Anarchy! (Um . . . Relationship Anarchy, that is.)

FallenAngelina

Well-known member
I still can't figure the difference between non-hierarchical polyamory and relationship anarchy. They seem to be quite similar, if not different words for the same thing.
Relationship anarchy isn't poly-fi, whereas non-hierarchical polyamory can be. Open, non-hierarchical polyamory is relationship anarchy. And yes, romantic relationships do not ipso facto have a higher "status" than non-romantic relationships.




...is RA really doing rules-free relationships, or merely relationships where each of us is free to craft our own set of rules...?
Relationship anarchy doesn't mean that I can do whatever I please, whenever I please with no relationship rules. It also isn't about everyone setting their own rules. It does not mean that it's OK if I'm an asshole. It just means that there is no fidelity of any kind.
 
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Spork

New member
Relationship anarchy isn't poly-fi, whereas non-hierarchical polyamory can be. Open, non-hierarchical polyamory is relationship anarchy. And yes, romantic relationships do not ipso facto have a higher "status" than non-romantic relationships.





Relationship anarchy doesn't mean that I can do whatever I please, whenever I please with no relationship rules. It also isn't about everyone setting their own rules. It does not mean that it's OK if I'm an asshole. It just means that there is no fidelity of any kind.

Truly? So every non-exclusive relationship is RA? That was not my understanding. I always thought it meant more about extensive de-bundling, not making assumptions about obligations/entitlements/etc in relationships...

I didn't mean making up your own rules as in, being an asshole, I meant more along the lines of people discussing where they're at and shaping their relationship experience in accordance with their own wishes in an agreed upon manner, in a way that might defy some of the typical labels like FWB, boyfriend, husband, etc. And one source I read mentioned that an important distinction (to that author) was placing equal potential weight with non sexual, and non romantic friendships as with sexual/romantic ones.

Someone who is dating a couple, has a best friend who donated sperm to create a child and co-parents with them, but has no "relationship" (sex/romance) but just friendship...and has maybe a couple FWB on the side, or not...defining roles and expectations as they go, with an openness to see what evolves.

It reminds me of switches in BDSM who say that they can be sub or Dom depending on the dynamic they have with a partner. A kind of "wait and see what evolves naturally" approach.

In that sense, I'd think that a poly-fi today, maybe not tomorrow, ideology might make someone live somewhere on the RA spectrum. No?
 

Evie

Moderator
Re (from opalescent):


Maybe it's that RA eschews explicit rules? I'm not sure.

I kinda thought that it's that RA eschews implicit rules.

That is, it rejects the societal expectations of what relationships, especially those with specific labels attached, include.
 

Evie

Moderator

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Re (from Evie):
"I kinda thought that it's that RA eschews implicit rules."

Does it eschew all rules, both implicit and explicit?
 

Spork

New member
OK, the "Customize Your Commitments" part covers this.

There is no part of RA that is anathema to fidelity. But it must be a fidelity (commitment) freely chosen, generally unbundled in such a manner that various factors are taken under consideration. Ideally, one would want to allow one's partner the freedom to customize their own commitments, as one would wish to have it themselves.

So my Analyst may decide that he only has the personal energy to handle two girlfriends at a time. This is something he told me in the very beginning, before the quad was even a solid thing. He wanted one more woman in his life, and then he was -done-. He is fidelitous to us out of his own choice and of his own free will, not because of any norms or expectations on our part.

I have the quad plus one. There was a very specific reason I chose my plus one, which I've discussed elsewhere. Zen only has me and I don't think that he is seeking anyone else, although as far as I'm concerned, he is free to do so.

Fire has her husband, Hefe, and the Analyst and I, but she also (slightly more casually, I think, though she isn't very communicative to me about her other relationships) dates a prominent member of our kink community, and a firefighter, and until recently also had a long distance relationship with a biologist, with infrequent visits. They had a 12 year friendship, and relatively recently made more of it, but then she backed it off not long ago.

