As I’ve said before, we tend to take for granted that love is the core of whether of a relationship lasts. The Beatles song is strong within our culture.
And it’s wrong. Entirely wrong.
There are so many factors that feed into compatibility of a relationship. At the risk of sounding like a dating site ad, it’s actually compatibility that determines the longevity of a relationship. There are already a lot of factors that go into relationship compatibility whether or not you are monogamous. These include:
Do you want a similar level of time commitment to the relationship?
Do you feel the same way about wanting kids?
Do you want to reach the same level on the Relationship Escalator?
Do you want the relationship to be based on romance, sexuality, deep friendship and sensuality, or a combination of some, and do they match?
Then, you add on being polyamorous, or otherwise non-monogamous, and it gets more complicated. Additional points of potential “deal breaking” conflict are:
Do you have words you will or won’t use for your non-monogamy? (for example, will you not call yourself part of a hierarchy, or a “secondary” partner, or a Relationship Anarchist, even if you and the potential partner agree on what the relationship would look like.)
Do you not enter certain “shapes” of relationship (like my personal bias against being in a triad, FOR ME)?
Do you both have time to meet the needs of the relationship? Do either of you have a “ceiling” that needs to be pre-negotiated on it?
If you’re going Off Escalator, do you have similar images of what that means? If not, are you willing to do extra work to meet what both of you think about it?
Do you both currently have bandwidth for the relationship you’re proposing taking on as well as the one you’re in?
What safer sex practices do you use? Your extended polycules? What risks and practices are you prepared to engage in and do they match those of this person and any people they may be connected by fluid bonds to?
How independent are each of you in decision making? How much “checking back in” for scheduling, for changes in plans, for follow ups, for kid-based activities needs to happen for each of you and is it a compatible amount?
How feasible is it with your current situations and in your home area to live together some day if you want?
Love makes the world go ‘round, and makes the work of evaluating any of this worth it at all. Compatibilities like this, however, are what make the actual relationships last. If I couldn’t tolerate that my partner also has kids and isn’t the time-keeper at his house so we’re working around two sets of schedules and any plan-making involves a check in on top of a calendar check, just to make sure; and if we didn’t both agree that we love each other in a hideously schmoopy forever and ever way so it’s worth me dealing with that and him dealing with me going “uh actually I can’t read a calendar can we repeat that with this other date right next to that,” we wouldn’t be compatible.
But we both have young kids; we have similar free time; we have similar safer sex practices; we have made the bandwidth; we’ve decided living together would make us nuts so we’re at the top of our escalator; we have friendly arguments about labels; and my issue with triads is for me, not for him, so we’re doing very well for more than four years, thanks. We also have all that “All you need is love,” though, to keep me from tweaking his beard off his face when he goes "Oh ok I'll check in about those dates," because a 40-year-old man who can't check his calendar makes me make the crazy eyes.