I have a very strong inclination to run up the relationship escalator. Love, to me, is sharing who I am as fully as I can with another person, and I have trouble separating out knowing each other deeply and intimately from sharing our mundane, daily lives. I want to stay up late into the night drinking wine and sharing stories about our pasts and our desired futures, and then I want to wake up together, make breakfast, and go grocery shopping.
I know some amount of this is socially conditioned, but a lot of it isn’t. I’ve had a very strong pair bonding desire since I was a kid, and not even necessarily in a romantic context. I was fascinated with books where characters had a bonded companion (dragons, magical horses, you name it) that was by their side always and that knew them intimately. I’ve also always had a preference for pets that have more social understanding and that can form closer ties to specific people (dogs and parrots especially).
One of my biggest regrets in my relationship with Ember is how strongly I pushed him to join me on the relationship escalator. It’s not that he doesn’t love me enough. It’s simply a difference in how we plan our lives and how we feel driven to conduct our relationships (or rather, that I feel driven to conduct mine at all whereas he prefers to let things form organically).
I honestly can’t say that I perceive more love from Catalyst (who, like me, is more commitment+planning oriented) than from Ember or vice versa. They both care for me deeply, and I feel immensely supported and well taken care of by both of them. And yet every time Ember visits and we have a good time together, the first thoughts on my mind are about how wonderful it would be if we all moved in together, and I want to bring up marriage again even though we agreed that we’re not going to be able to make a decision about that for at least several more months. I have a hard time not assuming that a relationship this deep and fulfilling should eventually look at least a little bit like marriage (cohabitation, maybe some kids, etc).
It’s not that I can’t accept a strong, “primary” relationship that doesn’t follow the relationship escalator. I think I’m perfectly capable of setting aside my expectations and doing something unconventional. Obviously I am to some degree, or I wouldn’t be practicing open polyamory. Part of the reason I keep trying to step back onto the escalator with Ember is precisely because we haven’t entirely ruled it out. It’s still an option, and it’s my default preference, so of course it’s going to keep being on my mind until we decide what aspects of it we want and what we don’t.