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153. Relationship Anarchist: Lara Okafor

Nicole: Welcome to Modern Anarchy, the podcast exploring sex, relationships, and liberation. I'm your host, Nicole.

Hello, my dear listener, and welcome back to Modern Anarchy. I am so delighted that you are tuning in with me each Wednesday for another special episode. And if you're new here, hi, my name is Nicole. I am a sex and relationship psychotherapist, and I completed my doctoral dissertation on the practice of relationship anarchy.

I so thoroughly enjoyed completing that research for my studies that I decided to bring the same questions onto the podcast space. And so this is the second interview of the Relationship Anarchy Research and I have so many more planned for you ahead in the weeks to come. And there's also that open invite, right?

If you are a relationship anarchist, I would love to hear from you. Whether you just want to complete the written portion of the research, or if you want to come on for the one on one opportunity to talk about your answers, like I'm doing with today's guest. So, I just want to say how important it has been for me.

To have this research space, I grow and change and reflect and continue to expand further into this practice through the submissions, the written submissions, and these one on one conversations. I wouldn't be the relationship anarchist that I am today without the community of all of you. that are tuning in and that are participating in this movement.

And I just want to say the biggest thank you because it's hard, right? It's hard dismantling the ways that these systems of power have impacted our ability to love. That's really difficult and a never ending examination. And so to be in community with other people who resonate around those two words, Relationship anarchy.

It has been life changing. It is so grounding for me to have other people around the world, right? We are in community here and I'm so, so excited to be sharing these episodes with you. If you are interested in participating, I do have a link below. Again, you can complete just the written format or hop on one of these individual conversations with me.

So if you're interested, check out the link below. Otherwise, I am sending you all of my love to your listener and 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?

Lara: So my name is Laura Okafor, I am a Queendom binary person, pronouns they them, and I kind of am currently working as a software developer and a curator on my, on my kind of day job time.

Um, and I practice relationship anarchy or at least something close to it, or I'm attempting to do so in my, in my day to day life, which is why I guess. we're speaking right now.

Nicole: Absolutely. I'm so excited to talk to you about relationship anarchy and how you're living into it. I feel you in that continual living into the practice, right?

So the first question is, what is relationship anarchy?

Lara: At least the way I see it. Relationship anarchy is kind of a framework or a philosophy. A lot of the people that I see talking about it seem to connect it to non monogamy. And I think like, as far as I'm seeing, a lot of relationship anarchists are non monogamous, but it's not necessarily a style of non monogamy as much of as it is a way of like organizing all of the relationships in your life.

Like for me, it's basically trying to dismantle kind of hierarchical Ways of being that we've been taught which are like kind of centered around like the nuclear family whether that's kind of genetic family relationships or Yeah, finding your kind of one true love who will now be the most important person above everybody else.

Nicole: All right, right Exactly. Yeah, I appreciate that distinction there You know, i've been talking a little bit about you know, whether you practice sexual fidelity or sexual self governance and You're a relationship anarchist, right? And that seems to be part of the ethos of this deconstruction of sex not being the most primary thing, right?

So we're coming back into deeper connection of all of our relationships. So whether you, again, whether you practice sexual fidelity or sexual self governance, you're a part of the crew as long as you have these deeper ideas, right? Of deconstructing power and connecting to community and all of that.

Lara: Mm hmm.

Yeah. It's not about who you're doing what with, it's about being able to kind of have the agency to decide what that looks like.

Nicole: Mm hmm. Absolutely. Which leads me into the next question of how do you practice relationship anarchy?

Lara: I think it looks a lot of different ways. I think what really brought me to relationship anarchy wasn't actually necessarily my, like, dating life or like, you know, romantic sexual relationships.

It was more so the way that I was navigating my platonic friendships. And again, like these are all labels, you know, not everything fits neatly into one category, but I'd say that since I was actually quite young, I've always, Prioritized my relationships very much apart from whether I'm like having sex with someone or I have sexual attraction towards them And I also remember kind of very early on getting really upset when friends would get into relationships and completely, you know like down prioritize our And stuff like that.

I've always had a bit of trouble with the, the kind of hierarchy that is set on like monogamous relationships. Um, so I think it looks like the fact that I, I lived with my best friend for five years and that's kind of like one of the most important relationships in my life. Someone that I think I'm going to.

You know, that's going to be important to me forever and it also looks like making sure that I kind of am available to all the people I love regardless of which type of relationship I'm in, um, making sure that I always have active and ongoing conversations with the people I care about, about what we want to include in our relationships and that it isn't kind of decided by like, okay, well, we're, we're just friends.

So that means we only do these things. So, Mm-Hmm.

Nicole: Yeah. As you were talking, I was just thinking about the lack of cultural narratives and scripts we have in terms of these types of relationships that don't fit into the relationship escalator box. Right? There are so many more meaningful relationships like your friend, right?

That you lived with, and we don't see enough narratives of that out in the world as a meaningful. Full relationship, not a side part of the main story of the romance, right? And so I think, yeah, it's like we need to create more space for the fullness of all of these relationships, which shifts our frame, right?

When you're only looking for one, one, one, one. You kind of miss out on the fullness of your life and the gratitude of all of those different relationships. And I'm sure though, as you were talking about, you know, living into each relationship and what's possible, the amount of communication. Hmm. Yeah. You want to speak to that?

Lara: Ooh wee.

Nicole: Yeah. How long do we got?

Lara: Like, that's the thing is I, Kind of, I feel like I get in a lot of conversations with people because a lot of people are like, what, like, what is that? What, what are you talking about? And I'm like, okay, you know, it means like, but at the same time, as much as I think it brings me a lot of joy, and this is the only way I can really imagine doing relationships.

It's very hard. I think it's important to communicate about some of these things because I think people are really not used to communicating like people have a very kind of Okay, well, we have this kind of relationship and therefore that means X, Y, and Z. And if you bring up the conversation, it can get a little like people kind of like, Okay, um, do we really need to talk about this?

