One of the biggest potential issues in polyamory is figuring out how to handle holidays, and it's one of the most frequent questions I get from curious folk. Who do you spend your birthday with? Whose family do you visit for Christmas? And seriously, what about Valentine's Day?!
Personally, the only holidays I care about — aside from anniversaries and birthdays — are New Year's and Halloween. Despite this, Thanksgiving and Christmas are often a mad rush of getting to three to five different households, between divorced/separated parents and multiple partners. But Valentine's Day? My girlfriend and I have been together for over eight years and the topic never even came up until I was writing this article. And of course, for poly folk with primary or nesting partners, they often spend V-Day together. But there's a lot of other ways poly folk celebrate the day. Here's how some of my non-mono friends, partners, metamours (your partner's partner), and community members celebrate Valentine's Day, from making a whole week of it to having a social event.
1. Split The Day
The most obvious option is to split the day amongst partners. You could wake up and have breakfast with your bae, and spend the evening/dinner/overnight with a different sweetie. Toss in a midday phone call to a long-distance datefriend, and you have (one of) my partner's schedule for the day.
2. Make A Whole Week Of It
Folks who do enjoy the holiday — or at least find it a good excuse to do a little something extra — will often make a week of it and observe the holiday on different days with different partners. One friend in the community plans special dates with their partners throughout the week, noting that the actual day is not too important but that it's nice to do something a little extra that week.
3. Have A Social Event
One of my friends takes his partners out to an early lunch or dinner — but the night of is reserved for a screening of Casablanca, with the invite open to all his partners, metamours, and friends. Another friend plans a night of dancing with lots of folk. Added bonus? Your single friends can join so they're not stuck at home with TV and chocolate (unless they want to be).
4. Plan Dates For Your Partner & Their Other Partner
In one polycule in my community, my friend Teresa helps her metamour plan a date for her husband and his girlfriend.
"I've pretty much always just ignored it as it annoyed me that there was a commercial holiday where you are required to say 'I love you. ... However... I have had fun the past year or two planning dates for my partner and his girlfriend," Teresa tells Bustle. "Since they like celebrating it I think it's fun to make sure they have a good time."
According to Jana, the metamour's live-in partner and Teresa's husband's girlfriend, "Our primary partners sent us on a romantic scavenger hunt date of their own design," she tells Bustle. "They had engaged a variety of merchants to give us clues and free stuff. It was the most awesome and generous thing primary partners could do for a secondary relationship. Epic, I tell you." D'awwww.
5. Use It As An Excuse To Give Excess Presents
My girlfriend, Savvie, doesn't really care about the particular day: "I feel like when there are important dates to celebrate, and my partners want to make plans, we can work out whatever we like," she tells Bustle. "Celebrating anything on specific days doesn't really matter to me. Making time to see my partners does."
But she DOES love giving presents, and finds V-Day to be a great excuse. Lucky me! (To be fair...I also belong in this category when I do "celebrate" it.)
6. Make It Special For The Partner Who DOES Care
Some people — yes, even poly people — DO care about V-Day. It may be rare, but it happens. In that case, many of us — even those who straight up loathe the holiday — will do what we can to make sure our partner has a lovely night. As Snow, tells Bustle, "In general I cue off of the preferences of my partners, as the day isn't of any special intrinsic value to me beyond just being an excuse to eat a little better and maybe cuddle a little more than usual...In the past I've had partners who cared more than me and it was a matter of meeting those needs and usually logistics dictated which partner I saw on the day itself."
7. Let People Know You Care
And not just romantic partners. A number of poly folk I know mentioned taking the day to remind their platonic loved ones and support system how important they are.
After all, Valentine's doesn't have to be just about romantic connections — it can be about all the loved ones in your life.
Images: Ashley Batz for Bustle