longevity isn’t always the goal


why there are— probably— less 50+ year relationships polyamorous relationships than monogamous

Someone- I once heard- claimed that no polyamorous relationship lasted fifty years.  Someone else retorted that was ridiculous.  I instinctively agreed with the latter. What statistics exist to definitively disprove the concept of a fifty year polyamorous relationship?

If any statistics on this matter exist, I am not aware of them. But I’ll just make a wild guess that there are quantifiably, and relatively, fewer long lasting polyamorous relationships.  Not only because there are simply more monogamous relationships in the world, but, percentage wise, I’d guess I could find a higher number of “long term” (defined here as 50+ years) monogamous relationships.

It made sense, on a purely cerebral/waving my finger in the air sort of way. Because, you see, there’s something every monogamous couple I’ve ever known has cared about…


Ooooh, congratulations!  Been married for a year?  You now get everyone’s full blessing and permission to announce them on an annual basis— and God help you if you don’t celebrate lavishly or creatively!  

It’s the first question you get asked as a couple, “How long have you been together?”  (And nobody dares say, “But I know the last few years of your marriage weren’t happy…”) And I cannot remember the last Facebook anniversary announcement that didn’t get a flurry of well wishes (and a passive bragging about their own marital statistics).

And it simply isn’t that way in polyamorous relationships.

Please, wait. Of course polyamorous folk celebrate anniversaries. Yes, I get asked how many years I’ve been with my partners. Same goes for unmarried couples. 

But you can’t marry two people, can you? And a lot fewer people care about anniversaries between unmarried folk.

Even if I celebrated romantic anniversaries, most people in my life wouldn’t recognize them as real (yes, you lovely people in my communities would, but I mean the majority of my vanilla world). And once you stop caring about one anniversary…suddenly you start wondering what the heck you’re measuring anyway?

It’s fairly easy to ask myself, when I’m in relationships where marriage just isn’t a part of the equation, “Why bother?”

“Why bother with an anniversary celebration?” As with much of life- when you actually ask yourself the question- it’s an option to say, “I don’t think I will, as a matter of fact.” And poly folk tend to love asking themselves questions like this. Sorry, it’s practically a bad habit!

Besides, in order to celebrate an anniversary, you need to have a start date. Where do you start when you don’t have a wedding date? From the first text? The first “date”? (God knows that can be complicated to determine.) For example, M counts our years together starting from the day we met, but many people would say it started about three or four years later when we became “official.”

I’d rather the time be quality than quantity. 

If the relationship is still good, fifty years down the line, wonderful! If it isn’t, well, every relationship has an ending (even if it is till death do you part). Because the last thing I want is to stay in a relationship, just to get a flurry of social media congratulations for my “accomplishment.” 

I’ve known too many of those who pretend to be happy on social media and bolster it with fake platitudes towards others in equally unhappy marriages. I no longer feel happy for someone who made it X number of years, unless I know, personally, that they are in happy marriages. Otherwise, it’s merely a number.

I think more and more of us are starting to realize this; it may turn out, in fact, that relationships in general don’t always last as long as they used to, and it has nothing to do with poly or mono relationships at all. It’s a thought.

It’s okay to break up.

I feel like I can’t say this enough, having had an endless parade of relationship advice posts starting off with, “I have this problem, and I’d like some help. But I just wanted to let you know that breaking up is NOT an option I’ll consider.”

It’s not a sign of failure.  It’s not a personal weakness.  Sure, maybe you have a “problem with commitment.”  Or maybe you actually have a “problem with committing to assholes.”  I’m not sure the latter is a real problem.

So many of my vanilla friends who struggled to leave an unfulfilling, or even abusive, relationship, because the idea of starting back at “zero,” was scary to them.  Because to them a successful relationship or marriage doesn’t end. After all, it isn’t called a “successful divorce,” but a “failed marriage.” But who says a marriage is successful based on number of years together?

Except, you know, most of society. But that is the past, and what should we care about in the future?

At the end of the day, who cares about what “they” say?

Polyamorous folk constantly get told how their relationships will inevitably fall apart. And sometimes it’s true. A lot of poly relationships don’t work. Because we– very, very often– won’t put up with neglectful, abusive, or stagnating relationships. When you have someone amazing, loving, and supportive– are you really going to put that much time and effort into someone who belittles and insults you every day? Or are you going to move on?

Very few of my polyamorous (and otherwise ENM) friends will stay in abusive, or even neglectful or unpleasant relationships, because there is very little pressure to stay.

…I will say that it is a tad easier to leave when it doesn’t mean having to face an empty bed at night*. But you needn’t be polyamorous in order to leave an abusive relationship. Perhaps you can rely on a strong network of friends and family. Which does mean building that network, of course.

By the way, none of this accounts for the fact that many polyamorous folk are solopoly.

More and more of my friends are turning to “solopoly” relationships, which means they don’t desire any primary relationships. Structurally, they are less inclined to be in “long term” committed relationships…although they are happy when they DO last a long time. 

But they are specifically disinterested in many of the things that help make a relationship long lasting, as a goal. They don’t want to share finances, live together, or have a the same kind of shared life goal that brings them together each day.

Instead, they invest in themselves and their own lives, such as my friend who has built a life for herself where she has her own place, her own finances, and travels to other countries on a near weekly basis (but, yes, it’s meant that most of her romantic relationships haven’t lasted very long, because she’s just not in one place long enough to build one.) But she’s happy.

…maybe it will be different one day.

And maybe it will be better. When the goal is to stay together forever, sometimes other, essential, details get lost by the wayside.

If the goal is to only have chocolate in your bakery, you probably have lots of chocolate desserts. But that doesn’t take into account your skills. Maybe you aren’t very good with chocolate. Nobody likes your confections. And your bakery fails. But if you’d only just tried to have the most delicious baked goods, you’d realize you have the most surprising talent with apples.

When you’re seeking happiness, compatibility, and mutual life goals, first and foremost– instead of a relationship that doesn’t unravel for X number of years– you might find yourself leaving many relationships far earlier than you’d intended.

But maybe, just maybe, you might find yourself sitting one day with a partner you can’t imagine leaving, fifty years later.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll find that going after a life where longevity isn’t the goal and anniversaries aren’t craved means that we’ll actually be in longer lasting relationships than ever before. Where it’s unusual for a marriage to not last till death do us part. As opposed to today where nobody really seems to believe any relationship will last forever…even though we cling to that ideal.

Still, just remember, for now:

Longevity it isn’t the goal. The goal is quality longevity. And sometimes, merely quality.


*I mean this as an expression, only. Substitute in your mind for something similar, if that doesn’t fit you, that illustrates what it means for you to be in that long term, committed relationship and something you’d miss if you left, even if the person wasn’t at all good for you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top