Relationship Anarchy

Definition

Relationship anarchy is one of the (roughly) four types of polyamory. It can also refer to a type of monogamy, but we are going to focus on the polyamorous relationship anarchy. Basically, relationship anarchy means that only the people within the relationship dictate what they want that relationship to look like. Societal norms for relationships are questioned and often discarded.

Philosophy

If this definition seems a bit vague- it is because it is. There aren’t rules or guidelines to follow; after all, it is anarchy. People within the relationships dictate how they want the relationships to look. Therefore, each and every RA relationship is going to look different. It wouldn’t be true to say “there is no wrong way to do relationship anarchy.” It would be wrong to not communicate about this being your relationship style or be honest throughout any and all relationships.

Couple Privilege

In nonmonogamous relationships, an existing marriage or relationship often is rewarded certain privileges. Often a lot of rules for dating focus on protecting the existing relationship at the expense of all other relationships and everyone else’s wellbeing. Read more about it here.

One of the focuses of many people’s relationship anarchy is eliminating couple privilege. Many of the rules that are created out of couple’s privilege dictate relationships outside their own. Because relationship anarchy is about only the people in the relationship dictating how they want their relationship to look these rules don’t really mesh with rules that come out of couple’s privilege.

Friendship & Platonic Relationships

In our society, there is a lot more emphasis and importance put on romantic relationships than friendships. One of the appeals of RA to many people is that friendships can be focused on and made as important as they want. Sex isn’t the end all be all to relationships. If the relationship anarchist wants to spend most of their time in their friendship or if they want their friendship to be the closest, most important relationship in their life they can choose that.

Practice

Not letting people outside of your relationship dictate your relationship doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be considerate towards our metamours. I strive to be considerate and think of my metamour’s feelings. However, I no longer enter into relationships with people who allow their other partners to make decisions for our relationship. I won’t date people who give their partners veto power, make rules about what their partner can feel, make rules about what their partner can do sexually, etc.

Dating only people who value their autonomy as much as I do means that my partner and I are the only people making decisions within our relationship and it really helps to uncomplicate things.

I currently have a nesting partner, live with partners, and have a few casual partners. None of them are my primaries or secondaries and none of my relationships look the same.

My nesting partner is also a relationship anarchist. He and I share a room because right now it is right for us and our relationship, both our financial situations, and with my disability. We spend the most time together and are the most serious, but we have discussed that we are both okay with our relationship changing and embracing the fluidity of our relationship. We’ve discussed that this might not always be the case.

It is hard to imagine or talk about our relationship ending because it is currently not what either of us wants. However, we also both agree that ending our romantic relationship would not necessarily be a failure of our relationship and that a breakup doesn’t have to devalue that relationship. This leaves room for both of us to date others with freedom, let those relationships grow organically, and allows our relationship to grow. It is what we prefer to placing limits on each other’s relationships.

I have a few undefined relationships with people who I don’t see often and still mean a lot to me. I think on average I value friendship and nonromantic parts of relationships more than most people. That is why relationship anarchy is perfect for me.

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4 thoughts on “Relationship Anarchy

  1. I agree with your personal take on RA. However, I have seen people accused of not practicing “real” RA because they’ve *chosen* a relationship with agreements and boundaries that inherently limit outside relationships. For example, two people who decide that they only want to live with each other which obviously leaves no option for other partners to become nesting partners.

    Some would argue that means they’ve “privileged” that relationship to such a degree that no other relationship can achieve an equal status and this isn’t in line with RA. It’s as if they think a declaration of RA means “I’m avaliable for everything you want me to be” rather than “I’m available for what I choose to be”.

    Not to oppose the content of your post but more to add to it, RA isn’t a “signpost” that couple privilege isn’t present. If anything, it is almost a guarantee that the person hasn’t chosen the shape and boundaries of their relationships out of mononormative thinking. They’ve made an informed choice.

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    • I absolutely agree. Couple privilege can definitely still be an issue with RA. I think overall people who choose RA are more conscientious about it than some other relationship styles. For some they don’t give couple privilege a second thought. For me personally, reducing couple privilege is one of the main reasons I’m a RA but I know that isn’t true for too many people.

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      • I’m not sure that couple privilege is an “issue” so much as a factor that may render a potential match incompatible. For me, in this respect, “conscientious” just means “upfront about long term limitations”.

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  2. Hi Codi!
    Nice article, I liked it, and some things resonate me a lot (I’m in love with the RA philosophy for these last years ^_^)
    But the first two sentences left me wondering…
    “Relationship anarchy is one of the (roughly) four types of polyamory.”
    We (an “my circles and communities” we) mostly think about RA as a form of non-monogamy, and about polyamory and it sub-styles as another, different, form of non-monogamy (and, i.e., agamy is another different one).
    I think that using this classification is a win-win for both philosophies, because otherwise, looks like is easy to fall into confusions and misunderstandings (my own experience was spending some months thinking I where polyamorous until I discovered I actually was RA and that I don’t identify at all with polyamory).

    My 2 main reasons for that are:
    – Poly and RA come from different origins. RA is about political anarchist ideas applied to relationships. The focus is on how power structures, culture and other things rule our way of relating (that’s important because I think that anti-patriarchy, anti-racism, and anti-all-the-fobias and any other form of oppressive structures is an inherent idea in anarchy, and therefore in RA – a core point in anarchy is replacing authority with responsibility, and no one can be responsible without being conscious of the existence and impact of oppressions).
    Polyamory is not inherently about these things (though fortunately, there are some poly movements and views that defend that without watching out privileges, polyamory becomes more about “privileged people enjoying even more their lives” than anything else), is more focused about questioning the idea of exclusivity (except for poly-exclusivity – I refuse to call it poly-fidelity – which I don’t get why is even considered a form of non-monogamy tbh xD)

    – Polyamory is inherently amatonormative and couple-centrist (but for solo-poly, which overlaps a bit with RA). It doesn’t challenge the idea of the “couples vs friends” classification of relationships, and it focuses only in the “important relationships in live” (from the amatonormative perspective): the couples. Not saying all the poly people thinks like this at all! – as I mentioned before.
    RA is a philosophy about re-thinking all the relationships of any kind and nature, is anti-amatonormative and anti-couple-centrism (and anti-alosexist too, that’s important), as these are part of these social structures that prevents agency and obstaculize the process of building custom relationships.

    “It can also refer to a type of monogamy,”
    I think that many people uses the word “monogamy” to refer just a recount of the number of couples. Maybe that’s the case? I don’t know.
    Leaving aside that the term monogamy is amatonormative in its nature (you require to differentiate the “friends” and “couples” categories to be able to “count how many couples are there”), monogamy have 2 other things to be taken on account:
    – Is also a power structure, and a very important one.
    – A complete definition of “monogamy” needs to include the fact that for both partners is forbidden to have intimate connections of almost any kind with anyone. Is not only about “being 2 people”, if a couple don’t have this limitation about intimacy, then they are not in a monogamous relationship despite they are currently just 2 people.

    So, entitlement over the partner’s intimate life is required to be able to apply this exclusivity rule, and RA rejects the idea that anyone is entitled over anyone else’s live.

    That’s why I don’t understand and I find it hard to imagine how a monogamous relationship can be called RA, would you mind to develop it further?

    Sorry for the super long comment ^__^u

    Cheers!

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