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Relationship Anarchy: Single, Taken, Who Cares?

Relationship anarchy is all about making your own rules. Here’s Grindr’s guide to moving past the chaos and building meaningful connections.
Editorial team
July 22, 2024
min. read
Table of Contents

Hearing a new man say he "doesn't want to put labels on a relationship" is usually a cue to get up and run. But for relationship anarchists, it's what keeps them glued to their seats. 

Most relationships are built on unspoken rules and hierarchies. For many, boyfriends often come first, and besties, family, and casual flings get the leftovers. Relationship anarchy says to hell with normative societal expectations, letting you define the value and structure of sexual, romantic, and platonic connections on your own terms. 

If it sounds like pure chaos, it can be. But with care and communication, you can revolutionize your relationships. 

What is relationship anarchy? 

Relationship anarchy (sometimes referred to as "RA") was initially popularized by Andie Nordgren in a 2012 essay, “The Short Instructional Manifesto for Relationship Anarchy.” Their philosophy outlined several principles that defy conventional relationship norms and hierarchies. Instead of following societal expectations that prioritize romantic relationships over others, relationship anarchists value each relationship based on its unique values. It emphasizes autonomy and freedom, allowing individuals to define their relationships without loaded labels. 

Sounds confusing? No one said being a revolutionary was easy.

In practice, the relationship anarchy manifesto encourages people to consider all their relationships — romantic, sexual, and platonic — as equally significant. Rather than automatically giving a romantic partner dibs over your time and attention, all your connections are equally important. Individuals determine each relationship's importance and commitment level with ongoing dialogue and mutual consent. In other words, a bondage night with your boyfriend can be just as worthy of your time as a night in with your bestie rehearsing the AMC monologue à la Nicole Kidman. 

Successful relationship anarchists build more inclusive and dynamic ways of connecting to others, emphasizing personal choice and the fluidity of relationships rather than conforming to conventional expectations. 

Relationship anarchy versus polyamory

Some people consider relationship anarchy to be a more egalitarian version of polyamory. Both types of relationships are bound by emotionally or sexually intimate connections with more than one person at a time. Likewise, healthy relationships rely on established rules and boundaries that maintain polyfidelity. But there are two important distinctions:

Relationship hierarchies

Polyamory is an umbrella term for ethical nonmonogamous relationships, which may include throuples or a couple in an open relationship. While some consider them nonconventional, polyamorous relationships often rely on traditional dating structures and relationship hierarchies. "Primary" and "secondary" partners create a clear-cut structure that values and prioritizes one romantic relationship over the other. However, if a polyamorous relationship is nonhierarchical, it may be considered both poly and anarchic. 

Likewise, relationship anarchy rejects all hierarchical distinctions between "types" of relationships. Your daddy isn't the center of your social pyramid. Romantic relationships are far removed from mainstream monogamy, sharing time and energy with everyone important to you, including friends, casual lovers, co-parents, and roommates. 

Sex doesn’t define a relationship

“Normie” relationships are often whittled down to who you do and don't fuck. The former are often treated as more important. Relationship anarchists don't let sex differentiate the value of a romantic and platonic relationship. Instead, both types of relationships receive the same level of commitment and care for one another. Likewise, relationship anarchists can form monogamous or nonmonogamous sexual relationships with their partners, depending on what each partner is interested in. 

How does relationship anarchy work?

Trashing traditional relationship structures doesn’t mean relationship anarchists don’t follow guidelines. Here are three ways to ensure your relationship revolution doesn’t get your head chopped off — metaphorically, of course. 

Customize your relationships

Relationship anarchy gives you the freedom to develop relationships that make sense to you. Naturally, the first step is meditating on the principles you want to guide your relationships. This will help you find people who are on the same page. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What values are healthy relationships based on? 
  • What do I need and want from a loving relationship? 
  • What are nonnegotiables in an intimate relationship? 
  • How do I define love and intimacy? 
  • What does commitment mean to me? 
  • How do I envision my personal growth with my life partners? 

Communicate your needs

Communication and consent are the foundation of any healthy relationship, especially unconventional ones with their own set of rules. 

