It's time I believe, to define a new relationship label. Yes, we have a lot of them but none of them adequately describe me. Or rather, more than one of them does (and that's just confusing).
I believe in freedom, love, trust and change. So I once thought that relationship anarchy might be the term for me. But after months of reflection, I have grave doubts about appropriating the term relationship anarchy even though the principles outlined in the short manifesto by Andie Nordgren suit my relationship style.
I am not--as Unquiet Pirate states in their article Relationship Anarchy is not post-polyamory--actively anti-monogamy, or anti-marriage per se. I am not terribly political (depending on your definition). Sometimes--with the father of my children--I do follow a parental hierarchy and we live together so I do not identify entirely as a solo polyamorist. Yet like solo polyamorists I prize autonomy and operate mostly as a free agent. Right now, I am practicing sexually monogamish with another, all the while being socially, emotionally and philosophically polyamorous even though a lack of time means I am not open to new connections (but never say never). I have dabbled in swinging with good friends but also with strangers, and no doubt at some point I will again. I am, or at least can be, all of these things at once, and therefore to the hard core practitioners, I can be none of them.
As the terms social monogamy, sexual monogamy, emotional monogamy, open relationship, hierarchical polyamory, ethical polyamory, polyfidelity, solo-polyamory, swolly, monogamish, swinging and relationship anarchy become ever more nuanced, so we are seeing in our lifetime an ever increasing smorgasbord of relationship options on the table. Each label, refines and tweaks the areas of consent, entitlement, possession, trust, freedom, honesty and their general underlying belief systems. Each label in its fight for voice proclaims itself different, and often better, than the last.
I believe that each relationship has its own evolution. I believe we have many relationships in our lives and that letting each relationship be the most expansive it can be in its own life cycle is its own reward. And I include my relationship with myself under that banner. What am I then?
I am relationship fluid.
I consider the broad tenets of such a philosophy to be...
To be relationship fluid, is to be inclusive and acknowledge the personal and potential validity of all relationship styles, both for yourself and others. It is also to acknowledge the inevitability of change. If you are more suited to sexually, socially, and emotionally monogamous relationships, you can still adhere to a relationship fluid philosophy. It's more about rolling and punching with the tide of your relationship, than what relationship 'style' you practise at any one time, or even use as an identifier. In a completely monogamous relationship, the changes may bring about the end of certain parts of the relationship, but the acknowledged and permanent possibility of change will allow it to transition more gracefully.
You can also practice relationship anarchy, be monogamish, or polyamorous (of any of the sub-categorizations) as long as you can accept that you may develop relationships which fall outside of your current identification because you do not know the future. None of us do. You can equally have several different styles of relationship running in parallel. For example, one relationship I have is descriptively 'tertiary'. It is unlikely to evolve beyond this state, nor is it ever likely to be acknowledged in public, which goes against the increasingly prevalent ethical polyamory definition. Even though I often self-identify as polyamorous, polyamory is something I do, not something I am. And this is not a polyamorous relationship. Neither is it a don't-ask-don't-tell. It changes from year to year. I choose to be a 'hidden' tertiary in this relationship, and want no more from it. It is what it is, and it is beautiful.
To be relationship fluid, one acknowledges without negative moral judgement, the broad spectrum of our humanity. Yet it is also accepting that judgement is part of being human, whilst we strive to be aware that these are judgements. That humanity includes aspects of ourselves and others which we might dislike. Like so called 'ethical polyamorous' folk, I usually adhere to a moral code of consent, responsibility and honesty. Most people think these are good things. But there are reasons why I adhere to all of these things and it's not about being ethical. It's about being me.
Objectification is triggering for me due to my childhood experiences, so I cannot have it in my life. Lying causes me personally extreme anxiety. I therefore do not consider myself a 'good' person, but I am, as far as I can tell, an honest one simply because I cannot deal with the stress caused by cognitive dissonance. Certainly some of my lies must be hidden even to myself. But some people choose to lie in order to survive. It is necessary for them, because of who they are and not even because of the insecurity driven power and manipulation we so often tend associate with lying.
In The Blacklist (an American crime thriller), the two protagonists played by James Spader and Megan Boone lie to each other constantly. Sometimes in order to protect themselves, often to protect the other. They have a deep, loving, symbiotic but non-sexual relationship which operates according to their own moral codes driven by their love for one another and their fundamental need to survive. Sometimes their moral codes conflict. Sometimes they know that the other one is lying, but they allow each other to do so. They are both human and they mostly accept that the other is too (they are inclusive). We all have our constructs for survival and we are all human. One of my partners does not adhere to my code of upfront honesty. It is not my way, but he is not me. He must remain true to himself.
In order to embrace our humanity fully and support relationship fluidity we must remain true to ourselves. For me, because objectification and lying are (currently) an anathema to me that means that I choose not to compromise on these aspects when it comes to my own life. I would rather not have a deep relationship if I have to lie about. I have lost deep relationships with friends and family because I cannot hide the truth of who I am and what I do. To do so causes me pain.
Every mistake I make is public and for me to remain in my integrity it has to be. It means that my life is often not easy but it would be far harder if I had to lie about it. That may change (of course).Others cannot do what I do, because they are not me and they have, to put it simply, different operating systems. Yet because consent of others including their privacy, is also (currently) part of my integrity, there have been times when I have chosen not to 'go public' with events or emotions. This has caused a breakdown in my integrity and has led me to end of some parts of those relationships. That is the choice I make over lying. Living in integrity means I preserve my own sense of self, and allow others to preserve theirs completely. This means we are not always compatible. However, as I am human and inclusive, those transitions have taken time and that's also okay. I believe that living in or at least striving for integrity is necessary to attract the relationships which are best for us all. My commitment to integrity is something which forces me to accept my humanity and be inclusive of theirs. It means my relationships must be allowed to be fluid, as I get to know my changing truth.
To be relationship fluid embraces possibility and potential. It supports all states with the humble admission that we are human and choose the ways we think will help us best survive. To be relationship fluid allows me to be who I want to be outside the confines of a label. It allows me to support others when they choose to use labels. And yet... it is also a label. Others will not accept that change is inevitable for them, and because I respect their integrity, I fully accept that this is their reality. They might not accept that we can all be terribly and sometimes awfully human (and that it is what it is). Luckily I am relationship fluid so they don't have to be inclusive of me, even whilst I am inclusive of them.
This post is the third in a set of how my thinking evolved after discussion with other community folk. Read the other two:
- The Mass Exodus of Polyamorous People Towards Relationship Anarchy
- The Appropriation of Relationship Anarchy by Non-Anarchists
- Relationship Fluidity Instead of Relationship Anarchy (you are here)