Navigating Non Escalator Relationships

aka “So, you’re in a non-escalator relationship- what now?”
(dedicated to ‘Alexander’)

THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED AND HAS MOVED. Find the update by clicking on this link.

Non escalator guide


Like this article? Please consider making a one-off donation to support my work.
Buy me coffee
Buy me dinner
Make my day!


26 thoughts on “Navigating Non Escalator Relationships

  1. I love your posts and they are always very enlightening. I was wondering if you could offer me some advice. I’m a monogamous woman who got into a FWB relationship with a solo poly male expecting it to stay casual, but he proposed to me after 6 months and ended other relationships in order to be committed with me. The problem is that he is still poly and still wants to be with other women. I want him to be himself but I didn’t sign on for a commitment that involved polyamory – we just happened to fall in love. The milestones that you talk about in this most recent article (on the chart) are all milestones that I would be incredibly uncomfortable with him having with another girl. The ideal for me and what he has agreed to is that his extra-relationship encounters would be friendships with benefits only, and not romantic relationships. However he says he loves his friends. He also says he loves me, but what’s the difference? If he is having sex with other people that he loves then what about our relationship is special or primary? How do I get him to make it clear to the girls that he fucks that they won’t be passing any of those milestones together? I need that to be so clear but he feels like he can’t communicate that to them without them feeling like they’re just being used for sex. How do I find a way for him to have what he wants without other girls (or me) getting hurt in the process? He doesn’t like to have those types of conversations and it makes things so unclear for all of us. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks, Joslyn Thomas

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Joslyn,

      Good luck with your situation. It sounds like in order for you to feel special, you need the interactions/relationships he has with other women to exist only about sex. It sounds like you’re asking him to essentially use them for sex. Without allowing for a deeper connection, isn’t that what it boils down to? There are never any guarantees, and even if he intends to have these relationships be sex-only/love-free, he can’t stop himself from feeling a connection if one does form, and is halting that connection really something you want to ask of him? It’s not fair to either of you live in a way that is not authentic. If you can’t find a way to feel joy about his connections with others, you will likely never feel comfortable, safe, or fully appreciated in your relationship with him. He will have love for his friends, just as you have love for yours. His sexual relationships with friends may be more fulfilling for him that with people he has no connection with, and it may be safer physically and emotionally for all those involved. If you can’t come to terms with who he is and how he loves, you may need to accept that this relationship is here now and will likely end at some other point, when you or he are ready to move on to something that resonates a little more honestly with your true desires.

    • I think being poly (being in ANY relationship at all, but especially being poly) REQUIRES those conversations. If he’s not comfortable with them, that would be a bit of a warning for me.

    • I don’t wish to knock what you have in this relationship at all, Joslyn, but I do hope that it’s not all down to you to “find a way”…?

      Those two things jumped out at me as warning signs.

      Best wishes
      Jet

    • That sounds like a really tough situation. I’m a little confused as to how the relationship got to the point where your partner felt like it was a good idea to propose, without having already had the conversation about the fact that he’s poly but this relationship is quickly becoming serious. Like another commenter implied, that sounds like a red flag to me. But let’s assume that your partner is willing to communicate and navigate this difficult territory, doing the acrobatic negotiation that comes with all relationships but especially polyamorous ones and even more especially situations like yours.

      As you already are a little out of the norm about being (apparently) ok with him having sex with other girls as long as he’s not in a committed relationship with them, I think one step is to make sure you get as concrete a list as possible about your boundaries with your partner and his other relationships, including the amount of his “relationship resources” (time, energy, sex, love) that you need in relation to what he gives his other partners. Reducing your boundaries to “don’t fall in love” does carry a serious risk of making his other partners feel objectified, used, not like real whole people etc. As you discovered in your relationship with him, loving someone is not exactly something you choose, and trying to put a limit on someone who loves freely usually does more harm than good.
      So, which progressions exactly would make you uncomfortable? Where do you draw the line between “romance” and “friendship?” What could you maintain as something that only you share with your partner that would make sure your relationship still feels special? A few examples of things that might work here:
      -Primary partner must be able to generally spend more “quality time” with partner than any other partner does
      -No sleepovers with other partners
      – No “partner-like” physical affection with other partners in front of Primary partner.
      -Primary partner must “approve” of other partners before certain progressions such as sex
      Obviously these boundaries should be discussed and negotiated with your partner to find something that works for both of you. Maybe your partner already has some thoughts about what makes the relationship you have special and more important than other friendships and relationships. Ultimately, you can’t block certain emotional milestones such as talking about vulnerable emotions, or other things that blend the lines between friendship and romance. But you can establish what you need to make your relationship feel special and important.

