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161. Relationship Anarchist: Kat Pfligler

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

On today's episode, we have Kat. Join us for another special episode of the Relationship Anarchist Research Series. Together we talk about getting outside of the monogamy, non-monogamy binary, Finding your edge of deconstructing internalized systems of oppression, and embracing the inevitability of change.

Hello, dear listener, and welcome back to Modern Anarchy. I am so delighted to have all of you pleasure activists tuning in for another episode of the show each Wednesday. Y'all, these episodes have become so meaningful to me. These two words, relationship anarchy. Wow. I find so much community. I see myself in the joys and the struggles of all the people that have both answered the questions, the invite to submit your answers to these questions that we explore, and the guests on the show.

And so each time that I edit one of these and produce it for all of you, dear listeners, I just feel. More and more seen, more and more in community, and not alone in this, right? I know we move through the world with a lot of judgment and bias and discrimination for our various cultural practices and identities, and so this space where we can explore and build community here is so important.

So important, and I just feel so happy and so lucky that strangers from around the world are trusting me to come onto the show to answer these questions. And I'm just touched by every single conversation that I get to share with you in this podcast space, dear listener. If you want to answer the questions, the link is below.

You can answer just the questions, or you can apply to have a conversation like Kat did today and join me through a Zoom interview where we would explore this one on one, and I hope you do! I'm having so much fun talking to you. I am so honored to be one of the people in this space that is contributing to the movement of relationship anarchy and really this deeper practice of love and community and talking about the politics of of that.

So thank you, dear listener, for joining me in this space and for sending this podcast to your friends and helping to spread the movement. All right, dear listener, if you're ready to liberate your pleasure, you can check out my offerings and resources at modernanarchypodcast. com linked in the show notes below.

I have been spending this hours writing the first parts of my book that I'm going to release online for all of you because let's not put good information behind a paywall. Let's freely share this information. So I am currently working on writing the grounding in moments of jealousy guide. And I am so excited to share that with you at Dear Listener next month.

I am working so hard, hours and hours of work on the website to be able to share this with you. And so because of that, I also want to say a big Thank you to all of my Patreon supporters. You are supporting the long term sustainability of the podcast, keeping this show free and accessible for all people.

You are truly the reason why I am able to publish my book on my website and keep it free and accessible for all people. people. So thank you for contributing to that. Thank you for joining the community and for supporting this free sharing of information. All right. With that, dear listener, please know that I am sending you all of my love 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?

Kat: Wow, what a loaded question.

Nicole: Yes, it is. That's why I like it.

Kat: I like to think of myself as a compassionate, empathetic, ever learning little bean. I have only I've been in this unlearning world for the last six years, and it's just been life changing.

I am vegan, I am sober and in recovery, I have relocated, I am exvangelical, I have done every flavor of non monogamy, I've crashed and burned, and I've succeeded, and I feel like a regular old Joe Schmo just trying to figure it out. Um, yeah.

Nicole: I'm excited to talk to you. Sounds like we have a lot to unpack in the next hour.

Yeah. We do, yeah. Well, I know today we're going to be talking about relationship anarchy, and so I'm thinking I can start you off with the first question, which is, What is relationship anarchy

Kat: to me? I think it's just a way of doing what I think is best for me and giving the people in my life the opportunity to also see what could be best for them.

It's not a prerequisite to be non monogamous or to be some sort of all knowing benevolent relationship anarchist all the time. I think it's important to know. Just simply that there is space for more and to make that space as accessible as possible for the people in your world. So to me, giving the people in my life, the space to just be genuine, be honest with me with themselves and hope that it's reciprocated and that I can also decide what I want.

Decide I need and not feel genuinely not feel shame around it.

Nicole: Yeah, yeah, two things were coming up for me. Just the, I hope we can get to a space where people feel it's not just about non monogamy, right? It's so much bigger than that. And so I've been talking just about this paradigm of, you know, So much of the frame of monogamy and non monogamy puts our relationships into a binary and how can we get outside of that binary View of the world of this or that to relationship anarchy but within that I've been thinking a lot about how what sort of language could we use to still describe the Practices of what we're choosing to do so that we can communicate with others and I've been Kind of simmering on the sexual fidelity versus sexual self governance and just that, you know, that being maybe more of a frame to talk about because you could practice sexual fidelity in a dyad, multiple people, you know, and I think we still need language to describe the practice of self governance of moving through the world with that sort of framework.

And that compared to, you know, um, you know, The committedness of fidelity, and so I'm hoping we can kind of create space for everybody under that of, you know, it's not about who you're fucking, you know, you can do this or that. You're a part of the community. That's challenging. Power structure is looking at deeper connection to community and mutual aid and and how can we change the world through that sort of.

Collective, uh, power. So it's so much more than who you're fucking, you know? And so I hope that resonates with people. And as you were talking about figuring out what you want and being able to name that, you know, I'm just going, Oh, what a mess that has been, you know, feeling into that one, like, Oh, what do I want?

How do I communicate this to people? How do I. Take up that space to say this is actually what I want and to do that with kindness and, you know, gentleness for the people of how that impacts them. And, oh, you know, there's so many moving pieces to that one.

Kat: Yes, something that. I resonated with first when I heard of relationship anarchy was that be monogamous, right?

