I’ve over 20 years of non-monogamous history, interwoven with a few monogamous relationships that exploded in the worst ways possible. In that time, I’ve met thousands of monogamous couples, hundreds of non-monogamous couples; add both those groups together and I’ve only really seen a few dozen successful relationships.
This article focuses on some thoughts, theories and personal opinions on what seems to be the main solution for a successful “poly” (or better termed, non-monogamous) relationship. Since it is merely my own admittedly biased view on what constitutes a successful relationship, I’m going to not say that this is the answer, just one possible consideration.
Let’s first remove monogamous relationships out of the equation. Of the very few successful monogamous relationships I’ve seen as a third party external to the relationship, the notable ones come from three situations:
- Religion-based marriage, with both parties truly believing that they’re called into a monogamous marriage and actually live by their faith together as one,
- The so-called “soul mates” who have so much in common: a similar history, common desires and wants at the moment, and a future they both want and agree to focus on,
- Those who don’t have very strong needs or wants specifically, and are happy with a minimal yet sustainable relationship, i.e. they’re either too lazy or broke to spend their time (and possibly money) looking for something better, and they don’t care to change that.
Since none of those situations are ones I find myself in (my religious beliefs are too far from the mainstream to attract women, I don’t believe there is one true soul mate for everyone, and I am extremely driven to getting my complex and constantly changing needs met), monogamy seems like more of a settling than a choosing in my life.
That leaves us with non-monogamy and all of its subdivisions: polyamory, polygamy, polygyny, slutdom, promiscuity, group marriage, etc. Based on my years of research, inquiry and direct experience in this ever-widening circle of love, lust and fulfillment, I have to break down my own relationship experience with my views of other non-monogamous relationships I’ve seen over the decades.
In my experience, the non-monogamy seeking individual typically falls into one or a few different camps:
- The sex addict (promiscuous)
- The impossible to fulfill individual (never happy)
- The trophy collector (not promiscuous, but loves new challenges)
- The can’t-be-tied-down individual (gets bored quickly)
- The too-busy-for-roots individual (travels often for work, has an impossible schedule to keep up, or just likes new environments)
- The attention whore (needs external validation)
I’m sure there are more categories here, and of course this is a massive generalization (as is the monogamous group list), but it also works for every single person and relationship I’ve looked into. I’d put myself into category #5, but I have some common traits with #4, mostly because I do get bored with many aspects of my life regularly, be it work, friends, food, or location.
Since I don’t see much success in non-monogamous groups 1, 2, 3 and 6, I will focus on the successes I have seen, and they’re always in group 5, and rarely in group 4. The most successful non-monogamous individuals I know all are people who love to love and be loved, but are also constant travelers, unwilling to root themselves to one home, one city, one business, one group of friends, and definitely one lover.
In group 5, the unrooted, I know men and women both who are successful in their non-monogamous relationships. They don’t broadcast that they’re not monogamous, people just know it, accept it, and even the most monogamous of their friends actually enjoy the unrooted individual’s life. Their sex lives and relationship lives don’t define them in any way, but still they’re fulfilled emotionally, sexually and intimately.
And here’s the clincher, the one certainty I have about what supports a successful non-monogamous individual; the area that makes the most sense once I’ve broken down every other possible combination and permutation of why some do it well, and others do it terribly. It’s frustrating that I can’t see any other solution or possibility based on the common threads of success in having a love life that works amazingly well, and never shows signs of disruption or deceit, break-ups or blow-ups, drama or regret.
The clincher, my reader, is money. Greed, selfishness, competition and vitriol-attracting money.
There’s no other answer that is acceptable to me. I’ve looked for years at different success stories of the happiest people I know — they’ve done well in business, they have friends who jump at the chance to spend time with these individuals; they’re liked by their friends but not exactly loved by them. Their contact with family is healthy but not overwhelming (no mamas boys or papas boys). Their love lives don’t define them, but their interactions with lovers do complete them for their own sake. Most importantly for me: these individuals don’t drip of regret that I see in so many, be it in real life or on Facebook or Twitter.
So what does having money have to do with the successful non-monogamist?
In one word: everything. It’s very hard to invest in a relationship if you’re broke. I see so many serial monogamists (archipelagists, is what I call then) who unite in love because they’re both mutually broke and really need to share a one bedroom apartment with someone they’re marginally attracted to. I see so many polyamorists who swing from relationship to relationship, not being bonded in any length because their own lack of fulfillment in themselves causes drama and discontent in their love lives.
