Peter McGraw continues to explore (un)conventional relationships by examining relationship anarchy with his new friend, Jessicka Chamberlin (aka Joosey). They met each other on Clubhouse (the popular new social media app that features real-time conversation), and they taped the episode live in a Clubhouse room. As part of their discussion, they present the origins of Relationship Anarchy, talk about some of the misconceptions about being a relationship anarchist, and conclude with some tips for the aspiring relationship anarchist: keeping an open mind, value exploration, and having a process by which to process ideas and challenges (such as a therapist).
Listen to Episode #71 here
This episode continues to explore conventional and unconventional relationships, examining relationship anarchy with a new friend, Jessicka Chamberlin, also known as Joosey, from Clubhouse, the new, hot social media app that features real-time conversation. Quoting from an article by Katie Heaney at The Cut, “Relationship Anarchy, a term coined by Andie Nordgren, is a relationship philosophy which draws its tenets from political anarchy. The main one being that all relationships, romantic or otherwise, shouldn’t be bound by any rules not agreed on by the involved partners. What those relationships may look like may vary greatly from pair to pair, but there are several core values shared by most relationship anarchists. Being non-hierarchical, i.e., they don’t rank the romantic partner or partners as necessarily more important than their friends. Anti-prescriptionists, i.e., there are no built-in prescriptions about what a partnership must look like, and often non-monogamous.”
Besides discussing the origins of the term Relationship Anarchy, Joosey and I discuss some of the misconceptions. For example, these ideas can apply to more than an intimate or romantic relationship. It can apply to friends and family, including adult-child relationships. Moreover, the deviations from the norms may be big, such as non-monogamy, or small, such as whether you vacation together or not. We conclude by discussing some tips for the aspiring relationship anarchist. Keeping an open mind, valuing exploration, and having a process by which to process ideas and challenges such as having a therapist. This episode was live in a room on Clubhouse as part of the SOLO Club that I started there. That club has thousands of members and is growing exponentially. Please rate and review SOLO. Your reviews matter to getting the word out to your fellow singles living remarkable lives. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.
Our guest is Jessicka Chamberlin, also known as Joosey. Joosey was a farm kid, athlete, scholar, artist, and writer who became a sex worker to become a better person. Joosey, whose pronoun is they, but also likes he or she, now helps humans be human and build regenerative organizations. Their main healing and capacity building tools are Emotional Transmutation, The Desire Diagram and The Rise and Shine Vision Quest. Joosey is polyamorous, queer and a lifelong practicing relationship anarchist. Welcome, Joosey.
Thank you very much. It’s lovely to be here. I’m excited to talk about this.
We are here in a SOLO Club Room on Clubhouse, the new hot social media app that features real-time conversations. Besides hosting SOLO, I’ve been building a community on Clubhouse and the SOLO Club, the club for singles on Clubhouse, has already has over 13,000 members and followers. I encourage anyone to consider joining. This episode is a continuation of a series that I’ve been developing on conventional and unconventional relationships. Here we are to talk about the cutting-edge approach to personal relationships called the Relationship Anarchy, which I learned from Joosey here on the app. Let’s start a little bit with definitions and its origin. What is relationship anarchy? It’s a provocative name.
Relationship Anarchy was created by a woman named Andie Nordgren. She coined it in 2006. It’s a premise that relationships don’t need conventional containers or preconceived containers to help relationships be fruitful. It brings in this idea that relationships should be founded on an idea of equity. We don’t have to have all these strict rules on how relationships are supposed to be or how they’re supposed to unfold. The idea of love isn’t something that you can divide up into a container into a clear pie of like, “I’m only allowed to love this person this way because this is the type of relationship it is, this friendship. This is a romantic relationship and it has to go down this road.” The way that I personally look at it is that the values of the relationship and the relationship itself and what you’re creating with that person in the world and between the two of you is what determines the container for the relationship. Relationships throughout our lifetime take different shapes and different forms. The idea is to allow the relationship to unfold in organic way that’s appropriate for the two people or several people that are involved in it.
