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  • Writer's pictureDevin Olivia Barton-Torres

Queering Connection with Relationship Anarchy: Embracing the Power of Platonic Relationship

Updated: Jan 3

A group of women of different racial and ethnic identities are gathered around a table filled with herbs. They're laughing and talking together.

Relationship anarchy is an approach to relationships that rejects the relationship hierarchies society emphasizes. It places equal value on platonic, non-sexual, and familial relationships while de-centering romantic and sexual relationships. In a society that often prioritizes romantic and sexual relationships, it's important to recognize and celebrate the significance of platonic and non-sexual connections because of the varied forms of connection and intimacy they provide. Queering connection means challenging the idea that sexual relationships are the ultimate form of intimacy while purposefully cultivating loving connections in all types of relationship structures. Relationship anarchy creates room for all the relationships we value to have equal importance. We make time to invest in these connections in long-term, sustainable, and growth-oriented ways. We embrace the ways these relationships bring abundance, love, joy, and intimacy into our lives at a deeper level than relationship hierarchies can allow for.

Recognize the Value of Platonic Relationships

Platonic relationships are deep, meaningful connections that provide emotional support and companionship. These relationships are not lesser than romantic or sexual relationships, instead they offer unique forms of intimacy and connection. Platonic relationships are a source of support, shared experiences, non-judgemental listening, healing and personal growth. Friendships, families, and other supportive connections are all sources of deep and meaningful platonic relationships. Recognize and honor the importance of friendships, chosen families, and other non-sexual relationships in your life.

Relationship hierarchy is a societal ranking system that prioritizes certain types of relationships over others. Relationship hierarchy often places romantic and sexual relationships at the top and friendships, family bonds, and non-romantic partners as secondary. This results in establishing romantic or sexual relationships as the ultimate goal and following the relationship escalator as the pathway to achieving this singular goal. The relationship hierarchy is built off a false foundation that assumes deep intimacy can only occur in sexual or romantic relationships. Some ways you can begin dismantling relationship hierarchy in yourself and your relationships include:

  • Reflect on your personal beliefs about the purpose and value of different relationship types.

  • Prioritize connecting with friends, family, and platonic partners as equally as you do romantic and sexual.

  • Challenge relationship expectations in ways that support your personal growth and abundance.

  • Question the social norms that place romantic and sexual relationships above all others.

Cultivate all forms of Connection and Intimacy

Intimacy is a deep emotional connection with another person involving a sense of closeness, vulnerability, and trust. There are multiple types of intimacy, including:

Physical Intimacy: Connection and intimacy that involves physical contact and isn’t inherently sexual. This can be cuddling, hugging, hand holding, and sharing physical proximity with others.

Emotional Intimacy: Connection and intimacy that involves sharing emotional experiences, feelings, thoughts, and needs. It can include processing emotions together, bearing witness to others emotional experiences, and supporting each other through emotional experiences.

Intellectual Intimacy: Connection and intimacy that involves sharing intellectual ideas, skills, hobbies, and interests. This may include deep conversation, reading books or articles together, or engaging in intellectual pursuits together.

Experiential Intimacy: Connection and intimacy that involves sharing experiences, activities, and forms of recreation together. This may include outings, games and play, or pursuing shared experiences together.

Sensual Intimacy: Connection and intimacy that involves exploring bodily sensations, desires, and energy together. This may include physically sharing sensual moments together, processing sensual moments with others, or even engaging in sensual experiences alone.

Spiritual Intimacy: Connection and intimacy that involves exploring a shared, greater purpose together. Many people experience this through religion, however it can also be experienced in creating ritual, spiritual learning, or even talking about spiritual beliefs and ideas with others.

Conflict Intimacy: Connection and intimacy that involves experiencing conflict with respect, care, and growth. It can involve working through individual, relational, or group challenges together or seeking guidance on conflicts occurring outside of the relationship for guidance and support.

Creative Intimacy: Connection and intimacy that involves creating something together or sharing creations with others. This can include working on a creative project together, developing a creative skill, or sharing personal creations with others.

Sexual Intimacy: Connection and intimacy of a sexual nature. This can involve experiencing sex with others, seeking support for sexual challenges, or talking about sexual desires with loved ones even if you’re not engaging in sex with them.

Cultivating intimacy is key to sustaining long-term connections and relationships. Sharing your emotions, thoughts, experiences, dreams, and goals with other people are all acts of connection and intimacy. Embracing authenticity and vulnerability in these connections creates a pathway for intimacy to grow and thrive. Deep conversation, rituals and traditions, sharing in important life moments, and investing time and energy are ways we cultivate intimacy in relationships.

Cultivating intimacy within platonic relationships expands our understanding of intimacy beyond the sexual realm. Platonic intimacy supports us on deeply personal levels while also building communities critical to our sense of connection as social and spiritual beings. Embrace and celebrate the diverse ways in which we connect with others beyond the boundaries of sexual relationships.

