We talked last time about the Relationship Escalator, the social expectations that generally circumscribe romantic relationships in our culture. Some central features of the escalator include exclusivity and the expectation that romantic relationships will last until death. Polyamorous relationships naturally undercut the one expectation and may or may not undercut the second.
Let's look at some ways we can express commitment in non-exclusive relationships,which we may or may not regard as "off-the-escalator":
Having consistent date nights
Expressing love regularly
Expressing vulnerability and emotional trust
Being there for difficult events (for me: deaths, medical events, bad news; for them: bad news, deaths)
Being there for good events (weddings, professional success, births, moves)
Being considered in big decisions (where to live, where to work, whether to take on a new educational or professional opportunity, etc)
Having children together or co-raising children
Being involved in each others’ creative projects
Staying together regardless of physical changes (like weight fluctuation, surgery, illness).
Some other examples that one might have, depending on the relationship:
Scheduled calls or visits in a long distance relationship
Commitment ceremonies or weddings to add structural commitment to a relationship or have a public party to celebrate your love
Exchanging jewelry to remind each other of your love when you can’t be in the same place
Planning future housing or trips together that you hope to take.
Some people may consider some of these steps "escalator steps" that put the relationship firmly on a traditional path they don't choose, and that's ok! negotiate your individual relationships the way you want them.
For some folks, the emotional key to being off escalator is being as close to their partner as possible - being emotionally entangled through the good and bad and part of each other's cares and hobbies and concerns. For others, it's about celebrating the differences in their relationships - having creative partnerships based in arts, and hobby partnerships, and "home base" partnerships, that all give very different emotional experiences.