And I was like, Whoa, I can do what my nesting partner and I have gone through, as I said, just about every flavor of non monogamy. And just this past summer in 2023, I decided to consciously, I suppose, deescalate from being primary hierarchical. And First of all, it was a show, but I can't imagine having to do something like that with anybody else.

It was made so possible by the fact that we have done just about every flavor of non monogamy, including Monopoly, which I'm sure you know that there is a lot of. Anti monopoly conversation online. And I currently only have one partner. I would love another partner. I do enjoy dating from time to time, but I just value my own solitude so much.

And. I always have, and I think I always will in allowing myself to be open to more. I'm also allowing myself to just be, and my partner is also okay with that. So hearing that you can be monogamous in relationship anarchy setting gave me the permission to just really see how much space there really is less of a binary of, are you monogamous or non monogamous and more of.

It's just this big circle and you can be, you know, up here one day or down here another day and it's still relationship anarchy.

Nicole: Yeah, the matrix, right? What's the, is it the blue pill or the red pill? I don't know. Which one is it?

Kat: I think I've seen the matrix maybe half a time.

Nicole: Okay. I'm trying to think of metaphors.

You know, there's the Plato's allegory of the cave, right? Where, you know, you're so dim to the light that when you come out, you're like, You know of the cave it hurts and you've seen that enlightenment or yeah, the blue pill red pill matrix, right? Whatever sort of metaphor that we want to use. I think that we have to name this world of Stepping into relationship anarchy taking that lens to the relationship escalator Taking the lens to the scripts these prescriptive ways of being and then sitting back and saying okay Now that I know all this what do I want?

Maybe it is One person and a lot of alone time and that being a radically different experience then, okay, I'm, you know, 25, I'm going to get married now. I'm going to have the white picket fence. I'm going to do this and writing the escalator in a way that is never sort of critically looked at. Right. And so some people sometimes use the word conscious monogamy, choosing it, trying to like kind of create language around this.

I've tried everything under the sun and this is what feels good for me. It wasn't this assumption. It's rather a choice. And so I think there's, I hope we can also create more language for that experience, right? Of what it's been like to, for you specifically, right? To, to unpack all of that and choose this.

Kat: Exactly. I think that it's also important to just say that if you want a white picket fence and two kids,

Nicole: that's beautiful.

Kat: Yeah. Um, and also, all of this to say that I still don't know what I want. Oh, totally. You know what I mean? This is today. There's something, I think I wrote this in my little application form to you, is that I'm like the king of faking it till I make it.

And there's nuance to that. Like, I don't want people thinking that they have to just keep doing it and it's not working for them. Once you are able to dissect what your values are, and not why you're doing this, but why you want this, even if your values don't align with your feelings, That doesn't mean that it's not what you want.

Nicole: Oh yeah.

Kat: Like, there were years for me where my values just did not align with my feelings. Totally. Day to day I feel different, but also season to season, I'm just a different person. You know, sometimes I love being on the dating apps and getting my fill of that. Sometimes I just want to read 52 books in a year.

You know?

Nicole: Mm-Hmm. .

Kat: It's also nice having the ability to be so real and open with people under the label of relationship anarchy and tell them, I don't know what I want, but I'm happy to figure that out with you. Yeah.

Nicole: Mm-Hmm. ,

Kat: I don't know that I could have ever done that so easily or so transparently in just a typical mono, mono normative setting.

Nicole: Yeah, self development insight, right? And I'd be curious how you feel about this. You know, the fake it till you make it, you know, I, I almost want to offer another frame of the, and you were starting to speak to it of, of moving from our value system, right? This faking till you make, like the word faking as if we're lying or something compared to this, I have a value system.

I know this value system and I'm going to choose to act from that, even though I'm feeling the fear in my body, even though I'm feeling this or that, I'm going to act from my value system. And so like DBT therapy, and I think it, it might give us more of a like positive frame than the, the faking, which suggests we're lying versus, oh, I'm growing through choice, even though there is the discomfort.

And. For me, I mean, even just thinking back to my queerness, right? Like I had values of being in that, but my body was reacting with fear, right? Of the society and, and judgment towards myself. We call that internalized homophobia, right? And so a great example of that contrast of feeling your values, right?

And still choosing to act from it, but that doesn't discredit the difficulty of this. And, and for me, I've just, you know, was reflecting the other day, just how in so many times I've. Practice, you know, sexual freedom and self governance and, and looked at other people that are doing it and judged them and known that I'm on this journey known that I want to do this known that my value systems are here and I would still look at them and be like, gross, and I, I just sit with that going like you're trying to do, why, why?

Why? And then I have to sit with the, Oh yes, internalized mononormativity. Like that is deep in my bones, just like internalized homophobia. And so I, I sit with that and those automatic thoughts and judgments and unpacking that and don't take them at face value for reality as much as I can't with internalized homophobia.

So there's just so much in that process. I think of dismantling the ways the systems have been internalized in us.

Kat: Absolutely. Thank you for the reframe. Yeah. I want to speak to something you said about sitting with the discomfort. As someone who has been into yoga and powerlifting and gymnastics, I know that athletes understand finding your edge and knowing when to listen to how to push past that in a safe way and also when to back down from that.

