Relationship Anarchy: what is it? Who invented it? Does it mean overthrowing the relationship government? This week we're looking at the original relationship anarchy manifesto written by Andie Nordgren and discussing what it all means and how it can apply to your relationships.
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Jase: On this episode of the Multiamory podcast, we're talking about Relationship Anarchy 101. There's a lot of discussion online about how to actually define relationship anarchy and how best to bring those principles to your real-world relationships, we also talk about it a lot on this show. In this episode, we will be covering the relationship anarchy manifesto by Andie Nordgren and how you can apply it to your life and your relationships.
Dedeker: We've got a lot of listener feedback where people wanting more coverage of relationship anarchy.
Emily: I think a lot of them, like me, are not 100% certain how to define it or how to completely think about it or what it means entirely. I kind of have the lay person's lowdown of it but not necessarily the manifesto, so I'm excited to get into that today.
Jase: Yes, I've also read a number of different people's articles online who are more intensely involved in the relationship anarchy movement who argue it is or isn't certain things, that I might disagree with or that other people might disagree with. So, obviously, with any kind of movement or philosophy or whatever, just like polyamory, you can have a lot of different people who say, "no, it's definitely this or it's definitely that." What we want to do here is go back and look at, essentially, the original source material so that then you can have an understanding of-- other people might draw some different conclusions or they might say, "hey, this movement needs to change to include these things," but you'll kind of get the core of it, which I think is where the real brilliance of it lies, is in the simplicity of this manifesto. This was originally written by a person named Andie Nordgren, who is Swedish, and posted it originally in Swedish, in 2006. That was published in 2006, and Andie was working together, online, through their site, which was andie.se, a Swedish site, between 2004 and 2008, where relationship anarchy was kind of being defined and refined. But this document, which then was then translated into English by Andie, this document is kind of the original one that sort of popularized this, made it accessible to other people, gave sort of a roadmap for what relationship anarchy actually means and what it's all about. Anytime you hear people arguing about whatever relationship anarchy is or isn't, this is kind of where it really started. What we want to do on this episode is go through the nine sections of that. It's a fairly short document. I definitely recommend checking it out, it's beautifully written. Go check it out. We are going to go through these nine sections and kind of talk about what this actually means for your real-life relationships, how we've talked about it on this show, and also some of the other views that people out there have brought to it or have put upon it, or different things like that. I'm really excited about this one, to really get into the fundamentals of what this is all about.
Dedeker: Yes, every time, because I've done a lot of the same, reading different people's blog posts and articles and Facebook posts of their own interpretations of relationship anarchy or relationship anarchist principles, but every time I come back and read this document, I'm just so inspired because it is just so simple and not overwrote and very easy to understand, I think, that really helps bring this really good foundation to it, I think. Should I start this off with the first one here?
Jase: Yes, let's get into it.
Dedeker: Number one. "Love is abundant, and every relationship is unique. Relationship anarchy questions the idea that love is a limited resource that can only be real if restricted to a couple. You have 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." This is a principle that, of course, I think, in conversations around polyamory already gets trotted out a lot. This idea that love is abundant and love is not a limited resource. Something that I want to make sure that people understand when they're listening to not only this but also the rest of the manifesto is that, this is not just talking about romantic or sexual relationships as well. That's kind of another important part of this is that, when it's written here that "every relationship is independent and it's a relationship between autonomous individuals," that means you and your friends, you and your family members, you and your co-workers, you and your fuck buddies. It's every type of relationship not just romantic relationships, which I think is where polyamory sometimes tends to veer of a little bit in focusing only on relationships whether is your-- a romantic or sexual chemistry, which is not necessarily a bad thing to do, but that's just how it's different.
Emily: Yes, and they shatter that whole structure of primary right off the bat.
Dedeker: That's true.
Emily: Which is really cool because, again, even if someone doesn't operate under a hierarchic goal like romantic relationship structure, they still maybe will put the people in which they have sexual relationships first or romantic relationships first, or primary above other people, so I like this idea that right off the bat Andie decides we're not going to do that or that's not what this is about.
Jase: I think the other key element here is that it's not just about-- Here, I think, it's more about couple privilege, which is something that we've talked about before on the show. But this idea that something's only real if it's a couple or if they're primary or they have power over other relationships-- But I think to go to what Dedeker was mentioning about not making this hierarchy between your romantic versus your friends versus your friends with benefits or your co-workers, whatever it is, that, instead, every relationship is autonomous. I think that's in this last line here is that, "each relationship," and this is relationship in the broad sense, "each relationship is independent and a relationship between autonomous individuals." I think that autonomous individuals part is sort of the key to understanding why some sort of hierarchy or a primary would be a problem, because if another person is enforcing rules upon you in your other relationships then you are no longer an autonomous individual.
Dedeker: And the person that you're in a relationship with is no longer an autonomous individual.
Emily: Yes. I remember when I was a kid, I had gotten in a really big fight with my boyfriend.
Dedeker: Your kid boyfriend?
Dedeker: Wait, how old of a kid were you here?
Jase: How old of a kid?
Emily: No, I was a kid, I was 14. Pretty young.
Dedeker: Okay, that kind of kid. When you were, "when I was a kid", I was thinking like seven years old.
