Defining relationship anarchy (RA)–coined by Andie Nordgren— is going to vary across the board and, just like other relationship styles, there are sets of “rules” and “regulations” that one must follow in order to fall into the category of such. To have rules in RA is somewhat of a backward concept and, a lot of times, a hard concept to grasp, but I am going to try my best to explain my experience with RA while you try your best to interpret how it manifests (or doesn’t manifest) in your life. Now, onto the juicy stuff…
First and foremost, RA challenges the concept of love as a ‘limited resource’. This is one of the first things I try to explain in my relationships because the last thing I want is for people to think I love X “more” than I love Y. Love is not a finite resource; love is dynamic and alive; the love that you feel for X does not cancel out, or diminish, the love that you feel for Y. Back in 2019, I began a new ‘ship’ with someone–let’s call them Dave–that was fairly new to non-monogamy and kink. There was a night that I went on a date with someone else, and later that evening when I saw Dave he said these words to me: “When you go and spend time with someone else, you’re giving them 50% of your love. So, when I get to see you, I only get the remaining 50%.” I remember feeling really puzzled when he said this to me because how can such a thing as love be quantifiable? I immediately rejected this idea and countered by describing love as a dynamic force that cannot be measured, yet, the amount of energy, steam, or spoons, that one can have every 24 hours is absolutely a finite resource. I made that distinction clear with him, and even though we transitioned from that place in our relationship, I started paying more attention to how much time and energy I choose to invest in different ‘ships’ throughout my week.
The second foundation I want to highlight–building on the previous one–is that due to love being an ever-changing and dynamic force, we have the ability to love the ones around us in ways that cherish the distinctive connection between two autonomous humans.
My third favorite aspect of RA is, like Bruce Lee said, be like water my friend. Love and respect should be the force behind each approach with others; so instead of expecting someone to be, say, or act a certain way, we instead look into how we can engage in ways that are in alignment with their (and our) personal beliefs. You will never find me saying something like, “Well, this is how you do relationship anarchy,” because each relationship has the ability to create its own set of circumstances and boundaries.
And finally, the most common misconception around RA is that those who practice it are considered to be “noncommital”, but RA is more complex than just your standard commitments; within the context of RA we get free ourselves from those norms that say, “This is what a commitment looks like in order to be considered real love.” Nah, screw that. Instead, we start from scratch and curate what level of commitment we want within each ‘ship’, being explicit upon each detail and communicating our values and boundaries that best support this unique commitment.
A lot of times, RA falls underneath ethical non-monogamy (ENM), so someone who might self-identify with RA might claim multiple partnerships. It is not safe to assume that each of these partnerships is romantic, sexual, or anything between, but it is safe to assume that these relationships are abundant and valuable to the one who nurtures them. More times than not, your typical RA practitioner will be anti-perscriptionist (no built-in prescriptions about what a partnership looks like, as well as a lack of labels) and non-hierarchal. This is because labels tend to carry roles that should otherwise be negotiated and communicated, while hierarchies tend to apply more importance to one partner than the other. RA is a journey that is unique to the individual who decides to walk the path and I hope that this article you some sort of clarity on how I personally interpret the practice, and how you might apply some aspects to your own way of styling relationships.
Thanks for stopping by!