#RelationshipGoals - No, we're not chatting about the infamous Instagram hashtag. On this episode, we take a trip on the relationship escalator. What does your relationship escalator look like? Does it match your partner's? What happens when you aren't sure? Do those expectations ever change?Sometimes we think we have certain expectations, achieve them and realize it wasn't what we wanted at all. So many questions but what is most important is discovering what your personal relationship goals truly are.
Multiamory was created by Dedeker Winston, Jase Lindgren, and Emily Matlack.
Our theme music is Forms I Know I Did by Josh and Anand.
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Dedeker Winston: I think that I've often been asked this question, especially since I started being more out about having multiple partners because of course, once everyone gets past the scandal and wants to ask about the sex and the jealousy and stuff like that, people start asking the questions of like, "Well, what about getting married?"
Emily Matlack: Did you like the most?
Dedeker: Gosh, with that question?
Emily: If you're happy with the same old ways of dating.
Dedeker: If you enjoy sucking at communication.
Jase Lindgren: You have no desire to improve your romantic life, then our podcast might not be for you.
Dedeker: But you want some out of the box ideas to deepen your current relationships.
Emily: Broaden your sexual horizons.
Dedeker: Develop a better understanding of yourself
Emily: Or learn more about non-monogamy.
Jase: Then you've come to the right place. I'm Jase.
Emily: I'm Emily.
Dedeker: I'm Dedeker .
Jase: This is the Multiamory podcast.
On this episode of the Multiamory podcast, we're talking about relationship goals, hashtag relationship goals. It's had its heyday a few years ago, but the concept is still a huge part of our culture. Everyday, we're presented with information about what we should be working toward in our relationships. But are those goals all there cracked up to be? Today, we're going to be exploring some of those goals as well as looking at ways to help you choose goals that won't come back to bite you.
Dedeker: I don't want-
Emily: In the ass.
Dedeker: - any goals to get all bitey.
Emily: A piranha goal.
Dedeker: I can't have that. Exactly. Yes. I can say, with 99% certainty, I don't think I've ever actually used the hashtag relationship goals in any social media posts.
Emily: I definitely put it on some of our social media posts for multiamory. By proxy, you have. Sorry to let you know.
Dedeker: Okay. Well, I'll give an exception for the multiamory official Instagram account. But Jase, have you ever actually used hashtag relationship goals?
Jase: I don't think so. Possibly, ironically at some point.
Dedeker: No, probably.
Emily: Yes, I think I maybe only an irony have used it or just been like, "This is funny, relationship goals." I guess people do actually say that. I remember when Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, everyone was like hashtag relationship goals.
Dedeker: Yes, that was the very popular one.
Jase: I thought it was the Barack Obama and Joe Biden that everyone was like, "Yes, hashtag relationship goals."
Emily: Well, that one too. Yes, totally.
Dedeker: Pretty much a lot of celebrity couples, everyone's like, "Hashtag relationship goals," any kind of power couple, "Hashtag relationship goals," any kind of fictional characters they've shipped together, "Hashtag relationship goals," stuff like that. Let's get down to business today and talk about what is the general population referring to when they write hashtag relationship goals?
Emily: Well, I can tell you what Urban Dictionary thinks.
Dedeker: Please do.
Emily: Which I guess is essentially what the general population thinks.
Dedeker: That's kind of a scary claim to me.
Jase: I don't know.
Emily: Maybe. Actually, I figured that these two that we decided to say to the audience. That is pretty much probably what I think of at least when people say hashtag relationship goals. The first one is going to be, a couple who were the best couple out there. They are the power couple. Everyone wants to be like them. Number two is, the most fucked up way of saying I want a relationship like theirs.
Dedeker: Kind of hit the nail on the head there, I suppose.
Jase: I liked that we went from last week using Urban Dictionary and being like, "Wow, this is actually a pretty good definition." This week, it's the usual Urban Dictionary.
Emily: It's not necessarily a poor depth definition of what it is.
Dedeker: It's a functional definition.
Emily: It's fairly accurate, yes.
Jase: All right. Sure.
Dedeker: Because it's true because that's when it gets it gets applied to social media posts of power couples, whatever the heck a power couple is. I think to be a power couple you have to be rich and/or famous. By default, you're a power couple. Right?
Jase: I guess, yes.
Dedeker: When I hear the phrase power couple, it's hard for me to think of normal people, even though I think legitimately normal people are power couples, if they're rocking it and kicking ass and taking names, but I mean, just cut in the most superficial sense. It seems like you have to have some kind of celebrity or wealth status.
Emily: Yes, that's true.
Dedeker: Kind of as a funny side note, the term relationship goals, as Jay said, it did kind of have its heyday. It has been on a downward trend as far as popular usage goes. According to Google, which does track these things, usage of the term spiked in June 2015. What happened in June 2015?
Jase: That was probably the heyday of the Obama, Biden relationship goals.
Dedeker: Oh, yes.
Emily: There was like I thought of Vogue, spread of Michelle and Barack Obama. I thought of them just looking gorgeous-
Dedeker: Amazing, yes.