Because, like, we, we already know what this is, so therefore, why should we have a conversation about it? Um, and there's so many assumptions, there's so many assumptions about what we're supposed to be doing, that kind of, like, I often have ended up in, you know, like, maybe, conflict or where misunderstandings pop up because there are assumptions about things that maybe people think we're supposed to be doing but then I don't do it or vice versa like doing things that are outside that's outside of the bounds of what people think belongs in a certain place.

So like relationship anarchy I think requires a lot of constant communication for misunderstandings not to pop up because you're not following the kind of established Narrative. So you can't, you can't kind of lean on that.

Nicole: Mm hmm. Exactly. That's the beauty and the complexity of it right there, right? Is when you don't follow that script.

Then what are we doing? Right? And needing to flesh that out, which is also the beauty of the freedom, but also the weight of the conversations, right?

Lara: I mean, a part of the beauty of it is that I think it really creates a much deeper type of intimacy when you actually have to have concrete conversations about a lot of this stuff.

Because when you're just going on autopilot, like, you never really have to dig into like, okay, what is it that you actually want? One, or like, why do you want this thing? But when you're having very explicit conversations and sometimes it's like, well, maybe actually I don't want this thing, even though everyone says I should want it.

There's like a lot of fruitful stuff that can come out of that.

Nicole: Which makes me want to just ask too, you know, I'm imagining that your conversation skills have grown. Over the years of practicing relationship. And yeah, you want to speak to what it looked like at the beginning to where you're at now?

Lara: I mean,

Nicole: Mess is growth. Mess is growth.

Lara: Yeah. I mean, I think like many other people, I grew up in a family where conversations about stuff just didn't happen.

Like I, you know, it's just kind of, Everything is assumed and I, I think a lot of us are kind of, we, we are taught to navigate life in a certain way. We're taught to not talk about certain things, not talk about feelings, um, and then when you get into kind of.

intimate relationships, like regardless of what that looks like, it can be very hard to navigate because for them to succeed, you really need to communicate. And I think for me at least, like, I used to be quite an avoidant communicator, which meant like it was often kind of like, okay, well, we'll just not, we'll just not talk about that um, until it really becomes an issue, uh, which truly doesn't work. Especially when you're doing relationships in a way that isn't. Already kind of set out for you.

Nicole: Right.

Lara: My first experience dating wise, where like I was, I was always a little bit confused about my early dating experiences were kind of like, yeah, you know, let's do, let's do the monogamous thing or like whatever.

And I was always just like, something about this feels off. Um, there's something about the kind of restrictions. in how it feels like we're supposed to do this relationship that don't feel right. And I remember that I just kind of ended up stumbling into non monogamy in a way because I just met this person and they were, they were dating another person and like, and it was, it was super fun and great, but also there was like zero communication, which like, you know, early twenties.

Nicole: Sure.

Lara: It is what it is. Um, but I think like, there were hurt feelings that happened on kind of multiple sides, and what I've found over the years is just that like, it can feel reasonable in the moment not to tackle certain things because it like, you know, it can lead to, it can lead to conflict or it can lead to having long and tiring conversations.

But then when you kick it down the road. It always kind of comes back to bite and like those feelings pop up in all sorts of relationships Even though we're kind of told that like we you know, if if you're in a platonic relationship Like it's just cool and casual and like that's not true,

Nicole: right?

Lara: Um, so like I think it's just in in general, I think everyone would benefit from having more clear communication about what it is they want and what we're doing.

Like, I think a lot of people are walking around with a lot of hurt feelings because of the lack of communication. Um, and I think like being through these different types of relationships has really helped me hone that skill because it was just necessary because it always ended up in, you know, if there's no communication, you just end up.

But but crashing and burning at some point,

Nicole: right? Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for sharing about your experience and your first poly relationship. I had something similar in the pain of that, that first one that you go through where you don't know what to expect, you know, and then you look back, you're like, wow, okay, lessons learned along the way, right?

Um, but it's so true that this is applicable in all of our relationships, right? Just, you know, These difficult spaces where when something comes up in the dynamic and we suppress it and we don't say it or share it, we shouldn't share every thought that we have. Of course, let's nuance that. Right. But when we do, you know, but it needs to be said, um, but when we do have something about the dynamic, that's bothering us, you know, to, to push that down, to preserve the dynamic makes sense, right?

We don't want to lose connection. We don't want to face that threat of loss. But at the same time, Holding that back to save the relationship is actually losing a part of yourself, right? You are cutting off yourself and your needs and your peace. And so sure, you keep the relationship, but then you are in turmoil and you continue to hold that and hold that and hold that until it gets to that point where it snaps.

And you have that fight or you leave or, you know, whatever the thing is. Um, so I think, yeah, like you said, in all of our relationships, if we could have more communication, it would be such a better space. And part of this, particularly with romance, however we define that. And within that paradigm though, it's so.

Part of the romance myth is this, Wow, I found this lover who gets me. And I don't even have to say the words. They just look in my eyes and they understand me.

Lara: Yeah. It's like a part of the story. Oh my god. And it leads to so many misunderstandings. Yeah. And then on the flip side, I think there's this thing about like, Oh, if, you know, if, if it's a friendship, then I'm not supposed to have any feelings about anything.

Um, I'm supposed to just be okay with whatever, and if I, like, feel sad, or I feel jealous, or I feel whatever, then, like, that's me, I'm, I'm a problem. Right. But that resentment still will come out at some point.

Nicole: Mm hmm. Yeah, it was really radical for me to have my first friends where they did say, Hey. That bothered me what you did over there.

I didn't like that. And it was such a world shattering moment because I had gone through all sorts of friendships where you don't have that level of conversation or that level of intimacy. And so the first time someone did that with me, that was a friend. I was like, Oh, I'm losing them. Oh no, Oh no, Oh no.

And you know, and you have to go through that process of realizing that you can have that sort of, you know, Rupture in the relationship with a repair kind of like muscles, right? We, we break the muscle down to make it stronger, right? And so being able to have that and stay in that with someone, uh, was really life changing, but you're right.

