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I secretly really love Valentine’s Day.
Not the shitty commercialism or performative gestures or unrealistic expectations, but a big chunk of the population dedicating time to celebrate love and connection makes my inner romantic happy. We’re so often fed the narrative that love and happy relationships should be “effortless” and “just happen”, but a really good Valentine’s Day hinges on a blend of effective communication, personal investment (not necessarily financial) and letting yourself be present in the moment. Putting the work into a great Valentine’s can help you identify the things you can improve on or introduce into your relationship any other day of the year to increase your connection and intimacy.
When I say a “great Valentine’s Day” – I mean a great Valentine’s for you specifically. My favourite V-Day memory involves a cheese plate and a pillow fort, but yours might involve a sexy degustation at a fancy restaurant, a moonlit picnic by the beach, video games, pizza and beer, Ubereats and elaborate role play, lubing your latex for a public fetish party, a craft-a-noon or small gifts over your normal Wednesday night home dinner. So much stress and anxiety come from how we think we should celebrate Valentine’s Day when we can channel that energy into making it something wonderful on our own terms.
This same rule applies when approaching Valentine’s Day as a polyamorous person. Adding multiple partners to the equation adds in more variables, more emotions, more expectations and never enough time, so I thought as I approach my 4th Valentine’s Day as a polyam person (and 6th as a non-mono one), I would round up my top five best pieces of advice for surviving Feb 14th.
1. Be Realistic
Polyamory encompasses such a vast spectrum of relationship structures and styles that its impossible to give you step-by-step instructions to not fuck up your Valentine’s Day but one universal factor is that being realistic about what is going to work will save you a world of hurt.
If you have partners who clash regularly, they’re probably not going to love your idea of a romantic dinner for three. If one of your long distance partners doesn’t use their annual leave to travel 10 hours each way to make it to your polycule potluck it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Expecting more casual/comet partners to be super invested in your elaborate plans when you haven’t discussed and negotiated with them in a reasonable time frame isn’t fair.
Not to say there aren’t ways to make these situations work if you really want to, but hedging your entire plans on high-stress factors like these can make a complicated situation exponentially more so. Also be realistic about what you can give – in terms of time, money, energy, etc – no Valentine’s celebration is worth overexerting any of those things.
2. Communicate Early
Having a conversation about what each of your partners needs, wants and expects around Valentine’s Day is one of the most important things you can do. Everyone has a lot of different feelings around it – from massive investment to absolute apathy – and that knowledge should guide your planning. Give yourself enough time that if everyone says they need something specific you have time to arrange appropriately, and obviously allow more time depending on how many partners you have.
3. Respect & Negotiate with Other Partners and Metamours
Because everyone’s feelings about Valentine’s Day can be so vastly different, you will sometimes have to compromise and that is okay. If you have one partner who wants traditional pageantry, one partner who wants something homely and quiet and you would rather just not – something is going to have to give. Don’t belittle or minimize anyone’s perspective and instead focus on common ground, give where you can and hold your ground when you can’t.
If you end up with separate plans with different partners, respect agreed times and pace yourself so you’re not tired and grumpy for later on. However a degree of flexibility is vital in all things poly and if someone runs a bit late or slips up, weigh up whether getting upset is worth disrupting what could be a really nice time together – and it very well might be – but give the situations and your feelings a fair assessment first.
N.B. Sometimes a partner will just hard-no on Valentine’s Day and you just need to accept that. Having an honest discussion about why you both feel the way you do can help but a begrudging Valentine’s date feels about as magical as it sounds…
4. Consolidate Where Possible
If you can combine plans, do it! Not only for the sake of efficiency but for the joy and compersion that can be found in what is still a very unique experience for most people. Whether you’re all partners or a mix of partners and metamours – taking time to share and appreciate the love you work so hard to cultivate can be a truly beautiful thing.
5. Cut Yourself Some Slack
You’re not a bad polyam person if you don’t see every one of partners in a meaningful way of the fourteenth of February. You’re not a bad polyam person if something goes array despite your best-made plans. You’re not a bad polyam person if you feel stressed and overwhelmed about Valentines. And you’re not a bad polyam person if you let the day pass without noticing or marking it.
At the end of it all, it’s one day and it only means what you allow it to mean. Some years, you’ll have magical romantic experiences that celebrate love and everything that’s great about it and other years you’ll hopefully remember to send a relevant GIF to the group chat. As long as you communicate effectively and manage expectations you’ll live!