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137. What's Your Frame For Relationship Anarchy? with Tuck Malloy

Nicole: Welcome to Modern Anarchy, the podcast featuring real conversations with conscious objectors to the status quo. I'm your host, Nicole.

On today's episode, we have tuck Malloy join us for a conversation exploring the practice of relationship anarchy. Together we talk about choosing which feedback we integrate into our narratives. How Much Discomfort is Too Much Discomfort in Nonmonogamy, and the Blank White Canvas of Relationship Anarchy.

Hello, dear listener, and welcome back to Modern Anarchy. If you are new here, welcome! You are joining an expansive group of thousands of pleasure activists around the world who are challenging the status quo, so welcome to the space. And, yeah, all of you listeners, you truly are not just listeners, right?

You are the heartbeat of this show. It's really your commitment to pleasure and the space that makes the podcast thrive. I just got the Spotify wrapped details. So I got to see that the podcast has grown at 333%, which is a magical number in and of itself. Right. Um, but yeah, I just feel so overjoyed and lucky that you dear listener are sharing this podcast with your community, having conversations about the topics we bring up in this space.

It's truly you that is making Transcribed podcast grow. So thank you for all that you've done for the space for me and for the community. And now, with today's episode, Relationship Anarchy, you know that I could spend hours talking about this topic, this is what I did my doctoral dissertation research on and submitted that draft that I'm waiting to get feedback from from my dissertation chair, but for the most part, it's done, folks, which feels really Really good.

And it is such a joy to have conversations about relationship anarchy in this space. And these days I'm less interested in writing a book for all of you, but I will promise you that each week in this podcast space, I will write a new chapter. of the large podcast book on relationship anarchy. I really love that in this space you get to hear my humanness, right?

That maybe doesn't come through in a book. You get to hear me mess up and stutter and say the wrong words and get super excited and then, uh, feel a little bit flat in other places, right? Like you get to see that humanness. So I podcast space and being able to, yeah, give you a new chapter each Wednesday of the book.

And the frame. What's your frame for a relationship? Anarchy. What a question, right? We have that classic metaphor of is the glass half empty or is the glass half full, right? And it all depends on your perspective. It's your frame. Which frame are you choosing to see the glass in? And it's something that I've thought a lot about in terms of, you know, that I've Spoken about my grounding in existential therapy, the ways that we make meaning of our experience, but I've also been learning a lot about narrative therapy, right?

The ways that we create narratives of our lives, we create stories, right? So the story I'm telling myself is that the glass is half full today and the reality is that it's always both, right? So it is about that frame of how we're seeing the experience. And part of the reason why I've been leaning more towards narrative therapy compared to existential therapy is that narrative therapy incorporates an understanding of the larger societal context and how that influences our narratives, right?

Because there's a narrative around whether that glass is half full or half empty, and it impacts our reality and how we move through the world. And one area that culture deeply influences, I mean it always, it influences everything y'all, but specifically influences sex and relationships and, and dying.

Another big one where we make these narratives of meaning making, right? About what these experiences mean, where do we go, all the fun and juicy questions. But if you want to learn more about Relationships, sexuality, and marriage. A great book that I would recommend looking into is How Love Conquered Marriage.

Fascinating read on the ways that love was not something that was a part of marriage for many years and just the various cultures that practice different sorts of relating. I remember in that book, it talked about one culture where, you know, it was a deeply communal society and people in this community chose to not have.

love as a part of their sexual dynamics because it pulled them away from the focus of the community. So that sort of relationship where love and sex are combined was not a part of their culture. People chose to focus on a deeply community based understanding rather than dyadic sexual connections. And it's just wild, right?

Because when you think about our frame of the romance myth and finding that one true love out there, it's It's, you know, almost the opposite in that way, and I think sometimes it's important to remember that our culture, our society shifts what we see as quote unquote normal and not normal, and what our quote unquote natural inclinations are in that way.

This is something that I was also talking about in the Purity Culture episode with Dr. Rachel Smith, right? Episode 134. In some cultures, showing your hair as a woman is forbidden. In some cultures, having sex before marriage is forbidden, right? And now as a society, there's been this large shift, uh, particularly within American culture, where serial monogamy is now the norm.

It used to be monogamy, one person for life, where now we do it in these serial ways where you have one person at a time. But even that was forbidden for a long time. And so we're seeing these large shifts as younger generations are coming up saying that they want non monogamous and open dynamics. And we're seeing that cultural change occurring in real time here, which is really fascinating to watch as a researcher.

There are people deep within the culture of kink and open relating where, yeah, a threesome is their normal Tuesday. It's like three, four, five, how many people normal dynamic, right? It's so important to remember that culture. There are different cultural understandings here. And if you're coming from a different culture, there's a lot to unpack depending on where you land on that spectrum.

If you grew up with parents that are swingers, I've talked to some guests on here who had parents who were swingers, right? That creates a different cultural context than growing up like Dr. Rachel Smith, right? With a pastor for a father. These are different cultural connotations. And in some cultures, having a hug is forbidden with the opposite gender, right?

And some people may find that odd, right? But that is a cultural practice, and the same can be applied from, you know, the kinkster and non monogamous person who looks at the monogamous folks who only have sex with one person. That's a cultural practice, right? Like, with different implications and narratives around what it means to To do that.

And so I think it's important to remember that wherever you're at on the spectrum, we're all creating narratives and frameworks around what these choices mean for our lives and for our story. And in that, these gut reactions that we have of being against something or for something, we have to remember that that is so deeply connected to the cultures that we grow up in, right?

A hug, forbidden in some, normal in others, right? That gut reaction of how you feel towards it, we have to take that deeper look at how is the culture influencing my own somatic and visceral reactions to these things. Of course, relationship anarchy is not about non monogamy. It's about the freedom to have relationships that are descriptive rather than prescriptive, and coming together through community connection to change the world through mutual aid and self governance.

I mean, it is so much deeper than non monogamy. However, a large majority of people who practice relationship anarchy also practice non monogamy. And so today's conversation goes in and out between those two topics of conversation. And, you know, it's important to remember that you are unpacking a culture.

You are unpacking a whole world of narratives. Of frameworks of how to understand your existence in terms of sex and relationships. And that is radically uncomfortable. I know I've talked about that again and again on the podcast, but I think it's important to remember that we practice relationship anarchy.

There is no end to understanding the ways that oppression and systems and culture have impacted our ability to freely choose certain types of relationships. And so there is no end. to that. It is a practice, one in which we get better at, right? In yoga, they would say, practice and all is coming. I remember when I couldn't touch my toes, right?

And the things that I can do now, having practiced yoga for years, compared to the things that I could do then are radical, right? And non monogamy, relationship anarchy, open relating, is the same. There are things that at the very beginning seems so impossible that years later, as you've been practicing again, like yoga or other hobbies, like rock climbing, right?

These are things that you get better at with skill and learn to climb with so much more strength as you keep going. And of course, this is all super difficult to do, though, when there is no frame or narrative to look up to in our common culture. I can't just go on to Netflix and watch a film on relationship anarchy, and particularly, I can't see women.

Doing this, right? It's been really interesting. I've been reading the book, uh, this is the first book on relationship anarchy. It's called Relationship Anarchy Occupy Intimacy. I'm two chapters in and I'm loving it. It is a deep dive into all things theory and highly recommend it if you want to spend some time getting into the ideological underpinnings of the philosophy.

But it was really fascinating to read about some of the early anarchists who, some of them were completely against women's liberation and women's ability to be anything other than a wife and a baby maker, right? Like, there is a long history here too of women's oppression. And so, God, when I think about the world where, yeah, women 1970s, man, that hasn't even been 50 years that women have had the ability to have credit.

And when I think about people like Margaret Sanger in the 1930s being imprisoned for talking about contraception, I mean, God, like I have so much. Respect and honor that I have to hold for all of the women who died for me to be able to be in this spot with you, dear listener, where I can go and get my doctorate, where I can have a damn credit card, where I can live on my own and create my whole world of my choosing.

