If This is ARR...
By David Deutsch
Originally posted on the Autonomy Respecting Relationships List

[A poster complained about difficulty that arose due to a person they were in a relationship with trying to live an ARR lifestyle. They concluded by saying that ARR was bad. David Deutsch responds below]

On this day, worldwide, several hundred thousand sexually exclusive relationships have broken up, most of them against the wishes of, and to the surprise and shock of, one of the parties. It hurts and it sucks. (And it is not only the parties themselves who have been hurt.)

That's a hell of a lot of hurt. Nor was today exceptional. Exactly the same happened yesterday and the same will happen tomorrow and the day after and the day after that. It is a lucky person who will not be on the receiving end of this crippling, life-blighting hurt at some time in their lives. A person who never ends up inflicting it is quite lucky too.

But I think it is a little unfair to say "if this is ARR...?" After all, what proportion of all the people who are inflicting this pain on someone today have even heard of ARR? One in a million?

This is not ARR. This is life, as it is currently lived. (As it is currently lived in the very best societies on Earth, I mean. Elsewhere, things are a lot worse.)

Most of the people who have been hurt in this way today are at this moment coming to the conclusion that they were utterly mistaken about some things that were, only yesterday, most important to them in their lives, and on which they most relied. In particular, they were (they are now convinced) mistaken in their choice of partner, and in their judgement of their partner's character. "Where's the integrity here?", they are asking. Well, that's an interesting question. I'm not going to attempt an answer here, but I want to point out something that should be obvious: if the answer is "there's not much integrity here", then that criticism does not apply only to the partner of one particular person asking the question, but to all people who behave like that. Nor is it just one "other woman" (or "other man") who lacks integrity, nor one particular internet discussion group nor one particular golf club or feminist consciousness-raising group nor any other individual, group or idea. If this type of lack of integrity is a character flaw, [poster's] partner is not uniquely guilty of it. Nor is [poster's] partner's new partner. Nor is the ARR List the only source on Earth of this corruption.

And if "there's not much integrity here" then, I must add, it is not only the leavers-of-relationships and the breakers-up of relationships who lack integrity. It is presumably also those who are going to do those things in the future. And that includes some substantial proportion of all people reading this, including many who are saying to themselves with certainty: "not I", or "not *my* partner". Many of those who have been hurt by a breakup on this day had this certainty too. It is in part because they had it that they are now hurt so badly.

Of the hundreds of thousands whose certainty was proved cruelly inaccurate today, and even of those who had feared it all along, nearly all feel desecrated. Most are humiliated that they were the last to know. None, however, are capable of conducting themselves in such a way that if *they* were ever to end such a relationship (and bear in mind, many of them will), their partner would be the first to know. No one is, because the logic of that sort of commitment is that to contemplate breaking it is to break it. To reveal to one's partner that the realistic possibility exists, even remotely on the horizon, that one will wish to end one's commitment to them against their will, then one has already ended it against their will.