Emily: - and powerful and stunning and regal. I feel like maybe that's when that happened, I don't know. Don't quote me on that everyone, but I feel like perhaps that was the time. Trump came into office and that all changed.
Dedeker: Everyone lost their sense of hope for their relationship.
Emily: That's right. Yes. Exactly.
Dedeker: I don't know. That is funny. In June 2015, I was going through a really toxic break up.
Emily: Yes. That was the time.
Dedeker: Anyway, since then, it's been steadily decreasing and usage ever since. Upon searching it, I couldn't quite find is there a particular term that is rising to glory, that is going to be the replacement for hashtag relationship goals? I just wonder what's the next thing that the kids are going to latch on to as far as how they point out the people and relationships that they find the most inspiring?
Jase: I don't know.
Emily: I guess we're not there yet.
Jase: I would probably be the last person to know that answer.
Dedeker: Because you're the oldest man.
Emily: Ever to live.
Jase: First man.
Emily: The Ryan Gosling movie was actually about you.
Jase: Yes. But I do want to clarify. This episode is not actually about hashtag relationship goals. This is not an episode where we're going to do a deep dive into the history of that trending hashtag from 2015.
Dedeker: too soon...
Jase: Yes. What this is actually about is kind of the concept of relationship goals. This can look like a few different things. The example we've been giving so far, and what that hashtag was usually used for was not usually talking about a specific relationship goal, but more like my goal is to be like them. Whatever it is about them that I've identified is not always clear.
Dedeker: Yes, I feel like often it was just like, they are cute and they're in a relationship, hashtag relationship goals. It's just like they have a relationship.
Jase: Therefore relationship goals.
Dedeker: It's not immediately apparent whether or not it's falling apart, so hashtag relationship goals. [laughs]
Jase: Or it seems sweet, or I think they're attractive or I think they're rich or whatever it is, relationship goals.
Emily: So hashtag relationship goals.
Jase: On the other hand, there's also a lot of goals that we either grow up having about relationships which are sort of the typical like fairy tale story, like since you're a little kid imagining this certain future for yourself, those sorts of goals or their goals that are more directly imposed upon you by like your parents asking, you know, when are you going to get married, when are you going to have kids, whatever it may be in your case.
We're kind of talking about all of that in general. This idea of having your goals for your relationships come from I want to be like this thing about these people or I want to hit a specific milestone or I want to do a certain thing and kind of really examining that and not just taking for granted like, yes, those are just goals of course.
Emily: Yes, I think often when we start out as young people, just because society tells us to, we have all these boxes that we need to check as we move forward in our life. Sometimes, that first box is just going to be finding a partner, finding a steady partner or a partner with whom you're going steady. From there, there is the normal I guess trajectory of where your life is headed.
People, I think so often don't really stop to think about is that something that I want for my life. We've talked about this before in the fashion of relationship escalators. Your relationship escalator again will move you in one direction and that's it. You're always striving to check the next box or get the next goal and that's it. I guess we'll move on from there and kind of talk about what some of those things are.
Jase: Just to take a quick second about the relationship escalator for someone who might just be joining us today, if we could kind of summarize the concept. It's that idea that relationships, like Emily said, only move in one direction and that we think about them at--
Emily: Or else they're a failure.
Jase: Or else they're a failure. You don't go backward on it, you just sort of break up. Then also the idea that they're always moving upward and forward, that there's this sense of like, "Where's the relationship going? Where is it heading? Is it progressing?" As if there's a clear linear progress toward question mark. That's sort of the relationship escalator, is that idea of just like you just got to keep going up that one direction or you get off.
Dedeker: At the top of the escalator is dying together.
Jase: Is dying, yes.
Dedeker: Really essentially.
Emily: Hashtag relationship goals.
Dedeker: Oh geez.
Emily: I'm kidding, I'm kidding.
Jase: Wow, gosh. Okay. Sorry.
Emily: No, but really like, isn't that what so many people out there think, it's so romantic that I'm going to live with my partner until the day I die or will die within a certain amount of months from one another and that's not not romantic.
Dedeker: I think it is romantic. Yes, it's not not romantic but it's definitely, like, if you follow this with logical conclusion, it's a "successful relationship" is one that ends with the two of you dying, and in theory, not marrying anyone else, I think.
Emily: All right. What are some of these relationship escalator goals? We've talked about them before, let's talk about them again.
Jase: Like Emily mentioned, first one is just finding a partner at all, the idea that you in your life are more valuable if you have a partner. We're told that idea of like, "Oh, you don't have a partner, you must be unhappy." Then number two, well, these next two can sometimes be in a different order, depending on your beliefs but the next one could be living together. Again, it's this idea of, "Well, your relationship is not really that serious unless you're living together," or, "Well, obviously, that would be the goal of your relationship is to get to a point where you would live together."
Emily: The next one, which again, maybe comes before moving in together, but it's marrying someone and specifically, especially, I think, in today's society, and definitely, maybe in society of old, it was marrying someone who was financially supportive or emotionally supportive, based on what you both want in a relationship, I guess.