There are women who died for me to have that freedom to speak my mind to you in this space. And so when I'm thinking about relationship anarchy, it is deeply connected to my feminism. It is deeply connected to my fight for women's liberation, and it is deeply connected to all of our liberation to live the life of authenticity that makes sense to each one of us.

Each week that I do this podcast, I try to hold that light of all of truly the women who have died and gone before me that did not have the power and the autonomy that I have in this moment, and that truly, you know, I talk a lot about gratitude practices, I think that's a beautiful one to have, to know that I mean, still women around the world, you know, can't go to get education, can't have the freedoms that I have as an American white woman in this country.

And so I hold that and hopefully I do all of those women honor by holding this space with you, dear listener, each week. So thank you for joining me in this space and for joining that fight. And I am so excited to be recording with Jessica Fern next week, the author of Polysecure, and to talk all things attachment and relationship anarchy.

I have been simmering in the need for psychology to develop more theories of how to support non monogamous relationship anarchists, and just the need for a deeper conversation around attachment. I think that the biggest thing that I've seen in my work with folks who are non monogamous is that it gets Better when you have more resources of love, right if we think about love as a resource, right?

We all need water to survive and love is something that we all need Now if we go back to last week's episode 136 right the chronically under touched person thinking about that person as someone who's starved for for that water, right? And how Aaron had talked about when you're starved for that water, you grab out and cling on to the first water that you can see desperately, right?

And we also see that in family dynamics, right? If you grow up in a space where love was not provided for you, where that water was not resourced, then that first romantic partner that you meet who gives that to you, you cling on so hard. That person becomes your whole reality, right? And your whole purpose, because that is the only space that you get love.

Or maybe you do the opposite, right? More avoidant attachment where you say, you know, I don't need love. I don't, I don't need that stuff. You know, that's the other end, but. When we think about, you know, people who practice monogamy and then only get that sort of love from one person, that intimacy and connection and sexual satisfaction from one person, it is impossible to imagine.

Sharing that love with other people. Are you kidding me? You're going to give my one source of love and river to somebody else? In what world, right? Like, in what world would that happen? But it's interesting, as you start to have multiple sources of water, multiple rivers flowing into you, how much easier it feels to share that.

And of course, you know, time and energy are limited resources. Love is abundant, but time and energy are limited resources. If you dam up that water and you spread it out to ten, five different people, that water will run dry. So it is something that we have to be conscious of, of how we're diverting that water, where we're sending it to.

But when you are well hydrated, When you have a multiple sources of water coming in. It is much easier to understand your partner's connection with others, and at that point then we can see, you know, our partners as these rivers that we come to, not rivers that we own, right? It's interesting how this capitalistic framework of ownership and property and consumerism comes into a space of needing to own the resources of our partners and their love.

Ugh. That book on relationship anarchy is really getting to me, y'all. You should definitely check that out. But once you start to see it in that paradigm, I think it's much easier to understand the ways that if you only have one river and you're thirsty, it is going to be impossible to imagine sharing that with other people.

And so, One of the biggest things, again, I see in my work with clients is just how much easier it is once they start having one, two, three partners in the game, right? And again, all of this is about that frame. How are you looking at it? Right? I think one of the biggest frames that was a switch for me with relationship anarchy was even just that word single, right?

Like when I wasn't in a romantic relationship, I would say, Oh, I'm single. And like, let's just. Just take a moment to explore the narrative of that word. Single. You are alone. You are solo. As if. You have no other meaningful relationships in your life that could constitute you being in a relationship .Nope.

You're single. You have no idea. Oh, it like breaks my heart. I feel like that was the first step of relationship anarchy for me was being, okay, I'm not single. I am in relationship. I'm in many relationships, in fact, and these are all Meaningful. There is so much joy in realizing that these other relationships in your life, whether they're sexual, platonic, romantic, wherever you draw those lines, if they exist, to see the beauty of those relationships for the relationship that it is.

You start to see the world in a much deeper, more fulfilled, and embodied context than looking for that one person to solve what, you know, as Esther Perel has been talking about, the ways that like, We've lived in community all of our lives until these very nuclear families, and now with the drop of religion falling off, people are looking to this one partner as their source of God and love and meaning and all of that.

Something that was once fulfilled by a whole community. So I'm just curious, you know, about the frames, about the ways that we look at our relationships. Are they half full? Am I deep in relationships? Or is it half empty? And I'm single because I don't have a love, romance, sexual dynamic. And how much does that frame shift your concept of reality?

How much does property Capitalism and possession shift our concepts of love and relating. A lot. A lot. It's, it's deep. Oh, dear listener, I am so committed to you and our relationship. I promise to be here each week, yeah, writing you a new chapter of what it means to explore relationship anarchy, to explore pleasure.

And I am just so joyful to be a thought leader in this space with you and for all of the ways that you are supporting this podcast by sharing it with your community. I am sending you so much love. And with that, let's tune into today's episode.

So then the first question I like to ask each guest is, how would you introduce yourself to the listeners?

Tuck: Yeah, so, um, my name is Tuck Malloy, I use they, them pronouns, and I am a relationship coach and a sex educator, so I work a lot with individuals and couples on queerness, sexuality, life transitions, relationships, Relationship anarchy, non monogamy, kink, pretty much anything that comes up for people in that realm, which is just like kind of endless.

And I also teach a lot of classes, so I teach classes on all of those topics as well. And I'm actually starting grad school in like two weeks, so congrats! Thanks. Yeah, I'm going to grad school to get a master's in somatic psychology. And I'm really excited about that because it feels super related to all of the work that I've already been doing.

And so I'm excited to merge all of these things together.

Nicole: Oh yeah. Very, very exciting.

Tuck: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That's kind of my work life. Otherwise, you know, I'm a white queer, non binary Polyamorous. Trans. Human. I have a dog. Aww.

Nicole: Notorious.

And this is my cat saying hello, trying to find her comfortable space for the recording.

Tuck: Aww, buddy, what's her name?

Nicole: Fat cat.

Tuck: That's amazing.

Nicole: Yeah, so she's got cozy. But yeah, thank you for sharing all of that and good luck with your program. That's really exciting. I'm glad that you're getting some somatic based training in my school. It doesn't have any of that. I've lucky. I've been lucky to get some of it in my clinical training hours and my internship.

But I, yeah, nothing in school. So it's really cool to hear that you're going to a program that's so specifically dedicated to that.

Yeah, that is definitely what I've heard from other folks is that it's not something that is available. So it does feel really exciting. And I actually had a therapist who went to this school and did the same program.

So that feels really fun too, to kind of complete that circle and be like, wow, like going from client to therapist. Yes.

Nice. I feel that, uh, cause my therapist also went to the same school that I went to. So it is still my therapist. So now I'm like going through the same journey and processing with her like, this is hell.

What the hell? What did I sign up for?

Tuck: Oh my gosh. Yeah. That's awesome to have somebody to hold you through that who really gets it.

Nicole: Who knows the same professors, and I can be like, oh, this professor. And she's like, yeah. And I'm like, I know .

Tuck: Oh my gosh. That's so cool. Yeah. I love that. Yeah. Mm-Hmm.

Nicole: Mm-Hmm,

Well, so maybe we could start with how do you define relationship anarchy for yourself?

Tuck: Yeah, I like that you asked for myself because it is such a person to person thing and I've been, while I've been working on this book on relationship anarchy, I've been interviewing a lot of folks about their definitions, and it's been really cool to see all of these different perspectives and has really informed.

My definition for myself, my definition has become even more blurry and messy and nuance, which I love. So, I would say my definition of relationship anarchy is really simply put, an approach to relationships that Does not subscribe to a hierarchy in which romantic relationships are the most important relationships in one's life.

And all others are at different levels of less important. So, I feel like that's kind of the most simple way to put it. Maybe to put it in a more, more, in more affirmative terms would be that, My relationships. Develop importance and meaning and intimacy based on the connections and the needs and the wants that I have with those other people.

And so we co create these relationships together with intention. And that means that we get to build whatever feels good to both of us or all of us. And the door is open to whatever parameters we want it to be.

