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130. Relationship Anarchy vs. Libertarianism: Beyond the Status Quo with Mel Cassidy

Nicole: The first question I like to ask each guest is how would you introduce yourself to the listeners?

Mel: Oh, um, uh, how would I introduce myself today is I'm a relationship radical, uh, who has been confronting actually, no, let me change that. I, a friend of mine and I, we came up with really good words for this the other day. We are. Agents against the patriarchy. Um, I am a relationship radical who is an agent against the patriarchy, uh, looking to create new systems that make the old ones obsolete.

Nicole: All right. Take me deeper. What does that mean?

Mel: I think my whole life I have been dissatisfied with the status quo about human relationships. Not just romantic relationships, but all the interpersonal relationships. I remember watching how my parents would interact and how they would interact with other people like publicly and then how they would decompress around that privately and being like, this is.

This is really confusing. This does not make sense. And realizing that half of that was trauma, half of that was cultural differences, half of that was just trying to fit in, in places. So I've always held that with. Deep curiosity and going, there has to be a better way. There has to be a way that makes more sense.

And, you know, in my late twenties and early thirties, uh, when I came to explore consensual non monogamy and I came into my own queerness. That became the doorway for me to really examine human relationships again, I was coming out of a mostly monogamous, very heteronormative marriage going, I don't want to do that ever again.

And, and that, I think for a lot of people that can be the catalyst into you start. Questioning one thing you've taken for granted, you start questioning everything else. And delightfully, gratefully, this journey led me down the rabbit hole of figuring out language and terms and tools and, and being able to explore things as well.

You know, I think. We all bring our own unique life perspective and experiences, and we can all contribute to the exploration of these ideas. And especially when it comes to things like anarchy, there's no central authority on anarchy. We all contribute, and I enjoy being able to contribute from what I know is a very unique set of life experiences that I have.

To be able to offer things into the anarchy discourse, especially with regards to how we engage as human beings together.

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for sharing that. I think as you were sharing like the common culture around relationships and things, I was thinking of a article that had come out a few years ago that I had screenshotted and it was like, um, Marital hatred is normal.

Here's what to do with it. And I'm like, is normal? Let's ask some more questions. Or like, I'll watch, um, stand up comedy. And I think it's particularly of an older generation where it's like, oh, I hate my husband. I hate my wife. I hate my husband. I hate my wife. And I just find it so fascinating that like, that's just

Mel: The old ball and chain.

Nicole: Yeah. And that's a normal narrative that we have. So I'm curious. Yeah. How do you feel about that?

Mel: I, I mean, I, I think there are some people who have made marriage and marriage like relationships work for them in healthy ways. Right. And, and so I think it's really important that we don't discredit that that is possible.

But I think the narratives we have around it, the role modeling we have around it is super unhealthy. And this to me is, you know, I talk a lot of my work about patriarchal monogamy, like there's monogamy that's really healthy and lovely and beautiful and empowered. And that is. Nestled in the support of community.

And then there is monogamy that feeds into capitalism and consumerism and colonialism, or like has been colonially enforced, um, that centers around patriarchal gender roles and treating. Women as property. And, you know, the more enlightened perspective is treating each other as property and having like high levels of control over each other in partnership.

And, and I mean, that's not unique to monogamy. There's people doing non monogamy who try to carry that over too. And it hurts our souls, right? It hurts our psyches to be in that state. And the amount that we do without even realizing it, that we adapt to in our nervous systems out of the pure need for survival in that.

And then those adaptations and maladaptations become part of the narrative itself. So there is a way to be a good wife, a way to be a good husband. And it's like, that's just. the adaptations that work with this super unhealthy narrative. And sure, yeah, you could follow that and make it quote unquote work, but is it ultimately going to be good for you?

Is it ultimately nourishing your ability to show up in relationships with others, with your children, with your family, with your colleagues, with your community? There's going to be a limitation to that. And I think that is a really important aspect for us to consider in this era that I think we're entering where we are reexamining how we relate to one another on very, very fundamental levels.

Nicole: Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. And some people like, like you said, like thrive. In these various structures and really enjoy themselves and all these structures. And so we know that I think, you know, we're sitting in the space that there's, there's a heavy critique, I think, in the non monogamy space of, like, monogamy so bad, right?

Right. Like people tend to become. Radicalized so much so that they don't understand that people enjoy monogamy and thrive in monogamy. And just because it doesn't work for you doesn't mean it isn't the right solution for other people.

Mel: Yeah. Monogamy is a strategy for safety. And if we were to look at it in terms of our social evolution as creatures, monogamy has come about because It is a strategy for safety.

It is a strategy for stability. It is a strategy for security, whether that is in a, you know, capitalist economic structure. Let's ensure that our children have stability. Let's ensure that we are not dying of a sexual disease that we have no technology to prevent, right? Like that is where we find the origins of monogamy.

But those aren't the same things that we are dealing with today. We don't have the same problems that people had 2000 years ago. And even then, a lot of those issues can be addressed without going into monogamy. And I think when people are stepping out of monogamy into exploring more creative relating, whether that's conscious monogamy or non monogamy.

I think there's that existential fear that comes up because whether you like it or not, so many of us have been programmed to believe that monogamy is going to be our safety blanket and that anything outside of that is going to be inherently unsafe. And our nervous systems respond to that lack of safety.

And, We might respond to that by doubling down and being very raw, raw, raw, non monogamy is the way. Um, or we might respond to that with pure terror. Yeah.

Nicole: Yeah. And I mean, I'd even push you to say like monogamy was, I mean, like when we really talk about the history of it, right? Like it, it comes from a practice of property.

Yeah. Right? Like when we actually look at it, it comes from like, not even safety. It comes from a practice of control. And I think kind of like you're saying, like the things that were happening then are not necessarily the same context happening now. So someone can enjoy a monogamy in a way that is not about property, right?

Like there's beautiful ways to write your narrative and to enjoy that space and all the meaning making and like the sacredness of that contract that you're doing with someone. But like when we look historically, like just purely historically, At the actual origins. Yeah. Safety control. Cause I mean, look at the actual history of love and relationships.

It was always that, like you would create a family stable structure to make money because that's how you, and how you survived or maybe to make crops and stuff, you know, all that.

Mel: It was survival. Like my great grandmother, my, my grandmother's family were all refugees. Um, They're the men in their family. I mean, they were survivors of genocide and the men in their family were all killed.

And so my great grandmother with two young children, one of whom had just been born as they were fleeing from this atrocity, had no choice. Like as a single, as a widowed woman, as an ethnic minority, she had no, um, she had no power in her society. So she had to get married. Right. You know, she married out of necessity to try and create something that would bring stability for her extended family, not just her own children.

And that was a very, it was mixed results. Yeah. And, and that's only like a hundred and something years ago. So, yeah, to go and okay, like we have different choices now. Oh, totally. Is amazing.

Nicole: Totally. And I mean, I always love the like, uh, historical facts that marital rape. It wasn't illegal until it started happening in the seventies.

They started changing the laws, but it wasn't until 1992 that in all 50 states, marital rape was made illegal. So 1992 we think about women getting credit cards in 1970s, you know, like, so it's like, yeah, within the last 50 years, a lot has changed. And I guess I, you know, I'm just curious what the future looks like in terms of relating now that there is not.

That level of, I mean, there is obviously still clearly controlled, but not that level that we were having in the 1970s or the 1990s.

Mel: Yeah. Yeah. I'm, I'm really curious about it too. And I, I think a lot of the pushback that we see around feminism and around gender rights and, and all of these things right now is coming from people who are facing that existential fear in themselves because they don't know.