Often, some people would be the more emotional support of the family and others would be more of the financial support of family. Obviously, sometimes, that all has to convalesce and both partners or both parents have to do all of the jobs of being emotionally and financially supportive but at times, those two things are separate in certain households. The next one is when two become one.
Jase: [sings] When two become one.
Emily: Meaning like--
Jase: Well, too old for you guys.
Emily: Yes, I have no idea what that was.
Dedeker: Are you referring to banging?
Emily: No, I'm referring to the idea that individuals become a we, like an us. Like, we are going to get a dog together and we are going to this party and we are, whatever, any of those things, just that essentially the identity of the individual is left for the identity of the partnership.
Dedeker: I see. Sorry, I brought up the whole banging thing because of my religious upbringing.
Emily: Yes, fucking.
Dedeker: Thank you for this name. There was just so much emphasis on the first--
Emily: This is after marriage.
Dedeker: There's the verse of the Bible that's like when two become one flesh, referring to--
Emily: We haven't gotten there yet in the Bible study.
Dedeker: We have not yet, not quite.
Emily: When is that? Oh my gosh, so excited.
Dedeker: We've got a while to go. Yes, this idea that sex is also tied to your identities and your very souls merging together and that's why it is so, so, so important to not just have sex willy-nilly.
Jase: Because then you become one person with--
Dedeker: With multiple people and you can't.
Jase: Then it's a time paradox.
Jase: The universe has started collapsing on themselves.
Dedeker: Exactly, yes.
Dedeker: Other relationship escalator goals could involve buying a home together or buying some kind of property together.
Emily: Having a mortgage.
Dedeker: Yes, having a mortgage together and having children together, super common one.
Jase: Retiring together, the idea of spending your leisure years hanging out.
Emily: Your twilight years, your golden years. What is it?
Jase: Anyone of them.
Dedeker: I really like leisure years because that's what I want the emphasis to be on in those years, not on twilight, not on gold, just on leisure.
Jase: Then related to that is this idea of growing old and then dying together.
Emily: Staying together forever and not divorcing.
Jase: Yes, forever until you die.
Dedeker: There's nothing wrong with any of these goals. We're not saying you're silly for wanting this or it's absurd to pursue this. We just want to urge people to be mindful when it comes to their own relationship goal setting and their own life goal setting. I think back to our episode, where we interviewed Amy Gahran, who wrote the Relationship Escalator book, how she mentioned, this isn't the air that we breathe, we're fish and this is the water that we swim in. Is this relationship escalator, this progression?
It does require just some analysis and some critical thinking to really examine and see what are the things that I do actually want and what are the things that I just feel I should expect, or that I should be pursuing but I don't know if I actually want them or not? Because gosh, I know I have definitely fallen victim to just assuming, "Well, this is what's going to come next." I pursue the next step, which could be living with someone or becoming exclusive with someone and then realize right afterwards, "Oh, wait, I didn't actually want that."
There's this disconnect and this dissonance when I realized, "Wait, but everyone tells me that I should want this, or everyone tells me that when I do move in with this person, that I should become more intimate and feel better, but it doesn't and I don't understand why." This is so many, so many years ago before I started actually thinking critically about these things.
Jase: I feel it's not always so clear of, "I really want this goal and then I get it and I realize I didn't want that." Sometimes it's years later, you go, "Huh, maybe that's why I felt that disillusionment or this sense of what's wrong with me that I don't feel as happy as I've been told I should feel at this point, or why I don't feel as invested in this thing that I felt was such an important goal." That's not always so obvious right away.
Emily: It's not, but definitely, I think, as you said, it is really important to think critically about it, just because if you don't, there can be some consequences in your life, as time goes on. The things that I'm about to talk about, that we all are about to talk about, they don't necessarily just happen, obviously, because you're doing something in your life that you don't want. It can be a variety of things that lead to this but I think that it also is systemic in a way, it can breed this idea that my life is occurring in a way that I didn't expect, or that I didn't really want, just because I'm doing the thing that everybody does, and it's ultimately not making me happy.
Again, I urge people to actually think about it before going and taking the plunge of doing something like creating a life and bringing it into the world without really being, "Is that something that I want? Or am I just doing it because I feel pressured into doing it?" I have so many examples of this in my family and in my own life and the people who have been my partners, their parents, who were absent for them. I see it over and over and over again. To me, that really means something.
Dedeker: It makes me think of, gosh, this happened several years ago. I think this even happened back in my monogamous days that somehow I typed in a URL to a website wrong and it redirected me to someone's wedding page. I think it was at the beginning of that trend of couples making a website for their wedding.
Emily: It this our wedding website?
Dedeker: Yes. Where it would be like you could RSVP. You could access their gift registry. You could see their cute engagement photos, and this one that happened to also write a little bit of their story. I remember feeling so bad because their story was just like, "Ali met Jim at such and such place and then they were together for about two years. Then Jim proposed because Ali started dropping hints that maybe it's just about that time to get married."
