There’s A Dark Side to Relationship Anarchy If You’re Not Careful

[EDIT: The link to an explanation to RA has been changed due to there being questions about the quality of the person giving the explanation. It now points at Wikipedia.]

I’ve mentioned relationship anarchy on the blog before, and I think it’s got a real place in the ongoing cultural conversation about where, and how, we’re going to make our relationships work for us, as we are, rather than a cookie-cutter template that never really existed.

But I’ve not weighed in heavily on it, because of one simple reason: it’s something that is easily abused.

In an ideal situation, everyone involved in the relationship evaluates what they want and need, and if things are meeting their needs, great! And if they’re not, they either change the relationship or walk away. It embodies a strong ethos of self-knowledge and self-reliance… and indeed, a bit of selfishness.

Which isn’t inherently bad. I know quite a few people (and arguably myself at one point or another) have been in relationships simply because we felt obligated, or guilted. This tends to destroy the relationship just as surely as walking away, but with far more rancor and toxicity.

But to give an example of my concern, there was a recent post on reddit where a guy was was struggling with the conflict of his intellectual desire to let his relationship be open versus his emotional issues when she went out on dates.

While this specific example is about opening a relationship, it goes for pretty much anything where interests diverge, where one partner feels insecure or sad or angry… and knows it’s not a rational feeling.

My advice – and this falls into the category of “things I screwed up in the past” was this:

Here’s my guess: You know and are secure in your relationship with her, so you don’t see a problem with you going out with other people, because you know to your core that you are coming back to her. You don’t have that same confidence when it comes to her, for whatever reason.
What I’d suggest is to let her know that you’re feeling these irrational and stupid thoughts (yes, use those words). Ask her if she’d be able to temporarily (again, use that word) slow down and perhaps have some temporary limits to help you adjust.
Again, stress temporary. This should NOT be an ongoing thing – this is you untraining your old reactions to stimuli by having her do more and more things and nothing happening so that you unlearn this old reaction. Good luck.

 This apparently got the ire of a relationship anarchist, who later responded:

it’s not ideology for me. i’m not interested in uneven ‘rules’ bc
someone is fine with their poly, but not mine. the burden is on the OP
to shift his PoV, not his partner’s to assuage his conditioned

And to me, this is the dark side of relationship anarchy. Yes, you have the choice to walk away – and that’s a valid choice. But to dismiss the idea of compromise out of hand lacks empathy, in my eyes… especially since the original poster was looking for ways to improve.

Taken too far, this kind of mindset can be just as toxic as the overly codependent attachment issues it opposes.

Again, this sort of thing applies to all types of relationships. As long as the party being irrational realizes they’re irrational, wants there to be change, and executes these sorts of ideas as an explicit way to train them out of irrationality, there’s nothing wrong with compromise at all.

If, on the other hand, the irrationalities are never worked on and you’re being forced to indefinitely censor your quality of life… well, that’s a different story entirely.

What do you think?