Split attraction model
DefinitionDiscordance of romantic attraction and sexual attraction to others

The split attraction model (SAM) is a model in psychology that distinguishes between a person's romantic and sexual attraction, allowing the two to be different from each other.[1][2][3]

History and identity

The first recorded conceptualization of orientation that took into account split attraction was in 1879 by Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, a German writer who published 12 books on non-heterosexual attraction. In these books, Ulrichs has presented several classifications that are quite similar to modern LGBTQIA+ identities. Among his works, he described people who are "konjunktiver Uranodioning" and "disjunktiver Uranodioning" or conjunctive bisexuality and disjunctive bisexuality. The former is described as having tender and passionate feelings for both men and women, which would be a biromantic bisexual in modern times. The second is one who has tender feelings for people of the same gender/sex, but 'in love' feelings for people of a different gender/sex, which would now be a heteroromantic homosexual. However, the Ulrichs model never became popular due to its complexity.[4][5]

A newer example of the separation of sexual and romantic attractions was in 1979 by psychologist Dorothy Tennov, with the publication of her book Love and Limerence – the Experience of Being in Love. In the book, Tennov described limerence as a form of attraction that could be described as a crush on someone. Although Tennov saw sex as part of limerence, she recognized that it was not its main focus.[6] The term "non-limerent" is sometimes considered the precursor of aromantic.[7][8][page needed]

Simplified diagram of the aromantic and asexual spectra

The modern concept of the split attraction model was coined by the asexual and aromantic communities to better describe their identities within the community and to others. The term likely emerged around 2015, though the concept of split attractions had been in use since the origination of the term aromantic in 2005.[9][10] The model helps people explain how they can still experience certain aspects of one attraction without the need for the other to be a match. A recent research study looked deeper into the relationships of asexuals to help explain how people still form meaningful connections, despite deviance of societal norms.[11][12]

Relationships formed by people that identify under the split attraction model are often considered outside the norm and may include forms of committed friendships or intimate non-romantic relationships such as queerplatonic relationships.

In a practical application of the model, people of the community commonly refer to themselves by two terms to indicate the differing romantic and sexual attraction; examples include aromantic asexual, colloquially shortened aro-ace, panromantic demisexual or aromantic bisexual.[1][13] Specific terms exist, such as varioriented and perioriented, describing those with different or similar orientations, respectively. For example, a homoromantic bisexual would be varioriented, while a heteroromantic heterosexual would be labeled as perioriented.[14][page needed][15][page needed][16][page needed]

The concept and term are most commonly used within the LGBTQIA+ community, but more recent research found that it may also apply to people outside of the community that are just not yet familiar with the concept.[17]


Michael Paramo discussed including different forms of attraction beyond sexual and romantic attraction in a multi-layered model.[18]

The concept that there is a distinction between romantic orientation and sexual orientation has not been studied extensively.[19][page needed] American psychologist Lisa M. Diamond, who focuses her studies on sexual orientation and identity, has stated that a person's romantic orientation can differ from whom the person is sexually attracted to.[20] While there is limited research on the discordance between sexual attraction and romantic attraction in individuals, the possibility of fluidity and diversity in attractions have been progressively recognized.[21][17][12]

In a 2022 book edited by psychologists Angela M. Schubert and Mark Pope, authors Stacey Litam and Megan Speciale refer to an article by Michael Paramo published in Aze that identifies other forms of attraction beyond sexual and romantic attraction, including aesthetic, emotional, intellectual, and sensual attraction, to argue that these forms of attraction should also be considered in interpersonal relationships.[18] Paramo argued in a 2024 book that splitting attraction can influence people to re-imagine their relationships differently when forms of attraction are not placed in a hierarchy.[22]

A 2022 study found that while there is some concordance between romantic orientation and sexual orientation, the two were not a complete match, suggesting that the experience of split attraction between romantic and sexual orientation exists in both asexual and non-asexual people.[17] A 2023 study noted that there is a general misunderstanding that different forms of attraction can exist concurrently both within and external to the LGBTQ community.[23]