Emily: No, I was like 14 or 15 and it was my first big relationship so it felt really real at the time. But I remember hanging out with my best friend, James, and he was talking me through what had happened during the fight and then my boyfriend called and was like, "Hey, let's talk, let's think about this and stuff," and then I was, "Okay, James, I got to go, bye." James was really hurt by that, and I get it, because I was blowing him off for my boyfriend. I think about that now a lot like how immediately, even back then when I was really young, I still had this idea of my boyfriend always comes first, the person with whom I'm in a romantic relationship will always come first, and my friend, even though he's my best friend and I've known him forever, he will automatically just comes second just because of that. And this kind of shatters that again.
Dedeker: Well, that's a classic thing, that's almost a universal experience. People losing a friend to a relationship. It's like you're not technically allowed to complain to your friend about that because we kind of assume that, "Oh, naturally, when you fall in love with somebody, that person has to become the most important and number one priority, by default."
Jase: I think that's actually a really great segway into the next section here. Em, do you want to do that one?
Emily: Yes, okay, this is a longer one. "Love and respect instead of entitlement. Deciding to not base a relationship on a foundation of entitlement is about respecting others' independence and self-determination. Your feelings for a person or your history together does not make you entitled to command and control a partner to comply with what is considered normal to do in a relationship. Explore how you can engage without stepping over boundaries and personal beliefs. Rather than look for compromises in every situation, let loved ones choose paths that keep their integrity intact, without letting this mean a crisis for the relationship. Staying away from entitlement and demands is the only way to be sure that you are in a relationship that is truly mutual. Love is not more “real” when people compromise for each other because it's part of what's expected."
Dedeker: Gosh, that's good. Gosh, this reminds me of-- and it's so interesting because it is such common wisdom to hear like all relationship is compromise. But it reminds me of there's this video of Eartha Kitt floating around for a while, where someone was interviewing her kind of asking why she wasn't married yet. She's a little bit older in this video, and like why her relationships hadn't worked out. Somehow the conversation went on that the interviewer asked her like, "What would you be willing to compromise?" She just like cracked up, it was like, "Why should I compromise? I know what it is that I want for myself and for my life and that makes me happy. Why should I compromise?" I feel that that ties back into this idea of letting someone choose a path that keeps their integrity intact, rather than trying to find a compromise.
I feel that very much is related to personal boundaries, to each person in the relationship being allowed to have boundaries. I think, to me, I interpret that as also saying, it is okay for a relationship to end if what you both want is different or is that across purposes, and it doesn't have to necessarily be a crisis.
Because I think that's what we see all the time, is people in a relationship where they want to do things very differently but instead of being like, "Okay, well, then I guess that means we're going to have to deescalate or transition the relationship in some way, trying to just struggle and hang on and make it work, and basically make each other, both, miserable, because both sides are compromising and getting something that they don't really want.
Jase: Yes. I think-- something I want to point out, though, about this is-- again, I think it comes up in the last sentence here, is that love is not more real when people compromise for each other because it's part of what's expected. I think that that's something I want to clarify here because I think that every day in all of our relationships with anyone, there are certain levels of compromise. I think this tricky part is it's like, by understanding that I'm not entitled to get any certain type of behavior from you, that at the same time that means, I have to compromise a little bit in terms of what kind of relationship I have.
It's more about what-- I think the key here is that it's not compromising because it's what's expected, and it's not compromising because someone else is entitled to that. That doesn't mean you never do anything for anyone else or you're just entirely selfish all the time, it's about having integrity for what are your core beliefs and what are the things that truly matter to you. I think that's just something I want to clarify in case-- because I could see someone else looking at that and going, "Oh, so basically be selfish all the time and never do anything for anyone else."
Dedeker: That makes sense.
Emily: Yes, but I wanted to ask, the difference, I guess, would be don't compromise a core belief such as polyamory or something like, "Hey, I am polyamorous and I don't want to change that just because I want to be with you," for example. I think, is that like the difference for somebody to feel entitled but they are owed to that simply because they are in a relationship with you?
Jase: For sure. I don't even think it has to be that broad, though. It could even just be something like--.
Emily: Sure. I'm just saying like a core belief, potentially.
Jase: Yes, that could be a core belief. I mean, if we apply this out to other types of relationships as well, I think this could even come down to some sort of core religious or spiritual belief. This could also apply to something like, my core belief--.
Emily: Having kids.
Jase: Having kids or not? Yes, actually that's a great example of-- you know, that, I don't think that's a belief in the way people typically call it a belief, but it's a core principle of what you value. Maybe core values is better than core believes, because belief kind of implies certain types of things.
Dedeker: Well, I think if I was going to apply it to Emily's situation with her really deep relationship with her best friend James, that, for instance, if you were in a relationship with somebody where that person is entitled to having more of your time and more of your emotional attention, and feels threatened if you ever gave that to James.
That person's expecting you to compromise on how much time and attention you give to that relationship with James, that's a situation where it's like, "No, you're having to compromise just because this person feels entitled." Because that's just the way things are normally expected to be rather than letting you make a choice that keeps what you value intact, which is still being able to have a good relationship with James. Right?
Emily: Yes, I think that's a good distinction.
Jase: So we move on the next one here?
Dedeker: Yes, let's move on to the next one.
