how our polyamorous clients build thriving relationships

The Problem with Relationship Anarchy

Here at Touch of Flavor, we have a big problem with things that sound great, but don’t work.

Relationship Anarchy is (usually) one of those things. It sounds great in theory. But the way most people practice it leads to confusion, hurt, and ruined relationships.

This video is a frank discussion of RA: The great ideas behind it. The problems with how people practice it. And how you can build relationships that value freedom and autonomy while still allowing your partners to feel cared for.


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Cassie 0:00
Here at Touch of Flavor, we teach non-monogamous folks how to overcome their obstacles and build thriving relationships.

Josh 0:10
This podcast is about answering one question: how do you create loving, passionate, secure relationships outside the box? Even if nothing has ever worked before? If you want to know the answer, you're in the right place.

Cassie 0:39
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Josh F 0:49
All right, so hello, hello, everybody. I wanted to hop in... I wanted to talk about a topic that is something that we've been wanting to talk about for a while and it's kind of been on the list. And on the back burner a little bit. And I want to talk about the problem-- or really the problems-- with relationship anarchy. And here's the thing, I recognize that at this point already, there is a number of you watching this who I have offended. And this is what I would ask. Because the truth of the matter is, this is going to offend some people. But I would just suggest this to you and ask this, go ahead, actually watch this video. See if anything that I'm saying makes sense to you or resonates with you. And then if after doing that, you want to get offended? That is totally fine.

Josh F 2:10
But I wanted to talk about this. And, you know, you may be asking, like --Josh why, knowing that this is something that a certain number of people are gonna get pissed off about just because you're talking about it..... And knowing that, you know, quite frankly, I have people in my life who I love and who I respect and who I think are awesome people and awesome poly people who identify as relationship anarchist, like why am I coming on here? And am I picking on relationship anarchy? Why do it? Why open it up to the enraged, Facebookness. And the reason is really the same reason that we do everything-- if you've listened to us before, you know that our guiding principle is always do what's best for people in their relationships. And because of that, one of the things that just irritates us the absolute most in the world, is things that sound great and don't work. And there's a lot of that in non-monogamy. And it's almost better if something's not going to work for it to sound ridiculous. You know, if I told you that the only way to negotiate amazing agreements that are going to work in your relationships are to have them standing on your head with your parents mediating in the middle of a McDonald's, you would know off the bat that that's ridiculous, and you would totally discount it and not pay any attention to it. And, you know, on the other hand, like when people just you know--- you're not monogamous, and people just say stuff to you, that's just completely bigoted and ridiculous. And they just thinking of an experience, Cassie and I had here years ago. But they tell you, what if your kid now grows up to essentially be a child molester? You might be pissed off. But you're also going to discount that pretty quickly.

Josh F 4:27
And so in a lot of ways, it's better when stuff that doesn't work sounds ridiculous. Because people don't do it most of the time. And that's why one of the things that irritates us the most, is stuff that sounds great and doesn't work. And unfortunately, the non-monogamous community is full of this, right? It's full of advice and platitudes that sound amazing and sound like they make a ton of sense, and don't actually work anytime you try and put them into effect. And that's a huge problem. Because when something sounds like a good idea, then people try and do it. And then they wind up causing a bunch of problems and blowing up their relationships, and having all these issues that just weren't at all necessary. And this is something that we see every day. And we talk to hundreds-- just personally, I mean, and you may have heard me say this before-- but I personally talk to hundreds of people a year, one on one about what's going on in their relationship. And I can't tell you the number of times that one of the challenges that's there is that people heard some of the stuff floating around our communities that sounds great. And they tried to implement it, and then ran into enormous problems along the way. And I think this is something that we're particularly guilty of, in the non-monogamous communities is putting out information that sounds good, but doesn't work. And I think it's really, really detrimental. It's detrimental to the community as a whole. But it's, and we see the button of this all the time, super detrimental to people's relationships at the individual level.

Josh F 6:08
And so we're really, really-- we have a really high value of putting out for people, what actually works to build them the loving, amazing thriving ethical relationships that they want. One of our clients years ago told us that our motto should be practical polyamory advice. And that really is the approach that we try to take with things and it's the approach we're trying to take to things because, again, we want to see people's relationships actually succeed. And so there's a lot of places, as I said, in the non-monogamous communities that we see somebody out there, that sounds great, but doesn't work and relationship anarchy is one of the biggest places I can sit here and point my finger at for one of these things. So I want to spend some time talking about it. Right. And the real problem? Well, I'll get into some of the problems. But the challenge with relationship anarchy, is that it sounds amazing. And it sounds amazing, for a good reason. Because if you actually do any research on relationship anarchy, and I don't know how many people who identify as relationship anarchist actually have done that, if you're one of those people, but if you actually do research on relationship anarchy, and you look at the principles behind it, you look at the ideas that it came from, you look at-- and there's like a lot of places will list like six or seven principles of relationship anarchy and that approach to your relationships. And what you realize pretty quickly is that most of those things are things that they're not specific to relationship anarchy. They're just things that anybody who's having awesome non-monogamous relationships does.

