Polyamorous Valentine's Day
We talked about Thanksgiving and Christmas back in the fall, but for many polyam people, Valentine’s Day is equally fraught. If you’re someone who places importance on this day (or if there’s a mismatch in how important some members of your polycule feel it to be) you might find it challenging to manage this holiday with multiple partners. I was reminded of some of the challenges when my friend Amy asked me to contribute a “particularly polyamorous” Valentine experience for her guest post on Girl on the Net (a NSFW blog, fair warning) and have been thinking about it and having some conversation on the subject on Tiktok this week, since we’re a couple weeks out from this most celebrated of Hallmark holidays. I’m not a big Valentine’s person these days (I use it to teach my kids to celebrate all kinds of love, mostly, and maybe get cards for people I’m seeing) but over the years I’ve encountered lots of different strategies for managing multi-partner Valentine’s - let’s talk about some.
The first step, no matter what, as with so many things in polyamory, is to talk with your partners and check in about folks’ needs, wants and expectations for this holiday. Are some people into going all out with chocolate-covered-fruit and outings and gifts and big declarations attached? If you aren’t matched in your expectations, you may need to have a conversation and find a compromise position “lets go out and get very casual/consumable gifts like chocolates or wine or cut flowers” but “not expensive gifts and not high pressure,” and then define that for each other. If you have a clear match-up in expectations, you can move on to figuring out logistics.
There’s a potential bump in the road here - if you have a flexible hinge and spoke partners with wildly mismatched expectations, common sense would say just meet each person’s expectations and no problem. However, people being people (and comparison being the thief of joy) giving folks a heads up about differences in your plans and a chance to adjust accordingly can avoid potential bad feelings about these imbalances. Where, for example, in a vacuum, I just want a card and a phone call for this holiday, if I find out after the fact that my partner is going all-out-gift-and-an-experience-Big-Deal with all their other partners, I then need a lot of reassurance that this difference isn’t because of a lack of love or care in our relationship. Finding out ahead of time that those are their plan lets me either get my head on straight and focus on our connection outside a holiday I honestly think is pretty silly outside of cutting heart-shaped toast for my kids, or amend our plan up one level (maybe we’ll make a nice dinner together and open a bottle of wine we’ve been saving instead of just do cards at our date that week), and not Feel A Way about it.
Logistically, the standard polyam advice of not worrying that much about the Actual Day applies - and Valentine’s is a holiday that often people move dates or experiences to the weekend before or after, so splitting up time between a couple partners that way can be pretty easy. Trying to pile everyone into one day often leads to a tired, frazzled hinge, or a shared calendar that looks like abstract art as a few of you pile multiple things each onto the 14th. Starting in 2020 some folks online have marked the week leading up to Valentine’s as Polyamory Week, which can give you a convenient timeframe to spread dates out across. My only real logistical advice, since everyone’s schedules and energy levels are different, is to not try to force new kitchen table expectations on folks on a holiday that’s typically about romantic relationships. Nothing will sour your relationship with a meta faster than feeling like they took up the time you wanted for a holiday (even if it’s the hinge who pushed it - history tells us we often forgive the one we’re romantic with first and hang onto resentment for the person we aren’t).
When I lived in a nesting V, our solution to splitting Valentine’s time was to make the actual date of the holiday about our shared kids and doing fun things with them - crafts and cookies and the aforementioned heart shaped toast - and then each dyad having a not-the-14th date afternoon in the closest weekend. If the 14th was a weekend we’d do the Friday evening and the weekend afternoon. That way we wouldn’t need to get a sitter, we’d take turns staying with the kids, and the hinge would stay with them while the spoke partners had dates another day that week with partners external to the house. It worked for us.
My partner of just about 6 years and I chose our anniversary (yes, chose - we had milestone dates ranging between January and April so we had to pick a day) to be just a little while after Valentine’s and we both care a lot more about that, so we usually do a card and maybe chocolate if we feel ambitious and then do gifts and an outing for our anniversary. It simplifies both our lives to some extent - he can celebrate valentines with his nesting partners on whatever day they’re free, we can both do fun stuff with our kids that celebrates love that day, and as my new interests solidify into partnerships, I can make time for them in my week then too.
If you're looking for very specifically polyam Valentine's cards, including for metas, for plural loves, with infinity hearts, etc, the polyphiliablog shop has a bunch. I like this etsy store's options but especially this triad card. this shop has a bunch of cute comedy cards, and this shop has a good mix of polyam cards in with others.
Whatever you end up doing for the holiday, it’s a fun opportunity to show people you love them. I’m a fan of the low effort, here’s some memes and a phone call approach - but check in with your loved ones and make sure they don’t need more than that to feel appreciated, and have a good time with it.
Do you want to learn more about polyamorous structures and relationships? See the Events page for information on upcoming classes and 1-on-1 support sessions, or get my book here.