Retooling monogamy the relationship escalator
Anyone who is in a committed relationship or desires one likely knows the daunting statistics.
Whether we are talking about common law or marriage, 50 percent of long term relationships in the US end in separation or divorce.
Despite the risk vs reward ratio, desire for the security and closeness of a pair bonded relationship is hard to resist. Perhaps this is a legacy impulse, baked into our genes from ancient times when going it alone usually meant death. Or maybe the kind of relationship we are most comfortable with, monogamy, is all we have ever known.
Intimate relationships are challenging even at the best of times, but modern love seems exponentially more complex and difficult to maintain compared to previous generations. Ask your grandparents what kept them together for decades. It was likely a strong friendship or fate that formed the basis of their relationship, rather than hot sex (sorry for that image).
The laundry list of ‘must haves’ in a life partner has grown… a lot.
We want a best friend, a confidant, a mother or father to our children, a muse, a personal trauma informed therapist, a business partner, a live-in embodiment of the divine feminine or masculine, and much more.
What is the relationship escalator?
Monogamy is the model most people ‘choose’ when creating a long term partnership. The expectations and process of forming a long term relationship has been compared to an escalator that goes in one direction, up. Once you step on the escalator it is hard to get off without disastrous consequences.
The relationship escalator usually begins with passionate courtship, then progresses to dating, then a formal commitment, eventually marriage, maybe kids, and hopefully a home in the burbs with a white picket fence if you can afford it.
The story ends at death do you part, which could be a very long time based on current life expectancy.
Admittedly, it is hard to imagine another way, without completely upsetting the social order or your parents. So rather than upsetting the apple cart, it make sense to go along for the ride, even if both parties feel a quiet desperation for something else.
The fall from grace
Falling off the escalator for any reason (infidelity being a primary one) can result in ruined lives and reputations.
Sexual exclusivity is a corner stone of monogamy, but violation of this precept is remarkably common. People cheat for many reasons, usually not because they want to inflict harm or blow up their families. Both men and women are susceptible to temptation and poor judgement, especially if physical intimacy is absent at home.
Desire naturally waxes and wanes over the years and decades, Cupids poison arrow strikes later on in the relationship when familiarity and closeness with our partner suffocates the passion. I
Stated another way, matching track suits are cute, but not sexy.
There is nothing wrong with the relationship escalator, for many people it works just fine, but it is important to not fall asleep on the ride.
What if the relationship escalator could go backwards or forwards, up or down, and even pause for a while? What if occasional friends and lovers joined the ride? These are some of the provocative questions relationship anarchist in the polyamory, ethical non monogamy, and monogamish communities are attempting to answer.
Adding more personalities to a primary relationship can seem like a recipe for confusion and jealousy, especially for those who are conflict adverse or perhaps even enjoy conflict and drama. Maybe it is irresponsible and immature to suggest that sexual exclusivity can be negotiated as one of the many agreements in a long term relationship.
There is also the possibility that honest, heart felt communication about the elephant in the room – SEX – could keep us on the escalator and open up more than just a marriage.
If you are curious about ethical non monogamy check out episode 003 with Mel Cassidy