What is Relationship Anarchy-S04E35

Recorded: 6/5/2022 / Published: 1/03/2023  
  • In this week’s episode, we are examining relationship anarchy.
    1. Safe, sane, consensual, and informed
    2. KNKI: Knowledge, No Intolerance, Kindness, Integrity
    3. “Submission is not about authority and it’s not about obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect.” -Wm. Paul Young
  • “What is Relationship Anarchy-S04E35”
  • “What Is Relationship Anarchy?: This Modern Dating Approach Is All About Freedom” by Rebecca Strong / May 31, 2022
    1. https://www.askmen.com/dating/dating_advice/what-is-relationship-anarchy-this-modern-dating-approach-is-all-about-freedom.html 
    2. Over the last 40 years, the way people date has changed drastically. Rather than there being one model for your love life, there are several. 

These days, some people are dating multiple people at the same time. Some are waiting longer to get married. Some are opting to never get married at all, having kids before they tie the knot, or getting hitched but never moving in together. Others are choosing no-strings casual encounters over committed bonds.

The point is, one by one, many of the unspoken “rules” of dating have been thrown out the window. And no one embraces this more than relationship anarchists. As the name suggests, relationship anarchy (RA) means rejecting any of society’s expectations when it comes to love. 

A 2017 study found that at least one in five people has engaged in some form of “consensual non-monogamy” before — including RA. But it’s certainly not for everyone. So, what exactly does relationship anarchy look like, and is it right for you? We talked to dating and relationship experts to find out.

– What Is Relationship Anarchy?

“Relationship anarchists practice freedom,” explains Dr. Tammy Nelson, a sex and relationship therapist, author of Open Monogamy, and host of the podcast The Trouble With Sex. 

That means freedom to love whoever they want, however they want. Relationship anarchists aren’t interested in labels or conforming to cultural norms. They date on their own terms.

“It’s a philosophy of creating relationship structures that are non-hierarchical, where every partner has the same resources and needs in the relationship,” she adds. “Most often this is seen in polyamory, but it also can be seen in monogamous relationships where couples value autonomy and independence.”

RA dictates that relationships can be romantic, erotic, or platonic — and all are regarded as equally important and valuable. Regardless of the type of bond, the focus is on each person’s happiness as an individual above all else. 

“With RA, you don’t need to distinguish between partner and non-partner,” explains  Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist. “Relationship anarchy suggests that it’s the quality of a relationship that matters — does it align with your core needs and values? Is it a fit for you or are you simply embracing it because you’ve been told you ought to do so?”

It’s not, however, a free-for-all in which you get to ignore the needs of others, adds O’Reilly. As a type of consensual non-monogamy, RA requires open communication to ensure everyone’s boundaries are being respected.

– Examples of Relationship Anarchy

The possibilities are endless when it comes to practicing relationship. According to O’Reilly and DatingScout expert Chris Pleines, here are some examples of how RA might look in real life:

Living with a partner without having sex

Living in separate homes or having separate bedrooms from your romantic partner

Having multiple romantic relationships simultaneously

Enjoying sex outside of your relationship with a celibate partner

Having kids with a sexual partner but raising them with a platonic partner or friend

Rejecting labels like partner, boyfriend, or girlfriend, and simply calling all the people in your life “loved ones”

Leah Carey, a sex and intimacy coach and host of the podcast Good Girls Talk About Sex, adds that many people embrace RA because they find that one person can’t fulfill all of their needs all the time. 

For instance, someone may have a partner that they connect with intellectually and spiritually, who fulfills their yearning for long, deep, and engaging conversations. They may also have a partner who solely fulfills their sexual desires, and another platonic “nesting partner” who they share a home with, cook dinner with, and cuddle with.

– Relationship Anarchy vs. Polyamory

Because relationship anarchy can include non-monogamy, many people confuse this term with polyamory. While there is some overlap, they aren’t the same thing.

One of the most significant distinctions, according to Pleines, is that a relationship anarchist might only want one partner — whereas polyamory inherently involves having more than one. 

Another key difference, says sexologist and relationship expert Cyndi Darnell, is that polyamory is specifically based around romantic love, while RA doesn’t necessarily need to be since it recognizes the significance of other non-romantic types of intimacy and connection.

Additionally, relationship expert and sex therapist Tatyana Dyachenko notes that it’s not uncommon to have some kind of hierarchy in polyamorous relationships — like a primary and secondary partner. With relationship anarchy, however, these hierarchies do not exist.

“Relationship anarchy might include polyamory if it aligns with your values,” says O’Reilly. “Or, a relationship anarchist might opt out of polyamory. There is no single way to practice RA.”

– Is Relationship Anarchy Right for You?

The freedom that comes with relationship anarchy can either be thrilling and rewarding or anxiety-inducing and confusing, depending on your personality, needs, goals, and values.

Here are some signs that relationship anarchy might work for you, according to Carey and O’Reilly:

You thrive with a lack of structure

You hate restrictions, or being told what you can and can’t do with your body

You’re not too concerned with what other people think of your choices

You’re flexible and adaptable to change

You’re not a very jealous or possessive person

You’re good at recognizing your needs and comfortable communicating them

“It’s only wise to engage in relationship anarchy if you have a secure attachment style,” says Dyachenko.

If your attachment style is more anxious or avoidant, though, this approach may actually stoke your insecurities and make it difficult for you to maintain healthy bonds. 

“You have to be able to trust others and have a certain level of confidence within yourself,” she explains. 

Last but certainly not least, Darnell notes that the most important factor in practicing RA is having solid communication skills. 

“Developing empathetic listening skills will help you in all relationships — whether you’re monogamous or a relationship anarchist,” adds O’Reilly.

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