How else to engage other than these scripts that they've been given, they don't know how to improvise. They don't know how to unpack it and go, Oh, what if I don't assume, what if I have to ask, what if we have to have a process of collaboration that is going to take time and I cannot get immediate gratification in this moment.

And that is very challenging when what you're used to. Is access to immediate gratification through your relationships when you, what you're used to is there is a standard way to do things and I don't have to think about it a whole lot.

Nicole: And then people suffer though. That's the thing. Like at the end of the day, I'm all for people thriving in whatever relationship structure works for them.

However, we see lots of people. Suffer and in pain, going back even to that, like marital hatred is normal. All of that sort of like, it's fascinating the amount of pain and suffering that exists within these relationships and particularly also like the, how do I say the drop in. Sexuality that happens frequently in those longterm relationships.

And because of our societies, dare I say puritanical values that discredits the importance of your eroticism in a lifelong continuum says, Oh yeah, that's fine. So it's like whenever I've got, I've gotten feedback when I'm talking about non, not non monogamy and stuff from like people in my circle who are monogamous, who felt like, you know, like I'm talking poorly about monogamy.

It's like. I, you have to be able to talk about the fact that people are suffering under that structure and because they don't know the informed consent that there's another world possible, then yeah, I'm going to talk about it. However, if you're thriving, if you're enjoying all of that, like I'm not speaking to you, you know what I mean?

Like I am speaking to that person who, um, Ray McDaniel came on to talk about gender and was talking about how, like, it felt like. Their gender felt like a shoe that didn't fit. It was just like a little too tight. And at least for me, that's how the ideas of monogamy felt. Like it was like, this is a little too tight.

Like I'm not going to have the freedom to love other people like I want to. That's who I'm speaking to. And I'm sure that's who you're speaking to.

Mel: Yeah. Definitely. And I, I think it, you know, I would even say that that line of questioning has expanded because it's not just monogamy that we're questioning.

All the pieces of the status quo relationships. It is the gender roles. It is the, I mean, it's related to monogamy, but the ownership and possession, it is the exclusivity. It is, why are we prioritizing sexual relationships in the first? Place, you know, how do we discover a secure attachment in a world that is so unpredictable and unstable?

How do we come together for mutual aid and support in a way that feels good and equitable? How do we navigate these privileges and the disparities that we've had no control over and? And how do we come together and relate in ways that help us heal from the trauma of those and thrive as we move forward?

These are big questions. And I think a lot of people are exploring them from a lot of different angles. Yeah. And so many of them end up going, Hmm, what about this? Like, why am I being exclusive in my affections here? What if there was another possibility? And in my work, I'm very adamant that I don't think non monogamy is for everybody.

I really want support people to find a path that is true for them. But I think one of the really toxic parts of monogamy is very much centered on this North American idea. The nuclear family that creates a microcosm of individuality where you are separating yourself from community. You are in competition with other families and in that space, capitalism can thrive.

Absolutely. But at the cost of our humanity. I think,

Nicole: yeah, you'd love the episode. I just released with Laura main or throw up a therapist. We were talking about the ways that like capitalism separates us from like, yeah, transformative growth, being able to stay in connection. And yeah, it's much better if we have a nuclear family model, because then I can sell you multiple dishwashers and multiple things because you don't need to share, you need your own.

And actually that's how you make meaning in this world is if you have this perfect little picture of the perfect little life. With the symbol statuses, then you're, or the status symbols, then you're going to have joy, love, and happiness. Like, let me keep selling you that narrative, narrative, narrative.

Rather than like, what if, yeah, we shared more love in all the different ways. Whichever ways you want to choose to do that with more people. And look to a more community focus rather than the sort of like individual, which like, like I'm sure, you know, right. Creates this level of like, let me protect what I have.

Let me protect what I have. God forbid you come near my stuff.

Mel: Well, and, and we go into, we go into fear and survival responses and that individuality and so many people feel the overwhelming burden of that pressure. Of I cannot ask for help, or if I receive and accept help, this somehow means that I am less than as a human being.

And there's so much that we've been told we have to do to demonstrate that we are successful grownup that revolves around. Demonstrating individualism and I, I think what's really important, like, I don't think we should go into group think mentality either, but I think interdependence is the word I'm looking for here.

Like that balance between we can be in community relationship and we can also be in relationship with ourselves. Being in relationship with yourself is not, uh, it's not greedy. It's not like a negative thing. It is not shameful. It is powerful. And you can only really be in relationship with others when you have that sense of self, because then you're not going to get overridden by other people's desires.

You're not going to lose yourself in the sea of other people's wants. You're still going to maintain your individuality, but we cannot be an individual. Without community, because we cannot survive by ourselves. I read a story recently about a family that went to try and live off grid and it, they didn't, it didn't work.

You know, they, they died very tragically, um, which is heartbreaking. And extra heartbreaking that that was what they felt they had to do, that they were so tied to this idea of like, no one around can help us. No one's going to understand us. We're just going to pull ourselves away from the world. And I get it.

Like I need my times where I need to disconnect from the world and introvert away, but it's a hard truth. I think for many people that we do need to be in relationship with each other in order to not just survive, but thrive.

Nicole: Sure, sure, and I'll even, like, up the ante here to say, like, what you were kind of hitting on, like, the fact that, I'll caveat this one, because I think about this one all the time, but, like, there is no individual self.

Like, quite literally some of the theories that I work through from like a more feminist take of psychodynamic theory is that we are always created by our relationships. One of the, when I try and think about it in terms of a metaphor, I like think of like all of these mirrors that are facing inward in a circle, right?

So you have all these different relationships and like you're right at that center of all of those mirrors coming in. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So like there is a sense of self that experiences life as its own like existential being, you know, like no one went through the exact like radical combination of life experiences that I have gone through that you have gone through.

So we are individual, but like, quite literally that circle is all of those mirrors, whether it be. People, whether it be nature, whether it be society, whether it be your understanding of God, like all of that forms your psyche. It's not like we just like, in my, in my opinion, and maybe we could talk deep about that.

Like, I don't think we're born with these like innate things per se, as much as we are shaped in this, like, yeah. Nurture way. I mean, we can get into epigenetics. So there's some genetic stuff about that too, though, you know, but like, but truly like, it's about the relationship. So this like, hyper yeah.

Western individual take of like, you need to find yourself before you can be in relationship with others. I'm like, That's funny because that's not, that's never going to happen. You know what I mean?

Mel: Well, and I think it's, it's, there's a tensegrity in that of the more I know myself, the more I am able to show up in relationships with others.

And also the more I have authentic, genuine, supporting, loving relationships with others, the more I actually have the resources. Yeah. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Like it, it, I don't think it is. One needs to happen before the other. I think they happen together. I think we are growing those together. Yep. And. And this is, I think this is hard because that very Western, uh, individualistic mentality is also very linear, you know, we talk about the relationship escalator, that inevitable trajectory of relationships that you're just going to keep going until, you know, you have your person.

Now you're on that escalator. Shame on you if you step off of it or fall off it or push off it. But you know, What if we don't have an escalator? What if instead we exist in a landscape of relating and we have the ability to craft that landscape into an ecology that supports us? So I am putting in the effort to nurture my own relationship ecology.

I am making choices about who I relate with and how I relate and I'm going, Oh, I like. Do you work really well in this part of my garden? Do you function better over here? And I say this as someone who gardens a lot, right? So like, I'm, I'm constantly looking at like, how do we reconfigure, you know, right now in my garden, I'm like, Oh, next year, I think I'm going to change where I put the cucumbers.

They're going to be somewhere else. And we do that in our life. And Ideally, we get to a point where we have an ecology of relationships that is self sustaining and then that nourishes us. And we might add in things every so often from outside, but to be able to experience ourselves within the context of our environment, I think is so important.