Nicole: Yeah, beautiful. The expansion, the possibilities there are really endless.

Tuck: They really are.

Yeah. What's your definition of relationship anarchy?

Nicole: Oh, dear God. Yeah, what a question. Um, Hmm. Yeah, because like you, I've been doing my, I've done my dissertation research on relationship anarchy. So I interviewed a handful of folks and got like a smattering of definitions that certainly inform how I look at it.

These days, I guess I would define it as, uh, relating in a way that takes off the prescriptive labels of meaning making to descriptive to be able to write it out for myself, which includes like, yeah, the hierarchy change right in a society where it's so like, the most meaningful relationship you could have is romantic and sexual because those are supposed to be paired together.

Of course, um, to a different frame of creating meeting. I'm kind of like you said on each individual container, um, each individual relationship and meaning making from there. So taking off these prescriptive ways, including things like the relationship escalator, you know, like these expectations of meaning making to write my own.

Yeah. So that's kind of how I look at it.

Tuck: Yes. That's beautiful. I love the idea of using the word descriptive. I find that to be so fun because. It reminds me of doing an activity like, like painting or, or writing a poem where you're looking at something or you're thinking about something and then you're doing that creative process of being like, okay, how am I going to, how am I going to articulate this thing?

And I, I particularly, I love poetry. And one thing I love about poetry is that it's so often is a practice of trying to explain a concept that's very abstract or nuanced. And so using words and combinations of words and sentences to build something that sort of hasn't been described before. So that's what relationship anarchy feels like to me of like sitting with another person and feeling.

What it's like between us and then trying to articulate, describe what is this feeling that we're having? What is the connection that we have? What is the desire that's coming up in our body? So creative.

Nicole: Yeah. Or like, what narrative do I want to make with you? Uh, that's something I say to some of my partners.

I'm like, what narrative do we want to write? Like, what are we writing together? And it's changing every day, you know, informed by the, the pages of yesterday. And we keep going deeper into that exploration together in terms of for me and my journey. And I'd be curious if this resonates with you, but like stepping into relationship anarchy was like quite the journey.

Yeah. Of deconstructing the realities of prescriptive. Yeah. Like the relationship escalator, all of these ways of being and to step off, you know, into the space of like, yeah, painting a canvas with your people. Like it is not a, uh, it's not a drop paint by numbers anymore. You know what I mean? Like we have a blank white canvas.

Like what do we do with that? Right. And like the amount of potential anxiety that can come up with that level of freedom to create.

Tuck: Yeah, that's so true. I, When you said the blank white canvas, I was thinking about how that is such a terrifying vision to so many artists and creators. Like the blank white page being like, what do I even put here?

And I, a lot of the time, I think what people say in response To that, when it's an artistic struggle is just, just put anything down, right? Like to just start with something. And I definitely feel like that has been my approach and my journey in relationship anarchy and in relationships of all kinds.

It's just being like, let me just, let me just try something. And the cool thing about that is that. That's immediately you're getting more information, like you're immediately disrupting that blank page and just starting to do something. The hard thing about it is that it's so vulnerable to be messy like that.

And sometimes the first thought that you have or the first thing that you try. Ends up being something that you look back on and you're like, wow, I would never do that ever again. Yes. Yeah, so it's hard because I think in our society there's a lot of pressure on us to be perfect and to do things. There is a lot of pressure to do things in a certain way.

And that perfectionism is rooted in so many systems of oppression and white supremacy and all of these different social expectations. And so it's very, very uncomfortable to step out of that. And I feel that. All the time. But I think, I'm curious to hear your thought on this, but I actually feel like my main root takeaway of all relationship stuff is just that it's helpful to practice being uncomfortable.

Nicole: Totally. I would say that growth is always uncomfortable. Yeah, I guess maybe there are some non uncomfortable ways, but like, literally to grow requires a process of change, which I would say is frequently uncomfortable. So I would say it's almost inevitable. Right? So, yeah, in many ways, I mean, I've definitely talked about on the podcast, how, like, even, you know.

Relationship anarchy doesn't have to necessarily be non monogamous. I think that was an interesting thing in the data, like to, to hold space for the nuance of it existing within either a monogamous or a non monogamous frame. And, um, but for me, like even the ideas of non monogamy, when I first heard them, I was just like, well, if you loved me enough, then you would be monogamous with me.

And, you know, you look back on that, you're like, okay, you were learning, you were deconstructing, there was a lot going on there. And so I, I am only excited to see. What I'm saying right now that in two years time, I'll be like, Nicole, you were just learning and you didn't know.

Tuck: Oh, my gosh. Yeah, absolutely.

Well, that's been I'm so curious to hear about this for you too. And like writing a dissertation, like writing a book has been. Such a practice in that, because writing all of these things, I'm like, you know, I'm bringing onto the page what I know right now, and what other people know right now, and I've really had to do some internal work around sitting with and acknowledging that, yeah, what I write will be outdated, and will be unhelpful at some point.

Okay. Bye. And that that's okay to be producing something that is imperfect and, and that hopefully other people can read and reflect on and that is how that change will happen. Mm hmm. But it can feel like a lot of responsibility or just pressure. You're like, oh, I don't. I don't want to say the wrong thing.

I don't want to do the wrong thing. I don't want to hurt anybody. And that's exactly how I feel in my relationships too. Totally.

Nicole: Totally. So then it's like hopping into the water of like, I'm going to mess up and I'm going to hurt someone and I've already have and I just don't even know it yet. Right?

Like, that's the, the scarier reality. I try to sit in sometimes because yeah, the dissertation. You know, I can look at that as more like a, almost like a, a disconnected way of looking at relationship anarchy because that's the whole point, right? Like, I'm supposed to do research that like, uh, takes away my lens, my bias, obviously, to a degree that's impossible within like, The existential realities of where we sit.

So like I tried to name that to the best of my ability, but there's so much space intentionally created between me and the data compared to something like the podcast. My God, like I've gone back to listen to episodes. Yeah, like two and a half years ago. And I'm like, Ooh, you were a little spicy there.

You were a little jumpy, you know? And I'm like, so I don't really go back and listen to them anymore these days just because it's so hard. Cause then I'm like, damn, that's not how I responded. Like, even when I edit. Yeah. Episodes from like two months ago. I'm like, that is not how I would have responded.

Like, you know what I mean?

Tuck: Oh interesting Yeah, yeah, and yet like hearing that I was thinking while you were saying that I was like, well, I wonder I would be interested What would happen if I went and listened to those podcast episodes and I probably would be like I'd probably relate to you, you know, i'd probably be like, oh my gosh.

Yeah, like look at you being so raw and Authentic or messy. Like, it would probably be a human moment for me to be like, wow, look at this person being so real. sharing it and now I feel like I can be a little bit more accepting of my spicy parts of my parts who are a little maybe grumpy about having to share or a little reactive or triggered, you know, which is great.

Nicole: And that's like, I hope that's how people look at it. Right. That's so beautiful. That's the positive frame compared to the frame of like, Oh shit, someone's going to hate what I said, and then I'm going to be canceled. Right. And it's interesting how like Especially in a podcast space where, like, I get feedback from people through comments and DMs and stuff like that, it's, it's interesting how it's like a relationship, right?

If we're talking about relationship anarchy, whatever, like, it's a relationship that I've internalized as this, like, black box of who my listeners are and how they're receiving me and like, Depending on how anxious I am about myself and my work, then like I can project out that like, yeah, I had that episode and everyone probably thinks that that sucks and blah, blah, blah, you know, versus the other side of like what you literally just said of like, you know, someone sees the humanness and connects to that.

So it's so, so our brains are so powerful for creating the frames of how we expect that other people are going to receive us and then how we feel about ourselves. So that stuff is wild to me. Yeah.

Tuck: That is so true. And I think about that all the time, the relationship aspect with my relationship on Instagram and my business and specifically around the fear of being canceled.