Dedeker: I think I actually retold it better than it was written because I remember that the way that it was written, it was really so not inspired. Literally, the story was like, he proposed because she was like, "Hey, when are you going to propose?" basically. I was like, "Hmm."
Emily: That's not uncommon.
Jase: That's the thing I was going to say, like 98% of people who read that wedding site didn't even question that, didn't even notice that.
Dedeker: Is that even official number, Jase?
Emily: Yes. I don't know if that's necessary.
Jase: I did a study real quick.
Emily: Real quick.
Jase: No, but just think about it, I would have read that years ago and been like, "Yes, okay. Duh, that's normal. That's just normal life." Not thinking, "Wait a minute, that's a weird reason to get married to someone." Honestly, that would not even have occurred to me.
Dedeker: That's interesting. Well, I guess to be fair, I was in a relationship once where, gosh, I forget how long we've been together, but he had started talking about wanting to live together and I was like, "I don't know," but I started looking at places still and I started thinking about it but in my gut, I was still just, "I'm just really not ready for this." That was part of the reason why we broke up is because I think we got into this conversation where he was just like, "It's time for us to move in together."
Jase: It's time.
Dedeker: Exactly, it's time. I feel sad about it now because in the past that conversation, it meant like, "Well, if for me it's not time, that means the relationship has to end." There were other reasons for the relationship to end, but I feel now I would have much better access to being able to be like, "It's okay if it's time for you, but it's not a time for me. We can figure something else out." It doesn't have to be like, "If we're moving backwards on the escalator then we need to break up."
Jase: Or if we're even not moving forward.
Dedeker: Yes, that too. That too. But I am glad that I didn't go through with it because I know that it definitely would have been like, "I moved up on the escalator and this didn't work essentially. This didn't bring me any happiness or any closeness or intimacy."
Emily: As I previewed, what are some consequences of having or going through with relationship escalator goals when you don't actually want them?
Jase: First on our list here is infidelity. I think the popular narrative is just like, "People who cheat are bad people or they're dishonest or whatever." There's obviously a lot more nuance to it, but part of it, I think can come from-- People have been told like, "You do these things," or, "You take these steps," or, "You find this type of person and then you'll be happy and you'll be satisfied." When it doesn't work out exactly like they were told, then there is this like, "Well, something is wrong with me then," or, "Something is wrong with this,"-
Dedeker: Yes, definitely.
Jase: - which could lead to infidelity or step-- or thing number two, not step number two. Thing number two is just emotional unavailability, checking out mentally or emotionally from the relationship or just shutting down and withdrawing.
Dedeker: Yes, definitely. I think related to that too, the emotional availability or checking out or shutting down, there can be actual physical availability. Like Emily mentioned, a parent who's never around, a parent who's totally disengaged from their child's upbringing or someone-- Honestly, I've known a number of relationships where people just up and leave. They can't even handle renegotiating something or even being able to have a proper breakup, it's just like, "I just got to leave."
Emily: You hear about those stories of women having a child and then the man bounces.
Dedeker: Yes, that's really common.
Emily: I'm sure they'll like, "That happens both ways." Yes, it is common absolutely.
Dedeker: Yes, definitely.
Emily: Well, I guess they just didn't want it or something. I don't know.
Dedeker: It's sometimes I think it's more complex than just a black and white "didn't want it" for sure. There's definitely cases of people, people that I've known personally who have had kids and, of course, they love their children, it's not they hate their children, but it's definitely a case of like, "I wasn't ready for this life milestone. I wasn't ready for this particular goal, but I felt I had to or I felt I was running out of time or I felt I need it too in order for us to have a cohesive marriage or something like that."
Emily: Well, someone in my family, I won't say who, but they literally gave up their baby to their sibling because they just couldn't-- all of their friends were having kids and they realized that it was not what they wanted even though they decided to have a child and go through with the kid and birthing the kid and all that, and then they were like, "Nope, I'm not going to do this," and so they gave the kid up.
Dedeker: I read this really fascinating, but depressing study. It was a study that-- it didn't take place in the states. It took place in, I think it was in a certain European country, but it was still a relatively very traditional country where there were still some very traditional expectations around gender roles and about women being obliged to have children and to be the reproducers essentially.
It was just such a sad study of talking to women who'd had children and who really hadn't had a choice in it and just talking about the love they feel for their children, but also this such intense regret and pain around not being able to actually actively choose that for themselves. It was a story like I said. I didn't mean to turn this into a bomber, but it's just--
Emily: No, but I think it's really freaking important to talk about and that's why-- My mom didn't have me until she was 38 because she was like, "I was not ready until I was ready. I would not have you until I really wanted to," kind of thing. "If I didn't then I wasn't going too." I think that's important.
Dedeker: Also, your mom was in a position to be able to make that choice because also a lot of people aren't.
Emily: Yes, you're absolutely right. I think that that is a privilege that clearly not everybody has and it is really tough.