And, and I mean, we're, we're kind of touching on this as well, but you know, that also brings into mind actual physical environmental awareness. Which I think is a part of relationship anarchy that it does not get discussed enough that, you know, in terms of anarchism being a social movement to de center the, the power.

It's like, how do we look at. Nature, nature doesn't have centralized power. Nature has evolved in these brilliant ways and there are times where things are one way and then it balances out somehow and then there are disasters and then years later things might thrive again. Yeah. And. How do we move back into a good relationship with that?

Because right now our relationship with that is not good. And we see the impacts of that right now where that relationship has gone out of balance and is unhealthy to the extremes.

Nicole: Yes, how right? That's the interesting question. How right? And I think that as you were talking about the garden and the different relationships you have in your life.

I mean, I have a post it note somewhere over here. I was like, yeah, relationship. Anarchy feels like a wild. Acid trip. And it does. It reminds me a lot when I was like deconstructing Christianity and like if, if, if I'm not living for God, then what, then what am I doing here? Oh my gosh. And so like that existential process of deconstructing, like you said, the relationship escalator, these other ways that like, You know, in terms of our existential existence, we're always looking for, um, the ability to have control.

Right. So like it's, and I mean, we can get into like, yeah, archetypes of narratives and stuff. So like, it's much easier to have this sort of like, Hey, look, this is going to happen than this, than this, than that. And like, that feels really good. And to, again, like we said, some people thrive there. Great. Right.

Many of us don't. And so then it creates this wide landscape, like, you know, a psychedelic experience. Experience where the walls start to crumble of what your reality once was. And you're like, Oh my God, what am I doing? But on the other side of that beauty is the space to create your own garden. Like the relationships that I have are so multifaceted, right?

Like there is no one person that is my life partner. That is me. That is me. And then I have these other people that show various parts of my identity and connect with and we can have these sorts of conversations that the other partner doesn't want to have or these activities and like, then at the center, like Yeah.

Yeah. That is me.

Mel: And I think one of the challenges people come across in that is we are so conditioned to look to power, to look to someone to guide us. And I think that also comes into, I mean that that's that Christianity patriarchal approach. I think that's also then led into parenting methods that we see predominantly in Western cultures and Western influence cultures.

I mean, we infantilize ourselves in a sense, in that way, and we look to who's in charge, and we exist in these systems of dominance where, oh, I want to get somewhere, I have to prove I have more power than someone else, and It's very, very hard to step out of that and go, what if, what if that's actually just an illusion?

What if that idea of power structures is just a game that we're playing and we don't have to play that game? And I, I mean, I, I think it's no coincidence that there are so many people who are in the psychedelic field who are getting more curious about things like relationship anarchy and non monogamy because.

When we are in that experience, like you're saying, like a big acid trip or mushrooms or any other medicine that is helping your brain to deconstruct its rigidity. And you can do that in a healthy way and open up into that plane of what if. There wasn't that rigidity. You start to be able to imagine other possibilities, but then putting that into practice, whether you're not on acid, uh, easier said than done.

Nicole: Yeah. Many a long conversation, tears, you know, many a long conversation and tears. Well, and it's hard.

Mel: Well, and we're so used. To deriving that sense of safety in our nervous system from knowing where the power is in semantics. We call this orienting to safety. We are always orienting to safety all the time.

Most of the time we don't have to put a lot of effort into it because we have a routine. It's like I might hear, you know, uh, the alleyway outside my house. I know what it is. Right. I know it's garbage day. Okay. But. I hear something that's outside of the norm and I don't know what it is. So I go, am I safe or am I not?

And Um, when we are deconstructing the, the, the reliance that we have on these power structures, that question of am I safe or am I not becomes hard to answer because we don't yet know. And hanging out in that ambiguity is very challenging because that is where we having, that's where we experience anxieties.

I don't know if I'm safe or not. That's where we can go into states of panic. There's a whole bunch of repercussions that that can have both like on the way that our relationships are functioning, because we are going to do all sorts of things to try and figure out safety, like trying to have power over others.

And there's also the, the nervous system impact. If we stay in state spaces of uncertainty and anxiety for a prolonged amount of time, that then has an impact on us in a physical way. Totally. And I think of. Like, I think about the experience many of us had during the pandemic, you know, again, very hard to orient to safety, hard to know because there's new information coming out all the time.

This is a thing we cannot see or touch. That is a threat. And I think, you know, so many people bought into conspiracy theories because. There is a story of power in conspiracy theories. And if we can believe in that, that story, then that gives us something to orient towards whether it's true or not, doesn't matter.

We orient towards it and then our nervous system can settle. And I think in a similar way, when we're working on deconstructing normative relationships from this anarchist perspective, and we face that anxiety point. We can create structures to superimpose onto that that are actually just reinforcing the power structures that we're trying to leave behind because it's, it's keeping us in that fantasy of like, Oh, I'm safe enough.

I'm safe.

Nicole: Yeah. One penis policy. There you go.

Mel: That's a great example of control

Nicole: deconstructed that one in an episode before.

Mel: And, and, you know, it's not to say that we should just like throw everything out and not be safe because that's not good either. We, we need to wean ourselves off of that. And that could look like, let's create a temporary container to explore this in, let's make it safe enough.

And then, okay, now let's take it a little bit further. Now let's take it a little bit further. I think it is totally okay to have training wheels. Oh yeah. So long as you are clear what the training wheels are, you're not surprising people with like, Hey, surprise. I actually, my relationships have training wheels and we don't know what we're doing yet.

Like I think it's okay to be messy. And again, this is one of those power structure things. It is so hard to own our messiness. If you own your messiness, You're weak.

Nicole: You are weak. You're needy. How dare you?

Mel: Or you're hurting people. You're, you're an abuser or this and that. And it's like, there are real abusers out there.

I believe truth eventually stands clear from fiction when it comes to that. And Most of the time when we are doing harm in our relationships, it is purely because we are messy and we haven't figured out what we're doing yet. And I think we need to have more space for that messiness. That messiness is healing.

I mean, that messiness allows us to see where we. Have work to do where we have, you know, I, I think both individually, but also relationally. I don't think we need to fixate on messiness necessarily. Like if something is like 99 percent messy, I go like, what, what's happening here? Like how much is this actually nourishing you to be in a space of messiness all the time?

But I think. To honor that messiness is part of human relating that opens up a space for us to liberate ourselves from a lot of the constrictions that monogamy encourages because monogamy is so much about perfectionism. And, you know, there's a perfect way to be and so on and so forth. Like there's one Way, more or less to do monogamy.

And there's an infinite number of ways to do non monogamy and the way that I do it may not be how you do it. And we have to have the freedom to figure that out. And then if we come together in relationship, how are we then navigating the ways that we relate together based on our different sets of experiences that could be messy and it's Okay for mess to exist.

Mess does not need to mean that it's an end or that the sky is falling. And I think we tend to go more to that place of like, Oh, this is a disaster because we don't have that experience, that nervous system resilience around. I can experience mess in my relationships and that doesn't mean it's the end, right?

Nicole: Right. Right. Cause that's inevitable, right? We are all messy humans. That is inevitable piece of human nature. Yeah. It is my belief that human nature thrives in love and connection, not in hate, discord and violence. I think those happen much like when we look at like, you know, even other animals. I guess from our complicated other animals.

But like when I think about like dogs, right? Like that nice puppy that grows up and then versus the one that attacks because it's been through experiences where that's how it's learned how to defend itself. Like in my view, humans are love and we want that. But because of systems and big, big, big systems, right?

Like there's a lot going on there. And if your family structure, when you grew up, if there was ruptures in the dance of relating, if there was stepping on the toes and it resulted in a. Um, someone leaves, someone gets abused, someone gets hurt, then like, yes, it's going to be hard when we come into relationships to like change those patterns of expectation that like that's where it's going to go.