I’m already a little confused. I want to ask some clarifying questions about it. First of all, this is a fairly new concept, at least the term relationship anarchy. My guess is that relationship anarchy was happening during Woodstock in some way, shape or form, at the very least.
It’s probably happening for a lot longer than that.
The ancient Greeks and so on. This is fundamentally, if I understand you correctly, about norms between two or more people. This is something that we’ve been unpacking with this series more generally. There’s a set of commonly accepted norms and rules about how relationships work, some courting process, maybe some casualness, some defining the relationship, some special status, because two people are together. They’re an item, a couple, a partnership, a marriage. What I understand in much of the way that anarchy seeks to strip away rules, so does relationship anarchy. What might be a rule that gets stripped away? If I understand correctly, you are creating your own set of conventions, a container, and you’re not using someone else’s container.
The rules that can be stripped away are in terms of how much time you spend with the person, how much time you’re supposed to spend with the person, what the duration of the relationship looks like if it moves from being a romantic relationship, but it moves into a friendship. It doesn’t mean that the relationship is lost or gone, it’s that it changes shape, that the needs of the relationship have evolved. There are all kinds of conventional rules. You don’t understand how many rules govern, how relationships should and shouldn’t unfold until you start bringing in a deeply embedded understanding of equity in your relationships. The way that I like to look at it is that I’m my independent entity, and then the person I’m in a relationship with is their independent entity, and the relationship is its independent entity.
It’s about our conversation and communication about what I would like to experience in the relationship, what I would like to offer in the relationship, and then what I would to have the other person experience, or what do they want to experience. You’re cultivating, you’re crafting and weaving this relationship together based on your shared values and your shared evolution. It’s allowing that relationship to cultivate an intimacy and a journey together. There may be all kinds of different ways that relationship changes shape and rules that you didn’t realize you were unconsciously following that weren’t appropriate for what was best for you and the other person and the relationship itself.
These are pretty profound ideas, and in part because the average person never even considers these rules. These rules aren’t written down. Oftentimes they’re unwritten, but yet pervasive, they’re commonly accepted. One of those rules might be monogamy. It’s commonly accepted, let’s say a partnership between two people, to use this term by Amy Gahran, my previous guest, that’s riding the Relationship Escalator, that these two people are intimate only with each other. Most people accept that that’s the way the norm is. You’re seeing these norms change over time. What you’re saying is that two relationship anarchists would have a discussion about, “Will this be a monogamous relationship or not?”
The reason why I didn’t bring up monogamy as a non-rule is because it’s not so much about the rule of what the relationship is supposed to look like or non-monogamy versus polyamory. It’s more about what are your values and what do you want to experience in the relationship. It’s focused on a much broader topic rather than focusing on like, “Are we monogamous? Are we in an open relationship? What does this look like?” It’s more about like, “What’s your values? What do you want to create as a human being? What do you want to experience and how can that relationship further that?” One of those things that determines the container could be monogamy, or it could not be. It could be swinging, it could be a whole bunch of different things.
I’m in an anchored relationship with my partner, and he doesn’t have any partners at the moment. Whereas I have partners where I see them once every couple of years and we go to a swinging party together, and that’s our relationship. All of us have so many different facets as human beings, and those facets of ourselves, they intersect with our values, and our values are expressed through these different facets of what we’re passionate about or what matters to us. I’m a central and caring person. I love to be in a relationship, occasionally, where I’m dominant. I enjoy having someone that’s submissive to me. My anchored partner has zero interest in that.
He loves the fact that I love that. I’m working on cultivating a relationship with somebody where that person is my human footstool because I want that, because that makes me happy and that’s fulfilling for me in other ways. It’s about each relationship, but I don’t see the quality of my relationship with my romantic partners any differently than I see with my friendships. I’m about bringing the values of what mattered to me to those relationships, whether it’s romantic or not. To me, the experience of intimacy isn’t that much different. The intimate relationships with friends that are not sexual or romantic. There’s still so much deep intimacy there, I just don’t have sex with them. That’s okay and that’s perfect. That’s what that relationship is asking for and what that relationship needs.