Intimacy is a deep emotional connection with another person involving a sense of closeness, vulnerability, and trust.

Prioritize Non-Sexual Relationships

Society has been constructed in a way that prioritizes romantic sexual relationships at the center of an arbitrary hierarchy. It removes the critical role of community and attempts to replace it with the nuclear family. This creates relationships that are overstrained and under supported, often leaving both parties deeply unsatisfied in the relationship. People are expected to be their partner’s everything, a role that’s not impossible to fill without a tremendous psychological and emotional toll and yourself. This relationship structure perceives any form of intimate connection with others as a threat to the primary relationship structure. It’s a recipe for jealousy, scarcity, and possessiveness.

Non-sexual relationships are an important part of a robust and healthy community. They provide a space for deep emotional support and a sense of belonging. They contribute to our well-being by keeping us connected to our communities, alleviating loneliness, and providing a support system for our daily life. Platonic relationships connect us with our personal interests, hobbies, creative endeavors, and entrepreneurial pursuits. They expand our existence beyond our sexual and romantic desires, inviting us to explore all the ways we can connect with people.

Making a conscious effort to prioritize non-sexual relationships places you at the center of your relational experience. You decide what kind of connections are most meaningful to you, what needs different relationships meet, and where it’s most worthwhile to invest your time and energy. It gives a pathway for cultivating robust community love. This isn’t to say sexual connection and intimacy are unimportant, rather that it’s only one way of connecting with people.

Heal Codependency and Cultivate Interdependency

Societal expectations place excessive emphasis on romantic and sexual relationships. Media, religion, and family’s teach us the idea of “the one”- a single person that will fill all the gaps in our lives and bring a sense of meaning and purpose to our existence. We’re taught to romanticize co-dependence rather than cultivate interdependence. Codependency is a common relationship pattern characterized by excessive reliance on another person for emotional and psychological needs. It creates a relationship dynamic in which our partner is expected to provide an unrealistic level of emotional and psychological regulation, often at the cost of their own well-being. It leads to relationship patterns of enabling harmful behaviors, a lack of boundaries, and power imbalances that can become toxic and outright abusive over the course of time. Interdependency is different from codependency because it’s about a healthy and mutually supportive relationship pattern based on equity, cooperation, and shared responsibility. Interdependent relationships allow individuals to maintain a strong sense of self while also recognizing and responding appropriately to the needs of people they're in relationship with. Interdependence requires setting and respecting boundaries, effective communication, and supporting each other without self-sacrificing.

People can heal codependency while cultivating interdependency with the following strategies:

Focus on Self: Codependency is about focusing primarily, and sometimes exclusively, on the needs and desires of the other person at the expense of yourself. Identifying and connecting with your own needs is a starting point for understanding what you want out of a relationship and what you have to give to a relationship. Developing a sense of self involves finding the things that bring you joy, peace, and connection and inviting others into those experiences without expecting them to meet your needs. It also equips you to say no to the things you’re unable to do without a sense of guilt or shame.

Establish & Maintain Boundaries: Boundaries are limits and guidelines individuals have to protect their physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual, and psychological well-being. They can be considered the behaviors that are acceptable or unacceptable for us to be in a relationship with. They are the expectations we have in order to engage in relationships with people in a way that honors our individuality and doesn’t demand self-sacrificing. People in codependent relationships often become enmeshed with each other, where boundaries are completely dissolved and the individual sense of self is lost. Healthy boundaries allow us to develop interdependent relationships, where we can show up for those we love without taking their burdens on as our own or losing ourselves in attempts to be there for them.

Acknowledge Power Dynamics: Power dynamics exist across all relationships. The world we live in is built on power hierarchies of all kinds, including racial, gendered, and economic power dynamics. These dynamics show up in relationships and deeply inform how we engage with each other and what we expect from partners. Codependent relationships often involve power imbalances in which one person exerts control or dominance over the other. This can be intentional or unintentional, and often the person with higher access to power is the one that benefits the most from this dynamic. People in interdependent relationships continually work to understand how power dynamics are present and create room to redistribute power in thoughtful and intentional ways so all people have their needs met.

Build Supportive Community

Queering connection means embracing the power and importance of platonic and non-sexual relationships in our lives. It invites us to intentionally build supportive, loving, and uplifting communities that are not centered on romantic and sexual relationships. It cultivates inclusivity, diversity, healing, connection, and growth across the lifespan. Relationship anarchy in particular recognizes the value and richness of all relationship types so we can nurture deep connections that meet all our intimacy needs. We can create a world where all forms of connection are celebrated and honored. The depth and value of our relationships extend far beyond the boundaries of romance and sexuality, and by embracing this truth, we can build more authentic, fulfilling, and harmonious connections in our lives. Connect with us to learn how you can begin cultivating all forms of intimacy at a deep, profound, and transformative level in your life.

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