Jase: All right. Next one, "Find your core set of relationship values, how do you wish to be treated by others, what are your basic boundaries and expectations on all relationships, what kinds of people would you like to spend your life with, and how would you like your relationships to work. Find your core set of values and use it for all relationships. Don't make special rules and exceptions as a way to show people you love them 'for real'", and the "for real" is in quotes there.
I think this is great, because it's kind of each of these builds on the last one. Finding this thing that applies to all your relationships. I've used this example in the past where I think most people would agree for your parents to have a say in who you can or can't date, and the idea that they could tell you just like, "No, don't date that person. I don't have to explain it, you just have to not."
Then most people would go, "Shit, not going to happen." Yet we will give our romantic partner, our primary partner that kind of power sometimes. Again, this is going back to both the first two sections of this just being autonomous, staying true to your core values, but I think this is really important to figure out what your core values actually are, right? Because if you don't know what they are, you might not realize that you're compromising them in certain situations.
Dedeker: Well, that's-- yes, I'm very much related to boundaries, that's why often with my clients I always bring them back to like, "What are your actual boundaries? What are your boundaries? No, actually figure it out, actually write it down." Because if you don't know, you're most likely going to end up in a situation where those boundaries are being violated and you don't even know that they are until it's far too late. Until it's already happened a number of times, until it becomes that much harder to actually enforce them again.
Jase: That no one else can know your boundaries if you aren't clear about them.
Dedeker: Exactly, yes. I think that's also why I encourage clients to do things like, I did like my constitution that I wrote that I included in my book.
Emily: I was just going to say that.
Dedeker: Again, it can change, of course, as we grow, and as we mature and as we have more lived experiences our values and our boundaries can change. But it's important for you to be person number one who is aware of what they are.
Emily: Also, to make those known, I think, that's a really important thing. Because, I don't know, a situation like our radar that we talked about a few episodes ago, I think is incredibly important just to make that known to your partner or to all partners, and to have it very ingrained within you. It can change, like you said, but not to have it be a compromise, necessarily, that's going to devalue what you want or what you care about in your relationships.
Dedeker: The other thing is-- I know we've said this on the show a number of times but, when you do have clear boundaries, and when you do have clear values, you'll actually find that people will respond to you quite well. If you're in a relationship and it's the first time that you're enforcing your boundaries, it'll probably not be a very comfortable change.
There may be some discomfort, there may be some conflict, but you will find that when you actually let people know clearly what your borders are and where you begin and end, and what you do stand for, people know how to relate to you much better, even if that means that they can't be in a relationship with you or a romantic relationship with you, at least they know. Instead of it being this ambiguous back and forth thing, which I think is where people are more likely to get hurt.
Jase: I think that doesn't necessarily mean that you have to write up a big pamphlet that you hand every person you meet, right away--.
Dedeker: Or write a book like I did.
Jase: [laughs] Or do that. I mean, I think that--.
Emily: Are my boundaries and my values.
Dedeker: [laughs] Here is all of my values and--.
Emily: Read this entire book, please.
Dedeker: My entire philosophy, here you go.
Jase: Yes. I'm saying, maybe you're realizing that I don't have a clear sense of what these core values are, and that that is something that might take some time to figure out. They can, of course, change over time as you change, but actually taking the time to get to the core of that-- and if you are already in a long-term relationship and you've started doing your monthly radar meetings, that could actually be a useful time to get some feedback and help to help you uncover those, which I think can be good as a way to help your partner feel included in that process rather than it's something that's pushing them away.
Also would help to start from a foundation of both just understanding that this is an important thing to do and that it's worth doing, but then also to spend some time on your own so this isn't just something that someone else has made for you. Actually spending time on your own as well. I think that, to go back to Dedeker's thing of having written your constitution and getting really clear on these are things that I expect from all of my relationships, as it's said in the manifesto here, is that if you're really clear on those, you don't have to send a pamphlet to each person who meets you.
Because, right away, if something starts to get close to that or if it comes up in conversation, you'll know very clearly how to answer that instead of, "I don't know how I feel about that," or saying, "Oh, actually, I have a boundary about that," when maybe you don't, right? Maybe it's just something that makes you uncomfortable. We're all about allowing yourself to be uncomfortable sometimes but if you don't know where the boundaries are, then you don't know what's an okay discomfort and what's not.
Emily: Yes, all right.
Dedeker: Yes, next one, "Heterosexism is rampant and out there but don't let fear lead you. Remember that there is a very powerful normative system in play that dictates what real love is and how people should live. Many will question you and the validity of your relationships when you don't follow these norms. Work with the people you love to find escapes and tricks to counter the worst of the problematic norms. Find positive counterspells and don't let fear drive your relationships." Counterspells, like we're wizards, we're relationship wizards [laughs], oh, my Gosh.
Jase: This one is an intense one because--.
Dedeker: I love it.
Jase: It's absolutely correct.
Dedeker: Yes, and I do love that it is related to this fear thing of, "don't let fear lead you." Because I think that-- maybe this is a little bit of a controversial statement but I think there are many people out there who are lead either to monogamy or maybe to marriage or to having a home or to having kids less out of, "I really want this to happen. I really want this for my life," and more out of, "I'm afraid of being alone. I'm afraid of dying alone. I'm afraid of everyone else getting these things and me not getting them."