Dedeker: Right. Anyway, I want to do a whole other episode about women's choices to or to not reproduce, but that'll be some other time. Because going along, I think a really obvious one here is just divorce, the divorce rate because I think we've seen what the results have been of a culture where people feel marriage is compulsory to a certain extent. I think that we've seen the fall out of that in divorce as divorce has become more acceptable, especially in my or your parent's generation that that's just been the byproduct of that.
Then also, just general life on happiness. I've come up across this with working with some client that sometimes I think it's similar to the frustration that I experienced in my own relationships of feeling like, "I took this step. I made this investment in the relationship. Why do I not feel good about it or why do I not feel happy?" Maybe even I love my partner, but why do I feel frustrated and depressed and anxious? Now, it can be the result of moving to a particular goal that you're just not quite ready for.
Emily: Like you said, moving to those goals can lead to things like depression and also things like coping mechanisms. That means drugs, the alcohol, various ways of figuring out how to cope with a life and a situation that you're not either ready for or that you don't really want. If you don't feel as though you should get divorced. I've met people who are like, "Well, I don't believe in divorce. It says one should not get divorced in the Bible. I'm prepared to stay in a loveless marriage for the rest of my life," and looking for coping mechanisms in that way.
Dedeker: Actually, the comedian, Mike Birbiglia, who's one of my favorites, in one of his standups he actually-- ge gets serious in talking about in early relationship of his that was on this relationship escalator and where he felt this pressure of like, "She really wants to get married. She really wants to have kids." That pain of feeling like, "There's no way that I can say no to this because saying no is going to mean the dissolution of everything and so I just go along and say yes and say yes and say yes and say like, 'Yes, we're going to get married next summer and yes, we're going to do this.'"
Even though he knew in his body, the entire time he knew it was not true, but he still had to say yes. For him, it manifested physically and having terrible sleep disorders and anxiety all the time and panic attacks and--
Emily: Is that the guy who sleepwalked? Is that sleepwalk with me?
Dedeker: Yes, it's the sleepwalk with me.
Emily: We watched those.
Dedeker: Eventually, cheating on his girlfriend as well. A lot of these things manifested because of the fact that he knew he was moving forward with something that he'd surely wasn't ready for. We do want to start turning this around and talking about more the positive side of things and not just the bomber sides of things, but I do want to take a quick interlude on this common question that I get that all of us have gotten at various points in our lives. I think we're all familiar with this question that comes up in rom-coms, it comes up in real life.
It's this like, "What are we doing? Where is the relationship going? Where are we headed?" There's this underlying sense of like, "We need to keep things moving. We need to keep going up the escalator or else things are going to stagnate." It's like, "What are we doing? Are you going to ask me to marry you or not? Are we going to have a baby or not? Are we going to move in together or not?"
I think that I've often been asked this questions especially since I started being more out about having multiple partners because of course, once everyone gets passed this scandal and once to ask about the sex and the jealousy and stuff like that, people start asking the questions of like, "What about getting married? What about--"
Emily: Who do you like the most?
Dedeker: Gosh. I hate that question. [laughs] "What about getting married? What about having kids? What about moving in together? How are you going to build the relationship? Who are you going to actually move up the relationship escalator with?"
Jase: Not that that they would ask the question that way, but--
Dedeker: Yes, but that's essentially what I guess
Jase: Right. What about when you want to do a real relationship where...
Emily: Yes, when you really like someone.
Dedeker: The thing is that I don't think it's bad to want to have that sense of moving forward and I don't think it's bad to want to stay away from things becoming static or stagnant. I think that's actually a good thing.
Dedeker: However, I always like to encourage people, instead of just attaching forward progress just to these relationship escalator goals, it doesn't have to be these particular goals that we've been handed by society, but you can still be taking actions to move your relationships forward and to deepen your relationships and expand and, rather than it having to be like, we're just doing this steps, steps, steps and step up the relationship escalator.
Jase: Yes. I like that sort of wording of let's think about how we can deepen this relationship or expand this relationship or even how we can each be developing and evolving and changing in our own lives and seeing how our relationship maybe evolves is another good word, like how it evolves and changes over time. Because a relationship, where it's just the same now for the next 50 years, I could see it's a coming to a certain sense of boredom or a sense of like, well, what are we doing here?
Then maybe for some people that sounds great, they're like, no, actually sign me up for that. But I know for a lot of people, that's where you get to that sense of where are we going? I think thinking of just re-framing it to words like evolving or deepening or expanding rather than, are we moving forward, or are we moving up, or where are we going, implies there's a destination that you're trying to get to and something that I've noticed, which I think really comes up in that question of where is this relationship going? Where are we going? What are we doing here?
The way I've seen that manifest in a lot of people's lives, my own included is like, okay, I have feelings for this person, and so if I want to treat this seriously, I need it to keep going forward, or like I value this person, so I want to keep it moving forward, that there can sometimes be this rush to complete these next steps because you're like, "Yes, totally feel ready for this next step. I feel ready for this."
There's this sense of like, we're always climbing toward a goal and then you get to one where you're going to stay for a little while. I know for a lot of people, this is like getting married actually is where I've seen this come up with people that I know, with peers of mine, where it's like we've worked and worked and worked and worked and worked and had these goals individually and together toward getting married. Then we get here and all of a sudden it's like, wait, the story we're told stops here at this point. It's like--
Emily: A happily ever after with no actual roadmap for what that looks like, most of it.
