It has been often said, in emulation of the Fight Club rules:
The first rule of poly is communication.
The second rule of poly is communication.
It is a tendency among some who prefer non-monogamy to see it as a higher evolved relationship form. I could easily digress at this point into several paragraphs about how this can end up being harmful and problematic when one doesn't live up to the ideals one thinks one should. However that is not the point here.
It comes back to that first rule. A more accurate way to put it is The first rule of a successful *ship is communication. I personally think it's communication and healthy privacy/respect. Which is another digression on which I could ramble for paragraphs.
The other side of this is those who dismiss the idea of polyamory specifically (while not always dismissing non-monogamy, oddly), firstly due to social stigma, and secondly due to anecdotal evidence. I myself have removed poly/polyamory as a self identifying label in part due to said stigma. I really prefer responsible non-monogamy; so for brevity let's put poly, swinging, open relationships, et cetera under that label for this ramble and shorten it to RNM, shall we? Yes, okay.
All *ships are complicated, each addition of something adds more complexity and more potential problems. Starting with the base of friendship. This underlying *ship can be complicated and sometimes rocky as it is, though we must accept it is the simplest of the *ships. Think of everything that can cause strife in a friendship, add sexual activity of any level to that causing it to evolve into relationship. I would posit that this doesn't just add a few more possibilities for strife, but at least doubles it. Then add any or all or anything in between of the following toppings:
And this is to seriously simply name a few and not even get into the possible sexual toppings on your *ship sundae.
For lack of a better term, each of these things are complications. I am struggling to find a word that means the same but without negative connotations, alas it eludes me. So for the duration of this let's assume there are no negative connotations to this word, as I do not mean any implicitly.
Each complication comes with another whole set of benefits and potential pitfalls. Let's take a reasonably neutral one like kids. Kids are a life complication. Things as simple as driving a car now come with specific seats for the small ones until they're of a certain size to not be dangerously harmed by air bags. Even though there are public toilets everywhere, these miniature people cannot use them for quite some time and this requires supplies to be brought along. They also don't always eat at convenient intervals so those supplies need to be brought along as well. They add numerous complications to your life that did not exist before. And doubtless a great number of parents would agree that these are absolutely acceptable, and sometimes enjoyable, complications given the benefits that also come with it all.
To get back to the topic of effects of complications on *ships, they also add a whole extra set of things that can cause strife. Please do not read this to mean that kids themselves are to blame for any damaging or ending of their parents' *ship. However, now extrapolate this to any other *ship topping on the list or not mentioned here or yet.
Therefore there are many more things that can go "wrong" in a ship when has the added topping of more than two people. Or even if it still only contains the original two with temporary, or semi-permanent other individuals involved on any number of levels.
Which brings us back to the idea that RNM is inherently either a better relationship form due to ostensibly more communication and honesty, or that RNM is clearly flawed and doomed to failure due to the exponentially larger amount of possible issues that can arise.
And now we digress our way around to the point. When I was young, dumb and full of .. bad ideas and overwhelming idealism, I was admittedly one of the RHM is OBVIOUSLY BETTER FOR MOST PEOPLE! And while I abandoned this nonsense at least a decade ago, some vestiges of it remain. I've come to realise, however, that it's become drastically simplified to *ships with healthy communication and healthy boundaries/privacy/preservation of individuality are BETTER FOR EVERYONE. This then encompasses every.single.bloody.permutation of *ships and does not posit any particular form as superior or inferior.
This is a result of a several months' long background brain noise ponder. In which I have been noticing *ships that I would not unnecessarily participate in myself still having a lot in common with my own personal code of ethics. Which led me face to face with the fact that they have absolutely nothing to do with RNM, but rather simply contain the same behaviours which make any form of RHM successful.
This just simply scales. A friendship is going to be better if you consciously employ good communication, respect of boundaries, honesty, reasonable privacy, and a general willingness to confront any issues rationally and calmly. Though sometimes some of us who strive to practice this (pointing the finger of blame at myself) will still explode into a dramaball prior to said rational, calm discussion, it's still eventually arrived at, or at least noted to attempt to improve upon later.
We're divorcing societal impact entirely from this, simply because that's again more paragraphs, and there's no real conclusion or point; it's a separate thing, it informs every aspect of our lives and is either something in which we find a comfortable niche or just constantly learn to live with/around. Additionally the idea that a specific form of societally acceptable *ship is better on the macro level for society as a whole is irrelevant to having productive, happy, and healthy individual relations with other persons. I don't believe that there's a natural progression of healthy relationship to RNM, because that circles us back to holding RNM up as an ideal. When it comes down to it we only have a *ship with one other person at a time, even if they may end up happening concurrently, each is a separate process. Much like computers don't actually multitask. AND I'M ALREADY DIGRESSING EVEN FURTHER, moving on.
In conclusion, and in another HUGE SIMPLIFCATION, the *ship configuration or lack thereof doesn't enter into this. There's no secret formula about one configuration that makes it more or less successful than another, any and every *ship is improved by even the attempt at better communication and respect.
And lastly, to mitigate this potentially sounding like I've achieved the nirvana of *ships, which those of you who know me personally know is patently untrue (see aforementioned dramaball), it's a process. Nobody's going to be a good communicator all the time. We're all inherently selfish, we're all the center of our own universe, everything really is about ME/YOU. Just that the attempt and the process is goddamn worth it.
If it feels good and hurts no-one, do it.
Be excellent to each other.
Don't be an asshole.