Communication not as a state of emergency.
July 15, 2013 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Love is abundant, and every relationship is unique. Love and respect instead of entitlement. Find your core set of relationship values. Heterosexism is rampant and out there, but don’t let fear lead you. Build for the lovely unexpected. Fake it til’ you make it. Trust is better. Change through communication. Customize your commitments. The Short Instructional Manifesto for Relationship Anarchy by Andie Nordgren.
posted by davidjmcgee (43 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Lovely! This articulates my views on ideal relationships so much better than the standard monogamish-open-poly set of non-standard relationship labels, which have become mired in their own sets of norms and expectations.
posted by Freyja at 2:16 PM on July 15, 2013


True Love in this differs from gold and clay,
That to divide is not to take away.
Love is like understanding, that grows bright,
Gazing on many truths; ’tis like thy light,
Imagination! which from earth and sky,
And from the depths of human phantasy,
As from a thousand prisms and mirrors, fills
The Universe with glorious beams, and kills
Error, the worm, with many a sun-like arrow
Of its reverberated lightning. Narrow
The heart that loves, the brain that contemplates,
The life that wears, the spirit that creates
One object, and one form, and builds thereby
A sepulchre for its eternity. (Shelley, "Epipsychidion")
Which is beautiful, and all, but Shelley's life is also a pretty good illustration of how hard it can be to live that creed without inflicting a lot of damage on people's lives. Not that other creeds don't also inflict their fair share of damage, of course. I guess as long as everyone goes in with the same understanding and the same expectations it's all good. Well, so long as the inherent power dynamics are reasonably equal. Which is a pretty big if.
posted by yoink at 2:25 PM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Välkommen till Dr Andie: Swede hearts forever!
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:26 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


One problem is of course the economic underpinning of a lot of relationships, from the tax benefits of marriage to only having one household worth of expenses. Or the social role of breadwinner, etc.
posted by The Whelk at 2:27 PM on July 15, 2013


I think this is pretty cool. I love radical reimagining of thing in general. But I did have a strong negative reaction to this:

Trust is better

Choosing to assume that your partner does not wish you harm leads you down a much more positive path than a distrustful approach where you need to be constantly validated by the other person to trust that they are there with you in the relationship.


This can come across as a kind of magical thinking that makes people stay in abusive relationships, because of course my partner only wants the best for me.
posted by medusa at 2:27 PM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sorry, but incorporate "radical" or "anarchy" into almost anything, and my eyes will roll back into my head so far as to risk sticking, and I'll assume you're a precocious twentysomething and move on.
posted by stenseng at 2:30 PM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sorry, but incorporate "radical" or "anarchy" into almost anything, and my eyes will roll back into my head so far as to risk sticking, and I'll assume you're a precocious twentysomething and move on.

That seems really sensible, so I guess we will have to learn to live with your disappointment, then. I liked it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:35 PM on July 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Sorry, but incorporate "radical" or "anarchy" into almost anything, and my eyes will roll back into my head so far as to risk sticking, and I'll assume you're a precocious twentysomething and move on.

because nothing is a higher mark of maturity than not reading something because it used a word you don't like
posted by kagredon at 2:35 PM on July 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


This can come across as a kind of magical thinking that makes people stay in abusive relationships, because of course my partner only wants the best for me.

To be fair, damn near any aspect of a healthy, functional relationship is found wanting if you project it onto an abusive relationship. But that's a problem with the relationship, not the concept of trust.

By the time you get to calling the other person a "partner" in the sense that the article does, if the sort of trust the author describes does not exist or is not a concrete goal for the immediate future, the relationship is fundamentally broken.

Although I assume that's why you used the word "can."
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 2:45 PM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


This video is pretty great in that it covers three different aspects of what defines love, from neurochemistry, to the individual, to social conventions. Although aside from the title there are theories on how love works which he doesn't cover.
This essay hits on stuff that I've had conversations with people about before, and generally leaves me thinking that people tend to want to simplify the idea of love when there is a lot more to it than just a normative system at play.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 3:03 PM on July 15, 2013


It's all about autonomy, independence, self-determination, making sure no one expects anything from you and you expect nothing from them. It's dressed up to sound sexy and rule-breaking, but it's pretty conventional stuff. It's just commitment phobia and trust me, there's no shortage of guys who adopt the "radical anarchist" position of "I'm just a really spontaneous person..." and "Why can't we just 'be', why do we have to put labels on everything?"