And I do believe that it's a lost art to put that skill to our mental and emotional capabilities as well. It is not always about, Oh, that doesn't feel good for me. I'm putting up a boundary. I think that's an abuse of the word boundary as are a lot of things, but in this case, it's not benefiting you in either way to just shun yourself from anything that makes you uncomfortable.

Nicole: Yeah. Growth comes in discomfort, right? And Do you follow the reductress count account on Instagram? No, I'm not. Okay. Yeah. Well, good for you. Um, the, uh, the account, it has like this, um, it was this one joke. So I rock climb, right. And it said, uh, rock climbing gym membership requires, uh, certification of open relationship, you know, dynamic or something silly.

And it's just funny. The amount of people that have sent me that meme is so high. And, but I think about it all the time, right? Like what's the crossover between the rock climbing community and, and non monogamy, right? It's wow. Okay. Exactly what you just said. I know where my limits are. I do hard things. I do scary things.

I do dangerous things, you know, but you do it with safety. You do it with a partner you trust. You do it with lots of communication. You do it with lots of practice. You do it with lots of baby steps, right? And you can start to see how that parallel would translate directly to, okay, we're embarking on this journey together.

How do we communicate? How do I check in with my body so that I'm not Quite literally dissociating or blacking out on the wall because I'm so scared, right? That is not the state we want to be in when I'm climbing, but it could happen if I push myself past that point. And so there's so many times like last night I was climbing this route where I was, you know, looking at the roof and I'm gonna be climbing up, you know Sort of upside down going.

Oh my god, that's so scary. And then I I flash it You know, I do it and it's great, right? So there's so much of that mental game of, of how much are we anticipating? Can we check in with our body and enough to actually push through that? I mean, that's. A heart of everything, I think, in terms of the application between these two.

Kat: Totally.

Nicole: Yeah. Which, before we get, I, these conversations are hard for me because I think I could just run through the milieu of all things and get away from the questions. So I will draw us back to, uh, how do you practice relationship anarchy?

Kat: I practice by prioritizing myself. I practice by caring for my friends in a way that I would care for my partner and I practice in a way of caring for my partner the way that I would care for myself.

I have one nesting partner. My nesting partner has been my core or anchor partner for the last six years. And they now have another partner and a long distance partner also dated at one point. Is that how it works? Yeah. And I have a couple of, I hate the term friends with benefits, but that's the term that everybody knows.

Um, so how about have a couple pals that I'll see occasionally. And. I go to therapy in terms of it being anarchy. It just becomes so intersectional for me, both with like my internal politics. And also I think how to navigate the interpersonal conversations that I have with people, especially around, I mean, everything's political.

Yeah. Yeah. The personal. Yeah. Yeah. Between like my inner critic, my inner dialogue, my inner politics, my inner values. And how those buttheads or even meet with the people that I interact with at work or my in laws or my own estranged family. It's just also interwoven. Yeah.

Nicole: I loved what you were saying about loving others as you would want to be loved for yourself, right?

That that's a Spirituality, here we go again, right? The golden rule, it's all right here, right? That's been a lot of my frame of grounding for this too, because at times like processing again through the discomfort of, of learning to love. Others and them love others to, you know, and, and hold space for them developing love and capacity for other relationships.

That's been so scary and so easy to do for myself. I can easily throw, you know, have multiple lovers and feel this capacity to say, yes, I love all of them. But the second that my partner does it, whoa, is that scary? You know? And so. I'm thinking about the world of psychodynamic theory, which is a little, I'm going to say it's negative, but at times they talk about how, you know, people are objects in our world.

And so, you know, I don't really like that frame, but I think another maybe frame to it of understanding is, you know, I have a secure attachment to myself. So I'm not really worried about myself, you know, but then the question of looking at my partner and can I have a secure attachment as they build out all different types of love, again, not just sexual, all types of love where they spread their energy and time and touch and all of that with multiple people and I frequently come back to the space of, okay, what sort of freedom would I want?

And that has been such a grounding space of moving from love of how I would want to be treated.

Kat: Exactly. Something that you said reminded me to just mention here that envy and jealousy still happen.

Nicole: Oh, yeah.

Kat: It is not the point of non monogamy and especially not the point of relationship anarchy. To just eradicate those things.

And I for sure thought that it was bullshit hearing time after time after time in the beginning of my journey that people still experience these things and something about other people being objects in our world. Obviously I don't love that verbiage either, but it makes sense in that. I think humans also believe that they're the exception to things and like, Oh, of course, everybody else can practice that.

But for me, like, you know, I don't want to experience jealousy or I should be able to get past this, or, you know, it's been years. I don't know why I still feel this occasionally when it comes up, or I didn't feel this last time. Why am I feeling it this time? Yeah. And hearing people say that feelings of jealousy or envy are just telling you little things about yourself.

I thought that was absolute bullshit, absolute BS. And now that I'm able to live it, I realized that I am not the exception and I'm not better than feeling my feelings.

I'm not better than experiencing.

Nicole: Yeah. Yeah. Because these are, you know, again, let's go back to the no strings attached, right? That doesn't happen.

Okay. People, we are, we form attachments, we form relationships and so much, you know, importance in those relationships. And so, yeah, it's scary at the potential loss of that. Of course, we're going to feel that I feel like maybe this will resonate with you. And what. It actually hits that changes though over time, you know, there's so much classical conditioning in our culture of if they do this, then it means they're leaving them.

