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How do you handle having multiple partners during holidays?

Feb 8, 2023

How do you handle holidays like Valentine’s Day while having multiple partners? 

So I think that there are a lot of different ways to handle a situation where there is a certain amount of either real or perceived scarcity, and a number of people who want access to whatever that resource is. So this could be your birthday, right?

So if you have three different partners and each of them want individual time with you on your birthday, that may not be possible to do. 

And so part of what I encourage folks to do before even talking about specific ways to handle that holiday is to have that conversations with each of the people in your life who are important to you about how they feel about holidays, which holidays in particular they feel most strongly about, is it important that your celebration for that holiday happens on the holiday itself or is there flexibility.

There a lot of different ways to look at it. 

I am not someone who cares a ton about Valentine’s Day necessarily.

In fact, for several years, my Valentine’s tradition was going out to a Brazilian steakhouse with my culinary and hedonism sweetie because like neither of us want to feel the pressure of like romance on Valentine’s Day, but we love eating great food and we could bring a great bottle of wine and pay a cheap corkage and have a phenomenal meal.

So that was what we did.

He didn’t ever really spend it with his romantic partner and I didn’t really want to spend it with any of my folks so it worked out very well for us. 

There are going to be some people in your world who care very much about spending time on that specific holiday with people who are important to them.

There are going to be some people who don’t.

As much as possible, getting ideas from people first about like how important it is to get that specific holiday can be a very helpful for negotiating these kind of there’s only one Valentine’s Day, you can only have one dinner on Valentine’s Day unless your body works very differently from mine at least.

So check in about who cares about it being that specific day versus OK with like the weekend before or the weekend after or some other kind of like timeframe for it to happen. 

Then also check in with yourself about like do you want to do the Valentine’s Day thing?

The thing about Valentine’s Day and a lot of restaurants is that it’s a great idea but it often ends up being a not great time because there’s a lot of pressure.

A lot of restaurants are charging higher prices.

They are very, very busy.

It can be just really tough navigating Valentine’s Day in general. 

And so if you are someone who does not want to do a dinner on Valentine’s Day, it is OK if that is how you are and you can let your partners know like that’s not a thing for you.

You would be happy to give them a card.

You would be happy to like get an ice cream another day but like Valentine’s Day, you rather just not deal with it. 

If you do want to do Valentine’s Day and you have partners who want to do Valentine’s Day, I think that as with anything, this is a process of figuring out like what is it that you want, what would feel really good for you, what are the impacts on other people of different choices you can make about whether you spend the time with them or not and how do you want to balance the things that are the right fit for you with the way that they will impact other people. 

If there is someone in your life to whom Valentine’s Day is very, very, very important but you don’t really want to spend Valentine’s Day with them, it’s OK for you to decide that that’s not a good fit for you and to let them know that, and they might be very upset about that. 

The thing about Valentine’s Day is that for a lot of us in nonmonogamy communities, it’s something that is much more cisnormative, heteronormative, mononormative than we tend to jive.

And so like if that’s not your jam, you get to say that’s not your jam. 

If you love Valentine’s Day and you have multiple partners you want to spend it with, you can always check in with them and see if they are OK with it being a group time on Valentine’s rather than it being like a one-on-one time. 

I know of some folks who do like polycule night on Valentine’s Day so that everybody gets to be there with the people that they care about.

And if you have the kind of polycule that works in that kind of like kitchen table or birthday party or family style polyamory then that’s a great way to handle it. 

And like realistically, if you have multiple partners who all want to be with you on Valentine’s Day and they all want the time alone, somebody is not going to what they want.

And I think where people run into a lot of problems around this is when they are trying like super hard to navigate everybody’s different wants and needs and not necessarily tuning into like their own wants and needs. 

And as a result, they’re kind of pussyfoot around and try not to like hurt anybody’s feelings and not give definitive comments, and that ends up hurting a lot of people more than if you just sit down and say like, “Hey, I know that you would really love to spend time on Valentine’s Day together, this year, I’m going to be spending time on Valentine’s Day with this person instead of alone. What I would love to talk with you about is like is there another way that we can help you feel loved and cared for that does not involve spending the time together on this day? Like could we do a really nice dinner the following Saturday? Could we do a fun getaways a few weeks after?” 

Finding a way to help that person feel seen and cared for, validating that it’s disappointing that they are not getting what they wanted while being upfront and honest about the fact that you have made a choice.

This is the choice that you are making.

You want to figure out how to make it work for everybody and you are not going to be giving this person what they want. 

Again, I think that in the spirit of trying to not hurt people, sometimes we end up hurting people way more by talking around things, trying not to give them the news that they are not going to want, and that just makes it worse.

So make these decisions as much as you can with plenty of forenotice so that people could find other plans if they want to. 

One of the worse things in the world is being told like two days before Valentine’s that actually you are not going to have fun this year with this person.

So give people as much notice as you can, be as kind as you can, and be decisive.

I think again, we create a lot more suffering when we are sitting indecisiveness trying to people-please rather than being authentic about our own wants and needs. 

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