two hands holding relationship anarchy

Relationship Anarchy: Know What You Want

We were recently introduced to “Relationship Anarchy” by a student, and we realize that it was in fact, quite in resonance with what we teach, and our own relationship. So what is relationship anarchy? The term was coined by a Swede, Andie Nordgren. The basic idea is that instead of categorizing relationships (all relationships) into standard categories, like “friends” or “partners,” that 2 or more adults can decide and negotiate for themselves what their relationship is, and what place it has in their lives.

This is in contrast with our cultural norms – with the “gold standard” of romantic relationships – a stable pair, for life, perhaps with children. Of course recently, that “gold standard” was a man and a woman, and it’s relatively recently that it has changed to include 2 women or 2 men, but it is still the cultural standard for romantic relationships – in a sense the “best.”

Relationship Anarchy says that what’s “best” is each relationship, no matter what the shape and container.

You get to decide, alongside someone else (or more than one person) what your relationship looks like. In fact, you get to decide what every relationship (of choice) that you have looks like. If you want that one person forever, that’s great, be clear about that, and as we say, craft your relationship vision to incorporate that. But understand that that is not the only way to craft a relationship. There are infinite ways!

Want to have a deep, intimate relationship once every couple of years, then spend time single in between? You can do that. Want to have a non-sexual but deeply intimate companion? You can do that too! Want to have a stable triad? Yup. Want to be family with one person, but have other lovers as well? Sure. Want to raise kids with a good friend, and have a romantic partner on the side? That’s possible too. In fact, anything you can envision is possible. We’ve just been limited by society’s conceptions about what a “real” relationship or marriage is.

But you have to know what you really want.

You have to know what you want – and dig deep, to make sure that what you think you want isn’t just bowing to a cultural norm, or because you have fear. For instance, some older women might want to have a “forever” partner not because that’s what they really want, but because they are afraid of not having someone to take care of them when they are older. And when you really think about it – that’s a terrible reason to get into a relationship! Why? First, there is no guarantee she won’t need the care before you do, or die before you do. And if fear has been driving you, you probably won’t be able to make the right choice, so the relationship might end anyway. And you would not have dealt with the issue at all.

If you hear yourself saying things like “that’s just what you do,” or “no one will want anything different,” or “there’s no room for what I want,” those are clues that you need to dig deeper, and also cultivate self-compassion – you deserve to have the love and relationships in your life that are shaped the way you want them – and there are plenty of people out there who probably want the same (or similar) things.

You have to have communication skills.

Communicating what you want and working with someone to create the relationship you really are looking for takes a lot of skill. Partially because we have so many cultural assumptions about relationships, and you might be going against the assumed norm. And even if you aren’t going against an assumed norm, it’s really important to develop and articulate your relationship vision, so you both know you are on the same page, and going in the same direction.

There’s lots more about this in this weeks podcast, which is below.

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