Josh F 7:57
Things like not assuming any particular structure or roles or expectations in a relationship and actually negotiating the individual things with the individual people. Obviously, you want to do that. Or things like, if I have a relationship with partner A, not letting Partner A come and veto Partner B or, you know, otherwise negatively impact this relationship I have with this completely separate person. These are all amazing ideas. These are all things that, honestly, everybody that's having healthy, non-monogamous relationships are doing. A lot of these principles. And that's why relationship anarchy sounds amazing. That's why as I said before, there's lots of people that I love and admire in my personal circles, who identify as relationship anarchists. And so at this point, you're probably wondering, okay, then, if that's the case, again, why am I on here talking poorly about relationship anarchy, and this is the problem, right? And this is a problem that you see happen, other places in the non-monogamous world as well, which is, you have a few, maybe like, one to 2% of people who when they're talking about relationship anarchy, that is all they mean, right? Following those principles, the way that they are laid out.

Josh F 9:33
And you see this, as I said. Another space is where you have the small percentage of people and, especially like educators and authors, and you know, people who, who define things a way that most of the rest of the people aren't finding them. Right. And this is where relationship anarchy has some pretty severe challenges is 99% of people that we talked to, that we see in our Facebook group, that I talked to one on one, that we run into, out at classes ... 99% of the people who are talking about doing relationship anarchy, they're not just talking about those principles. There is a lot more there. That is not how most people are using relationship anarchy. So you have this situation, where sure, by the super like strict definition, relationship anarchy is awesome. But by the way everybody, almost everybody, is using it, it's not. Because most people when they're talking about relationship anarchy-- and this is what we see over and over and over again-- they don't mean that they're following those principles. That maybe a small piece of it, or maybe none of it, if you really dig into it. But what they really mean is that they don't want to determine and specify the priorities of their relationships, both, as those relations relate to each other, and as they land in the rest of their life. Right. They don't want to let people know and they don't let people know where they fall in that scale of importance. So people don't know what to expect. They don't know what footing their relationship's on. They don't know what tomorrow looks like.

Josh F 11:28
Because maybe stuff arbitrarily changes. And then along with that. Because of those things, right? Most of the time, when people are talking about relationship anarchy, a piece of that, that we see is that they have no or very fuzzy agreements, about things that absolutely need agreements in order for a relationship to be happy and healthy. Things like time, things like conversations around what people are looking for in the future. Things like I said, those conversations about priority, and knowing what fits where and everybody knowing that. And a lot of times what this becomes at the end of the day-- and not intentionally for most people-- is this label of relationship anarchy becomes a place for people to hide. It becomes a place for people to hide, and not have these difficult conversations not nailed down; these difficult agreements that need to be done. Because they're a relationship anarchist, and that's the way that they just do relationships. I can't tell you how many times I've heard some kind of variation of we don't have agreements around XYZ or we don't have any agreements. BecauseI'm a relationship anarchist, or my partner's a relationship anarchist. And what's really truly interesting about this, is that it's not at all relationship anarchy by that definition that a few people are using. That's technically correct. But it is by the definition that most people are using. And this is where the problems come in.

Josh F 13:25
Because now you're in the situation when you have this thing, which is really saying it that sounds amazing, in principle, but in the way that people are actually applying it is disasterous. Because you wind up in the situation. Well, there's a number of problems. Let's just start from the basics. Which is, you have to know where your relationships stand in relationship to each other. In your sense of priority, it is impossible not to know that because you have no reference of making decisions. And the challenge is this: when push comes to shove, and you have to make decisions, which you're going to have to do, you're going to have to prioritize your relationships. When it comes down to conversations around time, you're gonna have to know where the priority for time lies. When it comes down to conversation about finances, you're going to have to know where the finances lie. When you have two partners who both need you at once, you're going to have to know where that priority lies. And here's the thing, you can't do anything to eliminate the fact that you are going to make a choice about what takes priority. You can ignore that decision. You cannot make it ahead of time, but you're still going to have to make it in the moment. And all that not actually having that nailed out for yourself does is put you in a place where you have no idea what to expect, and your partners have no idea what to expect. And stuff can be changed at the last moment. And you have no basis, no structure to make those decisions that all of us need to make on a day to day basis about where we're investing our time, where we're investing our energy, where we are investing our efforts. And you wind up just kind of operating by default and being pulled into either whatever's happening, or whatever you feel like at the time.