I didn’t mean to derail this with the M word, the 800-pound gorilla of relationships. I was trying to use this as an example. One clarifying point is that relationship anarchy is about relationships. It’s not just about romantic and intimate relationships. It can be applied to friendships, familial relationships. Monogamy may or may not be at play depending on that, but there are a set of rules. You had mentioned something about how often you would see each other, whether you would live together. It’s one of those things where typically within a romantic relationship, it’s expected that at some point you merge your lives, you come together, you share space, you share a bank account. What an anarchist says is, “Let’s make sure that that’s something that both of us would want.”
I have versions of that with my anchored partner. We’re in a domestic partnership. We met when I was 40. I wanted something that was a little bit more conventional, someone that I could bring home to see my family and do birthday parties. I, for a long time, had resigned myself that I maybe, maybe couldn’t find that person and that was okay. I’d have to define that person. We have shared bank accounts and we also have separate homes. We’re generally together, usually a couple of weeks a month when we have the opportunity to be together because we live on opposite coasts.
My main home is in the Hudson Valley. His is in downtown San Jose where I am now. We were separated during COVID for 273 days because we were quarantined on the opposite side of the country. It was remarkable how much our relationship grew and became so much more intimate and so much closer with the shared experience of being apart from one another. When we finally got back together on December 2, 2020, it was like all that time apart melted away. It was like we were never apart. It’s been beautiful. Knowing that framework together makes it easier. It’s not a framework. It’s about what do we want to experience together, what we want to create, because we love each other.
Let’s talk through a few other examples of this and then what we’re going to do is talk about some misconceptions, some best practices and then we’ll open things up for a conversation. We’ve talked a little bit about monogamy, maybe about a living situation, merging one’s finances. What are some other dimensions or some other sort of assumptions about how a friendship or romantic partnership would normally work that might be subject to this conversation?
Do you want me to give you a friendship example? I didn’t quite understand the question.
This is a bold idea. It has a scary term associated with it, anarchy, even for someone who might have some experience with unconventional relationships might even be aware of. Let’s give a few more examples of some of the ways that two or more people might come together and deviate from those norms. What might that look like? It could be a friendship or otherwise.
I have this partner and we’ve been together for several years. He likes to be in Las Vegas. We met when I was in Las Vegas, I was dancing there. We had so much fun together. We would play craps and go to the spa and pick-up women together. It was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. Whenever I go to Vegas, we hang out and we have fun together. Sometimes when we’re there, I’ll meet him at the craps table and we’ll play craps, and then the girlfriend that he’s seeing that day will come over and hang out with us and they’ll go off and have fun together.
I’ve been in Vegas twice with two of my other partners at different times. Each of those partners have met that partner. I can tell it’s awkward for people to a certain extent, but I don’t personally experience this as threatening. When I first learned the term relationship anarchy, my anchor partner and I went to a talk together about it, and it was so natural. I was like, “This is the way that I’ve been living my whole life.” That’s an example of a romantic thing where it’s because I’m comfortable with the relationships, I’m comfortable with the evolution of each relationship, that the people that are around me become comfortable because I’m comfortable with it. With friendships, when I talk about what’s the need of the relationship with my friends, I feel the relationship in my heart.
I think about that person and I feel them in my heart, and I listened to what my heart is telling me what I need to do in this relationship. Do I need to call them? Do I need to send them a letter? Whether it’s my niece or my nephew, or it’s my father, or it’s a friend, it’s about listening to the relationship and holding it in a place where I feel that I want a great outcome where I want to be around that person. I want them to feel joy when they’re around me and I want to feel joy when they’re around them. It’s that cultivation of intimacy, that cultivation of trust, that cultivation of transparency and honesty that happens no matter whether it’s a romantic relationship or not. Throwing out the rules makes it a lot easier for me to listen to the relationship because the rules aren’t distracting me from what the relationship should or shouldn’t be.