See also


  1. ^ a b "explore the spectrum: guide to finding your ace community". glaad.org. GLAAD. 27 October 2018. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  2. ^ "Split Attraction Model". Princeton Gender + Sexuality Resource Center. Archived from the original on November 3, 2021. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  3. ^ "Gender and Sexuality Terms". University of Nebraska LGBTQA+ Center. Archived from the original on 9 April 2023. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  4. ^ "Split Attraction Model (A Guide) | OptimistMinds". 2020-04-06. Archived from the original on 2022-05-27. Retrieved 2022-08-01.
  5. ^ Kennedy, Hubert (2013-01-11), "Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, First Theorist of Homosexuality", Science and Homosexualities (Vernon Rosario ed.), Routledge, pp. 33–52, doi:10.4324/9780203390252-7, ISBN 978-0-203-39025-2, archived from the original on 2023-08-24, retrieved 2022-08-01
  6. ^ "Case study: Is my current relationship bound to be unfulfilling because it is non-limerent? - Living with Limerence". livingwithlimerence.com. 2018-03-12. Archived from the original on 2022-06-30. Retrieved 2022-08-01.
  7. ^ "Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love (Dorothy Tennov)". dannyreviews.com. Archived from the original on 2022-10-16. Retrieved 2022-08-01.
  8. ^ Elgie, Evelyn (2020). Being and doing: Interrogating dominant narratives of asexual kinship in an amatonormative culture (MA thesis). University of British Columbia. doi:10.14288/1.0390049. hdl:2429/74246. Archived from the original on 2022-11-29. Retrieved 2023-04-09.
  9. ^ "Splitting Attraction: A History of Discussing Orientation". 2 August 2019. Archived from the original on 13 May 2023. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  10. ^ "Understanding the Asexual Community". Human Rights Campaign. Archived from the original on 14 March 2023. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  11. ^ "New research provides insights into how asexual individuals navigate romantic relationships". 7 November 2022. Archived from the original on 9 April 2023. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  12. ^ a b Brozowski, Alexandra; Connor-Kuntz, Hayden; Lewis, Sanaye; Sinha, Sania; Oh, Jeewon; Weidmann, Rebekka; Weaver, Jonathan R.; Chopnik, William J. (16 September 2022). "A test of the investment model among asexual individuals: The moderating role of attachment orientation". Frontiers in Psychology. 13: 912978. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.912978. PMC 9523605. PMID 36186308.
  13. ^ "What is asexual? Here's the asexual spectrum, an asexual quiz & everything else you're curious about". LGBTQ Nation. 29 December 2019. Archived from the original on 9 April 2023. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  14. ^ Barron, Victoria (2023-02-21). Perfectly Queer: An Illustrated Introduction. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 978-1-83997-408-3.
  15. ^ Project, Ace and Aro Advocacy (21 April 2023). Ace and Aro Journeys : A Guide to Embracing Your Asexual or Aromantic Identity. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 978-1-83997-639-1. OCLC 1372279113.
  16. ^ Grenell, Jeff (2021). Gen SeXYZ : love, sexuality, & youth. Whitaker House. ISBN 978-1-64123-587-7. OCLC 1198556870.
  17. ^ a b c Clark, Alyssa N.; Zimmerman, Corinne (5 April 2022). "Concordance Between Romantic Orientations and Sexual Attitudes: Comparing Allosexual and Asexual Adults". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 51 (4): 2147–2157. doi:10.1007/s10508-021-02194-3. PMID 35380311. S2CID 247955047. Archived from the original on 18 February 2023. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  18. ^ a b Schubert, Angela M.; Pope, Mark (2022-09-20). Handbook for Human Sexuality Counseling: A Sex Positive Approach. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-119-90413-7. Archived from the original on 2023-08-19. Retrieved 2023-08-19.
  19. ^ Bogaert, Anthony F. (9 August 2012). Understanding Asexuality. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 978-1442200999.
  20. ^ Diamond, Lisa M. (2003). "What does sexual orientation orient? A biobehavioral model distinguishing romantic love and sexual desire". Psychological Review. 110 (1): 173–192. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.110.1.173. ISSN 1939-1471. PMID 12529061.
  21. ^ Lund, Emily M.; Thomas, Katie B.; Sias, Christina M.; Bradley, April R. (21 November 2016). "Examining Concordant and Discordant Sexual and Romantic Attraction in American Adults: Implications for Counselors". Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling. 10 (4): 211–226. doi:10.1080/15538605.2016.1233840. S2CID 151856457. Archived from the original on 26 March 2023. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  22. ^ Paramo, Michael (2024-02-08). Ending the Pursuit: Asexuality, Aromanticism and Agender Identity. Unbound Publishing. pp. 54–55. ISBN 978-1-80018-286-8.
  23. ^ Winer, Canton; Carroll, Megan; Yang, Yuchen; Linder, Katherine; Miles, Brittney (2022-04-28). ""I Didn't Know Ace Was a Thing": Bisexuality and pansexuality as identity pathways in asexual identity formation". Sexualities. 27 (1–2): 267–289. doi:10.1177/13634607221085485. ISSN 1363-4607.

Further reading