Let's just talk about the frame of God tumbler back in the day. If you fall in love with a second person, leave the first, because that means you never really loved the first. Yeah. It's just like, it's just like, okay, so we have all been classically conditioned to Oh, I love this other person. Oh, no, they don't love.

Oh, oh, no. Oh, no. So for me, it's been a stretching of, okay, maybe not that thing. That thing doesn't hit me anymore, but it's something else, you know, it's something else. And then unpacking that and getting curious about where is that coming from, right? What sort of, you know, grounding do I need to feel secure in our dynamic again?

I'm curious if that resonates for you.

Kat: It does. And I'm not sure why, but this reminded me of early on in my non monogamy journey, my partner would use or the analogy is that, you know, parents have multiple children love one more than the other. And similar, similar analogies, and they just never stuck with me.

And I think part that's because those terms can't be universal for everybody. Maybe my parents partners loved all of his siblings the same, but that wasn't the case for me. Right. That wasn't the case for me and my four siblings. And it was very obvious and it still is very obvious to this day that just did not resonate with me.

Yeah. I was watching Gilmore girls who among us hasn't. And there was this episode where Lorelei struggled with Rory having a boyfriend because that meant that she wasn't going to be Lorelei's best friend anymore. And also just like the maternal feeling of, I have to let go. That resonated with me more than the sibling analogy, more than I like apples, more than I like oranges.

I can't compare them. It was, I have to let go and I'm not going to lose Vinny even if I am losing some of the energy. I'm not losing the love of Vinny. I'm just losing some of the energy that was given to me, but it's still not mine. Right. So yeah, I don't know. I don't know why that was such a profound moment for me, but it might be because I feel more maternal love than I do romantic love.

And it just clicked for me that Vinny's not leaving me, you know? Yeah. There is such innate panic. When you've been raised in a mononormative society, when your partner, even if your partner already has a second partner and they're now dating a third one, that can still come up. It's wild. You wouldn't think it would, but boy, how he does it, you know, for me, I just realized that, you know, Rory was doing what she wanted and what was right for her.

Um, and. It was just so silly. It was so silly the way Lorelai was acting. And I was like, I am being a bad mom partner right now.

Nicole: Yeah. Yeah. It takes a lot of internal work to, um, reframe that right of, wow, my partner is following what's bringing them joy. And I'm excited for them. Even if that means I have to let go a little bit and remember that That love was freely given to me, not mine to own or possess.

I don't own or possess them. That was something they were freely giving to me. And so I. Let go of that for them to live out their life to the best of their capacities. And we would only hope that we would be given that same freedom. I think pending the, uh, drug that is new relationship energy and hoping that our partners aren't just getting lost in that psychedelic trip.

And so we like to hope that we're traveling in this journey with people who've kind of rode that ride a few times to not get too high and lost off of that track, but apart from that, right. To hope that, yes, like. I, I always tell my partners, you know, like, I hope that at the end of our lives, if we're lucky enough to live to that point, that I can look at you and say, we lived everything we wanted to.

We supported one another in exploring everything to our heart's content and that I was there along with you for the ride.

Kat: Yeah.

Nicole: And that sometimes means. Letting go of that piece of control potentially to reframe back to what you were saying earlier of. I want you to have that freedom that love that capacity.

Um, as hard as that can be,

Kat: you know, it's true to that. The association that we have with a partner leaving us, or a partner breaking up with us, or us meeting to break up with a partner is the toxic model normative breakup.

Nicole: Yeah,

Kat: where you lose friends, you can't go to your favorite restaurant anymore. You think about moving cities so that you don't have to run into them.

You delete each other on social media. Like, there's so many layers to the typical monogamous breakup. That obviously is a fear and that fear is largely unaddressed and it just doesn't have to be that way, especially within relationship anarchy, where you can just have those open conversations and then decide what works for you.

Cause maybe what works for you is something that could work for your partner too. And it doesn't have to be what it has been this whole time or nothing. Like those are not the only option. In a while. Hard for people to wrap their mind around, but it has to be. It doesn't have to be one or the other.

Nicole: I know.

Yeah. I think that's a reflection of larger systems, right? If we're so individualized, so away from the community that, yeah, you just jump out. I'm done. Goodbye. Never see you again. Versus this reality of even just for me, inhabiting queer spaces, you know, where it's a much smaller community. So yeah, when you potentially quote, unquote, break up, right, you're, I'm going to see them, you know, especially within my queer climbing community, then you got real, real small, you know, it's like, I see you now every Sunday.

Hey, you know, so just that, that navigation of that space is maybe, um, I think a reflection of the larger ways that we're so broken apart rather than in community, but again, like you're saying the self development to navigate that. Huge. You know, back in the day, I didn't really have the capacities to navigate all the feelings that came up around that.

So it's such a journey to be able to get comfortable with that. And I think that being a key part of relationship anarchy and reconfiguring and constantly reconfiguring, maybe shoot, you know, like just the inevitability of change and the ways that that works. So that skill is something that's really important in all of this.

