"My wife doesn't automatically trump my other relationships," Carson told me over the phone.
From the outside looking in, he says, his marriage looks pretty normal—he and his wife share a home together, they have two children. But Carson, who's asked not to disclose his last name to protect his family's privacy, has other relationships as well. Not all of them are sexual, and not all of them are romantic. But he prioritizes each of them according to the individual agreements he made in those relationships.
With his wife, he's agreed to raise children and maintain their home. But with other people, he may go on dates or vacations—even if there's no sex involved. He avoids developing expectations for his relationships, as well.
"When we have expectations on other people like: 'I expect that because you love me today, you'll love me tomorrow.' Those expectations limit personal autonomy for the people you have the relationships with," Carson says. Abandoning those expectations makes him appreciate the connections he has in the moment.
The lack of hierarchy and minimal expectations Carson puts on relationships, romantic or otherwise, define his identity as a relationship anarchist—a term that makes some people in the polyamory community roll their eyes, shift uncomfortably in their seat, or say, "wait, that's me."
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