It was an interesting sensation I felt when she asked the question.
I paused momentarily deciding what answer to give her.
I was at a meetup for people who want to get to know other people with the possibility of new relationships forming.
Both romantic and otherwise.
There were a lot of great guys and girls present and I was enjoying myself.
The meetup was run by a girl who works in the relationship coaching and matchmaking world.
Part of her purpose for the meetup was to get people relating and thinking about their dating lives.
The question “Are you single?” was really intended as a kind of ice breaker, so people could identify who was or was not available for a relationship.
Or so the conventional theory goes.
But of course I never seem to do anything conventionally.
Give me enough time to study and understand a subject?
I can almost guarantee you I’ll come out differently than anybody else.
Even the people I’ve studied!
My viewpoint is always a unique synergy of everything I’ve read and experienced. I draw out the elements I see value in. I discard what seems superfluous.
Leave it to me to study romantic love extensively?
I’ll come to see myself as polyamorous
Then I’ll advocate Romantic Friendships as the relationship option most conducive to experiencing romantic love in your life.
Hey! I just gotta be me!
Romantic Friendships are in direct contrast to the societally endorsed orthodoxy.
Polyamory blogger Aggie Sez calls that orthodoxy the relationship escalator.
She defines the relationship escalator as follows:
“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.
She says the relationship escalator is “the social standard by which most people gauge whether a developing intimate relationship is significant.”
Whether it is “‘serious,’ good, healthy, committed or worth pursuing or continuing.”
It includes steps like making contact.
Claiming and defining (monogamous commitments).
Establishment (behavioral accountability).
And legacy (home purchase and kids).
Phew! I’m dizzy just writing all that!
No wonder people so easily fall off the escalator, despite all their good intentions.
The higher up the steps you go?
The harder it is not to fall off!
The relationship escalator is the standard you likely judge your relationship life by, and expect your relationship life to follow. If you take a different path you will not fit the expected paradigm of those around you, and will be considered “abnormal” when this becomes evident.
There is a lot of societal pressure to conform to the escalator model.
So when this meetup organizer asked me “Are you single?”
What she was really asking is “Are you currently on the escalator with a particular partner or not?”
When a person asks you a question that assumes there are only two possible answers?
How do you answer them when you know you are living a third one?
You see when she asked me this question? I was currently in a romantic friendship relationship.
Just to be clear this is not a “friends with benefits” relationship.
Friends with benefits is usually just about sex.
Normally you don’t experience romantic love for each other like lovers do.
You just get together from time to time for recreational “no strings attached” sex.
It is a mutual arrangement solely for enjoyment of the parties involved and that is all.
While friends with benefits is definitely a relationship option?
It is not what I’m talking about here.
The romantic friendship I was enjoying at the time was every bit as intimate as any relationship those on the relationship escalator enjoy.
The central difference?
Though my partner and myself were lovers?
We had no expectation that our romantic connection needed to be “exclusive.”
Nor that it needed to be “headed” anywhere.
We simply enjoyed our connection for its own sake.
But it was definitely more than “just sex.”
While we enjoyed our connection we were completely free also.
We could love anyone else we might experience a romantic connection with.
At the time we were practically monogamous because neither of us had another romantic friendship but this was not because we couldn’t or were deliberately choosing not to. We just didn’t happen to have any other romantic friendships at that time.
So if you were in the kind of romantic friendship I’ve described?
If someone asked you “Are you single?”
How would you answer?
Would you say “No” because you are currently in a relationship?
But your relationship is not exclusive.
You are free to have a relationship with anyone else if you desire.
Would you say “Yes” because you’re really only dating?
After all you and your partner haven’t made a “commitment” to each other right?
But as romantic friends you never WILL make such a commitment.
Despite this fact though your relationship continues on indefinitely.
As you can see, the question assumes the relationship escalator paradigm and doesn’t recognize any other possibilities.
The fact is Romantic Friendships don’t fit the relationship escalator paradigm.
Nor is this the only relationship option that doesn’t fit.
Aggie Sez lists at least eight other relationship options that are also “off the escalator.”
That’s a lot of people who have passed on the escalator ride!
There are a lot of other questions that assume the relationship escalator paradigm too.
“Is this your girlfriend?”
“Are you two serious?”
“How long have you been a couple?”
The variations are endless. The common denominator is society assumes you’ll do what you’re told and ride the escalator. Long term monogamy is the default paradigm.
So how did I answer the question “Are you single?”
I said “Yes.”
I knew the question really means “Are you currently available to get on the relationship escalator?”
Since I knew I was free to start a new relationship?
“Yes” was the easiest answer to give.
If you see Romantic Friendships as the relationship paradigm for you?
This is how I recommend you approach these kinds of questions too.
As a polyamorous person?
You are quite open to meeting new people with whom you could develop a connection.
None of your Romantic Friendships hinder that possibility in any way.
If someone asks “Are you currently in a relationship?” this is a bit tricker. While you don’t want to lie, you also don’t want to close the door to experiencing a connection with anyone you might find one with.
Because most people assume the relationship escalator?
If you say you are in a relationship?
They will cease to be open to a connection forming between you.
This won’t seem possible to them.
Yes they may ultimately not desire to be with someone polyamorous.
Since the relationship escalator dominates their emotions?
It tells them what is “right” regarding relationships.
But it is also true that closed minds always say no.
Simply saying you are in a relationship will close their mind.
They will make assumptions about what that means and what is therefore possible between the two of you.
It is fair to both yourself and the other person to give them the chance to get to know you first, before assuming they won’t experience a desire for something deeper with you.
Once they truly experience a real connection with you?
All their theories of what’s “proper” and “right?”
They may begin to give way to how they truly feel about you.
I’ve seen this happen many times.
So you need to give them the chance to make an informed decision.
To base it on truly knowing you.
By simply saying “Yes, I’m in a relationship?”
You’re causing them decide about you in advance of knowing you.
The fact is you are not “in a relationship.”
Not in the sense the relationship escalator sees things.
Simply answering “Yes” is therefore misleading.
I am not saying you should proceed with sexual intimacy with someone before clarifying you desire a romantic friendship with them. Given the dominance of the relationship escalator paradigm, you must allow your partners to consent to being with someone sexually who is polyamorous.
But you definitely have the right to wait to share this with them.
To help them make their decision based on actually knowing you as a person.
Not by simply evaluating you in terms of an abstract paradigm about how relationships “must” work.
As you can see answering the question “Are you single? or “Are you in a relationship?”
Or any other question that assumes the relationship escalator?
It can indeed be harder than you think.
What do you think? Are you ready to get off the escalator and just be open to romantic love with anyone you experience it with?