Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

December 22, 2023

Juggling the poly-holiday problems: Lotsa how-we-did-its. And, an appeal.

Four llamas in holiday dress singing "Poly-la-la-la, la-llama-rous!"
One of the adorkable Polyamorous Platypus cards and items

It's the season. Settle in for some reads on how other polyfolks handle those peculiar holiday problems and tensions (and joys) that maybe you and your group know all too well.

Some of these pieces are new this year, others are golden oldies. Excerpts and descriptions:

●  For a nice light start, 8 Things That Will Probably Happen During the Holidays If You’re Polyamorous. Zachary Zane just published this as his monthly "Navigating Non-Monogamy" column for Cosmopolitan (Dec. 19)

...Remember: We'd agreed to this. Their feelings were valid — and I know the holidays can bring up some complex emotions — but also: Are you kidding me? ... 

This all goes to show that navigating the season (aka, the polydays) as a non-monogamous person with multiple partners can be challenging. ...

Grphic of angry Christmas tree
Margie Rischiotto
To prepare you for what may lie ahead, here are eight things polyamorous folks can probably expect this holiday season.

1. Aunt Cheryl, a four-time divorcée, will insist that polyamory never works long-term.

     Or, that you don’t need to “label” yourself if you’re just sleeping around with everyone. (FYI, when I came out as poly, my mom literally said, “You can just be a slut. You don’t need to make it this big ordeal!”) 

     You honestly have to laugh at Cheryl’s lack of self-awareness and shameless hypocrisy. That’s the only way to deal with her, because if you actually engaged, you’d end up pulling your hair out.

2. You’ll have a minor panic attack when deciding whether or not to get your metamour a gift. ...

3. Your parents will accidentally call your partner by your other partner’s name.

      This is something my parents have done. They justified it because according to them, I had “too many partners to keep track of.” (I had a total of two partners… one man and one woman.) ...

4. You may feel jealous or a little down in the dumps. ...

5. You’ll be hit with some unexpected compersion. ...

6. You will get multiple (probably great) gifts from your partners.

      (It also means you have to gift more presents to your various partners, but let’s not focus on that.) Poly people are just better at giving presents. From mine, I’ve received designer latex kink gear, engraved rings, and an air fryer that has changed my life. I don’t know why [poly people] are such good gift-givers, but they are. ...

7. You will accidentally call your partner’s dad by your *other* partner’s dad’s name. ...

8. You will feel so much love that your little heart may burst.

      Polyamory can take a lot of planning, emotional labor, and tough conversations—especially during the polydays—but there’s a reason why we remain polyamorous even though it can be a lot harder than monogamy....

● Bringing Both My Partners Home At Christmas Is…Complicated (Refinery29, Dec. 23, 2022)

By Abigail Moss

...We’ve been together as a throuple for three years so this isn’t our first Christmas, but every year we seem to run into new challenges. Last year, we weren’t 'out' to our families and ended up in the weird situation of having to keep our relationship secret over the festive period.

This year, our families know about us and are wonderfully supportive, so we get to enjoy sending presents as a three for the first time. But one of my partners isn’t out at work and because of the industry he works in, possibly never will be. This makes for a tricky situation when it comes to Christmas parties. His colleagues know he isn’t single but they don’t know he has two partners. ...

We’re lucky to be able to navigate these issues from the solid footing of a committed relationship. For polyamorous people in newer or more casual dynamics, or who are actively dating as an individual (this is sometimes called solo polyamory), things get even more complicated. ...

...Harry*, a 29-year-old polyamorous man, agrees that the holidays create a lot of dating challenges and can often exacerbate feelings of jealousy. "I had a quite new partner – I think we’d been on three or four dates at this point – get upset because I couldn’t come to their work Christmas quiz with them because it clashed with an event I was attending with my partner of two years." Communication is key in these situations, as is self-analysis. ...

...The holidays are usually thought of as a time for family – and not just any family but a traditional, monogamy-focused family. There are no Christmas movies [yet  –Ed.] featuring a polycule putting up their Christmas tree or a throuple opening presents on Christmas morning. Polyamorous people don’t have many decent cultural references to guide them at the best of times; during the holidays, this is even more true. ...

...Leanne [Yao] says to remember that Christmas can be whatever you make it. You don’t have to be tied down to the expected way of doing things. "Christmas is just an arbitrary holiday. You can celebrate on other days too."

Harry agrees. "I hosted a big Christmas meal for my queer polycule but we did it in November because after that diaries were getting complex," he says. "One of the great things about polyamory, actually, is having that community. Just having more people around you and being together and doing whatever you want. In polyamory, you get to make your own rules. And you can do that at this time of the year, too. If you look at it like that, it can be really freeing."