It's so much a part of our narrative and culture that you don't have those types of conversations with friends because they're supposed to be easy and simple. Yes, easy.

Lara: I think like the more I've had, the more I've learned about having the conversations in my kind of closer relationships. The smaller the gap between my quote unquote, like, romantic and platonic relationships have been because it creates this base of very kind of deep emotional intimacy when you're able to have those conversations.

And all of a sudden the rest of it is like, there isn't as much of a demarcation. Yeah. So that, that, I think that's also been. An interesting thing of just like, okay, what, like, what do all these words even mean when, you know, people like partners or this is the person I'm dating or this is the person I'm romantic with.

And it's like that, that line gets kind of thinner and thinner, the more you're able to lean into emotional intimacy. Well, it has for me anyway. Absolutely.

Nicole: Yeah. For me too. I don't know. You know, I buy my friends flowers. I'll say how much I adore them and I'm thankful for them. And I'll snuggle up. But, uh, Where do we draw that box of romance and where do we cut it off?

Right? I mean, I think those are great questions and, you know, just thinking about our existential realities of the words that we use, you know, you can use the word partner and what it means to me can mean something completely different to the person I am in partnership with. Right? Like, like, there's so much again, coming back to the communication, all these different words, labels, it's really about the values of each person in them and can we get clarity on that to actually see, again, what do we want out of this label?

What do we want out of this? Because, again, we're all going to have such different understandings of that, just purely based on our existential isolation of what it means to have our whole family Um, so there's so much beauty though in having those conversations and getting more clarity of, okay, does partner mean I see you X amount of times a week?

Does it mean that I'm the person you put on your emergency contact? Does it mean this right? And in that there's so many different ways that you can do that sort of partnership with people. If you like that label, you know, some people like the, the friend all label, right? Some people don't. And I think there's so much beauty in.

If relationship anarchy is about anything, it's about consciously choosing these labels and what they mean to us and making that conscious choice with each relationship, I think, right? So, whether you do the labels or not, it's about your intentionality with them, I feel.

Lara: Yeah, I agree. I've seen, I've seen some people kind of being very, oh, you know, As a relationship anarchist, I don't use any labels, and I think, I think that's fair enough.

But I also think that for, like, for me, part of it is exactly that, like, I can, I can decide what it means for me. The whole, like, the whole point is just that I'm not gonna, like, no one else gets to decide what it should mean to be a partner. And also, no one gets to tell me that I don't get to use labels or whatever if I want to.

Nicole: Yes, the freedom. Yeah, I agree. Yes, yes, yes, yes. And I'm thinking to, uh, the next question, you've kind of hit on some of this already, but why do you practice relationship anarchy?

Lara: I mean, I think for me, it, It's not a thing that I kind of, like, discovered one day and then I started doing it. It was more so that I was already living my life in a way that aligned with relationship anarchy and then when I found the words I was like, oh yeah, this feels right.

But I think, like, I just don't see the kind of monogamous one person above everyone else myth as sustainable or healthy, um, it doesn't feel good to me. I've always had many relationships that give me a lot of like joy and fulfillment and I don't want, I've never wanted to feel like I have to kind of down, down prioritize people because I don't do a certain activity with them or I don't have a certain label for our relationship.

I mean, like at the end of the day, it just, it makes me. happy and I feel like it allows me to build a constellation of relationships that kind of It gives me what I, what I want and gives me the support I need and like just spending time with people in a way that feels natural and organic to me. That's like, yeah, at the end of the day, it feels better than the other alternatives.

Nicole: Yeah. I love the word constellation. That's what I've used for my world too. I, I like to think about the orbits of the different, you know, people and how often you see them and the gravity of that, right. That's It's such a beautiful metaphor, I think, for the community building, and I really appreciate the, the, the nuance of, ah, I'm gonna do it, outright attacking the monogamous narrative.

Not the practice of sexual fidelity, right? I want to hold that very nuanced. I have friends who practice monogamy and sexual fidelity, but I think that they're more relationship anarchist leanings than maybe they even think because of the ways that they hold community and they have deconstructed the monogamous narrative of this is my one person, my one person, my only person, and this is the person I come to for all of my emotional, physical, anything else is emotional cheating, right?

Like That narrative right there, right? I know you're already reacting, is I do think some, like, the idea of emotional cheating? What? Like, we do need to deconstruct that idea, I think. Not the practice of sexual

Lara: I don't even know what that means.

Nicole: I know, right? I know. But that's what we need to deconstruct.

Not the sexual fidelity. I don't care. How many people you're having sex with? Good, you know, do what you want. But this idea that you're keeping your emotionality to one person, what?

Lara: It's just not realistic. But yeah, I, like, I really couldn't care less how many people, like, you can have sex with one person or 10 people or, like, whatever.

But I, you know, like, yeah, sometimes. People aren't even necessarily monogamous by label, but like, you don't have the energy all the time to, like, does that make you somehow not, you know, revolutionary enough? No. Right. Right. Um, it's not about, yeah, I think, I think it is very much possible for someone to be quote unquote, you know, monogamous and still more relationship anarchist than someone who's dating multiple people, depending on how they kind of.

Navigate and prioritize the relationships in their life.

Nicole: Mm hmm. Yeah, our first partners in the game, you know? Yeah, exactly, not holding that level of communication and consciousness and political revolution. So I hear you, and I think that's the nuanced take of it, right? It's much larger than this verification of monogamy or non monogamy.

It's a much larger philosophical practice, you know? Yeah. Mm hmm. And the next question is, which we've been hitting on throughout our entire conversation, but how does relationship anarchy impact your practice of intimacy?

Lara: It kind of opens up my capacity to experience intimacy because it's not limited to one specific type of relationship or one person.

It's not only that I can experience it in like, multiple different contexts, but also that intimacy can look a lot of different ways. It's not just about physical intimacy, for example. It can be, in and of itself, the conversations that I've had with people, talking about like, what commitment looks like, regardless of what type of relationship we're in, can be incredibly intimate.

