- The practice or condition of participating simultaneously in more than one serious romantic or sexual relationship with the knowledge and consent of all partners.
Or… Poly, for short.
I’m polyamorous. I have two husbands (neither legal, both spiritual) and a series of “smoochy friends,” “entanglements,” and “cuddle buddies.” I also have a child (not by birth, but through love). I have two apartments, two vehicles, and two (or more?) cats depending on how you want to count things.
***If polyamory is a new concept to you, I highly suggest binge reading the web comic, Kimchi Cuddles. I’m also open to answering questions about polyamory in the comments or via email.***
Some people think my life is complicated; some people are right. Some other people think my life involves a lot of stress and commitment juggling, and those people are right too.
The people who think my life is all orgies and orgasms have clearly not raised a four-and-three-quarter-year-old while keeping two homes in livable condition and maintaining one or more jobs. If they have, and still think that way, I’d really like their advice on how to make that a larger part of my reality.
This holiday season has been a doozy. I was really hoping to come out the other side of the Yuletide/Christmas season, with wonderful tips and tricks on how to navigate and negotiate your own poly holidays… Instead, I have some hard-earned ideas on what to possibly avoid… And bags under my eyes.
There’s been a lot of crying.
Allow me to introduce the cast of characters.
There’s me, of course. My first husband, Bryan. My second husband, Otter, and our little one, Munchkin. Otter has another partner, Solaris, and she has another partner, Luna.
A configuration of polyamorous folks who are connected to each other through relationships is often called a polycule or pod. My polycule held a very different shape this past Summer Solstice.
At that time, Luna and Bryan were partnered. Otter and I weren’t married yet. Solaris was a “smoochy friend” to all of us, and Luna and I were also more smoochy with each other. Munchkin hadn’t started calling me Mommy.
Over the summer, things changed. By autumn, certain dynamics were so strained, they snapped. Other relationships grew stronger, as energy shifted. Solaris and I found ourselves in the middle of things, more often than not; we still do.
Thanksgiving was a hurdle. As a secular holiday, it was pretty straight forward.
A helpful hint: “coming out,” to your blood relations about being poly or Pagan is best done not in conjunction with major holidays. Otter decided to come out to his family about being Pagan and having Solaris and I in his life about a week before Turkey Day. I even helped him write the coming out letter.
His parents, who are fundamentalist Christians, reacted more calmly than we had hoped for… His grandparents, who are more socially liberal, and who had embraced his older brother’s homosexuality without blinking… Were hurt and angry. They did not want Solaris and I to be part of their holiday meal.
The polycule rallied to spend the holiday together, despite tensions. Otter’s whole family (minus the grandparents) came over to the apartment he and I share after their time with the grandparents. Solaris was charming, making coffee for everyone. I made a point of telling Otter’s mom how important it was to me, to be with Munchkin at Christmas. It seemed, in Otter’s mom, I had an ally.
Sometimes, you just don’t read a situation correctly.
Grandma and Grandpa Otter didn’t come around. It was made incredibly clear how unwelcome I was for Christmas, despite my relationship to Otter and Munchkin. Mama Otter didn’t come to my aid, either. She sent Otter home with identical presents for Solaris and I; she left the name tags blank, citing that she didn’t know how to spell them, and inviting Otter to write on them for her.
The next morning, Mama and Papa Otter wanted to come by and take Munchkin to breakfast with them and Otter’s brothers. I was distinctly not invited, despite the fact that Munchkin was in my care that day. Munchkin was worn out from Christmas, and cranky; Otter had forgotten to leave me the carseat. I told this to Mama Otter, and invited her and her husband to come visit Munchkin at the apartment instead; they declined.
Later that evening, Mama Otter texted my husband, asking if he and Munchkin could come to dinner at the grandparent’s house, as they had not been able to spend time with Munchkin during the day. We told her no.
Bryan was feeling stressed and hurt about a number of losses he has experienced in the last year or so. He had lost two partners, a large chunk of his spiritual community, and a few friends. We also just moved house. He wanted Christmas, at least, to feel normal.
“Normal,” for Bryan and I, the past few years, has been taking a road trip to Michigan, to see my blood family. Traditionally, we see whatever Star Wars movie is out with my mom. My grandmother gives Bryan things like belts and socks. Bryan and I go drinking with my best friend, Kira, who shows us cool places in Detroit.
This year, because Munchkin is in my life, “normal,” wasn’t really possible.
Add in Pagan Land Yuletide commitments, and you can see how the holiday season became emotionally cluttered.
Our polycule (sometimes affectionately referred to as the Penta-cule), weathered the storm, and came out with some badass emotional processing skills.
When it came to navigating New Year’s Eve, things went much better.
I think there’s something about a crucible… That intense smoldering, that can temper a group of people… Hone them. Make them stronger, and more sure.
Having come out the other side, I suppose I do have a few quick “tips” to share, gleaned from these recent experiences:
- As stated earlier, if you are “coming out,” try not to do it with the pressure of a special event looming over you. Give your family three weeks to process what you are telling them. Take deep breaths. Let them ask questions. If at all possible, give them a relaxed opportunity to meet your partner/s on neutral ground, or else in your home.
(Bonus tip from Otter: choose your method based on who you are coming out to. Example: Grandparents don’t take emails very well.)
- Remember that not everyone has to be together at once. That there is a difference between leaving someone out and someone declining an invitation. Declining an invitation does not make you an asshole; going to an event that will make you uncomfortable, and letting your misery rub off on other people, does make you an asshole. Self-awareness is good.
- It is never too early to begin the discussion around each polycule member’s wants, needs, and expectations about spending time at the holidays. However, it can also be stressful to put these plans in stone too far ahead of time, especially when there are third-party factors to consider, such as family gatherings and social commitments. See if you can strike a balance. Try writing out the traditions that are important to you ahead of time, so that they don’t get missed in the process. Try to hone in on the feelings you are wanting to have with the people you love, and not get lost in the minutiae of individual tasks.
Anyway, I hope that helps. I would love to hear your own ideas and experiences in the comments!