The successful non-monogamists aren’t defined by their money — hell, only a bare handful of them are even defined as wealthy! It’s the fact that the successful non-monogamists have at least a few pennies to rub together, and that releases them from the daily fears of what “what will I do tomorrow when the money runs out?” and “I’m worthless because I have nothing but debt to show for my adult years.”
Again, it’s not about financial success, it’s about financial stability. This facet of the individual who has a positive net worth also connects to the few successful monogamous relationships I can count in my history of inquiring of the masses, but it’s ever more obvious in non-monogamy.
If I detail the successful features of a non-monogamist’s life, it boils down to:
- They’re free to travel for work for long periods of time, going where they want to go, not where they need to go,
- If the weather at “home” isn’t making them happy, they can hop a plane and go somewhere warmer/colder/more comfortable,
- If a short-term opportunity for fun, sex, work or education arises, they can jump without having to ask permission of a boss, mother, lover or roommate,
- They aren’t welded to a mortgage or spouse that they need to maintain constant contact with.
What do these 4 things have in common, 100%? Money. Or, more accurately, not fearing poverty.
Of course, there are plenty of successful non-monogamous relationships out there that I have no experience with — I’d love to hear about them, but because non-monogamy is anathema to most of the population of the world, they’re not advertised, and usually are kept hidden. I have hundreds of non-monogamist friends, though, many who are just as frustrated as my single or involved monogamous friends — they’re unhappy regarding what they don’t have, or what they do have, or what they could have, or what they once had. My wealthy friends aren’t guaranteed successful relationships, either, nor are my middle class friends who aren’t indebted for decades ahead. Money does not equal happiness, it’s just a common thread of successful non-monogamists I know.
What’s the direction I see ahead, for when friends ask me what they should do to find happiness in non-monogamy? My answer: focus on financial stability first, then see what doors open to you. Don’t be looking for the perfect non-monogamous relationship in the town you’re in, because chances are you won’t find too many individuals in the tiny circle of options. You might find a few promiscuous short-term lovers, or you might get involved with a couple of attention whores or trophy collectors who will discard you quickly, but your chances of finding a long term and fulfill non-monogamous relationship within 10 miles of your home address are slim-to-none.
On the other hand, when you’re financially stable and open your options up to the world market, your chances of finding happiness are… not much higher. But the reality is, once you have that financial stability, you’ll quickly discover that you won’t be focusing on what you don’t have, and instead focus on what’s next on your plate to consume, be it love, entertainment, education or income.
And that, my reader, is what the successful “poly” relationship is about for the rare few of us who belong to group #5, the unrootable: we’re interested in successful relationships, not specific ones. Relationships can be work, friends, family, lovers, any combination of the 4 (hopefully not family-lovers, of course, but I won’t judge!). Successful relationships come from two or more individuals who can handle the needs of others and get their own needs met by those others. When you’re broke or improverished, you’re not completely able to fulfill even your own needs well, and the stresses of that can lead to insecurity, instability, inaction and even laziness in which relationships you choose to create and maintain.
To recap — I don’t believe money buys happiness or love. I don’t believe that you can’t have love if you don’t have money. I don’t think having money means you’re wealthy, or that having wealth means you have accessible money. All I am covering in this diatribe is that the most successful non-monogamists I know have one thing in common: the financial capability to switch their locales, meet new people, and connect with like-minded individuals who also share that common thread of real personal options.
It’s not about love or sex or community, it’s about the amazingly rare chance of two self-sufficient and happy people who happen to cross each others’ paths. In the end, it’s no better than any other relationship style, it’s just the ones that I connect with in the most consistent and understanding way.
Will it work for you? Only you can decide that, after looking at what makes you happiest the most, what makes you saddest, and what you feel you need from others and can fulfill in others. I can say this much: if you practice non-monogamy and haven’t been fulfilled by your love life, and you’re unfulfilled financially now and in the near and far future, it isn’t love or sex that you’re after or need. The answer to your unhappiness may be more involved in your personal financial stability, which is causing you to not come across other individuals who likely can bring happiness to your life.
Take a break from dating locally, and focus on opening your travel horizons.