Kat: Absolutely. And it's nice to what you said about having the community, um,

you're a part of the community too. It's nice to have the community that understands it because then they are also able to hold space. There's something to be said for within the personal development, knowing how to regulate self regulate. Yeah. But having the ability to co regulate even with the partner that you just uncoupled with is so nice.

How many monogamous people I know I, when I was in monogamous relationships, I wanted to co regulate with my ex partner immediately after let's have a debrief. Everybody has breakup sex. Like, come on. It's written right there and we just don't utilize it. We're not allowed to feel this way or we have to feel this other way, but it's accessible.

There's space for it. We just have to like recognize that there is space.

Nicole: Right, which means creating new narratives of possibilities, right? Of ways to connect again. We need more narratives of that because the only narrative we have right now is divorce, right? And then you have this complicated relationship afterwards versus, you know, Oh, we're still re navigating that.

And so for me, even stepping into this community in my local community in Chicago and seeing people who have done this, who have reconfigured and gotten closer. Yeah. Yeah. Now live together and never did when they were dating, you know, like as you know, friends, whatever label we want to put on that friends is not expressive enough for the complexity of that, but you hear me.

Um, so I think having narratives of that possibility in my world just changed everything. Cause again, I can't see this in media. I can't see this in a movie. So actually seeing it lived out and worked. In reality has shifted, which is why I'm so passionate about this space as the podcast, right? Because I know that so many people don't have examples of it.

And so when we're speaking of it, I have other people coming on here and talking about that journey. I'm, I'm hoping that it's percolating, you know, new narratives for people in terms of what's possible.

Kat: So absolutely. Yeah. My, one of my best friends from high school consider each other. Partners, I would say.

But it's a very loose term. We're very much like queer platonic partners. Mm-Hmm. . And most of the time we default to just best friends. They live across the country in their own little poly Mm-Hmm. . And the poly considers me part of the poly qe little comment. And they have been ahead of me on this journey for a few years.

And so it's been wonderful to have. Mm-Hmm. just some sort of model, like you were saying, to know that it is possible. I know that not everybody has the privilege to have like a really close friend or family who's also doing this that they can confide in or up to, but I have learned so much from them just in the way of watching.

And letting my brain reframe as much as it can.

Nicole: Yeah, exactly. Which is uncomfortable, but the growth. Yeah. And you know, the next question I have here is why do you practice relationship anarchy?

Kat: I think it becomes just as intersectional for me as my veganism, as my soberism, as my feminism. I try to instill in myself the ability to Not think that one injustice is more important than another and then I can't fight for one because one might be more important and it just makes sense to me that similarly one person's needs in my life are not more important than another person's needs in my life and those two are not more important than my own needs.

And within this structure, it just allows me not just the ability to mess up, but the ability to constantly be learning about. Ways that I can just do better, ways that I can show up, ways that I can still get it wrong and both hold myself accountable, hold others accountable, ask others to hold me accountable in both small and big ways.

Mostly I just have been fighting for injustices as, you know, ableism, racism, feminism for so long and trying to also fight my feelings to be in line with those values that it just makes sense to me that I would want my relationships with other people, romantic, sexual, familial, however, to be given the same amount of space.

Nicole: Yeah. Which almost makes me want to pop directly into the next question of how does relationship anarchy impact your practice of intimacy? I feel like I'm kind of catching how those two could be really related.

Kat: I think that it's allowed me to become more intimate with myself. I think it's very easy sometimes to be intimate with someone else.

Even if it's not, you know, peak intimacy and then to get home and want to either numb myself from feeling whatever I felt or to ignore the fact that I'm not able to experience that with other people or. The list could go on, but to be able to feel intimate with myself in a way that I've had to unlearn just dumping all of my feelings or my emotions specifically onto just one partner, as I would in a, you know, typical monogamous relationship and hold them responsible for them.

I can't share everything anymore. With my partner, and that feels weird to say, but I also don't want to share everything with them, not because they can't handle it or because I don't trust them with it, but because it's not their fucking responsibility, even still, when, you know, they do something that I don't feel great about if it's not infringing on my boundaries or my values, it's my responsibility to take care of that.

And so just in that work itself, it's allowed me to be more intimate with myself, which in turn then has allowed me to be more intimate with other people, right? In the early stages of non monogamy, it was hard for me to be intimate with other people because I felt like I was emotionally cheating on my partner.

I know that feeling. Which just wasn't the case, like we allowed each other allowing it the word because allowing makes me feel like either of us are property, but we gave each other the permission to do it. And even still, I felt I can't share X, Y, Z with a new person because I've shared that with Vinny, or I share this part of me with Vinny.

And again, that's just not the case.

Nicole: That's where I come back to the internalized mononormativity, right? This, I know I have the freedom. I know we're on the same page and I still feel like I'm doing something wrong. And I, uh, always like I'm doing something wrong. Yeah. Well, that's sky daddy. You know, that's the, yeah, yeah, exactly.

Which you know, Leads into the next question of the difficulties, right? What are the difficulties of relationship anarchy? I think we're already hitting on some of them of just, you know, unpacking that internalized amount of normativity bias. That is so deeply laid in ways that are frankly outside of our control.

As fish in the water of this world, like other forms of oppression, right? Where we can't shy away from that internalized piece of blank oppression, right? We have to be able to sit with it, get critical about it, and quite literally shovel it out, you know? But you can't deny the fact that it's in there because of the systems we live in.