Jase: Right, then either it's like, oh, I freak out about that and everything falls apart or it's like that just terrifying sense of where are we going now? Then that's when people start going like, well, maybe we need to have kids. It's like that.
Emily: The kids will solve everything.
Jase: Right. It's like, well, we need another goal to get to, and I know people aren't thinking of this literally in this way, but I've just watched so many friends of mine and relations of mine go through a very similar thing of being so goal-oriented that eventually you'll run out of goals. If your goals are going to follow this one trajectory.
Emily: All right. We do want to emphasize that what we are talking about in this next part of the episode are healthy goals and it is important to have goals in relationships.
Jase: But why?
Emily: Well, as long as they're the right type of goals, not to say they are like we are the end all, be all of like what the correct and incorrect types of goals are.
Dedeker: What wrong and right might be.
Emily: Yes. There was a study, a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Dedeker: It's definitely the best journal to talk to at a party.
Emily: Totally, yes. Researchers apparently examined the connection between relationship satisfaction and self-regulation.
Dedeker: I've heard about self-regulation specifically in relation to goal setting.
Emily: Well, there you go.
Dedeker: Because that's part of self-regulation is related to goal setting and setting goals as part of how you self regulate your life in your trajectory and momentum and stuff like that.
Emily: I think that makes sense. Apparently, it said individuals experiencing higher levels of satisfaction in their relationship exhibit higher levels of perceived control, goal focus, perceived partner support and positive effect during goal pursuit. It basically results in higher rates of daily progress on personal goals, so that means if your relationship satisfaction increases then your motivation to effectively self regulate your actions happens and that your progression towards achieving your own personal goals happens, which I think makes sense.
Dedeker: It's like instead of the goals being in place, being the thing that makes our relationship better and more satisfying, it's when your relationship is better and more satisfying, then it's-
Emily: It's easier.
Dedeker: - it's actually possible for you to not only achieve your relationship goals but also your personal goals as well.
Emily: Which makes sense because, if your relationship is in shambles and you're worrying about it all the time, it's probably difficult to actively and effectively work on your own personal goals unless you're just like, I'm shutting all that shit out and I'm not going to think about it and I'm only going to think of my personal goals.
Dedeker: It really turns on its head. I think that really common thing that we do as human beings of I guess putting the cart before the horse there, of having the relationship goal first before we have the relationship. I don't mean like before having a relationship at all but it's having the goal before having the satisfying relationship that could actually attain that I suppose.
Emily: Well, I would argue that, yes, you achieve more satisfaction in your relationship, but it's like it is to a degree an expansion. It's like even if you're really intimate with a person initially, you can still build on that intimacy and you can still get more satisfaction from your relationship over time. I think, again, if you set small goals for yourself, like trying to figure out how to communicate better, then that's ultimately going to bring you to a higher level of satisfaction in your relationship and allow other parts of your life to open up.
Jase: Yes. I think there's like two super key parts of it. One, I think what you were just getting into it and we're going to talk about in a second here, which is about setting goals that actually have your well-being and having a good relationship in mind rather than just meeting some external goalpost of what success looks like. But if we could rewind even back a little bit before that from a philosophical standpoint, what Dedeka was getting at is this idea that we focus on the goal for this relationship before we focus on just having a relationship that feels really good right now and then going on to the next goal. Instead it's like, oh well, things might not be perfect now, but that's because there's this goal, right?
Jase: If we get to that goal, things will be better.
Dedeker: Gosh, but we do that with the rest of our life.
Jase: That's what I was going to get to, that's what I was just going to say. [crosstalk]
Dedeker: We're projecting happiness.
Jase: Yes. We project our happiness into the future. We think that, oh well, I don't have to be happy now or it's okay that I'm not happy now, maybe I'm even going to try to make myself less happy now so that I'm more motivated to achieve my goals.
Jase: With this idea that those goals are somehow going to be more worth it in the long run or that those things are going to then just make you happy on their own. Yes, it's very much tied up in this whole philosophy, not just about relationships, but more generally. I am guilty of all of this for sure, I'm not meaning to say that I'm not, but it is something that I've become aware of.
Dedeker: I get a lot of people who ask me, we get a lot of people who reach out to the show and ask us like, okay, so if I'm trying to step off of the relationship escalator and trying to forge my own relationships and maybe even be a little bit of a relationship anarchist, what are some good goals that aren't necessarily escalator goals that I could look forward to in a relationship? Or is it all just going to be loosey goosey Amoeba-like and nobody cares what's happening and we all just float around that way.
Emily: No, they can be like tangible goals-
Emily: - and actionable.
Jase: Yes, I think that's a good part of it. It's just thinking about, like, what are the things that you actually want? What are the things that you actually want to do individually but also together? Number one on our list here is planning and going on a trip, having some specific trip in mind that the two of you are going to work together with this as a goal and maybe that's going to take you a lot of time, like, we've really got to save up money and save up our vacation days and whatever to do it or maybe it's something that you can do sooner than that.