You can approach it value free without guilt. You can diverge without it feeling deviant. This is a powerful idea. I’m trying to be a bridge between someone who’s super comfortable with it and someone who reads this because they’re like, “This sounds fun.” To what degree, however, is that something with your Vegas partner that you have had a conversation and you say, “We may not see each other much, but when I come to Vegas, I’d like to see you in this kind of way. Is that okay with you?”
Our relationship was centered on all of that fun to begin with. We’ve known each other for several years, it’s gotten wobbly in parts and places at the beginning, and it’s slowly gotten more comfortable over time. There was a point in the relationship where he was like, “I don’t want you to see other people. I want you to see me. I want to look like this.” I was much younger, and I didn’t have as much comfort with who I am as a person, so I went along with it and then realized that it was not who I was. It was never going to work for me. I started seeing my other partners again, and that created some conflict in the relationship. Over time, it evolved, and we came to a place of understanding and care for each other. Now it’s in a comfortable, fluid place where we have fun together and enjoy each other and let it flow from there.
I appreciate you sharing this. With these other friends who might be along for the ride, rolling dice, are they figuring this stuff out or do you say, “We’re going to go hang out with this person. This is the type of relationship we have?” What I’m trying to understand is how much of this is about communication and how much of it is about feeling and comfort and acceptance.
When I’m doing feeling into the relationship and feeling what the relationship needs, it’s about working to establish trust with that person. Once you have trust with the person, you’re in a relationship with, then you can develop that trust. You can carry over to the other relationships. It’s like how if you’re networking with somebody and somebody says, “I know a good lawyer for you.” That’s much better referral than Googling it online. Once you establish a good trust and good communication with that one person, then it’s easier to carry it over to the next person because there’s already a through line of trust established.
It’s an evolution. I’m in love with somebody that I’ve been in love with for several years. He’s uncomfortable with all of this. It drives him batty. I don’t date, I don’t go looking for romantic partners in the conventional places of polyamory or any other places that you might think. I date in the real world, in the wild. I tell people who I am. My anchor partner, he was married for twenty years before we met. We met on Bumble and he saw my profile and he was like, “That’s what I want. That’s what I’m looking for.” It’s been so comfortable and we’re so we’re so happy with it. This is what he’s wanted his whole life and didn’t realize he wanted.
With my partner that’s uncomfortable with it, it’s an evolution of talking to him on the phone and telling him how much I love him and wanting him to be happy. I’ve had plenty of relationships where someone I’m dating romantically who I like ends up getting a monogamous relationship for a while. That person goes away. Sometimes the person that they’re in relationship with is like, “You can’t speak to that person anymore. You can’t have anything to do with them.” I’ve even had one of those people stop me online. It’s not easy and it did, but the care and the love that I have for that person is never going to go away. It’s never going to stop just because they’re in that situation.
If their relationship works out and they spend the rest of their lives together and whatever relationship they feel is best for them, then I fully support that. That gets into the concept of conversion, which is when you love somebody, you want them to be happy. What it is that truly makes them happy, you feel experience of love and acceptance and joy because they’re happy even if that happiness isn’t necessarily in your direct sphere of influence. I had someone that I dated in New York City for quite a few years, moved to Chicago, gotten a serious relationship and then came out of that serious relationship and was like, “How are you? What’s going on?” We got to meet up when I came West on the train and we’re starting to talk again. I have no idea what that form of that relationship is going to take. I have no idea what my intention or desire is in for it right now, but I’m happy to have them back in my life because I miss them and they meant a lot to me.
I like this idea of compersion. It’s had a profound effect on me as I think about friendships, this idea of anti-jealousy. In many ways, that notion of anti-jealousy or compersion is a perfect example, which is that the norm is to be jealous. The norm is to be threatened by outside forces that we are, in the case of a dyad, it’s the two of us, this team that has a special status and that someone may come along and threaten that emotional bond, that connection. I like the fact that whether it be in the poly community or beyond, this idea that you will be excited and happy when someone meets someone that delights them, or they have a great night of sex. That’s my observation. The second one is you had mentioned dating apps and Bumble. Do you, on the app, signal this early like it’s part of your bio, or is this something that comes up and unfolds as you get to know someone, conversation call, meeting, date, etc.?
