Relationship anarchy: That’s how it really is


I have been in long-term monogamous relationships for most of my adult life. Up until ten years ago, I would have dismissed anyone who told me they were a “relationship anarchist” because they were afraid of “real” commitment and unwilling to put in the hard work it takes to build a deep, lasting relationship.

Today I have a very rich, exciting and fulfilling love and sex life in which I see four people on dates and sleepovers fairly regularly. I also keep in touch with “comets” living in other countries. Every once in a while, comets come into your orbit, stay for a few days, and then leave. I also try to make sure I spend enough time meeting friends and “going out with myself.”

My partners and I have complete agency and autonomy in our interactions and the time we spend with others. We openly discuss and share what else is going on in our lives, and sometimes some of us get together for dinner or a picnic.

The Relationship Anarchy Manifesto (RA) was written by Andie Nordgren in 2006; It is a short document that offers an alternative to traditional relationship expectations and their hard and fast rules and expected outcomes. Relationship anarchy borrows from anarchist principles to convey the message of relationship egalitarianism/non-hierarchy. With RA, you can build uniquely designed relationships that align with your values, needs, and desires. This may look like ethical non-monogamy, but relationship anarchists do not always not monogamous.

Ultimately, relationship anarchists follow their own core values ​​and create personal, unique relationships based solely on their likes and desires and not those imposed on them by society. There is no inherent hierarchy.

For example, having sex with someone or even living with them doesn’t necessarily make them more important than others in your life. Platonic friends can take precedence over sexual partners in terms of emotional caring. Most of us were raised to associate love with commitment, entitlement, and possessions. The initial premise of relationship anarchy is that love is an abundant resource.

Coming to terms with my own beliefs around the lack of love, sex and intimacy was a crucial process. I was single for a few years after a long term monogamous relationship and not looking for a serious relationship when I met someone through a dating app. She told me about non-monogamy and polyamory and I wanted to date her so I decided to give it a try.

During my research I came across the RA manifesto. But it wasn’t until five years ago, after my first long-term, living, polyamorous relationship, that I began studying the RA manifesto more closely.

My first open relationship lasted a year. We both agreed that we could see other people and talk to each other about our dating lives; I met other people mostly casually and became good friends with their other steady partner.

However, I struggled in my first polyamorous relationship because of the lack of clear communication about our values, needs, and desires. This relationship lasted over three years and by the end I knew I didn’t want that kind of hierarchy in my future relationships.

I have found that the principles of RA resonate deeply with me. I feel love and connection not only with my romantic and sexual partners, but also with my platonic friends and chosen family who are an integral part of my life.

Since adopting the RA principles, I’ve learned to communicate my ability to connect—be it platonic, sexual, or romantic—to potential partners as early as possible. In addition, my partners and I regularly examine ourselves to see if our values, needs, and desires are changing over time.

It is common in RA for a connection to start out one way and then morph into something else entirely. For example, many of my current platonic friendships started with us dating for a while.

This made me realize that love for me cannot be centered on attachment or expectations. For example, recently I had my partner with me for a few days and I had dinner planned for the last night with someone else. Meanwhile, my partner had planned to visit friends for the evening and come back to my house later.

My partner expressed concern that I would be returning home quite late and would not have time to cuddle with them before bed. I agreed to leave at a reasonable time to accommodate them, but when I got home they were still out with friends. I felt disappointed and betrayed; These expectations had created an assumed hierarchy in which we would prioritize our relationship over others.

We discussed this and agreed that in the future we would consider the possibility that the other person could be out all night without expecting to return at a specific time. For my relationships to work, there is one rule that matters: communicate, communicate, communicate.

RA is not a relationship style or relationship dynamic, but rather a way of looking at all relationships. It is possible to adhere to RA principles while being sexually or romantically monogamous. You simply evaluate and decide what is important to you in each individual relationship based solely on your connection, without holding on to external expectations.

This challenges the model of romance, which assumes there are a finite number of people with whom we can romantically and sexually connect. According to RA principles, we are not limited to who and how we can share intimacy with. We are not limited to one “soul mate”.

I find that there is something about many people that excites me, even if we don’t match in every way. We might only spend a night together about every two weeks, but we make that time fun and meaningful without having to further escalate our relationship.

Because of established societal norms, most people (like me) find it difficult to question the comfort, ease, and privilege that comes with being part of a couple. It can be more difficult to travel or go to parties as an individual. It can be harder to meet new people and make friends.

“Couple privilege” is the largely unchallenged mainstream acceptance of the inherent importance and primacy of a two-person relationship. This is taught to us from birth through children’s stories, religion, popular media, and government institutions. Then that ideology is perpetuated through tax incentives, cultural sponsorship, and peer pressure.

Relationship anarchy challenges the status of the “couple” as the highest form of connection. For some, staying single or living with friends or family is best. Others want to live with three or more people. I personally choose to live alone as a solo polyamorous person.

Solo polyamory means I focus on my relationship with myself. I am self-sufficient and at the same time I make time for my loved ones, including romantic and sexual relationships. I have actively decided against finding a primary and/or nesting mate. I do not seek hierarchy, nor do I prioritize certain relationships over others based on whether they are romantic and/or involve sex.

It gives me freedom and autonomy, but it’s more expensive than sharing.

There may be a natural hierarchy based on who I enjoy spending time with, what activities we enjoy, and how much time we can spend together, but it is not dictated by societal expectations. Through solo polyamory I find safety and security within myself without needing a partner.

I met my current partners at festivals, parties and community meetings. These attitudes make it easy to be very open about our relationship dynamics. My partners adhere to some of the RA principles, but not necessarily all. They are not required to do so. I would date someone in a hierarchical polyamorous relationship as long as they are clear with me about their agreements and are in a stable place in their core relationship.

I encounter all of this very openly in my everyday life, which often leads to curiosity and questions, but rarely to judgments. I am fortunate to live in a liberal and diverse city with a thriving population of polyamorous, perverted and queer people who accept others’ differences.

So much has changed for me since I adopted the RA principles. I don’t have the same self-doubt or critical inner voice. I am much happier in general and have access to a wide social support network enormous beneficial for mental health. But perhaps most importantly, I feel more like myself. Ultimately, I’ve learned to celebrate all relationships in the way that works best for me and my partners, and it’s been extremely liberating.

Roy Graff is a coach and consultant for individuals and partners exploring alternative relationships. You can find him on, a sex-positive community for discovering and connecting with like-minded people, and on Instagram as @openrelating.

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