Shrimp Teeth: Active commitment in polyamory


Active Commitment 


Polyamorous people can resist the pressure to jump on the relationship escalator by committing to doing activities they enjoy with their partner.


Focusing on relationship status, rather than content, can make us feel like we always need to “take the next step.” We have it ingrained that relationships must continue to progress in order to be valuable (the escalator model).


Folks in secondary partnerships often ask “where is this going?” because when marriage or life-building isn’t a clear option, people are left confused about commitment.

Instead, activities and interests can define goals & provide structure for the relationship eg. you can commit to making art together every weekend or starting a garden, etc.


Engaging in concrete hobbies strengthens relationships. I call it “active commitment.”


Active commitment means that you’re basing the strength and viability of the relationship on how pals show up.

The act of being present and engaging in shared interests becomes the goal of the relationship rather than relying on specific labels to define commitment.


To be brutally honest, LOTS of people are bored in their relationships. I talk to hundreds of folks a year and consistently the people who just want to HAVE a relationship, rather than participate, stress the most about escalation.

Getting “serious” becomes the activity itself.

In other words, commitment can come from knowing that you and your pals are both invested in spending deliberate time doing things that bring you joy.

You can continue to paint together whether you’re casual, dating, serious, married, living together, not, having babies etc.

Artwork @ShrimpTeeth

Life-building is certainly AN element of being in a relationship, but for polyamorous pals, it’s certainly not everything.

People so often discard potentially great partners because they don’t see a “future” together. In non-monogamy, this shouldn’t be such a big deciding factor.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting certain relationship-defining commitments. But I encourage folks to move away from the escalator being the singular focus.

Active commitment has far more robust long-term potential as long as you keep doing things together!

The other fabulous part about active commitment is that it helps to create meaningful space for multi-person relationship structures.

You can enjoy doing something completely different than your pal does with their meta. Or all enjoy similar activities!

Everyone is valuable.

Whereas the relationship escalator forces competitiveness (only one partner can legally marry!); active commitment allows everyone to exist in a symbiotic relationship (to the degree they each want to invest).


There’s no promise of forever, only a deliberate decision to show up.


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Sam is a sex educator and artist who explores queerness, polyamory, and sexuality through their work. She’s passionate about exploring ways to broaden relationship structures to foster more connections between people. They use art and illustration as part of their education process.