In Which I Attempt to Reconcile Relationship Anarchy with Relationship Needs

(Written without editing, and I didn’t re-read before posting, so…)

I consider myself a relationship anarchist, which in short means that I don’t want to force a relationship into a pre-set box. I want relationships to be what they are, while acknowledging various options and ways they can go. I have romantic relationships that don’t involve sex. I have friendships that do. I’ll cuddle with just about anyone I know and trust.

That said, I spend most of my dating efforts filtering out people who don’t want the sort of relationship I want.

What’s with that?


I think you can be RA, and still have specific things that you either absolutely do or don’t  want. Maybe you just aren’t interested in romantic relationships with same-gender people. Maybe you only want to date same-gender people. Maybe you really need to have a power exchange dynamic. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing in the world.

Being RA doesn’t mean that you can’t have preferences about your relationships.

I think where it gets confusing is that my preferences for capital-R Relationships do lean more towards the traditional relationship escalator, although I am fine stopping on a lower step.

I’m reminded on a Facebook thread recently (sorry for lack of attribution, I don’t remember where it was) where people were discussing a problem with Air BnB. Some guests were obviously not used to any sort of co-housing/roomie situation, and so would expect absolute silence and cleanliness. But if you explicitly mention “Hey, four of us live here, so there might occasionally be dishes out or noise”, then people assume you must be a crazy party house, even if you are a super quiet and clean group that just wants to make sure that guest’s expectations aren’t that you are a hotel with maid service.

If I say “Hey folks, I am looking for actual capital-R Relationships, and assume we will be seeing each other a minimum of once a week, and expect you to put in at least 40% of the effort towards scheduling dates, etc” (I’ll initiate, but I’m not at all willing to chase down and badger guys (it’s never girls with this problem) to put me on their calendar), then the assumption is that I’m a clingy, needy, crazy-lady, even though I would consider myself a pretty far outlier of openness and independence. Also, then my inbox would be filled with guys complaining about my standards and arguing that I should totally make an exception for them, but at least they’d be easier to filter out 😛

If I say that I am non-monogamous and a relationship anarchist, then people assume that I must be interested in casual threesomes, and FWB, etc. This is exacerbated by the fact that (gender politics aside) there are WAY MORE men looking for casual relationships than there are women. So as a woman that is more open than most, I get flooded with men who are out of town all the time, over committed (trying to see more people than the can reasonably manage), working at startups, etc, and who are looking for a “relationship” where you see each other occasionally, as time permits, hopefully with minimal effort on their part.

This is further exacerbated by being in NYC where nothing is serious until you live together. Too many shiny things competing for everyone’s attention. The fucking coastals make me feel like I’m insane for thinking that any sort of actual Relationship requires a minimum of once a week. (Sorry, but I REALLY dislike coastal dating patterns. That said, I have also considered the possibility that the female-heavy NYC gender ratio has effectively pushed me out of the Relationship market, while leaving me in the “fine for casual relationships” category.)

In Ohio, I was more okay with the occasional casual relationship, because it wasn’t the only thing people were ever offering me (in fact, it was pretty rare). I’d still turn it down way more often than not, though. By Ohio standards, I’m pretty much as far out into crazy non-monogamy land as you get before you get to hookups and casual sex, and that is so obviously a different set of things that you don’t really interact with those people. They’re on different websites, and meeting at different places, etc.

In Portland I was de facto monogamous. Contrary to popular belief, RA doesn’t mean explicitly casual. It just means the relationship goes to wherever it goes. We still would have been fine with our partners going out and developing relationships with other people (I couldn’t be happy in a relationship where that wasn’t the case), but in practice I went on zero dates outside of my wonderful partner and didn’t really feel a desire to. I assume if I had stayed in Portland and we had stayed together that we would have eventually started also seeing other people. That person is now in the Most Adorable Relationship In The World, and I would have wanted that to happen.

Erica’s Weird Ways of Filtering For R-Relationships That Apparently Don’t Work

  • Nope to gross age ranges (self-explanatory)
  • Take away points for looking too put-together in their photos. Expensive clothes and hair, professional photo…. that person is probably casually dating around (also, I just don’t want to date someone who spends more on his outfit than I earn in a week). Yes to the guy in the hoodie or t-shirt, with a regular (but nice) photo. Some dressed up photos are fine, but if they’re all that way then high-maintenance and superficial.
  • Extra point to people who are new to the city and haven’t yet been corrupted by Coastal Dating Patterns. (note: there aren’t actually any points 😛 )
  • Extra point to guys where their SMV (sorry for being gross) is lowered by things I don’t give a fuck about. Don’t make a lot of money at your non-profit? Totally irrelevant to me, I don’t want you to buy me shit anyways. Short? Fuck, I love short guys! Have weird-ass geeky hobbies? Well, so do I!
  • Take away a half point for guys who live with their partners. I’m theoretically fine with this, but in NYC it usually translates to “all my R-Relationship slot(s) are full, and I’m just looking for casual relationships on the side”. I still give these guys a chance though, if everything else is fine (actually have a date with one on Saturday)
  • I answered enough questions about it that “More Romantic” is my fourth biggest personality bar thing
  • I went ahead and recently added the following to my profile. It runs the risk of coming off as needy (and thus attracting guys who want to date needy girls), but we’ll see what happens: “I used to have Relationship Anarchy mentioned, but found that people focused more on the “anarchy” than the “relationship” portion of that. So if you could describe what you’re looking for using words like “casual” and “fun”, please move along.”

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