Relationship Anarchy


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.


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.


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.

7 Mistakes People Make When Opening Up Their Relationship

I sincerely think that the hardest way to join the ranks of open relationships is through opening your existing relationship. Having to overcome what society has taught us about relationships is difficult. Overcoming those societal views and how they have affected your existing relationship is even more difficult.

This is not meant to chastise or criticize anyone. Opening relationships involves a lot of trial and error to find what works best for you. These are some of the mistakes friends, partners, and myself have made when first opening relationships. That isn’t to say that people can’t make some of these styles work for them, rather that these cause problems for a lot of couples.

1. Trying an Open Relationship with Closed Lips

(DADT) Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

It didn’t work for the military and isn’t likely to work with your new open relationship. When a couple initially opens their relationship they have trouble hearing about their partners with other people. As a result, they put in place a don’t ask don’t tell policy where they consent to their partners seeing other people but don’t want to talk about it or hear about it.

Why can it be a problem?

Addressing jealousy head on helps you get past it. If you are DADT to avoid feeling jealous is it is likely that those bad feelings will bubble up anyway. Sticking your fingers in your ears and singing isn’t the best way to avoid jealousy.

For me, polyamory isn’t just about having more than one partner. Polyamory, to me, is also about community. DADT means you can’t build that same community. With DADT you miss out on a big part of your partner’s life and possibly amazing friends and community.

2. Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want

Not Figuring Out What You Want

A lot of couples dive into polyamory without talking about what they want. I know couples who have been to polyamorous events without even discussing how they felt about flirting in front of one another. They were broken up a week later. I see other couples, again and again, start dating new partners before figuring out what they want.

So why is it a problem?

It isn’t fair to the people you date. If you hop into a serious (or even casual) relationship before figuring out what you want you are kind of guaranteeing that your partner will get hurt. Don’t use people as experiments and stop seeing them as people.

3. Veto Power

“The second either of us is uncomfortable we will stop.”
“If I am not okay with someone you have to break up with them.”

Veto Power is the power of one part of a couple to make decisions for their partner’s dating life. Sometimes they can veto people or situations. Again, this may look like a good way to protect your feelings. Again, it isn’t.

The problem?

When I date someone I want to date that person. I want myself and them to be the only people making decisions for our relationship. Not their partner. When you allow your partners to make decisions for relationships they aren’t involved in you are hurting yourselves and anyone who dares to date you.

Vetoing things almost always from a place of insecurity or jealousy. When things are vetoed you may become more comfortable with the situation, but polyamory may never work for you if you don’t ever work through your insecurities or jealousy. Working through them both is so important to having multiple relationships; you can’t simply skip this step. Becoming uncomfortable is how we grow, so rethink the veto.

4. Avoiding Your Metamours

Metamours are our partner’s partners. Similar to don’t ask don’t tell relationships, many people consent to an open relationship but don’t want to meet their metamours.

An argument for meeting your metamours.

Often when we get jealous of our metamours we put them on a pedestal. Meeting them helps us realize they are a human with faults, just like you. Meeting metamours almost always helps with jealousy.

You already have so much in common, your partner that connects you, that often metamours get along wonderfully. I often become good friends or even date my metamours. If I never met my metamours I would have missed out on meeting so many amazing people.

5. You Can Only Have One Penis In Your Life

One Penis Policy

A one penis policy is usually a rule in heterosexual relationships and basically means that the bisexual woman can only date women and the man can date women too.

There are so many things wrong with this.

It says that relationships or sex between two women is not equal to heterosexual relationships. OPP lets men date anyone they are attracted to, but not everyone women are attracted to. It is sexist and simply unfair.

6. Unicorns Are People Too

Unethical Unicorn Hunting

Unicorn hunting is when a couple tries to find a bisexual (unicorn) to add to their couple. It can be done right, respectfully, and ethically -but it usually isn’t.

The mistakes unicorn hunters make.

Couples often expect the unicorn to come in as less than their relationship. Couples often treat the unicorn as a sex toy or relationship tool rather than a person. I dated a couple once and even though they were with each other all the time and I only saw them every once in awhile because of distance, they expected me to date only them (and didn’t communicate this). Basically remember they are a person and treat them as such!

7. Only Date The Same Person

A lot of couples only date the same people, but sometimes that can be even harder on the relationship.

How only dating the same people as your partner is limiting.

Finding someone that one person is compatible with is difficult, finding someone who is compatible with you and your partner is close to impossible. When you add in the common expectation that all relationships with this new person have to advance at the same time and in the same way- then it really is impossible.

You are your partner are different people (I really hope you realize this, but for some reason, some of you still share a Facebook so you need a reminder). You may be compatible with each other but it is unlikely that you will find the same people attractive, be drawn to the same personalities, or that the same people will be attracted to both of you. Only dating the same person is hugely limiting your dating pool and is going to make polyamory very difficult for you.

You may have noticed a pattern. A lot of the rules we put in place to protect our feelings aren’t protecting feelings at all. Rules about safe sex and abuse are, of course, exceptions. Rather, these rules keep us from growing as people and addressing our jealousy and insecurities. When we put off dealing with these feelings they grow out of control. They make polyamory hurtful, instead of how wonderful it can be.

