Valentine's Day is stressful. And not just for heterosexual couples.
I'm a bisexual woman with a male partner who is supportive of my relationship with another woman. For me, figuring out what the hell to do for Valentine's Day makes multiple Klonopin sound more appealing than multiple orgasms.
Logistics aside, the annual holiday is a celebration of love, and in no context is this clearer than in polyamorous relationships that fully embody the inclusivity, generosity and and limitlessness of intimacy. Here are some of many lessons lovers in all types of relationships can learn from those in polyamorous ones.
Embrace the awkward PDA moments. This day is about you, not onlookers.
While some societal-induced awkward moments occur for poly families on Valentine's Day — like stares from fellow diners when four people join in a post-champagne toast kiss — rest assured they're not going home to obligatory missionary-style sex. As one would imagine, jealousy arises, but it's dealt with with acceptance and communication.
"It's not that things never get weird, or awkward, or communication issues never come up," Tilde, a 30-year-old queer polyamorous woman from San Francisco, told Mic. "When issues arise, I have developed the tools to deal with them pretty effectively. Cultivating a deep sense of personal security was helpful there." Not to mention those in poly relationships tend to report experiencing higher levels of sexual satisfaction than their non-poly peers.
"My partners (and their partners) comprise a distributed network of love and support," Tilde said. "My metamours (in poly parlance, my partners' partners) are amazing. There's a word, 'compersion,' for when your partner being with someone else brings you joy. To me, compersion feels like a cloud of glitter poofting all over my metamours and me." Our capacity for love is limitless and diverse.
Spice up your V-Day to-do list. A lot.
Sheila is a 37-year-old female member of the poly quad behind the app The Poly Life, a tool that facilitates planning polyamorous Valentine's Day dates. "You can send out to-do items for specific partners, like picking up flowers or making a dinner reservation," Sheila told Mic. "In my case, the to-do items are a little racier, like what sex acts I'd like to be done to me and vice versa."
Sheila has been with another woman in the quad, Amanda, for about two years, which is how she was introduced to the rest of the family, Eric and Jill. "I've been lovers with Eric and Jill for about 10 months," said Sheila. "Eric and I are great friends, like family, we just don't have a sexual connection. I think of my partners as lovers and I make time for all them. I identify as 'solo-poly' having deep relationships." Sheila and Amanda are considered Eric and Jill's "secondaries."
Valentine's Day is longer than 24 hours.
Some years, the stress of Valentine's Day has inspired Sheila to skip the holiday all together. "I spent one Valentine's Day alone without any of my partners because we couldn't agree on what to do." This year, Sheila is celebrating with Eric and Jill as a triad. "On lucky Friday the 13th, Jill and Eric are having their private date, to honor their primary relationship. Amanda and I are going to a strip club and buying each other lap dances!" said Sheila. "On Valentine's Day, the night of the 14th, I'll join Eric and Jill in their hotel suite for our Valentine's date. I love threesomes!"
But it's not all group sex and hotel suites. There is a real logistical hassle many poly people must tackle on the day of. Erikka Innes explains in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, "First of all, holidays for the polyamorous must get pretty expensive, if, for instance, Decker's buying three bouquets for V-Day is anything like a widespread practice. ... And second, as someone who can barely manage her sock drawer, I don't think I could handle the level of organization needed to maintain several relationships."
And without the organization, said another anonymous polyamorist, B, jealousy problems (the biggest obstacles in poly relationships) are more likely to arise: "I'm not sure I want to add day planner to the list of things I think of — candles, flowers, scented oils — when I imagine romance."
There's nothing traditional about Valentine's Day. For the poly community, as with monogamous relationships, Valentine's Day amplifies both the upsides and downsides to a nontraditional relationship when forced through the lens of a rather traditional holiday. It requires more organization than would dinner for two, but along with exciting sex, the holiday celebrates what the polyamorous describe throughout the year, that love doesn't have to be confined.
"I grew up in the Bible belt, so the idea of having a traditional relationship has been hammered into my brain. I used to envy people in traditional relationships on Valentine's Day, but now I pay them no mind," Ebone, a 20-year-old Nashville native, told Mic. "I have a greater love for humanity."
"We approach Valentine's Day more as Valentine's weekend (or week, depending on the year)," said Sheila. "We spread the love as long as we can. [Polyamory] increases my love for individuals because it makes me appreciate them for who they are."