And that's the conversation I'm often, that I often have because I'm practicing relationship anarchy. And it's like, okay, what, what do we want to do? Like, what, what are we feeling? What do we want from each other? Um, and being, being able to kind of have that conversation with so many different people with different types of relationship, like so many different things come up and that's, that's incredibly intimate.

Oh yeah.

Nicole: That's hot. Mm. I don't know what's hotter. You know what I mean? You see me, I see you. Ooh, okay. You know? Everything. Open book. Mm. Yeah. And I just think about the power of frames, right? Existentially in our narrative of, of what's the frame of your life really, right? In terms of, I was trying to think of metaphors, but just living the life of, you know, Privilege and abundance that I have and sitting here and being like, I'm so poor because I, I'm not a billionaire.

I'm just poor, meh, you know, meh, meh, meh, meh, meh, meh, you know, like, and this idea of I'm single, I'm single, I'm single. Oh, I'm so single. Oh, or even if you get. Uh, partner. Oh, I, I have one partner versus, wow, hold on a second. You have an abundance of beautiful relationships. And I think that we underestimate how large of a frame shift that is, right?

Just to see the abundance of gratitude of what we have rather than this frame of the one, the only, the, this, the, this, the, this in a way that like quite literally changes the painting of your life based on that frame, you know?

Lara: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when we're walking around basing the kind of value and fulfillment of our life on whether or not we have one specific type of relationship, it's a very kind of like scarcity standpoint to be coming from and I think also it It doesn't allow us to kind of appreciate and value all the different people in our lives for who they are and what they kind of uniquely bring to our lives.

Because that, like, there's, yeah, there's, there's so many different types of things that we can do in different relationships and different kind of, you know, everyone has a different personality. Everyone has a different thing that they bring to your life. And like, if you're constantly just focusing on, oh, this one thing that I do.

That I don't have, or maybe you do have, to the exclusion of everything else, like you live in for that richness.

Nicole: Yeah, I was just holding, just thinking about, you know, the nuclear family, these isolated communities, right? And it just being a product of that, the, the romance myth, all of this, and the more that we under capitalism get isolated into these little sectors and sectors and pulled away from community, it is going to be such a, a revamp of our perspective and a paradigm shift to start to see the fullness of our community.

Okay. Not just one.

Lara: Yeah. And I mean, it's also quite, uh, like. I don't know if I want to call it like Eurocentric or Western centric way, like the kind of the nuclear family in the way that is conceived now is like, because I know, I know many people who include, including my family, like my dad's Nigerian, the whole way that you do families and different relationships is very different.

The way that kinship is like conceived is very different. Like I have a million people that have been like aunts and uncles who aren't necessarily like. Related to any of us by DNA. Um, and I think like that's another thing is that relationship anarchy is, you know, it's a framework that's specifically been been like created, but it's not like it's anything new necessarily.

And there's also many people who are probably living what we would see as being in line with a relationship anarchy without it necessarily being like, a phrase that they use.

Nicole: Absolutely. Queer chosen family, right? Same sort of paradigm. So you're right. It's existed indigenous culture. So many different cultures, right?

Have done this. And I think that's why it's going to be such, or is actively a paradigm shift that a lot of people are coming to as this word gets more out into the psyche, as we have conversations like this on a podcast, right? And kind of. Raise the collective consciousness to, to change the paradigm.

And I'm excited to see how that will, you know, given that the personal is the political, how that will also radically shift. Many more paradigms.

Lara: Yeah, I guess it remains to be seen, but I think it can, I think it can change a lot of things. And it's also like in. Community is very important. And I think it's very hard to build proper, like, like strong bonds in a kind of wide constellation of people if all we're doing is prioritizing, like, one or two relationships and saying, like, putting all of our energy there.

Um, and that's not to say that, like, if someone chooses to do that it's not okay but it's Yeah, we, we do need each other and I, I, I am very like, I think a lot about how we can build those strong bonds kind of like across, um,

Nicole: Mm hmm. More community spaces, more crossover time with everybody, right? Yeah.

Sorry. Hi fat cat. You can come sit. Yeah. Some cat time. Um, the next question too is, What are some of the difficulties that you've experienced practicing relationship anarchy?

Lara: I mean, I'm not, I'm sure I'm not alone in this, but like, finding other people who are also aligned, um, with the same, like, the same Type of thinking around relationships because it's one thing to decide for yourself that you want to kind of relate in this way And it's another thing trying to build relationships with other people who might have very different ways of you know, orienting or navigating lives Trying to dismantle all the things that we've kind of been Indoctrinated to think is very hard because there's the kind of theory of it and then there's the actual lived experience of it Which are two different things

Nicole: Yes, that is so true.

Lara: And it's like That's kind of the battle you're fighting with yourself all the time is kind of like okay I aspire towards living in a certain way, but like my day to day practice of that isn't necessarily looking that way all the time because we're still human and we've been taught the things we've been taught and we have emotions and they're not always logical or like, you know, Often.

Um And then, I guess, like, both the pro and the con of relationship anarchy is kind of its fluidity, I think, because on the one hand, um, yes, it, you know, we have to communicate about all these things, and I think it can foster intimacy. But at the same time, there's a reason people go for things that are already established, which is that it does make life easier in a lot of ways, often.

When you kind of know, okay, now we've done A and then we go to B and then we go to C, like that's a lot of thinking and extra work that you don't have to do. And then there's also just the kind of societal structural stuff, which is like, we are living in societies that are usually mostly set up to privilege monogamous dyadic relationships So it's like that there's the kind of there's the personal and there's the navigating other people in your community But there's also the literal structural stuff, which is like, okay If you have multiple people in your life that you think are important And you would like to kind of share legal rights with a lot of different people.

That's just not possible in many places.

Nicole: Right.

Lara: So it comes with a few difficulties, but I think it's still worth it.

Nicole: Yeah. Yeah, I was thinking even just at the beginning when you were talking about finding people who have the same practice of relationship anarchy or understand it, I, um, remember meeting someone in my community and I was talking about my dissertation on relationship anarchy and the podcast and they said, Oh, I'm a relationship anarchist.