5 Problems With Couple Privilege In Polyamory

Couples in our society have a lot of advantages compared to those of us who are single, in relationships of three or more people, relationship anarchists, or solo poly. A lot of times couples who open their relationships do not realize their couple privilege and end up hurting others. Many polyamorous groups and communities are extremely couple-centric and ignore others who are polyamorous outside of a couple. Additionally, the few depictions of polyamory in movies and TV usually revolve around a couple adding a third to their relationship which is not representative of polyamory community as a whole.

Don’t believe me that couple privilege exists- have you ever received a +2 or +3 for a wedding? Also, if your partner is in the hospital only one spouse is permitted to be there and fully support you. Three-way and four-way marriage is illegal and won’t be legalized anytime soon. In many areas, you can only live with three unrelated people at most. The list goes on and on but when it really comes down to it:

Our society revolves around couples.

1. Couple Privilege Is Not Fair To Thirds
The most well-known type of polyamory is a couple opening their relationship to a third. While there is nothing wrong with this if it is done ethically, often couple privilege prevails. When this happens the third person to join the relationship is the one who gets hurt. When couples open their relationship to a third the third is often tossed aside at the first sign of trouble, treated as a sex toy, or used as a tool to mend the original relationship. Couple privilege means that often these unethical behaviors are accepted in the polyamorous communities instead of condemned.

Everyone needs to be treated as a human being and have their feelings respected whether they are part of a couple or not.

2. Couple Privilege Can Support Sexism
When polyamory revolves around couples it can lead to those relationships perpetuating sexist attitudes. Often a heterosexual couple opens up to an additional girl or the man is allowed to sleep with whoever they want while woman’s sexuality is restricted. When men are permitted to be with anyone they like and women are not this form of polyamory is closer to religious, sexist polygamy.

In polyamorous relationships equality in whom women and men are permitted to date needs to be a priority.

3. Not Representative Of Polyamory As A Whole
Polyamory is not well understood and when all representations are a couple adding a third people get the wrong idea. For example, OKCupid attempted to make their site more polyamory- friendly but only succeeded in representing the polyamorous who are part of a couple.

A better understanding of polyamory can only come when all types are represented.

4. Couple Privilege Is Just Another Mold To Try To Fit Your Relationship In
One of the best things about polyamory is that it helps people realize what they really want from their relationships instead of fitting into the box typical of society. When couple privilege is encouraged it is just making another framework for people to conform to.

5. Couple Privilege Weakens The Polyamorous Community
When polyamorous groups and communities focus on couples they are alienating other parts of the community. We need to be united and support each other instead of casting aside people who do polyamory different from us. One of the reasons I started a polyamory Meetup group is because some of the groups in the area were couple-centric to the point they were alienating to people who weren’t a part of hierarchical polyamory.

OKCupid Tries To Be More Polyamory Friendly And Fails

In the world of internet dating, there are not many dating websites that cater to ethical non-monogamy or polyamory. There are plenty of dating websites that cater to relationship cheaters- such as the infamous, but polyamory is not cheating. Polyamory is the ethical involvement or desire of multiple romantic relationships and is on a rapid rise according to OKCupid statistics.

OKCupid and Polyamory
OKCupid is one of the best online dating websites for polyamorous daters. It is not
close to perfect, but OKCupid is one of the few dating websites that even references polyamory as a relationship option. OKCupid is starting to pay more attention and make their site poly-friendly because more and more people are departing from the traditional monogamous relationship set-up. As many as 42% of their users would consider (or are in) a polyamorous/ ethically open relationship.

OKCupid’s Efforts
Early January 2016 OKCupid added the option to add a single current relationship while still seeking out potential mates. OKCupid has also added an option to date as a couple looking for new dates. These new options are great for couples in open relationships, but open relationships are not the only way of doing polyamory. OKCupid is still leaving many polyamorous people out by restricting the number of partners you can add. Many polyamorous people are in relationships of three, four, or more with varying types of relationships and arrangements.

Polyamorous people often have multiple relationships they value closely. These “polyamory friendly” additions are a step in the correct direction but are also another step toward reinforcing couple privilege and societies obsession with monogamy.

Couple Privilegecouplepriv
Couple privilege is probably not something you have thought about unless you have looked into non-monogamy or been single on Valentine’s day. Couples in our society have a lot of advantages compared to those who are single, in relationships of three or more people, relationship anarchists, or who are solo poly. Once we are talking about online dating couple privilege becomes a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Dating websites focus on finding “the one” to complete your partnership.

OKCupid has provided the option to be in a relationship while seeking an additional relationship, but they fall short in the fight against couple privilege in only allowing one additional partner. It is true that some polyamorous people enjoy a primary partnership and everyone they seek to date is considered to be of less importance. However, many other styles of relationship such as solo polyamory, relationship anarchy, and polyfidelity (3-4+ exclusive relationship) exist as well.
Consideration of additional relationship structures will serve to strengthen OKCupid and the dating world in general. OKCupid is headed down the right path, they just need to follow through.