Hefe does whatever Hefe does...he's got Fire and I, but I've got a vague notion he might swing a bit on the side, too.

(Neither of the married ones are necessarily explicitly informative about their other relationships...but they won't try to hide anything if asked.)

Thing is...each of us has made our own choice about where our saturation point does or does not lie. At least a couple of the ones in my quad have decided (for the time being) to be fairly fidelitous to the existing configuration. But this is not a matter of following any kind of rules or norms, it is simply us deciding where we are happy and comfortable.

I think that follows the spirit of "Customized Commitments." *shrug* ??
 

Evie

Moderator
Re (from Evie):


Does it eschew all rules, both implicit and explicit?

I guess that depends if someone feels the need for a rule that should simply be covered by human decency and common sense. Eg safer sex "rules".

Or perhaps if you're making explicit rules, it's not actually RA?

I should go read that link of origin haha.
 

Spork

New member
The one area in which I'm fairly certain that I am NOT adhering to RA (and I'm cool with it fo sho!) is treating and approaching all relationships equally.

I don't have primaries and secondaries in my life as far as my romantic/sexual relationships go. But I tacitly acknowledge that Fire and Hefe are primaries to one another...they are married!...and I know that Hefe for one needs to feel that he is the primary in order to feel secure. I don't have any issue with that, as his relationship with Fire is for them to manage. He can see me in any way he likes, I view him as on basically equal footing to any of my people.

However, I draw a very strong distinction between those who have an elevated status with me (immediate family like my kids, and my relationship partners) and those who do not (my extended family and friends.) Mostly that has to do with time commitments. I have mentioned before elsewhere how big a social network I have...hundreds of people I consider to be friends, who matter to me...I do not have the time necessary to devote to giving each of them one-on-one visits and interactions. So if they want to see me, they need to show up at an event or gathering of some kind where I will be, and then we'll hang out. They have to share my time.

The ones I'm in relationships with on the other hand, do have an entitlement (not just in their minds, but in my mind) to more dedicated time with me.

It's that thing we all know...love may be an unlimited resource, but time and money certainly are not! So how I allocate those finite resources has a lot to do with how I rank my relationships...I don't have the mojo to give equally to everybody.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
But surely RA doesn't require its adherents to distribute their time and money in identical amounts to all their loved ones?
 

MusicalRose

Member
I do not think that forced anything, even equality is a tenet that most RA people are likely to go for. Some of my relationships are more important to me than others, but I get to decide what that means in terms of how much time I'm willing to spend with someone or what level of intimacy I'm willing to share with them. Similarly, everyone in my life has that same freedom.
 

nycindie

Active member
Here is the guy who made up this term. If anyone wants to wade thru his text and share with the class, please do. Maybe we can all learn together.
Andie Nordgren is a woman who IDs as genderqueer.

Below is an excerpt from Deborah Anapol's book, Polyamory in the 21st Century: Love and Intimacy with Multiple Partners, published in 2010. Deborah Anapol states:

". . . I contacted Andie Nordgren, a 28-year old artist and software product manager who currently lives in London and is credited with creating and popularizing the concept of relationship anarchy in her native Sweden. Andie agreed that there was little, if any, difference between relationship anarchy and polyamory as I defined it in my book Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits over a decade ago: "I use polyamory to describe the whole range of lovestyles which arise from an understanding that love cannot be forced to flow, or not flow, in any particular direction. Love which is allowed to expand often grows to include a number of people. But to me, polyamory has more to do with an internal attitude of letting love evolve without expectations and demands than it does with the number of partners."

Her complaint about polyamory is that by focusing on the number of partners, it still upholds the idea that "normal" love is only between two people. In other words, even though the word polyamory has been substituted for non-monogamy, she still sees polyamory as a variation on the monogamy/marriage paradigm. Andie, who identifies herself as a gender queer, explains, "You can compare it to the way many queers don't use the term bisexual even if they have relationships to both male- and female-bodied people, as the term itself indicates that there are only two genders and three sexualities (straight, bi, and gay) to choose from. The other aspect that was frustrating to me was that the polyamorous community in Sweden was still upholding a clear difference between relationships and friendships. Even if there was a lot of talk about not falling into the monogamous traps of wishing/demanding that another person be everything for you--and of course, how love was not restricted to one person--there was still a strong distinction made between those you had a relationship with and those who were just friends."

