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Polyamorous on Valentine’s Day? Therapist Tips for a Healthy & Happy Poly Valentine’s…

Polyamorous on Valentine’s Day? Therapist Tips for a Healthy & Happy Poly Valentine’s…

Jenna has two partners and three metamours. She wants to celebrate with everyone and leave no one feeling left out. But each year, it’s a challenge because Valentine’s Day is only one day. How in the world is she supposed to make time for everyone? Last year, one of her partners was hurt because they felt she signaled that he was less important. She wants to avoid this this year.

Valentine’s Day is a day often filled with excitement and expectation. It’s a day to celebrate love and romance, and many Americans hope to spend the day with a special someone, but how do you manage this when you are polyamorous and have multiple partners? How do you navigate showing each partner just how much they mean to you without neglecting anyone? How do you decide what to do with whom and when? It can be a stressful time for any polycule, but it doesn’t have to be.

Here are a few ways to leave the stress at the door as you think about celebrating this Valentine’s Day.

DETERMINE WHAT YOUR PARTNERS WANT TO DO

Don’t make assumptions, ask your partners how they want to celebrate with you this year. Figure out what will make all of your special someones happy as you celebrate your love together. Does that mean a weekend away together? How about a nice dinner at home? Maybe it’s a party with your whole polycule to celebrate together? Flowers and a card? Whatever you decide to do, make sure to ask your partners and don’t assume what they want.

DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS

Not everyone wants to celebrate Valentine’s Day with their romantic partners, but some people do. Make sure you connect with all of your partners in your polycule and ensure that you have a clear understanding of what Valentine’s Day means for each individual relationship. Is celebrating on February 14th of utmost importance, or is just being together to honor your commitment to one another no matter the date more important? Will you exchange gifts with one another? Unclear expectations can lead to hurt feelings, so make sure that you connect with your partners to have a clear understanding of what they envision.

COMMUNICATE

This is the cornerstone of every polyamorous relationship(s). Whether you’re a dyad, triad, quad or a wide-reaching poly family, communication is a key part of navigating partners, metamours, and everything in between. Things are no different when thinking about how to spend Valentine’s Day. Make sure you share your plans with your partners so everyone knows when they’ll be celebrating with you and when you’ll be with other partners. Don’t leave anyone in the dark, just like any other part of polyamory, be open and be honest.

DON’T SCHEDULE BASED ON HIERARCHY

Polyamory often comes with innate hierarchies among relationships often determined by sweat equity in a relationship. Simply put, it’s the idea that the relationship you’ve been in the longest is your most important and so forth. It comes with the idea that one has primary, secondary, tertiary, etc… partners. This is a valid style of poly for some, but when it comes to celebrating your love for your partners, don’t let your scheduling be dictated by hierarchies. Primary partners shouldn’t get to “call dibs” on a day before you’ve had a chance to talk to all of your partners. Make sure that your scheduling works for everyone to avoid hurt feelings and negative metamour relationships.

DON’T COMPARE AND/OR COMPETE

No two relationships have the same connection or love between partners, so why would you compare how you celebrate that love? It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Everyone has different needs and it’s important to avoid comparing or competing with your metamours. Just focus on the best way to give and receive love with your partners in whatever way will make you happy. 

Have a happy Valentine’s Day!

Alyson Mullie, LMSW

5 Ways to Win at Blending Families

5 Ways to Win at Blending Families

Getting married and starting a family is tough.

It’s extra tough when it’s the second (or third) go around and one or both of you already have children and an ex- who comes along with the package. Each family is unique and there are few resources for navigating this sometimes treacherous terrain.

However, with A LOT of patience, listening, and compassion, families can successfully blend.

Here are five ways you can help your blended family become a family.

  1. Slow down. Blended families become families in a slow-cooker, not a pressure cooker. Whatever your situation, it’s complex. There are several different people each with their own perception of what’s happening and their own feelings about it. Don’t expect that everyone will be excited about becoming a family. Children are often still grieving the loss of their first family. They may resent a new step-parent. They may fear the changes in routine and rules. Be aware of your own expectations for how things “should be.” Families grow and become over time, so it’s important to give each member time and space to have their feelings and grow into this new set of relationships.
  2. Focus on relationship first. In all relationships, we just want to know: Can I trust you? Can I trust you to care about how I feel? Can I trust you to listen? Can I trust you to protect me? Can I trust you to understand? In marriage, this is the fundamental question, especially early on. However, our children want to know the same thing, especially when their family goes through such big changes. By focusing on communication and connection first, it is possible to turn down the volume on family member fear and anxiety and build up trust and openness. Check in with each other. A lot.
  3. Make sure your current spouse knows and feels like they’re the priority. This can be especially tricky for men who feel that their spouse is the priority in their heart, but complicated dynamics with his ex-wife, and fear of separation from his children, may drive him to feel he has to appease his ex-wife, inadvertently making his current wife feel deprioritized. It is critical that spouses communicate regularly and thoroughly about these issues. Really try to understand what this is like for your spouse and what they need. When both of you feel heard and it’s all out on the table, then you can work as a team to decide how to meet each other’s needs – often hers to know her time and family is protected, and his to know that he is supported around making difficult choices to protect his relationship with his children.
  4. Keep some old traditions and make new ones. Families become families over time due to shared experiences and traditions. Children will need to know that important things from their first family will still happen. It’s ok, especially in the beginning, to have special time between parent and child(ren) without the steps-. Create opportunities for time that is separate and together. New experiences will create new memories and shared meaning. This is about the long-game – investing in the family of the future now, even if everyone isn’t feeling like a family today.
  5. Don’t wait to get help. If things are really tough, don’t wait to get help. Individual, couples, or family therapy can help. Sometimes one or more children are really hurt and angry and make sure everyone knows it. Sometimes the actions of an ex-spouse are very disruptive and sabotaging to a current marriage. Sometimes we want help for ourselves in learning how to best navigate the blended family situation. By proactively seeking help, families can better ensure their success and everyone’s well-being.

Remember: you don’t have to have all of the answers. It’s OK for things to be messy. How it is right now is not how it will always be. You won’t go wrong by focusing on relationship and connection over behavior.

It will get better.

<3

Karen