"Relationship Anarchy" How to Treat Friendship Like Romance and Romance Like Friendship
Relationships are one of the more difficult things most people will experience throughout their lives. Challenges arise in practically every relationship, whether its nature is a romance or a friendship.
When building a connection with one another, it is common to raise expectations regarding that person and your relationship with them. In many aspects, we still act as if the other has strings attached to us once we develop a stronger bond. Because of that, it is easy for negative thoughts and feelings to arise.
Jealousy. Envy. Possession. To name a few.
You may have had a friend once where you felt you two were inseparable...until they found a partner, who took your role, leaving you on the sidelines. This situation is super common, and feeling disappointed or sad is part of it.
But what if we could put those feelings away? What if we could approach relationships in a different way to reduce disappointment and unreal expectations? This is the premise of so-called "relationship anarchy."
What is "Relationship Anarchy?”
Relationship anarchy, sometimes referred to as RA, was first introduced by Andie Nordgren, an Iceland executive producer.
According to Andie, relationship anarchy is a philosophy that has some political aspects drawn from the concept of anarchy. In that way, no relationships we build throughout our lives should be assembled hierarchically, be they romantic or not.
Apart from this principle, there are two other characteristics that mark a relationship as being relationship anarchy:
- No prescription of what a relationship/partnership/friendship should be
- Non-Monogamous, which is not a rule per se, as some relationship anarchists are polyamorous, while some polyamorous people are not relationship anarchists.
How does relationship anarchy work in the real world?
Basically, relationship anarchy is a process in which you deconstruct your preconception that every relationship you have in your life (romantic, purely physical, partnership, friendship, sharing an apartment, etc) should not be entitled to one person only.
For this philosophy, the concept of a best friend doesn't exist, as the word best refers to a friend of yours who is more important than the others in your life.
Having a partner that is all of it in one, your best friend, your sex partner, your romantic lover, your family, is not a reality for those who follow relationship anarchy.
In practice, it is what it is: treating friendship as romance when you want, and treating romance as friendship if you wish.
It is about not burdening people with your expectations. One example could be having a romantic partner while not exactly pushing them to be your sex partner as well. Another is maybe having a friendship that could also have sex involved.
This is all possible, of course, with all the parties consenting to this. Honesty and communication are key to keeping everyone aware.
Freeing people from a sense of entitlement, of a feeling that they owe you something, is the aim of relationship anarchy. There is no need to rank relationships or to put pressure on people around you to be more than they feel like being.
A guide to relationship anarchy
Andie Nordgren wrote a manifesto in 2006 setting up some short instructions for relationship anarchy. Here are they:
Love is everywhere and every relationship is one-of-a-kind
Love is limitless. It is possible to love more than one person at the same time. Because of that, love should be felt entirely and not be limited to one person only.
There's no need for a hierarchy or comparisons between relationships. Be your own individual when building authentic relationships.
It's about love and respect, not owing someone something
Connecting with someone at any level where you feel comfortable should not be seen as a right to control or owe them. It is about respecting what the other wants, while still searching for your autonomy and building other relationships.
Look for your relationship values
You should ask yourself the values you cheer for when building relationships. It should be about bonding with people the way you would want them to bond with you.
Do not let go of your personal values and wants just to satisfy the other person, and do not be afraid to break free from those relationships that don't serve you anymore.
Do not let heterosexism dictate your ideas
Be aware of following the preconception that heterosexuality is the only manner in which one can do relationships. Deconstruct your thoughts on how relationships should be and on what genders mean when love is involved.
Be open to the unexpected
Don't be afraid of being who you are. Be free and spontaneous, forget that sense of owing anyone anything or of what you should or should not be doing.
Go for it before thinking much about it
It is normal to feel uneasy when being in an anarchical relationship. Break from heteronormativity and monogamy by simply trying what is out there without thinking twice about it.
Every relationship you build and nurture should be based on trust.
It is all about setting everything with communication. You can't know if you don't ask. Lots can be lost in the unsaid, and communicating is the most important step in establishing trust and managing expectations.
Break free from the preconceived notions of relationship escalators
It is okay if you want to have a family if you want children or you don't. What is not okay is waiting for all this to happen while thinking about it as prizes from rising levels within a relationship. You don't need to follow the long-accepted notion of dating, moving in together, marrying, and having children. Be true to yourself and what you want.