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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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Years ago, I read a book by the Jungian analyst James Hillman. Its title was Revisioning Psychology. That word, revisioning, came to mind as a worthy option as I read your piece. It feels good coming out of my mouth when I talk about the new ways I'm learning to be in relationships. Revisioning sounds like it's pointing into a future, perhaps more than tearing down or disparaging the past, though, here I do think of what an iconoclastic, firebrand Hillman could be, speaking in ways that sometimes riled colleagues and audiences. But that association works for me too, as after all, it takes some fire sometimes to revision something as hardened and calcified as the predictive elements of monogamy.…

Tammy Knorr
Tammy Knorr
Jun 28, 2023
Replying to

Revisioning --- I like it! And even moreso because the editing bot here doesn't think it's a word ;) This part really resonated:

"Revisioning sounds more like we're making different and new meanings of our experience, our coming and going, our greater or lesser involvement with each other."

Thanks for the eloquent feedback!

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