I have thought about that a lot as comparable to the fear of being abandoned in a relationship or the fear of being broken up with, or the fear of somebody just. You know, starting to treat us in some way that we don't want and it's been really helpful for me to reframe something like being canceled or maybe another way to describe it would be like people deciding that my presence on the Internet or taking up space.

in a podcast or a business is no longer helpful to them, like if many people decide to end that relationship with me, that like, what if I experienced that or thought of that more as the process of going through a breakup where it's like, okay, like, yeah, you get to decide that you get to decide that.

This no longer is working for you. And, and I can honor that and celebrate that and be like,

yeah, like I'm really not what you guys need right now to the community. So painful. And like that, I think that pain and hurt of receiving that feedback is really, really hard, but it's something that I've just thought about a lot of being like, okay, like the idea of we can't say yes, unless we can say no, and.

Holding myself in a space where I, like, I want people to feel like they can say no to me. Yeah. Relationally, business wise, creatively, all of these different things, so. Yeah, what do you think about that?

Nicole: Yeah, create the space for them to, to leave is, is beautiful and that's great. Like, everyone should have the autonomy to leave and make their choices and find the people, like you said, the relationships that feel good to them.

Um, yeah, I think what's it's hard when, like, you get attacked for it. Like, I don't know. Like, I've been called a murderer for having my abortion and talking about that publicly. Right? Like, how do you sit with that? Where it's like, sure, I'm being canceled. And then you kind of have to like, sit within the framework of their lens of existence and then try to like, separate that out from like, okay, that's from their world.

That's who I am. And that's okay. Again, like a breakup. Yeah. I love you. Part your ways. That's okay. You know what I mean? But it's, it's just, yeah, it's, it's a weird game, I will say. Like, trying to be very public in this way about my life is a weird game.

Tuck: It really is. And that's a great example of, you know, just trying to figure out, like, whose opinion matters and who's.

Perspective we care about and that's the thing that I think comes up in relationship anarchy a lot because yeah, you have this blank slate and Then you know, I've had experiences where I've had people in my life who wanted something from me that I didn't feel like I wanted from them or didn't know how to give them and it's so much harder to have the conversation of like, I can't, I could do this with you, but I don't want to, I don't want to have that relationship with you.

And I feel like the same thing comes up in these creative spaces where it's like, yeah, like you could take the time to do, to, Work with that person on talking about like their perspective and hearing from them and putting in all that labor and like Meeting them and whatever but like do you want to know?

Who knows if they want to either, you know

Nicole: Totally, which is great because then it's like we protect ourselves. I think one of the biggest things that, like you said, I've learned just in relationships across the board is, yeah, taking that critical perspective of whose opinion do I listen to, because there are some mattering opinions up.

There and so trying to take some level of like hearing their critique, but also localizing their position and taking that next step of whether I want to internalize their perspective or not, because, yeah, in our world, there's so many different people that are going to have different thoughts that some are directly harmful.

And yeah, I don't. We don't have to do that labor. I think for me personally, that energy is better spent in other spaces. I'm trying to move with love and compassion rather than like sitting to try and change that one mind. But yeah, I think that's across the board when we're creating relationships. I like to talk about like our relationship gardens, right?

Like what are we planting and tending to and using our energy to create like. You have to be critical about, yeah, like what sort of feedback do you want to internalize? And I think the reality too, is that like, it's hard to not internalize all of it. Like as human beings, we want to be loved. We want to be safe.

And so to even hear that that one person, you can have like hundreds of good reviews. And then that one person, you know, gives you that critical feedback and you're like, you know, so it's hard. Like, even though I know internally not to internalize that. It's hard to not.

Tuck: It's so hard, especially when you're somebody who really doesn't want to hurt other people.

And so, it's like, even if Everyone, like if nine out of 10 people are cool and you hurt one person, like I still care about that. Like, you know, like if I really fucked up for one person, that does matter to me. And so it can be very hard in our systems. I think in my attachment system, it's a very hard for me to assess and determine is this a situation where I need to attune to this person and respond to them and be here with them?

Or is this a situation where I need to disengage and like, it's okay that that person is hurting. It's okay that they're upset. There's nothing that I can do. Or should do to solve that. That's such a hard. Oh my gosh, like it's such a hard question. I don't think that there is Often a clear answer to that question.

Nicole: Yeah, so hard so many different Variables that you're playing with right? I think that was one thing stepping into more like open relating and relationship anarchy where Because I was no longer in a path of choosing one primary person to get all of my means of intimacy and meaning making and love, it meant that I had space to have multiple relationships, right?

So, instead of saying like hard boundaries, like that's not good, this person doesn't connect with me in this way, I had more space to have like a larger garden, right? And so then like making those decisions of like, do I cut this person off? Because there are these ways with maybe they're showing up that I don't vibe with or because of the spaciousness of my connection Can I allow them to orbit and have a relationship with me that feels?

Like it's at a healthy boundary for where i'm at and where they're at And like the nuance of all of that has been really interesting for me because there are, I don't know how to say that, like, if I was in one relationship and only one, I would not connect with these people in the ways that because of relationship anarchy, allowing me space to choose how close they orbit and we see one another.

I have more space for different capacities of types of relationships, if that makes sense.

Tuck: It does make sense. Yeah, it makes so much sense to me. It's like the difference between being like, Oh, I'm not vibing with that person. So I'm just going to ghost them, not talk to them versus being like, Hey, I'm realizing I only have capacity to hang out with you like once a year.

Is that something that you're interested in? Like, do you want to do that? It's so much more nuanced and complicated and it is hard to receive and to give that kind of direct. Clear feedback about what you're, what you're looking for.

Nicole: And at least for me, like, I haven't known. Like, sometimes I don't know at what frequency I want to be with this person.

You know what I mean? Again, in my monogamous framework, it's like, every day we're gonna live together. We're gonna do this whole thing together. Versus like, cool, I get to create all of this. So, like, Does twice a week feel good? Does once every two weeks feel good? Trying to figure that out and find that rhythm is a process.

Tuck: I know it's so hard. It's, it's so nice for so many of us to have somebody else. AKA the relationship escalator or society or our parents just tell us what we're supposed to be doing. I think so many of us want that and I feel that way all the time. You know, that's part of the reason why I think kink is fun because I simultaneously want to tell other people what to do.

And I also want to be told what to do. Sure. And it's nice to have just those frameworks where you're like, Oh yeah, monogamy, like we can just, we'll see each other every day. We'll move in, like, I don't have to worry about it. And then suddenly when you have to worry about it, it is kind of another mental load to add on.

So I feel a lot of. Awareness of the ways that relationship anarchy can be inaccessible to some of us that right like some of us just because of the capacity we have in our life or the other things that we're navigating or like the multiple oppression marginalization spaces that we're inhabiting.

It's like, that's just too much. It's too much to add. That makes me sad on the one hand, because I feel like there are probably people who would be really excited about it and don't have the opportunity. Absolutely. Yeah.

Nicole: And yeah, I appreciate what you said about the different, like, identities and living under systems of oppression and how that impacts different access to have this space, the time, right?

The privilege to think about creating these worlds and creating new things. I think for me, like, I try to. see it in a frame of like play and expansiveness as much as possible rather than like the difficulty of it. I try to think about it because I think frames are so important. So I try to think about it as like, wow, like, and again, the canvas, right?

Like, look at this white canvas and yeah, it's going to take time to figure out how I want to draw it, but like, wow, like look at all the possibilities and like with that comes, yeah, a lot of work to decide, but like, wow, rather than this, like, oh, it's So I have to do all of this. Um, so that's been like a helpful frame to me to think about it in terms of like play, like, how do I want to play in these ways?

And then that way there's not this like right or wrong way to do relationships. Right. I'm, I'm feeling into it every day. Like maybe, maybe for this. period in my time when I'm in grad school, right? Like seeing this person once a week feels right, and maybe it will change, and the ways we play will be different once I get out, right?

And like, allowing space for the, the unfolding of that over time has been really powerful.

Tuck: Yeah, that makes so much sense to me. I love it when things can be playful and pleasurable. I had a teacher, mentor, when I was in sex educator training school, ask us, If there was something that you could do to make one of the mundane rituals in your life, like driving to work or making coffee or whatever, more pleasurable, what would that look like?

