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Instead of Entitlement

In my continuing quiet obsession with the relationship anarchist manifesto, I want to look today at the section called “Love and Respect Instead of Entitlement.” This sounds like a super obvious idea, right? Our relationships should be based in love and respect. They shouldn’t be based in the assumption that we control others or are owed something in particular from them. As with so much else in this very short manifesto, we can take the heading and run with our personal interpretation and be perfectly fine, or we can look a little at the fine print. I’d like to do the latter for a few minutes today.

“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.” Essentially, this section starts out by saying, throw the relationship escalator out the window as an expectation. If you want to mutually decide to ride it, great. But there is no feeling or set of feelings; or step or set of steps you’ve already taken that pre-determine that now you’re guaranteed a given relationship with a partner. Only that partner’s enthusiastic consent and ongoing engagement with you in deciding the kind of relationship you both want to have going forward gets to determine what happens between you.

So, what concerns do you have to consider while figuring that out? The manifesto suggests that you “Explore how you can engage without stepping over boundaries and personal beliefs. Rather than looking for compromises in every situation, let loved ones choose paths that keep their integrity intact, without letting this mean a crisis for the relationship.” This means both that you and your partner need to be aware of what your core values are, and that you need to be willing to give each other space in the relationship to live up to those values. Sometimes that will mean keeping relationships less entangled because your core values aren’t as compatible as you might wish - and allowing for the relationship to be less entangled without it meaning a full blowup, without “well, I guess we’ll just stop seeing each other then!” being the reaction, is one of the best gifts we can give each other in terms of peace and space to be ourselves fully. Our friends often share many but not all of our core values - our partners can be the same, if we are not looking to entangle our entire lives just because one of the things we share is romantic love. This is one of the concerns we can release when we release the entitlement of “being in love means I can require x,y,z of my partner and they of me.”

The manifesto claims that “Staying away from entitlement and demands is the only way to be sure that you are in a relationship that is truly mutual,” and I’m not sure I completely agree that it’s the only way, but it is certainly a powerful indicator. Leaving people free to make choices, just as in the general case for polyamory where we can say that our partners are more committed because they could leave at any time - they have other partners to be with right this minute, after all - is a great indicator that folks are with us for us, and for our love and our dynamics.

It is easy to lose ourselves in relationships in favor of “the relationship;” of the ideal we want more than the person we’re exploring with or the things we are finding along the way. Avoiding entitlement in our agreements is part of how we keep our focus on that exploration and that love, as fully as we can. I think the line that speaks best for itself from this section is the last one: “Love is not more “real” when people compromise for each other because it’s part of what’s expected.”


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