Sunday, January 12, 2014

No Escalators Here

Jake, Bradley and I were chatting last night about how much easier it is to live in the present while dating polyamorously. We can let each relationship unfold as it will, without worrying about where it's going. We can dream about a future together without stressing over whether it will come true. We can just be together, a day at a time, enjoying our life. We can just be.

In monogamy, it's almost impossible to avoid future-tripping (trying to foresee the outcome of relationships), because dating is a hunt to find "the one." You only get to pick one person to spend the rest of your life with, and that person must fulfill your every need and desire. You don't want to waste precious time with people you suspect aren't going to make the cut, no matter how much you love them. Even if you enjoy their company today, you worry about questions like:
  • Will they make you happy in ten years?
  • Do they satisfy all your needs for a life partner?
  • Could you have sex with them forever without getting bored?
  • Do your dreams match up enough?
  • Could you see them being the parent of your child?
These are important questions to ask if you're trying to whittle down your romantic and sexual prospects to one single life-long person, but can add a layer of pressure and constant future-analysis to a relationship, often creating agony.

This blog post, Riding the relationship escalator (or not), has been the single best analogy to help me understand the difference between dating monogamously and polyamorously. I reference "the escalator" frequently in conversation with Jake and Bradley, and with poly friends. I highly recommend reading the article (to everyone, not just poly people!). It offers great insights into the socially acceptable default relationship model that I took for granted until last year.

I frequently have people either try to put me on the escalator (if they're monogamous) or accuse me of being on the escalator (if they're polyamorous):

Q: "So are you and Bradley getting 'serious'? You spend a lot of time together and you're meeting his family soon!"
A: "Well, I'm not sure what 'serious' would be in the context of this relationship. I mean I'm married already so... I would say our relationship is seriously awesome and I'm seriously in love."

Q: "It seems like you've been off the market since you started dating Bradley. How is that polyamorous?"
A: "Our poly lifestyle gives us the freedom to see other people, but that doesn't mean we have to exercise it all the time."

Q: "So you're saying 'I love you' and calling each other boyfriend/girlfriend. It sure sounds like you're getting on that escalator."
A: "We talked about what those words meant before we started using them to clarify expectations. For us, 'I love you' is just an expression of feeling in the moment, not some kind of commitment about our future together. 'Boyfriend/girlfriend' is just the most accurate way to describe our relationship and the amount of time we spend together; it doesn't mean we've taken a symbolic next step in our relationship."

Q: "What if you and Bradley fall in love and want to spend your life together and start a family?"
A: "We could totally do that. With Jake."

Q: "But don't you think you might eventually want to go back to a normal life-- get re-married, have kids? You and Jake could still be friends."
A: "Not in a million years. Why would I do that when my marriage is so amazing and I can have them both? Just to be more socially acceptable? I love my new life. This is the happiest I've ever been."

No more escalators for me.