And I just loved that question so much. It was so Easy to kind of pinpoint something. I immediately was able to be like, Oh my gosh, I hate sitting in traffic. And then being like, Oh, I guess I could even just take a deep breath and being like, all right, I'm in traffic. I'm accepting it. Maybe I'll put on some music that I like to listen to or a lot of what I was coming up was coming up for me was just the idea of slowing down a little bit.

Yeah. Like, instead of really being, um, married to not having a good time and hating being in the traffic, which is so valid, right? Like, and, and sometimes that's just where I am. Like, sometimes there's nothing you can do about that, but. Yeah. Just receiving that invitation to be like, well, what if there was something that could make it a little nicer?

And that's what I here in what you're describing with thinking about it as play is being like, yeah, like scheduling can be really exhausting and conversations about relationships can be hard and it can be hard to share all these things, but are there frames or structures or supports that we can add in to make that experience just a little lighter, just slightly, what could be like 1 percent more pleasurable sharing 5 percent and

Nicole: I love that Yeah, absolutely.

It's all about the frame right to the art piece. It's the frame to that canvas. I've joked before about on the podcast living in Chicago, the amount of like street tickets I get all the time because that's what happens living in the city. And I always try to reframe that one of like, Oh, I love donating to the city of Chicago.

Like, wow.

Tuck: That's so funny. Yeah, I was just talking to somebody earlier today about how like whenever my, my dog like throws up on the carpet, I'm always like, I really needed to clean this carpet. Yeah. Yeah. How do you, how do you balance that with not Leaning too much into a toxic positivity or just, you know, suppressing outrage or upset or anger.

Nicole: That's a good question. I think I, I, I do my best to hold both. Like, when I am in the therapy room and I am hearing about horrific traumas that occur of the world, like, I don't th I don't try, I mean, I try to, I do try to come back, I guess, to the understanding that hurt humans hurt humans. I believe that humans are inherently good, and in a world where resources weren't restricted in our current system, we would be much more loving and kind, so I guess I do come back to some positive at the end of the day.

Ethical grounding or beliefs, um, about humanity in the world, but like there is no amount of just like happy reframing of like the amount of atrocities that I hear in the room. So like this last year of doing therapy, it was really hard to like hold that because The reality is of, like, doing that work, like, those stories and those things exist in my head, so I see the world in a different way than I did before, and so, like, there is no amount of just, uh, yeah, pretty, like, look at the world, like, it, it, it was such a, like, a falling onto the face of, like, pain, um, but also holding that with the, like, same nuance of, like, yes and, light, dark, like, the world is, is vicious and, and things happen and pain, but also we have things, like, Puppies and clouds and all of these things.

So I guess I try like to do my best. I try to like Allow myself when pain points happen as of like literally yesterday in therapy just to like cry and be sad and be angry and scream and Fight and do stuff and also frame it in the best way possible that allows me To have the most positive narrative moving forward, I guess So I cry and then I try and come back to the positive frame that allows me to move forward to the best of my abilities.

Tuck: Yeah, that makes so much sense. It's just, it is just such a messy creative process internally. And I definitely agree that there is something super valuable about returning to these. Positive, pleasurable, joyful things like those things do matter and maybe part of the toxic positivity aspect is really like it's just negating like it's just trying to move past the hard aspects and I what I hear you saying is no like let's be with these hard things, but Like, as we're with them, and as we're through them, and when they're starting to kind of move through us, let's not forget about the other stuff that exists as well.

And that does seem to me like a very helpful framework for relationship anarchy, and relationships in general, because so often, They can be challenging. Relationships are challenging and painful. They're triggering, like, our attachment systems are so sensitive, and we want love, and we want attunement, and when we don't get those things, it's really, really, really hard, and then also sometimes we do get those things, and sometimes not getting them is a pathway pathway.

To getting them in a different way, right? Like, there are these weird ways that the universe comes into our life, and it's all very mysterious.

Nicole: Absolutely. Yeah. When you were talking, I was thinking about like relationship anarchy. One of the frames being my relationship to myself, right? Like what's the relationship to myself here?

And I think like in my clinical work, if I've seen anything at all, it is that like we, we cannot, should not ideally suppress our emotions, right? When we. Have that huge pain point or that fear like to try and shut that down for stuff when we choose like one emotion to suppress it suppresses all of them right when you're trying to not feel not feel disconnect.

And then it also doesn't allow that energy in the body right to move through us and these emotions that we have are embodied experience which create energy in the body which we can approach with curiosity without judgment and meaning making right like. I feel it in my body. I don't need to connect to it, but I feel it in my body, and I don't need to shut it down.

I need to move through it, which maybe means like dancing. Maybe it means co regulating in a conversation with a friend or a therapist, right? Like moving through it and then kind of like we were saying, yeah, coming back to the frame that it's Is going to allow me to keep moving forward with the best and highest self that I want to show up in, which is not staying in the dark cloud space frame.

It is trying to stay in the positive frame, but in one that yeah, allows us to like move through those emotions and like shake quite literally like shake them off from the body.

Tuck: Yeah. Yeah. Or even I feel like sometimes for me, what has been really helpful is just surrendering, right? Like being like, I'm not even going to try to make you go away.

Yeah. But I'm going to continue to do things that bring me joy while I Feel like shit, you know, I'm feeling this grief. I'm feeling this heartache and can I take a moment to notice how blue the sky is or feel Excited that my dog is alive, you know Trying to couple those Experiences together has been really helpful for me because especially in RA and non monogamy.

There's I notice that there's often a lot of conflicting emotions that will come up in my body.

Yes. You know, like, being like, oh, I'm having this amazing alone time and I feel so rejuvenated and I feel like I'm on a date with myself. Yeah. But I'm also panicking because I have a partner who's meeting this new sexy person that they're so excited about. Sure. And what is that going to become? But I'm also feeling excited for them.

But I'm also feeling sad and tired because I want to see them. But I'm also, you know, it's just like, but also, but also, but also. And learning how to hold all of that, which is not something that I practiced growing up, has been Journey

Nicole: totally, totally to hold that. Like, there's different parts of ourselves that are activated and wanting things.

And often they can be in direct conflict with 1 another and getting them to chat and see what they're trying to say to 1 another is helpful. Because I think from this, like, frame of growing up. Specifically around relationships and romance, I feel like I was taught that, like, my embodied feeling is the way to go, right?

Like, if I am longing to send that text to the ex, that is because it's real love and that I should chase it. and follow that, right? Like compared to kind of sitting where we're at now where it's like, yeah, I have that reaction in my body of fear about my partner connecting with someone. And also I want them to connect with this person and I want the freedom to connect with this person.

So like, I don't listen to that. I mean, I listened to it and honor it, but I don't follow and feel subject to the emotional experience itself. Right? Like there's a way of honoring that, like, right. I'm afraid and excited at the same time, and I don't have to listen to either one too directly. Right. You know what I mean?

Tuck: Yeah, absolutely. Sort of like the listening versus not immediately acting on it. Um, yeah, which really feels like, yeah, you mentioned like parts and doing work in internal family systems and parts theory, which it has been. So helpful for me personally, because, oh my God, my parts have so many voices.

There's so many parts of me that have so many voices and so many opinions. And it was helpful to identify for me that I have parts that want to be monogamous, you know, or parts that want to never talk to anyone ever again. And to really, yeah, really hear their experiences, really honor. Yeah, that makes so much sense to me that you want to be monogamous, like, you know, you just want their full attention and you never want to have to compromise, that makes so much sense.

And then to kind of take on the role of the parent of all of these different parts and to, to hear them, to be with them, to listen, and then ultimately be like, And I'm going to make the decision at the end of the day. You can feel however you want about it. I'm gonna be here for you through all of these different things.

But I'm going to decide what we do. Such a oh my gosh, such a reframe for me. As a person, totally.

Nicole: Yeah. Like, what are my values? How do I want to move through the world? Like, what are the value system I have? I have all these conflicting parts and then I have all these somatic responses that I'm processing, holding, allowing, moving all of that.

