Some thoughts on using “relationship communism” to describe my version of polyamory:
While the concept of “relationship anarchy” is appealing to me (each person makes their own decisions about who they want to or can date, usually influenced by the desires and needs of their other partners, but without a set hierarchy or assumed rules about forming new relationships), what feels lacking is a foundation of outward caring. This is not to say that everyone who practices relationship anarchy is irresponsible with the feelings of their partners and metamours – on the contrary, most relationship anarchists that I know are good, caring people who communicate clearly with their partners and make decisions based on those conversations. But I also know a number of folks within that subset of polyamory who take “relationship anarchy” to mean “I date whomever I want, and anyone who tries to limit me is a jerk. If they’re having negative feelings about my other relationships, they need to deal with that themselves.” They feel like the anarchy portion is integral to how they practice being poly, and that setting limits is a way of being emotionally manipulative.
I think that I prefer my polyamory to have as a core tenet the care of everyone involved. Relationship communism, if you will.
Now, much like actual communism, relationship communism is an ideal that is not viable in its complete form in all relationships/polycules/social spheres. Communism has as a value “to each according to their need, and from each according to their ability.” It indicates that if everyone puts in what work they can, everyone will have a good and balanced experience. This might look something like this:
Partner A is in graduate school, and is struggling with mental illness. Partner A needs a lot of support and effort from their partner, Partner B. Partner B doesn’t actually get much energy back from A, but has a polycule who are all able to put in a little extra time and effort to help Partner B recharge. One of B’s metamours (D) is sick, and hasn’t had the time to shop this week, so Partner A and their second partner, Partner Q, go to the grocery store to get B’s metamour, D, some groceries. One of B’s partners (C) has a car, and drives A and B to the airport the next week, and that night, C’s partner D gives C a backrub and a bath, because it was a long and a stressful drive.
This has a lot to do with emotional energy, and not necessarily dating/relationship energy, but they feel very reflected to me. It involves recognizing that all actions are going to influence other people “Will needing a ride/starting a new relationship be a net drain on this community? If so, are there healthy ways that that energy will be made up?” It doesn’t mean asking permission before taking actions, but it does mean checking in with the people that action is going to affect, and making sure it’s a healthy step for all persons involved.
You do get to care for yourself in this kind of community, too. If you want something that isn’t necessarily good for one of your partners, can resources be reallocated in order to make up that partner’s needs? Even if one of your partners is a drain on another (which happens, and is not toxic by nature), relationship communism asks you and your poly sphere to put in work to recharge that partner, so they don’t have a net loss of energy. Hopefully, all that energy will be made up if everyone gives the output they are able to (output is not active my nature. Passive quiet time is good too. I’m not looking for everyone to extrovert themselves to exhaustion).
This kind of polyamory does require a community, which not all poly folks want or have, and that’s fine. It may not be for everyone. I’ve just been looking for a way to express how my polyamory has as bedrock the care and support of all persons involved.