On Relationship Anarchy

Relationship anarchy is a lifestyle, a way of doing personal relationships. Relationship anarchy is a philosophy, specifically a philosophy of love. A relationship anarchist believes that love is abundant and infinite, that all forms of love are equal, that relationships can and should develop organically with no adherence to rules or expectations from outside sources, that two people in any kind of emotionally salient relationship should have the freedom to do whatever they naturally desire both inside their relationship and outside of it with other people.

 

Relationship anarchists do not rank personal, loving relationships. They do not see any set of behaviors as innately restricted to romantic and/or sexual relationships, which certainly makes it difficult to elevate romantic-sexual relationships to a superior position above nonsexual/nonromantic relationships. RA’s see all of their personal, loving relationships—meaning, any relationship that isn’t professional or casual in nature—as equally important, unique, fulfilling different needs or desires in their life, and as possessing similar or identical potential for emotional/physical/mental intimacy, love, and satisfaction. A relationship anarchist does not place an emotional ceiling on nonromantic/nonsexual friendship or on a sexual friendship that’s devoid of “romance.” A relationship anarchist does not limit physical/sensual affection in their nonsexual relationships just because they’re nonsexual or nonromantic. A relationship anarchist does not expect to spend most of their time with just one sexual partner/romantic partner or with their romantic/sexual partners in general, nor does an RA assume that the romantic/sexual relationships (if they have any) automatically deserve or get more time and prioritization than the nonsexual/nonromantic relationships.

From The Thinking Asexual

The concept of relationship anarchy was something to which I was recently introduced. As with many radical philosophies, it was one that just clicked as soon as I heard about it. The parameters of relationship anarchy are already ones within which I live, and putting a title to my radical approach to relationships gave me a bit reprieve.

Relationship anarchy isn’t a new concept; rather, it’s a new term for an age old human practice. We see relationship anarchy in any sort of relationship that challenges the idea that a monogamous, sexual, romantic, long term relationship is the ideal kind of relationship and the only kind of relationship that is acceptable on a long term basis. This can be seen in people who put a relationship with a parent or sibling ahead of a romantic relationship, putting a professional relationship ahead of a romantic relationship, putting a platonic relationship ahead of a friendship, or putting a sexual relationship ahead of a romantic relationship. We live in a society that says that putting anyone ahead of your romantic-sexual partner is unhealthy, even if it’s another romantic-sexual partner. We tell ourselves fairy tales about romantic love, but we do not give ourselves the permission to find fulfillment in different types of relationships. We tell ourselves that assigning sexual relationships a secondary function within our lives is wrong

One of the tenets that I respect in relationship anarchy is the rejection of the idea that just because you engage sexually with someone, that vaunts them to the position of a primary relationship within your life and gives them the right act accordingly. Relationship anarchy embraces the idea that engaging in sex does not guarantee any sort of emotional entitlement or even an emotional monopoly on another person. Engaging in sex does not guarantee or even imply monogamy, nor does sex give another person any claim to special treatment or a special relationship. Sex means sex, and that’s about it. The decision to progress within a sexual relationship into a romantic, loving or monogamous relationship is not based on the tacit promises of sexuality but, rather, the explicit consent between (or among) the people in the relationship.

Relationship anarchy is just a fancy term for something that a lot of people already practice, but giving it a fancy term also gives legitimacy to the concept. Growing up, we are taught that the primary relationship in our adult life should be a romantic, sexual, monogamous one. In reality, that is not entirely practical. But what’s most disturbing about that is knowing that people who do not revere the romantic, sexual, monogamous relationship as their primary relationship are often viewed as emotionally stunted, unloveable and unloving. Relationship anarchy is important as a practice not because it’s a new way of doing things but because it’s a new way of framing the conversation and giving equal validity to different relationship nuances.

As someone who has been practicing relationship anarchy for years, it is not an easy practice. One of my primary relationships for the past 4+ years has been a platonic relationship with a man with whom I cohabitate. In previous posts, I have covered the ups and downs of being a woman who is a close friend with a man. People often mistake this primary relationship as a romantic one, a sexual one, or a familial one, but actually we’re just best friends who live together, hang out together, go out together, and attend each others’ family events. We have a history, we have a present, and the future is discussed, too.

Because one of my primary relationships is not a man with whom I am engaged in a sexual, romantic, monogamous relationship, I practice relationship anarchy. Likewise, because my sexual and romantic relationships are not necessarily given the same priority and weight as my primary relationships, I practice relationship anarchy. It’s not that my romantic, sexual relationships can’t have the same priority and weight as my primary relationships; it’s that after one month of knowing someone and fucking someone, it doesn’t make sense to give that person the same power in my life as my friends whom I have known for years. That power is something that must be earned, and sex is not a short cut to having power over me in my life.

In my personal life, this approach to relationship anarchy has caused problems because many people do not share that same view point. People treat sex as a quick way to gain power over someone emotionally, but, really, sex is just a different form of getting to know someone. Sex is not a magical act that unlocks all the secrets to another person’s psyche, but, rather, sex gives you a way to see someone when they’re naked and primal. This is an idea that can be reflected in relationships that engage in casual sex.

Casual sex is a big part of relationship anarchy because casual sex by its definition strays from the constraints of the sexual relationship as primary relationship. A lot of people have a lot of things to say about casual sex these days, especially on college campuses, but suffice it to say that casual sex, when in the context of other healthy relationships, and when practiced safely and respectfully, can be an exciting aspect of practicing relationship anarchy. Maintaining several casual sex relationships while also maintaining other primary relationships is an example of relationship anarchy. Ethical sluts are relationship anarchists. Bromance is an example of relationship anarchy, as are open relationships, as is infidelity (although infidelity is relationship anarchy in its shittiest incarnation). Relationship anarchy rejects the idea that one person should be all things for another person, hence giving traditional monogamy the shaft without necessarily excluding monogamy from potential relationship dynamics. A monogamous relationship in confluence with other types of relationships that are given equal weight and importance within the fabric of one’s relationships can constitute relationship anarchy when practiced consciously.

Many of us already practice relationship anarchy; we just didn’t know there was a word for it. Again, our relationship anarchy is defined by seeking out relationships that aren’t expected to conform to a set of predetermined rules and regulations and allowing our relationship to grow and mold into the best relationships they can be. To some, the word anarchy may connote chaos, but in relationship anarchy, it means opening yourself up to the endless possibilities that every type of relationship can offer you. So, have you opened yourself up yet?