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Relationship Anarchy


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#1 Nathan Blair

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 07:17 AM

"Relationship Anarchy. does not divide relationships of partners and non-partners, but have a more flexible approach to relationships where everything is allowed so long as everyone can accept the agreement."

The Wikipedia article is quite synoptical.

[Relationship Anarchy] is a theory that questions the idea of love as a special, limited feeling that is only real if it is restricted to two people only, at any given moment; Relationship anarchy is a [new term] used to describe persons who reject the normative idea that it is not possible to love more than one person.
Relationship anarchs (or RAs) proponents prefer not to divide love relationships into subsets of those involving partners and those that do not, but have a more flexible approach in which everything is allowable and allowed by mutual acceptance and agreement. RA is closely related to polyamory, and many relationship anarchists have multiple sexual, loving, or intimate relationships. One notable difference between polyamory and RA is the categorical distinction often (but not always) made by polyamorists regarding love relationships and friendships. In general, relationship anarchists tend not to recognize any such categorization, nor any conventional path to follow, in order to pursue, have, or express love in their relationships.


I think being asexual forces you to take a look at the current forms of the relationships (including friendships) and see if you really like it the way it is - because many people want intimacy, and it's hard to achieve as asexual in our current society.
Another reason for me to think that is that I saw how open everyone in AVEN is to many seemingly odd things.

So, what do you think of RA?

Saying it's normal to feel asexual at a young age is like saying it's normal to feel alive before you're executed.

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#2 Member33070

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 07:22 AM

x

#3 Nathan Blair

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 07:40 AM

I guess you will have less time, but not less 'love'. And this way, you could be more open with your lover about how you feel about other people - I mean, you don't really control it if you suddenly love someone else, do you? But why should it ruin your relationship, as it many times does?
It seems to me that being more open with a lover would get you two closer.

Saying it's normal to feel asexual at a young age is like saying it's normal to feel alive before you're executed.

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#4 Cleander

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 07:49 AM

hm. Well, I admittedly don't know a lot about it, but the idea of relationship anarchy fascinates me. A lot of my thoughts on relationships are heavily affected by my being basically an aromantic asexual, but I've never fully understood the distinction between "friendships" and romantic/sexual/intimate relationships (which I'll just call "special relationships" for lack of a better word). And the distinction becomes murkier when you consider asexuality and polyamory and other things like that- what is the defining characteristic of a "special relationship"?

-Exclusivity? But what about poly people? They may have more than one relationship, and it's still considered different than a frienship
-Sexual content? But then what about "sex friends"? Obviously sex alone is not enough to distinguish a special relationship. Not to mention asexual relationships.
-emotional intimacy? But isn't a common definition of a best friend someone you are emotionally invested in, and close to? So obviously that alone isn't enough.

And so, while I guess for most people there is some spark or something that sets these relationships apart, for me it seems odd to treat them differently. After all, there are many people I care for, in some way. (Even if it isn't sexual or romantic in any traditional sense.) So the idea of relational anarchy appeals to me - because it's a way to validate my relationships, whereas in a tradition model I seem to be bereft of any significant relationships, which is just silly. Also, I think the boundaries of what is platonic and what is sexual and what is intimate in relationships are a lot fuzzier than people make them out to be.



Also, I think the whole point of relational anarchy is that it rejects the idea that each person only has a finite amount of "love", and that sharing it with more than one person will somehow water it down or use it up. Instead, RA as I understand it suggests that an individual simply make the most of all their relationships - if you want a relationship to have sexual components (and the other party consents), then go ahead. If you want it to be platonic, do so. If you want more or less intimacy, do so.

(also, with anything, if you try to balance too many commitments/relationships/anything at one time, if you take on too much of course you'll have rpoblems when you can't keep up)

RA is also trying to break up the dichotomy of "lover" relationships and "friend" relationships by saying they are basically the same - just "relationships" Like, just as you might play soccer with one friend and play videos with another, you might have sexual relations with one person and just have tea with another. It deosn't make one relationship any better or worse or purer or greater than any other.

