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Relationship Anarchy - A Smorgasbord of Options "Instead of Entitlement"

You may have heard of the Relationship Anarchy Smorgasbord - a concept which takes a metaphor of relationships as meals where you and your partner build your "plate" from a smorgasbord (a Swedish buffet-style service of a variety of foods and dishes) of options available to you to create a customized relationship that suits you uniquely - the idea being that you do this with each person you have a close enough relationship to have conversations about how the relationship works with. There have been many iterations over the years of graphics to illustrate the concept and help folks have clearer discussions about the dimensions they might want or not want in their relationships. Find a recent one here:

You can see that unlike the escalator-style relationship model, this doesn't just assume that you take on most dimensions of domestic/romantic/emotional/sexual relating with one person, but that creativity, collaboration, business and social dimensions may all be with people who don't rate or rank as partners. Instead it assumes that all your relationships are equally important, though unique (which we see reflected in the first tenet of the RA Manifesto ) and that you get to decide what you do with each of these partners.

An escalator-style model includes a number of scripts, assumptions, and functional entitlements to our partners' time, actions we want from them (because it's what a partner "should" do in a relationship), and to activities they may not want to take part in. In a relationship anarchy philosophy of building relationships where each one is built without a model, the idea is that previous history does not determine a specific future. You negotiate together each change and step forward as time goes on - does living together imply sharing finances? sharing meals? co-caregiving pets? Does it change active time you spend together in activities or dates? If you stop living together and disentangle finances, do you continue dating? do your labels change? These are super individual decisions. The "far end" of entitlement in an escalator model can manifest as hierarchy, as expectations of always being a +1, of getting "first dibs" on events or requiring compromises "for the relationship" ahead of the happiness of the humans involved. Conversely, an RA model is extremely human focused and autonomy focused. The relationship and decisions taken to form a relationship exist only in service of the best interests of the humans involved. You build the relationship in the venn diagram center formed by both your boundaries - rather than "compromising" and bending your boundaries to make a relationship based on expectations, entitlements, and shoulds.


Join me Dec 5 at 6pm Pacific, 9 pm Eastern for a digital class, Relationship Anarchy Applied, to discuss this and much more on the topic. Tickets here

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han gu
han gu
Jun 05

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