Kat: Yes. Can you ask me the original question again?

Nicole: Yeah. What are some of the difficulties that you've experienced with relationship anarchy?

Kat: My relationship anarchy in particular has been tough in that my nesting partner and I were primaries five plus years. We also were not on the same page as each other when we were deescalating in that My partner thought that we had been in a process of deescalating when we had the official conversation.

To me, it was something that we had just talked about and then we had the conversation and it wasn't a conversation of how do we make this happen? Can we work towards this? It was a conversation of here is my other partner. And we are no longer primaries. You and I. And that was really, really hard. And I think that would have been hard for anybody.

Sure. But it was particularly hard because not just were we primaries, but we own a home together.

Mm.

Yeah. And we've also Been through so much together that it suddenly felt like I lost all of the knowledge and the tools that I had built in remembering that. It's not about equality. It's about equity.

And suddenly I was like. We own a home together. We have three baby cats together. We share a car. How is this going to work? Um, this was, this was a, this was a five year plan for me. Like I certainly wasn't expecting for it to happen this summer or this soon with you in this new relationship. And how do, how do I navigate this?

And it very much, I mean, it took time, but it mostly came down to, we got a relationship coach who has been wonderful and having regular check ins about, we would use the relationship anarchy, um, smorgasbord and just talk very openly about where we were, what we wanted, both in the moment and what we wanted long term because those are two very different things.

Yep. Yep. And. The struggle has gotten so much easier. It's not something that I think is ever going to go away, which they don't really tell you, but, but makes sense.

Nicole: Yeah,

Kat: problems just never stop happening, you know, and I think that a lot of newbies out there shout out newbies think that it's about perfectionism or like being perfect or getting it right because otherwise you're hurting someone and there is a distinct difference between hurt and harm.

And just remember that if you are not harming someone, you can still hurt them, but you're not harming them. , you know? Mm-Hmm. . You're not gonna, it's not gonna be perfect.

Nicole: No. It's gonna be real messy.

Kat: gonna be real messy. Even monogamous relationships are messy. Sure. Friendships are messy. Familial relationships are messy.

We are just putting the this on a pedestal because society has told us that we have to prioritize romantic relationships and to society. Romantic and sexual are synonymous, which also is just the case. It's just not the case. So the struggle is ongoing, but it's nothing compared to what I would have thought it would be five years ago.

If you told me where it would be now. because of the work that I've done.

Nicole: Yeah, I'm just hearing this, uh, change is the only constant, right? How many times do I have to have that lesson hit me in the face, you know, again and again and again and again, God damn it. And, uh, Just got to let go, baby. Oh, I know, but I want to know where I'm moving, you know, where am I going?

Do I have security? Ah, you know, but Yeah, it's a hard space. I guess I'm just thinking about like, in, in the beginnings of my journey, even in the space of relationship anarchy, finding someone who I felt like I was, wow, I'm going to spend my whole life with this person. We're going to live relationship anarchy out.

And, and, you know, we have this freedom. It's so gorgeous and beautiful. And just the ways that that attraction to that person shifted and morphed into different levels of love that are way different than when I started. started at and then to find someone new in my world where it's bringing up a lot of those same feelings of, of joy and wanting to build this whole world with them now too.

And I have this sort of feeling now of, Oh, you know, this is now, I don't know where I'll be in a year with them. I thought I was going to be at this place at this other person, you know, ah, which almost makes me try to be more present with it now of I'm feeling so much joy right here right now. I don't know what's gonna happen in a month.

I don't know what's gonna happen in a year, but right now right here It feels so good But yeah, it's really hard to to flex that when we have quite literal, you know things like a house and a mortgage And a car and these very, you know, depending on which levels you choose to, you know, cross over in that.

Those are very, you know, kids, you know, right? Pets. These are very real lived, you know, strings. And so the, the inevitability of change with those sorts of strings. It's complicated,

Kat: complicated. It's complicated in both practice and in theory, especially when it comes to noting the privileges of each dynamic.

Nicole: Right. Exactly. Yeah. Cause yep. The personal is political. It's right there. All of those privileges are pertinent. And then trying to think about equity and all the, it's yeah, yeah, which is making me think too. I mean, these are some of the complexities, but. What are the joys, you know, all of this work that you're putting into deconstruct and sit with this?

What are some of the joys of relationship anarchy?

Kat: I love meeting new people. My biggest joy so far was realizing that there is not the one for me. When I finally accepted that, as opposed to just hearing it or knowing it, when my body finally registered that there is not the one for me, it allowed me to see people in relation to me, not who they can be for me and thinking that there could be the one for me.

Or even in a serial monogamy way, like, Oh, uh, you know, he wasn't the one for me. I thought he was, but the one that's still out there. And releasing that thought, it's just given me so much more freedom to see people. Yeah. And let people change themselves. I have accepted that I am going to be me, but I'm going to be so many different versions of me by the time I die.

Oh yeah. And I want the people in my life to have that freedom and I don't want to be responsible for boxing them in. Right. You know, into what they can be for me, what they can do for me, how they can show up for me. It's just not fair. And it doesn't do someone's spirit any justice. Right.