And like, what are my value systems and how do I want to move? Like you said, the parent, right, or the values, like, what do we want to use to direct that next step forward and yeah, I'd be curious to learn more about like, yeah, the feelings towards monogamy and craving that and like, how you process that with your relationship.

Anarchy cravings.

Tuck: Yeah, totally. I mean, I think. Something that has helped me understand some of those desires is that I am also very introverted and I tend to have a a specific capacity for really deep, intimate relationships that it sort of lands at like two to three people. My whole life, that's been true.

I've always been somebody who had like a best friend, you know, where it's like, that's my best friend. As an adult, I think that that energy transitioned really naturally into being like, that's my partner. Except that I also was like, but where's my best friend? Because I need those things. So it's been helpful for me to, one, just give myself permission to be like, I can be a relationship anarchist and I don't have to be an extrovert.

I don't have to be dating a ton of people. I don't have to be wanting to go out with a ton of people. I can prefer one on one interactions with a small group of people. That's been important because my experience was being like, oh, all of these. Relationship anarchists or polyamorous or non monogamous people are like have so much capacity and I don't have that.

Sure. Yeah, but it's also been really natural and easy for me to transition. These, the close relationships that I do have into thinking about them as more like multiple partnerships versus friends versus partners. And that has allowed me to feel some of the feelings that I crave from monogamy, like feeling really special, feeling important, feeling like there are people who.

want to call me when they're having a bad day, feeling like there are people that I can call kind of any time I want, and it's not going to be weird. That's really, really important to me. That level of intimacy, it has become more and more important to me that I don't feel that just with one person. But I think initially I, you know, I, I really thought that I wanted to be monogamous and it was actually, partners that I had who wanted to be non monogamous who sort of were like, what about this?

What about this? And, and when I was offered that freedom and I was offered that permission, it allowed me to explore some of these more curious parts of myself. Yeah. So I feel really like, like I definitely was not the person who was like, let's date other people, right? Like I was the person, you know, back in the day when I first started this journey, who was like, absolutely the fuck not.

Nicole: Yeah, totally. How dare you?

Tuck: Yeah, exactly. And then feeling that safety and that love and being like, Oh my God, like I do have this incredible capacity for love and connection and it doesn't feel like it's changing how I feel about this other person. It's kind of blew my mind.

Nicole: Things that I could have never predicted before I started, right?

Like things you would have never like kind of like you were just saying if someone came to you and said let's do this And when they did literally I was like, no, I and I cannot how I'm not doing my totally totally Which is why I always like to hold space for the people who are like, is this my identity?

Does this feel accurate to me and like just naming at least my journey of like at the beginning it was an immediate No, like no, none of this feels right. None of this feels good. None of this right and like yeah Even slowly stepping into it with the, the pain points of attachment and deconstructing the narratives of what love meant.

Like there was a lot of difficult moments and there are still a lot of difficult moments to be clear, right? But like, wow, the joy is abundantly overflowing above those moments in a way that I could have never imagined.

Tuck: And that's so beautiful to just honor that journey too. And I feel A lot of curiosity about where I end up in the future, you know, like I had a moment right after the pandemic, like right after the lockdown of the pandemic, you know, like March 2020, I guess, where I, my, the partner that I've been, that I've been with for about four years and I were, had just met and we were dating a lot of other people.

And then lockdown happened and I was so overwhelmed, so triggered, so panicky that I was just like, we should be monogamous. Like we should just be monogamous. And they were like, I don't think that that's what you actually want. Maybe you do and so we can like sit with this a little bit, but they kind of reflected back to me being like I don't feel like that would actually feel that good to you.

And it felt really hard to hear that at the time, but they were so fucking right. Like, oh my gosh, 100%. Six months after that I was like, I am so like, I'm so sorry I even brought that up. That was such a, just a reactive response and it was really helpful to feel into that and have that experience and feel myself be like, no, I want this and then to also be like, what was I thinking?

So it's like it was beneficial in the end because I helped, I think it helps me clarify that ultimately, even if I do have moments where I'm craving monogamy. That it's not actually the long term. Solution sure.

Nicole: I think it is. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, totally. When I would have those thoughts at the beginning, I would try and get curious with myself about like, what is it that I'm wanting behind this term per se?

Because I would, it was, it was weird. Like, I would go to a play party and then I would see someone with multiple partners and I would feel this level of disgust and judgment about it. Right. And I would be like, Whoa, like, look at them just like sharing like that. Wow. Ooh. And like, I immediately then had this subsequent feeling of like, Oh, I, you know what?

Clearly I want monogamy. Like, clearly I want monogamy. And I had to get really curious with myself. Cause I was like, I also know that's not what I want. Like on this deep other parts, right? Like we have parts, like part of me was like, go to monogamy. Part of me is like, no, I want my freedom. Not even close.

Right. So then I had to get curious. It was like, Why is this other person triggering so much in me that it's making me crave this? Oh, maybe it literally is me projecting onto them of what would it feel like to watch my partner do this with multiple people. Oh my God, that feels scary. So I don't think I could ever do that.

I want monogamy, right? Like it's like, it's a deep unconscious of like, why did that bring up so much in me? But like, if we don't take the time to like, try and get insight into that process, then we're just like, Nope, not for me. Goodbye. You know? And it's, it's fascinating.

Tuck: Yeah. And you have this feeling like this disgust feeling that you can use as, as evidence, right.

Being like, I know not this because disgust feeling, and that's such a good reminder of what you were saying earlier of like hearing or feelings, listening to them and also not experiencing them as facts. Yes. Like. That's, that's a feeling that I have, right? Like that's, that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

Quite frankly, like it could have, and oftentimes the meaning that we make out of those feelings, it can shift in all sorts of different directions. I definitely have had the question come up for me of how much discomfort is an okay amount. And that's what that made me think of. I think that's a really hard question for folks who are just starting to explore an anomaly because it's totally how do, you know,

Nicole: it's, it's unique to each person, right?

Like, the, the blanket answer is that, like, there is no answer, right? Because it's unique to each person, unique to each nervous system, unique to each relation relationship, right? Of like. How secure do you feel, what sort of trauma is going on, et cetera, et cetera, where are you at in your life, are you stressed out with grad school, you know, like, maybe not the time I, at least for me, I, I, I've like learned when it crosses the boundary by the reaction I have, it's, it reminds me kind of like, yeah, and kink like edge play.

Right? Like there's a point at which, like, I know where the edge is by the point that it has, yeah. Crossed it and, uh, which is a process, right? Um, like gentle edging towards, um, or like, I, uh, I noticed like trying to watch the shutdown responses. So for me, like the first time I watched my partner like flirt and touch someone else, um, we had had some conversations about it and then it happened and my immediate brain was like, you know what?

Fuck this shit. I'm not even going to be with them. Like this relationship is going to end and I'm going to go the other way. Like, it's totally fine. And I'm like, okay, clearly past my window of tolerance, these thoughts are coming up, you know, and like that happens in normal situations with grad school.

I get overwhelmed. Right. And then I'm like, I'm never going to quit. Yeah, I'm going to quit. Exactly. Clearly past my window of tolerance. So maybe we take a time out and we take a nap, you know, and we start again, you know, right. Yes.

Tuck: And that is such a great example of, yeah. The kind of executive functioning that it requires that I think so many of us don't have like I definitely am still learning this skill of having an appropriate reaction to being out of that window of tolerance of saying like, okay, nap versus breakup.

Yes, or snack versus smashing something right and it's like, those are just two different. coping mechanisms, like there, there's no inherent one that is. better or worse. And also, oftentimes, there are ways that we can make that process more fluid and easy and supported for ourselves.

Nicole: Totally. And that's where the somatic stuff comes in really big, right?

Because you feel that react like when those thoughts are happening, if I take that moment to step into my body. Like I probably feel maybe a tightness in my chest, maybe some turning in my belly. And yeah, part of what we talk about in somatic experiencing is baby being able to be with the emotion, right?

