Hierarchy and Cohabitation

Full Transcript

Hi, I’m Kale. Today I wanted to talk about some of the ways that hierarchy can creep into our relationships – through cohabitation.

Let’s talk about some of the ways that we can actively dismantle that hierarchy.

One of the steps of the relationship escalator is to move in with a partner.

There are a lot of social and economic benefits to doing this, including recognition of an important relationship or cheaper rent.

There can be legal and tax benefits as well. You can gain access to a person’s health care plan, or you can file joint taxes.

It’s not too difficult to see that there are many practical reasons to move in with someone. This is because society pushes for this configuration.

And of course there are personal reasons to move in with someone too, like being able to sleep next to them, and share your private space with them.

For some people, getting off the relationship escalator means never moving in with someone, and always keeping their own place.  

However, just because you don’t want to ride the relationship escalator, or are practicing relationship anarchy, doesn’t mean that you’re never going to want to live with someone.

In fact, it doesn’t mean you’ll never want to get married or have kids, it just means these things might look different than what society expects.

Let’s say you’re a relationship anarchist, and you generally forgo standard relationship models. But then you meet someone and you’re spending more and more time together, and you get to the point where you decide you want to live together.

So what does that mean for the other relationships in your life?

Now this one person is going to get all the social, economic and legal benefits of living with someone, and this can create an unintentional hierarchy.

As relationship anarchists, we are always working to dismantle hierarchies, and this case is no different.

It’s just an especially big one, it’s one that is socially recognized as having status.

The key here is to recognize that this change will in fact come with some change in status and benefits, at least from the outside.

Regardless of how you feel, mononormativity means your cohabitating partner will be the one recognized as your one ‘true’ relationship.

From the inside, you can still work against letting the implied hierarchy become implicit.

First, have conversations with your important people.

You don’t have to ask permission to move in with someone, but you can be considerate that this might bring up feelings.

You can say to a person, ‘Hey, there is this thing I want to do, and I recognize that once I do it, all my relationships will be viewed differently. Can we talk about how that makes you feel?’.

Don’t pretend that just because you have a non-traditional relationship that moving in together is no big deal. It still might make the people that you’re not living with feel left out.

Be supportive of any feelings that might come up. Being a relationship anarchist doesn’t mean dismissing someone’s feelings because you value your autonomy and freedom.

It’s okay for people to have feelings. It’s not okay for them to use those feelings to try to manipulate you, or make you do something you don’t want to do. But it is okay to talk about them.

It is going to be a process. You can’t talk about it once and suddenly the hierarchy doesn’t exist anymore. It is going to keep coming up and you’re going to need to keep working against it.

If it’s safe for you to be out about your relationship status, think about ways to make all of your important people more visible in your life.

Let them know with your words and actions that just because you’re not living with them, doesn’t mean they are less important.

I’m curious the ways you deal with cohabitation, and making sure no one feels left out. Find the Facebook group to join the discussion, post a comment down below, and follow me on Twitter. And thanks for watching. Bye!

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