Be Ours. Be Mine, ya’ll. How does Valentine’s Day work for the poly community? The ‘poly’ community are those not in traditional dual / two-partner relationships. The anti-gay folks sometimes relent the slippery slope of gay marriage to multiple partners in a relationship. Poly folks have lubed up the slide from traditional marriage to multiple marriage. But unlike gay marriage, which is just straight marriage with no meaningful difference from straight marriage, multiple partner relationships have challenging complexity. For instance, Valentine’s Day is only one day. So if you’ve got two or three sweeties, how do you shower them both with affection on the special day? I talked with some folks in multiple relationships to find out.
First, let’s define our terms a bit. There are “open” relationships in which two people are committed to each other but not exclusive. So the two “primary” partners have other relationships which are somewhere between secondary and casual or even one-time visits. This is easy. The primaries could have a traditional Valentine’s Day with each other, or not. But a “poly” relationship means at least one partner has multiple “primaries” with the full range and depth of intimacy, romance, and mutual commitment. So in that situation, who gets the focus of the day or how is focus spread out?
A few members of PolyColumbus were nice enough to give their perspectives. Susan Porter and her poly family don’t have any special focus, and her husband travels so much, there is normally no conflict on actual Valentine’s Day if she wishes to celebrate.
This year my husband and I agreed– no celebration required. He’s out of town anyway. With my bf, we decided we didn’t need a special deadline to celebrate our love. We likely won’t see each other on the day either. We both are rather scheduled and it did seem to make any sense to take on the pressure of a day– an arbitrary day really. … In college, I was an undergraduate TA and I baked cookies for my class and I did it, because as much as I love romantic love, I think it would be nice to see Valentines as more of a day to encourage love and compassion and encourage the idea that everyday we are focused on spreading love and good. It really is a state of mind– wishing and hoping the best for everyone.
For Valentines Day and most major holidays, we typically try and do something all 3 of us together. If it is a holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas, we will often also have a bigger poly tribe dinner that includes all our other relationships and their partners and kids and whoever is available.
I can remember a time when my ex-husband and I first started into poly and he decided to spend time with his new girlfriend on Valentine’s Day instead of with me even though I had specifically requested that not happen as we were still very new to poly and still finding our way. I don’t think that’s a request I would make today, but at the time it was a boundary I needed. So that was definitely a source of conflict between us that year.
The third member explains something important. A strong relationship is not built on a certain set one-size-fits-all requirements but on agreements that fit each unique relationship. Relationships and their members develop at different rates and may require different protections. We can keep the romance in Valentine’s Day with any number of accommodations so long as promises are kept.
We can be sure conflicts arise occasionally, but at least from what I saw, the poly community doesn’t have much of an issue with Valentine’s Day. It stands to reason that multiple partners might be difficult to fit in on one special day, but that may just be one other misconception about the poly community we can set aside.