Like not trying to like, obviously we can move through it too, but not try to resist it. Like the second you try to resist, then you're getting enough. Fight with the body and this whole dichotomy can come up versus like, if we pay attention to the feeling in the body, it usually has like a hump, right?

Where like, as you pay attention to it, it might actually, yes, it rises in intensity, but then has that fall off as you continue to stay with it without trying to fight it. Right. And then once you're in that, being able to then like, yeah, maybe move it or shake it out or whatever you want to do. Right. So like in those moments being able to like feel my body, Take that deep breath.

No, I'm not my emotions and that I'm not going to break up. These are, these are the thoughts that are happening because it's pushed past that window of tolerance. And I take that deep breath and then I come to my partner and I was like, Hey, let's talk later, you know, and then we talk about it. And I was like, when that happened, this is where I went.

That was really fascinating. And then we talk about, you know, ways that we can support one another and processing those emotions. And then the next time that we go and do it, you know, what's fascinating is by naming that. By getting closer in the intimacy around those conversations. I usually feel more secure to do that.

And it has resulted in like deeper and deeper space through the exposure therapy within your window to like, actually enjoy seeing my partner with other people and have that like compersion feeling of watching them enjoy pleasure in front of me. And you, it's hard to predict that in the moments where literally my brain is like, I'm going to break up with them and leave them.

Tuck: Right, that's so real in that moment. It's like, that's all that exists in the moment. You're like, bye forever! Yeah, totally. You looked at somebody, even though we said that that was okay, but um, I'm not doing this anymore. Totally. Yeah, uh, that makes so much sense to me to kind of be tracking that process.

Yeah. And one thing that I see a lot in the, work that I do with clients is that there's sometimes a mismatch or different approaches to the way that people are thinking about their real about their feelings about their relationships and that's a whole other conversation that we can get into but it was just making me think about how yeah it's like If we have the relationship with ourself, which I feel like you just named, and then there's also this other part of how is this other person going to experience and respond to me telling them, what does that activate in them?

And then how do they, you know, experience that and share it with other people or like, what is okay? Like, when is that okay and not? And so, you know, it's just, it's interesting to think about all of those things. And I also feel like it can be helpful to, again, surrender to just kind of being like, yeah, like, what if I just didn't try to like fix these things or overly process them?

And what if I just. Witnessed them. Sure. Yeah. And chose to be with. Yeah. All of these. bell curves of emotion that you described right coming up and then coming back down.

Nicole: Absolutely. Yeah, I think that's been an interesting journey for me is like, like the pacing of it. Like, 1 of my partners had, you know, years of experience and nominogamy.

And so we had to, like. get on the same pace of, Hey, I'm very new to this. And I rock climbs. That's usually my frame of metaphor where like, um, in bouldering, like there's a grading system where there's like the very beginning scale compared to like higher level stuff. And like when I first started, those very beginner level things were super hard and now I climb at a much higher level.

And when I look at those things, I'm like, damn, that's so easy. And you'll, I remember that I'd be climbing routes and someone who was a much stronger climber would look at me and be like, Oh, like Nicole, you, you just do this. Like you stand here, like flip here and then like hold here. And I'm like, you don't understand.

Like my body does not have the muscles to do it. Like you do. Like you made that look easy. Like I am struggling and like trying to remember that pacing of like, as someone new to this. compared to someone who has experience, like these little pieces of just even hearing about your date and what you did on that date are bringing up a huge somatic experience for me.

And so being able to like name that and try to create pacing for the other person and then like not project on the other way around because then when I would ask him, I'm like, Oh, do you want to hear about my date and like what I did sexually and stuff? He's like, yeah, I love hearing that. I start to tell him that I'm like.

Are you okay? Like, is this hard for you? Is this, like, triggering you? And he's like, no, Nicole, not at all. And I'm like, oh, you know, like, that's me projecting out from, like, what it would feel like for me to hear this on the other side.

Tuck: Yeah. Oh, totally. Yeah. And then it's, like, stressful in both ways, right?

Yeah. You're, like, stressed because you don't want to trigger somebody, but stressed because you don't want to get triggered. Yeah. Yeah. Oh, that makes so much sense. And being a beginner is so vulnerable. It's so hard to be a beginner. And I, I try to remember that and come back to that all the time in myself of just trying to destabilize any sort of like hierarchy of like teacher student, you know, or like expert beginner, and also being like, yeah, being a beginner is a specific state.

It's hard, it's uncomfortable, it's scary, it's not something that's really celebrated or appreciated or valued in our society. And so, yeah, I think. That feels like something that I hope in this book that I'm writing that people will leave with is a sense of like, wherever you're at, like, whatever you kind of decide, you're not alone.

Like we're all, we've all been at these different phases or we will be, we're all doing this together and there are ways that we can come together and support each other through it. Absolutely.

Nicole: Absolutely. And I think one of the big things that I was feeling as we were talking and that I've like felt in this journey is, is trying to create some sort of framing around the, like, resource scarcity, I guess, concepts of things like, when I was transitioning from monogamous to more open relating and relationship anarchy, like, My framework of the monogamous, like one person who was all of everything, you know, like so much of your resource. Everything is built there, right? Like the love and the intimacy and everything you need is right there.

And so when I started doing open relating, like, the idea of sharing my line to direct resources with someone else was so deeply threatening because, like, that's where I get. My resources. Are you kidding me? We're going to divert water to someone else. My God, like that's my channel to water. Like I need that versus like this space of like, yeah, now I have my own relationships.

I have multiple pinpoints where I get my water flowing from. And so they. Concept of my partner having more partners is inherently less destabilizing because I'm literally surrounded by like a constellation of water that is flowing directly into me that like just trying to hold the nuance for the like the difficulties when your resource is to one person compared to a community.

It feels radically different in terms of navigating like scarcity of resources.

Tuck: Yeah, that makes so much sense. And it makes me think about the idea of thinking about our partners as a place that we go to ask for things and that they aren't required to give us anything, but it's like a place that we go.

I'm imagining the difference between. Receiving water, like turning on the tap in your house and filling up a cup of water and if somebody came into my house uninvited and just took that cup of water from me or filled up their cup at my faucet, I'd probably be like, get the fuck out of my house. Like, what are you doing in here?

You know, like, I probably just have this scared reaction. versus me if like let's say that there was like a communal fountain water fountain in my neighborhood and going to that fountain and and being like or a river or a stream and going to the river and filling up Some water and bringing it home.

And I think part of the mind shift is that a relationship anarchy approach is more like our partners are a river and they exist. They're existing with their resources and We approach them and ask if we can receive the water from them and, and like, you know, other people can go to the river as well and we can meet them there and it can be a nice communal experience versus thinking about them as like, you know, our water delivery service where that person is bringing the resource directly to me.

And so if somebody does take some of that, it really does feel like it's something is being stolen. So, yeah, I mean, that's been a helpful reframe for me to think about my partners as a place that I get to go versus as something that.

Nicole: I'm owed. Yeah, totally. Totally. That reframe of like the reciprocity of like, it's they're freely giving.

I'm the benefit of having that and I freely give back rather than like, they, they have to do that to me. But I, but I think what gets tricky is like the, the trusting of that. Resource to be there. Right. Especially depending if you have a disability, other sorts of identities, like you need that person to be there.

And so be able to trust that. And like, it's hard to like have faith in the trust of that. If you hear that they're going to other places and doing that, then you're like, what are they going to be there for me? Like, sure. I come to this partner and they, they give that to me, but like, are they actually going to be there?

What if they run out of water? Yeah. What if yeah, right,

Tuck: which is like a totally possible thing that can happen. Yeah, you know, I think sometimes it's helpful To remember that, that those fears and anxieties are not unfounded. People at all sorts of different periods in their life stop being able to offer certain things to us or change what they can offer.

And that sucks and it's so scary and grievy and it hurts. And also, it's really cool that sometimes people can show up for us. Like, staying in that nuance of the, you know, it may or may not be this way, it could be really hard, or it could be okay, I think is honestly just like triggering for many people to not have like a clear It's easier I think for a lot of us to be like, my clear answer is that it's not going to be there and this isn't going to work out.

