Are You Trapped On The Relationship Escalator? Here’s How To Get Off

Ever wonder why relationships seem to automatically follow a set sequence no matter who you’re with? You start out casually dating, then progress to an exclusive relationship and before you know it, you’re married with 2.5 kids and a mortgage. Here’s how to spot whether you’re trapped on the relationship escalator.

  1. All your relationships have looked roughly the same. If every relationship you’ve been in has followed the same general sequence of events right up to the breakup, there’s a very good chance you’ve been confined to what’s called the “relationship escalator.” This is the way pretty much all relationships are expected to go and for the most part, they do.
  2. You date with the intention of finding a spouse. If steady relationships are your cup of tea then by all means, search away, but looking for a husband (or wife) is a prime example of putting the cart before the horse. Not all relationships are destined for marriage, but that doesn’t decrease their value. Maybe that one casual date will be the greatest three hours of your life but it would never work as a long-term partnership. There’s something to be said for appreciating experiences (and people) for what they are.
  3. It doesn’t feel like a “real” relationship until it’s exclusive. Alternative relationship styles are becoming more and more popular, but even the monogamous among us are familiar with casual dating. If you’re swiping through Tinder, you know what I’m talking about. A lot of times, people don’t take a relationship seriously until there’s some promise of exclusivity, and this can get in the way of developing meaningful connections. If you don’t consider a relationship “real” until it’s exclusive, it could be because your idea of a relationship is being defined by existing social expectations.
  4. You believe that once you move in together, living apart is no longer an option. It seems to be a prevalent myth that moving forward on the relationship escalator automatically disqualifies a relationship that seemingly moves backward. Any attempt to downgrade or take things down a notch is taken as a sign that the relationship is suffering and is therefore doomed to fail. Well, what if living together just doesn’t work for you? What if you just feel like living alone or with other people for a while? Moving in with a partner isn’t a contract and living arrangements are changeable depending on the needs of each partner. It’s as big a deal as you make it.
  5. Your mind automatically skips ahead to marriage whenever you’re with someone. Most of us don’t plan the wedding on the first date, but somewhere along the line, it’s pretty common to entertain the thought of marriage if you’re in a relationship. The question is whether you want to get married for your own reasons or if it’s just assumed to be a natural progression of any relationship. If your nuptial daydreams have no more basis than that it’s what you think you should do, it may be an opportunity to look a little deeper at the reasons for heading in that direction.
  6. You won’t allow the relationship to progress to certain milestones until others are ticked off the list. Getting married before living together? Having kids before being exclusive? Buying a house together before sharing finances? If these ideas sound crazy to you, it’s likely that you’re subconsciously subscribing to the order things are “supposed to” go in. Sure, these things might be unorthodox, but they’re not impossible. Besides, who says you can’t break the status quo if it serves your relationship better?
  7. Having kids is a given. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a parent. And while many women are choosing not to have kids these days, there are also many who can’t see their future without a family in it. The difficulty arises when women fail to take their male counterpart into the equation. What if he doesn’t want or can’t have children? Every relationship is made up of the people in it and assuming that kids are a given is a dangerous move for everyone involved.
  8. You can’t imagine doing it any other way. When all you’ve ever seen of relationships was one standard blueprint, it’s not surprising you’ve never thought of an alternative. Times are most certainly changing and women especially are no longer dependent on following that blueprint for financial and social stability. If there’s another relationship structure that suits you better, isn’t that option worth exploring?
  9. You think certain things are expected of you to allow the relationship to move forward. If you’ve ever felt the pressure to move to the next step in a relationship regardless of what you actually wanted, it might have been a result of the relationship escalator. It’s pretty common for a relationship to move forward, seemingly of its own volition, but the next step doesn’t have to follow the prescribed sequence of events. If your idea of the “next step” is something that switches up the program, that’s something worth talking about. Maybe you don’t want to move forward at all and you’re happy dating someone casually for the next 20 years. Nothing’s stopping you from bringing alternative possibilities to the table.
is an open-hearted fellow human, lover of vulnerability, workshop facilitator and blogger, and perpetual student of the universe. She blogs over at about the beautiful experience that is being human. Through her writings, she takes great pleasure in delving into conscious community, sexuality, communication, and relationships, and loves to help others to do the same. You can find her on instagram as @jazz_meyer or