So for, for me and my own journey with that, like being able, I mean like therapy one, but just in general to be in like relationships with people where we stick through the messiness and we don't run away from the messiness has allowed. My nervous system to relax. And so when I look at the relationships I have where we do that, I'm like, man, I'm, I feel very privileged in that way to have a community of people that when I say something that offends them, they're able to tell me back and we have a conversation about it.

And then we continue on with that is beautiful.

Mel: And, and I think that. Becomes possible when your relationships are held in community where it's not just you and the other person trying to figure it out, which Murray Bowen talks about this, that like triangles are the most stable form of relationships.

And I think that is key to understanding non monogamy and relationship anarchy, that our relationships do not exist in this vacuum of. Privacy culture, like that, that we are not allowed to talk about our problems with others. I think I, I mean, I've done this for others in my coaching practice and I've had others come in and help me with this myself.

And I've seen it time and time again, that sometimes to navigate the messiness. Yeah. Oftentimes to navigate the messiness, it's more than two people can do, and it helps to have neutral loving parties come in. Not necessarily people that you're dating, but people in your community who can care for you and hold you, whether that is elders or wise people or a counselor or whatever form that takes, but to come in and support the messiness.

And create that space for permission to be messy.

Nicole: And that's where we grow.

Mel: That's where we grow.

Nicole: Yes, and I think something that's coming up for me, at least in my own experience, is when we were talking about the training wheels of coming into non monogamy and all these pieces, I kind of worry about this space of like, oh, let me try non monogamy and see if it feels right to me and my body, only because my own lived experience is that it has felt really wrong.

In my body because of the society we live in, just in the same way that when I was raised Christian and I started to realize my queer identity, it felt very wrong and also right, but very wrong in my body. It's unfamiliar. Yes. And so the people who are like, Ooh, I have this itch towards non monogamy, but it feels so scary.

I just want to norm, normalize the hell out of that. You know, in my practices of non monogamy from like where I started to where I'm at now, what I'm able to like, I use rock climbing as a metaphor frequently because like the first time I rock climbed, it was terrifying. Right. And like the things I do now are radically different and they don't scare me in the same way it has been such a process of, you know, comparing it to exposure therapy.

Yeah, exposure therapy and somatic work and lots of conversations because, yeah, seeing my partner kiss someone else in front of me the first time, huge somatic dysregulation. And then you can have the subsequent thoughts of like, maybe this isn't for me. Maybe I can't do this. Oh my God. Oh my God. Right. So like being able to like.

Be with your partners in that and, you know, like name that feeling so that it can release the power checking in with a body and coming back and then like specifically like aligning with your values. That has been a big one for me is like, yeah, I'm scared right now, but my value is to get to that top of the mountain and that.

Mel: And that's where that self relationship piece is so valuable, right? Because you're talking about building self awareness. And I always tell people like when you experience that kind of triggering that activation, whether it's jealousy or another emotion, can you learn to understand what that emotion is telling you?

Right. Right. What is this a clue? This is a clue about something, something there is activating you, something there is making you feel unsafe. Is it? A lack of need being that for you, is it, and is it like you want to have that experience? Is it a red flag? You know, is there something that maybe your subconscious has picked up on that you aren't yet consciously cognitive of, but you are responding to in a primal level and let's get curious about it.

And I think learning how to have that process of self inquiry. is so valuable, whether you're going to do non monogamy or not. Like it is so, so valuable. And to do that, we really have to slow down. So, you know, I see a lot of people who are like, Intellectually, I'm on board. I'm going to do it. I'm going to, I'm going to, get over it.

I'm going to like push myself to do it. Yeah. I'll go to the sex party and watch my partner have sex with all the people. And then they freak out and they are like, why do I feel so broken? And I'm like, well, you know, you were brave. But also you didn't need to push yourself that much. That was too much for your nervous system to process in one go.

What if we rewind and slow down and give yourself that opportunity to actually feel all the things that you're feeling to actually dig in and understand what is the core need that is wanting to. Be heard and seen and acknowledge what is the, the root of you right now. And when we slow down and dig into the root, that can be confronting because we might see, oh, this relationship that I was in actually is not as compatible as I thought it was.

That can be challenging because maybe we start to go, oh, wow, I have very different values from the people that I'm around right now. And I don't know how to. Find the people who share my values because I don't even know what those are yet. I just know it's not that. And so that process of slowing down to understand what's at the root of our activation, it's confronting, but it is so valuable.

And that's where I'm like, we have to do that self relationship work that we're not doing that self relationship work. We're not going to be able to effectively. Thoroughly deconstruct those power structures in our lives, and we have to be able to do that in order to relate in authentic ways that are not constricted by those power structures.

Nicole: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's, yeah, the best way to do that is to, like you said. have curiosity rather than get angry, right? I think about like meditation practices when we fall off, you know, to come back instead of being like, I can't believe I did it, you know, and like start that whole snowball of thoughts to be curious, to just be open and at times to not get too even locked up into the cognitive and really just Feel the body.

Like you said, like these practices of relating are go beyond non monogamy. Like I ask my body, like, does it feel good to go to this event? Does this meet, when do I feel satisfied in my meal? Right? Like all of these ways that I am continuing to check in so that we can have pleasure and thrive rather than just like, yeah, let me scarf this down.

Let me hit up that party. Let me go to the sex orgy. You know, it's like. Where does my body feel? Okay. And then also noticing that like slight window of tolerance. It reminds me of the work that I do in psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. Like people will come in wanting that like high dose heroic, you know, experience going there.

And, you know, we talk to them, I know. And which You, everyone gets the freedom to do what they want, but we talked to them about like building a relationship with the medicine, right? Like we're going to start with a handshake, okay, because that's going to allow your body to feel safe, right? So like having some level of nerves about going into that psychedelic experience or some level of nerves of going into that orgy makes sense, but like being able to be aware of when you're pushing yourself.

Pass that window of tolerance so that you don't harm yourself in that path of trying to get there. Is that like, like you're saying that really like nuanced curiosity that you need to have for your own self.

Mel: Oh, well, and, and in the realm of psychedelics, I think it was James Jesso I heard talking about this, that, you know, what.

creates a bad trip is not integrating it afterwards. Like you really have to have that space for integration because so much can happen in such a relatively short span of time. And it can take months to really integrate a peak experience with the support of psychedelic medicines. And, um, I think in the same way in non-monogamy, like it's so tempting to just be like, I'm a kid in a candy store, , I'm gonna date date new Newport.

I'm Newport. I'm gonna Pokemon them on, I'm gonna catch them all. And I said, they done that . Um, and it's exhilarating and it's enticing. And there's a bit of escapism that can play into there where we can use that to run away from stuff in ourselves. And in our lives and to actually slow down and let ourselves feel everything is actually so much more rewarding and I think helps us find a healthier way of navigating into this.

Nicole: Right. But then you got to dismantle internalized capitalism, which is telling me productive. Go, go, go, go, go, go, go. I can't sit down to think about my experiences. I'm missing out on valuable time to make money. You know what I mean? So it's like the process of being able to slow down and reflect, like to take a moment to just be grateful for what you already have.

Right. Like I have a lot right here rather than chasing, chasing the next, the next, the next, the next, which deeply scares me in terms of like how our society again with capitalism and just like even something like social media where like our brains have been conditioned to get dopamine at a much faster rate.

Yeah. The idea of non monogamy and having like, like this fluid. Ability to change partners, you know, like I imagine that like our brains are going to become because of the internet other things more primes even prefer these sorts of relationships on a neural level. So what does it mean to actually like come back to like.

