can conceptualize a friends-with-benefits relationship (a friendship with sex) but not a romantic relationship without sex despite believing that sex is the difference between a friendship and romantic relationship. The question is then, if sex can exist without love, why can't love exist without sex?