New article on valuing different kinds of relationships equally

I recently did an interview for a great piece that appeared on The Establishment over the weekend about Relationship Anarchy. Relationship Anarchy is one of the terms that’s emerged in recent years for a relationship style that involves things like:

  • Valuing different kinds of relationships at a similar level (whether they are romantic, collegiate, platonic, family, sexual, etc.)
  • Negotiated mutually agreed-upon ways of doing things rather than conforming to a strict set of relationship rules.
  • Prioritising the freedom and independence of individuals and relationships rather than a sense of people belonging to each other, or relationships being constrained or limited due to their label or cultural assumptions (e.g. about what a friendship or romantic relationship should be like).

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If you want to think more about your own relationship styles you might want to check out this relationship user guide zine that Justin Hancock and I recently put together. Justin and I are also currently working on a joint website about sex and relationship advice: coming soon!

Here’s the start of the RA article with a link to where you can read the rest if you’re enjoying it…

Relationship Anarchy Takes The Judgment Out Of Love

by Clare Wiley

Mel Mariposa Cassidy has lots of partners in her life. There’s the boyfriend who lives nearby in her East Vancouver neighborhood, and the partner who’s a few hours away on Vancouver Island. Then there’s the man who lives in the U.S.—they don’t see each other very often, but he’s the one who feels most like a soulmate. And that’s not to mention Mel’s closest friend—a woman she describes as her “platonic-ish life partner.” Meanwhile, she lives with her best friend, an ex-lover who’s listed as her emergency contact.

But Mel isn’t polyamorous. She’s a relationship anarchist—meaning she doesn’t distinguish between the romantic, sexual, and platonic relationships in her life. Members of the community she belongs to have decided that traditional monogamy, and often polyamory, aren’t working for them. They want less structure, fewer hierarchies. And so they’ve committed to a model that’s at once simple and radical: They give all their relationships equal footing.

Mel has an ongoing conversation with each of her partners to continuously discuss and examine the partnership, establishing what everyone wants to get out of it. She also makes sure that everyone’s clear that no one person is privileged above any other.

“It allows me to be very true to where I’m at in any given moment,” Mel says. “So if I’m not feeling like I want to have a date with someone, then I can just say ‘hey you know what, I want to have more time alone right now.’ It’s about finding that common ground from moment to moment. There’s a lot less complacency in relationship anarchy.”

The term “relationship anarchy” was coined by the Swedish activist and creative Andie Nordgren. In 2012, she wrote the Relationship Anarchy manifesto, laying out guidelines for a radically different approach to relationships. These include “Love and respect instead of entitlement” and “Heterosexism is rampant out there, but don’t let fear lead you.” Other guidelines declare “Trust is better” and “Build for the lovely unexpected,” which encourages followers to be spontaneous.

“In RA, the idea is that all kinds of relationships are important,” says Dr. Meg-John Barker, a relationship anarchist as well as a senior psychology lecturer and sex and gender therapist. “You don’t privilege romantic or sexual relationships over other kinds, such as platonic relationships. RA also tends to strongly emphasize the freedom of those involved, and ongoing negotiation of the relationship, whereas some versions of polyamory are more rules or contract based.” Read more…

 

 

 

The Secrets of Enduring Love videos

Jacqui Gabb and  put together this series of videos with The Open University to answer some the main questions that we cover in our book The Secrets of Enduring Love.

Should you make grand romantic gestures?

Should you spend as much time as possible with your partner?

Should you be sure to say I love you?

Should you make sure you have plenty of sex?

Explore More Summit

Tomorrow you can hear me being interviewed for the Explore More Summit about love, sex, and relationships. There’s a quick teaser of me talking pressures on relationships and reminiscing about old episodes of Sex and the City here!

Explore More is a free online summit which include talks by some amazing experts in their fields speaking on topics like navigating jealousy, opening your relationship, building intimacy, exploring kink, overcoming diet culture, radical self-care, cyber infidelity, trauma, how to talk dirty, somatic healing, tantra, processing feelings, loving your body exactly as it is now, and so much more.

There’s also a private Facebook group where you can have more conversations and ask questions of the people involved. You can check it out and sign-up here if you’re interested in finding out more:

http://www.exploremoresummit.com

 

Non/monogamy

There’s a new talk by me up on the Pink Therapy YouTube channel. Plus a whole load more really interesting talks from their recent conference.

In memory of Trevor Butt

Last week I found out that my dear friend, colleague and mentor, Trevor Butt, had died. It’s still very hard to believe that he is gone. I feel terribly sad that he didn’t have the time – freed up from work by his retirement – to explore the projects he was passionate about, and to get more of his wonderful writing out into the world outside of the constraints of academic frameworks.

Trev

Inspiration

Trevor had a huge impact on my life. It’s not exaggerating to say that I wouldn’t be where I am here, now, if it wasn’t for him.

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Buzzfeed for Valentine’s Day

Thanks to my fab publishers, Routledge, I’m included on a Buzzfeed for a second time, this time for Valentine’s Day. I’m loving the fact that they’ve put my suggestion about not privileging romantic relationships at the very top (I sent out cards to close friends this year and it felt really good).

10 Ways To Revamp Your Relationship

The only downside for me is that it wasn’t my tip that got illustrated with this awesome Troy and Abed gif (my favourite characters on a TV show ever!) I’m going to steal it and put it here anyway. Happy Valentine’s day everyone 🙂

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Monogamy

Since Rewriting the Rules was published I sometimes get asked to do email interviews with journalists on various topics. Some of these get published in an edited form and some never see the light of day, so I thought I’d post some of the original interviews here.