Which is related to our Wanting What You don't Want episode. That there can be this very human fear of, "my life looks different from everybody else's life, at least on the surface, and that must be a bad thing." It's so incredibly pervasive. It's so pervasive. A lot of people find when they first come to any kind of non-traditional relationship, or polyamory or relationship anarchy or whatever, that it can be very lonely in many regards. Ironically, even though you may have more partners or more relationships, it can still be very lonely because there is still this very normative driving force that dictates that what you're doing is not normal and it's not going to be supported.
Jase: I just wanted to go back to something that I've said on the show, that my mother said around the time when we were becoming polyamorous, and it's conviction. Have conviction for what you're doing. I cannot tell you how many times I have spoken about polyamory to people, to co-workers, to colleagues, to just new friends or whomever, and how having conviction about it makes people be like, "Shit, that's really something. That's really a thing to think about." Or even like, I've had people be like, "I wish I could do that. I wish I had your courage to be able to live my life in the way that I wanted to."
That's a really fascinating thing that I think, yes, if you do have conviction about the thing that you are doing, in spite of all of the bullshit that may be thrown at you, I think you still have the opportunity to make a change and to be a positive force. I guess what we're doing here, what we have continued to do for many years.
Emily: Yes, I think that this line here too about the, "work with the people you love to find escapes and tricks to counter the worst of the problematic norms--."
Jase: And spells.
Dedeker: And spells [laughs].
Emily: And then counter spells, yes. To not allow your relationships to be shaped or driven by fear. I do like that too, that it's not just saying like, "Be strong and tough it out." It's saying like, "No, be proactive." Actually, talk with your your partners or your friends or your family, or whoever it is that loves you and supports you in what you're doing to say, "Okay, let's find ways to counter these norms that are going to get enforced upon us." I think that depending on what your life looks like this could involve something like talking with your partners about how we're going to keep this secret because of potential problems with our jobs or families or something.
I think that it can seem like being driven by fear, and I think it could be. I think some people are closeted about this purely out of fear and not out of a real need to be, and we generally, on this show, encourage people to come out if they think that they can because that's going to help normalize it in the larger picture for all of us. I also find it just makes it a whole lot easier when you're out. But even if you can't be, it's being proactive and actively having conversations with your friends, your partners, and your loved ones about this as opposed to just kind of always being afraid and never really like allowing your relationships to grow.
Or, not having open conversations with people because you feel like you might need to push them away if you start to feel unsafe at your job or in your home life or something, right? It's a tricky thing there to evaluate what's being driven by fear and what's proactively trying to counter these things. I also was just realizing as I was saying that, that even in making the distinction of your friends or your partners or whatever, is already kind of going against the core idea of relationship anarchy here, which is that people don't need to be put into these broad categories and, instead, every single relationship operates on its own terms. It's hard. I feel like our language makes that challenging.
Dedeker: It does.
Jase: It does.
Emily: We don't really have an in-between word between friend and partner to just cover all of that.
Dedeker: Just any human that you are related to in some way, not like blood related but relating to.
Emily: Because in relationship anarchy generally, the word used is relationships. Or, loved ones to mean people who are more serious in your life. But then in relationship anarchy, relationship refers to every relationship. It's your relationship with your mailman. It's your relationship [laughs] with your co-workers, with the person that you met for two seconds as you're walking down the street. That all of these are relationships rather than our typical societal use of relationship means romance and sex.
Jase: I was going to say a fartner, but that's not--.
Dedeker: Today is the day that multiamory reached a new low.
Jase: You said it, you said between friend and partner, it's like, it's right there.
Dedeker: Yes, but you're the one who said the word fartner.
Jase: It's there [laughs].
Emily: [laughs] I definitely want to use that.
Dedeker: Please, don't. I really don't think that's going to help stem the tide of stigma and people not understanding what any of this is about.
Emily: I'm sorry, that really got me.
Jase: Oh, geez, I'm glad that I make you laugh.
Emily: Oh, man.
Jase: Good god, Okay.
Jase: I'm not-- now, should we talk about some other--?
Dedeker: Here I was so proud of us like, "We're getting into like such good, deep, meaty philosophical stuff. I just love this, I'm so inspired," and--.
Jase: I have to bring it back, a little bit, guys.
Dedeker: Now I got to--.
Jase: Bring it back.
Dedeker: Got to bring it back down to Earth.
Emily: Oh, boy.
Jase: With that let us go into the next one which is, "Build for the lovely unexpected. Being free to be spontaneous, to express oneself without fear of punishment or a sense of burden "shoulds" is what gives life to relationships based on relationship anarchy. Organize based on a wish to meet and explore each other; not on duties, demands, and disappointment when they are not met." Ooh, I love this one. That's awesome.
Dedeker: Right? I particularly love the phrasing of, "build for the lovely unexpected," because-- I think we do talk a lot-- obviously, we talked in our episode about Expectations, of being able to let go of expectations and leave yourself open to things being organic and free. In the Ethical Slot they have the whole chapter on Clean Love, that I love, which is about leaving yourself open to love in its many forms instead of trying to shove it into a particular shape or a particular box.
I think that that does leave some people feeling like, "Oh it's just a free for all and it's going to feel like I don't have any ground underneath me. How do I function with that? Does that mean I have to have zero plans for the future or that I have to not have any kind of vision for my relationships?" But here it says build and to organize based on a wish to meet and explore each other. It's like bring this intentionality to your relationships but it's like a focused mindfulness and intentionality that isn't about we need to dictate exactly how this is going to go or exactly how it's going to look. Which, I love, kind of bringing those two things together.
