What non-hierarchical philosophy means.

Whether you’re monogamous, polyamorous, or somewhere in between, chances are your relationships involve some sort of hierarchy. Maybe you pay more attention to your spouse than your platonic friendships, or maybe – if you practice hierarchical polyamory – you have an anchor partner or primary partner who takes precedence over your partners. secondary.

Some people thrive under the structure of hierarchical relationships, but others find it limiting. This is where relationship anarchy comes in. You may have heard of relationship anarchy in the context of polyamory – specifically, as alternative hierarchical polyamory – but it’s actually less of a relationship style and more of a philosophy of how how we interact with the people in our lives.

What exactly does relationship anarchy mean?

The idea of ​​relationship anarchy – a term coined by Andie Nordgren – is that the people within a relationship are the complete and total agents of that relationship. Relationship anarchists reject external rules of what a relationship should look like. They believe that no type of relationship is inherently more important than another, and that romantic and platonic love are endless resources.

Under Relationship Anarchy, your relationships can be anything you want them to be. You might want to live with ten partners in a big house and have orgies every night, or you might want to live apart from a partner with whom you share a child. Maybe you have a spouse but are very close to your best friend and commit to vacationing with them twice a year, or maybe you’re single but have a strong bond with your siblings. and you lean on them during times of stress. We are often encouraged to view romantic relationships as the “ultimate”, or most valuable relationships in our lives, but relationship anarchists say that all relationships can be equally important, although perhaps in different ways.

Anarchy is often considered synonymous with chaos, but modern definitions that first appeared in the 19th century present anarchy as a utopian system where people enjoy freedom and live harmoniously and peacefully. “Fundamentally, anarchy does not mean chaos; if we look at political anarchy, it is about the dissolution of the state and the rejection of hierarchical power structures,” says polyamory coach Morgane K. “Relationship anarchy is quite similar. It’s about rejecting any outside system that dictates how the relationship ‘should’ play out. Instead, only the people within the dynamic can decide together how it looks. If a hierarchy or power imbalance exists, it is never coercive or mandatory and can be renegotiated at any time.

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Can you be an anarchist, monogamous relationship?

We tend to associate relationship anarchy with polyamory because both involve resisting societal rules around relationship structures, but the diverse and self-contained nature of relationship anarchy means it could also apply to a monogamous situation. . If you and your partner both decide that you’re happy to be monogamous, then that’s fine! The most important thing is that you made the decision together.

“[Relationship anarchy] might involve having more than one sexual partner, but not either,” says sex and relationship educator Justin Hancock. a kind of relational anarchy. Going even further, we can extend this to deeply loving relationships with non-humans: the environment, pets, God or spirituality, art, music or even football clubs.

How to practice relational anarchy?

The goal of Relationship Anarchy is to pursue any type of relationship you want without the pressure to conform to existing rules and structures, but all partners must agree to any arrangements.

If you feel like your partner isn’t spending enough time with you, you can say, “I’m upset because I wish we spent more time together,” but in the end, it’s up to you. him to choose how (or if) to adjust their behavior. Saying “you have to spend more time with me” would not fit the principles of relationship anarchy, because you become an outside agent who dictates the terms.

This is also true in sexual and platonic relationships. Let’s say you have a friendship that seems one-sided, where your friend is asking too much of you. Your friend is free to ask for emotional support from whomever they want (not just a partner, which society has deemed more appropriate), but you are not obligated to provide this support if you are not happy to do so. To do. In this case, you would clearly explain to your friend the impact of his behavior, but without expecting to change it. Instead, it would be up to you to step down.

“Our partners can tell us how they are affected by our behaviors, and they can choose to walk away from a relationship that isn’t right for them,” says Morgan. “But veto power or external rules imposed by a third party have no place in relational anarchy.”

It’s normal to have to renegotiate the terms of every relationship over time, Morgan says, not just when feelings change, but with major life events like someone moving out or someone wanting to have kids. It is important to think carefully about your own feelings, why they have arisen and how you would like to deal with them, and then explain them as clearly as possible. But remember, you can’t expect people to do things just because you asked them.

Much of the language around relationship anarchy, says Hancock, can seem off-putting or overly complicated, but there are actually some very simple ways anyone can incorporate this philosophy into their lives. If there are people you like, make time for them, and that includes yourself, says Hancock. Relationship anarchy might look like scheduling solo dates with yourself, or “going on dates with friends and keeping them,” he says. “When I say date, I’m not talking about dinner and drinks; I just mean taking the time. It could just be a phone call, or a half-hour text exchange, or a weekend. end… Anyone can try this kind of thing and if we all did it, it could be quite transformative.

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