Cause no one has power over me. And then flipped the bird and went, ha, ha, ha. And I just took a moment and I was, you know, I just, I didn't even, you know, I made a judgment that it was not worth the time and energy to further that level of expansion and said, Oh, very cool. Very cool. And walked away and then thought to myself, Nope, Nope, that is not what relationship anarchy is, you know?

And so it's It's funny, you can find people who have no idea what the word means and then you can also find people who do and then make me cringe and I'm like ahhhhhh, you know?

Lara: Yeah, I mean, and that's the thing as well is like sometimes you will meet people who To say that they're doing the same thing you're doing and actually, like, because we all have, again, like going back to what you were saying about partner, for example, like we all have different ideas of what words mean.

So even if you believe that you are aligned, it is not always necessarily the case. Like I've seen, I think, I think I've, I think you posted in the relationship anarchy group. Like, I think that's why I responded to like a survey like posted, but I see a lot of people using the word relationship libertarianism, which like, I found that funny because I think that is kind of, that is a real truth is that there are people who are walking around like, yes, you know, relationship anarchy.

And meanwhile, it's mostly just like, I just want to do whatever the fuck I want. And I don't particularly, sorry, am I allowed to swear?

Nicole: You are allowed to swear in this space. Yes, you are.

Lara: Yeah. Um, but it's basically just, I'm going to do what I want and I'm not particularly going to like care for anybody in that process.

And I feel like that's not what it's about for me at all.

Nicole: Yeah, I would say that goes directly against all of the philosophy of anarchy and mutual aid and community. Right. So I think I like that word libertarianism. I definitely recorded a podcast with Mel Cassidy, where we went back and forth on that and had a really deep conversation, uh, titled relationship anarchy versus libertarianism to kind of get into the nuance of that because that's exactly what is happening.

Um, but. Like you said, I mean, the lived experience of it is so difficult. I think, you know, like, again, the systems are against us. And the reality is because of the romance myth, because of the media and the narratives, I, personally, I'm going to say all of us, but I'll speak, I won't say all of us, but I'll speak for myself here and saying that I have been classically conditioned to have certain responses.

Okay. So, when my partner says that they're going to go with another partner. I, my brain goes through all of the years of rom coms that says that means they don't love you. That means they're going to leave you. That means you're not worthy. Right? And that is a classical conditioning response, which then I feel in my gut and I start to cry and up in my head I can go, okay, I know I'm amazing.

No one else can be me. I am secure, but my gut is still turning with all of that classical conditioning of years, right? And so I think that nuance of, of understanding the internalized mononormativity, right? We talk about internalized homophobia, like there's internalized responses that are not necessarily our own per se.

And so being able to kind of sift through the discomfort of unpacking that and stretching our capacities. Ooh, that is so hard.

Lara: It's very hard and and that's on top of like living the rest of our lives as well So like, you know, most of us are kind of we've got jobs and we have all sorts of stuff going on all the time All of a sudden there's a family crisis So you've got to show up for a friend or whatever and then to be trying to navigate all of these often very visceral feelings Is a lot.

Nicole: Yes. Uh, huh. Absolutely. Absolutely. It's a it's a throws my mind every time I get, you know, activated by something. Um, but yeah, like yesterday I went climbing and it was the first time I had, uh, to My three different partners, I would use that label. They're all at once, right? Which was really beautiful. How exciting.

I have my three partners here. So exciting. And then one of them mentioned, Oh, I think I might go on this date with someone else. And my gut goes, what? What? And I, I'm just processing logically how Nicole, you have three people around you that you, that love you and are here for you. And your one partner says they might go on a date.

And I'm like, what? You know? And it's like, okay. But what I have noticed is that that reaction has gotten better over the years. That re that response might have been tears and or whatever years ago, where now it's just a little bit of a stomach churn and I go, Oh, okay. No, no, no, no. I know. I'm, I'm okay.

We're cool. We're cool. We're cool. We're talking. We're cool. You know? But it's like just mind boggling the inconsistencies there for me.

Lara: Yeah, it's, it's wild because it's like, I know up here. Yes. That this is not like, this is fine. I'm going to be fine. They're going to be fine. Everything's going to be fine.

But like, yeah, that, that I think classical conditioning is a very good way to put it because it is just so kind of, it's so deeply worked into like the, the sort of most knee jerk part of our psyche. unavoidable. Yeah. But I think there can be a lot of shame with that as well, when we kind of put an emphasis on trying to perfectly live out.

You know, whatever it is we're doing, because then on top of kind of having this reaction, we're also there judging ourselves for having the reaction, which doesn't make anything better.

Nicole: I failed. Something's wrong. Or my brain loves to make the subsequent thought pattern of. Oh shit. Maybe this isn't for me.

Oh no, you have talked on the podcast about this for years and you're going to have to take it all back. You know, it's like that. That's your eye roll. And I'm like, hold on, hold on, hold on. And I've had that thought process enough now to be like, no, that's, those are just the negative intrusive thoughts rolling and I come back to my grounding and live into it and stretch more.

And that's also how, uh, I rock climb. And that's always been such a metaphor for me, right? Of you, you get scared. Oh, I don't know if I can, oh, I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. And then. You look back on what you've been climbing for the last years, and, you know, I'm just impressed with myself, as I'm sure you are too, with the ways that, again, the things that scared us at the beginning to where we're at now, oh my god, I'm so much stronger, right?

And, and more grounded.

Lara: I mean, you can practice it like, like you can practice anything else. And it's obviously not easy, but I think it can be very worth it when, because I think it like, This practice doesn't only, even if you're practicing it in kind of like intimate romantic relationships, um, or like, I find that that's where it often gets the most intense, those feelings, but it kind of trickles.

over to all the rest of your life too because it just like practicing like regulating your emotions and being able to put words to your emotions that's not only applicable within like dating situations it works Very well for, like, the rest of life as well.

Nicole: Mm hmm. Absolutely. Because like you said, these are skills for all of our relationships.

