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What Relationship Anarchy Means and What It Can Teach Us

Two people running at sunset on the beach who believe in relationship anarchy and being free in their relationships.

There are many different types of relationships—monogamous, polyamorous, just friends, friends with benefits, traditional marriages, platonic friendships, and situationships, just to name a few. But have you ever stopped to wonder why we feel the need to have so many types of relationships? Or why we need to create names and labels for what we mean to each other?

If we got rid of the distinctions between platonic vs. romantic, monogamous vs. polyamorous, or just friends vs. something more then our relationships would be very different. Maybe even better and more fulfilling for the people who are in them. At least, this what relationship anarchists believe.

Relationship anarchy is the belief that relationships shouldn’t follow any rules aside from those that the people involved in them mutually agree on.

The relationship anarchy movement, coined by Andie Nordgren, began during the free love movement that challenged the idea of monogamous marriage. Just like any anarchist movement, relationship anarchy believes in principles such as rejecting authority and entitlement, a removal of hierarchies, and having respect for autonomy and personal choices.

Those who believe in relationship anarchy think that relationships shouldn’t conform to any social norms or expectations. It’s a freeing thought that challenges people to think of relationships and how we interact with each other in a new light. Even if you’re in a more traditional relationship (or  a relationship with its own set of rules or expectations) and don’t agree with all the ideas behind relationship anarchy, there are a lot of interesting insights to be taken from exploring the thoughts and ideas behind it.

Here are a few of the ideas that go along with relationship anarchy:

The most important relationship in your life may not be romantic.
In many traditional relationships, the person you’re romantically involved with is considered more important on the hierarchal pyramid than your friends, family, or other people who you have more platonic feelings for. Love is often considered a limited resource that’s only “real” if it’s restricted to a couple. With relationship anarchy  the line between romance and friendship is blurred.

You may be friendly with someone and still have a sexual relationship with them, or you may feel romantic love for more than one person who are both equal in your eyes. You may even have companionship and children with someone, and love and passion with someone else. There are no roles and no definitions for what your relationships should be like. Because of this, people aren’t forced to rank and compare people and relationships. You can love your friends as much as you love your significant other. It’s about valuing relationships how you choose, not based on forced structures.

You design your own commitments.
Relationship anarchists believe that a relationship shouldn’t limit either person’s autonomy. In this situation, all those involved in a relationship should have a strong sense of self and should able to put their needs first without feeling pressure or guilt.

In this sense, people get control over deciding if long-term commitments (such as living together, financial bonds, marriage, children, etc.) fit within the lives they want as individual people. It’s not about doing what everyone else is doing after a certain amount of time in a relationship, it’s about having a commitment that doesn’t stop you from living free and independently.

Trust is promoted through communication.
When you throw the rules out the window, and there are no set expectations for how each partner should behave or contribute, it can get tricky. In relationship anarchy, open and direct communication is a must. Instead of just simply assuming that your partner will “get it” or understand how you feel without saying something, you’re both encouraged to talk things through. With consistency and open communication, both partners are able to listen and be open to talking about their feelings.

In a relationship anarchy, you get to appreciate people for who they are and what they have to offer. You both get to decide what you want from each other and the relationship, then take it from there. In some ways, it’s a lot more work. But in it’s also very freeing. Breaking the norm is never easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding if it’s the right choice for you.

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