This is pretty much every guy my sister has dated in the last year. She tells me what they say, I tell her "He's just bullshitting you, you need to drop him…" but every time she's convinced it's different. It's never different.
posted by AlsoMike at 3:07 PM on July 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's just commitment phobia

Just the opposite, I think. It's being fiercely committed to communication and honesty, which, yeah, can be a mask worn by people who are actually assholes ("I'm just telling it like it is, man.") but can also be a way to make sure that you are committed to people as individuals and not to the idea of people.

"Why can't we just 'be', why do we have to put labels on everything?"

This is a dismissive thing to say to somebody, and so I think falls outside of this idea, which is about not being dismissive. Defining relationships seems to be to be one of the fundamentals -- but making individual definitions based on communication and trust and not defaulting to prescribed models. It's the difference is between "Why can't we just 'be'?" and "How can we best 'be' together?" which may seem like a semantic difference but in my experience are two statements could not be more different.
posted by davidjmcgee at 3:22 PM on July 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


This can come across as a kind of magical thinking that makes people stay in abusive relationships, because of course my partner only wants the best for me.

There's a difference between assuming the best until/unless you see signs that something's wrong (good) and assuming the worst until/unless your partner constantly reassures you that nothing's wrong (bad.)
posted by davejay at 3:24 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


people tend to want to simplify the idea of love when there is a lot more to it than just a normative system at play.

I think you could probably replace the word 'love' there with... well... anything, really, and I would still agree with it.

My brother has formulated what he calls McGee's First Law, which is:

Everything is more complicated than it at first appears to be, even when McGee’s First Law is taken into account.

The Fourth Law is If you cannot find something you had in your hand just a moment ago, chances are it’s under the cat.
posted by davidjmcgee at 3:26 PM on July 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


If you cannot find something you had in your hand just a moment ago, chances are it’s under the cat

What if you can't find the cat you had in your hand just a moment ago?
posted by yoink at 3:45 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


What if you can't find the cat you had in your hand just a moment ago?

STACK CATS is both a palindrome and a fiendishly difficult hobby.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:47 PM on July 15, 2013 [21 favorites]


It's cats all the way down.
posted by davidjmcgee at 3:47 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


What if you can't find the cat you had in your hand just a moment ago?

Look down at your arm — which direction do the bleeding claw marks run in? That's which way the cat went.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 3:55 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would, but the other cat is sitting on my arm
posted by kagredon at 3:58 PM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


That cat and you have a different relationship than you have with the other cat so you'll have to find a different and mutually agreeable way to stack it.
posted by davidjmcgee at 4:00 PM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


So in terms of political movements, I tend to think of anarchists as useless at best — the red/black divide lives, and I am very much on the red side, thank you very much.

But in terms of love-type interpersonal relationships? In that context, sheer etymology leads me to feel comfortable dismissing anyone who advocates for anything but anarchy as an asshole. I mean, since the alternative is one of the parties, well, ruling. And that sounds pretty awful to me...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:04 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, but incorporate "radical" or "anarchy" into almost anything, and my eyes will roll back into my head so far as to risk sticking, and I'll assume you're a precocious twentysomething and move on.

radical anarchy! radical anarchy! radical anarchy!
radical anarchy! radical anarchy! radical anarchy!
radical anarchy! radical anarchy! radical anarchy!
radical anarchy! radical anarchy! radical anarchy!
radical anarchy! radical anarchy! radical anarchy!
radical anarchy! radical anarchy! radical anarchy!

are your eyes stuck yet?

good.
posted by jammy at 4:06 PM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Let me just further clarify the thing I said above and say that I think the "Why can't we just 'be', why do we have to put labels on everything?" guy is to relationship anarchy as the "I am the man and I make the rules" guy is to monogamy.

Which is to say assholes who are doing it wrong.
posted by davidjmcgee at 4:14 PM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I mean, since the alternative is one of the parties, well, ruling.

That's not true.

No later than 90 days into a new relationship, I have us go through a kind of process to appoint a Board of Regents. We generally elect a panel of 6. We exchange a ranked list of candidates and exercise a pre-negotiated (often unlimited) number of peremptory challenges, (pretty much the voir dire stage of the relationship). The top three of each list become The Regents, who resolve all major disputes and intervene on behalf of the relationship should they feel it necessary. It's really quite a good system.

