what is relationship anarchy

It May Be Called Relationship Anarchy, But it’s the Opposite of Chaos

When we hear the word ‘anarchy’, we often think of disorder, chaos, and sometimes—even violence. But this is in no way similar to what relationship anarchy is. 

Why is the word ‘anarchy’ used, then? Well, relationship anarchy does have an element of anarchy to it. And that is the fact that it rejects the element of control

Without sounding too cryptic, let’s look at the definition of relationship anarchy…               

What is Relationship Anarchy?

The term ‘relationship anarchy’ was invented by Andie Nordgren when they published a short essay on their Tumblr page. The essay was written in 2006 and was titled, The short instructional manifesto for relationship anarchy. The notion gained a lot of popularity by 2012.

Relationship anarchy is all about the way in which relationships are approached. It is when common societal rules and expectations are rejected in terms of how a relationship is built and maintained. The only rules that apply are those that have been talked about with the people involved.

This relationship style focuses on a vantage point of autonomy and community rather than other models, such as monogamy and hierarchy. And those who practice relationship anarchy consider themselves in charge when it comes to choosing who they have sexual or romantic relationships with and how they do it. 

Relationship anarchy is all about needs, wants, and desires as opposed to societal labels, and seeks to remove the divided lines between platonic friendship and sexual or romantic love that exists in society. 

In other words, relationship anarchy “encourages people to let their core values guide how they choose and craft their relationship commitments rather than relying on social norms to dictate what is right,” says relationship coach, Dedeker Winston.

In relationship anarchy, there is no limit on how many partners one can have or how often they see them. 

The Principles of Relationship Anarchy

In Nordgren’s manifesto, there are eight instructional principles for relationship anarchy.

1. Love is abundant, and every relationship is unique 

This questions the idea that love is only limited to and real if restricted to a couple. It says that individuals have the capacity to love more than one person without that love diminishing or changing. Relationships are not ranked or compared but rather, cherished for their unique connection. There need not be a “primary” relationship.

2. Love and respect instead of entitlement 

Respecting someone’s independence and self-determination is the basis of a relationship. Regardless of the length or history of the relationship, there is no space for control or entitlement. Boundaries and personal beliefs should be respected rather than reaching a compromise, which will keep one’s integrity intact. 

3. Find your core set of relationship values

This is when an individual distinguishes their own core personal values and expectations, then uses it on all of their relationships. In this principle, there are no special rules or exceptions in how one is treated over another. 

4. Heterosexism is rampant and out there, but don’t let fear lead you

There is a powerful normative system in play, which means that many people may question the relationship anarchy lifestyle. When this happens, it’s a good idea for the individual to have people in their life that can help counter the worst of the problematic norms instead of letting fear drive their decisions and relationships.

5. Fake it ‘til you make it

It may not be easy to shut out the noise of norm breaking, but in this case—the best way to approach it is to fake it ‘til you make it. When you feel strong and inspired, allow that to guide you to a place that you want to be and how you want to act. Then, create guidelines for yourself and try to follow them (when things get difficult). It’s also important for people not to beat themselves up if societal pressure gets too much. 

6. Trust is better

Trust is far more positive than feeling as though one needs constant reassurance from their partner. If one partner does seem to retract a bit, it may be due to other life stressors. A good rule of thumb would be to have a conversation with a partner when there is distrust. In this way, all other hunches can be discarded.

7. Change through communication

If there is a desire to break away from societal relationships norms, it can only be done with effective communication. If not, it can be easy to slip into the norm. Having open and honest  conversations—not just in the case of an emergency, but all the time, can help ensure trust. This is important because it is not often that people express what they really feel which leaves some having to read between the lines. Relationship anarchy means not having to guess about things but rather, being explicit about feelings and thoughts.

8. Customise your commitments 

Societal norms and expectations often dictate that people should move in together first, then get married, after which it is time for children. Relationship anarchy is not about rejecting these ideas, but rather customising what one wants, and then being explicit to their partner(s) about the commitments they seek.

And now that we’ve been through the relationship anarchy manifesto, do you feel that this kind of relationship structure is for you? 

Here are a few things to consider… 

Is Relationship Anarchy Right for You?

A great first step would be to think about how you feel after reading the relationship anarchy manifesto. 

Do these principles resonate with you? Does the idea excite you? Or do they sound different from your boundaries, morals, and expectations of a relationship?

If the idea excites you, you may want to spend some time figuring out what you want and need from a relationship before entering one. Then, when you partner up with someone, make sure that that partner is on-board. 

At the end of the day, relationship anarchy is about freedom and authenticity. It’s about being comfortable communicating with others, and being able to express how you really feel.

As Sofiya Alexandra, writer and podcaster, says:

“I think relationship anarchy is for everyone because the focus is on making a relationship that works for you, and on the idea that love isn’t a finite resource, and that monogamy isn’t inherently better or more moral than any other kind of relationship.” 

She continued to say:

“That doesn’t mean you can’t practice monogamy as a relationship anarchist, it just means that the freedom to make the kind of love life you want lies with you. Freeing yourself from the way we’ve been conditioned to view love, sex, and relationships can only enhance the way you live.”

On the other hand, relationship anarchy may not be suitable for those who find it difficult to communicate and wholeheartedly trust people. 

It may also be difficult for those who feel they are prone to jealousy or possessiveness because of the fact that there is no limit to the amount of partners one can have. To feel jealous or possessive isn’t a bad thing though. In fact, it’s a quote normal reaction to have when one sees their partner getting close to another person.

Having said that, if you feel that having a relationship that follows societal norms is what you desire, then that is completely fine. Both of these types of relationships are valid, and have the possibility to thrive.