Jase: Yes, and just freeing oneself from the check boxes that you have to mark off within a relationship is so huge. I think being able to go into a new date or whatever-- I love going on a date and not having to be auditioning someone to--.
Emily: Yes [laughs].
Jase: A freaking-- you know--.
Jase: "Is this the father of my children?" or whatever.
Jase: Yes, any of that shit. That is really, I think, freeing in so many ways, and that it can change over time. James and I were once really romantic and very-- and we lived with each other and all of those things, and now we're super fucking great best friends and, I think, know each other even better than we ever have before, and that you can't-- there's no contingency plan. You can't decide, "Oh, that's how this relationship is going to go right from the beginning."
Dedeker: Yes, I've had so many relationships that I've been and where I've thought like, "This is the person that I'm going to be with for the next 30 years and then I'm going to build a life with, that is going to be by my side every single day." And had other relationships where it's like, "This will probably just be a casual thing while I'm passing through town. I don't need to take it too seriously." And have, in both cases, been totally shocked and surprised to find it turned out the other way, where the person that I thought I was going to be with forever doesn't work out and is, actually, maybe not a good choice at all for me--.
Emily: A dickhead.
Dedeker: Or maybe a dickhead. We're not going to go down that particular path right now. But then also the opposite of-- where relationships that I didn't think were going to be that serious or that I didn't think I was going to really fall in love with the person, actually grew into really beautiful long-lasting wonderful relationships. So,I think in my life I feel fortunate that I've gotten a lot of examples of that. It can always turn out differently in really good ways, as well.
Jase: Yes, I think that-- this just made me think of, again, to go back to this idea of building for the unexpected, is how a lot of people have posted in our Facebook group for patrons about how they use radar in their new relationships, that they'll do these monthly check-ins even in early relationships, and that, again, it's going about things intentionally. It's not saying that we're doing this because, "we need to manage a household because we're definitely going to get married, and move in together and have kids, and all these things," but instead it's just, "let's be intentional about our relationship whatever it is." I actually think that makes you more able to adapt and change when there is that kind of proactive communication the whole time. And then this last part about that you're together based on a "wish to meet and explore each other, and not on duties and demands and then disappointments when those aren't met." I think goes also back to the first one, I think, or the second one about entitlement. Is not kind of thinking, "well, they didn't spend time with me so I'm going to be disappointed because I should have gotten that," as opposed to every time you do get to hang out with them saying, "wow, this is amazing," even if it's every day, it's still, "gosh, I'm so excited that they're choosing again to spend time with me today." Even if you're in a monogamous relationship that still-- just that approach. Or maybe I'm getting a little bit like Buddhist here like every breath is a gift, but, really, it's true that every moment you get to spend with your partner that you know that they're choosing to be with you is a really special thing to be excited about rather than something that's just normal, and then any lack of that is the disappointment.
Dedeker: All right.
Jase: All right, the next one here is, "Fake it till you make it. Sometimes it can feel like you need to be some complete superhuman to handle all of the norm breaking involved in choosing relationships that don't map to the norm. A great trick is the fake-it-till-you-make-it strategy. When you're feeling strong and inspired think about how you would like to see yourself act, transform that into some simple guidelines and stick to them when things are rough. Talk to and seek support from others who challenge norms and never reproach yourself when the norm pressure gets to you into behavior you didn't wish for."
Dedeker: The fake it till you make it, that was some of the best advice I've ever received from a Buddhist nun, actually.
Jase: [laughs] Really?
Dedeker: Yes, I was so surprised because-- It was when I was at the monastery and people were talking-- obviously, not about relationship anarchy, but just about living a mindful life and trying to be a more enlightened person, and having a lot of love and loving kindness for people that you don't like. The very natural question of, "well, how the heck do you do that?" And the nun was just like, "sometimes you got to fake it till you make it, I know I do" [laughs]. Sometimes it is that of, even in the moments when you're feeling particularly challenged or maybe particularly depressed or particularly jealous or insecure or whatever, that sometimes envisioning the best version of yourself and then acting accordingly can really have some amazing results. I want to differentiate that from spiritual bypassing, with this thing that we talked about with Jessica Graham, not about, "no matter what happens in my relationship, even if someone is being a straight up dick to me, I'm going to be-- just like float above it all and be a perfect little angel." That's a little bit different, I think. But, I think, in situations where your boundaries are not being violated, nobody's doing anything wrong but you're still having trouble because you're doing this courageous work of doing something very different. That those are situations where envisioning yourself as this courageous, as this whole, as this person dedicated to their own integrity and their values, who is confident, that that can really help to shape your behavior to get through those kind of more difficult moments.
Emily: Yes. But on the flip side I also appreciate that this section kind of tells you that it's not the end of the world if you do have those feelings, and that you don't need to punish yourself and that you can let yourself off the hook a little bit. Because so many people will say to us too about polyamory like, "you, guys, must not ever be jealous" or, I'm jealous sometimes and I get so frustrated with how my jealousy kicks in and it's going to happen, it happens to everyone and that's okay. It's just how you continue to work on it and work through it, and maybe even fake it until you make it.
