Poly holidays without tears: a roundup
"Every year I get a big spike in clients who are having holiday poly drama," writes Kathy Labriola, who's done group-relationship counseling in Berkeley for decades, "and I wanted to put out some general advice that may be useful to the community. The holidays seem to cause a lot of poly debacles, and some may be possible to avert."
Poly Holiday Tips
...Poly people face some unique challenges. We are trying to manage all of the usual holiday dilemmas, but with the added stress of trying to include more than one partner in our holiday plans, and to make sure no one feels neglected or disrespected. ...And for people who have only one partner, but that partner has other partners, there is the fear of being alone on a major holiday and feeling less important or demoted.
Tip One: Think through what would be ideal for you!
Many poly people say that are so worried about keeping everyone else happy that they don't even think about what they want or what would work best for them during the holiday season. Often they discover after the fact that they have busted their butts to do everything to please others, only to find that they have spent a lot of time, energy, and money doing things no one actually wanted. ...
Tip Two: Make time for conversations with each partner (and family member) about their needs, desires, plans, hopes and fears around the upcoming holidays.
Set up a specific times with each of your partners when you can have a relaxed conversation about their needs and expectations, what is most important to them about the holidays, and how they would like to be included in your plans. It is also wise to communicate with any family members or friends who may expect to see you. ... Be clear with each person that you are not able to commit right now, and that you will have another conversation very soon to make solid plans with them; right now, you are gathering information.
Tip Three: Make a list of everything everyone is asking of you during the holidays, identify any conflicts, and think over carefully what compromises may be possible. …
Tip Four: Clarify expectations about any holiday gift traditions. …
Many poly people want to exchange gifts, many others hate the commercialism, don’t have the time or money, or just hate shopping. This can create a lot of stress, resentment, and disappointment if you make the wrong assumptions….
Tip Five: Whatever amount of holiday events and activities you THINK you can do, decide to do LESS than that!
Most poly people have horror stories about holiday plans that looked fine on paper but turned into a nightmare. …
Tip Six: Don’t make the holidays into a test, because if you do, your partners will fail that test.
Tip Seven: If you are thinking of including more than one partner in a holiday event, proceed with caution and talk through any potential problems.
The idea of spending holidays all together as “one big happy metamour poly family” looks great on paper, but often doesn’t work in real life. …One or more of them may not agree. …
Tip Eight: When poly holiday plans go awry, be willing to apologize for any mistakes or problems, and do aftercare as needed. ...
Her whole article, with lots of examples of these principles (December 2017).
● Cartoonist Tikva Wolf is at her best, IMO, when you can't tell whether she's being her usual bouncy helpful self or slipping a knife of sly snark between the ribs. Or both:
● From Elisabeth Sheff: Poly for the Holidays (Dec. 15, 2016):
For Poly Folks
Save Coming Out for Some Other Time
If you are not yet out to your family about being in a poly relationship, it can most likely wait for a few more weeks or months. Avoid overloading what can be an already stressful season with potentially distracting or inflammatory announcements about sexuality. That is not an absolute rule – if you end up on an after dinner walk with your favorite cousin in can be a great time to have a private chat about the loves in your life. In general, however, avoid dropping relationship bombshells at the holiday family feast.
Give your Relatives the Benefit of the Doubt
If your dad has to ask you yet again who this new person is... stifle the dramatic sigh and muster up your patience to explain kindly that you are dating this person, and yes, your/their spouse knows about it. Polyamory can be a foreign and confusing concept for many people, and especially for older relatives…. Unless they are obviously trying to be rude or hurtful, try to cultivate patience and forgiveness for family members who are slow to grasp.
Have an Escape Plan
When the benefit of the doubt has been stretched to its breaking point and relatives’ thoughtlessness or blatant malice becomes too much, be sure you can get away. [Also,] leaving a little too early is preferable to staying until alcohol-fueled tempers flare….
Moderate Mood Alteration
…Consider maintaining at least a modicum of sobriety. Not only does alcohol fog your mind so that you might not notice your partner’s desperate look of a silent plea for help when Uncle Tony comes around again… it also loosens your tongue so that you might not respond in the most thoughtful manner…. Being too drunk to drive can also seriously hamper the escape plan….
For Families with Poly Loved Ones
Invite the People Important to your Loved Ones
Even if you do not understand why your loved one is in a polyamorous relationship, please consider inviting the people they see as family members to the family event.…
Include all Partners in the Gift Exchange …
Respect Loved Ones’ Choices, even when they Differ from Yours …
Find something to do together that everyone can enjoy. From watching basketball on TV to playing a pickup game at the park or rekindling that old Scrabble rivalry…[it helps] to relax and focus on a shared activity that does not require discussing potentially sensitive topics of who is dating whom and why.
