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In a nutshell, the traditional Relationship Escalator looks like this: two (and only two) people progress from initial attraction and dating, to becoming sexually and romantically involved and exclusive, to adopting a shared identity as a couple, to moving in together and otherwise merging their lives — all the way up to marriage and kids, ’til death do you part.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach. The Relationship Escalator is popular for a reason: it works quite well for many people.

It’s just not the only game in town.