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  • Writer's pictureTammy Knorr

Another word for “de-escalating” relationships?

A nice thing about a blog centered on relating is that you have a pretty broad field to play in. But back to something that’s a bit more closely tied into relating with others than the previous more “internal process” oriented posts.

Lately I’ve noticed the term “de-escalating” showing up in spaces where non-monogamy and/or relationship anarchy (RA) are discussed. I understand what is meant, that a relationship is moving from more involvement to less on one or more fronts. But I find it a curious term (anyone know the origin?) considering that most of us in these spaces are aware of the “relationship escalator” scripts of the dominant culture, and are intentionally trying to move differently in our relationships. Specifically, we’re trying to let relationships become whatever they can be and assuming that there’s not a straight line correlation between more emotional and/or physical intimacy and more entwinement (living together, sharing finances, caretaking, etc). There’s a fostering of the awareness that there are many and varied ways for commitment and trust to look other than emotional or sexual exclusivity, and lifetime monogamy is not the end goal (i.e. the top of the escalator).

The term “de-escalation” seems particularly out of sync with RA philosophy, which eschews hierarchies of any kind (no gods, no masters, no partners), de-prioritizes romantic relationships (whatever romantic means – there’s a topic to pin for later) and, conversely, re-prioritizes relationships that don’t include “romantic” elements. (you can read more about RA in the Takeaways from the RA Manifesto series of posts: Intro, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

So other candidates for this term? The term "re-structuring" for my IG handle (@relationshiprestructuring) was an attempt to get at something like this meaning, though I’ve never liked the potential association with the “restructuring” that corporations do, which usually means a lot of people losing their jobs and the people who stay having more responsibilities than is humanly reasonable. Maybe rearrange? Disentangle? Renegotiate? Maybe just simply “less involvement,” specifying which aspects of relating need to be less (vs. across the board assumptions!)? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

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