To take a moment in all of this stuff and like, just like feel what you have, like feel what is at your fingertips already, rather than the chase of the next and the next and the next.

Mel: Well, and I, I think, you know, this brings to mind for me two practices that I think are super valuable. One is grief practices.

Um, you know, there's a lot of grief involved in letting go of, well, waking up to the like, wow, this. Thing that I've been told to believe in is not the be all and end all. And it is so not working for me and it's really not working for a lot of other people too. And even when we know it's not good, there is grief and letting go of it.

And that grief is what can manifest as anger, as denial, as avoidance, as all these things. I've written about this before, but I feel like We underestimate the impact of grief in the way that we do non monogamy. And, and very often, even when we go through breakups, there's so many other relationships around, we can jump right into another and potentially avoid that grief.

And sometimes that can be in a healthy way that we're titrating our grief experience that I don't think we talk about that grief enough. And then the other practice I think is so valuable here is gratitude. And that is such a beautiful way of affirming our relationships. You know, as you're talking about the capitalism piece, I'm thinking about like, you know, in many ways I have so much privilege to live the life that I have right now.

You know, I have created a life for myself, but I didn't. Manifest that out of thin air. I put in hard work. You know, I am someone who has had depression for most of my life. I was recovering from a series of different traumas. I was living in a very expensive city, working several different jobs, losing my mind, getting very distracted and dating all the people.

It was a wonderful distraction from everything. And then I was like, this isn't. Sustainable for me at the life that I actually aspire to is very different from this. And then I, you know, I moved away from that city. I moved into a different community. I found a way to live that was very, very cheap while I was building up my business and all.

that I have today was possible because community held me. And even though what is in that landscape of community for me has changed a lot, especially over the last few years of the pandemic, the people who have showed up in that landscape of community It's not one sided. We are giving to each other.

There are ways we are supporting each other. And I'm, I'm a big believer in that. We don't need to do things transactionally. I'm like, Oh, my friend needs some support. I have extra money in my bank account this month. I'm going to send that there because like, that is really important to me that they get support and I just trust that that goodwill comes around because that's what mutual aid is all about.

And, you know, I, I know some people look at me and they're like, well, like, of course you're able to do this. Cause like, you know, you're self employed and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I'm like, yeah, but like, I only exist by the grace of community. And I, as an individual, put that intention into creating a community that would be nourishing, that would be nurturing, where I am around people, where we align in our values, where we can be messy together and we're working on our shit.

We, we have our issues. We have the stuff that comes up. I am constantly struck by this huge gratitude of. I am here by the grace of my community.

Nicole: Yes. Which makes me want to ask you and get into a topic in terms of relationship anarchy, because I think it's interesting that for people who have been in the, what do we call this?

The non monogamous. This kinky, you know, sex radical space for many years. There seems to be a very negative connotation to relationship anarchy that seems a little bit different than maybe people who are younger and coming into the word. Yeah. On its own without the historical context of it being in the community for a long time.

But uh, yeah. So relationship libertarianism versus anarchy and you're talking about community. So I'm like, let's get some definitions up in here.

Mel: Yeah. I mean, I did not coin the term relationship libertarianism. I can't remember now. I think it was the thinking asexual possibly coined it. Okay. Okay. Okay.

Uh, it's such a poignant term because some people will confuse libertarianism and anarchism with each other politically. But, you know, they are both looking at moving away from power, centralization, yes. But libertarianism focuses on the individual as an individual, whereas anarchism goes, we supplant the power hoarding through the power of community.

So in relationship libertarianism, that that's where I think a lot of people confuse that they're calling what they do relationship anarchy, but what it looks like they're doing is actually relationship libertarianism. And I, I always, I hear the character of Cartman from South Park in my head going, I do what I want.

Um, and, and I. And, and I, you know, I understand, like, I think that if you have had a hard time being honored and trusted and, and experiencing trust and relationships, you are going to develop that approach. And I think there's more opportunity for us to have dialogue about relationship libertarianism as a response to trauma that is maladaptive, whereas relationship anarchy could be seen as a response to the trauma of society that is healthy adaptive.

Because that that pull away from connection, right? That is the I don't trust anybody. I am not responsible for anybody beyond myself. I don't have to take responsibility for how my words made you feel. That's your fault. You know, these kinds of things. And I, I get where people are coming from that. I think that's It's a narrative that has been around in non monogamy spaces for a long time.

And I think that it is harmful because it ignores that we are all internet connected. We exist in an ecology, whether you like it or not. What I say is going to have an impact on people. Not everyone's going to like it. Some people may be upset by it. I don't need to own their upset, but I can be responsive to their upset.

And I think that is one of the really important differences that in this relationship libertarianism that a lot of people have been finding solace in is because they, they're able to reduce how much stimulus, how much stuff is going on because they get to let go of responsibility for it and say, well, I don't have to interact with that.

And they make themselves into an island of relating. And then it's like, well, I'm only going to come off my island to go have sex with whoever I want. And I don't need to like. Tell people about my STI results beyond what's important, or I don't need to tell all my partners who they are and, and that kind of thing.

And I think there's a limit to how far that can function in terms of supporting us as human beings. Um, and I, I say it that way because I don't want to shame people who are doing that. I, I really understand that is something that you're doing because it works for you right now. Right. What I want to do is invite people to consider what if there is another way that could work better.

Mm hmm. And with relationship anarchy, we don't dismiss how we impact each other because the way that we are decentralizing power is through. Not allowing it to go to someone else is saying like, no, we are in this together. We rely on each other for survival. And so clearly something has happened. So clearly I need to pay attention to this.

And how can I support you? How can I show up with you or for you? And maybe right now there isn't anything, but maybe down the road there is. And so I think a really fundamental part of relationship anarchy is repair and accountability. And I can't repair and accountability is hard, especially in a society where you're not allowed to be messy.

Right. Right. Especially in a society that does not have enough resources for mental health and trauma support. Our trauma support is basically functioning in triage in modern Western culture because trauma, we are not stopping the sources of trauma. We're trying to heal trauma while still existing in traumatized ways of being.

And in relationship anarchy, we get to dismantle that we get to go, how do we create healing spaces together in relationship? Libertarianism? We're not even open to the question of doing things together. We're going, you do you, I do me, and we're going to do our own thing. And I think there's an incredible amount of privilege required for that.

And if you do not have the economic privilege, the mental health privilege, that all these other different kinds of privilege, then you're going to have a really hard time and you're going to get exhausted by it. And then it ends up being that relationship libertarianism is something for the elite. Mm hmm.

And, and in that elitism, there's a dissociation from empathy and compassion and connection and the humanness of relating.

Nicole: Yeah, which I, I was like chewing on that, like as a trauma response, right? Again, that like in our ideal world, like people would. Thrive in relationships in connection. And so for someone to have that, it's only me, it's only me, it's only me, you know, to like, to name that as like, yeah, a maladaptive sort of way of being in relationship, I think is accurate.

You know, like, I mean, it was also reminding me of like harm reduction philosophies with people who have chaotic relationships to drugs, right? Like that person is not. Choosing to harm themselves in that way, like that substance relationship is benefiting them and giving them something that they need to survive in this context.

So like having the compassion for that person that's doing that, but like, like you're saying, it's just kind of radical when you think about it, because like thinking that you exist in a silo is just like. Factually wrong, right? Like that's just like, like inherently factually wrong. Like that is not, I mean, again, we can look at the science of quantum mechanics and like, think about how all of these things, you know, like anyone who thinks they live in a silo, I'm just like, Oh God, we got to start at square one with you.

Don't we baby.