That's easier than staying in like a, it might, but it might not place. Totally.

Nicole: Absolutely. And I think for me, one thing that has given me so much peace is, is the trust of like when I see my partners. Go through relationships where maybe there are, I don't even like the word deescalations, right? 'cause that puts it same on the escalator.

Right? A reconfiguration of the ways that they're connecting with the humans and their world. Like I've watched my partner, um, have various sexual and romantic relationships that have shifted to platonic connections and like, I can't even express to you the allow amount of security that has allowed me.

In our relationship, because I now know that even if the ways that we're connecting now change over the years into some other space, like they're not going to leave me and like, it would be a negotiated container of like, yeah, if life changes and they have less availability to show up for me and I have less for them, like, we would negotiate that.

It's not that they're just going to leave and abandon me like that. It would be a conversation. It's like, there's just been so much. Yeah. Yeah. Truly, like, I can't even express the level of security that I have felt through the openness of the reality of the inevitability of change, like you're talking about, and like, finding people who are open to that nature and what can happen over the years, like, God, that has given me more security than I ever could have imagined if I was in this, like monogamous framework of we're married and we're with this one person with the possibility of divorce at any sort of time.

Like, that's so much scarier to me than this, like, spaciousness that I've created.

Tuck: Yeah, absolutely. I feel the same way, particularly because I did have a romantic relationship that transitioned into a platonic partnership. And that experience was Painful and messy and hard and and like now like but we did it and now I have this beautiful partner in my life who I love so much and that I have such a unique feeling towards them that is like extra kind of gushy romantic friendship love because we started our relationship in this romantic and sexual way and they were really my first love so It's super special to be able to experience that and now when I do embark on partnerships and relationships with people I often will say, like, I am devoted to you as a person.

I'm not devoted to our relationship. I'm devoted to Cherishing you and I would like for there to be space for both of us, all of us to feel like if something's not working for you that we could do something that feels better. Totally. That process of change might be really hard and painful the same way that, you know, labor is hard and grad school is hard and training for something is hard and transitions are hard.

Yeah. You know, like there's. Pain and, and so I, yeah, I think I feel very similarly that feeling devoted to people as, as the person that they are feeling like, I just think you're fucking great. Yes. Thank you. You're so cool. I just want to like watch you exist. I just want to hang out with you. That is so regulating to me.

Nicole: Yes. Yes, and the expansiveness of that, the possibilities, the security of that. And then when you have a web, a community of relationships like that, like the amount of security and space you can find in the multiplicity of that is, is something I could have never imagined. Hopefully, as, you know, people in the space, creating thoughts and contributing to the dialogue on relationship anarchy, we can continue to speak to the level of security that is present in this very open practice?

Tuck: Yeah. Yeah. That's such a good point. I think there are so many, there's always people who use these terms in ways that are not like, Oh my goodness. Every, Oh yeah. Those felt important to me to interview some people for my book who were like, I hate relationship anarchy.

Um, because you know, they had a bad experience with it and. Yeah, whenever I hear those things, I'm always like, yeah, wow, like that, I really feel like that's not it.

Nicole: You're giving relationship anarchy a bad name, folks.

Tuck: Yeah, right. And it feels like as a community, we can all sort of, yeah, work to name what it is that we're going for.

Totally. And so when people are straying from that, we can be like, yeah, that's, that's not what we're doing. Um.

Nicole: Yeah, and maybe we can name the realities of existing as a minority culture, right? Like, you have one bad person do the thing and the problem is the thing, right? The problem is relationship anarchy versus like, the more nuanced reality is that humans Transcribed Practice different types of relationships.

There are humans practicing monogamy that are doing that in their own interesting way, but we don't look at that and be like, monogamy is the problem. But then someone practices relationship anarchy in a way where you're like, you know, interesting. Um, and then we're like, relationship anarchy is the problem.

And I think that's part of it being like a minority. Culture versus the like common culture of, you know, our society where like monogamy doesn't even get questioned as the problem. It's obviously the person. So I think we need more of that nuance take two to be realized that like relationship anarchy has its own like value system and ideals as a philosophy and like people are going to practice that across the board, you know, they really, really are that.

Tuck: Yeah. And I think you're a hundred percent right, but. It's helpful to remember that no one has ever been like, oh wow, I can't try to do monogamy in a good way, right? Like, I feel like that's always on the table is, like, even for us talking about it, you know, me being like, yeah, then I was like, I want to be monogamous.

Like, I immediately just went to that, even though I've seen countless examples of monogamy being Maybe a poor fit for the people involved, or that the people involved are not interacting with each other in an ethical way, so. Yeah, uh, and I really hope that We just continue to get more perspectives and thoughts and feelings and voices about all of these things that would be so amazing.

Nicole: Yeah. Well, thank you too for contributing to that dialogue through your work. Thank you. Yeah, it's community efforts. You change me, I change you, and we'll keep building this collective together.

Yeah, absolutely.

Let's do it. I want to hold a little bit of space as we come towards the end of our time in case there was anything on your heart that maybe we didn't get to.

I do have a closing question that I ask every guest and then I will invite you to plug your stuff at the end. So there's that opportunity as well.

Tuck: Um, no, I don't think there's anything. I feel like we covered everything when I was coming up for me. So good.

Nicole: Okay, well then the question I ask everyone on the podcast is what is one thing that you wish other people knew was more normal?

Tuck: Hmm, I wish people knew just how many ways humans can experience sexual pleasure. That's one that has really been coming up for me recently. I really wish people knew how little research there is about what is normal in terms of sex. And I think it's really amazing when I meet somebody who has discovered a new way to experience sexual pleasure that somebody hasn't done before.

And I just feel really excited about a world in the future where, you know, that gets to be celebrated and other people get to be like, cool, I want to try that too, because, you know, there was somebody who made porn for the first time, right? there was somebody who was like, what if we did feet? Like, you know, like all of these amazing things that, I mean, maybe we've like, that person could have been like thousands of years ago, totally, but just really celebrating that if it's not hurting anybody.

And it's consensual. I think it's fucking fantastic.

Nicole: Yeah. The amount of creativity we can have in other areas of our lives is definitely possible within sex. And the expansiveness is definitely possible. I always find it interesting that like You know, like kink is defined as non normative sexuality and I'm like, hmm, what's the, what is the normative one?

Tuck: Yeah,

Nicole: who defined what the normative one is? And then when you see like research showing that like, uh, like really high, I feel like I'd have to check the research into where, what the, you know, specifics of it were. But like, it was something like 70 percent of people have like BDSM fantasies or something.

It was really high. And then I'm like, okay, well, if we're up at that high, like, I would say that's pretty good. Pretty normal.

Tuck: Normative. Yeah. Right. Totally. Yeah, that's actually true. So true. So true.

Nicole: But yeah, we got to change the cultural narratives and like, obviously the transgressive nature of all of it is really fun and juicy too.

So like holding 71s to all of that, but like. Yeah. I would love if we could like, God, I like, I like to say prayers these days. My goodness. I pray that the world continues to have more space for the creativity that is possible with sexuality. Once we get outside of these frames of like normal.

Tuck: Yeah, absolutely.

Nicole: Yeah. May it be so.

Tuck: May it be so.

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

Tuck: Yeah, so I feel like the best way to learn about things that I'm doing is on Instagram. My Instagram is at intra underscore sensual and I also have a website that's intrasensual. com. I'm not taking Coaching clients right now, but I may be in the future.

So depending on when this airs, people can always reach out to me if that's something that they're interested in. And I almost always have some kind of prerecorded class or workshop coming up. So yeah. Exciting and I think this book that I'm writing will be coming out sometime next year, so Ooh.

Nicole: Might be before my dissertation is published, so let me know.

I can throw it in there.

Tuck: Amazing. Yeah, we should have the book launch party .

Nicole: Hell yeah. Keep me updated and I'll have all of your stuff located below so that way listeners can find it.

Tuck: Awesome. Yeah. Thank you so much. Of course. Appreciate it was a blast. Appreciate you. Yeah, awesome.

Nicole: 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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