Be My Valentine(s)

Category: Advice

Author: Zane Henry

Chances are high that, if you’re in any kind of vaguely romantic relationship, the words, “So, what shall we do for Valentine’s Day?” have been uttered either by you or to you. How to celebrate one of the most commercially exploitative and emotionally bankrupt holidays is a universal conundrum.

Less universal is the question, “Which one of my partners shall I spend Valentine’s Day with?”

Disclaimer up top: I’m aware that what I’m about to write about, and many of the challenges faced by other ethically non-monogamous (ENM) folks, is stuff wrought by our own life choices. And while that doesn’t make any of it less valid, I acknowledge that it feels weird to ‘complain’ about having too many lovely people who want to spend time with me.

Also, let’s not get too into the weeds of poly jargon because I AM NOT HERE TO WATCH THE WORLD BURN, but a quick explainer might be helpful for context…

I identify as solo polyamorous with a generous lashing of relationship anarchy. Essentially, what that means for me is that I have multiple romantic and sexual partners who all know about each other but I don’t operate within any kind of hierarchy. None of my partners are more ‘important’ than each other – nobody is ‘primary’ and nobody is ‘secondary’ – and almost every decision affecting the relationship is arrived at through rigorous communication that takes into account the thoughts and feelings of everyone who stands to be affected. This doesn’t mean making decisions for other people; it means making decisions for myself, while taking into account how other people might feel about it.

That said, choosing how to spend important days can be a surprisingly fraught issue in certain configurations of ENM relationships. If all my partners are as equal, as I say, how do I decide who to spend Christmas with? Who do I kiss on New Year’s Eve? Who do I celebrate ‘International Day of Commemoration of the Day Beyonce Dropped Lemonade On an Unsuspecting and Adoring Public Day’? My birthday is four days after Valentine’s (SAY “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” TO ME!) – who do I spend the actual day with?

If all my partners are as equal, as I say, how do I decide who to spend Christmas with? Who do I kiss on New Year’s Eve?

The answer to all of this is pretty simple: to each according to their needs and wants.

Essentially, I have to speak to all of the lovely people in my life (including important platonic friendships as much as romantic relationships), find out what is important to them and work together on finding a solution that works for as many people as possible. Crucially, and it’s taken me way too long to realise this, me and my needs also need to be taken into account.

We, Myself and I

This has become the starting point for me; looking inside myself, figuring out what I most want to do on that particular day, and then having that information ready to be shared with partners when we discuss what they, in turn, want and need. I also need to keep reminding myself that I don’t owe any day to anyone. I’ve actually spent my birthday entirely on my own a couple of times, realising that I wanted to spend the day in important self-reflection (and watching the latest Avengers movie in the cinema, getting sneaky drunk on the beers I snuck in and not having to share my popcorn and not having to dispute the absolute fact that Captain America and Bucky defo did butt stuff together, like all the time, and probably made excellent use of that metal arm and indestructible shield).

But if, while talking through things with my partners, one or more of them expresses a strong attachment to the idea of spending Christmas or whatever with me, I can then take this into account when speaking to other partners about the same thing, and factor all of this into what I decide. Also, thankfully and crucially, the people I’m currently dating are incredibly kind and wonderful and share my level of care and concern for my other partners, and don’t want to deprive anyone of something that is important to them.

Mutually agreed compromise is the way and the light – whether that’s taking turns with certain days or spending it together as a group – making open and robust communication absolutely essential.

Not gonna lie, typing all this out makes me comprehend just how much work goes into it. It sounds exhausting, and sometimes it is, but it’s also wonderful and super fucking worth it.

I am very lucky to be blessed with multiple people in my life who want to spend important, valuable time with me, and if a little communication and careful scheduling is what I have to do to earn it, bring it on.

As the second sentence in this piece may indicate, I don’t give much of a fuck about Valentine’s Day, and thankfully, neither do any of my partners. Fuck that steaming pile of crass capitalist offal! But, happy holidays to all the rest of you who celebrate!

Podcast Transcript: