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Riding the Relationship Escalator is a one-way, continuous trip; permanence, continuity, and consistency are key Escalator hallmarks. Once two partners ride a fair way up the Escalator together (usually to the point where they claim and define their couplehood), they are not supposed to step back toward less entwinement, to pause for “too long” at a certain level of involvement, or to revise the structure or terms of their relationship.

Rather, the only socially acceptable options are:

— Keep riding the Escalator until you reach the top. Then, stay there until someone dies.

— Break up. End the relationship. Traditionally, this has meant that former Escalator partners drop out of each other’s lives altogether, or at least as much as possible — although that norm is changing. A definitive breakup clears the way to find a new Escalator partner and start riding again.