What Is Relationship Anarchy?

It seems like there are more ways than ever today that people define their relationships. From monogamous to polyamorous and everything in between, more people than ever are fighting the norms and living life in relationships that work for them. One of the newest terms we've come across when it comes to love life, though? Relationship anarchy.


Also known as RA, the term has surged in usage since it was first employed back in 2006 after being coined in the Swedish essay "Relationsanarki i 8 punkter," written by Andie Nordgren. It was then translated into English six years later under the title "The short instructional manifesto for relationship anarchy" — and that's when the concept really started to gain mainstream attention. "Relationship anarchy is a growing movement, with people all over the world identifying as relationship anarchists," Megan Harrison, L.M.F.T. and creator of Couples Candy admitted to Shape

But what actually is RA and what does it mean? Well, sit back and allow us to explain.

Relationship anarchy describes relationships that don't conform to standard norms

In its most basic form, the term relationship anarchy is used to describe a relationship that's unconventional by traditional standards and doesn't abide by conventional societal norms. As Megan Harrison defined it to Shape, "In relationship anarchy, you're free to choose what kind of relationship dynamics will work for you, whether they are monogamous or non-monogamous, or not defined at all. You also get to define what relationship anarchy means for you and what it would look like in your life, rather than falling into a certain ideology that's expected of you." Essentially, those who choose relationship anarchy make their own rules, rejecting the idea of having to do what's expected of them.


Many people chose relationship anarchy as a way of rejecting typical gendered power roles. But relationship anarchy can refer to a vast array of choices, like a heterosexual, monogamous couple who choose not to live in the same home, or an LGBTQ+ couple in which one partner is monogamous and another isn't. People who choose relationship anarchy also very often prefer not to define their relationships using specific labels.

The relationship anarchy philosophy embraces the idea that every relationship is different

While many relationship theories lean on the idea that many relationships and the dynamics within them are the same or very similar, relationship anarchy promotes the concept that every relationship is totally different and unique. That means each one should have its own norms depending on what those involved want without defining labels. That could mean anything from a relationship involving more than two partners to a choice not to practice monogamy, such as an open relationship.


It also rejects the idea that people must follow a certain path because of the societal norms taught to them, such as a woman being a housewife or a man being a breadwinner. "Relationship anarchy challenges the traditional idea that people must conform to certain roles in relationships," Megan Harrison explained to Shape. "Relationship anarchy is about rejecting those norms and creating your own path."

The concept also relies heavily on the idea that no one relationship is more important than another. And that includes platonic relationships. "[There isn't] a strict hierarchy in your relationships — like if you have a really close friend and you've been friends since childhood, that doesn't mean if you get a romantic partner all of that goes out the window," relationship coach Dedeker Winston told Insider.


But one rule is encouraged

While the term anarchy suggests there are absolutely no rules, it is advised that there is one rule when it comes to relationship anarchy. As the term is so open and can encompass so many different aspects of relationships, there's a deep need to respect other people and their wants in the relationship. Therefore, everyone practicing relationship anarchy must explicitly give their consent and set boundaries. For example, in a relationship with two people, if one chooses to reject monogamy and spend time with one person or multiple other people, the other partner must be made aware of the intention and given the ability to leave the relationship. We'd recommend those choosing relationship anarchy practice strong communication and be direct to ensure each person involved is still happy with the arrangement.


That means giving someone the opportunity to walk away if they're unhappy with the situation with no hard feelings. "Our partners can tell us how they're impacted by our behaviors, and they can choose to opt out of a relationship that doesn't suit them. But veto power or external rules imposed by a third party have no place within relationship anarchy," polyamory coach Morgan K. told Men's Health.

The most important part of relationship anarchy, though? Freedom. "As its principles center around self-determination and personal freedom, this means that each person gets to define the parameters of their own relationships based on how they feel and what they need," Megan Harrison told Shape.