Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts will be found at www.polymeansmany.com from tomorrow. This month, our topic is “relationship significance”
Once, I lived with a partner. As with a lot of people, it was initiated through necessity, because of the housing crisis. I hated it. I realised that this was not how I wanted to do my relationships, that living with a partner wasn’t for me. In a way, I think it killed that relationship, even when they did manage to move out. Living with a partner is just too much for me. I don’t like it, and I don’t want it.
The standard model for relationships is the “relationship escalator“. It’s a one-way trip, up along a trajectory from getting together, to adapting your lives around each other, to tying your lives together by living in the same place and sharing finances, with the optional final step of pumping out tiny little humans or creating something together so that people knew you were there. It works for some people, I don’t doubt it. But for a lot of us, it doesn’t work at all.
The relationship escalator, this received model of how to do relationships, is at least in part a product of capitalist patriarchy. You will notice how neatly it ties in with traditional family structures at the top of the escalator. The bits at the top of the escalator are incentivised: often, it is only in cohabiting that people can afford to keep on living in cities, and marriage is introduced as the only route to visas and tax breaks. It’s beneficial for capitalist patriarchy to have people living in neat little units, with their property and their babies.
As for me, my relationships are strictly off the escalator. I wish I could say it was a political objection, that I’d made a conscious choice, but it isn’t. I find cohabiting a bit of a hard limit. Overnight stays, yes, they’re lovely. More than one overnight stay, yep, that’s great. Permanently living with a partner? Good god, no thank you. I can barely manage to look after myself, I like my own space to hide in when I need it, I like my things in a certain way, I have my own routines and rhythms. Even when I love someone, seeing them literally every day gets a bit much.
This doesn’t mean I can’t form meaningful, significant relationships. They just look different to how a meaningful, significant relationship is expected to look. I don’t ride the relationship escalator; my relationships look more like a stroll through a park on a warm June day. It’s not going anywhere, but why does that matter, when everything is so beautiful? Rather than undertaking journeys with partners, I have adventures, basking in sunshine. And even when the sun dips behind a cloud, I’ll still keep on wandering with the people I love.
It seems weird that I have to keep on saying how it is entirely possible to have a mutually supportive, loving relationship when most of the escalator is off-limits to me, because it seems so natural to me. But a lot of people are surprised, and I know some think there’s something wrong with me, that maybe I haven’t met the right person (always just one person: escalators are narrow things). But I know it’s not that, that I like my relationships to be a wide open space, that we can move in any direction that feels right.
I never liked going up all that much, anyway.