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What relationship anarchy means for me and how it shows up in my life






Back in April, I wrote a personal blog post exploring my (and society's!) feelings towards romantic attraction.

Within this post, I provided a brief overview of a few labels people use to wrap up their romantic attraction into one succinct word. For me personally, the two labels that I identify with are relationship anarchist and grey-romantic.

(Don't like labels? Tough! They help people - like myself - who don't fit the heteronormative babies and a house in the suburbs narrative understand our needs and feel less like freaks).

Today I want to focus on Relationship Anarchy and how it shows up in my life in a practical sense. I also have a similar blog post penned for grey-romanticism, but that's another few weeks away. An important thing to remember about Relationship Anarchy is that, in its essence, it allows people to have platonic, romantic, sexual, and familial relationships in a way that feels right for them and removes the hierarchy that some relationships should automatically be more important than others.

From the Relationship Anarchy Manifesto:

Relationship anarchy questions the idea that love is a limited resource that can only be real if restricted to a couple. You have the capacity to love more than one person, and one relationship and the love felt for that person does not diminish love felt for another. Don’t rank and compare people and relationships — cherish the individual and your connection to them. One person in your life does not need to be named primary for the relationship to be real. Each relationship is independent, and a relationship between autonomous individuals.
Please bear in mind that I'm about to talk about how Relationship Anarchy shows up for me personally, it is not how it will show up for everyone - because the whole point of Relationship Anarchy is doing what feels right for you (but with consent and communication!).

I don't consider a romantic relationship to be something that I must have

If I was to conjure up my ideal life, yes, I would have one (or multiple) steady romantic/sexual partner(s). But it's not something that keeps me awake at night. I've been legally single (notice the terminology; I'll expand on that in a bit) for almost a decade, and I'm completely okay with that (despite the aghast faces that some people will make when they find out).

It hurts my feelings that my family show no interest in my platonic relationships

Hi family, if you're reading! I doubt my parents (and especially my wider family) could tell my adult friends apart from each other. But if a serious romantic partner entered the picture, my parents would be on the first train to Glasgow and they'd be invited for Christmas. My platonic relationships mean a lot to me, and it does bother me that my family see these relationships as not worth paying attention to.

And I hate going to weddings alone

When did we decide the societal norm that plus ones to weddings have to be a serious romantic partner? Even a co-worker who will literally not know one other person at your wedding will be expected to turn up themselves?

I was having this chat with my partnered friend recently who said it annoyed her as well. Her reasoning: what if my partner is busy? Is she not allowed to take another person?

I'm not opposed to marriage, and if I do have a wedding the ceremony itself will be close friends and family but the reception can be anyone I'm friendly with - and everyone gets a plus one, regardless of relationship status.

I've had more casual relationships than serious relationships

The idea of casual relationships still gets some people's backs up. My response? If you don't like them, then don't have one.

For me, a casual relationship involves all the romance and sex that a serious relationship might have - but, yes, without the commitment. Having a relationship without commitment does not make someone a horrible person. It's just the right choice for them.

I think there's a difference between a romantic relationship and a romantic partner

To me, any relationship that is romantic counts as a romantic relationship - no matter how serious, or non-commital, it is. If it's romantic, it's romantic. Even if you choose never to label it or tick the milestones that all romantic couples are expected to.

But not every romantic relationship will be a romantic partnership. To me, a romantic partnership is when you partner with someone and commit your life to them: living together, joint bank accounts, children, marriage etc.

And it sometimes catches people really off-guard (on a date) when I ask if they are looking for a serious partnership or just a romantic relationship. Think of it in terms of polyamory: primary partner versus secondary partner. Your love for the secondary partner might be true, but you've chosen to commit yourself to the first partner. 

Some people still automatically baulk at this and accuse me of wasting my time. Look, it's my time. And it's my decisions. Non-serious romantic relationships are a common thing in Relationship Anarchy and Polyamorous circles.

I'm not opposed to a romantic partner, but they'd have to be incredible

As I mentioned earlier, my ideal life would involve a steady romantic/sexual partner. However, I don't crave one badly enough that I would reduce my standards. I see some people happily agree to be someone's partner after a few dates (how? you've met them three times?). If I'm going to partner with someone and factor them into every big life choice I make, then they're going to have to be incredible (and want similar things from life).

I am open to polyamory

Relationship Anarchy and polyamory have a lot of overlap. I mean, if you reject the societal expectation of a romantic partner being your everything then surely you're open to having more than one partner?

Not necessarily.

For me, non-monogamy is one of those bridges I'll cross, if and, when I meet someone I want to enter a formal relationship with (I do, however, have a strict rule than a casual romantic partner can never expect monogamy of me). My ideal scenario is one formal romantic/sexual partner with a few sidepieces (for a lack of better term). However, it's not a dealbreaker and I am open to negotiating the boundaries (even agreeing to make the relationship monogamous).

