Is it okay that people often de-prioritize non sexual or romantic relationships in favor of sexual or romantic ones?

As a reminder, I’m celebrating 1,000 posts by taking a break from polyamory related questions and taking questions about literally anything else. Submit your non-polyam questions here! You can blacklist the tag “1kcelebration” if you don’t want non-polyamory-related posts on your dash.

I'm curious about your opinion on people putting less effort into their friendships when they are in a relationship than they do when they aren't in one. Do you feel like it's just a thing that people do that we should accept or do you think we should be maintaining effort in our friendships no matter our relationship status? Are there circumstances where it seems ok to you and other circumstances where it doesn't?

(This was sent as a “question not about polyamory,” but it touches on a major cornerstone of my relationship anarchist philosophy, so it ended up being partly on-topic, which makes it off-topic for this week. Oh well!)

I do not think this is appropriate under any circumstances! This is why I’m a strong believer in relationship anarchy. Our culture has a lot of arbitrary and prescribed ‘boxes’ for relationships, which make no sense and are not healthy for people. I believe we would live much healthier lives if we lived in communities where all roles and all relationships are honored and recognized.

It is so odd to me that we are expected to think that “wanting to live with someone,” “wanting to be sexually intimate with someone,” “wanting to share large-scale life projects like making a home and raising children with someone,” and “feeling emotionally connected and intimate with someone” and “sharing hobbies and fun interests with someone” are all supposed to collapse into the same feeling, which we’re only supposed to have for one person! And that we’re supposed to prioritize this magical, all-encompassing relationship over all other ones! Our society is set up to privilege and prioritize romantic relationships - everything from adoption and child custody to health insurance to renting and buying property.

It’s nonsense. And it’s dangerous - the “nuclear family” model keeps people isolated, puts vulnerable people at a higher risk for abuse, and it isn’t how humans evolved to live. Conflating sexual interest with romantic interest with lifelong commitment creates patterns of misplaced loyalty, where people will protect a sexual-romantic relationship at all costs, even their own happiness, safety, or other relationships. It also does a disservice to deeply intimate relationships that are not sexual or romantic in nature. Making large scale life changes or commitments for a romantic partner? Totally normal. Doing the same for a close friend or sibling? Very confusing to people.

It also makes it harder for people to be healthy and intentional and self-aware about friendships. What if one is abusive? We don’t have language or support resources for abuse that isn’t in the context of a sexual-romantic relationship. What about when one ends or needs to end? We have language around “breakups,” but we don’t have healthy tools for talking about or grieving the loss of a different type of relationship.

Imagine a world where we were free to let relationships be what they want and need to be, without forcing them into unnecessary patterns. What if the person we like to have sex with isn’t the best person for us to raise kids with, so we co-parent with someone else? What if we feel a strong sense of commitment and love for someone, but don’t want a romantic relationship with them - but we can honor and recognize our deep love regardless? How wonderful would that be!