●  But sometimes you may be wonderfully surprised: The More the Merrier: A Christmas Tale (Queer Majority, Dec. 21, 2022; also reprinted by Areo)

Christmas is my favorite holiday by far. It’s about life, love, family, generosity, and — yes (I don’t care if it sounds cheesy) peace on earth and goodwill toward men. I’m an agnostic atheist... but I regard myself as culturally Christian. And to me, Christmas is sacred.

I love Christmas carols, glowing manger scenes, roaring fireplaces, and big, beautiful Christmas trees. I even share the frustration of Christians who worry that the holiday is becoming too secular or consumerist. My wife and I collect ornaments from each destination we travel to, usually from local artisans, which serve as a reminder of our time there.

...Recently, however, we organized a big family Christmas at a Northern California beach house. Despite my love of the holiday and my family, I was nervous. You see, my siblings are all more socially conservative than I am. Much more socially conservative.

I’m a bisexual, polyamorous guy married to a woman and with a long-term boyfriend... Even my comparatively more moderate older half-sister and half-brother didn’t understand why I would be upset about them voting for political candidates who actively oppose my human rights. So you can imagine my worries about a big family reunion. ...

Fortunately, I came to find out that every single one of my family members — including my three conservative siblings — have grown more open-minded over the years. To my astonishment, my fundamentalist brother now supports same-sex marriage and a woman’s right to choose! ... The relief that washed over me upon hearing these things, coupled with a warm sense of pride toward my siblings for being so open to moral growth, made me love my family all the more. There was a time when I held my siblings at a distance. I now regret that.

...These days, Christmas almost always includes one or both of our polyamorous partners. Picture it: me, my wife, my boyfriend, and her boyfriend sitting around in our pajamas, drinking hot cocoa and candy cane martinis with everyone’s parents and some people’s siblings; exchanging meaningful gifts, enjoying one another’s home cooking, and laughing about the sorts of inside jokes that only the closest of friends and family can share. There’s something ineffably healing about that, like the magic of Christmas confers a solemn blessing upon our bi, poly family. Surrounded by music, mirth, twinkling lights, and flickering candles; it feels like a sacrament. 

The love my wife and I have for Christmas has rubbed off on our partners. Her boyfriend was an only child, so it warmed my heart last week when he said (while we were decorating the tree) that “I’ve never had a family like this before.” Well, he does now. My boyfriend was raised as a Jehovah's Witness and didn’t grow up with the Christmas traditions we enjoy. At first, he didn’t get it. ... Today, he loves Christmas just as much as the rest of us. Of course he does, because ultimately Christmas is about acceptance — and queer people know the value of that.

...Some day, I hope the rights of polyamorous families like ours will receive the same recognition. If my family’s personal experience and recent opinion polls are any indicators, the future feels bright. ... My New Year’s resolution is to do everything I can to lead by example and show that poly families are just as committed, loving, nurturing, and responsible as any other.


Ty, Jennifer, Daniel

By Jennifer Martin

I'm polyamorous, and I live with my two partners, Daniel and Ty, and our two kids, D and H. When it comes to the holidays, we try to take a fair and equitable position and see as many relatives as possible. It takes some finesse and a lot of scheduling, but we do it.

With two partners, you have two sets of in-laws, which means instead of juggling two places to go for holidays, we have to consider three places — or more, depending on how those relatives are dispersed. ... I luckily enjoy planning. We try to ensure that our holidays go as smoothly as possible, especially for our children. But we have limited space, limited time, and limited income. So how do we do it?

Our holiday schedule.... 


●  Navigating Holiday Events with Multiple Partners is a practical step-by-step from Dee Morgan of the PolyamProud group (Oct. 17):

...For all the many holiday movies, there’s not a lot that deals with this particular scenario: talking to whomever’s hosting that big meal about how to bring not just partner A, but also partners B and C (and possibly partner A’s other partner as well…). Or how to gracefully decline seeing family, because they were rude and unwelcoming last time. Or how to arrange your own celebration with all the people you love, and that they love. Or how to navigate a celebration day alone, as your partner has prior obligations with their other partner…

Graphic of three people together knocking on the door of a house.

For many polyamorous people, or those in open relationships/ consensually non-monogamous, the lack of models and stories that aren’t couple- or monogamy-oriented has meant working all this out for the first time.... What’s suggested here may provide a starting point for things to consider and to discuss.