And one of the biggest skills that we're then building is insight into ourselves, right? To notice when that stomach, uh, starts to turn. To notice that thought pattern of negativity enough to realize, I am not attached to that. You know, my brain has lots of different thoughts that I don't agree with and spirals at times and I'm not attached to them, right?

And having that sort of insight is not, like you said, something that's just with romantic or sexual or however you define those words, right? That is something that is applicable for our quality of life across the board.

Lara: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And the, it's, I think, yeah, it's, it's, it's a very worthwhile piece of work to do.

And I like, it's interesting 'cause I think there's, there's both the kind of like beating yourself up and kind of getting, like, for example, what you just said about, you know, the partner going on the date and the, and then I think there's also, there's like the flip side of it too, which is like being, I've found that when I've dated.

Like maybe I'm, I have a partner and I've like started dating another person and then kind of like, breaking down the shame that can come with that too, because we have a lot of stories as well about like, okay, that makes you a bad, like, that makes you a bad person because maybe you are not appreciative enough of the people that are already in your life.

Like, also trying to deal with, like, somebody else's emotions about that. Oh, yeah. That's his whole own mantra, too, like, that, there's been a lot of bumpy rides with that. So, like, it's all the sides of it that are complicated.

Nicole: Mm hmm.

Lara: That are worthwhile working on, because, like, getting to a point where you're just, like, also, like, oh, you know, I can be here for other people in my life.

But I'm also not responsible for their emotions. That's such a great lesson to learn too. Oh yeah,

Nicole: yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Because I was going into having all of them together for the first time and I'm thinking, okay, like who's newer to this practice, culturally, right? The practice of this shift. How are they feeling?

How's the other person feeling? Are you feeling okay? Are you feeling okay? Are you feeling okay? Right? And it's, I had to come back. Okay. I am not responsible for these people. Like I am, I am obviously in relationship and I take care of them. I'm not a libertarianist, right. But at the same time, I'm, I'm not responsible for their internal experience.

I have to trust that they'll communicate their needs to me. And that will talk, right. Oh yeah. So that's definitely where my head was at yesterday, processing all of that. But I think even with the jealousy too, or the, we, we say that word jealousy, but I think I want to unpack it more that. That moment of, uh, somatic response and activation I feel when my partner says, oh, I might go on this date.

It's that deep classical conditioning, but the more that I sit with it, it's for me, it's not the fear that they're going to connect with someone else. Beautiful. Right? Whether they, I want them to do that. It's not even the fear of them having sex with someone else, right? Or kissing or whatever. Beautiful.

I want them to do that. For me, it's the fear of loss, right? That somehow in your balancing of all of your relationships, you're not going to have time and space for me. And that's what's so scary. And the reality is that that is true across the board of all of their relationships. They have, again, platonic friends.

They have family that they spend, you know, like there are so many different variables that could take that away. And so I kind of try to come back to that of like, okay, this is really about my fear of losing their time and energy. And as long as I can look at them and say, Hey, we've made our commitments to hold this space for one another and we're secure in that.

And if it starts to change one day because the only constant is change and oh, that's a hard lesson to hit again and again and again. Damn it. It hurts. Um, if it does start to change one day that you'll talk to me about that. Right. And then I can, Oh, okay. Okay. Yeah. No,

Lara: but that's scary as fuck. It's very scary to admit because the thing is regardless of what type of relationship style you're doing or like whatever, whatever, that is always a risk.

It's just that I think Some people are less like upfront about that. Um, cause regardless, like, even if you've been in like a 20 year monogamous marriage, like marriages end for multiple different types of reasons, you're never free of the risk of things changing. And that it can be really scary to be kind of like, yeah, and that's something we're going to be very honest and upfront about right from the beginning of this relationship.

But. also means that you can be much more intentional about like, okay, what is commitment here? Like, what, what does that look like? Because maybe I'm not committed to, oh, it's going to be me and you forever, but may, but I am committed to like, but I'm always going to talk to you about What's going on?

Nicole: Yeah, and isn't that hot?

I find that hot right that like i'm committed to you. I do not know What shape what level what frequency but i'm committed to you i'm committed to your happiness and my happiness and i'm There for that. Let's talk about that because the reality is yeah, even whatever relationship you're in again all relationships They are going to shift the person that you met at the beginning is not the person that you're with today That is inevitable and I do not want to be in a world of All of the comedians that pull the, uh, the ball in the chain, uh, my husband, uh, God, you know, what?

How did we normalize that culture? What? You know, so I, I'm committed, I will embrace the pain of change as much as it sucks and it hurts to avoid that space of, uh, the ball in the chain. What? Gross.

Lara: I know. And I don't understand it. Like, why are you spending all of your time with someone that you seem to barely tolerate?

That doesn't make any sense. But it, yeah, there is something just really beautiful about just being like, you know, whatever it looks like, I like you. Yeah. I like you and we'll figure out what that like it doesn't have to and I don't need you to fit into a specific space in my life. I don't need you to be a specific type of person.

Um, and I think also sometimes we can overemphasize what the role of romantic relationships in our lives are because there's all, like you said, there's all kinds of things that can mean that people's priorities shift. Just getting a new job can mean that somebody's time usage and like, um, presence.

Completely shifts, but we don't think of it like that doesn't kind of kick off that knee jerk panic response in the same way.

Nicole: Mm hmm. Exactly. So I think growing that expansion to see all of these different parts that can play into this. It's not just a new partner, right? It's all of the different ways that life is going to change.

And can we communicate about those ebbs and flows and. It's, it's hard. One of the biggest ones for me too is, is the eroticism and how that can shift over time, right? There is someone that you might've been so attracted to and through time, things shift and things shift and. Because of the cultural scripts around, you know, if you're not doing that, then it's not a meaningful relationship.

And even just going through the transitions, uh, the reconfigurations of maybe taking that off the table and having a deep, meaningful relationship, oof, you know, those are the continual pieces of the practice that you live into that, again, we don't have cultural scripts and narratives for this. Not at all.