Jase: Yes. I think this last part of it that you're just talking about is so beautiful, it's this "never reproach yourself when the norm pressure gets you into behavior you didn't wish for." I think that wording is really interesting too because it's about-- it's not just saying, "I reacted a certain way" but it could even mean that you've ended up in a type of relationship that you don't actually want to be in, or that you've allowed certain other things, certain other core values of yours to be compromised, that this doesn't have to mean that you're a failure, it doesn't mean that, "oh, those must not actually be your beliefs if you're not able to enforce them and stick to them," that instead it's just, don't beat yourself up over it because there is all of this pressure coming at you, whether it's from your actual partners or just from society or from your long-held beliefs you've been taught since you were a kid. I think there's a lot of power, because if you beat yourself up for something you tend to give that thing a lot more meaning as opposed to just going, "okay, I did that. I don't love that I did that but now I can move on and choose who I want to be now." But the other thing I did want to address with this is it specifically says, "when you're feeling strong and inspired to think about how you'd like to feel yourself act and then transform that into some simple guidelines and stick to them when things are rough." I think, in addition to what Dedeker was saying about in those hard situations trying to imagine like, "what is the strong me going to do? What is the enlightened me going to do here?" That instead is, when you are feeling good setting those guidelines, which could look like things in your constitution like Dedeker did, or getting clear on what your core values are and how you want to respond to different situations. To sort of set those up as guidelines for yourself so even when you're really not feeling it, even if you are feeling really insecure or really jealous or whatever, you know that I have this guideline about what I am and I'm not going to do so I'm going to stick to that right now, just so I'm not hurting my partner or I'm not compromising my values, and then I'm going to take some time to work through how I feel about it. Instead of feeling like you need to work through all those feelings first before you can even answer a question or even exist in that moment.
Dedeker: Well, ready for the next one?
Dedeker: "Trust is better. Choosing to assume that your partner does not wish you harm leads you down a much more positive path than a distrustful approach where you need to be constantly validated by the other person to trust that they are there with you in the relationship. Sometimes people have so much going on inside themselves that there's just no energy left to reach out and care for others. Create the kind of relationship where withdrawing is both supported and quickly forgiven, and give people lots of chances to talk, explain, see you and be responsible in the relationship. Remember your core values and to take care of yourself, though." This one is an interesting one.
Emily: Damn, it really resonates for me.
Jase: Yes, take it away, Em [laughs].
Emily: Just because-- oh, god, I can't tell you how many times like all-- hear a partner say something and be like, "that fucker."
Emily: Or just immediately say, "they are out to get me in a way." That's a bad habit of mine that I know that I need to work on but I think Radar actually helps a huge amount with this because it takes the emotion, often, out of an initial interaction. But I think sometimes I will immediately jump to the worst conclusion, and to have this idea in mind that, "Hey, someone is really being good to you and probably wants your best interest" then that is super important to remember. Yes, well, I like this one a lot.
Jase: I think also just the idea of choosing to trust that someone's with you because they want to be, I think that's also in this too, as opposed to needing to constantly be validated by the other person to "convince me that you want to be with me." That can definitely be hard to do, and I'm certainly not great about this one all the time. But of just choosing to trust that the people who have a relationship with you, whatever it is, do that because they want to. That you don't need them to constantly tell you that, in order to believe it. Or needing to find some way to prove it. I think that's also where, in polyamory, a lot of rules and hierarchy can come up, is by saying, "well, I need proof that you actually do love me, and you've got to show that through these other compromises, or through letting me have power over your other relationships, or through these other things." And that that comes down to this fundamental lack of trust that you actually do feel the way you say you feel.
Dedeker: I think this section here where they talk about, "create the kind of relationship where withdrawing is both supported and quickly forgiven." I think that's really interesting that that's in there, and I'm kind of trying to wrap my brain around it.
Emily: Well, it got like-- I'm also a freaking spewer, and to have somebody withdraw is really difficult for me. I've had to learn, especially in the relationship. My live-in relationship partner, he is very much a chewer and needs his time to go withdraw and be alone. And, especially at the beginning, even in the first two years, I was like, "fuck this, why is he leaving? Why is he leaving?" I am getting better at forgiving that or, at least, just letting him do his thing, because I think it is important, it's just a different way of approaching a problem.
Jase: I think that there is some clarity too in the sentence before it, which is that, "sometimes people have so much going on inside themselves that there's just no energy left to reach out and care for others." I think, to use a personal example here, a couple of years ago Dedeker was having a really hard time in other parts of her life that weren't specifically about me but that she needed to withdraw and needed a lot of space, and that was very hard for me at the time. I think, though, through that process that we have learned how to be a lot better with withdrawing, whether it's-- I think when we hear withdraw we think emotionally withdrawing and closing off--.
Dedeker: Like taking something away.
Jase: Right, and I think here, instead, withdrawing could just mean sort of needing some space or just not needing to be around each other, or not needing to talk about everything that's going on, sort of granting that. I think that through that experience we've really learned how to do that well, and that I don't think we did before, through really having to learn, "no, this is not something to force through but you need your space when you need it to process things." Then, also, for me, it's been really powerful to learn that I can have that if I want to. That there are just some timeswhere I'm sort of like, "you know what? I would rather do my own thing tonight than spend time with you, and that's not because I don't love you, it's not because I don't want to be with you, it's just, that's just what's going on for me tonight." I think I even still struggle with it.