Mel: Well, and I think many people have fallen into that belief structure because we are so many generations deep into this individualistic approach to living. And yeah. And so stepping out of that requires a lot of work. And, and thankfully, you know, it is not quite the same when we step outside of Western culture.

I mean, it's, um, Dr. Kim TallBear, who talks about this idea of, you know, we, we all have to have our own thing and the, and how. Monogamy and colonialism, monogamy and capitalism were imposed as part of colonialism. And we go back into indigenous cultures, not just in North and South America, but also around the world.

And we see a lot more communitarianism. I grew up in the Middle East and you know, there's a lot of, of issues in the Middle East and gender politics stuff, but I won't go into that. But my experience growing up as a woman in the Middle East. Was that there was so much community support and I mean, community support to subvert the rules around us too, but there was a spirit of community care that does not exist in Western culture.

You know, I, there, there is a pain and suffering. Of we're just going to discard you and you are left to survive on your own that comes in Western culture. And that is not the case. I mean, I, I am the sort of person that I'm like, Oh, my friend is struggling. I have extra food. I'm going to go drop that off for them because that is community care.

And I get that value from having lived in the middle East from having a mother who was not from this Western culture who came very much from, you know, Byzantine. Uh, lands. And so I think it's really, really important for us to remember, like, we do have tools available to us. There are models of how we can do this.

I don't think we should just go straight up appropriate. I think that's not appropriate, but I think that we need to listen and learn and look at how do we then tap into that wisdom to create new paths forward? And that's what I said at the beginning. Like I'm, I'm all about creating new paradigms and make the old ones obsolete because we cannot just upend it.

I go, I've done. We need to create something new that works better. And I think that what works better is working together.

Nicole: Absolutely. And then I got to have a million different podcasts about how does that happen, right? What happens when you have the person that has so much pain that they're continuing to wreck fires in your community?

How do you hold those people in? How do you, how do you do that? formative justice work. What does that look like? Particularly in a landscape where we are so separated. So there's not so much of that desire to actually stay in community because I can just go get a new one anywhere, you know, like, yeah, it's pretty fascinating to think about like how collectively.

That will happen, but then I try to stay, you know, and maybe more of the positive Envisioning future and for me, I think like it's holding space having conversations assuming best judgment of the people that you're with rather than they're attacking you like all those sorts of pieces give me some sort of hope of How we can collectively Move towards that world within the systems that we do have that make it really hard to do that.

Mel: And I think one of the places I see people trip up when they are trying to form intentional communities certainly is they try to enforce.

a guideline and enforce a process. Like this is how we do accountability. Now you have to do this. Now you have to do that. And I'm like, you're, you're just, you're falling into that old trap of creating a power structure. And Because you want to do this immediately, because you have this sense of urgency around it, and it's much harder, but I think to take everything as individual circumstances and say, okay, what could work?

What is possible here? Are you ready to talk about this yet? If you're not, that's okay. And we're going to have to figure out how to work with that. And, and so I think what that necessitates is a level of fluidity in the way that we create communities. And we can only have fluidity in our communities if we are also simultaneously nourishing that relationship with ourselves, because if you are nourishing that relationship with yourself, you are building more self awareness to know what, where else can I go and.

you're hopefully developing that, um, somatic resilience to be able to pivot and adapt to change and circumstances altering. And you know, the more that we can collectively develop those skills, I think the better situated we are hmm. Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

Nicole: So then starting with the body, the breath, right? Like what I like to think that I mean, it's a lot of different things, right?

But like, for me, I'm continuing to spend more time thinking about what it means to come back to my body and listen to that and honor that and be there because I think that is something as someone who's in the psychology field, I love to think I love to think all the time, maybe too much, you know? So it's like all of us like coming back to that body because yeah, the second that someone gives you a point of feedback that feels constructive.

My nervous system goes, Oh my God, you're attacking me. Let me rob back at you, you know, and if I could take that moment enough to be like, okay, I'm feeling my body is becoming defensive. I'm noticing that I'm going to take a deep breath here. I'm going to tell you. That I'm feeling this come up in my body.

Maybe I need some time to go for a walk before we hit this. Maybe I need some space, right? Like that body awareness, being able to come back to that is like so crucial. Like you're saying, and that relationship to self to then be in community with others.

Mel: And we, we have to, again, we have to slow down to be able to do that.

You know, I I'm one of the many millions around the world who have long COVID right now. And the, the core part of the recovery from that is slowing down. And one of the things that I've been. Thinking about, and you know, I grew up with a mother who had chronic fatigue syndrome, so I'm no stranger to these kinds of conditions, but it really has me thinking more about tuning into my body, learning how to recognize when I need to rest when what I'm used to is doing the like, I'm going to push through and then I will magically find more stamina and what I'm actually finding is adrenaline, but I cannot do that anymore.

Yeah. Because doing that comes at a huge cost, which is not being able to do anything for several days. And as I go through this process of slowing down and creating more spaciousness in my own life, I'm going. What if this is actually what we're supposed to do? How we're actually supposed to live? What if all these different chronic fatigue conditions for all the biological components that are absolutely involved in them?

What if there is also an aspect of this where there is some evolutionary Deep wisdom in us that is saying, you need to slow the fuck down because what is happening in the world is too fast. It has the potential to transform us on a deep cultural level because so many are impacted by this and so many are having to do this right now.

And I think many people are tuning into the wider conversation of that, of like, Do we need to be running around and working our butts off in these 40 hour work weeks and working for below living wage and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, which brings us all the way back to the political aspect of anarchism.

Nicole: Yeah. Totally. Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. I have rheumatoid arthritis and it's progressive, which I think is really, it's terrifying. And I've been noticing the ways that my body is aching more and more and I'm having to pull back and it's been so hard to like listen to that. So like that process of slowing down, I want to like echo with you in the.

the pain of like wanting to push and push and push and like being like completely unable to and it's just an interesting thing I think to get comfortable with that process and it makes me think about like, you know, abusive relationships. And when we've been in, you know, like the research on nervous systems, when you've been in a heightened state of stress, stress, stress, like we, one, we don't even notice, we don't even notice.

Because we've been so normalized, right? And then when you think about the research with dogs, who were like, they'd have the um, the shock, you know, where they like, they'd try and get out of the cage, and then they'd shock them, they'd try and get out, they'd shock them, they'd try and get out, they'd shock them, and then they'd stop the shocking, but open up the door.

And the dog had learned helplessness so the dog wouldn't even leave anymore because it was so helpless from all those times. I like when we think about the political nature of all these structures going on, so many of us don't even know how hunched our shoulders are and how much we're hurting in our bodies.

So yeah, is deeper questions like I'm thinking of, um, Dr. Kong con, she talks a lot about this, like our inflammation, our chronic disease, et cetera, et cetera. You're like, how much of that is, uh, Uh, response to a system that is overworking us and going beyond what we really should be. But because of our life and everything, we've just normalized this.

I think that future revolutions we'll get to maybe see what a world looks like in a different context.

Mel: Do you know what I, I have a background as a body worker and I, I still do massage part time. And one of the things that fascinates me is how disconnected we are from our bodies. And, and I, you know, in the work that I do with people, I talk about.

You know how we dissociate and there are ways we dissociate and it's all for safety and we will dissociate from the state that our body is in when our body hurts when our body is not comfortable. And there's a thousand reasons that could be that we are, you know, have an accident or an injury, or we're not using our body in the right way.

Or we have a food sensitivity that we've tuned out from for 30 years, all these different reasons we might tune out from our body. And where do we go when we tune out from our body? Very often, we go into our head, right? We might go other places. We might go into spiritual bypassing. We might go into like huge emotional states, but most commonly.