(also, in RA, would all relational participants just be called "friends"? or "partners" is there a word? Or are some still called different labels e.g. friend, lover, etc?)

#5 hotsexgary

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 08:35 AM

Birdwing - there's a book called "the ethical slut" which is largely centered around the ethics of sex, but also goes into detail about relationships with multiple partners - they claim to dispell the idea that spending time with another person means you have less time for the other people in your life - you can definitely make a multiple partner relationship work

I guess the main disadvantage with RA is that you can't alter your partner's actions. Relationships with any sort of exclusivity mean you're obliged to restrict parts of your behaviour, and consider your partner's requests, which gives most people a sense of security. Most monogamous people can talk for ages about how important monogamy is to them, but it all comes down to this, and how incredibly insecure people are about the thought of their partner choosing someone else over them.
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#6 Nathan Blair

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 09:16 AM

^I'm not sure I understand the distdvantage.

Saying it's normal to feel asexual at a young age is like saying it's normal to feel alive before you're executed.

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#7 The Great WTF

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 09:45 AM

Wow. There's a term for my anti-traditionalist mindset towards relationships. Did not know that. :blink:

Growing up I used to ask my parents why romance was always just two people and my father, I think intentionally, told me "That's just the way us grownups were raised to think. It seems weird to me, too, but we're just too old to change." And, since he always encouraged me to question grownups and find ways to improve things, it sent me down this strange road of thought that, at 21, has apparently lead me to a very similar mindset to the ones described on wiki. Though I see a strong distinction between friend and romantic partner, I also see situations were the two blur and change and, possibly, damage their relationships beyond repair because of that traditional romantic formula interfering with what they're feeling.

I don't know that this mindset would work for everyone, but I do think that it is something that should be considered more often or at least more widely known. It's been proven time and again (I say this generally, of course, with the backup of the absurdly high divorce rate in the United States) that traditional relationships are not always the best, at least in the sense that they are very inflexible and often brittle for many reasons. If nothing else, I've always firmly believed that humans as a whole are not meant to be monogamous. There are exceptions, of course, many of them, but look how many relationships are destroyed by one or both parties having trouble keeping with the "my one and only" mindset.

I think I'm rambling. Lack of sleep will do that to you. Gonna shut up now.

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#8 `Silver

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 09:59 AM

As a monogamous person I don't think I could ever find myself in any other relationship other than a monogamous one. It'd just make me suffer as I want a degree of exclusiveness in a love relationship which polyamory or relationship anarchy would bereave me of. Plus, I'd never be able to love people equally. I'd always love them in different ways and with different intensities. There'd always be one person I love more than anyone else.

That being said, I'm happy for people who can manage to work it out. I believe having multiple partners is, to them, a bit like having multiple friends for a monogamous person. Since both parties are fine with being friends and not jealous of other friends being there, nobody's hurt and it works for everyone. As long as everyone's needs are met and satisfied, I see no harm in non-monogamous relationships at all.

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#9 Nathan Blair

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 01:01 PM

^Of course you can't love everyone equally, you're not supposed to ^^

The Great WTF:
I'm in very similar position ^^

Saying it's normal to feel asexual at a young age is like saying it's normal to feel alive before you're executed.

'I think a curse should rest on me — because I love this war. I know it's smashing and shattering the lives of thousands every moment — and yet — I can't help it — I enjoy every second of it.' (Winston Churchill)


#10 The Great WTF

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 01:20 PM

^Of course you can't love everyone equally, you're not supposed to ^^

Good point. You could, in theory, be completely head over heels in love with two different people, in two different ways, and neither love would be any less valid or less "true", but society believes that in the end you have to pick one. I've heard of it happening a few times.

For some reason it's considered selfish to want to keep BOTH people that you're in love with. I've never understood that.