1: What do you want? Given an ideal world, what would you like to do on the holiday days? Are there people you’d like to have a meal with – or spend time with at an event? Would you prefer to hang out at home and play boardgames and read books, or to go to the beach and surf? Is it important to you to see your partners on particular days, or simply at some point? Consider this, and then…

2: Talk to your partners. Do any of them have plans already? ....This is where shared calendars can come in handy, as people try to mesh their desires with the practicalities of time limitations.

3: Are there any potential conflict areas? This could be wanting (and able) to take multiple partners to a family event, but the family not being aware of the importance of each person to you. Consider if this is a situation where it’s worth being upfront and bearing the possible judgement, or if you can stand a day where yourself or a partner is considered ‘just a flatmate’ or ‘just a friend’. There’s no right or wrong answer here; it’s about what’s the least stressful for those involved. ...

Even if everyone in the family knows that you’re polyam, and who your partners are, there can still be awkwardness. Are you comfortable holding two partners’ hands on the sofa? Is your great-grandmother comfortable with it? ... (This is an ongoing issue for queer people as well, with actions that are ‘fine’ for a heteronormative couple taking on more ‘sexualised’ overtones, even when functionally identical.)

Another potential conflict area is a partner or metamour feeling unacknowledged during discussions, or that their plans aren’t considered as important as your own. ... If you’re in a hierarchical relationship, make sure your secondary’s plans aren’t subsumed into your own – they have rights and needs as well.

4: Consider your budget. ... Different people and households have different discretionary spending, and this can be brought into sharp relief when exchanging gifts. 

5: Alone for the holidays? ...Perhaps a phone call or video chat can be arranged. If you’re seeing family or friends, you can make note of funny or memorable experiences that you can share with your partners later (as they can share theirs with you). If you’re staying home, be gentle with yourself, and remember you’re loved and cared for – these are people who appreciate having you in their life. ...

Morgan includes quite a bibliography of further articles. Go browse 'em:

●  Family Holidays for Non-Anchor Partnersby Phoebe Philips

Give your Relatives the Benefit of the Doubt. If your dad has to ask you yet again who this new person is – even though you have been dating them for the past three years and your dad just met for the fourth time at your birthday party a couple of months ago -- try to stifle the dramatic sigh and 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....

Unless they are obviously trying to be rude or hurtful, try to cultivate patience and forgiveness for family members who are slow to grasp the true nature of your relationships.

Have an Escape Plan. When the benefit of the doubt has been stretched to its breaking point... be sure you can get away. Whether it is taking a walk, making a grocery store run, or returning to the sanctuary of a hotel room....

●  Poly Survival Guide for the Holidays, by Kathy Labriola

...Tip Five: Whatever amount of holiday events and activities you THINK you can do, decide to do LESS than that! ...

Tip Six: Don’t make the holidays into a test, because if you do, your partners will fail that test. ...

Step 1 or I should say Step 0, in making holidays work in a polyamorous constellation, is to get all expectations out in the open....

●  Polyamory at the Holidays, by Laura Boyle

...How comfortable is your polycule spending time together? If you’re a very kitchen-table oriented polycule, some holiday questions will be simpler. If everyone is comfortable being in the same spaces, and there are multiple options of spaces, it opens planning way up....

●  In Polyamorous holidays: When you’re the secondary, Noël Figart takes a reader's letter:

...He’s told at least his mother that he’s dating someone, but she has essentially bent over backwards to ignore our relationship. Although we don’t subscribe to an emotional hierarchy, there’s still the functional/social hierarchy of him living with her, being accepted by his family, etc., and holidays really seem to heighten that glitch in the matrix.

My own biological family lives too far away for me to spend time with. ...

●  Ideas for Polyamory Holidays, by Jess Mahler

...Host the Party Yourself. First heard this idea from a friend on a polyamory forum and couldn’t believe it never occurred to me. ...

Rotate Holidays...
Each Visit Your Own Family...
Create Your Own Thing...

●  A month late, but Here's What Thanksgiving Is Really Like When You're Polyamorous. Kae Burdo collects people's stories. For instance,

...We are also a divorced family, with the child's birthday falling on or around Thanksgiving every year. Every year, our polycule decides on 'what to do' by throwing out ideas and seeing what we all like. Sometimes the fall and winter have already been so stressful that the idea of hosting ourselves is daunting.

When we do host, we give priority to guests who have no other place to go, and extra priority to Trans/NB, to POC and to the city's youth. reating an environment of warmth and support for our partners and the folks they know is important. It's equally as important to create an environment where people feel safe to speak on any topic, and in giving priority as we have, we have avoided a lot of drama. We find this collaborative process to be gentle and soothing. We can't control much of the holidays, but how we communicate and flow together is the gift we give each other...

