Riding the relationship escalator (or not)

SoloPoly

“Is this relationship going anywhere?” If you’ve heard this cliché (or perhaps thought or said it yourself): welcome to the relationship escalator.

Relationship escalator: The default set of societal expectations for the proper conduct of intimate relationships. Progressive steps with clearly visible markers and a presumed structural goal of permanently monogamous (sexually and romantically exclusive), cohabitating marriage — legally sanctioned if possible. The social standard by which most people gauge whether a developing intimate relationship is significant, “serious,” good, healthy, committed or worth pursuing or continuing.

The steps in the relationship escalator vary by culture and subculture, and they shift a bit over time. Currently in western culture, the escalator that defines “serious” relationships usually involves these steps, in this order:

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