I learned the term “relationship anarchy” (RA) many years ago and did not think much of it, although it became very relevant to me later on.
About two years ago, I tried this concept on myself after an intense breakup and after coming out as bisexual for the first time, realizing that I might not be cut out for hetero-normative monogamy after all (though I am certain I knew this all along).
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But what is relationship anarchy, and how do you know if you should apply this relationship advice to your life?
Relationship anarchy is defined as “…the belief that relationships should not be bound by rules aside from what the people involved mutually agree upon.”
To me, relationship anarchy means releasing the rules, and structures, of relationships that society instills in you. It is about customizing your relationships to meet your needs and those of the people you’re in a relationship with — whether it’s romantic, platonic, sexual, or any combination of the above.
It means that there’s no “hierarchy” of these relationships. It means there are no benchmarks you have to hit for your relationships to feel “successful” or “real.” It means that your independence is not a threat to your relationships and that you can put your needs first.
Simply put, relationship anarchy means that I get to dictate who my important people are, and how we exist in each other’s lives.
RA has helped me attain a level of stability and security, in my relationships that I never thought possible.
I believe that connection and community save us. Relationships are how you survive the most difficult parts of being human. If you’re able to create strong, authentic connections that hold you best, you become the most resilient, powerful version of yourself.
While RA is not for everyone, I do believe it holds lessons every relationship can benefit from.
Here are 6 lessons you can learn from relationship anarchy and apply to your own relationships — including the one with yourself:
1. You realize love is abundant.
When you love from a place of abundance, everything feels more attainable. You’re no longer held back by constraints, rules, or a poverty mindset. Love moves freely from you into others, and vice versa.
When you believe the love you possess is finite, you come from a place of fear. Fear that you don’t have enough, that you cannot be enough, that you cannot love enough to keep someone.
This creates power imbalances, creates toxic patterns, and causes people to disconnect from their friends when they find themselves in a new relationship. But if you approach your relationships knowing that love is infinite, you understand you can love all your people equally, without taking anything away from someone else.
2. You can use jealousy for self-reflection
Even if you fully believe that love is abundant and that all relationships are valid and important, you’ll still experience jealousy. It’s a human emotion that even those in the most stable relationship will experience.
I find myself jealous in some of my friendships more often than I care to admit.
The important piece is to notice your jealousy and to explore it. Instead of immediately jumping to anger, ask yourself where the jealousy is coming from.
Are you not getting a need met? Have you hit on an insecurity? How can you communicate this emotion without being accusatory?
The people you choose to engage in relationships with do not owe you anything. The sooner you realize that and can discuss your insecurities, the stronger your relationships will become.
3. You learn to let go of ownership and entitlement
We can all agree that you do not “own” any other person, no matter the relationship. But once in a while when jealousy rears its head, it can feel like you owe your time, your body, and your heart to your partner.
One of my favorite parts of relationship anarchy is that I am constantly reminded that my life, my body, my heart, and my time are mine, and mine alone. I get to make decisions that put my needs first.
And I know that when I value myself, and my needs, my relationships benefit.
4. Values can guide your relationships
Knowing what you value most highly allows you to live as your most authentic self. It also allows you to attract people into your life who match you energetically and build you up.
When you are guided by your values, you’re able to let go of societal norms and expectations of you, and of your relationships. You are also far less likely to lose ourselves in a relationship, as you are intimately connected to who you are, and what drives you.
It’s easy to get carried away with the narrative “love is enough,” and you forget about compatibility, similar goals, values, and being able to enjoy each other on a daily basis.
Getting to know yourself first is a key piece of building long-lasting relationships.
5. You can create “intentional” relationships
Don’t let society, or other people, tell you what your relationships are supposed to look or feel like.
You are responsible for creating your own relationships. You are responsible for getting your needs met, both in your relationships with others and yourself.
When you create intentional relationships, you fill your life with people who support and hold you. You create a life that feels solid, even when it gets hard.
You make more room for self-discovery, and for adventure and play.
6. You can be spontaneous and live your life.
As soon as I was able to let go of the narratives around relationships, I freed myself up to listen to what I truly wanted. I found a life that fit me and discovered that the people who would engage in a relationship with me would respect my choices.
With no trajectory to follow, relationship anarchy allows individuals to find their flow in relationships. To discover what makes their relationship come alive.
When you set clear boundaries, and show up as your true self, you make room to explore, have an open dialogue, and be honest about what is going to create the very best relationships you could ask for.
Relationship anarchy asks you to put aside the expectations you put on yourself. It demands that you get to know yourself and create solid boundaries.
It requires you to shake off the layers of societal pressure so that you are able to figure out what you truly, authentically, want and need in order to make you, and your partners and friends, shine the brightest.
Discovering a label that fits you well will give you the freedom to date how you want, make your friendships stronger, and connect with yourself in a new way. It will allow you to truly come alive and learn to love.