It’s pretty much out there. My Bumble profile is clear like, “This is who I am” I make that clear. My only complaint about Bumble is that when you’re dating, and my friends and I’ve talked about this, is that there’s no way to set your settings for both men and for women. Once you choose one, you have to choose one or the other. It drives me crazy. What I found is that as long as you don’t ever select men or women, then it stays open. I’ve been lucky that I never said it to one specific type of gender. It’s a little bit limiting in that way. They may have changed it. This was something I observed before when we were talking about it.
What I’d like to do is talk about some of the misconceptions associated with it. What are some of the misconceptions associated with the relationship anarchy?
The biggest misconception is that it doesn’t involve commitment. When I first learned of this term and went to a talk about it, that was my main perception. Even me coming to it as a polyamorous person, once I understood the term and understood that this is what I’ve always practiced without realizing it, is that commitment is a huge part of it. The idea is that you’re committed to the evolution of the person and the evolution of the relationship, and what you’re not committed to is a specific outcome. You’re not committed to what the relationship should or shouldn’t be. You’re committed to the person, to the relationship and to yourself in relationship to the relationship. The commitment to yourself is like, “Is this relationship working for me or not? Is this a relationship that helps my life improve? Do I feel good?”
What I tell people, especially when I’m coaching people through relationship stuff, whether they’re looking for open relationships that are poly or they’re looking for a monogamous partner is, “It’s your 50% of the relationship that matters.” How do you feel in the relationship? How do you want them to feel in the relationship? How does the person make you feel? How do you want to feel when you’re with this person? How do you feel about them? What do you think about them? How do you perceive them? How do you want to experience it? That’s the commitment. The commitment to yourself is if this relationship isn’t working for you, then it either needs to change it to create a different framework for it, whatever that framework is.
It also needs to evolve and maybe it needs to end. I’ve rarely ever cut anyone out of my life, and I’ve pretty much cut somebody out of my life in 2020. To get to the point where I don’t want someone in my life means that that relationship is not something that feels good for me. The commitment is even deeper in a way, in my perception, not to create a value on it, but it’s the commitment to my values and the shared values that I have with this person. That’s what I’m committed to when I’m talking about the evolution of the relationship and the evolution of myself and the evolution of that person. Some of the people that I keep in my life, I’m committed to having them in my life, maybe because they didn’t work out as being an anchor partner or anybody I wanted to live with, but I enjoy spending time with them once a year or even once every couple of years, because as I change and as I grow, I have a mirror of somebody that knows me when I was a certain way a few years ago.
I like to see how I show up with this person. I’ve evolved. I’ve changed. How is this person seeing me now? How do I feel when I’m around them? Do I feel like I’m more myself? Do I feel more comfortable? How did their blind spots and their issues affect me? Am I able to see them more fully and more completely? I have relationships now that are romantic, that have evolved that are going on several years because of not having to have this strict container. I’m so grateful for them because they remind me, if I get a little bit down on myself or I lose some trust with myself, they remind me of how far I’ve come. They remind me that the person they see me now is the person they always knew I could be. There’s so much value in that of the commitment doesn’t have a strict container and the commitment evolves over time as me and the other person evolves.
We’ve already stumbled on two of the misconceptions. One is, this is not just about intimate relationships. This also has to do with friendships and family. That’s the first one. The second one is that this is not necessarily that you’re trying to create something that might be seen as unconventional like a polyamorous relationship or a swinging partnership. It may be as something, I don’t want to use the word mundane, but something as simple as two childhood friends who recognize that we may not speak all that often. Once a year, we get together for this weekend and go and do this fun thing. Just because we don’t speak for the other 363 days a year, doesn’t diminish us in any way. That could be anarchy approach.
From some of the research that I’ve done on this, and this is often a question I get when I talk to people, is that it’s about the time commitment. Online, when there’s articles about relationship anarchy, people were like, “Who has the time? How do you have the time?” People see it as something self-involved, indulgent, looking for attention when we’re looking at the underpinnings of thinking about relationship anarchy from the perspective of making equity real, treating relationships on an equal level, not that the relationships that they see that each one is unique. We live in a world right now that makes us have to go and go, and all of our relationships tend to suffer.
