The holidays are upon us and, for many, it’s a joyful time spent with loved ones. But when you have a polycule full of loved ones, scheduling and logistics can admittedly dampen the festive spirit. On a normal day, non-monogamous scheduling can feel like a headache but the holidays have a special way of increasing the stakes. I’ve been talking to many folks during peer support sessions who feel deprioritized because they didn’t receive invitations to certain events. Others feel nervous about opening a conversation with their pals about inviting metas into shared spaces. I feel fortunate that this holiday I personally don’t have to deal with these uncomfortable logistical conundrums but I certainly have in the past. I consulted with my polyam friends and we came up with a few tips to help you navigate the holidays more easily.
1. Time is finite, sort of!
One of the biggest mistakes polyam folks make is slipping into scarcity mindsets. When you view resources as limited, it pushes you into competitive tendencies to secure your share. Obviously, some resources are limited. But when it comes to time, we often exaggerate the constrictions. Sure, there’s only one New Year’s Eve. But there are plenty of weekends in the year to celebrate! When we only focus on the day or time that we can’t have, we miss all of the other opportunities to connect with the people we love. One of the frequent pieces of advice I give clients is to “stretch the timeline”, meaning that instead of focusing on a single day or week, zoom out to look at the entire month or even year to allocate and distribute resources. You might not be able to connect on Christmas Day, but maybe the following Thursday is free! Along these lines, it’s also a good idea to plan out how you’ll spend the holidays well in advance. Many people don’t like being alone, so if you’re able to give everyone plenty of heads up, it makes it easier to come up with plans that meet everyone’s needs.
2. Offer alternatives rather than “no”
Most of us don’t like being rejected. It can be hurtful when the person we love chooses to spend a day or event with someone else. Similarly, it can feel difficult to tell one pal that we won’t be able to see them on a certain day because we have other plans. I love to offer alternatives rather than rejections. If I can’t make it to a family event with one pal, I try to schedule another opportunity to connect. I give my pals concrete days when I am available and come prepared with multiple alternative solutions that are exciting for both of us. This doesn’t immediately resolve the feelings of disappointment that my pals might experience, but it does show care and a willingness to find solutions.
3. Establish new traditions
One of the best tips that my polyam friends and I agree on is that it’s important to establish alternative traditions. Folks who practice ethical non-monogamy are already living alternative lifestyles. They reject (to varying degrees) traditional relationship norms. It’s useful to bring that same non-conformist attitude to the holidays. If all of our pals insist on celebrating the exact same holidays in the exact same conventional ways, we will struggle to successfully allocate time for everyone. However, if we bring a creative attitude to the holidays, find alternatives that are exciting, honor our values, and don’t overlap with the plans we have with other pals, then we’re on our way to having a fa-la-la good time! If you think about it, this really isn’t as radical as we might think, especially for folks who grew up with divorced parents. Most of us are able to be thoughtful and intentional about creating rituals that honor the people we love.
4. Avoid keeping score
Keeping score is only going to cause chaos. I recently spoke to a woman whose boyfriend had spent her birthday with his other pal. She was adamant that he should therefore spend the meta’s birthday with her! This kind of retaliatory scheduling often leads to metamour fights. It makes sense that we feel hurt or jealous when our pal spends a significant event with a meta but remember that trying to punish other people doesn’t build trust or respect. If you feel like there’s an event that’s specifically important to you, communicate that clearly with your pals. Similarly, if a meta has an event that’s really important to them, but you feel indifferent or less strongly, being gracious can go a long way. While it’s best not to keep score, making accommodations for metas can create an atmosphere where everyone works together on planning equitable scheduling rather than fighting each other for shreds of time and attention.
5. Deepen meta relations
The biggest change in my non-monogamous journey has been the way I view metas. In the beginning, my insecurity was too high to see that my metas were, for the most part, putting in the effort to be respectful. I was so scared they would take away my pals that I didn’t recognize all the times they were asking our hinge partner if things were okay with me. I assumed they were the villain when actually my inability to see them as kind humans was the source of our problems. I’ve noticed that I am not unique in this regard – the tendency to project insecurities onto metas is a problem that many polyam newbies share. But the holidays are about sharing love, building memories, and celebrating all the positive things we have. Instead of fighting with our metas for limited resources, it might be a good opportunity to put aside any past hurt and give each other a chance to develop a closer (or, at a minimum, more respectful) relationship. If you’re constantly struggling to figure out logistics and scheduling, my best advice is to turn towards your polycule rather than pushing metas away.
The holidays can be full of joy or stress. Being polyamorous certainly adds a level of complexity when making plans. But our flexibility and ability to find creative solutions will ease a lot of tension. I hope that you can continue to increase your communication skill set this season. Happy holidays, and best of luck!