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#11 Nathan Blair

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 01:32 PM

*Virual hug*
You're just so right!

Saying it's normal to feel asexual at a young age is like saying it's normal to feel alive before you're executed.

'I think a curse should rest on me — because I love this war. I know it's smashing and shattering the lives of thousands every moment — and yet — I can't help it — I enjoy every second of it.' (Winston Churchill)


#12 nleseul

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 02:37 PM

I have long wondered if I could be in a polyamorous relationship but splitting up my time and energy between multiple people strikes me as less "love" per person. I'm not saying it necessarily is, it just seems that way from a super-outsider point of view. *shrug*


Well, time doesn't necessarily translate directly into love. Some relationships may require you to be together 24/7, but others may be sustainable just by seeing each other a couple of times a month and staying in touch through Facebook the rest of the time.

And if you're in something more like a triad than a V, then you don't necessarily have to spend a lot of time exclusively with partner 1 and then a lot more time exclusively with partner 2; you can sometimes economize by all hanging out as a group.

That said, time and energy can be a concern, and the need for day planners to keep everyone's time organized is a common joke in poly circles.
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#13 . . .but there are sounds

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 07:53 PM

Well, I consider myself poly so I guess I am already in this camp to some extent. I most definitely love my family, and I also love several of my close friends and even the family members of some those friendships. My younger brother's girlfriend qualifies as well. The exact nature of these loves are all different but I can qualify them as real on the simple rubric of would I be willing to sacrifice for this individual.
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#14 Pamcakes

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Posted 29 August 2011 - 11:41 PM

This sounds like me, actually. I don't generally sleep with my friends, though one of my friends is currently my lover (as opposed to a "friends with benefits" relationship; the difference being that our relationship is closer to an unstructured love affair, or freeform romance, than simply f@#$buddies; we have sexual and emotional intimacy, and when one of us is visiting the other - we live in different Cities - we go out on dates, and we both get really excited about seeing each other and are quite likely to hurry home early after work to chat online, but we're not exclusive, and we maintain 'close friendship' as both the default relationship status and the continuing public presentation of our interaction; we keep the non-platonic aspects of our relationship intensely private, and just for us, which feels like a special secret rather than a shameful one), but all my life I've felt as intensely romantic about my close friends as I do about any partner I'm in love with - which, despite the fact I'm monogamous, has caused a lot of misunderstanding and jealousy issues from my boyfriends over the years.

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#15 Vampyremage

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 06:16 AM

I also consider myself to be poly (or at least in theory poly because I haven't had the opportunity to experience it in practice) so I do like the philosophy stated above. I think it suits my views on relationships rather nicely, actually. I never did quite understand the assumption that one could only love one other person and that any other love would be either in some way inferior or not possible at all. It is possible for the love of different people to take on different forms but I don't think one kine of love is superior to another kind of love, just different.
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#16 FedoraMan

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 12:32 PM

Well I don't personally believe in romantic love anyway, but s this "relationship anarchy" of which you speak the same thing as polyamory? If not, someone please feel free to fill in the gaps in my knowledge-brain.
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#17 honor is all

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 01:56 PM

Totally agree with RA. Anyhting with anarchist tendencies in it rings true with me. Categories, labels and norms do nothing but tie us with invisible ropes.

#18 nleseul

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 04:06 PM

Well I don't personally believe in romantic love anyway, but s this "relationship anarchy" of which you speak the same thing as polyamory? If not, someone please feel free to fill in the gaps in my knowledge-brain.


Well, I'm just going by Wikipedia here, so I'm not entirely sure, but relationship anarchists apparently reject the friendship/romance binary, which most polyamorous people do still recognize in some form. Also, I'm pretty sure that relationship anarchists would have an issue with the "primary" versus "secondary" categorization of relationships that some (but not all) polyamorous people use.
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#19 Nathan Blair

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:36 PM

Well I don't personally believe in romantic love anyway, but s this "relationship anarchy" of which you speak the same thing as polyamory? If not, someone please feel free to fill in the gaps in my knowledge-brain.