It’s hard for us to take time. It is a lot of time. It does take a lot of commitment. It does take long conversations on the phone, or for me, in my case, flying to see partners or taking the train to see partners because I love taking the train, to spend birthday weekends with them. For me, the outcome of that is so much more expansive than the time that I’ve committed. If I have a relationship with someone, I share a particular facet of myself more strongly than another partner. Perfect example, my sister knows I collect this type of canning jar that I’m passionate about. She found two of them for me at the discount store she goes to. That thing that I share with my sister, I don’t share with as many other people or with friends.
You get to be surprised and delighted by that, and then that surprise and that delight means that when I come to other relationships, I’m more fully myself. I have more of myself available to be my full self in the facets that I share with that partner. That’s what I’m talking about, my personal evolution and the evolution of the relationships, is that by not compartmentalizing it so strongly, it creates more time for me. That means that maybe that partner can do things for me that will make other parts of my life easier.
I can see that, especially with a kind of traditional marriage or partnership, which is designed to crowd out almost everything else personally by virtue of the underlying assumptions about it, that person is the one. You’re supposed to vacation with them, live with them and to go to weddings together. I can see how deviations might free up that time. What are some of the other misconceptions people have about relationship anarchy?
The biggest thing, and this is tied to the piece about commitment, is that we don’t care, that we’re in it for ourselves, that this is the self-indulgent piece, or that we’re looking for attention.
Dare I say selfish? This is a word that comes up a lot, that it’s a selfish approach to relationships.
I find it to be quite selfless quite often that there’s a deep respect and an honoring of whatever that person needs to experience what’s best for them. One of my most important partners in my life who in many ways saved my life and I’m able to do everything I do in my business because of this relationship, this most remarkable person moved overseas in 2017. It was heartbreaking for me. It was all of this yes, and. It was the right thing for him to move. I’m proud of him that he’d moved. It was the most amazing decision. It hurt me and it broke my heart and I’m going to be okay missing them. Understanding that all of those things are going to happen in the relationship. That’s where the relationship needed to head. Seeing the value in not seeing them once every two weeks like we used to, it’s helped me grow and become stronger as a person. I know one day, whenever it suits, we’ll get to see each other and spend some time together again. That’ll be a great celebration. Even a celebration of the time we spend apart.
If I may recap a few of these misconceptions as you take a moment to think if there are any other big ones. I like this idea that it is about commitment to the person, to the self and to the relationship, although you do give away the commitment to a particular outcome. There’s more flexibility there. I like the idea that this is not just about intimate relationships and sex. This can have to do with friendships, in the purest sense of the word, that the changes in the container to use the original language may be big or small. It could be tiny little tweaks, or it could be profound changes in which you create a relationship that is unique in the way that the word unique should be used, which is a one-of-a-kind relationship. There is no other relationship like that on the planet. I like the idea that, in many ways, this is not a selfish approach, but rather a selfless approach, because what you might do is have to compromise what you want for the betterment of the relationship and the betterment of that person.
It does away with idea of compromise to a point, because when you get into the emotional and the nitty gritty of the relationship, you find that there’s a way that the relationship blossoms that’s beyond a compromise. With my partner that moved away, that was so hard. I know it was the right thing for both of us, for him and for me even though it hurt. This is why it’s ultimately about equity, because it does away with all the zero-sum thinking about what a relationship should or shouldn’t be, and then it’s so much easier to understand that even as you’re working through the emotions or the desires, or the wants that you have. I made it clear with him. I said, “You can do whatever you want in the relationship. You cannot speak to me again. If that’s what you want, that’s okay with me. Here’s what I want. Here’s what I desire.” Over several years, that’s been a constant evolution of our relationship, and that’s okay. That relationship has taught me so much about how to learn what the nature of unconditional love is while also not sacrificing standards or advocating for a more committed trust.