We seem to go into our head because I can intellectualize. I can have a safe place here. I can disconnect. And also in disconnecting from our body, we can disconnect from how things are impacting us emotionally. We can disconnect from all the different states of our nervous system. And push through situations of abuse in our relationships, in our workplace, because that's the survival thing that we feel like we have to do.

And, and that feeling of learned helplessness that we get in our culture that you're describing, you know, I keep so many of us stuck in that place of, well, this is just how it is. I guess I got to accept it and just keep going. And having been in that place myself, you know, to. Have that moment of recognition of, or what if I could imagine a different life for myself?

And what if I could take a step towards that? Maybe I'm not going to get that right away because immediate gratification is not healthy, but what if I could take a step towards that? And then maybe another step and another step is something I've been tuning into recently is in that learned helplessness that many of us have, it doesn't feel safe to think about planning for the future.

You know, a lot of people I'm learning struggle to think about planning far ahead because we don't know what's going to happen. We, we don't know if we're going to be resilient for that. I don't want to make a plan and then be disappointed if it doesn't happen because we feel that we have that helplessness going on.

We can actually step out of that space of hopelessness if we start to think about planning. And I always tell people like, don't just make one plan, make five different plans. That's how you cultivate resilience for yourself and, you know, in my own life, I've, I've gone from like. Not being able to plan at all because of trauma to going, okay, what's the carrot I'm going to dangle in front of my own face is like, I'm going to follow this to keep me going.

And then, okay, what could be the plan beyond that? And again, going back to the way that we relate when we're in that. Pokemoning kid in the candy store phase. We may not be thinking far ahead. I think one of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself and ask potential partners is what do you envision in your relationship landscape five or 10 years from now?

What would you like to see or how would you like it to feel? You know, I, I feel like I'm perpetually chasing the idea of like, A community of people where we all have our own individual home, but we live on the land, you know, the, the classic utopia, the queer anarchist, Polly, uh, village, um, I so unique,

but, um, am I moving towards it? Yeah. Am I as far along towards it as I would like to be, but. I feel closer to it than I used to be. And along the way, I've learned so much more about what I would like to include in that vision and not that landscape is cultivating. Um, and so I think to have that ability to go, I'm just going to take that.

Plunge and plant seeds and not just plant one scene. When you are gardening, you don't just plant one seat. You plant many, cause not all are going to germinate and you plant them in different parts of the garden just in case, like, you know, a swarm of locusts comes along or something. So yeah, I think this is a very important part that we don't think about enough of, like, can we visualize, can we think about that long term to step out of that scarcity mentality that helped that learned helplessness.

Of, I just got to live in the moment and go, I do live in this moment and I will continue to live in future moments. So what can I grow? What can I invite in? Who can I collaborate with to create better moments for the future? Hmm.

Nicole: Absolutely. That was beautiful. It is right. Being able to see out and have a vision, stay in the present moment and appreciate where you are.

Like we were talking about earlier, but also kind of have this loose laid dream of where you want to be. Right. I think I'm always talking about what it means to follow your pleasure because it is my belief that, you know, um, It starts to hit on some of my, like, early Christianity stuff, where it was like, you can hear the spirit speaking to you when you tune in.

So it's like, damn, I hate to go down that path. But like, I do believe that, like, when you get quiet, like, there's always that rumbling. There is always that rumbling of, like, Pleasure of where is pleasure, right? And I, I can know what things don't feel good, what things feel like that shoe is too small, but like getting quiet to start thinking about like, yeah, what brings me pleasure?

Like you said, what is that dream relationship community constellation in five, 10 years. And to have that and hold that as like a light post that you're always kind of swimming closer towards enjoying that journey of that. Adventure of getting closer to that. I mean, there's so much joy there.

Mel: There is so much joy there.

And, and I, I think the joy is so important to think about. And that's where like having these kinds of conversations and painting those pictures for people who are just beginning to think about this and who were in that state of like, this feels terrifying. I don't know if this is safe or not. I don't know what to orient towards, you know, we need to think about.

Well, where are people getting to already in this? What is the possibilities that people are dreaming up and creating and actually achieving? Um, that, that I think is really important because I think there's a lot of. Experiments and explorations that achieve some things and, and fall short on others. And that's okay because we don't have to be perfect and it's a work in progress.

Um, yeah, having more conversations to create those spaces where people can explore their ideas. Is so, so important. I mean, I see that whenever I'm running non monogamy groups, whether that's workshops or courses or just my local discussion group, like the empowerment that comes from just coming together and talking about it and finding language and finding, you know, Oh, I heard somebody say something and I felt that I now feel inspired and tuning into that awareness of who else is there and that you're not alone.

You know, these are all important components of how we, the, how, of how we deconstruct those power structures and move into a completely different way of relating.

Nicole: Absolutely. And. May it be so. I hope that this podcast does that, right? When I'm talking about the way I build my garden and you're talking about the way you build your garden and that one person, you know, in the middle of that isolation in terms of ideological connection is wanting to build the garden and they hear that we're doing it and thriving in the garden.

My God, I love my garden. It is bouncing. And so like, to have spaces where we can have those conversations like that here, like, I hope that that's a part of what this podcast can do for people.

Mel: And I think one of the most beautiful things about thriving in that garden is that you can thrive in that garden even when the garden isn't all joy.

Oh yeah. You know, I, it, there are storms, there are rocky times and you know, I, I was talking with one of my friends about this the other day about this beautiful anarchy that we have grown together that. you know, it's not just us. It's, it's the extended network of people and, and that through the last few years, we've all gone through shit that wasn't just to do with the pandemic.

It was other things going on too. And that even when things dire, And hard and stormy. We had the connection for each other and, you know, to me it's it like the idea of secure attachment. I shouldn't be reserved for like dyadic partnerships. Secure attachment is experienced through community. And what I think relationship anarchy gives us is the opportunity to build networks of secure attachment.

Yeah. And. That is the joy that you have support, the resilience that you have is not just your own, but as resilience that is sourced through your relationships as well. And that even when everybody is having a rough time because the world, we can still come together and find moments of joy and laughter and, and crying and support and empathy and humanity.

Nicole: I want to hold a little bit of space to, as we come towards the end of our time, if I mean, we talked about so many different things and I feel like as a relationship anarchist, I could probably spend hours talking to you about these ideas. Cause then I'm like, well, what about a secure attachment to our earth?

Cause that doesn't feel secure right now because of the realities of what's happening like that. That attachment doesn't feel secure, you know, so I'm like, I'm

Mel: sure disorganized attachment going on there. For sure.

Nicole: I was like, I could just keep going. So I'm trying to like stop myself mostly because when I edit these back, I'm like in the middle of school years and I'm like a two hour conversation is too long.

So but I like to like hold space at the end in case maybe there was something we didn't talk about that you wanted to share with the listeners. I will ask you to plug at the end and I do have a closing question, but I like to create a little bit of space.

Mel: Mm. Okay. Hmm. I think just to expand on that idea of an anarchy, you know, in, in non monogamy people talk about Paul would kill us.

And I think that's great. And for me, I've really explored that decentering sex as the primary marker of what makes a relationship significant and going. Actually, the people who are most significant to me are often my non sexual relationships and like, they are the anchor points in my life. I think having explored non monogamy as a solo polyamorous person that has been so healthy and helpful for me.

And so that this word anarchy, like my network of relationships is founded on these platonic connections that are. Deeply loving, deeply supportive, and are not geographically centralized, right? And some of these people are people that I may not see all the time, but we are there for each other when we need it.

We are there for each other in the celebrations. We are there for each other in the tragedies. We're like our therapists help us too, but we also help each other with the therapy that needs to go into the healing work of being human.

Nicole: Oh yeah. I'm all here for the world where we could be dismantling the field of psychology to bring us back into community connection.

Yeah. Yeah. Until then we've got our systems, but yeah.

