Rethinking Relationships

Are relationship topics luxury problems in a world with climate crisis, poverty, and wars? Yes. However, if you live in toxic relationships you won't have the energy to join political movements. Also, the pattern of relationships presented as normal in mainstream media is both of service to the current power structures of patriarchy and capitalism and it is also bad for you and social movement groups. That is why relationships are a political topic and that's why we should question how they work.

A quote from the Dean Spade webinars linked below in the resources section:

Sexuality, gender, and family formation norms are co-constitutive with white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism and ableism, heteropatriarchy, and other systems of control.

Co-constitutive means that both elements reinforce each other and benefit from each other. Here it means that structures of dominance (e.g. capitalism) both benefit from and reproduce the current relationship-related norms.

Let's live in relationships that are good for us and undermine dominance structures.

In this text, I define relationships as very close friendships and/or romantic and/or sexual connections between two or more people. There are other definitions or relationships and of relating to each other which are of interest, but not the focus of this text.

Don't depend on relationships

Don't define yourself or your self-worth by relationship(s). (I'm always irritated when someone introduces themselves with "... and I have a beautiful wife".)

While most of us don't thrive in social isolation, we don't depend on a specific person. The idea of a scarcity of partners is wrong and harmful.

We don't need a relationship partner to have good (and bad) feelings. Every person has the capacity to feel joy, pleasure, relaxation, and excitement on their own.

Reject relationship norms

Never let someone tell you, you would not be able to "really" love someone. You define if and how you want to love others. You define what love means for you. Everyone who wants to love can do it their way, and all of these ways are ok as long it's consensual.

It's ok not to want sex, it's ok to do sex in non-normative ways. It's ok being stressed out by orgasm fixation, which is often reinforced by mainstream culture. (Sex and sexual attraction are used e.g. in capitalist advertisements to increase sales).

Relationship partners don't have to fulfill every need of the other partner. Exploring the intersection of what two people want or deem possible, their possibility space, is a more positive approach than focussing on what's missing compared to a toxic image of an ideal relationship partner.

While queer, polyamorous, and aspec people might be closer to questioning how relationships should work (e.g. because they were othered or bullied), I find those thoughts helpful for everyone. You can define which form of relationship(s) and which forms of body contact you want.

Polyamory is one way of questioning and redefining relationships.


Polyamory is not about having multiple partners - it's about fucking with societal norms. (Ok, it's also about having multiple partners, but - as with other norms - there should be no pressure to fulfill imagined poly-norms. Having a poly-mindset is way more beneficial.)

It's great when multiple relationship partners can fulfill diverse needs. It's terrific when you can feel joy when one of your partners is in love with someone else (compersion). It's fantastic when you can talk to a relationship partner about feelings of love for other people while feeling connected.

Polyamory might not be for everyone but the skills you learn are: communication, consent, compersion (and many more).


Finally, some notes on dating. Dating is another area in which we apply toxic capitalist patterns like judging by looks, shopping for the best opportunity, and switching one for a better one. Let's not do that.

Check for any patterns in the people you select in dating apps or real life. Are your picks influenced by lookism, ableism, fatmisia, racism, or other forms of discrimination and beauty-standard set by capitalism? Fetishizing and objectivizing are also not ok (unless this is a consensual agreement). Also, check if you subconsciously pick people who are similar to people you were hurt by before.

Don't assume based on looks, behavior, or gender identity what people feel and want. Ask, while trying to avoid pressure.

While you might enjoy honest and direct communication, don't put pressure on other people to do the same. People with bad relationship experiences in the past might need more time, trust, and safety to open up. Thankfully accept the information you get without pressuring them to tell you more.

Also, don't pressure people to talk about their bodies, body-contact preferences, and sex-related topics. This can be especially stressful if one of the bodies comes with more privileges than the other (e.g. cis, white, able-bodied, thin).

More Resources

Easy Start

Here is an older text about non-toxic relationships.

Other older text which can serve as an introduction to polyamory (not by me):


(These zines are originally from Paxus, I'm just hosting them.)


There is no "normal" way of being or relating. We have to tell people how we want to be treated. They can say "yes" or "no", and if they say "no", we can seek our needs elsewhere, meet them ourselves, or live without them being met.