● Kamala Devi, in her current newsletter, offers her personal focus on holiday outedness (December 2017; no link):
5) Timing is essential. I came out slowly and only when I was ready. Some family members to understand and accept my lifestyle, whereas some family members may never be ready. I continue to update, educate and inform my family members, one step at a time.
4) I reassure my family of choice that even if they are not legitimized by my family of origin, that I value and love them deeply! Further, I openly process with lovers feelings of hurt or loss when our families are not ready to accept our lifestyle.
3) It helps to discuss larger social issues such as privilege and diversity. ...
2) I make a special effort to celebrate or spend time with my chosen community to counterbalance any time where I haven't felt free to be myself.
1) Regardless of anyone's reactions, I stay true to who I am.
● Prefer audio? Cunning Minx offers her five favorite Polyamory Weekly podcasts on this everlasting topic:
To make life a little easier, here are the best episodes we’ve done on poly for the holidays:
Episode 411 at 10:15, which includes advice learned from FBI hostage negotiators
Episode 345 at 3:00, in which LustyGuy and Minx share their tips for negotiating family time around the holidays while accommodating as many needs as possible
Episode 297 at 1:30, in which Joreth and Puck share their holiday advice about how to introduce partners and deal with being closeted
Episode 184 at 11:20, in which Minx gives gift and self-care advice
Episode 86 at 4:50, in which Minx advises NOT to come out during the holidays
● PopSugar has apparently decided this topic draws clicks: How to Navigate Being in an Open Marriage During the Holidays (Dec. 18, 2017):
By Tara Block
…Sara and Ben (names have been changed) are a happily married millennial couple in an open relationship. Sara shares a bit about how they navigate the holiday season together and with their partners.
"Ben and I scheduled times for our usual holiday traditions (visiting particular lights in town, decorating the tree, etc.) well in advance. Having these activities mapped out allows for both of us to plan fun, new traditions with our other partners without accidentally replacing ours. For both Ben and me, it is important to talk to our partners about what things feel special to them over the holidays. With my boyfriend, it has been really romantic and exciting to get our own tree at his place, watch holiday movies, and make plans to bake treats together. None of these things are better or worse than the ways I celebrate the holidays with my husband — they are just in addition to. I'm a firm believer that two stockings are better than one.
"…It is important to both Ben and me that we respect each other's time and the time of our partners, and this means communicating about schedules often. We are both lucky to be dating people who are great communicators, so scheduling has not been much of an issue.
"…The [birth-family] members I am close to know about my open marriage and are very supportive. I have not told the people I am not close to, which includes my parents. …
"I have never met a boyfriend's family before, so I was pretty nervous to do so this year! I was very relieved that my boyfriend has two awesome, badass liberal feminist sisters who were extremely welcoming. I hope to meet his parents soon, which should be interesting, as they are pretty traditional. ...
"Perhaps I am just a nerdy optimist who always sees the bright side of things, but I feel strongly that celebrating the holidays as a poly woman is really happy and fulfilling. I got to pick out and decorate two Christmas trees and listen to way too much Vitamin String Quartet Christmas. Ben's girlfriend has been in some tough relationships in the past and mentioned that this has been her happiest holiday season in a long time. My boyfriend also said that this is one of the best times in his life. While coordinating schedules can be a bit complicated, planning things out in advance and asking the simple question of 'What's important to you?' has been extremely helpful. I have two loving partners and double the holiday traditions, so I really can't complain. ... I wouldn't trade our nontraditional life for anything."
● On the feminist site Bustle.com, 13 Polyamorous People On How They Celebrate Thanksgiving (Nov. 27, 2017), with many polyfolks' brief descriptions of their traditions — or ways of winging it.
By Kae Burdo
...Decisions around holidays can be quite loaded, as it can indicate couple's privilege or hierarchy. It can also be a fraught conversation for people who aren't welcome home for the holidays because of their relationship status or family structure.
Followup: And now she does a similar collection, How Polyamorous People Celebrate Christmas & Other Winter Holidays (Dec. 22).
● Want more? Heaps more?? Here are all my poly-holidays roundups over the years (including this one; scroll down).
● And it wouldn't be the season without another reprise of....
Anne Hunter (right) and partners, of PolyVic in Australia, issued this Christmas classic in 2007. The last verse:
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true loves gave to me
Twelve minutes alone (sigh)—
Eleven Christmas dinners
Ten jealousy cures
Nine long discussions
Eight dozen condoms
Five, Ethical, Sluts!
Four sandwich hugs
Too much attention
And a quick course in polyamor-ee.