Joosey, I appreciate you not only sharing this knowledge, which for some people is mind blowing to redefine an approach to a relationship through this lens, but also sharing your personal stories, which are compelling. Last thing I wanted to ask you, Joosey is, suppose someone is moved by this idea, wants to experiment with it, wants to try it, wants to learn more about it, what are the best practices for a relationship anarchist?
The biggest, most important tool is to have some kind of grounded embodied healing practice of some sort or another. Once you get into the shedding of the rules or the shedding of your preconceptions about how relationships shouldn’t or shouldn’t evolve, no matter what the relationship is, it can get messy. We are so entrained by society, not just when it comes to relationships, but what our feelings are supposed to do that when we feel sad or we feel afraid, then we have all these feelings on top of what it is we already have. The tool you mentioned when you’re introducing me, Emotional Transmutation, is a tool that I created that came out of my experience as a sex worker, that came out of how I navigate who I know I naturally am, which happens to have a label of relationship anarchy that fits. That tool has been so foundational for me at being able to unconditionally feel my feelings and then know my own knowing of what it is that I need to ask for advocate for or can communicate in a relationship.
Some kind of practice like that to help shed and transform, when I say transmutation, I mean what needs to go in the transmutation process with our bodies already naturally know how to do. It knows how to take our food and turn it into minerals and vitamins and to sustain us ourselves. It’s the same thing with transportation is what needs to go will go, what needs to stay will stay and often solidifies, and what needs to change will change. That kind of practice helps us come in tune with what our real value values are. My one value that I have that runs across all of my relationships is I need people to work on themselves. I need people to give themselves permission, to be more fully expressed, to be truer to their truth, whether that means they never want anything to do with me or not. I don’t care. Whatever that is for them and whatever that looks like.
It’s about making sure you have a practice and then making sure that you are able to know what your actual values are. What is the most important thing for you in relationships, both in terms of what you want to give and what you want to experience? That becomes an internal compass, almost like a tuning fork where you develop a resonance. When you understand your values, it develops a resonance where you can go into a relationship and get a sense like, “There’s a deep resonance. I feel connected to this person. I feel like I want to share a relationship with this person and grow with this person.” From there, you can allow the relationship to move more organically and move in a way that feels appropriate for you and for the relationship in that person.
I’ve had partners who very much upset me. I was dating someone I loved who I didn’t spend a lot of time with. We had a great connection, we traveled. We had a conversation in 2019, and I said, “I would like to spend more time with you. I’d like to see how we could work this relationship out and have more companionship.” He decided that he wanted a monogamous relationship with one of his other partners, and I found out on Facebook. I was hurt. He said, “I’m going to think about it. I’m going to go away and come back.” He got in this relationship. I called him in the fall of 2019, and I said, “I care about you. You matter to me. It would have been nice if you called me up and say, I want you to know that I’m going to be establishing this relationship with this person.” It was one of the most powerful experiences I had. He said he was gracious and grateful. He apologized because he knows that I mattered to him and that’s not how he likes to be in relationships.
It took me months from when I found out he was in a monogamous relationship to work through my own stuff around deserving love, to have the courage to call him up and have that conversation. Having him affirm me in that way and having the courage to say something was powerful and healing for me. Knowing your values and having some kind of practice, whether it’s working with a therapist you can trust, there are more and more therapists that support polyamory and relationship anarchy. There’s an organization in New York called Curious Foxes that is great. They held the relationship anarchy talk that I went to that I thought was powerful. Also, if you’re interested in exploring this, it is called relationship anarchy, I let go of even that label. I see it as a doorway that I’ve walked through and I’m like, “Yes, this makes me feel comfortable because I have something to describe it with.” Understanding what you want to experience relationships, how you want to be in relationships and taking the time to unearth what that is for you.
That should be obvious, because if you’re not going to use society’s values, you should be using your own. You’re going to be bumping up against social norms and because that person that you are coordinating with may have a different set of values. That can cause conflict challenges, having a practice to be able to work through what might be might be difficult. The last thing is, there are some resources out there in the world, including this Curious Foxes. Are there smaller things? Suppose someone wants to dip their toe into being a relationship anarchist, how might they go about doing that?
