Fear and Joy
One of the tenets of the Relationship Anarchist Manifesto is “Heterosexism is rampant, but don’t let fear lead you.” It is expanded into an explanation that various norms dictate what love is, and that letting those norms and fear of violating them or being perceived to violate them drive our choices is something that others will try to impose on us. This is not just true for relationship anarchists - even for polyamorists, if our polyamory visibly violates relationship norms, this can induce fears, and as Andie Nordgren instructs us in the relationship anarchist manifesto, we should “Work with the people [you] love to find escapes and tricks to counter the worst of the problematic norms. Find positive counter spells and don’t let fear drive [your] relationships.”
But what are these fears? If we’re solo polyamorous or not in nesting relationships, they may include fears about “not having someone to grow old with,” or that old chestnut “dying alone,” and the outside world may certainly encourage those fears in us. If we’re in multiple relationships, other people may devalue our relationships and try to plant seeds of doubt about the quality and commitment of connections - even longstanding ones - because they don’t follow relationship escalator patterns. Your relationships don’t have to look like “everyone else’s” - and you don’t have to assume whoever that is. The elusive everyone is getting smaller every year as more people build lives according to their wants as opposed to norms.
So what does it mean to not let these fears drive your relationship building? It doesn’t just mean to toss each of these norms out the window - you might want some of them! I like living with partners when I meet partners who also want that, so I’ll probably do it again some day, for example. However, it does mean that this idea of “working with the people you love to find escapes and tricks” becomes very important- if you have a community you can work with to figure out how best to live outside norms and not apologize for being different than the norm, then you are a step ahead. If you lack a larger community and have only a few loved ones you can interface with on this issue, then it may be trickier or you may have fewer ideas as to how to escape these norms except incidentally - but incidentally as per your desires in your relationships is all anyone actually has to do. There’s no award for being less normative. Do what works in your relationships, both romantic and friendly.
Reaching that point of not being driven by fear, and building your relationships based on mutual wants and boundaries can bring you to the point of having space to just enjoy them. That joy is why we build relationships in the first place - it’s the connection that makes being human worthwhile and propelled many of us to begin or continue our nonmonogamous journeys. Deepening friendships, transformative connections, relationships of all shapes and sizes, that can be as normative or not as we define with our partners over time, build into relationships and networks that are full of enough joy to drive out any fear we might occasionally feel based on norms we can’t control.
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