In this post we talked briefly about not necessarily breaking up, but changing how a relationship looks. The relationship escalator is the societal belief that romantic relationships must continually be working towards new milestones of commitment or they are failing. Some of us prefer stairs instead, where we can choose the pace or even Seussical interloping paths that may cross into themselves. If your relationship isn’t going how you’d like it, buuut you’re not ready for it to be over, good news! You can step back or advance in a different direction.
Escalator Milestone Markers
Here’s the path. You meet, talk, date, go exclusive, change your relationship status, move in, buy a plant, don’t let it die, get a pet, don’t let it die, get engaged, get married, have kids, don’t let them die, grow old, and then die. Congrats on that super successful relationship, you’ve checked off most normed expectations. Let’s be honest though, if you’re ethically non-monogamous (ENM) you couldn’t possibly deal with all those wild animals being chased by your ton of kids through your in-house rainforest from each relationship you engage in… I mean the food bill alone! Every two days kids are like, “I’m hungry, I’m hungry”. ENM groups have different milestones. First PDA, first group date, first dyadic date, first sleepover, the first time you realize whoever sleeps in the middle is going to burn alive so you need at least two separate blankets so you can extricate yourself from the cuddle cocoon. So yeah, we grow relationships differently and we prune them differently.
This isn’t Goodbye
That partner has been smothering, or they’ve been distant, or just… something that isn’t anyone’s fault isn’t working right now and it’s time to break up… or is it? They don’t smell bad, they’re still sweet, share the same interests, fill in that kink need, or after this semester you’re sure you’ll have more time again so why do you have to break up totally forever? The next step for many is the fights, the social call outs, making everyone aware how crap the other person really is (and it might even be true), and obviously go for the throat… it’s the only way it’s done on TV. No, you don’t have to do that, you and yours are adults that can communicate in meaningful and effective ways. You will need to be honest with yourself and your polycule though.
When and How to Jump Off
You’ve been fighting pretty regularly, you’re processing more than your flirting, spending time together is starting to feel more like a chore, and you’re forgetting why you even started hanging out… what happened? Possibly NRE is wearing off and you’re finding out your partner isn’t made of rainbow dipped butterflies after all, they have flaws! Possibly they actually are the wondrous fit for you the palm reader said you’d meet, but circumstances around you aren’t conducive to a great relationship right now, maybe for a very long time. It’s time to have a good talk. On the notecard you’re bringing to the table are your wants, needs, hopes, and limitations. If you’re starting the conversation, realize your special other(s) may not take this well; in a sense their fears of losing you are coming true so try to be as patient as you hope they will be. Discuss how the outcomes you’re looking for may / not fit in the context of their wants, needs, hopes, and limitations. If compromises aren’t apparent, trusted confidants may be far enough away from the situation to offer some good suggestions. Ultimately, if you still care for each other and no compromises can be found, you might just have to deal with a temporary break, meeting back up when whatever has been applying pressure lets up. That’s ok, it’s not forever, unless it is, and neither of you is going to be held in an unhealthy cycle of failing to live up to expectations you’re unable or uninterested in keeping.
You may be breathing a sigh of relief, “whoo, that’s over / fixed”. You may be crying, or holding someone crying. There might be some radio silence for a bit as one or all parties struggle to adapt. People and relationships grow and change happens, sometimes beyond our control. As you can, in the time you can, accept that and look forward to what tomorrow may bring with the comfort that you’ve done the best you can to care for yourself and those you care about.
If you or someone you know is looking to intentionally look at how your relationship dynamic(s) look and you’d like some help, contact me below for a free, short consultation.