Lay out the kinds of commitments and interactions you’re both interested in. That might mean a nonromantic, nonsexual friendship with someone you expect to be your primary emotional support or a sexual relationship with a regular hookup you don’t want to share romantic companionship with. Being honest and upfront is the only way to ensure enthusiastic consent and continued dialogue with everyone involved, helping meet everyone’s needs. 


The relationship anarchy manifesto

Nordgren’s original essay encompasses nine values that relationship anarchists use to help guide them: 

1. Love is abundant, and every relationship is unique

Loving one person shouldn't limit your ability to love others with all your heart. Time, energy, and space for one person do not reduce the love you have for another. 

2. Love and respect instead of entitlement and expectations

Your love should not be defined by traditional hierarchies that segregate romantic, sexual, and platonic connections. Allowing societal expectations to dictate your behaviors doesn't allow you to live authentically. On the contrary, it limits the natural development of your relationships. 

3. Find your core set of relationship values

The only people who should decide what’s right and wrong in a relationship are those who are directly involved. Rather than accepting the values taught by society or your culture, you’re free to determine the values necessary to build meaningful relationships. 

4. Heterosexism is rampant and out there, but don’t let fear lead you

Honey, you got this one. Heteronormative systems love to tell you what love is and isn't and how you should live. Thank you, next. Take note of when you feel pressured to meet others’ expectations and let go of it. Build relationships where there's mutual love and acceptance, and define your own damn norms.

5. Build for the lovely unexpected

Connect with people for the sake of connection rather than meeting people with a goal or expectation in mind. Rather than searching for your marriage partner or new best friend, focus on exploring unique connections without forcing external pressures. 

6. Fake it ’til you make it

No one has it all figured out. Even experienced relationship anarchists can feel confused about relationships that break from heterosexism and mainstream monogamy. Recognize when you’re feeling good in your relationships, and use those emotions to build a set of guidelines to live by. And when you’re feeling down, seek support from your life partners and other people in the RA community. 

7. Trust is better

Assuming the worst in others feeds distrust and need for constant validation. Relationship anarchists work to trust one another and understand that everyone is doing the best that they can. Build relationships on emotional vulnerability and open communication — it’ll help you and your connections give space and support when necessary.  

8. Change through communication

Relationship anarchists believe that breaking away from the norm is only possible through constant conversation. Rather than communicating problems, you and your connections should always feel free to express what they think and feel in a safe, nonjudgmental space. 

9. Customize your commitments

Just because you don't subscribe to societal norms doesn't mean you totally check out. Cohabitation, marriage, and monogamous sexual relationships are all possible under a relationship anarchy philosophy. 

The difference is that you get to customize what those commitments look like for you. That might mean sharing a domestic life with a platonic friend, an exclusively sexual relationship with a Dom or a nonmonogamous marriage. Life commitments should be based on what makes you feel good, not driven by how you're supposed to act.

Build your own relationship anarchy chart

The relationship anarchy chart (sometimes called a smorgasbord) is the charcuterie board of relationship types. To customize your relationships, choose what feels right to give and receive from each: 

  1. Emotional intimacy, like sharing vulnerability, emotional support, or words of affection. 
  2. Physical intimacy, like cuddling, kissing, dancing, or hand-holding. 
  3. Sexual intimacy, like sexual acts, intercourse, sexting, or kissing. 
  4. Companionship, like shared activities, play, or intellectual conversations. 
  5. Long-term partnership, including working toward shared goals or encouraging change in one another. 
  6. Caregiving, like raising children together or sharing fur babies.
  7. Entanglement, like cohabitation, marriage, or sharing finances.
  8. Collaborative partnership, like cofounding a business or collaborating artistically.
  9. Kink, like fulfilling Dom/sub roles.

Building your relationship anarchy chart is a necessary step in defining relationships. Everyone gets to add things to their "platter," but only with mutual consent. If one partner wants to explore threesomes or a piss fetish, but another doesn't, it stays off your platter. Remember, it's not a blood oath. You can always revisit and redefine expectations. 

Make them eat cake

Relationship anarchy lets you decide what makes the perfect relationship. If that means a man who’ll eat your pie hole every night, you'll find a man on Grindr ready to break all the norms. Download the Grindr app today. 

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