What is Relationship Anarchy?

The following are some excerpts from an article about relationship anarchy, which you can read in its entirety here if you wish.

What is 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.

How does relationship anarchy differ from polyamory?

First, let’s define polyamory.

Polyamory is the practice of having more than one romantic relationship at the same time, in an open and honest way that requires the consent and knowledge of all people involved. Polyamory is a secular movement about expanding and increasing consensual romantic-sexual love, an alternative way to build family and community.

Relationship anarchy goes further than polyamory in its departure from the monogamous norm. Relationship anarchy does share with polyamory an overall rejection of sexual and romantic monogamy, its common rejection of legal/institutional marriage, etc, but it also seeks to completely break down what I like to call the Romantic Sex-Based Relationship Hierarchy by erasing relationship categories determined by the presence or absence of sex and/or romance. Relationship anarchy consequently creates equality of all personal/intimate relationships, behaviorally and emotionally. The freedom to interact and value one’s relationships starting with a blank slate, distributing physical intimacy, sexual intimacy, emotional intimacy, etc. according to one’s desires rather than preexisting rules and categories of relationship types, is an expression of this equality.

A polyamorus person can be and often is just as much a sex supremacist or a romance supremacist as a monogamous person. That means, just like the vast majority of monogamists, a poly person can make their romantic and/or sexual relationships superior to their nonsexual/nonromantic relationships, solely on the basis of sex and romance. A polyamorous person can and often does separate romantic-sexual relationships from their friendships by restricting intimacy and certain behaviors to their romantic-sexual relationships.

A relationship anarchist does not assign special value to a relationship because it includes sex. A relationship anarchist does not assign special value to a relationship because it includes romance, if they even acknowledge romance as a distinct emotion or set of behaviors in the first place. A relationship anarchist begins from a place of assuming total freedom and flexibility as the one in charge of their personal relationships and decides on a case by case basis what they want each relationship to look like. They may have sex with more than one person, they may be celibate their whole lives, they may live with someone they aren’t having sex with, they may live alone no matter what, they may raise a child with one sexual partner or multiple sexual partners, they may raise a child with a nonsexual partner, they may have highly physical/sensual relationships with multiple people simultaneously (some or all of whom are not sexually and/or romantically involved with them), etc. Relationship anarchists recognize that no behavior is inherently romantic, and the only behavior that is inherently sexual is actual genital sex. What determines the nature of a given act is the individual’s feelings behind it.

For monogamists and many poly people, a “partner” is someone you are both fucking and romantically attracted to, and only that kind of relationship can be a space for commitment, for long-term cohabitation, for childrearing, for profound emotional intimacy and vulnerability, for financial interdependence, for sensual touch and nongenital physical affection, etc. For these people, a “friend” is not as important as a partner because they’re neither the object nor the source of sexual desire and romantic attraction. Normative friendship does not allow for commitment, for long-term cohabitation, for childrearing, for complete emotional intimacy, for financial interdependence, for sensual touch and nongenital physical affection, for legally binding agreements, etc. Monogamists rank their relationships in a very obvious, rigid fashion, and many polyamorous people follow the same basic ranking system by putting romantic-sexual relationships above nonromantic/nonsexual relationships and sometimes also ranking their polyamorous romantic-sexual relationships too. (Thus, the idea of “primary” vs. “secondary” partners—a tenet of what some call polynormativity.)

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.


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