For those of you familiar with non-monogamy, you'll be aware that having a primary partner is sometimes seen as mock-monogamy and doesn't work in practice. I completely agree with this and get why polyamorous relationships should be free-flowing, and demanding that your partner doesn't fall in love with a secondary partner is just unrealistic. But because I so rarely meet people I want to partner with, I know the chances of me having more than one committed partner is an unlikely scenario. But if two emerge, then I'll cross that bridge.

Couples who do everything together confuse me

Almost every time I'm out shopping I see a grumpy male partner moaning because their female partner dragged them to the shops against their will. Can the girl not go shopping herself? Ask her friend who enjoys shopping to accompany her instead? Can the man not say no?

Yes, couples need to spend time together and sometimes you need to suck things up. But those sucking things up should be important things - like shopping together for a new kitchen or attending a family wedding. Quality couple time should be a meaningful activity for both of you.

This is why I love to have multiple relationships in my life - whether familial, platonic, or romantic. It means that I'm never dragging people to things against their will, and I'm never being dragged to things against my will. If you have hobbies that no one in your circle shares, then feel free to go out and find people who do share those hobbies with you. You're not balled and chained.

When I am in a relationship, I maintain a life outside it

Granted, I haven't been in a Facebook-official relationship for eight years but when I have done the Big Official Meet The Parents Relationship, I didn't glue myself to the person.

How other people structure their relationships is not my business, and if someone wants their romantic partner to be their sole source of social and emotional support then that's their choice. But I've always found it draining when someone I'm dating expects 24/7 attention or gets weird about me maintaining strong friendships (fun fact: I am platonically and romantically attracted to people who have a lot going on in their lives - and everyone I've ever had a big crush on or fallen in love with had some kind of big hobby they loved with a passion).

I specifically crave a romantic/sexual relationship for romantic/sexual needs

While I might be grey-romantic, I'm not 100% aromatic and I'm definitely allosexual. So I still crave romance and sex, albeit maybe not the first one as much as other. That's why my ideal life would still involve a romantic/sexual partner. And I know that sex with someone you love and feel comfortable with is an incredible experience (and better than an awkward one night stand)

However, about a year ago I had a proper think about why I crave a romantic/sexual relationship, especially in relation to the needs that that kind of relationship would meet. And I had a bit of a revelation. There are a lot of us (and I include myself in this) who have needs that we want to be met by a romantic relationship, that could actually be a met by a familial or platonic relationship.

I work in the travel industry and solo travellers are on the increase - with the highest demographic being divorced, empty-nesters. You might have not have a partner or young children, but do you not have a close friend you could go away with? I've also heard single people who are worried that it might take a few days for someone to notice if they went missing. I'm pretty certain my employer and flatmate would notice immediately - but I also have friends that I speak to almost every day who would get worried very quickly. The same goes for emotional support during difficult times.

If you're feeling down about being single, I recommend thinking about why you feel this way. Is it really a romantic relationship you want, or do you have needs that aren't being met (but could be met!) by the platonic relationships in your life? What are you really craving?

I don't believe that blood is thicker than water

Just the same as I don't hold romantic relationships as automatically more important than platonic relationships, familial relationships also have to be meaningful for me to put emotional energy into them. I'm not into the societal conditioning that family members - regardless of how toxic they are - should get a free pass on behaviour that makes you feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or upset. If you wouldn't accept certain behaviours from a friend, don't accept them from a family member.

I actually come from a very small family: I'm an only child with a grand total of five cousins. I also don't want children and I'm not too fussed about a life partner, so in a few decades time there's a very high likelihood that I won't really have a family. This makes some people reach out to pat me on the shoulder, but this is something I have long made my peace with - and is probably why I put a lot of effort into making meaningful connections outside the family.

I'm honest as fuck straight away when I'm dating

Generic dating advice will tell you not to talk about marriage and children on a first date. This is dating advice I tend to ignore. I actually have written on my Tinder that I don't want children. As far as I'm concerned telling someone what you want before anyone falls in love is how respectful people behave, and recognises that we are living in 2019 (not 1960 where women can't get a mortgage without a husband's signature).

Relationship Anarchy respects people's right to do what is right for then. Whether that is a traditional house in the suburbs with two kids and a dog, or having multiple casual relationships. I don't care what other people do, and I certainly don't have anything against people who stick to tradition. But it does mean being very honest with people - and recognising that there are multiple ways to practice romantic and sexual relationships so you need to lay your needs down early.

It's 2019 and various relationship styles are coming out the woodwork. It's time to acknowledge them because they're only going to grow more popular. So be honest.

If you identify as a Relationship Anarchist, how does it show up in your life? 
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