Relationship anarchy is an act of self love, and here’s why:
Relationship anarchy is fucking terrifying. It isn’t just, as some often suppose, an egalitarian form of polyamory in which there is no hierarchy or sneakarchy to place some partners in positions of power or priority over others. Relationship anarchy has deep anarchist roots and involves bucking the societal system of rules and structures and questioning their worth and merit. It involves forming relationships rooted not just in consent, but in desire. I want to go into that more deeply in another piece, but suffice to say, relationship anarchy involves navigating away from rule based dynamics and rules masquerading as agreements.
Imagine yourself creating relationships as an autonomous being, with another autonomous being, where you both decide what the relationship will entail and build it from the ground up. The relationship, and I don’t mean just a romantic dynamic, but any friendship, partnership, way of relating to someone with emotions or vulnerability or touching of your squiggly bits, is tailored to fit exactly what you both decide. You start with respect for another individual who you see merit and worth in, and therefor want in your life. You desire a connection and way of relating and sharing experiences with that person. You engage with them, and begin to discover the ways in which they want to relate to you. You discuss, open up, form a connection, and find the common ground in the fuzzy happy places you want to curl up in, in each others lives. There are no rules in these dynamics based in desire and respect for autonomy. Rules are manufactured by society, but a society that clings so sharply to fear and control. A society in which our very ability to eat and have shelter is based on coercive relationships such as working for a wage or buying goods born of others’ exploitation. Relationship anarchy can be something of a haven away from that. It can be descriptively at any given time, monogomous or polyamorous, because people can have those particular romance shaped feelings for one or for multiple people at a particular time in their life. But it throws away the societal structure that imposes that you should feel those romance wiggles for only one or only certain people, or that you need certain titles or to follow a relationship escalator when you do. So relationship anarchy is a ideology that centers the autonomy, desire, and choices of the individual, and the respect for another’s autonomy and as well.
Now what does that have to do with self love? Well, when you embrace relationship anarchy and buck the coercive structures of society, you are saying that a person is autonomous, they have worth, they deserve respect, they should not be controlled by a societal system or a relationship title or rules. And in that, you are also saying that you have the same things, you are also an autonomous being with worth and deserving of respect. I’m not saying that relationship anarchists do not suffer from shame and issues of self esteem and self confidence. But to choose a way of loving and connecting that on a base level embraces and elevates personal worth and respect for autonomy and individuality, you are doing something that exhibits radical self love. You are placing your own freedom and vulnerability and ability to connect, above the judgement and coercion of society as a whole. You are treating others as individuals with whom you can form unique self made fluid dynamics, and as such you also are honoring the individuality and worth in yourself as part of those dynamics and shared relationships. You are allowing yourself to make a relationship with another glorious human based on what you desire with them, and in doing that you are acknowledging your desire as having worth. That is a radical act of self love, and you deserve to have it recognized as such.
And back to the fucking terrifying aspect, because yes, relationship anarchy is deeply scary. When you decide to form relationships (platonic, romantic, sexual, power exchange, and all the squiggly in betweens) that involve creating a mesh of your mutual desires, and experiencing your ways of relating with another person that you both actively and enthusiastically choose at that time; and when you have relationships that recognize your autonomy and respect the individual, there’s a problem. In the context of society, there is a big problem. That lovely ball-of-joy-giving person that you are feeling all the fuzzy vulnerable things for, can walk away at any point in time! Their squiggly happy feels for you can change! And you are in a relationshipping style in which you aren’t coercing them to stay, you aren’t exerting control, you may not have titles or ties to bind them to you, and you could lose everything at any point in time! Yes, society sees this as a big problem which is why the typical societal relationships, even polyamorous ones, often do involve a carefully orchestrated web of titles and rules or agreements to give you structure and a false feeling of safety. The secret that they don’t want you to know though, is that the safety walls you created are all smoke. If someone doesn’t want to stay with you, a marriage license and two and a half children and the house you own together, likely won’t stop them from leaving. Relationship anarchy is much more vulnerable and raw in acknowledging that people may choose to come and go from your life, that dynamics are fluid, and that we have no right to own or control people, so we cannot make them stay. Hoo boy, that is scary! I would like to address the depth of that uber scary sinkhole, and how glorious it can actually be, in depth at another time, but right now I’m going to relate that back to self love. When you decide to engage in relating in a way that is so intensely vulnerable and admits that your spectacular connections may not in fact be safe or solid or last for the rest of your life and beyond, and that safety nets and guarantees are not real, and nothing is ever certain, you are forced to acknowledge something truly valuable. That you as a person exist separate from your relationships, that you are an independent being, and that you will endure and survive as an independent being regardless of the ways your relationships with the people you love and adore continue to endure, or change shape, or end. And facing that again is an act of self love. It is an acknowledgement that you take up space in this world and you exist and are worthy of life, separate from all the people who’s lives you are a part of.
So my lovely long time relationship anarchists, and my beautiful budding new loving anarchist folk, to those who are curious and dipping a toe into learning about it all, and everyone in between: Remember your worth, remember your power, remember your freedom, remember your independence, remember your autonomy, and remember to love yourself always. When you live this way, you already are practicing a radical form of self love, so recognize that within yourself and embrace it. You are glorious.