Radical Relationships and the Evolution of Identity

Three years ago I set out on a journey to explore my identity- I wanted to know who I was and what was going to work for me in relationships. I committed myself to a two year period of being Singleish, without a primary partner, and being Polyamorous, having multiple partners. Three years and thirty-nine lovers later, I have an identity- and it isn’t the one I started out with.


Every so often I get asked about the difference between Relationship Anarchy and Polyamory. To summarise very obtusely, the former is more of a philosophical approach to relating to people, whereas the latter is the label given to a particular form of Non Monogamy. Yet, in practice, they appear to have a lot of overlap. For me, the more I dive into exploring and examining what Relationship Anarchy is, the more I develop a love/hate relationship with the term “Polyamory”- adoration for the freedom it offers, and frustration at the limitation it can present with.

I can tell you what I believe to be true about Relationship Anarchy- it’s a philosophy that provides a construct for the most consensually-based relationships. Whereas the act of applying labels like ‘monogamy’, ‘primaried’, ‘polyamory’, and so forth, is about defining what we have with someone (sometimes with the belief that by defining something we preserve it, a notion I don’t personally buy into anymore), Relationship Anarchy is a conversation about, “Where are we right now?” and “Who are we today?” and “What’s real for us in this moment?”

I sat down recently with my dear friend Ian MacKenzie to talk about the concepts of Relationship Anarchy, and the possibilities I feel it provides for whole communities, along with the opportunities for a new paradigm of relationshiping to emerge- one in which individualism and collectivism can once again be in harmony. This is a paradigm that I think goes a little deeper than the scope of Relationship Anarchy, and so I’m calling it- Relationship Radicalism.

You can listen to my conversation with Ian below, and/or follow along with the transcript here.

I think that Radical Relating- and the evolution we are seeing within that- represents a powerful paradigm shift around the art of relationshiping. It isn’t relating for the sake of arriving at some fixed destination, nor is it a process of auditioning for particular roles one requires to be filled. Rather, it is relating for the sake of relating.

It is relating from a place of authenticity. It is relating in a way that both honors the needs, wants and desires of the individual, whilst seeking connection- and synergy- with a collective.

This is the paradigm I find growing in my own life, as I witness myself blossom into a multitude of deeply loving, evolving, embodied, long term relationships, both romantic and aromantic, sexual and platonic, with lovers, metamors, friendtimacies, and platonic friendships all occupying significant places in my life.


What I see coming in the not-too-distance future, both in my own life and in the communities around me, is something that is about much more than romantic, sexual, and intimate relationships; I feel that it provides possibilities for whole communities, and is independent of whether individuals are choosing monogamous or non-monogamous relationships. And, I’m excited to explore that together with some extraordinary people!

Ian MacKenzie and another friend of mine, John Wolfstone, have been making a documentary, The Healing Of Love, inspired by the Tamera project in Portugal. Tamera is an intentional community, a functioning example of people experiencing relationships from a place of consent and radical honesty. Please go check it out and support their project by sharing the word!

2 thoughts on “Radical Relationships and the Evolution of Identity

  1. I like this. For as long as anyone can remember, relationships have been a fixed destination, a goal to be achieved, a prize to be won… and once you have it, that’s the end of the game (unless something happens and you have to start over). The rules, well, we know what they are and they’ve gone a long way in keeping us from really and truly relating with those we want to relate with – and in any way that happens to take shape. Then there are the folks who realize that by playing by the rules, we are being held back, diminished, and otherwise kept back from our full potential as a person who wants to experience love, sex, and relationships in an unfettered way – and without being seen as an amoral person. The tide is turning; more and more people are beginning to see and understand that being monogamous isn’t the only way to do things and now it’s all about working things out so that they can escape the bonds of monogamy and follow their hearts as they want and need to.

  2. I also love the idea of relationships as ongoing, changing journeys and not a fixed destination – after all, it’s true that relationships DO change, because people change over time, and those changes can radically affect relationships!

    I tend to call myself polyamorous more than a relationship anarchist, which I’ve written about in my blog: http://wp.me/p4QY2o-8S . But no matter what I’m calling myself, or exactly how I’m doing what I’m doing, I love the idea of always remembering that relationships are journeys together, not final destinations.

    I think that’s something that I’ll want to blog about soon. As I mused about your post, I remember in my monogamous days, feeling uneasy a few months in to most relationships because as I learned more about the goals and interests of the person I was dating, I realized that we might be compatible *now* but that our interests were eventually going to take us on different paths. And in my last few years of dating monogamy, I was definitely dating people who turned out to be seriously on the relationship escalator and were looking for someone to settle down with. While I was perfectly happy to date someone for awhile and see where it went, knowing full well that the relationship had a shelf life (because these were monogamous people, and if I didn’t share certain future goals of theirs, then a break-up would have to be in our future), it felt emotionally dishonest to not be up-front about our differences and state them as soon as I realized them, so that both of us knew that this relationship would only go so far.

    The sad addendum to that is that after having that talk, break-ups happened sooner rather than later, not because the person I was dating thought they were “wasting their time” by dating me, someone who didn’t share certain goals (like having children, for example). I ended up breaking up with them, because they decided that the solution to us having different life goals was to convince me that mine were wrong and that I should adopt theirs. So I broke up with them, rather than deal with repeated attempts to coerce me into giving up my personal ideals for living life.

    Anyways, thank you for this wonderful food for thought and reminder that relationships are ever-changing, just like people. I think that for me, living with that more firmly in mind helps take away some of my fears about change – if I accept it as a constant, and embrace it as part of life and part of my relationships, then it’s easier to see it when it’s happening, and work through my feelings about it (especially when the changes take people I love away from me) instead of hiding from them. And that makes me a much happier and more open poly person indeed. 🙂

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