Intro: Martina J & the Relationship Escalator

Hi there. So far, you’ve been reading posts from the creator of this blog, Sasha X (or, SX) the 20-something Chicago-based female recently separated from her spouse and exploring non-monogamy. Today, we introduce a new character: me.

Let’s call me Martina J (or, MJ). I’m a friend of SX’s who lives in San Francisco. I’m also trying out non-monogamy for the first time.I am also a female, and also a twenty something. I’ll be using pseudonyms for the people I date, too. I have never been married, and all of my serious relationships have been monogamous. Yet I’ve been thinking about polyamory for the last three and a half years — or at least since that time I watched my friend’s eyes sparkle as she gave me the rundown on polyamory at my going away party, as I prepared to leave the East Coast for SF.

“Love isn’t finite!” she gushed.

I’m so thrilled SX invited me to contribute here. I started being serious about researching and practicing non-monogamy a few weeks ago. I had been dating someone I met on Tinder for 6 months. Let’s call him Designer.

Our relationship was mostly about chilling, watching TV (meh), and having sex. Really rough sex that was even sort of scary sometimes, but always safe and exciting. He was charismatic but it was clear he hadn’t met himself very deeply. He never really listened to me talk. So I was totally fine with this casual construction.

We never talked about our expectations or boundaries or goals with our relationship at all. So much went unspoken. I was pretty sure he didn’t want to be serious with me, but sometimes he would act like maybe he did. I was confused about what he wanted, but was sure I didn’t want something serious with him. He wasn’t right for me emotionally.

One night we were finally pushed to have The Conversation About How We See Us. Although neither of us was seeing anyone else, we were on the same page. We wanted it casual, open. Not trying to be serious with one another. Great. I was already going on a few other dates.

Then he got distant. Two weeks later, Designer called me up and said he didn’t want to see me anymore. He said he felt bad and guilty. He said he couldn’t get the nagging thought out of his head that we weren’t “going anywhere.” “What’s the point?” he asked. Yet he contradicted himself too, and also said he wasn’t even sure he even wanted a serious relationship! He was all over the place, and upset, and seemed quite mixed up inside. I felt badly for him. It ended up being an amicable separation.

I started reading into polyamory shortly after. I realized Designer was upset because we weren’t riding the “Relationship Escalator.” Here is how this site defines it:

Relationship Escalator: The default set of societal expectations for the proper conduct of intimate relationships. Progressive steps with clearly visible markers and a presumed structural goal of permanently monogamous (sexually and romantically exclusive), cohabitating [sic] marriage — legally sanctioned if possible. The social standard by which most people gauge whether a developing intimate relationship is significant, “serious,” good, healthy, committed or worth pursuing or continuing.

I was sort of blown away when I read this (seriously, read the whole page). Finally, language that describes why monogamous relationships have always ended up feeling like a cage to me!

I’m mostly Buddhist. I strive not to be too future-focused beyond practical life matters. I believe in the power of the present moment. So I was never upset that Designer and I weren’t “going anywhere.” I read this somewhere: If you’re having a casual fling that goes on for 3 years, who’s to say that isn’t a serious relationship, anyway? If you’re enjoying it and having fun, what’s the rub?

The relationship escalator is a personal choice, but also very, very heavily societally ingrained. It is the default social order. That’s why Designer became upset at our casual thing. He had different goals. He wants someone to ride the escalator with him. And that’s fine.

But once I had language for it, I immediately knew I wanted to eschew the relationship escalator. And I feel so peaceful. Like a weight, a burden I’ve been unknowingly carrying around for years, has been lifted.

I always knew marriage didn’t have to be a goal for me. Yet I admit I clung to marriage and at the very least, cohabiting, as potential milestones that would boost my self-worth and value. But I’ve let it go.

I don’t have to ride the relationship escalator anymore, or try to find someone to ride it with me. I can enjoy relationships for what they are, not hope and strive for more or try to mash things into boxes where they don’t fit. I can be free. I can just be.

– MJ

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3 thoughts on “Intro: Martina J & the Relationship Escalator

  1. I feel the same way. I bought the societal idea of relationships, I think mostly because I thought a man wanting to marry me meant I had value. Ugh. I’d experimented with polyamory prior to my husband, but he was a traditionalist and put the kibosh to it immediately. I thought it was a sacrifice I was happy to make.
    Flash forward eleven years to my husband having an emotional affair, lying about it and destroying our marriage and I’m firmly back in the land of nonmonogamy. I don’t need another soul to complete me. I just want to be appreciated for who I am and to spend time with those who make me happy (and turn me on). I’m done defining what roles these people will have in my life. And you know what? It feels so damn good!

    Like

  2. Pingback: Meeting Your Metamours | Non Monogamous

  3. Pingback: Jealousy, Comparison Brain, and Possessiveness | Non Monogamous

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