Josh F 15:37
Right. And so what happens? Well, number one, like I said, you have no basis to make any of those decisions that you're going to make anyways, that doesn't work. And here's the thing about this. And some of you right now may be saying, well, I mean, you're talking about hierarchy and prioritizing relationships-- and isn't hierarchy bad? And I need you to understand this, because this is another place that you have 1% of people are using definitions very differently than you are, for a lot of you. Which is, if you look at the people who are talking about hierarchy being bad. And you really look into what they're saying, what you'll find is that anybody who really works with relationships-- including some of the people who, again, you may think have a negative view of hierarchy-- understands that you have to have a sense of where relationships fall on the priority list for relationships to work at all. And a lot of the writers, the authors, the experts are defining hierarchy in a very specific way, that is not what most people are using. And they're defining hierarchy in the way of, again, that whole letting that relationship with person A impact the relationship with person B. Because everybody recognizes or at least everybody is strong. But most people recognize even a lot of the people who you may think, you know, are in that "hierarchy is bad" camp, that you can't operate without understanding where your priorities fall. Like this is how we go through life and make decisions is... we are constantly having to decide. We all have a very limited amount of time, a limited amount of energy, a limited amount of money, a limited amount of everything. And we are having to decide where to put those things. And the only way you can decide that whether it's your relationships, or anything in life is knowing where all of those things land on your priority list. Right? So that's the first problem.

Josh F 17:43
But then, because there's no basis to make decisions, it creates a huge amount of uncertainty for the people in the relationship. And most of the times when I'm talking to people who have a partner who identifies as relationship anarchist, they tell me, "I have no idea-- I have no idea what's going on. I have no idea what to expect. I never know if they're going to be there. I never know if they're not going to be there. I don't know, if tomorrow, they're just gonna up and leave. I have no idea what's going on." And you can't run a relationship like that. People need-- all of us need it as a basic human need to have some level-- even for those of us like me who are like super excitement driven-- some level of certainty. And people cannot operate in relationships where they have no idea where they stand, or if their partners are going to show up when they're in a car accident. Or if tomorrow they're going to go off with somebody else. Or they have no idea if three years down the road, if there's even a possibility for a future, if this person just never wants anything other than like a fuck buddy. People can't operate that way. So you end up with a huge amount of uncertainty. You wind up with a ton of insecurity because of that. And because of that insecurity, people have no reason to invest that limited amount of time and energy and resources that they have.

Josh F 19:09
Because why would you if you have no idea what tomorrow looks like? Why are you going to put in a bunch of work? Why are you going to spend that amount of time? The vast majority of people aren't willing to do that. And why? Why am I talking about all this? Because at the end of the day, when you approach your relationships in this way-- again, that most people are using relationship anarchy of not defining any of your relationships, in terms of where they fall out on the priority list, of nobody knowing where they stand, of avoiding a lot of the really critical agreements that people need to have even the most basic sense of security-- People get hurt. Both-- I mean, everybody involved, winds up getting hurt. And those relationships wind up having enormous challenges, that our resolve only get resolved either when like that relationship breaks up, which happens quite a lot. Because again, people have no reason to invest in a relationship where they're uncertain. And there's problems there. And they have no idea what the future looks like. Right? Or people finally come around to a more practical view of what can work and what can't.

Josh F 20:45
But there's been a huge amount of pain and heartache and maybe broken relationships in that process along the way. And this is the thing. At the end of the day, you know, the problem here, as I said, it doesn't exactly really lie with relationship anarchy itself. Because if you're going off, as I said, that really strict actual definition, that's awesome. But the fact that a huge amount of the people who are using that term are misusing it to normalize stuff and excuse stuff, that just simply does not work eithe because it's easier to avoid a lot of these hard things, or because they hear that relationship anarchy is good. And then they see this as the example of relationship anarchy, these things that I'm talking about, they then assume, put two and two together-- would that be two and two...? And assume that this is the right way to have relationships. And as I said, it just doesn't work. And it winds up with people hurt. And that's why I'm sitting here talking about it again, even though I know this is going to be something that a lot of people aren't going to be happy about. Because it's harmful. It is harmful when people follow along in these things that sound good, but don't work. And again, the way most people who use relationship anarachy are using it, are falling into this camp of things... that are doing a lot of things that sound good and don't work. So it's like a lot of gloom and doom talk. So if you've watched any of these, you know that I always like to come around to the opportunity or two what's awesome. So what's awesome? Like, what's the opportunity here? Well, number one, just understand, like I said, like, if you're somebody who likes some of the ideas behind relationship anarchy, understand that the basic principles that are there, if you can get beyond all the bowl that is now packaged with a lot of the basic principles, there are awesome. And they're really the things again, that, like a lot of them are just things that anybody who's an expert in relationships is going to tell you to apply.