●  Poly for the Holidays, by Elisabeth Sheff

Give your Relatives the Benefit of the Doubt

If your dad has to ask you yet again who this new person is – even though you have been dating them for the past three years and your dad just met for the fourth time at your birthday party a couple of months ago -- try to stifle the dramatic sigh and 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....

Unless they are obviously trying to be rude or hurtful, try to cultivate patience and forgiveness for family members who are slow to grasp the true nature of your relationships.

Have an Escape Plan
When the benefit of the doubt has been stretched to its breaking point... be sure you can get away. Whether it is taking a walk, making a grocery store run, or returning to the sanctuary of a hotel room....

  This from Polyfulcrum needs saying again:

...I am strongly in favor of not coming out at major family events!!! There is a certain sick draw toward dropping the poly nuclear bomb at such occasions. Resist the temptation! ...Tell people in smaller groups. Answer the questions, deal with the shock and awe, and be prepared to have people tell you that they always knew there was something different about you/ going on. Then, by the time the next family gathering comes along it's part of the family fabric; weird fabric, but hey, there's always got to be an eccentric, right?

...We finished [Thanksgiving] weekend by hosting a meal here that was open to our friends in the poly community, as they often stand in as our family of choice (particularly for me, as I don't have relations close by). It was much more satisfying than the mandatory family event, because it was a conscious choice.

●  And another heart-warmer: I wasn’t allowed to celebrate holidays growing up. Now, I revel in hosting my queer, polyamorous family. This appeared in The Lily ("stories central to the everyday lives of millennial women"), the Washington Post's reimagining of the 19th-century feminist paper of the same name. (Nov. 23, 2021)

By Patricia Fancher

I’m preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving as I have for the past several years, with my extended queer, polyamorous family. My husband will make Norwegian cardamom buns, and his girlfriend wants to try a new Brussels sprouts recipe. My husband’s girlfriend’s boyfriend is committed to roasting a duck and making eggnog that no one else will drink. Her husband isn’t going to cook. We’ll make him wash the dishes.

Painting of three pairs of hands holding hands on a holiday-dinner table.
The Lily
...Polyamory is a nontraditional relationship structure where people have multiple relationships that can be sexual, romantic, casual, platonic or some mixture of all of these things. Each person practices polyam differently. My polyamory takes the word rather literally. I have many loves. While my entire polyam family celebrates our togetherness in nontraditional ways, for me, holidays are especially unconventional because I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness growing up in the 1990s in South Carolina.

...When I was 20, I was excommunicated and completely cut off from my family. The command to “quit touching the unclean thing” extends to people, even family. When I had sex, I became the unclean thing that my community, even my mother, refused to touch. The part of me that was broken when my family of origin rejected me gets a little closer to being whole each time I celebrate holidays with my chosen family.

This year, my crush of more than a year is bringing the cranberry sauce. They are now my dear friend, writing partner and occasionally more than a friend. Last year, I found joy during the pandemic when I fell in love with a nurse, and I celebrated all the locked-down holidays with him and his wife. Our romantic relationship ended as the world shifted toward normal, but our love still brings me joy. His wife will make multiple pies in my kitchen on Thursday....

The value of our polyam family isn’t in its stability, but rather that we choose each other even when we change, relationships change, feelings change. The power is in the choosing. There’s no obligation. I can only offer invitation and acceptance.

Next year, our Thanksgiving guests may be different. My ex, the nurse, and his wife may choose to visit family in Colorado. My husband’s girlfriend may prioritize another partner or her family. These choices are ours to make. For me, the beauty is in making space for us to gather and also making space for each person to make their own choices.

Polyam family is like any family. We get our hearts broken. We have petty fights and legitimate conflicts. We complain about one another from time to time. We don’t choose one another because we’re perfect. Chosen family means choosing complex humans, including our faults and struggles. It’s vulnerable to build a family with deeply flawed humans. But there’s no other option.

After a childhood spent learning to say no, deny pleasure and abstain from anything possibly unholy, I’ve learned to revel in life’s abundant pleasures. My polyam family amazes me with each of their capacities for love. It’s not easy to be vulnerable. We open ourselves, share love, swim in pleasure, sometimes get hurt.

...My community reminds me that the scarcity mind-set that tells us we can only have one love, that we must compete for our lover’s attention, is a lie. There’s always an abundance of love if you have the courage to be vulnerable. And the courage to share.

● Not the first poly holiday bingo card nor the last. This one's from attorney Stacey McClarty of ChosenFamilyLawTX.