Maybe it's even just like a little day trip, but whatever it is, it's like that's a very tangible goal and it's something that when you've done it, it's very clearly like, look, we achieved that goal. We set out together and work together and pool our resources to be able to do this thing and we did it and we got to have that experience.
I think another one that's maybe almost a little more individual rather than something the two of you would do together, but it's related which is forming your own independent relationships with your metamours. This is assuming that you're in a non-monogamous relationship.
Dedeker: You both want that as metamours.
Jase: Yes. That your metamours are interested in that too. There's a lot of--
Emily: Just latch onto and be like, "I'm going to like you and you're going to like me."
Dedeker: It would be a little metamour barnacle on the side of your head.
Jase: Yes. I've thought about this. It's sort of like, hey, I want to reach out and just be like, "I would love to have some kind of my own relationship with you, that's not just through a partner like through our shared partner but it's just like we could-- It doesn't have to be anything big but just like let's talk every now and then or like play video games every now and then," you know like something. That can look a whole lot of different ways.
For other people, it's much more of a like, we hang out every week and we go shopping together and do our-- I don't know, homework together, whatever it is. It doesn't have to be all of that, it could be something else. Just kind of having that goal for your self that obviously it's kind of connected to your relationship.
Emily: The next one is going to be supporting each other in your individual life goals which is awesome. Awesome to just do in general. It's really great to have partners that are supportive of one another and then aren't threatened by each other's successes either. That could definitely be a thing that occurs, I think, that there's a little bit of envy maybe or jealousy within the relationship of someone is having a really great time for a few years in terms of their individual goals. Just being there for each other when one has successes, getting to see each other succeed.
Jase: Look, you kind of get to share in that then.
Jase: It's like part of my goal is wanting to support you and then see you succeed, so like that's my goal too now.
Jase: It's not just your goal.
Emily: Both of us can work on that in some way. Then also creating, as I said before, a more solid communication foundation. That can mean a lot of things. We've talked about communication all the time on this show but things like practicing the tri-force of communication, being able to speak more effectively in the ways that you want about what your communicating.
Dedeker: Like getting through a fight in a healthy way.
Emily: Halting. If I can actually apply a halt--
Jase: A goal of just like applying a tool that you learned about on this podcast for example.
Emily: Totally. This month I'm going to halt and actually do it instead of trying to push through the halts when my partner calls halt, that's a big one for me.
Dedeker: I love that one as a goal. I feel like for myself personally, in my relationships right now, since I don't have a ton of-- At least right now, I don't have a ton of very traditional relationship escalatory goals either in my relationships or for myself personally. I love having specifically this, of just always working on deepening communication and always working on getting to know each other's little trigger points and getting to know the places where each other really shine when it comes to communication and getting to know the ways that we can support each other and help each other and develop our own language essentially for communicating with each other.
I really love that because that feels like it's work that it's going to go on forever first of all. It's work that always, I don't know-- To me, always feels like it has this really wonderful momentum and that sense of the energy of expansion and deepening. It feels really, really good to me. It feels like a really, really good goal to always have ongoing. I really, really like that one specifically. Obviously, I feel like that's what everyone should do even if you're on the relationship escalator.
Jase: Just have that goal. It would be worth it.
Dedeker: Even if you have a much more traditional relationship. Definitely. Some other examples of maybe some non-escalator goals include, I'm well aware of this one, when you're in a long-distance relationship it can be strategizing on the ways to see each other more often, if that's something both of you want, if that's something that fits both into your lives and budgets and things like that, but collaborating on things like that. It could be as simple as just learning more about each other.
I actually really like this one as a goal for the very, very early days of a relationship, when everything is so heightened. And it's a mix of maybe there's some [unintelligible 00:44:44] in there or maybe there's the anxiety of like, "Is this person going to be compatible with me? Are they going to like me? Do they like me as much as I like them? What if I don't like them as much as they like me?"
I think that that's where all this anxiety can come up and stress around this early couple first dates, when you're getting to know someone. Just having this goal of like, I just want to learn more about this person and I just want to also show myself to this other person, and just having that goal instead of the goal being, I want to get a second date, or you know.
Jase: I see. You're talking way early.
Dedeker: I'm talking way early.
Jase: See, I was thinking even a few months in.
Dedeker: Definitely. I think this is another one that has a lot of staying power. If you like, this is a really healthy one to have on at the beginning of a relationship where things can feels so
Jase: Yes, it makes sense.
Dedeker: I feel like that's a hard goal to "fail at" essentially, especially if you go into a first date with that's all your goal. It's just, "I'm going to learn more about this person, also share a little bit of myself with this other person." It's kind of like setting the goal post very low. Instead of saying something specific like, "I want to take this person home," or "I want to make sure they're going to give me a second date," or I want to, you know, yadda yadda yadda.
Jase: I want to find the one. That puts a lot of pressure on it. You really don't know have a lot of--
Dedeker: To be my boyfriend.