    • I’m a monogamous woman who got into a FWB relationship with a solo poly male expecting it to stay casual, but he proposed to me after 6 months and ended other relationships in order to be committed with me.

      I didn’t sign on for a commitment that involved polyamory – we just happened to fall in love.

      Being with people because you just happened to fall in love is a really bad idea. In a way you did sign on for being involved with polyamory when you agreed to be in a relationship with a poly person.

      The ideal for me and what he has agreed to is that his extra-relationship encounters would be friendships with benefits only

      Except remember what happened between you and him when you started as FWB? You fell in love. Basically either he is using the other girls for sex, and potentially hurting them, or there is a high probability that he and the other girl will fall in love.

      If he is having sex with other people that he loves then what about our relationship is special or primary?

      If you can’t live with the idea of all of his relationships being special in their own way, it’s a really bad idea to take it any further with this fellow.

      How do I get him to make it clear to the girls that he fucks that they won’t be passing any of those milestones together?

      You can’t. They will. If he is worth it to you, go get some therapy and see where you can grow. If he isn’t, then thank him for all you have learned and move on.

      I need that to be so clear but he feels like he can’t communicate that to them without them feeling like they’re just being used for sex.

      It wouldn’t just be a feeling. It would be reality. Could you really love someone who is into that?

      How do I find a way for him to have what he wants without other girls (or me) getting hurt in the process?

      There isn’t any way. It’s possible that you will come around to the idea that getting hurt for love is a great path towards personal growth.

      • Wow I wish I had seen these responses sooner. We broke up about a year ago. He has since gotten into another relationship with a monogamous woman who did not want to be polyamorous. I learned that he was lying to me the entire time we were dating, and even though he had my permission to have sex with a lot of different women, he was also sleeping with people that I wasn’t ok with him having sex with. He was also lying to me and to all of them about how serious their relationships were, and many of them didn’t even know I existed. I’m now happily single and he’s in the same exact situation with a different girl. It’s sad. Sometimes people just use polyamory as an excuse to do whatever they feel like doing, and then lie if it’s easier than being “ethical.” I might be scared off of polyamory, but I still love this blog, and one never knows what life has in store for them next.

  2. […] “Non-escalator relationships can be short term and casual, and they can also be long term, emotionally invested relationships. They are build-your-own-lunch-box relationships, relationships a la carte. But, how do people in non escalator relationships measure the investment? How do they read emotional commitment, security, and the ongoing life of the relationship, when they aren’t defaulting to the regular milestones of dating, moving in, getting married, and so forth?” – Polysingleish  […]

    • For me, the graphic with all the circles with different types of intimacy are my way of reading the level of emotional commitment. The more “of course!” and the less “hell no!, “the more intimate the relationship feels. But they are not linear – you don’t graduate from one thing to the next, so keeping stuff at their place isn’t a pre-curser to moving in.
      Also, beware of having to “measure” the state of the relationship on some kind of yardstick from acquaintance to life partner – that’s the escalator talking. We don’t measure friends that way – some friends would lend you their toothbrush, others always buy you thoughtful gifts – which is “more” of a friend?

  3. I love this, and especially your conversations starters. What a great resource for someone who has never had to broach these issues in conversation before!

    I find it so interesting how people can have such different types of (default? favorite?) relationships. In my experience, everyone tends to take certain elements of a relationship as a “given”, because those elements have always been a part of their default sort of relationship. Maybe they assume that touch is always on the table, or that exclusivity is a default unless otherwise agreed-upon (or the opposite!), or that daily communication is an obvious must. Your conversation starters are a great way to find those hidden assumptions and make them explicit.

  4. Thie is VERY good to read and SO helpful. Tahank you 🙂 I especially like the section where you voiced the fears/concerns of being used for a ‘Disneyland Relationship’ when dating a person who is part of a couple. I also have anxiety when dating other solo polys when the relationship does not have a clearly defined structure. The deep love and emotional investment is there, yet I feel sometimes that everything else is left to ‘chance’ as the other person doesn’t want structure, just wants to see how things flow. Maybe I can only take a certain amount of free-flowingness 🙂 The conversation guide is a perfect solution for this, as I’ve wanted to raise these matters with my fellow solo-poly free-flowing friends without feeling like i’m being desperate/needy. I will give some of them a try…

  5. Hey Mel, How are you?
    Well,I think you’re article is awesome and I discussed it with a friend, and I’d like her to read it.. So, I’m translating this to Portuguese… I’d like to know if the “RE” in the sentence – ” ..there can be a fear that the “RE” established people you meet..” – means something else beyond the ‘re’ prefix…

    (don’t worry, all credits will be given)
    Have a great time,
    Henrique

  6. Thank you for this, especially the graphics. I am exploring Relationship Anarchy and Solo Poly as a framework to relate to folks, coming from an habituated monogamous background.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s