Lara: Because it's like, yeah, when the, when the quote unquote spark is gone, then we're supposed to just kind of cut and move on. But yeah, I think that's a deep misunderstanding of the value of relationships. Like, somebody isn't valuable to me only because they can give me this one specific thing.

Nicole: Mm hmm. And or worse.

Of do it with your body anyways. Do not have sex when your body does not want to have sex, right? Very simple. Do not do that. Do not force your body to have sex with someone. But I know the reality is that a lot of people in their spaces of this feeling of obligation, and then they wonder why they're further disconnected to their sex drive, because there's been this pressure that you're supposed to do this, you're supposed to do this and you're forcing your body again and again to eat ice cream that it doesn't want to eat, right? And so I think that's another pain point of this is how many people also do that. And it's, it feels so simple to say, don't have sex when you don't want to have it. Wow. You know that there are people in that space.

Lara: Oh, absolutely.

Because that's a strong cultural narrative. And I mean, obligation is a terrible place to like, be leading a relationship from. I think it kind of corrodes everything that can be joyful about, you know, relating to another person when it, when it feels like it's, you know, it's not.

Nicole: Yeah. Absolutely.

Absolutely. Mm. I could hold an abundant of space for the people that are there and I've been there, right? In certain relationships. And so just, I, I'm, you know, feeling it in my own body of what it feels like to go through that. And so I just, you know,

Lara: yeah. And it's funny because like, regardless of how, you Or at least what I've noticed with me in the conversations I've had with other people is regardless of how kind of up to date you are on, you know, and talking about consent and like, and again, I think this is the thing is the difference between the theory and the practice is like when we've constantly told.

That we are supposed to keep, you know, whatever, like, if you're in this type of relationship, these are the things you're supposed to do in that relationship. It is very hard to go against that programming. Also when you're like, you're worried about hurting someone's feelings and yeah. Right.

Nicole: Yes. Deep, deep.

When I think about rape culture, this is something I think about, right? Is it's not just the direct, you know, the fear of that person hopping out of the bush, right? It is also the reality of this sort of pressure of our bodies to give, you know, I came from purity culture and so I was taught I'm going to give my body to my husband.

This was the gift, right? And so just even that internalization and I know you're not from America, but in America, it wasn't until 1996. That marital rape was outlaw. It was illegal, right? So, so shit that hasn't even been 30, uh, 30 years math there. So just thinking about when we're talking about internalized structures, how deep that is for a lot of generations that are much older than us, right?

Talk about the orgasm gap. Talk about all of that, right? That these are all parts of the. Pieces that are going on. And so I just hope people can take off that pressure because there is this feeling too, that something's wrong with me. If my relationship doesn't have that spark anymore, something's wrong with me.

Let me try and do this, do this. Maybe that eroticism has faded. And that's okay.

Lara: That's okay. And maybe, maybe giving it a break and allowing yourself to just like move in and out of your act. Because that's the thing is like I've experienced this in relationships before where like, okay, when we let go a little bit.

Right. But then you have, but you have like oxygen and that allows you to come back to a place of like, okay, why is it that I want this person in my life? What is it that I love about this person rather than from that place of obligation?

And I think that's something like, that's something that's really beautiful about relationship anarchy as well, because the whole, like part of the foundational premise is we don't own each other.

Nicole: Right.

Lara: We are not, we do not possess each other.

Nicole: Right. Right.

Lara: So we'll start from there, the way that you can build relationships with each other, it's, it should never be kind of grounded in obligation and that allows for so much, I think a lot of joy and freedom.

Nicole: Mm hmm. Yeah. The self governance and community and yeah, yeah.

And I want to hold space. I know we talked about a lot of the difficulties, but what are some of the joys of relationship anarchy for you?

Lara: I find it a bit hard to put into words sometimes because it's like it feels less tangible in a way but I think it's like what I really enjoy is this feeling of being like on a journey with myself but also with so many different people and like just getting to feel Follow people along in all of the little twists and turns and that that can sometimes, like I have, I have a lot of relationships that have gone through so many different stages where like, okay, there are periods of maybe more distance and and less communication, and then all of a sudden we have, we kind of find back to each other again and there's like, there's some intensity and maybe something had popped up again.

Like, and it, it's like that flexibility. Which just allows you to kind of like really just be in this journey together with other people in in a very kind of organic way and really see them grow into like, you know, whoever it is that they're becoming without trying to kind of like, force it to go in a specific direction.

Like there's something that's very beautiful about that. And I think that's very like, I feel like I learned so much. I learned so much about myself. I learned so much about other people. I learned so much about communicating and like, most of all, it's just. a lot of learning because I'm a very curious person.

Like I love, I love learning new things. I love kind of like feeling like I'm okay. I'm, I'm a different person now than I was three months ago. And being able to have all these kinds of deep, intimate relationships really lends itself to that.

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. And I hear you on the ineffable, the intangible joy of what that is.

And I'd be curious, even as you're talking about it, do you feel it anywhere in your body or does anything come up for you in that sense?

Lara: Yeah, I guess I feel it like, I'd say kind of in my stomach slash like here's kind of this wall, like, you know, like, Thinking about all the people, like, some of them are kind of childhood friends who I've known since I was like eight, you know, and our relationships have gone through a lot of different stages and just, just thinking about the kind of, oh yeah, I know, I know this person really well and I feel like we allow each other to be wherever we're at.

And still feeling like there's kind of a deep love and support there that we've managed to build through like communication and being able to prioritize relationships in a way that I maybe wouldn't be able to if I was, if I was doing relationships in a more, or like would feel more constricted to me.

Nicole: Right.

Lara: Um, that's, that's a warm feeling, the feeling of like, oh, you know, I have all these connections that I can, that I can pull on.

Nicole: Yeah. Mm hmm. Yeah. I feel that too in my body. And I wonder if when we first read about relationship anarchy, if that was the feeling that we felt just the littlest taste of, the littlest whisper in our body that said, Hey, this is something good over here for you.

