Applying the Lessons of Polyamory, Relationship Anarchy and True Friendship to Every Relationship
“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.” — George Sand
I stood behind her with my arms wrapped around her waist, holding her close to me. Her hands rested on mine and the scent and feel of her silver-kissed hair against my cheek filled my senses. It felt wonderful as we watched the large fish swim within the public aquarium. I was so happy just being in that moment, and I loved her. That day was the last time I ever saw her, as these things happen, but I was richer for having had her in my life. I still love her and always will.
Giving your love to someone is never a wasted experience. I’m not talking about giving to the point of being a perpetual rescuer and martyr, but by living your life with a loving, generous spirit, you will also attract the same. Polyamory has shown that loving more than one person is very possible and when embraced can bring amazing new possibilities into your life. Much like a parent can love all of their children differently, but to the same level, loving more than one partner is a similar way can be very enriching. There is an inherently uncomfortable feel to the idea that even an exclusivity agreement grants you some kind of ownership or dominion over another person’s body. Loving people fully, can include romantic or sexual aspects, or abstain from them completely. Love without boundaries is completely free, and to give love without boundaries is such an amazing experience.
So much of this is how you approach meeting and interacting with new people. It is common to place people in categories on encounter them, and to quickly judge them making assumptions of who they can be in your life. This is a very human reaction, but people are rarely defined by the initial impressions they may present. There is an often abused notion of the friendzone existing in some friendships that is both insulting and very much inaccurate. A friendship is a relationship and a lover is also a relationship. They are both very real and can be life altering, life fulfilling and of exactly equal value. Relationships, when healthy and practical, can and often will move between the two types. Being able to do this is without judgement and expectation, can be called relationship anarchy.
Simply put, relationship anarchy is not subscribing to the notion that platonic, sexual and romantic relationships are bound by separate rules, nor are they of different values. While the name seems a bit dark, I prefer to take it in a slightly different focus that I will comically call love architecture. The difference is trying to approach all new relationships first with a foundation of friendship. This focus is on building something real that, if or when more develops, can be explored with a now mutual friend as well as a potential new lover. I have nothing against hookups, per se, but those kind of relationships don’t really resonate with me. When I meet an amazing new woman with whom I am attracted to, I want to explore that potential relationship to its fullest. Having them as a friend makes that relationship so much stronger, and it allows for changes in needs to not necessarily lose the shared core relationship. I recognize that I can’t be everything to another person, and I refuse to feel bad about that. I will give all that I can, but not to my own harm.
In KC Clements’s brilliant article 7 Lesson From a Year of Relationship Anarchy, he describes seven different things to make relationships stronger, and not just in ethically non-monogamous ones. These seven things can apply to a life long committed monogamist just as well. I’d like to expand on those lessons just a bit, in the guise of my little love architecture concept:
- You cannot love others properly if you don’t first love yourself. It can be very easy to get lost in a new relationship, but if you are not taking care of your own needs, your ability to be a balanced partner will be compromised. We all have areas of insecurity, and areas that need work, but you need to be able to at least rise above them to a degree to truly love others. By loving yourself, and accepting yourself, you can give the same to others.
- You need to be adaptable in your relationships. Things will change in your life, and your partners will also have changes that dramatically affect them. They will need to pull back sometimes, and other times will will be more available to you. This ebb and flow is part of life, and accepting that a completely platonic friend now may become much more, and consequently that a passionate love may need to focus on others or themselves and return to just friends is sometimes necessary. This is not a loss if you still keep that person in your life. By being adaptable, you can move through these changes and not let your core relationship falter. You can love someone, even if you can’t have every possible aspect of a relationship, so long as you keep them in your life.
- Approach all relationships in the same way. The idea of friendship dating is something to embrace, but to actually approach time spent with any relationship the same is very beneficial. Just because you’re not sleeping with someone doesn’t mean you cancel plans on them for someone with whom you are. If you do your best to be attentive, and intentional, in you time spent together you’ll build stronger relationships regardless. Dress up for them, do acts of service, and make sure you are offering of yourself equally, without an agenda other than their happiness and your own.
- Compatibility must include shared needs and expectations as well as chemistry. Just because someone is stirring feelings deep inside you, if you both want completely different things, it’s going to be difficult. It’s very easy to fall for the bad boy or girl, that’s basic simian physiology in our DNA, but ignoring the fact that you are no good for each other, other than in the sheets, it’s going to not build into a strong healthy relationship.
- There is no “relationship escalator” but a relationship path. The question, “where are we going here?” is a question that should be left out. This isn’t about love, marriage, picket-fenced houses and baby carriages, necessarily, but about growing together and with one another. There is nothing wrong with having goals, but those belong to you, not always your prospective partners. A relationship in motion is moving forward. Dragging someone where they aren’t ready to go yet will almost never be healthy. If you move together, you will reach mutually desired goals, and so much more.
- Trust their intentions. People have bad days, say the wrong thing, and can seem distant. How many times has an ill-timed break in messages received from someone made you question everything in an insecurity crisis. You are responsible for your own feelings and need to own them. There is a strong chance that someone unable to be there for you may have needs of their own they are struggling with. They may not have the energy to give to you. Unless they say otherwise, there really is no reason to doubt their intentions, and it may be time to tell your own brain to shut up for a while.
- Relationships are experiences not transactions. Giving isn’t always going to be completely balanced. I am successful in my career, and others may be less so. I’m not going to ledger all the times I bought dinner, nor would I expect them to do the same. I seek and expect reciprocity in my relationships, but I understand people give according to their needs. I give so I can share experiences, not so I can get from others. As a result, I do find balance in that.
- Be the model of the person you want in your life. In my experiences I discovered one simple thing, you can’t receive in your life what you are unwilling to give. I approach my relationships by being the person I would hope to find in my life. I am a giver, because I love giving to those I love. I do my best to be attentive, caring and compassionate to the people I care about. I want to share with them my experiences, so I focus on them when they relate their own to me, in kind. I interact with them in a way I’d like for them to interact with me. Call it programming reality, or even just the golden rule, but like does attract like.
- Never close doors completely. Sometimes things go wrong between people. I chose never to hate even those that have hurt me, as they can change and so can I. The opposite of love is not hate, but apathy, and I have no room in my heart for either. I’ve had relationships that hurt me deeply, often obliviously, and I had removed them from my life for a period of time. Later on I reached out to them. Sometimes they return to my life, sometimes not. I will love them with a certain distance to rebuild trust, but I will always love them. With very little exception, I would welcome anyone I loved back into my life if it could be done in a healthy way for both of us.
These aren’t absolute rules, and I am far from perfect always embracing them completely, but I strive to live my life full of love, both giving and receiving. I find this act of building solid loving relationships has changed my life dramatically, and I’ve never felt so much happiness as a result. I love meeting new people, opening my heart to them and being someone they love as well. I have so many amazing people in my life, that sometimes am just in awe of how wonderful they are. If you know me in real life, and are reading this, yes, I am talking about you!
As the Beatles sang, all you need is love.