Not to mention how satisfyingly dramatic it is to end a relationship with the phrase 'I hereby dissolve the Board of Regents!'
posted by Garm at 4:22 PM on July 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


This seems so vague... 5 horoscope like commandments that have all the depth of a Facebook inspirational quote? Love is everywhere! Fake it till you make it! Be spontaneous, man! Thanks, I've never seen that before.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:45 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


So in terms of political movements, I tend to think of anarchists as useless at best

I'm pretty sure part of what anarchists have in mind is not being used.
posted by srboisvert at 5:10 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


It seems like a very nice bit of ideology or anti-ideology, but I don't know anyone who has stuck to such views whose personal life, around the bend of 40, isn't a complete disaster zone (or in the more solipsistic cases, an island of content in a sea of victims of their romantic and parental malpractice). Rules is rules and you don't get to break 'em for free.
posted by MattD at 5:14 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


A Board of Regents? How bourgeois!

The plural relationship I participate in takes the form of an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take turns to be a sort of executive officer for the week, but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting- by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs, but by a two-thirds majority in the case of any kind of external relations...
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:17 PM on July 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


MattD: I think you're failing to see the distinction between rules and rulers.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:27 PM on July 15, 2013


I have no idea what the following means or what it might look like in the wild: "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." How are many of these things not contradictory? And kind of improbable?
posted by jokeefe at 5:31 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think we can all agree, though, that a good relationship is built on a solid foundation of interminable committee meetings.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:31 PM on July 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


That's how my wife and I determine our aniversary budget.
posted by Groundhog Week at 5:46 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


How are many of these things not contradictory? And kind of improbable?

It reads like an idealized version of Dan Savage's advice column, which has given us a generation of young women who think having any expectations of basic decency from their lovers makes them foul harpies.

Perhaps these gauzy ideals work in a better world than this. You would think a woman in her thirties who works on EVE Online would not have illusions about people being decent and fair as a general rule.
posted by winna at 5:57 PM on July 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


Whenever the conversation turns to our models of relationships, it never ceases to amaze me how the currently dominant model of relationships not only works, but is the only model that can work, and how pathetic and horrible people who dissent from that model are. How amazing that it should be so!
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:56 PM on July 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


If the article was meant to be a rousing cry to abandon the old relationship paradigm(s) for the freedom to make it up as you go along, I don't think it did a very good job. Woolly statements that could be used to mean (and justify) nearly anything in the name of taking care of yourself and/or being spontaneous aren't terribly convincing. Something anchored in reality rather than idealism might be a start.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:19 PM on July 15, 2013


I would love a new model for relationships. I mean, in a perfect world we'd all be emotionally stable financially independent Zen masters who thrive with a partner whom we treat with the undemanding politeness of a temporary houseguest. But how many people can manage that in the world we live in right now?

Particularly this: 'Staying away from entitlement and demands is the only way to be sure that you are in a relationship that is truly mutual.' is advice women hear everywhere. It's not new or radical or fresh. It's the same old crap as always. It might have meaning in a world where 'demands/entitlements' aren't things like 'I don't want to have anal sex' or 'I'd prefer not to have a threesome'. But every day on AskMe some poor creature asks if they're wrong to have perfectly reasonable limits about their body, and it all comes from a lifetime of advice like the above.

The OP does mention that everyone should have their own guidelines and standards, but coming after the above bit of lofty garbage it is essentially negated.
posted by winna at 9:41 PM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Advice that rhymes is the best advice. Perhaps a new AskMe guideline?
posted by ead at 10:17 PM on July 15, 2013


Seriously, I'm posting a link to this thread next time somebody makes the "but we already changed what marriage means!" argument against homophobes who say that SSM "changes the meaning of marriage".
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:18 PM on July 15, 2013


winna, I totally agree that what you describe is a problem, and totally disagree that it's advice like this that helps create that problem. Which advice includes "Deciding to not base a relationship on a foundation of entitlement is about respecting others’ independence and self-determination", which would seem to preclude demanding your partner do things with their body they don't want to do. "How do you wish to be treated by others?" which would seem to suggest that people in a relationship should figure out their own boundaries and not allow themselves to be pushed. "Remember your core values and to take care of yourself though!" would recommend that people, well, take care of themselves. "Ask each other about stuff, and be explicit!" which recommends communication about boundaries. "Start from scratch and be explicit about what kind of commitments you want to make with other people!" which seems like good advice whether you're a free love radical or the most monogamous person who ever monogzied a monog. This is the sort of advice we give to people in AskMe when they say they don't want anal sex or to participate in a threesome, right? We say to be clear with themselves and their partners about what they want, and if their partners won't listen to DTMFA. How is this same advice, written in this format, now causing the problem it actually, in my experience, fixes?