To me, the idea of RA is that doing romantic/sexual/whatever things can be fun (to some people) - and you can do it with your friends. As the one above me said, it mainly rejects the idea of dividing your relationships to friends & partners/lovers/whatever.

Saying it's normal to feel asexual at a young age is like saying it's normal to feel alive before you're executed.

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#20 Skullery Maid

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 10:36 PM

Sounds like a good way to ensure a lot of hurt feelings to me.

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#21 oneofthesun

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 10:49 PM

Never heard this term before - it sounds like a great concept.
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#22 Faelights

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 03:41 AM

I've identified as a relational anarchist for a quite a few months now, since it was first introduced to me back in March or April.

I guess the main disadvantage with RA is that you can't alter your partner's actions. Relationships with any sort of exclusivity mean you're obliged to restrict parts of your behaviour, and consider your partner's requests, which gives most people a sense of security. Most monogamous people can talk for ages about how important monogamy is to them, but it all comes down to this, and how incredibly insecure people are about the thought of their partner choosing someone else over them.

^I'm not sure I understand the distdvantage.

I think I might understand the disadvantage... for example, what happens if the first person with whom you decide to pursue a relationship strongly prefers monogamy? Do you ask them to compromise their belief in monogamy, so that you may pursue other similar relationships at the same time? Do you behave in a monogamous way instead, by restricting yourself and not pursuing other relationships of the same quality? Or do you give up the relationship altogether, just because this one thing doesn't line up?

It's not a straight forward answer. Relational (or relationship) anarchy seeks to make everyone comfortable, but sometimes things just don't quite line up, and you have to ask yourself, "now what?"

I can see why some might feel that it's a dangerous position to take.

#23 Nathan Blair

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 09:29 AM

^Well, you need to come to a conclusion with your friend/partner.
A very similar thing can happen to a monogamous person (and that happens much more often): What if the person you want wants to see other people to?

Saying it's normal to feel asexual at a young age is like saying it's normal to feel alive before you're executed.

'I think a curse should rest on me — because I love this war. I know it's smashing and shattering the lives of thousands every moment — and yet — I can't help it — I enjoy every second of it.' (Winston Churchill)


#24 Faelights

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 11:39 AM

^Well, you need to come to a conclusion with your friend/partner.
A very similar thing can happen to a monogamous person (and that happens much more often): What if the person you want wants to see other people to?

Yes, coming to a conclusion with your friend/partner is the most important thing, of course; this is true of any relationship. I'm not saying that the above situation is unique to Relational Anarchy; I'm saying that there ARE disadvantages to trying to please everyone.

Ideally, your friend/partner is not insecure about their position in your life. However, if you're open about the fact that you're a relational anarchist (or a polyamorous, as the case may be), even if you've told them you'll act monogamous, that fear can still exist.

There's also the phrase that, "when you try to please everyone, you please no one." I suppose that's nothing unique to relational anarchy--I personally don't think relational anarchy is very revolutionary, to be honest--but people question it more than they question monogamy. I may be working under an assumption here, but how many people see "monogamy" and see potential problems there, as opposed to seeing "polyamory" or "relational anarchist" and seeing potential problems there? Perhaps it's a matter of current social convention that it's likely someone who is one of the latter two will be viewed upon with more suspicion than one of the former.

Or perhaps it's because everyone is a little bit insecure about their importance in the lives of others, and they do want to be extra, extra special to at least one person.

I realize I'm rambling now; it's 5:30 am, and I just woke up half an hour ago from about 3 hours of sleep, so I should probably end here with my main point: why am I a relational anarchist, and not monogamous and polyamorous? Because I think relational anarchy places an emphasis on ongoing communication, as well as mutual trust and respect between all parties. Not that these things shouldn't occur in any and all relationships including those not covered here. But I do believe that anyone identifying as a relational anarchist has an devoted interest in promoting trust between everyone they interact with.