For a long time I didn't feel like I could do that. If someone else wanted my time or my attention, it wasn't an option to say, "I really just want to do my own thing tonight whatever that is." That that was a really hard thing to do. But I think, again, through that process that you and I went through, Dedeker, I think I learned how to do that for myself as well, which also made it easier for me to give it to other people. If I was willing to do that for myself, just allowing people to have their space and withdraw, and that it doesn't have to have meaning about me attached to it.
Emily: Exactly, yes.
Jase: Okay, next one here, this one is, "Change through communication. For most human activities there is some form of norm in place for how it's supposed to work. If you want to deviate from this pattern you need to communicate, otherwise things tend to end up just following the norm, as others behave according to it. Communication and joint actions for change is the only way to break away. Radical relationships must have conversation and communication at the heart, not as a state of emergency only brought about to solve problems. Communicate in a context of trust. We're so used to people never really saying what they think and feel that we have to read between the lines and extrapolate to find what they really mean, but such interpretations can only build on previous experiences usually based on the norms you want to escape. Ask each other about stuff, and be explicit."
I love that Andie here just wrote the perfect advertising copy for multiamory radar, for our [laughs] monthly check-ins.
Jase: Right? Is just that, like--.
Dedeker: Is just that like, communicating not in a state of emergency, and communicating outside of just the context of solving problems and within the context of trust.
Jase: Don't have a relationship meeting when things are falling apart, start having them now so that you have those in place.
Emily: It becomes normal for you to do that. Yes, that's awesome.
Jase: I think the thing that they point out here that I really like is that it's in the context of the fact that we're doing something different from the norm. Because, as we talked about in our Cultural Intelligence episode, there are cultures who are much more non-verbal, much more reading between the lines. When I was reading this, I was like, "I don't know, is this okay, to be saying you have to do things like our culture, or, in this case, their culture, like a Swedish relationship anarchist culture of, talk explicitly about everything?" But I think when you put in that specific viewpoint of because we're not doing the normal thing you can't quite rely on just that we're all going to have the same cultural assumptions, because that's how we've ended up doing the same thing the whole time. The fact that we're actively trying to change that, I think that even when you're in a less explicit communication culture that you're still going to have to up how explicit you are about it in order to have that kind of shared experience, that shared understanding. I think that's a really interesting perspective to put on it.
Dedeker: Yes, definitely.
Emily: That's awesome.
Dedeker: I don't know, I don't know what else to say about this because it feels pretty straightforward--.
Emily: I know.
Jase: Go listen to our Radar episode.
Dedeker: Yes, listen to the Radar episode.
Dedeker: Listen to every other communication--.
Emily: Radar, Radar, Radar.
Dedeker: Hacker Communication Tool episode that we've done, it can really help you with all of this.
Jase and Emily: Yes.
Emily: But that's one is pretty straightforward and awesome as always.
Dedeker: Well, actually, I think this is a great one for people to go listen to the Movies episode.
Jase: That's a good one too for early on in a relationship.
Dedeker: Because some of these people, when it comes to things like, "ask each other about stuff and be explicit" sometimes people are just not even sure how to start with that.
Jase: What do I ask?
Dedeker: It can help if you have something like movie's already set ahead of time so that it's not like, "well, I'm the one having to be explicit asking this question," it's, "we're just kind of following this," and it create a context for us to be able to share very clearly.
Jase: For people just joining us for this episode, we're not talking about movies that you watch; we're taking about--.
Dedeker and Emily: We're talking about--.
Emily: Take your partner to the movies.
Jase: We're talking about our episode where we have our acronym for questions to ask new partners. All right, let's go on to the next one.
Emily: This is the last one, which is, "Customize your commitments. Life would not have much structure or meaning without joining together with other people to achieve things, constructing a life together, raising children, owning a house or growing together through thick and thin. Such endeavors usually need lots of trust and commitment between people to work. Relationship anarchy is not about never committing to anything, it's about designing your own commitments with the people around you and freeing them from norms dictating that certain types of commitments are a requirement for love to be real, or that some commitments like raising children or moving in together have to be driven by certain kinds of feelings. Start from scratch and be explicit about what kind of commitments you want to make with other people."
Jase: I freaking love this one so much.
Jase: I love all of it so much.
Emily: It's all so good.
Jase: But I think this is one of my favorites because I know that, especially early on when I first was exploring polyamory, this was a question I would get a lot from family and friends who were supportive of it but still had this question of like, "well, what's commitment then? So if your partner gets sick, you're just going to leave them because then you're not getting something from them and you're going to go spend time with your other partners?" And things like that. I don't feel like I had as good of words to explain it.
Dedeker: You didn't have the best words?
Jase: I didn't have the best words to-- no.
Jase: I didn't have the right words to explain it, I didn't have a way to explain it eloquently. But I think this does a good job of it, that it's saying, you absolutely can make commitments to people, they just don't-- that one type of relationship doesn't have to have certain commitments, and that in order to have certain commitments you don't have to have a certain type of emotion.
Dedeker: It doesn't all have to be packaged together?
Emily: I think I realized I just said the wrong thing, it's about designing your commitments with the people around you.
Jase and Dedeker: What did you say?
Emily: I said designating, I don't know.
Jase: Okay, I didn't even catch it.
Dedeker: I didn't even catch it either.
