Valentine's Day can be tough with just one partner, but what's it like when you have two or more?
By
Shami Sivasubramanian

12 Feb 2016 - 5:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Feb 2016 - 2:59 PM

While some of us struggle to handle even one partner at a time, there are some people who choose to date several people at once.

People who choose the polyamorous lifestyle vary from dating a few people in exclusion, to being in a group of people who date each other collectively.  Sometimes it's a combination of the two.

Comment: OkCupid and the mainstreaming of polyamory
Comedian Brydie Lee-Kennedy looks at the shift in popular culture regarding multiple partners.
Three - Living in a polyamorous relationship
They say two's a couple, and three's a crowd - but what if you're all in love? What's it really like living in a polyamorous relationship?
Comment: If love is love, why exclude the polyamorous?
The consequence of a ‘gay equality’ movement that has become so narrowly focused on marriage is that we’re sacrificing anyone who gets in the way.

In terms of sex, pop culture has helped us understand all the nitty-gritty logistics. But when it comes to romantic love in polyamory, the concept still alludes us.

Romance is typically described as a phenomenon experienced between two people, but how does it work when you're in a relationship with more than two people?

With Valentine's Day around the corner, physically going on dates, spending time together, or even doing very specific relationship things like "meeting the parents" might seem challenging for a polyamorous group. 

So to better understand the romantic logistics of this less conventional form of dating, we spoke to three people about their experiences, especially when it comes to celebrating Valentine's Day.

 

James*, 23.

James entered the world of polyamory at age 18, and finds the key to it being open communication, even with parents.

"It's much like any other relationship I'd assume, except with arguably more communication. This includes communication with parents - they know. Google calendar helps keep things organised, and again, communication."

James said he has dated four girls, one non-binary person, and one gender fluid person.

But when it came to Valentine's Day, he said he and the partners he's had during the romantic holiday were not ones to celebrate it.

"I don't really celebrate Valentine's, and my longest poly relationship didn't either. My poly relationships have been mostly poly-focused, with some being a bit more open and being more able to sleep around than really focusing on dating others," he said.

However celebrating other romantic holidays, like Christmas, was something they did do. However, James said he only ever attended family events with one of his partners.

"(One of my girlfriend's) would come over for Christmas and I'd go over for Jewish holidays (since she was Jewish). I was her more "acceptable" partner and the one her parents liked more."

Overall, James found since he dated several people at once, and not all of them dated each other, he never had to deal with the group date dynamic. 

However, love appeared to be a harder concept to navigate, as James confirms it is possible to be in love with only one or a few of your partners, whilst dating all of them, "much in the way you can date people monogamously".

 

 

Fiona's* parents, late-30's.

Fiona's married parents entered a polyamorous relationship with one other couple and two other single men when Fiona was eight, and her brother was four.

"It was fully consenting, with four men and two women," she said.

But unlike James, she said her parents and their poly group dated each other collectively, going so far as moving in together.

"They lived all together in the same house, though a third man had his own flat," she recalled.

Valentine's Day was celebrated like most other social outings the group took part in, she said, especially since the group was so closely knit. 

"They did everything together, from sex to going on fishing trips together."

She says the unconventional upbringing had a traumatic effect on her, and she wouldn't choose a relationship like it for herself.

 

 

Symonne, 25.

Symonne, an Australian writer based in Paris, has been living in France for the past five years where she first experienced polyamory.

"I had four regular lovers for a little over six months. They all knew about each other. One had a regular girlfriend. Two were only with me. The third had two regular lovers," she said.

"We hung out in various derivations; hardly ever all together because of work/schedules. Not because we didn't want to. We of course all went out together, sometimes. And it was romantic."

When it came to Valentine's Day, she found the holiday is celebrated by the polyamorous in the same way it is by monogamous couples.

"And I can attest to the fact that holidays and occasions to be together are thought of in the same way by poly couples as monogamous ones.

"I know a poly group who are going to a romantic Spanish restaurant and spending the rest of the weekend in bed. I know another in which one couple within the group is going out together without the others and that's fine because the others don't really care about Valentine's," she said.

She also said in France, she found the concept of polyamory less taboo.

"I think it's way less taboo here. But people still don't understand it. It's just incredulity rather than judgement," she said.

"Polyamory for me is just being open enough to be honest about your needs, and that one person may not be satisfying or vibrant or colourful enough at a point in time. So share love with multiple people at once in a healthy relationship."

 

*the names used are aliases.