What I would recommend, and I’ve been experiencing this a lot with some of my friendships, I experimented with this with someone I met on Clubhouse, identify a friendship with someone you trust, someone that you care for and cares for you. This is a good COVID experiment because we can’t go anywhere, do anything the way we would want to, can’t go to parties or whatever the way that we did. What I would do is talk to that person, have conversation and set an intention of something you would like to create together, or an experiment that you would like to unearth together, whether it’s reading a book together or it’s discovering something about yourself together.
When I’d like to do with intentions is that I come up with a word or a phrase that encapsulates what it is that I’m trying to create, and then let that lead the way of the unfolding. I would choose a relationship with somebody you trust and choose an intention of what you’re weaving and creating together and see what comes out of it. What was interesting is this person and I chose a relationship. What was interesting is that she would fall to wanting to define it as relationships. I would want to use relationship, which is more meta, whereas relationships are getting more into the nitty-gritty of the relationship.
What we did is an interesting experiment, we flip-flopped. I did relationships, which is what she would normally do. She did relationship, which is what I would normally do, and then we set that as an intention for our spiritual work, for evolution as people. It set the tone where I’m having this beautiful experience with a lot of my friends where we’re evolving together, where the thing that she is working on is helping me and the thing that I’m working on is helping her. There’s this weaving together of this tapestry where each person is being more of their perfect puzzle piece. We’re evolving together and helping each other sharpen and hone and become more aware. Choose a relationship you want to experiment with a little bit like that and see where it evolves. It could be as simple as reading a book together or having an author you work together. You are experiencing Clubhouse rooms, which is a microcosm between you and somebody you care about. It could be a sibling, a parent, and then seeing what evolves out of the relationship rather than, “This is the outcome that I want to have with my father. This is the outcome that I want to have with my partner.”
There’s a term in statistics what’s called degrees of freedom. What relationship anarchy does is allows you more degrees of freedom rather than these predetermined paths. Is there one last tip that comes to mind?
The last thing is you don’t have to proclaim this out loud. You can come out at as this as if you feel like this way of living suits you. It’s also something that you can carry quietly from a place of curiosity. All it comes down to is as best you can because it’s hard staying suspended in a state of curiosity. Being curious about yourself, being curious about the person, being curious about the relationship, and then allowing the curiosity to lead the way. That’s why I offered that little exercise about setting the intention and seeing how you evolve, because it invites in this experience of curiosity, invites in experience of flow and creating something greater than the relationship itself. That curiosity piece is important. Carry it quietly, experiment with it and experiment with what it would be like in a relationship to let go of a preconception of how you think it should or shouldn’t evolve and see what comes out on the other side. It doesn’t have to be high stakes. It doesn’t have to be a big giant proclamation.
I’m going to recap these three best practices. One is to do some work and understand your values. The other one is to have a practice. Whether you’re a relationship anarchist or not, you should have a practice in which you can work through difficult times, conflict, uncertainty, challenges, whether that be a meditation practice, a journaling practice, a therapist, or any number of things. The last one is a constellation of behaviors and perspectives. You can start small to keep an open mind. I like this idea to be suspended in a state of curiosity. That’s a big idea. People want certainty. Uncertainty can be aversive, but it can also be a powerful tool. Thank you, Joosey, for this information. I appreciate the time that you’ve given. Cheers.
- Jessicka Chamberlin – LinkedIn
- Article – What It’s Like Being a Relationship Anarchist from The Cut
- Relationship Anarchy
- Amy Gahran – Previous episode
- Curious Foxes
About Jessicka Chamberlin
Jessicka Chamberlin (aka “Joosey”) was a farm-kid, athlete, scholar, artist, and writer who became a sex worker to become a better person. Nowadays, Joosey helps humans be more human and build regenerative organizations. Their main healing and capacity building tools are Emotional Transmutation, The Desire Diagram™, & The Rise & Shine Vision Quest™. Joosey is polyamorous, queer, and a life-long practicing relationship anarchist.
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