Lara: Yeah. I mean, the first time I read the relationship anarchy manifesto, and it's short, right. But I think when, you know, you know, like I just read it and I was like,

Nicole: I love that. I love that. You know, cause you know, it's always like when you meet the one, you know, versus we read the manifesto. Yeah.

Lara: And it was just, I was like, Oh, like, I think the feeling I had was It's not me that's the problem.

Like, there's nothing wrong with me or the way that, that, like, there's something that hasn't been clicking with the way I've been told I should be doing relationships. And then I read it and I was like, right.

Nicole: Right. Exactly. Oh, such a powerful feeling. Mm hmm. And so, which makes me ask you the final question of the research, which is, what do you wish other people knew about relationship anarchy?

Lara: I think first of all, I wish more people knew what it was before. Yep. I But, second of all, I think maybe going back to what I was addressing a little bit when I answered the first question, people, like, when they hear the word related to anarchy, they can get a bit like, oh, what's that? Like, this sounds like a big word, anarchy.

Uh, when I try to kind of talk about it, and because, Because I often maybe talk a little bit about non monogamy as well, people can get very like, okay, but I, you know, I don't know about all this poly stuff and da da da da, but for me, that's kind of the least of what is important about relationship monogamy.

Like it's, it's about a fundamental re connection. orienting towards, it goes from the structural societal to the personal, but like, it is just fundamentally reorienting towards the way we are told that we have to do relationships, that I, I'm, I don't need to prioritize, yes, like my romantic sexual relatives, but also, I didn't need to prioritize my family members.

That's one of the hierarchies we're also, I think, given very little.

I had to decide how I do my relationships, and I decided together with the people that I'm in relationships with, regardless of like what society is telling me that I should do. And I think that that can kind of apply to people regardless of how many people they want to date, or, you know, like whatever label they put on their relationship.

I think it can be a real strength because it allows us to build stronger, more sustainable communities as well.

Nicole: Mm hmm. Yeah, I got chills as you were talking about that. So yes, yes. And part of the community that, you know, we build in this conversation with one another and all of the listeners that are tuning in and growing, right?

Every single conversation I have with people about this is changing me as much as I change you and all of that. The listeners are changing together. And so much of the research I had done for my dissertation had talked about, yeah, family being a part of this too, right? Of, again, it's not just sexual romantic.

So I apply these values to my family relationships of what sort of, you know, relationship do I want? Do I want to follow the societal pressure to be in connection with these people if they're actively not? The best relationships for me, right? Those are complicated spaces and these ideals of questioning the norm to build with all the things we talked about, right?

Communication, clear communication is life changing. And so I hope people can see. The vision that you speak of in terms of seeing this more expansively. And I'm really thankful for the gift of having lovely people in this community across the world. Hi, from a different country. Right. Um, that have connected with these words that started with Andy Nordgren, or maybe even before, right.

If we think even deeper to the lineage of this sort of practice before this word, but it's just exciting to be a part of that and to be changed in community. So thank you.

Lara: Yeah, thank you. I mean, you're the one writing a whole dissertation. Yeah,

Nicole: totally, totally shaped by all of us. So yeah, absolutely.

Thank you. I want to hold some space too, to take that deep breath.

Is there anything else that you want to share with the listeners? Otherwise, I can guide us towards a closing question.

Lara: No, nothing. That's fine.

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

Lara: Something that's been coming up in my life lately is a lot of conversations about feeling either not enough or too much.

So I think like, we do all know, but at the same time, we, I don't know if like, we know kind of like in our bodies that. Right. Everyone. tends to feel that way at some point in time. We're all kind of walking around trying to fit into what we think people think we should fit into. But at the end of the day, like, there was this tweet about where somebody said that most people's most kind of positive attributes are also The ones that may be the most difficult ones, like, it's kind of a, it's a flip side thing and the thing that might be the greatest thing about you can also play out as what causes the most conflict in your life.

If I'm a very open and friendly person, it means that a lot of people like meet me and they're like, oh my god, but then at the same time it can lead to me being like, Getting, getting hurt a lot of the time or, or that, or that. People like don't really know where they stand in my life and stuff like that.

And I think like we all just need to know that we're fallible humans. Yeah. Who have like many different personality traits and that we could, I think we all feel like that's not. The right thing or not enough sometimes, but like it's okay to just be human Um, we don't always have to live up to the ideal That's what all of us are doing.

Like we're all just kind of stumbling through trying to figure out day to day Like it's cliche but at the same time I feel like it's something that it's hard and it's hard to internalize it.

Nicole: Oh, yeah Yeah, like you said, to feel that in the body. I might know that as a sentence. I can tell myself again and again, but do I actually feel it?

Oh, you know, and it's wild because I have the unique positionality as a therapist where I get to hear that from all my clients, right? They're like, oh, oh, oh, no, oh, no, oh, no. And I still hear all of my clients. So then I'll go into a friend group and be like, Oh, Oh no. Oh no. Damn it. I know this is normal, but it's still so hard.

We're all out here just stumbling. Totally, which I think is kind of maybe what I do try to tell myself, right, is I'm not the only one that feels this feeling. It's not so much of a stop this feeling, stop this feeling. It's a, Oh, everybody feels this way. Everybody feels that way. And like through that sort of acceptance, I think there's a little bit more peace with it and it's not as screaming in my head to remember that everyone goes through this.

Uh, and then being able to have the safe spaces where you can kind of gently voice, Hey, I was a little nervous about this. Uh, can I check in with you about how you felt? And then, you know, friend goes, you're great. Oh my God. Yeah. You know, and you can reassure that. And the other piece you were saying too, of the being too much, it's like being too much for who, right?

For who? Because for some people I am too much. And I love that. I am way too much for my Mormon family, in the best way possible.

Lara: I mean, that filtering as well, like, cannot have a relationship with every single person you come across. So, you need to kind of, you know, Be fully yourself so that you can actually have, you know, spend time and energy on, on what makes sense.

Nicole: Absolutely, absolutely. Spend the time and energy on the other relationship anarchist who will understand me and giggle at my jokes in ways they can't. Yeah, it was such a pleasure to have you on the podcast today. Thank you. 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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