Tis the season…For disaster? For long distance trips? Putting up with family members you only see once a year?
No, not those things (though they certainly don’t help), I mean the very hectic and stressful Polyday Season™. The time of the year where I consider just signing out of Google Calendar and letting it all go.
But that’s not possible. Oh no, not with a polycule. We all know everyone celebrates their holidays differently. But how do you fairly (as possible) celebrate it with multiple partners?
This is my ‘cheer’ face
It’s that time of the year we all love to hate but some of us genuinely do love the holiday season. And hooray for them. You know the ones: aptly festive sweaters and accessories, overly cheerful holiday song humming, hand wrapped ribbon, color coded gift tags, early coordinated holiday photo postcards out just after turkey day? They were born ready for ‘Tis The Season’ caroling and enjoy the ‘challenge‘ of finding the perfect present for all.
I know that because I was one of these people not too many years ago. Slowly but surely I have been tugged into the tornado of what I call, the ‘Polyday Season’, it’s just like the classic holiday season but with at least 50% more chaos. Yay! Instead of worrying about who is attending your holiday party you have a whole new layer of concern.
Naughty, nice, and mindful…
- Should all partners attend the same gathering or go individually as a vanilla/mono presenting couple to one each?
- Presents? Is that for just your partner or their metamour as well? Have you discussed a reasonable budget?
- Who spends the ‘eve’ versus the actual day with whom?
- Are unsuspecting children involved? How do you sign the gifts?
- Is there any inter-faith rituals to be observed? If so, do they conflict with anyone else’s?
- What about traditions in general – how do you honor them respectfully?
- Does everyone want to participate in the holiday festivities? If so, at what level?
- Is this a rotation year and the holidays are being spent in a different place than last year? Or even with a different person? How should you explain this to family who saw _____ last year but won’t on this one?
Welcome to my Polyday Season™
From the moment I was in more than one serious poly/monogamish relationship my entire state of awareness changes yearly from mid October to January. It isn’t something I had really given much thought beyond the first couple of years when I got into a rhythm but found even that rhythm always needs adjusting whenever new partners are included or old ones are no longer around. Sometimes it only needs adjusting because the holiday season zooms up to us and nearly passes because the year has been such a blur.
Each new shift within polyamory presents its own perspective and nuances. Depending on what my polycule has looked like over the years I have had to be flexible in not only my expectations but also execution. We used to have a planned rotation on holidays so that each year we can have a turn at the holidays according to each partner’s unique style. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve seem to our big ones. One year we decided to draw holidays out of a hat to decide who was in charge of organizing each one. A few years we have decided to treat ourselves and just say ‘fuck it’ doing whatever felt right. Recently, we even did three Christmases, in two different houses, with different partners, on the same day! Surprisingly, some years we have even managed to skip the dreaded Polyday Season all together!
(These might secretly be my favorite years haha)
The ‘gifts’ of presence and absence
Personally I value time and experiences over most tangible gifts (but hey, I still fall for the sparkly stuff every now and then). However this is the main reason I started asking past partners if they wanted to give/receive the gift of presence or absence.
What does that mean exactly? I know we all don’t have the same budgets. Sometimes it would mean more to me and/or a partner to just be present with each (in body) instead of a traditional wrapped present for the holidays When we do this it helps us focus on what really matters to us, whether that be spending the holiday binge-watching a favorite series, turning off electronics for 24 hours or more (this one is especially hard for me!), or just testing out all the new board games one of us had been waiting to play.
In terms of absence, I view this more as a hall pass for the holidays. Sometimes despite our best efforts and intentions we just can’t be in one, let alone three, places all at once. It’s important to be understanding when you’re in a poly dynamic that there will be times when your partner(s) just simply can’t be there for the holidays. Family, previous unpreventable obligations, social constraints, anxiety levels, or more are very real factors. It may even be you who can’t be there physically. This has been me on more than one occasion.
It’s imperative that you don’t make the absent partner(s) feel guilty about their absence, I assure you, they probably feel guilty enough without your added layer. Instead practice a new level of compassion and really put yourself in their shoes. Use this as an opportunity to express your feelings and if possible, make plans for a future holiday so that it can be planned accordingly. And when all else fails, include them via phone, video, or other virtual means. It really will be the thought that counts with this.
Surviving the poly pressure
All of my years of practicing some form of poly has given me a peek behind multiple curtains into what can make or break some during the Polyday Season. Here are my top three tips to ease the sometimes inevitable discomfort:
- Make a plan…in advance. The key words here being ‘plan’ and ‘advance’. It’s easy to assume someone is going to be somewhere with you during the holidays, why wouldn’t they it’s your [insert assumed notion]. Never assume. Discuss, divide, and conquer the season like a poly-pro. Nothing ever got accomplished successfully without a plan. What should you include in your plan? Where you will be for which holidays, which ones are important (we rank them individually), who does or doesn’t want to travel, if family and/or friends will be involved, and what expectations everyone has. This is a good first step to making sure everyone is on the same page and will cut down on potential resentment building situations.
- Be honest but be fair. Don’t tell your partner(s) that you “don’t care” where you/they will be when making the plan above. This laissez faire attitude has brewed a few mishaps during the holidays for me. Even if you feel unreasonable in your request to spend ________ with someone, it’s better that you put those words out in the open. When you withhold your true feelings from someone you’re in a relationship with, there’s bound to be miscommunication. And once you (or they) are honest about what they would like, the closer you come to making expectations and reality meet. You may have to compromise on the ‘eve’ of a holiday or share half a day but the important thing is everyone is doing their best and being honest with what they can and can’t do.
- Try new ways. It’s easy to slip into the mindset of ‘We’ve always done it this way…’ even when bringing a new partner into the mix. This spells d-o-o-m. Don’t do this, no matter how tempting it is. You will want to show someone your way of doing the holidays. It’s natural. Instead, listen and really give their way, or a mash-up, of both ways a go. As I mentioned before, we change up the way we do holidays often. Sometimes we find something works for 2-4 years and then a flaw is revealed with it on the 5th go round. It’s okay. Change is good and can be a fun way to create new memories, traditions, and foster closeness in your own unique poly family.
It’s better now if you surrender to the idea that the Polyday Season may not go exactly as planned or as smoothly as you envisioned. Don’t fret. It may seem like a really big deal now, but, when the time has passed you’ll be able to look back and see how it was the perfect setting for inner and outer growth.
Talk with your partner(s) about any mixed emotions so they can be a support system. They may actually feel the same but kept a brave face for you and others. Whatever does (or doesn’t) happen, know that with the likes of Flag Day, Groundhog Day, April’s Fool, and more, you’ll have more chances to practice for the bigger Polyday Seasons ahead.
What really matters the most is that you have people to share these moments in time with.