Gah, I said I was going to shut up and I just rambled more. Sorry.

#25 eamonn

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 01:45 PM

Isn't relational anarchy already the case for, well, everyone? We all have different kinds of love and feelings for different people - and I challenge anyone to deny that. And with these different feelings come "appropriate" behaviours and activities, which we divide up into different kinds of "relationships".

To say that relational anarchy rids us of the difference between a friend-relationship and a lover-relationship is a lie. The difference(s) are still there. RA just points out that we can't neatly divide everyone we know into three boxes consisting of friends, family and lovers. The boxes themselves are only useful, and not exactly true to reality. The variety of feelings and relationships one can have is, of course, astounding. I have many friends; I don't feel the same way about all of them. It's just a handy box to talk about them with.

The boxes are artificial (in the benign sense). The way we think about relationships - with their appropriate behaviours and sanctions and so on - that is constructed. But I think taking RA on is essentially switching one artificial mindset for another.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with that.

One of the major problems with all of this is that it's highly theoretical. Everything's different in practice. Some ideas turn out to be right, and some turn out to be castles in the clouds. Time will tell, and the truth will uphold you.

As for whether you can "love" multiple people (in the same way)... That's much trickier. My own experience of (that) love neither supports it nor precludes it.

Edit: Um... I guess my point is that RA just removes the scaffolding we have built around relationships. But a lack of scaffolding is, essentially, a scaffolding in itself. Always-already present.

#26 Faelights

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 05:03 PM

Isn't relational anarchy already the case for, well, everyone? We all have different kinds of love and feelings for different people - and I challenge anyone to deny that. And with these different feelings come "appropriate" behaviours and activities, which we divide up into different kinds of "relationships".

To say that relational anarchy rids us of the difference between a friend-relationship and a lover-relationship is a lie. The difference(s) are still there. RA just points out that we can't neatly divide everyone we know into three boxes consisting of friends, family and lovers. The boxes themselves are only useful, and not exactly true to reality. The variety of feelings and relationships one can have is, of course, astounding. I have many friends; I don't feel the same way about all of them. It's just a handy box to talk about them with.

The boxes are artificial (in the benign sense). The way we think about relationships - with their appropriate behaviours and sanctions and so on - that is constructed. But I think taking RA on is essentially switching one artificial mindset for another.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with that.

One of the major problems with all of this is that it's highly theoretical. Everything's different in practice. Some ideas turn out to be right, and some turn out to be castles in the clouds. Time will tell, and the truth will uphold you.

As for whether you can "love" multiple people (in the same way)... That's much trickier. My own experience of (that) love neither supports it nor precludes it.

Edit: Um... I guess my point is that RA just removes the scaffolding we have built around relationships. But a lack of scaffolding is, essentially, a scaffolding in itself. Always-already present.

I personally wouldn't disagree with the idea that the description of relational anarchy doesn't indicate anything radical. As I was, er, rambling about in the last post I made, I feel that one important difference between monogamy and relational anarchy might be the emphasis on honest communication with everyone you're involved with, rather than trying specifically to preserve one relationship. Yet I'm sure many people who identify as monogamous (or polyamorous) might already practice this... *shrug*

I have two main reasons why I identify as a relational anarchist rather than monogamous or polyamorous: one, to indicate that I am not strictly monogamous or polyamorous; two, that I feel it highlights my desire for an emphasis on honesty and communication.

I hope I don't sound like I'm going in circles here, because I really do appreciate this thread! Some of the replies have helped me to reexamine my chosen alignment with relational anarchy. ^_^

#27 Nathan Blair

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 07:53 PM

I really engoy reading the comments here - I'm happy I opened this thread ^^
Faelights - I really agree with you.

Saying it's normal to feel asexual at a young age is like saying it's normal to feel alive before you're executed.