What's rampant as far as I can see is the idea that this stuff gets worked out without being explicit. Especially when it comes to sex, the prevailing idea seems to be that if you talk about it, you're ruining it. Being clear with yourself and your partners about your boundaries -- not falling into prescribed societal structures -- would be a huge fix for these huge problems.
posted by davidjmcgee at 11:23 PM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


What's rampant as far as I can see is the idea that this stuff gets worked out without being explicit. Especially when it comes to sex, the prevailing idea seems to be that if you talk about it, you're ruining it. Being clear with yourself and your partners about your boundaries -- not falling into prescribed societal structures -- would be a huge fix for these huge problems.

I completely agree that open frank discussion about mutual boundaries is critically important in egalitarian relationships. But I think that it's such important advice it should be situated as the foundation on which every other aspect is based. Particularly when we many of us live in a culture that characterizes discussion about these kinds of things as nagging or obsessing - gendering it as something women do. So not dealing with that reality - that gender roles enforce one piece of the advice and denigrate another - makes such advice worse than useless.

Let me be clear - I am even less of a fan of traditional relationship paradigms than I am of the model being posited in the OP. I'm not being dismissive of the advice because I don't think it could work.

The advice doesn't give any weight to the realities of the societal norms that the article admits exist. So by admitting that there are pernicious social norms but not acknowledging how those expectations will impact the advice given, it tends to shove the systematic problem onto the individuals caught in the unequal system. That's not like any anarchists I've ever known.
posted by winna at 6:06 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


It reads like an idealized version of Dan Savage's advice column, which has given us a generation of young women who think having any expectations of basic decency from their lovers makes them foul harpies.

Dan goes on for show after show about commitments and how the key to having an open relationship is having open and honest communication through which the terms of the commitment can be established and elucidated. His default response to all problems is more open and honest communication. If you're made to feel uncomfortable, you're in your rights to say it. If you feel that the rules have been broken, you're in your rights to explain your objections to your partner. If the rules are clearly broken, it's over because the trust is broken. The underlying principle is good faith, something I can't imagine any relationship can thrive without. Of all the hundreds shows my girlfriend's put on while we travel cross-country, I can't remember a single one where Dan criticizes someone for not wanting to be in an open relationship, at least not unless there is hidden strife in the relationship that arises from an initial inability to communicate those limits to their partners.

This is what entitlement in a relationship is about. Hidden values disseminated by family and media that occur without any self-reflection that then go on to silently pressure both you and your partner are unwarranted and unhealthy. This is the basic gist of their argument. If you need something, you need to be mindful of it, recognizing why you need it and then how you can communicate that to your partner. All this manifesto says is that norms are not necessary in a relationship, not that they are completely unwanted:
Relationship anarchy is not about never committing to anything - it’s about designing your own commitments with the people around you, and freeing them from norms dictating that certain types of commitments are a requirement for love to be real, or that some commitments like raising children or moving in together have to be driven by certain kinds of feelings.
It is much less about doing away with all norms and much more about being capable of accepting a different set of values to and, most importantly, doing so in a way that ensures your agency remains intact. The only way you end up with the result that you've indicated is if the relationship occurs in bad faith without either the woman becoming cognizant of their own needs and desires until after some invisible boundary is broken or if the man negotiates unreasonable limits. I'd argue that the roles that occur bad faith happen regardless of gender but that's a different discussion for another time.
posted by dubusadus at 6:26 AM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


many of us live in a culture that characterizes discussion about these kinds of things as nagging or obsessing - gendering it as something women do. So not dealing with that reality - that gender roles enforce one piece of the advice and denigrate another - makes such advice worse than useless.

That's not so much reality as it is assuming bad faith from the get go. If you enter into a relationship expecting egalitarianism and your partner demonstrates an inability to act that way then it's up to you to communicate your desires and then proceed in a way that doesn't completely obliterate your ideals. Compromise happens within reasonable boundaries and what you're asking for seems unreasonable.

As a dude who has called out other dudes for objectifying women, for being reductive in their behavioral approach of women, I want to say that most of the guys I know are receptive to not being dickbags so long as you are able to keep calm, in good faith that they are only ignorant and that they can and will see the logic beyond their limited sphere. If they won't listen to you for being a woman, if they find some logical ladder into not listening to a conversation about agency, then that's a hell of a red flag.

I mean, some dudes will stay dickbags but then why would you want to stay in a relationship with them in the first place? I think anybody with a halfway decent understanding of agency can come up with a rational approach to relationships and gender roles. It can't be that hard to find someone who thinks honest communication isn't nagging.
posted by dubusadus at 7:17 AM on July 16, 2013


I really like the concepts of relationship anarchy. Where can I go to read more about trust and communication?
posted by michaelh at 7:49 AM on July 16, 2013


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