Nicole: I'm thinking about for me as I step into this frame more and more, it's so much easier to see it with friends, right?

Again, friends. We, we. You may have best friends, maybe one best friend at some point, and it's really clear you're spending a lot of time with that one and you, but you have multiple other friends. Maybe you develop two really close best friends. Maybe even you have the three of you hang out and really love that.

Or maybe you spread out the time where you see the one best friend here and the one best friend over there. And within this frame of best friends, it's so much easier. This release of control, right? We don't look at someone else. You're doing what with your other people, right? Like there's so much more flexibility.

And for the, you know, all of us, I don't, you know, I'll speak for myself. I'm going to assume for you and maybe the world out there of just the ways that as you move through your life, you change and grow and certain friends grow with you and certain friends don't and go down different life paths. And we kind of allow that sort of flexibility.

Much easier, right? And I think it comes back again to like the strings of, you know, did you, yeah, get the house together and all that stuff. It's much harder than, you know, we don't typically do that with quote unquote friends, but there's so much more flexibility for that model of love and what that model of love.

And then I start to think about. Purity culture scripts of what it means to have sex with people and all of that and how that plays into our desire to control Right and and and all of that but again when it comes back to friends We have such an easy model relatively of of the flexibility And the ways that we change and grow and who resonates with us and how that changes over time and so I continue to try and flex into that space which Again, it sounds radical to say, Oh, it's not the one.

I'm not looking for the one. I'm looking who resonates with me now and continues to resonate with me. And I don't know who that's going to be.

Kat: Yeah, I love that. I love that, especially because for me, friendships have become. So much more important to me, the frame that changes everything. Right. Even just here.

Oh, they're just a friend, right? That's so demoting. And that's so unfair to everything that you've built with that person. You know what I mean? Yes. Regardless of the level of intimacy or how long you've been friends hearing. Oh, they're just a friend. It's just in the, it's just in the words. Yeah. Mm hmm.

Nicole: Yeah, that's why I'm always talking about that frame of the, Oh, I'm single. As if you have no other meaningful relationships in your life, right? Right. And then how that does quite literally your existential frame to your narrative. It shapes your whole reality. I'm alone. I'm alone. Oh, I just had my friends over here.

Just my friends came over. What? Yeah. Right? And so when you start to flip that and actually see, Oh, this is a human that is spending their limited time and energy and we are co creating this dynamic together that shapes how I see myself, how they see themselves and the complexity of that. I think it really expands your world out from this.

two dimensional black and white to a full rainbow of colors. And I think, at least for me, that's one of the many beauties of this, this frame, this philosophy, this practice.

Kat: That's true and I think on the other side of the same coin opposite of, oh, they're just a friend. You hear they're so close. They're like family and it feels like there's just a hierarchy of how relationships have to be and sometimes.

It's like ingrained in law that your husband or your wife is going to be more important than anyone else, right? Until then your family is the most important. And for folks like me and I'm sure many others who are estranged from their family, we hear things like your friends are your family. I don't want my friends to be my friend, my family.

I just want community. I just want, why do they have to be something that they're not? Sure. I treat my friends like my family and sure. I treat my family like my friends and that's how I think it should be. But why can't we just reframe that to be, this is my community of people. Powerful.

Nicole: Yeah. Which is leading me into maybe the last question that might resonate with what you just shared, which is.

What do you wish other people knew about relationship anarchy?

Kat: That it's possible. Yeah. Yeah. Right. I can do it. Anybody can do it.

Nicole: Yeah.

Kat: I mean, if I can do it, anybody can do it.

Nicole: Yeah, no, I'm laughing at myself actually for just like previous. Yeah. The cat's adorable, but I'm laughing at myself for previous versions of me, my old self who, you know, My partner, you know, I was in a monogamous heterosexual relationship and my partner would want to go just to grab lunch with a female friend and I lost my shit.

Like, not even someone they dated in the past, not even someone they're interested in. Just a friend and I would flip out and part of that. I don't know about you It goes back to purity culture where I was taught. Oh a man and a woman can't be in the same room together That's too risky. That's too dangerous.

That's not okay So I was already framed in that this is not appropriate to ever happen at all So when my partner goes to do that for lunch My brain. Whoa. You know, so I'm just laughing with you. If I can do it, you can do it energy because that's where I came from.

Kat: Yeah, I specifically the phrase like causing a brother to stumble.

Yeah. Puts all of the, puts all of the responsibility on this woman, which makes you want to distrust her for no reason.

Nicole: She's Eve. She's Eve. She started the whole thing. Remember? She started all of this in the woman. I claim that now with pride.

Kat: Putting all of that responsibility in this specific scenario where, and I can relate to this, where my, you know, one of my old boyfriends would want to hang out with a girl.

Yeah. Purity culture taught me that it is her responsibility. She should know better. Because I know better than to hang out with some guy by myself. So what is she doing? And then that makes me distrust her. Right. But also the underlying distrust is actually with my partner and I'm just not acknowledging it because I don't trust that if I were alone with a man.

Even I were the one causing him to stumble. He would be the one stumbling.

Nicole: I know. And I'm just holding that there's a no world that we could have tapped back into our younger selves and said this, you know what I mean? Like the complexities of just the journey that it is to get to the space of understanding that with insight, which makes me just so curious where we'll be at in 20 plus years when we look back going, man, we knew nothing, you know, or we knew a lot.

