Advice – How much can you love a friend?

“I recently have come to realize that all of my close friends are a little bit in love with me. I am pretty open about being bisexual and polyamorous and I tend to show a lot of love and affection for my friends. Lately I’ve been finding it difficult to keep everyone at the distance of only being platonic. I want more and they want more, and I don’t know how long I can go fighting myself from acting authentic about just how much I do love them.

I’m not exactly sure if I want to end up in a romantic relationship with everyone but I feel at least wanting to express affection outside of the realm of socially accepted platonic behavior. (Aka, hand holding, kissing, cuddles, and openly saying ‘I love you’s.)

That’s what my heart says, but my head keeps telling me that you keep friends longer by keeping things as they are, as strictly platonic. Is there any advice out there for my situation?”

– /u/King_C_21, /r/polyamory.

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Dear King C 21,

Let me introduce you to the world of relationship anarchy.

“A relationship anarchist begins from a place of assuming total freedom and flexibility as the one in charge of their personal relationships and decides on a case by case basis what they want each relationship to look like.”

“Relationship Anarchy Basics.” The Thinking Aro, May 7, 2013.

It is impossible to define relationship anarchy (RA) in one sentence. But I would like to start from a place that RA throws all the rules out and starts from the very basic nature of human relationships: a connection. And instead of assigning expectations or preconceived ideas about what platonic or romantic even means, RA folks blur those lines and state that even those lines are a spectrum. Instead of pigeonholing each connection into a box, RA folks build the fluidly moving boxes fit for each of those connections as appropriate so that they may decide for themselves what each of those connections may look like. The core facets of RA are inherently independent and autonomous.

Relationship anarchy asks for us to challenge all of our ideas about what is a romantic relationship as opposed to a platonic friendship. Instead of the society telling us what is proper and improper behavior embedded in the hierarchy of connections, RA folks each own their own personal ideas and guidelines on what they feel are appropriate and inappropriate with each of their connections. One person’s practice of relationship anarchy might look completely different from another’s RA.

Photo by Pixabay on

I myself am not a relationship anarchist, but I am very close to a few.

My first encounter with relationship anarchy was on a sushi date that I didn’t know was a date. Let’s call them R. R was from a local polyamory meetup group we both frequented and matched each other on OkCupid. Over dinner, R told me about their very personal journey to accept and embrace relationship anarchy. They revealed to me how closely it aligns with their solo poly practice and how they could never go back to how structured and regimented their relationships felt prior to RA. R had two long distance connections in which there were some form of romantic and sexual entanglement with and held that they were open to exploring as many (and as deep) connections as necessary.

The second relationship anarchist I have ever met is my current partner of six months. Let’s call her L. She found that the completely lack of restraint of RA most closely represented the way she wanted to live her life. L once described being introduced to RA with the same kind of closeness as coming home. She has many very close connections with countless people with whom she would identify as her soul humans, and never value one connection over another regardless of existence of romantic or sexual component to that specific connection. Instead of obsessing over the fit of the predetermined roles, L decides at the level of each relationship what she is and isn’t comfortable with. L is openly affectionate with each of her soul humans, many of whom she kisses and cuddles.

With both relationship anarchists, I’ve learned how radically but differently they both approached boundary setting. R was very clear about the boundaries they set early on. They were very intentional and direct about everything that was said and done. L was much more flexible and agreeable. She approaches each of her relationships with nuance and generosity that welcomed many to sit by her hearth. Like I said, no two people’s practices of RA look alike.

Photo by Anne on

One of the patterns I am committed to breaking this year is to live more true to myself regardless of what others think. In that, I recognize I need to be more brave. Brave in the authentic self I believe in. Brave in face of external critiques and judgments. Brave in faith that this will be good for me long-term even if I have to burn some bridges.

You say that you struggle to fight against the authentic parts of yourself who want to realize all these feelings and express all these affections around the people you care for. Then I ask you, why is your head telling you all these ideas about what it takes for longevity of different connections? How much of it is monogamous programming you’ve not yet unshed?

How brave are you willing to be so that you may be more true to yourself?

Should you decide to heed my advice and venture into relationship anarchy, your own secular practice of relationship anarchy could be very different from how R or L or any other relationship anarchists do relationships. What’s more important is whether or not you are being more true to yourself. You are the master of your own domain and who am I to tell you otherwise?

What is socially acceptable is only socially acceptable in your own headspace and the community you surround yourself with. You are already out as bi and poly to your folks. So you already broke two walls. What’s a third?

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

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