And a couple old faves of the season:

●  Sometimes you can't tell if Kimchi Cuddles is being her usual bubbly, helpful self or sliding in a sly knife of snark  — in this case, regarding secondary-stranding:

BTW, among all the authors above, women outnumber men 15 to 2. That's not too unusual for poly writers and public figures, but on this subject it's a stronger tilt than the average of about 3 to 1.

● When Bone Poets Orchestra played the Poly Living West convention in Seattle a dozen years ago, lead singer Chris Bingham declared from the stage that any band hoping for commercial success (something that has eluded BPO) must do a Christmas song. Here are Chris and life partner Sue Tinney...

...from a video directed by Terisa Greenan, with "Christmas Down South (of your Mason-Dixon Line)". Also starring um-friends indoors. 

Bone Poets Orchestra and its previous incarnation as Gaia Consort produced some poly-themed songs across many years. These deserve to be kept alive. Here's a selection:

● Their devotional Three [lyrics] [mp3] was an informal theme song of the annual Loving More East retreats.
● Family [lyrics] [mp3] was used in the soundtrack of the poly documentary "When Two Won't Do" (2002) and later became the theme song of "Family" the poly-household web TV series (2008-09).
● Move to the Country [lyrics] [mp3] is a friendly self-satire.
● Another satire: Perils of Poly [lyrics] [mp3] "Oh, if we all dream together/ Can we nightmare too?"
● Moving and deep: Goodnight [lyrics] [mp3].
● Yes! [lyrics] [mp3].

●  And it wouldn't be the season without another reprise of....

Anne Hunter (in hat) and partners, of PolyVic in Australia, made this Christmas classic in 2007. The final 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
Seven Google Calendars
Six-handed mas-sage
Five, Ethical, Sluts!

Four sandwich hugs
Three-way snogs
Too much attention
And a quick course in polyamor-ee!

Another from Polyamorous Platypus


I just got a year-end holiday fundraising letter from William Winters, president of OPEN, the Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Non-monogamy, which formed last year.

As I said a few posts back, this is finally the ambitious, professional, capable ENM/polyactivist organization we've always needed, and that for decades I've wished we had. Read their year-end report to see what I mean.  They got startup money from The Polyamory Foundation and from a couple of big donors. But as the letter points out, they have to broaden their income base to keep going.

So please give them something. Or at least sign up for their mailing list to keep up with what's happening!


OPEN logo

Dear Alan,

I’ll never forget arriving to the first Day of Visibility for Non-monogamy picnic and rally in Oakland, California. In the runup to the event, I had no idea how many people would actually be willing to show up.

But when I got there on that sunny day, I saw a crowd of hundreds of people gathered to proudly celebrate how we love and live. Kids were playing, people were talking and sharing, and when our guest speakers took the mic, they included a local politician who affirmed that protecting non-monogamous folks from discrimination is very much on the legislative agenda.
That day I saw that the work we're doing at OPEN really matters. We're part of a growing movement that’s shining a new light on non-monogamy and ensuring that our values and identities are part of the story of how we create families, relationships, and community in the 21st century.

Despite OPEN's growing success, this movement faces real risks. And speaking as a longtime community leader and movement organizer, I can tell you that the biggest risk is the least sexy: ensuring that we can continue to fund our work. Luckily, that’s the risk that you can do the most to help address right now.

Click here to help fund OPEN's pivotal work supporting non-monogamous families and relationships in 2024.

It takes real investment to win the kind of fights we’re taking on at OPEN. We stood up to Facebook over their treatment of non-monogamy. We ignited a media conversation about a popular TV show’s one-dimensional portrayal of polyamorous relationships. Our Open Workplaces Iniative has helped form non-monogamy employee groups in major corporations. And of course, we successfully organized the first global Day of Visibility for non-monogamy. It's a testament to what a small organization like ours can do!

But movements can't grow when most of their funding comes from a relatively small number of generous supporters. If we’re going to maintain this record of success as we take on even bigger fights, we need to make sure that our funding reflects the scope of the communities we serve.

Image description
Celebrating the Day of Visibility in Oakland.
From right to left: William Winters, President;
Brett Chamberlin, Executive Director;
Lily Lamboy, Director, Open Workplace Initiative
So as you read this around the holiday giving season, please consider contributing to the vital work we're doing at OPEN to make the world safer for non-monogamous people and families.

Click here to help fund OPEN's pivotal work supporting non-monogamous families and relationships in 2024.

Thank you so much for your generous support. See you in 2024!

William Winters
President, OPEN Board of Directors

P.S. Want to learn more about what OPEN accomplished in 2023 and see what's in store for 2024? Check out our 2023 Impact Report 


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