Josh F 23:31
Right? So there's that. But here's the other piece of this. And this is what I really want you to understand, because I think this is the most important piece, because this gets back to why things that sound good, but don't work are so dangerous, right? Because people who are falling into these challenges aren't doing it because they want to have problems in their relationships. They're doing it because they're looking for a way that's ethical. They're looking for-- you know, to approach things in a way that treats their partners well. They're looking to approach things in a way where relationships aren't sabotaging each other in ways that they shouldn't be. They're looking to approach in ways where they're not making assumptions. They're negotiating things, right. And really, at the end of the day, what they want is they want to have ethical awesome relationships where everybody is respected. And they want to have that. And here's what is great about this: it is entirely possible, like these two worlds don't have to be separate, right? It's entirely possible to have relationships and to approach relationships in a way where you are being ethical, where you are giving your relationships each the room to grow, where you can have that freedom, where you can negotiate each relationship on its own. And at the same time, you're approaching your relationships in a practical way that actually works, that is going to actually take care of the people in the relationship, that's going to make people feel secure and loved. And that is going to-- instead of creating suffering-- just build these awesome thriving designer relationships for everybody that is involved. It's entirely possible, right?

Josh F 25:28
What has to happen, though, is getting past these labels of, you know, I'm a relationship anarchist, or I believe in hierarchy, or I don't believe in hierarchy or whatever. And actually diving, and learning what are... at the end of the day, those principles that give you both of those things? That give you ways to bridge relations where it's ethical, and where you have freedom, and where everybody is honored as their own person, but it's practical, and works and protects the relationships in it. Whether it's the relationship you started with, or all the other ones that takes care of people, right. And when you can get past all those labels that we like to throw around for the kinds of polyamory that we do, and really just focus on those principles. That's when you get both of those things at once. That's when you build amazing, awesome thriving relationships that work in an ethical way.

Josh F 26:46
And so what I want to offer people is we have over the years that we've done this, and the hundreds of clients that we have, like worked with one on one to transform their relationships, right? There's five principles that we found that all like awesome, successful, thriving, ethical, free relationships share. And it's not about labels. It's not about like I said, the labels, the kind of polyamory. There's five things that just work to create that kind of environment, and that kind of relationships for people. And we've seen it over and over and over again, that the people who implement these principles in their lives, they are the ones who have those relationships that we're all aiming for, when we try and implement all these different things. And what we've done for folks here is a little while back, we took those five principles, and we put them into a training, like a free training for people just to give folks the tools that they need to actually approach these things in the ways that they want. And so I'm going to give you a link here, we're going to make this available again.

Josh F 28:14
So if you go to, it'll take you to a page. You'll see a couple of dates and stuff, right where this training is available. Go ahead and pick something that works. Watch this. And I guarantee you it is going to be the best hour that you have spent on your relationships probably ever, especially on the non monogamous end of things. And you'll really walk away with these principles that you can apply, no matter again, what kind of labels you're using to define your polyamory so you can build this awesome thriving ethical relationships for yourself. All right, so go to Check that out.

Josh F 29:01
All right. And everybody else, you know, thank you for sticking around. Like I said, I know it's not an easy topic for some people. But we're coaches, we're not here to say the easy things. And, you know, we always show up and have the conversations, even the hard ones, even the ones that might catch some flack because we love you folks, right? And because we really are just passionate about seeing people build these amazing relationships. And seeing us as a community continue to move in a direction where we are more and more operating in a way of having these awesome thriving relationships, both for all of us as a community and for the rest of the world. So that people can look in and see the possibilities.

Josh F 29:58
Thanks for tuning into today's show. We release new episodes every week. So make sure to subscribe.

Cassie 30:04
If you're ready to transform your relationship and you'd like to see if you're a fit to work with us, here's what I want you to do next-- head over to, and book an appointment to speak with our team. We'll get on the phone with you for about an hour. And we'll get you crystal clear on three things: what's really not working in your relationships, what your dream relationships would look like and a step by step plan to close the gap and save your family. Even if nothing has worked before.

Josh F 30:31
We talk with hundreds of non-monogamous folks like you every year. And here's the truth: building loving, thriving relationships that doesn't happen on its own. You need expert guidance to make that happen. And unfortunately, when you are building relationships outside the box, that's impossible to find and we get it. But that's exactly what we do. We've helped clients all over the world save their families, get the passion back and become fast friends again.

Cassie 30:56
So if you want to see if we can help you do the same head over to I'm Cassie.

Josh F 31:03
And I'm Josh. Let's talk soon