Here’s one I did on monogamy:

Are we hardwired to be monogamous or is it a social construct that is arguably unnatural?

Like most aspects of human experience our relationships styles are biopsychosocial. It’s not a matter of nature or nurture, hardwiring or social construct. Rather the way we form relationships is influenced by a complex web of biological, psychological and social aspects which would be impossible to disentangle.

Certainly the diversity of relationship styles across humans and other animals suggests that it is very unlikely that any one kind of style (monogamous or non-monogamous) is ‘hard-wired’ from the start. However, the processes of our bodies and brains certainly operate together with the experiences we have through life and the messages we receive from the culture around us to shape the ways in which we experience love, desire, and so on.

How hard or misleading do you think it is to live with the view that boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married, remain faithful and live happily ever after?

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Sex in long term relationships

Since Rewriting the Rules was published I sometimes get asked to do email interviews with journalists on various topics. Some of these get published in an edited form and some never see the light of day, so I thought I’d post some of the original interviews here.

Here’s one that I did on sex in long term relationships.

What are the signs that lust is dead?

I’d prefer not to use the word ‘dead’! Evidence suggests that our sexualities are much more fluid and flexible than many people think, so it is completely normal to go through periods of not feeling sexual. These might last or they might be temporary. Sexuality might bubble up again or take new forms.

What are the usual causes?

It can just be completely normal fluctuation with no specific cause. However it is also quite common to feel less sexual when we are tired or stressed (although some people respond in the opposite way and feel more sexual at such times). For many people relationships become less sexual over time and this can be absolutely fine. However if one person then has higher desires than the other it can be difficult for both if they don’t have other ways of meeting those desires.

What is the emotional fallout for individuals and couples of the death of lust?

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The Internet and relationships

Since Rewriting the Rules was published I sometimes get asked to do email interviews with journalists on various topics. Some of these get published in an edited form and some never see the light of day, so I thought I’d post some of the original interviews here.

Here’s one on the internet and relationships.

Are people being more public about our relationships because of the internet/ social media?

Yes definitely.

In what ways?

Social media encourages us to be more public about our relationships in both explicit and implicit ways. Social networking sites like facebook ask users to say whether they are in a relationship and lists that as part of their profile – suggesting our relationship status is a major part of who we are. Such sites also encourage people to list who they are in relationships with and to mark occasions like weddings, so it becomes public when people get together and if they break up.

There are also a proliferation of dating and hook-up websites like grindr, tinder, OKCupid and match.com. Those mean that the internet becomes part of how we get together with people as well as how we signal our relationship publicly.

How is this affecting relationships?

It’s not as simple as the internet being either a good thing, or a bad thing, for relationships. Instead it opens up some possibilities whilst closing others down.

On the up side, perhaps, internet dating moves away from previous ideas about falling in love at first site on the basis of physical appearance, and enables people to meet folk who they have things in common with and who share their values. Hook-up sites also remind us that long term monogamous relationships aren’t the only way to have an enjoyable sex/love life. Being open about our relationships on social media might help people to realise that most of us struggle in this area some of the time, as we see our friends getting together, breaking up, and finding that ‘it’s complicated’.

At the same time, social networking can encourage people to present an entirely positive side of themselves which other people can then evaluate themselves against unfavourably. If all you see on your facebook wall is pictures of happy couples celebrating anniversaries and going on picnics then it’s pretty easy to feel bad about being single, or about having tough times in your own relationship. Also break-ups can be particularly painful if you’re constantly drawn to checking how an ex partner is doing through their blog or twitter feed. Ads for internet dating sites can exacerbate the sense that everybody should be searching for a partner, and that anything less than a perfect match won’t do.

For myself I’d like to see a wider range of relationships being presented online: different ways of being single, and having different kinds of relationships, including friendships being valued as highly as romantic relationships. I’d also like to see people being more open about the difficult stuff of relationships as well as the good parts. Social media has the potential for such diversity and openness if we’re up for taking the risk and using it in that way.

Thank you: The psychology of gratitude and appreciation

My university, The Open University, has recently started a ‘thank you’ campaign (#OU_thanks) where students and alumni have been encouraged  to express their thanks to people who’ve helped them along their journeys of studying at the OU. I was interviewed about this for an article that appeared in The Metro yesterday.

Thankyou

The OU has always had a major commitment to opening up access to higher education beyond those who have conventionally engaged in it. They put on flexible courses so that people can study alongside working full-time, they encourage lifelong learning, and online courses mean that people can study from home, while travelling, or from prison.

This recent thank you campaign recognises that for every OU student there is generally an unacknowledged cluster of other people who have encouraged and helped them to study in this way. There are supportive friends and family members, people who’ve assisted financially with fees, flexible employers, and the OU tutors and peers who’ve helped them through the process. With this campaign, students are taking the opportunity to express their thanks to all these people who’ve helped them to do something which they are often extremely proud of, and which opens up their possibilities in all kinds of important ways.

Interestingly, at the same time as the campaign was happening, a bunch of OU psychologists were putting together a new psychology module called ‘Living psychology: From the Everyday to the Extraordinary’. I’ve been writing two chapters for this module that have a bearing on gratitude: one on self-help and happiness, and one tackling relationship conflict. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to reflect on what we know about the psychology of gratitude, as well as giving some of my own thoughts on the matter.

Gratitude for mental health and well-being?

We probably assume that gratitude will be a positive thing for the person being thanked, but recent research in ‘positive psychology’ has found that it also has a very positive impact on the person doing the thanking.

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