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#28 Skullery Maid

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 08:00 PM

But at what point does "open and honest communication" become "scaffolding"? If I'm open and honest and tell you that you're my favorite friend and my favorite person to be around, and that I hope you're around for a long, long time, have I broken some RA rule? If you suddenly jump ship and i'm heartbroken, have I again broken some RA rule?

I'm personally in favor of some relationship guidelines because they are very helpful in setting up proper/ realistic expectations. If we are dating, then I have the reasonable expectation that you will break up with me if unhappy, not just suddenly disappear. If we are "friends", I have the reasonable expectation that you will not try to have sex with me. Using those labels seems easier than having to reinvent the wheel with every single person you interact with.

Does that make sense? I can try to clarify my issues if not. :wacko:

** General Disclaimer ** I believe in everyone's right to do, say, and be anything and anyone they want.  None of the opinions expressed by me should be taken to mean that I intend to enforce my views.  I am simply sharing my perspective. 

 
"He said 'It's all in your head' and I said 'so is everything', but he didn't get it" - Fiona Apple 


#29 Faelights

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 07:33 PM

But at what point does "open and honest communication" become "scaffolding"? If I'm open and honest and tell you that you're my favorite friend and my favorite person to be around, and that I hope you're around for a long, long time, have I broken some RA rule? If you suddenly jump ship and i'm heartbroken, have I again broken some RA rule?

I'm personally in favor of some relationship guidelines because they are very helpful in setting up proper/ realistic expectations. If we are dating, then I have the reasonable expectation that you will break up with me if unhappy, not just suddenly disappear. If we are "friends", I have the reasonable expectation that you will not try to have sex with me. Using those labels seems easier than having to reinvent the wheel with every single person you interact with.

Does that make sense? I can try to clarify my issues if not. :wacko:

I'm confused... Rules? What rules? XD

I feel that the rules of a relationship depend on the people involved. That being said, this might be easier to achieve when both people are flexible and are willing to forgive accidental transgressions (because hell, if someone doesn't know that something's going to hurt you and they had good intentions, it seems unfair to cut them off, just like that).

Personally, I've learned to follow several guidelines (not rules!) in my relationships (this is off the top of my head, so bear with me):
  • be as direct when expressing my feelings as I can, without being blunt or rude
  • not worry too much about getting hurt (although yes, it hurts a lot sometimes, but I'll eventually recover, sooner or later)
  • not lash out at anyone who's hurt me, though I will still find a safe place to vent my frustrations
  • give others the benefit of the doubt, unless there's clear evidence that I shouldn't
Although... there is the question of whether I've learned those things, or they're just part of my personality/character to begin with. Meh. The point is, you can make your own guidelines to live by.

#30 Skullery Maid

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 11:04 PM


But at what point does "open and honest communication" become "scaffolding"? If I'm open and honest and tell you that you're my favorite friend and my favorite person to be around, and that I hope you're around for a long, long time, have I broken some RA rule? If you suddenly jump ship and i'm heartbroken, have I again broken some RA rule?

I'm personally in favor of some relationship guidelines because they are very helpful in setting up proper/ realistic expectations. If we are dating, then I have the reasonable expectation that you will break up with me if unhappy, not just suddenly disappear. If we are "friends", I have the reasonable expectation that you will not try to have sex with me. Using those labels seems easier than having to reinvent the wheel with every single person you interact with.

Does that make sense? I can try to clarify my issues if not. :wacko:

I'm confused... Rules? What rules? XD

The "rule" that there are no rules in RA. It seems to me that if you start throwing up expectations of how someone else should act, you're not longer practicing RA. But I don't really know how relationships can function well long-term without expectations.

Geez, that was a much easier way to say it than my previous attempt! :)

** General Disclaimer ** I believe in everyone's right to do, say, and be anything and anyone they want.  None of the opinions expressed by me should be taken to mean that I intend to enforce my views.  I am simply sharing my perspective. 

 
"He said 'It's all in your head' and I said 'so is everything', but he didn't get it" - Fiona Apple 





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