Andie says that in Sweden, the poly movement has been pretty much incorporated into the Gay Pride movement and usually operates the same way. That is, they try to claim that "we're just like you normal people, only with more partners" and try to differentiate poly from the views of it as swinging or cheating. While monogamy is still the norm for Swedes and "mild prejudice" against polyamory still exists, most people consider it not a "super big deal" but rather a personal choice, much like in the more liberal areas of the United States. Andie found that in Sweden, polyamory was strongly linked to the bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, and sadomasochism community as well. Not surprisingly, power games are not a surefire way to warm the heart of an anarchist. For Andie, the polyamory community has "too many outdated values about gender, sexuality, power, and love and is too focused on definitions and rules and making new mental institutions for managing love relationships with several people instead of just one. Since I was interested in escaping the idea that love needed rules and institutions to survive, I never felt much at home," she says.

Andie summarizes her position as follows: "I felt a need to put another piece on the table, so that the scale of possible relationship choices didn't just go between monogamous and polyamorous but had a third, outer point--relationship anarchy. This is how I see the scale these days. Monogamy says love is only for two people; everyone knows the drill. Polyamory says love relationships can be between several people in various configurations, but there is still a difference between those who are 'partners' in various ways and those who are not. Relationship anarchy says that the gray scale between love and friendship is so gray that we cannot draw a line, and thus we shouldn't institutionalize a difference between partners and non-partners."

She realizes that from a monogamous worldview, polyamory looks no different from relationship anarchy, but to a relationship anarchist, the question "how many partners do you have?" makes no sense and is actually offensive. "The term is meant to put a useful label on an attitude that I feel is different from the mainstream polyamory that deals a lot with defining things like primary partners, jealousy and time management, and so on, to deserve its own term," she concludes.

. . . this brand of polyamory is much closer to what I had in mind 25 years ago when I first started writing about non-monogamy, but has since been eclipsed by what radical young people are now calling "mainstream polyamory."​


I like how Marcus described this whole thing what...a couple of years ago?
Marcus particpated earlier in this thread. One can click on "Search This Thread" above, then select "Advanced Search" and specify that you want to see Posts by Marcus, and you'll ge them all. Or check out Posts # 15, 16, 62, and 63 to start.
 
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Ravenscroft

Banned
Eesh, that's like a red rag to a Ravenscroft ;)
Once you're done speaking gibberish, feel free to move on to an actual statement, or question, or something. :p
________________

As for "relationship anarchy," I've seen the term crop up recurringly. Yet, like "unconditional love" & suchlike, it usually gets blatantly misappropriated, & next thing you know there's people using the term to contain diametrically opposite concepts.

So, one person will use RA to mean "no boilerplate rules, every relationship negotiated as unique & dynamic" while another claims it means "knee-jerk destruction of any rule that tries to rise" -- the same thing you'd see in any Anarchist group.

(I know a Minneapolis coffeeshop that's run by an Anarchist collective -- which, really, is an oxymoron for anyone who thinks "anarchy" is merely destructive. Anyway, it's a great place, & quite well-run, so for me has kinda thrown a positive light on modern Anarchism.)

Seems like a key problem is the misapprehension that "anarchy" means you getto do whatever the hell you want, & therefore RA has no set meaning yet is highly significant & unifying.

:confused:

Some great thoughts in this thread, though really not doing much to make RA relevant.
 

nycindie

Active member
Some great thoughts in this thread, though really not doing much to make RA relevant.

Not relevant? To what or to whom are the thoughts expressed here not relevant, in your opinion?