Mel: Yeah. And, and so I, I encourage people to, you know, Explore that in whatever way works for you and it is a conscious effort. It doesn't just happen by accident. It's just like with other dating relationships. You do need to put work into it, but to explore that, name it however makes sense for you and, um, see what can change.

Yeah, absolutely.

Nicole: I don't even know if I want, I'm going to keep opening up cans of worms here because like when you say that, I think I've had such pain points with people. Not that I couldn't connect with someone who's monogamous. That's not what I'm saying. They're a relationship anarchist who are monogamous.

But I found that when I am trying to build that world of decentralizing sex and then connecting with people who do practice monogamy, I end up getting put on the side, I end up being put as a back burner and it is not the same level of intentional relationship that I am trying to build. And so like I've had to be a little bit like conscious of like who I choose to invest that in, in the platonic relationships, because depending on what frame they're coming from, like I am just this like casual friend in their life.

That they're not going to show up for on those days where it's hard. So like, there is so much nuance into that of like creating that world with people who have the same values. Yeah.

Mel: Like, are you operating on the same paradigm? You know, is this reciprocal? And I, it's kind of similar to the fair weather friend phenomenon, right?

It's like, Oh, we can be friends and hang out when your partner's away or you're single, and as soon as you get a partner, you disappear. It hurts. You're getting pulled back into that paradigm of this is now my person and I have to be this two headed monster with them. And, um, my friendship with you as a threat, et cetera, et cetera.

Like I think pain points, pain points. Absolutely. And I think that, um, that's one of the, the sort of bigger challenges that we face. I joke, I tell people I'm like, what I do in my work is very selfishly motivated. And I mean, this is truthful. My selfish motivation is this, I want to have an easier time having relationships in the world.

Yeah. I want to be able to go out there and relate with people on and find that we are on the same page and share the same values. That is my selfish motivation. And the way that I do that is putting my work out there in the world so that I then connect with other people who are on the same page. Hey.

Hi. And then we can create bigger things that connect with other people who are on the same page and that, and, and I'm so glad this is starting to happen in my life. And then I encounter people who are talking about the things that I've been talking about and we've never met. And it's so. Beautiful. Yeah.

And, and then we get to explore new things together. So, you know, it is, it's not easy. It's a challenge. But I, I remind myself 10 years ago, none of this conversation was happening 10 years ago. If you went into a non monogamous space and said, no, you really should care about how you're impacting other people.

In your relationships. And these rules that you're imposing are coming from a space of fear and control. You'd have been laughed out of that room. I mean, I, I was, I, I was, I faced a lot of stigma, I think, because I, and, and pushback because I was willing to question that status quo in the non monogamy communities that I was in.

So we've come so far already. So how much further could this be in 10 years? Yeah. It's exciting.

Nicole: It is. It's tantalizing, dare I say. I'm excited. I was, as you, before you even used 10 years, I was like, check in with me in 10 years and let's see where we're at, you know, I'm excited. Uh, well, if it feels good to you, I will guide us towards our closing question.

Sounds great. Okay. So the one question I ask each guest is what is one thing that you wish other people knew was more normal anywhere?

Mel: Yeah. I wish people knew it was more normal, that it's okay to have conflict in a loving relationship and that conflict does not mean an end and that conflict can be something that brings you into deeper knowing of each other.

Nicole: Yes. Absolutely. And conflict is not abuse. Yes.

Mel: Yeah. Yeah. It is not abuse and, and we can grow and thrive through having conflict. I mean, my mom's family grew up in Greece and you know, when you hear Greek people talking in Greek, they sound like they're arguing. That's just the level of passion that they have, the intonations of the language and, and there is a ferocity.

Around that and, and I think there's something culturally ingrained through a lot of the Mediterranean and Middle East. Around when we communicate with direct and we tackle things head on and we engage in that debate because it is good for us and we learn and we, we get to deepen our relationship that way.

And I think, um, in colonial culture, we have avoided conflict because of a survival. If I'm farming on the prairies of Canada and there is a bad. Crop. I'm going to need my friend Bob's help to survive through winter. So I don't want to argue with Bob. Right. And, and that's, I think where a lot of that conflict avoidance has come out of, um, as well as just like the, the religious impositions and all of that.

But I see it particularly as someone who lives in Canada who didn't grow up here. I'm like, Whoa, this is different, but that conflict. And debate and argument doesn't have to be aggressive. I mean, it doesn't, it doesn't have to do harm that it doesn't have to be done in a way that demolishes or destroys that it is okay for us to voice difference.

It is okay for us to question each other. It is okay to hold each other to higher standards. And it is okay. To say, I don't, I don't agree with you. And we don't have to like fall apart over that we can go, okay, well, what do you, what do you want? What do you agree on? You know, that this can be an avenue for us to find collaboration, which is the foundation of consent, which is the foundation of relationship.

When we avoid conflict, we avoid facing reality. We put ourselves living in what I call the necessary fantasy of a relationship. We need a fantasy of relationship at the beginning because we don't know who the other person is. We think we know and we create a fantasy that keeps us safe enough, deals with that ambiguity until we can know.

And hopefully over time, the reality that comes in is not too different from the fantasy. But anytime we do experience a difference, we're going to experience conflict. And that's where you get into those arguments where you're like, what do you mean you like country music? I never knew that. Well, who are you?

I don't know you. Like, and it's okay that we experienced conflict and recognizing conflict as part of that process of getting to know someone deeper, getting to know more truth. And I think one of the big things in our world today that we are tackling with is that within spaces of conflict, we are digging into ideological positions that do not allow for compassion.

And I, I have strong boundaries. There are certain types of people that are not allowed in my life. And at the same time I work on cultivating compassion for why is it that they have bought into this. And if I were to encounter somebody, how do I engage with them in a way that we can experience that conflict without it being.

Without it being abusive, without it being harmful, without it damaging our ability to connect as human beings, how can we invite understanding there?

Nicole: Yeah. And as a woman, dare I mention any frustration or any emotion, it has to be through a smile and a giggle. Yeah. I know. I know. I'm working on dismantling that one myself to be able to be like, I'm pissed and I'm angry.

And I can hold that emotion and choose to not let that pour out on you in a way that is harmful, but I am pissed and I feel that, right? So, like, there's just so much nuance to all the ways, like, this whole conversation has been talking about, like, liberating ourselves from the systems that are telling us to be in this way, that telling us our worth is tied to productivity, that there is one relationship escalator.

Like, there's just so many ways that all of these things are. Central to our pleasure, our relationships and our life. I mean, it's, it's been such a juicy conversation with you to talk about all these things. And I do look forward to in 10 years where we will be in this space.

Mel: I know. It's exciting.

Nicole: Yeah. It is very exciting.

Where would you want to plug so people can connect with you and all of your work?

Mel: So if you want to find out more about my work, uh, my website is radicalrelationshipcoaching. ca. And you can also find me on Instagram and on Facebook and on threads at radical relating. I. Have a tech talk. I don't really use it all that much.

It's mostly pictures of my cat, but I'm doing better with it. Um, but you can also find me there. So at radical relating is my social media handle. And then I offer a course twice a year called the monogamy detox. It's a relationship workshop, but it's also a social change workshop that is really exploring the how we switch this paradigm around in ourselves, in our intimate relationships.

You can find more about that at monogamydetox. com.

Nicole: Great. And I'll have all that linked in the show notes. below so people can directly connect with you. Thank you. Yeah. Thank you for coming on the show. If you enjoyed today's episode, then leave us a five star review wherever you listen to your podcast and head on over to modernanarchypodcast.

com to get resources and learn more about all the things we talked about on today's episode. I want to thank you for tuning in and I will see you all next week.

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