Jase: You don't have a lot of control over whether that succeeds or not. Another one would be sharing a meaningful experience or an event together. Not just like a trip or something just like, "Let's have a random thing," but more like, we want to experience a certain holiday together, or an anniversary or going to some kind of festival or maybe an event that's meaningful to you. Maybe growing up, you loved your local state fair, maybe that kind of a special event to be able to experience together. That cannot only have the sense of we have this goal of like, "This is the thing we'd really like to do together." You also get the planning of it which is also exciting and a way to kind of collaborate.
Then, it also can have this sort of, I guess, a little bit more traditional feeling milestoneness to it. It's like, "This is our first Christmas together," or like, "Remember that time when we went to your home town for this thing that you did growing up," or, "Ride that we have made up our new holiday that we celebrate every year and that's our thing." Whatever it is that you get sort of a milestone out of it and also it can be a goal and thing that you look forward to together. Then last on our list here, this one might be my favorite and that is to have a goal be doing your first radar together.
Emily: Apparently, from what we've heard from some of our patrons, it takes a little while sometimes.
Dedeker: Sometimes, some people do it really early, some people wait a while. My newest relationship which has been extent for about a year, I still haven't had a first radar mostly because I'm scared, if that makes sense.
Jase: In my relationship with Caitlin, we went almost a whole year before doing our first radar.
Dedeker: I don't know if I necessarily recommend that. I think it's totally better to do it sooner than that but, yes.
Emily: Dedeker, for you, I don't if you do a radar in Japanese.
Dedeker: That's part of why I'm scared.
Emily: I was like, that makes sense.
Dedeker: Even trying to explain it in the first place, I'm like [unintelligible 00:48:23] vocabulary here.
Jase: Maybe you could start by translating our PDF into Japanese and then you could give that to him and then you know.
Dedeker: I'm really afraid of the loss in translation moments that would happen as the results of that.
Jase: I'm sure.
Dedeker: They've already been plentiful let me tell you.
Jase: I've got it. Now, we're just workshoping Dedeker's relationship but I've got it. What if, as sort of a couple's activity, you together translate like, let's together translate this document.
Emily: Let's together translate. Let's together translate.
Jase: I think that could be a great.
Dedeker: Actually, that could be good.
Jase: Sort of a team building exercise, that then also helps explain, and then we end up with a resource of our document being in Japanese.
Dedeker: For our huge Japanese audience.
Emily: We had a show in Japan. It's all good.
Dedeker: It's true. Our Japanese audience is surprisingly larger than you might think.
Jase: Still not large but larger than you might think.
Dedeker: It's also not a large country so relatively.
Emily: There you go.
Dedeker: Anyway, just as a last note and reminder, Emily did talk about this a little bit. I think it is so important that your goals within your relationship it doesn't always have to be goals created by committee or goals that that two of you have created together. Your personal life goals are also important and they're also valid. They don't necessarily have to be wrapped up in a partner or wrapped up in your partners's life goals as well.
I definitely think that that's a really good thing to include when you're having regular check-ins or radar, that you're talking about the personal goals that you want, whether it's like the goal for this month, or the goal for this year, or what I want to see in five years, if that's the way that you operate. I think constantly checking in with other about even those personal life goals is also really important, too.
We've covered a lot of ground today. We could definitely cover so much more ground, my goodness. If you want to know more about this, there's a couple of other episodes that I can send you to. You can go back to episode 100 which was our Relationship Resolutions episode. That was a more structured exercise in--
Emily: We have a PDF for it, I found it.
Dedeker: Gosh, we do have a PDF.
Emily: I've looked at it.
Dedeker: Wow, amazing. For being able-- We themed it around the new year about being able to come up with some actionable goals or intentions with your partner for the relationship for the coming year that's definitely related to this. We definitely talked about relationship goals and relationships that inspire us personally. If you go to episodes 162 and 163, Inspiring Relationships part 1& 2.
Then if you want to know more about the relationship escalator, you can go and listen to our interview with Amy Gahran/ Aggie Sez, who wrote the book Stepping off the Relationship Escalator. That is in episode 164.
Emily: I'm really interested to hear from all of our patrons what relationship goals you all have in your life. If you also have been on the relationship escalator in some relationships that you've had and how that's felt if you've ultimately been like, "This is not for me," or if you've said, "Hey, I actually really have been mindful about these things and they are things that I want," we want to hear about it.
The best place to share your thoughts with other listeners is on this episode's discussion thread and our private Facebook group or Discord chat. You can get access to these groups and join our exclusive community by going to patreon.com/multiamory. In addition, you can share with us publicly on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. You can email us on info.multiamory.com, leave us a voicemail at 678-MULTI-05, or you can leave us a voice message on Facebook.
Multiamory is created and produced by Jase Lindgren, Dedeker Winston and me, Emily Matlack. Our episodes are edited by Mauricio. Our social media wizard is Will McMillan.Our theme song is Forms I know I did by Josh and Anand from the Fractal Cave EP. The full transcript is available on this episode's page on multiamory.com