Something that has come in handy as a tool when I’m working with clients in any kind of non-traditional relationship model who are struggling with definitions and expectations tied to “traditional” relational definitions, is the Relationship Escalation model. Polyfolk know but still frequently get caught in, and monogamous folks moving into open relationship structures often discover the hard way, that the invisible values carried forward out of traditional (and cultural) relationship models can still trip us up, especially in the realm of emotional expectations.
When a newly-opened relationship starts to date people and develop relationships according to the same patterns with which they have always developed relationships, it can cause a lot of instability because it looks like (and, to many, often feels like) developing the *NEXT* relationship in the serial monogamy model, rather than developing a concurrent loving relationship in the poly model. Intellectually we may know better, but on the gut level?? This is one of the most common issues I see with my poly and mono-to-open clients, next to communications issues.
So how do you work with that? First, by becoming aware of the “built-in models”: the inherited values and invisible expectations, then by learning how to effectively choose differently than the programming. Some people want the escalator, and that’s cool; but for those who want to stop the escalator and get off, here’s a good place to start working on being (becoming) aware of how that invisible cultural programming that people often trip on, generally works.