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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Harder

Relationship Anarchy?

A polyamorous group I'm in had someone post an unintentionally hurtful meme about Relationship anarchy and having no rules. This turned into a great discussion about what RA means to people in that group, and it's something I thought we might want to discuss here. The beauty of RA is that is can mean different things to different people, and I wanted to share what RA looks like for me. I've copied my post from the other group below: Relationship anarchy does not inherently mean "no rules". It means no rules that are prescribed or assumed by the outside culture. That only the people in the relationship can define the rules. Relationship anarchy can completely have rules, it's just that they aren't the rules assumed by society or prescribed by anyone else. They are the rules you agree upon as a couple. Re: rules vs boundaries. Rules are "you can't do this" and are put in place by one partner or agreed upon by the couple. They impact someone other than yourself. Boundaries only involve your own behavior. To illustrate how "rules" and boundaries work in a relationship anarchy type relationship, I'll use an example from my boyfriend and me. We have agreed not to have unprotected PIV or PIA with anyone, including each other. This is a "rule" in our relationship. But the important difference between rules and boundaries is how they are "enforced". In a traditional non-RA relationship, breaking of "rules" is usually considered cheating. You would "punish" the other person for breaking them. Vs with boundaries, you control your own response to them. When a boundary is crossed, we would have a conversation about how this made us feel and works towards a solution together and see what our relationship needs. For instance, if one of us had unprotected sex with someone else, the other partner would refrain from having sex with that partner until two weeks and a clear STI test comes back. We're controlling our own safety by removing sex. This isn't a punishment for the other partner, it's simply controlling for safety. This combined with a good conversation can resolve the hurt and preserve the relationship, without creating a "bad partner" dynamic that is present in some non-RA relationships. So our unprotected sex "rule" functions like a boundary in that we're not trying to control the other partner's behavior, but we adjust our own behavior in response. However, It's perfectly acceptable to have a "rule" in a relationship anarchy situation. When I started dating my boyfriend, he said that he'd only accept rules around safety (see above) and practicality. This is where our one "rule" comes into play. Communication. About schedules, about safety, about everything. This is the area where I would consider it cheating if it wasn't followed. For instance, if boyfriend were to have unprotected sex with someone else and didn't tell me about it, I would consider this cheating. I would consider ending the relationship. This is a "rule" he and I have agreed upon. But that doesn't make us hierarchical, or not relationship anarchists, because this "rule" didn't come from outside our relationship, we agreed upon this rule. Another important distinction between rules in RA vs rules in hierarchical poly or non-hierarchical polyam, is that rules without RA don't allow for additional partner's input. As an RA, it would be a problem if one of my "rules" or "boundaries" was in conflict with another partner's or metamours. Boyfriend and I had an example of this last year. Early in our relationship, boyfriend and I would share all the details from our sexual experiences with each other, because A- we thought it was hot, and B- because it helped me reduce any envy that I felt, or fear of the unknown. I have some trauma issues, and knowing the details helped me feel safe. We had agreed that we'd share details, and we always checked with other partners to make sure this was ok. It was a "rule" we agreed upon with each other. However, boyfriend started dating someone last year, who did not want sexual details to be shared, so we had to revise our "rules". If we were hierarchical, we'd have put our "rule" above the privacy of the partner. However, since we are an RA couple, we adjusted our expectations to accommodate this partner. What does Relationship Anarchy look like to you?

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