I Have 4 Partners And Several 'Comet' Romances. This Is What It's Like To Be A Relationship Anarchist.

"We don't need to be limited in regard to whom we can share intimacy with and how. We are not restricted to one 'soulmate.'”
The author says he finds "safety and security in himself" through solo polyamory.
Photo Courtesy Of Roy Graff
The author says he finds "safety and security in himself" through solo polyamory.

For most of my adult life, I was in long-term monogamous relationships. Until 10 years ago, I would have dismissed anyone who told me they were a “relationship anarchist,” assuming they were afraid of “real” commitment and unwilling to delve into the hard work required to form a deep, lasting relationship.

Today, I have a very rich, exciting, and fulfilling love and sex life, in which I see four people quite regularly for dates and sleepovers. I also keep in touch with “comets” who live in other countries. Comets come into your orbit once in a while, stay for a few days, and then leave. I also try to ensure that I dedicate sufficient time to seeing friends and “dating myself.”

My partners and I have total agency and autonomy in regard to our connections and time spent with others. We openly discuss and share what else is happening in our lives and, sometimes, a few of us will meet together for dinner or a picnic.

The Relationship Anarchy Manifesto (RA) was written by Andie Nordgren in 2006; it is a short document that offers an alternative to traditional relationship expectations and their fixed rules and expected outcomes. Relationship anarchy borrows from anarchist principles to convey a message of relationship egalitarianism/non-hierarchy. With RA, you get to create uniquely designed relationships that match your values, needs and wants. This can look like ethical non-monogamy, although relationship anarchists aren’t always non-monogamous.

Ultimately, relationship anarchists follow their own core values, creating personal, unique relationships that are based solely on their preferences and desires, as opposed to those placed on them by society. There is no inherent hierarchy.

For example, having sex with someone or even living with them does not necessarily make them more important than others in your life. Platonic friends can be prioritised, in terms of emotional care, over sexual partners. Most of us have been raised to connect love with attachment, entitlement and possession. The starting premise of relationship anarchy is that love is an abundant resource.

Confronting my own beliefs around the scarcity of love, sex and intimacy was a vital process. Following a long-term monogamous relationship, I was single for a couple of years and not looking for a serious relationship when I met someone through a dating app. She told me about non-monogamy and polyamory and I wanted to date her, so I decided to try it.

During my research, I discovered the RA manifesto. But it wasn’t until five years ago, after my first long-term, live-in polyamorous relationship, that I began studying the RA manifesto in more detail.

My first open relationship lasted a year. We had both agreed that we could see other people and discuss our dating lives with each other; I predominantly saw other people casually, and I became good friends with her other regular partner.

However, I struggled in my first live-in polyamorous relationship because there was a lack of clear communication about our values, needs and wants. That relationship lasted over three years and by the end of it, I knew I didn’t want that kind of hierarchy in my future relationships.

I found that the principles of RA resonate with me deeply. I feel love and connection to not only my romantic and sexual partners, but my platonic friends and chosen family, who are an integral part of my life.

Since embracing RA principles for myself, I have learned to communicate my capacity for connection — be it platonic, sexual or romantic — to potential partners as early as I can. Furthermore, my partners and I check in regularly with each other in case our values, needs and wants change over time.

In RA, it is common for a connection to start out one way, then transform into something entirely different. For example, many of my current platonic friendships started with us dating for a while.

This has helped me realise that, for me, love cannot centre around attachment or expectations. For example, I recently had my partner stay with me for a few days, and on their last night, I was scheduled to enjoy a dinner date with someone else. Meanwhile, my partner had planned to visit friends for the evening, returning to my home later on.

My partner expressed concern that I would return home quite late, without time to cuddle with them before bed. I agreed to leave at a reasonable hour to accommodate them, but when I returned home, they were still out with friends. I found myself feeling disappointed and betrayed; these expectations had created an assumed hierarchy, in which we would prioritise our relationship over others.

We discussed this and agreed that, in the future, we would allow for the possibility that the other person might be out all night, without any expectation of them returning at a specific time. Making my relationships work comes down to one rule: communicate, communicate, communicate.

RA is not a relationship style or dynamic but rather a way of viewing all relationships. It Is possible to adhere to RA principles while being sexually or romantically monogamous. You just evaluate and decide what matters to you in each individual relationship, based purely on your connection, without adhering to external expectations.

This questions the model of romance that assumes there are a finite number of people with whom we can romantically and sexually connect. According to RA principles, we don’t need to be limited in regard to whom we can share intimacy with and how. We are not restricted to one “soulmate.”

I find something to be excited about in lots of people, even if we are not compatible in every way. We may spend only an evening every two weeks or so together, yet we make this time fun and meaningful without needing to escalate our relationship further.

Due to established societal norms, most people (as I did) find it hard to challenge the comfort, ease and privilege that comes from being part of a couple. It can be harder to travel or go to parties as a single person. It may be more difficult to meet new people and make friends.

“Couple privilege” is the largely unchallenged mainstream acceptance of the inherent importance and supremacy of a two-person relationship. This is introduced to us from birth, through children’s stories, religion, popular media, and state institutions. Then, this ideology is sustained through tax incentives, cultural encouragement and peer pressure.

Relationship anarchy challenges the status of the “couple” as the highest form of connection. For some, remaining single, or living with friends or family, is what works best. Others wish to live with three or more people. I personally choose to live alone as a solo-polyamorous person.

Solo polyamory means I focus on my relationship with myself. I am self-sufficient, while making time for my loved ones, including romantic and sexual relationships. I have actively decided not to seek out a primary and/or nesting partner. I do not seek hierarchy, nor do I elevate some relationships over others based on whether they are romantic and/or involve sex.

This provides me with freedom and autonomy, but is more costly than sharing.

A natural hierarchy can emerge based on whom I enjoy spending time with, what activities we enjoy, and the time we have available to spend together, but it’s not determined by societal expectations. Through solo polyamory, I find safety and security in myself without needing a partner to provide that for me.

I met my current partners at festivals, parties and community gatherings. Those settings make it easy to be very open about our respective relationship dynamics. My partners adhere to some of the RA principles, but not necessarily all of them. It isn’t a requirement that they do. I would date someone who is in a hierarchical polyamorous relationship, so long as they’re clear with me about their agreements and are in a stable place within their core relationship.

I am very open about all of this in my day-to-day life, which often leads to curiosity and questions, but rarely judgment. I am fortunate to live in a liberal and diverse city with a thriving population of polyamorous, kinky, queer people who are accepting of others’ differences.

So much has changed for me since adopting RA principles. I don’t have the same self-doubt or critical inner voice. I am generally much happier, and I have access to a wide social support network, which is hugely beneficial for mental health. But perhaps most importantly, I feel more like myself. Ultimately, I’ve learned to celebrate all relationships in the way that works best for me and my partners, and that has been extremely liberating.

Roy Graff is a coach and counsellor for individuals and partnered people exploring alternative relationships. You can find him on Joyclub.com, a sex-positive community for exploring and connecting with like-minded individuals, and on Instagram as @openrelating.