Relationship anarchy is a style of relating to others that highlights freedom and autonomy. It focuses on the desires of the individuals and finding the areas in which they overlap to create the fuzzy little space of the relationship you can curl up in. It also focuses on the freedom of each person to define their own boundaries and express their own preferences, and to live a life in which they pursue dynamics that fit their flow, without unwanted restriction from other dynamics.
Freedom is one of the merits of relationship anarchy, one of the things that makes it so appealing to many people. To really understand why people choose relationship anarchy as a life path or relationship style, we have to first understand the value of freedom.
I was a philosophy major the first time I went to college. I did not graduate with a degree in it, because when I was close to doing so I got distracted by a need to craft things with my own hands and ducked off stage a few credits shy of my degree. I had enough for a degree in general ed, so I took that instead, but I had amassed the knowledge from a plethora of philosophy courses, despite having no big official paper to show for it. And boy am I rusty when it comes to philosophy in an academic sense, but I did learn ways of thinking that I still apply every day. After all, philosophy is the study of learning, the study of knowledge, and the study of existence. We all apply principles of that in the daily meanderings of our minds. For me, my love for philosophy and understanding is why I sometimes end up sitting and trying to really deconstruct why freedom is so important to me.
It is easy to justify things based on what would be lost in their absence. Without freedom, you have restriction, rules, a box to fit in. Society is pretty big on boxes you know, which makes sense since the human brain is wired for categorization of things, and society is a group of people with shared dominant cultural expectations. So society naturally expands on the human tendency to categorize, and creates strong expectations or boxes for what different relationships are and the expectations within them. There are restrictive ideas in the culture I exist in, on what a friendship is, what a romantic relationship is, the exclusive nature of a romantic relationships, and the inferiority of friendships in comparison with that one special romantic relationship. These boxes are in opposition with the freedom of relationship anarchy. They are defined by an absence, having one monogamous relationship is a thing because you are choosing or agreeing to an absence of any other romantic or sexual connections. Having a romantic relationship being prioritized above friendships is a thing because friendships are seen as being absent of the amount of commitment, life integration, depth of emotion, and depth of connection that romantic relationships have. Without freedom to explore each connection based on exactly what you desire with that individual at that time, you are forced to build a dynamic based on absence, knowing that you have limited allowances for what it can and can’t be while being socially acceptable. So we can justify freedom because we do not want to lose the potential that any new relationship has. We want the potential for friendships and romantic relationships to not be limited in their depth because they are seen as different societal boxes, to not be exclusive in nature and limit the potential of other connections.
I would rather justify things based not on absence though, but based on abundance. I am not just an advocate of freedom and relationship anarchy because I do not want my life and relating to other people to be restrained. It is in part about bucking against those boxes and throwing off the restraints, but it is also about what happens next when instead of an absence of potential you have an abundance of it. When I started forming relationships that were not structured around certain titles or expectations, where everything in the dynamic was based on the desires of the individuals and where the overlap was, and where the freedom of each person to pursue connections and have their autonomy respected was given focus and priority, something magical happened. Embracing that freedom sparked a change in myself. Suddenly there was an abundance of potential in my world, there was an explosion of fluidity and growth. When I engaged in a relationship it was with the understanding that it could achieve any depth of connection, any range of life integration, it was alright if it changed and shifted over time, and expressions of love and affection and sexual interest were based on mutual consent and desire and not on a certain title or level of societal acceptability. I had the freedom to move around and grow and expand, like a glorious tentacle beast uncurling on the floor of an endless ocean, or a fabulous demon spreading sparkling leathery wings after shedding it’s chains.
Here’s what actually happened, and what is still happening every day as I experience the self growth this freedom has given me. I have learned to express affection and love freely to my friends. I can tell my friends that I love them and shower them with adoration and compliments of how spectacular they are. It no longer feels awkward or too much or prohibited. I have found that when I simply lack the time and energy for new connections but miss the amazing fluff-balls-in-the-chest feels of meeting and getting to know someone and feeling that spark as love and passion develops, I still can experience that because I watch my friends and loves and partners do so and their happiness is contagious because it does not in any way detract from what I have with them. I have less fear of break-ups because for the most part they are no longer a thing in my world. Dynamics may change, the type of interaction and level of connection may change, but unless the other individual wants to sever ties completely, it is more a matter of a -shift- and not an -ending-. Having that fear eliminated or minimized has made me less controlling, and as such, I’ve learned that being controlling actually was making me feel pretty shitty and I hadn’t noticed how much it ate away at me.
And one of the changes I value the most is this: When I was a kid, I went to a glorious socialist jew camp, and it was the norm for kids to sit in lines of one person leaning back in another’s lap, and that person leaning on the one behind them, and so on in a big train. Big cuddle piles of friend on a bed were a natural part of every day life. I had an abundance of platonic touch and affection, and some that evolved into more romantic or sexual touch and affection, but it didn’t have to. Touch was just absolutely normal and comfortable. And then fast forward through years of trauma, sexual assault, toxic relationships, and becoming a controlling, insecure, and sometimes emotionally abusive person. I came out the other side extremely touch averse, with only a few partners as exceptions. I worked hard to not be a controlling fuckwad of the highest proportions, and did a pretty decent job of making myself into a person I could respect and that those in my life seem to think is pretty rad. But I was still very averse to touch, and that made me incredibly sad when I compared it to my childhood and early teen years. Well, in the past year, as I’ve dived head first into the rabbit hole of relationship anarchy, after dancing around the edges and dipping my toe in for so long, I’ve slowly started to heal. I am not the bouncing cuddly ball of rainbows I once was, but I have times where I have platonic cuddle-time with my friends and loves and feel warm-fuzzy-connectricity instead of skin-crawlies. Giving myself the freedom to explore the abundance of human connection has helped me start connecting more in the moment and feeling safe with touch. That is what freedom creates, that is why it is important, it gives you a field that is ripe for personal growth and healing. It presents your fears for you to confront and overcome, and it allows for abundance and exploration in the ways you connect with other human beings.
So freedom is and always will be of extraordinary importance to me. I want a life filled with abundance, I want a life with an absence of restrictions, and I want more then anything for all those I love to have the same and to never be someone who takes that freedom away.