Jase: I think a really good example of this, and this was-- I don't remember where this came from, it was in another article that I was reading about relationship anarchy, but was giving the example of two friends deciding to raise a child together and to live together. That those two friends, and I say friends to mean that they have a non-romantic and non-sexual relationship but they love each other very much. They've understood each other for so long. They have a lot of history together, that they make a commitment to say, "we're going to raise a child together and we're going to live together. We commit that we're always going to live together. That doesn't mean we're not going to have other romantic relationships but that any relationship after this will understand I already have this commitment with you," right? I think that that is really challenging to people.
Because they think, "oh, gosh, well, I couldn't fall in love with someone who already had that kind of commitment with someone else." Because we have this association with certain types of commitment having to equal certain types of feelings. Certain types of love.
Emily: But in reality it's like, who the hell cares? You can still have a really amazing romantic relationship with someone even if you're not raising a child with them, and it can still be super committed.
Jase: Yes, and that you could also have a very committed loving relationship with someone that you don't have sex with.
Jase: I think this one actually happens a lot more often than people realize. Because it's usually not talked about so much, but with married couples who have decided-- who actually managed to have a good co-parenting relationship, even though their own romance and sexual relationship has ended. I think a lot of relationships fall apart over this and fights are fought over this because of that entitlement that people come in with, and the fact that it's violating the norm of what we think we should have. But when people do that successfully, and it definitely happens, I think, more than we realize.
When couples can have that real hard conversation and not feel like, "we need this to look like what we always thought it would look like," that they can have really successful co-parenting relationships, which may or may not involve them, each, having other romantic and sexual relationships with other people. Maybe that's just--.
Jase: Consensually, right. Then maybe that's not something they're even looking for any more at this phase in their life, but whatever it is, they've got to write that script themselves. Even if they didn't start the relationship that way.
That having that kind of honest, clear communication, you can create something intentionally that's going to fit with what are your commitments, what are the things that matter to you, instead of feeling trapped, until I, "oh, I've got to commit to this because of this" or, "because we're married I have to be willing to have sex with my partner, even if I don't want to," right?
Dedeker: Or we have to live together.
Jase: Right, yes. That's a great one. The whole--.
Dedeker: Or if I'm going to have kids it has to be with the person I'm married to.
Jase: Yes, all of that.
Dedeker: It definitely starts getting into territory where people get really scared and get really weirded out. But I think it just-- and, unfortunately, the law hasn't caught up to that yet.
Jase: No, definitely not.
Dedeker: Quite. I just know, to speak from my own experience, I'm not somebody who's really gung ho about having children of my own. The last time I remember that idea ever being appealing to me was when I was thinking about it in the context of raising it with a close friend. That thought just spontaneously occurred to me, I had a friend who was thinking about having a baby, and I was like, "oh, my God, I could totally co-parent with her, and it would be great." That was the last time that I remember feeling excited about the concept of raising a child within that context, but not necessarily--.
Emily: I was just thinking of you and Paul together raising a child.
Dedeker: Oh, my God.
Dedeker: Well, that's not what I was thinking of. Geez, I can't even-- that child, how would that child turn out [laughs]?
Emily: I know.
Emily: It would be a hilarious kid.
Jase: It would be the most entertaining child.
Dedeker: It would be like a sitcom.
Jase: Yes? Seriously?
Jase and Dedeker: Anyway.
Jase: All right. Thank you all for listening through this. I'm really glad that we finally took the time to do a Relationship Anarchy 101. Let's get back to basics about all of this. It's something that is long overdue. Thank you for sticking around and waiting, for those of you who've been asking for this episode for a long time. I think there's so much here in this. This is one of those things that every time I read it, I pick up on more things. I get other subtleties or I realize, "oh, that's just like this situation" or whatever it is.
I really appreciate the fact that Andie Nordgren put this together. Right? They say that they did come to all of this with other people, but for being the one to actually put this together--.
Dedeker: Write it all down.
Jase: And to translate it into English for us [laughs], which we really appreciate it. Yes.
Emily: That's a great translation, it's fantastic.
Dedeker: Yes, it is.
Jase: What happens when you live in a country that teaches you two languages from the time you're a kid and does it well.
Emily: There it is. And on that note.
Dedeker: I'm really glad that we revisited this because I think-- I just hear from so many people this question of, "does being relationship anarchist versus poly or whatever, does that mean I never live with anybody? Does that mean I never have kids with anybody? Does that mean I never get married? Does that mean--," I think I heard someone say, "Does that mean I never will grow old with somebody, and share the coffee and newspaper with them when we're both seventy?" It's like, of course, it doesn't mean any of those things.
You can have all of those things. It just doesn't have to all be the same relationship and it doesn't all have to look the same way that it does to everybody else's. Is just bringing this intentionality and this mindfulness to the commitments that you make, and that it's okay to customize them and for them to look very different.
Emily and Jase: Yes.
Dedeker: Yes. What we're going to do, I will include a link to the manifesto.
Dedeker: In our show notes, so if you want to read it yourself, tt's a very short read and very clear. I love-- sometimes in the moments when I am feeling more confused about my own relationships, or if I'm feeling challenged about what it is that I want or what I don't want, sometimes I will pull up this document and just get a refresher, and just be like, "oh, yes. This is good stuff. This is good. This is great." Very useful for that.