I think the discussion has been relevent to hyperskeptic's original query when he started this thread:

Is anyone else familiar with the idea of 'relationship anarchy', or have any experience of it? To what degree is the idea compatible with your understanding of 'polyamory'?

It strikes me as consistent with polyamory, in some respects, but at the same time more radical.

. . . What do you think of the idea of 'relationship anarchy'? Does it make sense? Is it tenable? Do you want to start storming the barricades of off-the-shelf thinking in relationships? Or do you want to resist, to hold on to something you see as good in more conventional categories of relationship?

Do 'polyamory' and 'relationship anarchy' really come to the same thing? Or is 'relationship anarchy' - as I suspect it might be - more radical than 'polyamory' is generally conceived to be, questioning assumptions even those committed to polyamory often still make?

And is 'anarchy' really the best term? In the United States, the term conjures up dim collective memories of the Haymarket Riot, the very source of the paradigm "bomb-throwing radical" . . . In short, 'anarchy' has overtones of violence hereabouts that might not apply in a European context or in the more airy realms of academic social and political theory, where 'anarchy' has a drier and more precise meaning.

In another thread, I suggested 'relationship-queer' as a possible term for what I take to be the more radical approach to relationships, a term that has quite different connotations.
 

Evie

Moderator
Once you're done speaking gibberish, feel free to move on to an actual statement, or question, or something.

Clearly wordplay isn't your thing.

I was simply acknowledging that your posts often involve research and commentary about that research. Karen had invited just that. Just figured you would be very likely to join in this thread.

Oh, look. ;)
 

Spork

New member
Yeah it's that part where "asking how many partners a relationship anarchist has" is nonsensical or offensive...that's what I disagree with specifically in how I operate.

My partners are people who currently have my sexual consent. That pretty much sums it up. I am not asexual, nor am I willing to freely engage in sex with whomever. I have no expectation that any of my partnerships are permanent, I do expect future fluctuation...but I have managed to thus far beat the odds, having had sex with 45 people in my life, most with no protection (though many were virgin boys in high school) and contracted no disease from this. I am not keen to drive that number a whole lot higher, not that I judge anyone on what they do, this is just my own preference.

So to me...because there are real life potential implications to sex...the question of "sex or no sex" does make a difference, and I do differentiate my relationships and they do operate differently as a result of that and bear differing levels of priority and rank in my mind. Someone who is a friend, who does not have my consent to sexual activity at this time is different to me, than someone I have an ongoing sexual relationship with. I don't see them as "whatever it's all the same."

I don't have much use, however, for the whole "primary, secondary" thing...though I respect the rights of others to do that, including the people I'm in relationships with.
 

GirlFromTexlahoma

New member
I don't think "how many partners do you have?" is particularly offensive, but it IS confusing. Even for me, someone who isn't a relationship anarchist and doesn't have casual sex. "Partner" is a pretty broad term.

My boyfriend is a sexual partner... But is he a romantic partner? A relationship partner? What defines those things? I feel like when I try to pin down the criteria for those things, I end up with stuff that includes close friends and excludes both my boyfriend and my husband's FWB :confused: Not to mention, my boyfriend's wife of almost 20 years is no longer his sexual partner. Does that mean she gets excluded from his partner list, even though they love each other, live together, and parent together?

I definitely get that sexual relationships are different - it's a whole new set of boundaries to negotiate. If my boyfriend starts a new sexual relationship, that affects me differently than if my platonic friend does. But ... Even though I wouldn't have sexual health concerns, I'd be just as worried about time and interpersonal dynamics if my BFF had a new sex partner.

(Maybe more so - I'm unlikely to meet my boyfriend's new partner, unless I really want to for some reason. I'm very likely to hang out with my BFF's new interest regularly, and there would be an expectation that I do so, unless I had a really good reason not to.)

I'm pretty sure my traditional marriage disqualifies me as RA, but I totally love the concept. Relationships are damn complicated, and sex/romance don't always go hand in hand with love and commitment. At least not for everyone.
 
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