The V-Spot: When Did I Get on the Relationship Escalator?

I have a few questions about monogamy. I guess, part of it stemming from a recent post I saw on your Instagram — @the_vspot — about “The Relationship Escalator,” polyamory, and monogamy. In my last partnership, my partner and I were very intentional about not falling into that trajectory, but now I think that The Relationship Escalator is something that I want.

Can The Relationship Escalator coexist alongside actively constructing your relationship? I know The Relationship Escalator is the norm and people just tend to fall onto it when there isn’t intention, but parts of the escalator are things that I want — like moving in together, monogamy, or having kids. I just want these things to happen intentionally and with discussion and amendments, instead of just “because that’s what happens next.”

I can’t figure out if my desire for things on the escalator are desires I should try to resist because they stem from people drilling norms into me?

— Things Are Escalating

Wanting to move in together and have babies doesn’t make you an Escalator sheep. But stepping onto the Escalator and letting it whisk you and your partner away like some choice-less zombies might.

Offescalator.com defines The Relationship Escalator like this: “A default set of societal expectations for intimate relationships. Partners follow a progressive set of steps, each with visible markers, toward a clear goal. The goal at the top of the escalator is to achieve a permanently monogamous, cohabitating marriage. In many cases, buying a house and having kids is part of the goal.”

On the cusp of 2017, New York branding agency Sparks & Honey released their annual trends report A-Z Culture Glossary of 2017, which has a reputation of being 81 percent accurate in predicting what will be at the forefront of pop culture in the coming year. Polyamory, conscientiously sharing love between more than two people, made the list of 100 up-and-comers, which also includes elusively hip topics such as: death positivity and the museumification of everything.”

This month alone, a cool 85 percent of questions submitted to The V-Spot have been about non-monogamy. Polyamory is on people’s minds, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be or love being monogamous. Further, being monogamous doesn’t require an “escalator” ride.

In my opinion, it’s not the Escalator that’s negative — many enjoy it. It’s how people use it that matters. The Escalator has become the standard by which most people gauge the success of relationships. How far up on the Escalator you are typically dictates how significant, healthy, or committed your relationship is — and to step down a level, or off entirely, is to undermine it.

Needless to say, if you’re in a non-monogamous relationship and you’re dating and/or sleeping with multiple people simultaneously, or if you’re not interested in marriage, or if you’re asexual, etc. then the Escalator isn’t really tailored to your lifestyle and can be used to invalidate your relationships. For this reason, some polyamorous (and otherwise) folks are very anti-escalator.

The way I feel is your relationship, your rules. There are many lovely aspects of the Escalator that you and your partner(s) can choose to include in your relationship. You can be monogamous and not on the Escalator — for example, a monogamous couple who is anti-marriage — or you can be non-monogamous and mostly on the Escalator — for example, a triad whose intent is to move in, get married, have babies, until death do they part together.

My issue with the Escalator is that it can become a script chosen for people rather than something consciously chosen with a partner(s).

Take the stairs. Take the elevator. Teleport if you want. As long as your relationships are consensual, happy, and agreed upon as to where you’re going and how you’re getting there, then you’re good to go, however you get there.

Yana Tallon-Hicks is a pleasure-positive writer and educator living in the Pioneer Valley. She has a website bursting with sex advice, resources, and workshops at yanatallonhicks.com.

Yana Tallon-Hicks

Author: Yana Tallon-Hicks

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