But wow, there's even more to learn, right? Just the complexities of no one could have tapped me on the shoulder and just handed this nugget to me. It took all of the unfolding over years of messiness to kind of get that level of insight.

Kat: Yeah. It's awesome. It's also been a lot of just reading books like last year, the big two books for me were all about love by bell hooks.

Yeah. And the polyamory paradox by Irene morning. Okay. All about love by bell hooks helped me reframe how I perceived love. She talks about how love is the ability to nurture one's own and another's spiritual growth through respect, care, affection, and that's the definition of love to Belle, and that just made so much sense to me.

To go back a little bit, we were talking about the ownership of your partner's love or energy. And then giving it to me, reframing it, not just as like a chemical reaction for NRE, but my partner and myself are able to experience love, just as any other emotion. It is not just a thing that we do arbitrarily.

And love in the absence of any of those things to me now is just not love. And so knowing that my partner is capable of love by that definition makes me accept more easily that they want to love other people. That is a red flag to me to not want my partner to do that. Right. If I didn't want my partner to love other people in the way of respect, care, affection, and nurturing their own spiritual growth or someone else's spiritual growth, why am I with them?

Claps for Bell. Yeah. Not even a non monogamous book. That's just a book all about love.

And it really, really changed me. And then the other one, polyamory paradox, I feel like was a build off of polysecure. Yeah. But polyamory paradox was less about attachment theory and more about aligning your values with your feelings and knowing kind of a baseline of where you're at with attachment.

And your own trauma and feeling like, I don't know if you're also familiar with Clementine Morgan. They have a few zines and 1 of them is called, um, I think I want this, but I feel like I'm fucking dying or something like this also was. Iconic for me, um, a few years ago, but building off of just that idea, Irene puts into words in such a beautiful and succinct way.

And through some exercises, how to feel safe when there's this discrepancy between your values and your feelings of that powerful, very powerful.

Nicole: I'll have to check those out. I'm excited to look into them. Yeah. I recorded with Jessica Fern two weeks ago. I know. And I, I cried. I cried. I was so excited. It was such a big moment.

I was like, Oh my God, I made it. Yeah. Congratulations. Thank you. So it was so cool. Yeah. You know, I'm like going through school and internship and trying to match and get all this and none of it's resonating with me in terms of where I want to go. But to have that moment was such a like, uh, so yeah. I say that for you.

That's really cool. It was, it was, yeah. Yeah. It was a good conversation, but yeah. I want to hold some space too. As we come towards the end of our time today, we've talked about so many good things and I think there's so much grief. at the end of these conversations that I've been recording with Relationship Anarchists because I know that I could talk to you for hours.

I know that I could bring you into my community and have so much fun even connecting with you deeper. So there's definitely a beauty of these and such a loss at the same time. And so I want to just hold space in case there's anything else that you wanted to share with the listeners. Otherwise I could guide us towards our closing question.

Kat: Feel free to guide us towards the closing question. Thank you.

Nicole: Yeah, of course. Well, then the one question that I ask every guest on the show is, what is one thing that you wish other people knew was more normal?

Kat: I wish people knew that grief exists outside of death. I have experienced so much loss and so much grief in the last year.

And some of those instances were because of losing a loved one. And some of those instances were because of a, before you break up, um, some of those instances were because of a de escalation and it's interesting to see how your body can react differently when there's no prescribed way to feel grief and knowing that I can feel more triggered or more depressed.

One of those instances than the other, and that's not the societal like recommendation is that I should feel stronger about one of these than the other, or that I shouldn't feel that way at all. Especially when it comes to non-monogamy, you're still allowed to feel grief over a breakup, even if you are still experiencing other wonderful relationships.

Nicole: Yeah.

Kat: And they can impact you in any number of ways. But we could also talk about grief and death in another podcast if you'd like. Yeah, exactly.

Nicole: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm in literally a class on loss of mourning right now, so you're just pinpointing all of that for me. So I'm thinking about. That and yes, the pain of one relationship and the joy of the other at the same time.

And I think, uh, even in a good example of this from my class was thinking about people who decide to have children, right? There is the joy of this new life that you're bringing into the world. And also the grief of the loss of the self that existed without this previously, right? You now have this beautiful thing, but you've also lost that beautiful thing.

The alone time, the individual, the dyad that you might've been in, right? All of that. It comes with that. Yes. And graduating from my program, I'm going to be so excited, but also so sad to leave behind this chapter in these people. And so the yes, and of that, and hopefully through that holding of the yes, and, and not just.

Not just the pain and not just the pleasure. I hope we can reach a fullness to life to look the pain in the face and, and see it for what it is and feel the pleasure through the, the yes. And to it rather than the one or the other.

Kat: Exactly. I'm really excited to see in the next 20 or so years, not just where the script for monogamy and amount of normativity take us, but also like.

The script for everything to just be on a spectrum. Yeah. For everything to be allowed to have nuance. Yeah. I'm really excited to see that. Me too. Me too.

Nicole: Well, it's such a joy to have you on the podcast today. Thank you for joining us. Thank you so much. If you enjoyed today's episode, then leave us a five star review wherever you listen to your podcast and head on over to 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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