How do I navigate mixed class relationships within a non-monogamous framework?
A few weeks ago I made a post on Facebook asking my communities to weigh in on the challenges inherent in maintaining multiple sexual and romantic relationships while on a fixed income. Whether we want to admit it or not, the very ability to practice non-monogamy is a privilege, significantly impacted by socio-economic class.
Although I've frequently felt the consequences of stretching my limited budget to accommodate dates I couldn't really afford on numerous occasions, the issue hit even closer to home when I overheard my partner lamenting about wanting to go on a Tinder date. Said partner is transgender, poor, and navigates multiple chronic pain and mental health issues on the daily. He also recently went "back on the market", but has felt hopeless when it comes to following up with interested parties due to a fear of his date(s) harboring unrealistic time, ability, and financial expectations. Watching his face crumble when I ask whether or not he's going to "ask that cutie out for lunch" has become impossible for me to witness, and thus I started a dialogue within my communities to:
- Source a diverse array of personal experiences with this issue,
- Discuss how and why non-monogamy benefits from wealth,
- Identify the sacrifices that non-monogamous people make in order to onboard new partners and maintain consistent relationships,
- Acknowledge the impact of capitalism on HOW we date, taking care to include specifications for marginalized communities and how capitalism tells them they're unworthy of relationships,
- Discuss how we can move away from capitalist relationship models where funds hold the most perceived value,
- Come up with non-monogamous dating "hacks" that are accessible to marginalized communities and work towards re-balancing the system,
- Discuss alternative definitions of "value" that one can bring to a relationship, and how non-monogamous "families" can use creative divisions of labor based on what each individual uniquely brings to the table to create and sustain value,
- & more.
The response I got was overwhelming. So overwhelming, in fact, that I'm presently utilizing all of the incredible feedback I received to put together a course on this very issue. On Tuesday March 6th, 2018 from 5-7pm PT I will be debuting my new LIVE webinar on Non-Monogamy & Socio-Economic Class via O.School, and you're ALL invited! Graphics with more information about said webinar are located at the bottom of this post.
I wanted to spend the rest of the time today sharing - anonymously - some of the testimonials I received from the aforementioned Facebook post.
Being in an LDR (Long Distance Relationship) where neither person has the ability to travel is hell. I hate when people with more money give advice on LDRs because it almost inevitably involves wealth and resources many folks don't have.
I struggle with LDRs in a hierachial poly framework. I’ve had people tell me that it’s possible to get a non-spouse the legal rights as your spouse, but that requires paying for lawyers. Being out at work requires having lots of job security. And as someone who has always been a secondary who couldn’t move in with the person I'm dating, it means oh ya know I’m probably gonna pay more rent for the foreseeable future if I don’t develop the bandwidth to find another single primary. The option of splitting living costs didn’t apply to me...I remember seeing someone who couldn’t even buy themselves food and I was broke also but I always made sure we would both eat. It also feels shitty to the person who is financially unstable; you feel crappy relying on your partner to eat. I’ve been there and it's definitely fucked with my self esteem and my projection of self worth in the relationship.
My social circle and I as homeless / precariously housed queer punks / young adults were all non monogamous—— I think it depends on what community you are in and what kinda of non monogamy you are talking about regarding if there is a class component. There are so many free events and things to do - even now that I have much more access to money I often go on free dates and outings . Libraries, Parks, making or viewing art, movies at home, walking, scavenger hunts, so many great events are free
I think part of what makes it work is having other shared interests and community that give us a free platform to get to know each other, at shows and events and such, so then when you ask someone out you're asking out someone who's already a friend or at least a warm acquaintance. I think the expectations there are very different than asking a stranger out on a date.
I'm very resourceful. I can get food with my EBT card (food stamps) and prepare or cook food. We can picnic, hike, go to the beach. I'm good at finding free events or getting in free. My EBT card gets me in free to museums and most have free days. I hear what you're saying though. I just don't date in that world. I'm poor and happy and I know how to have cheap fun dates with any of my loves. Plus sex, play, and cuddles are free!
The hacks I've come up with work those back end of current connections, resources, networking, insider/industry hookups. One partner might have a ton of frequent flyer points to offer, while another tends bar at a comedy club and can get free passes, while another is a body worker and can offer discounted massage labor, etc etc. I'm proud and like to use the info/gains one partner has to add value to another partners.
Hmmmm most of my partners have been black or Indian (and polyamorous). That's probably more a reflection of my social justice values and my discernment in choosing partners with awareness of social location/privilege. When I moved to the bay I noticed much more racial segregation and a more recreational sexuality community which aligns more with what you are describing. For me hacking the system looks like remembering who we are, who we came from, healing oppression, and creating relationships that nourish our purpose so we can contribute to make a society that aligns with our values.
Personally, mental illness has made me feel less deserving/able to seek out new partners. Not having money has exacerbated that, and then extreme cold (or heat) causes me physical issues that make it challenging to get out of the house. I’m lucky in that ______ is much better off and able to provide support when needed, or just treat me to dinner/brunch when we’re together. I also have a lot of guilt over that, and miss when I could contribute more.I acknowledge that I have need to pursue additional relationships, but personally I feel stuck due to lack of resources and am not sure how to reconcile that.
I don't know about swinging, which doesn't have an investment of time and resources, but polyamory strikes me as its diametric opposite. The bigger the polycule, the more help you are likely to be able to access in an increasingly mobile and fragmented world. Even if no one in your polycule had much in the way of resources to speak of, you still have more hands to help with the labor of living -- chores, childcare, and so on. I was literally just telling a partner I would offer to clean her metamour's house (my metamour twice removed?). A polycule is a group of friends the likes of which many adults don't have access to after university, which brings disparate types of people together. That presents opportunities not only in terms of labor but also access and reach. We are so enriched by our partners and metamours.
My life is so busy, I don't have time or money for people who don't have something to barter/some role to play in my life. I think that was much of what eliminated the relationship with the woman I was seeing earlier this year. I had nothing significant that I felt I could provide her, and she offered little of value that would fit in my life. I wanted to find some place for that relationship... But I'm just too busy and my life too precariously balanced to make time for anything that does not simultaneously fulfill my survival needs.