My partner, Dee, and I were making Valentine’s plans and we were stuck about who to spend it with.
We’ve been dating for almost four years now, and we celebrated the past three Valentine’s together.
But for this year, I was thinking of spending it with my other partner, Rane.
As expected, Dee was hesitant. I offered to celebrate “our own Valentine’s” on a day that isn’t February 14.
Though Dee and Rane know each other and are on relatively good terms, they never hang out.
Their personalities are just too different.
Rane likes sewing, visiting cute cafes, and wearing light-colored, frilled dresses styled in between goth and lolita fashion.
She speaks quietly with a natural demure.
Meanwhile, Dee prefers to spend her time finding solutions to human rights problems and she sports corporate and artsy aesthetics more.
Eira is Dee’s girlfriend. The three of us have, for the lack of a better term, a throuple-ish dynamic when together. I met Eira two years prior. But she and Dee hang out more.
Recently, Eira started dating someone new and we wouldn’t be surprised if she spent Valentine’s with her new boyfriend instead.
Ethical non-monogamy has a term for that: New Relationship Energy.
NRE often increases the risk of neglecting other partners. It’s something that anyone in a polyamorous set-up eventually must learn to manage. As with every type of relationship, open and honest communication is key.
Hence the lengthy Valentine’s talks. Resentment is the silent killer of relationships — ethically non-monogamous or not.
Our conversations weren’t always this smooth. Back when Dee and Rane and I just started, we’d often have fights.
The biggest lesson I learned from handling multiple relationships is, strangely, how to understand a partner’s “Personal Vocabulary.”
Words have a dictionary meaning. But people also attach their own interpretation, bias, and connotation to different words.
This forms their Personal Vocabulary.
When people get together without understanding each other’s Personal Vocabulary — that’s when relationship problems arise.
Or so I’ve learned the hard way.
For example, when Rane says, “It’s okay,” I often have to probe deeper because that phrase can be synonymous with, “I don’t really like it.
But I don’t dislike it enough to reject it outright.”
This is important when we’re deciding things like ordering an expensive salmon steak.
It would be a waste to spend so much on something we didn’t love enough to eat.
Dee, meanwhile, has no problem expressing her dislike through groans and facial cues.
She sometimes does that whenever I order a healthy, vegetarian dish for both of us, after a weekend of cholesterol and calorie-rich debauchery.
Eira. Well. She eats anything and everything. Among all of us, she has the biggest appetite. Probably because she’s the youngest. She’s also the tallest and longest limbed. She loves vanilla-scented perfumes because, according to her, “it’s the only thing vanilla about me.”
Then, there’s money.
Eira is a university student whose upper-middle class parents are controlling with her allowance.
So Dee, who works as a bookkeeper while attending law school, tends to spoil her.
Later, Dee would train her large, puss-in-boots eyes at me as we looked at a restaurant menu.
I’d offer to pay and she’d whoop and cheer, then, rhetorically, ask if she’s making me do what she does for Eira.
She’d offer to pay for our next date, and she does.
Rane and I used to split every expense in the middle. Until we did the “payslip reveal.”
Nowadays, we split things based on who’s feeling richer at that moment.
We all live separately so rent and other daily expenses were never an issue. We spend a weekend or a couple of days together.
The rest of the time, we’re busy with our individual lives and pursuits.
Since Dee has evening class on Wednesday, February 14th, we scheduled an early, special dinner at a local chef’s house.
Afterward, we’d have a quiet wine and cheese night, with a custom, yellow, daffodil-designed cake I ordered from a friend.
If she’s free then, Eira could join us.
Rane and I would have our Valentine’s on the tenth, a Saturday.
We planned to do things we haven’t tried together, despite dating for almost a year: Bowling, watching a movie, and playing the Unstable Unicorns card game.
I’d also cook her the salmon steak that she likes for dinner.
I considered ordering two cakes from my friend but since Rane mentioned wanting to eat at a certain bakery, I figured I’d spend that other cake money at the bakery, I figured I’d spend that other cake money at the bakery instead.
Friends often ask whether it’s expensive having multiple partners.
Last Christmas, I spent on multiple gifts and now, I’m spending on multiple Valentine’s.
My answer is this: I think it depends on the people involved.
Neither me nor my partners are into expensive jewelry, gadgets, and brand-name clothes.
Most of our date-money is spent on food, transportation, and accommodations (for when we take out-of-town trips).
These are relatively above-average expenses, but we also earn above-average relative to the median income in our city.
In that way, we live within our means.
“What about kids?” Another friend asked.
“We can’t afford those yet,” I answered. Besides, both Dee and Rane had expressed little interest in having one until they’ve pursued their careers to the fullest.
“Actually, Eira jokingly volunteered to be the ‘birth mother’ if we ever reached that point,” I shrugged. “But who knows what’ll happen in five or ten years.”
I remember this one, extended weekend I spent with my partners.
Dee, Eira, and I were having a quiet, lazy Sunday at my apartment.
Dee was on her period. And Eira would probably have no problem with the blood; she might even do as Oliver (Barry Keoghan) did with Venetia (Alison Oliver) in the movie Saltburn.
She’s not “vanilla” as she says.
But Dee and I aren’t vampires, so we contented ourselves with heavy petting and kissing.
We were in bed almost all weekend, eating takeout deliveries, and talking about things we’d eventually forget; inconsequential but fun conversations among lovers.
The following night, Monday, after Dee and Eira had gone home, I met Rane at a convenience store to munch on some chocolate-dipped breadsticks.
We returned to my apartment (which had been cleaned, with the sheets and bedding replaced), made love, shared Spotify songs, and fell asleep.
She got up early the following morning, for work, and I sent her off at my apartment gate.
My partners and I function like any other monogamous couple.
We have, roughly, the same concerns, issues, jealousies, even fights.
The only difference is that there is more than one person involved. That’s it, really. That’s what it’s like to celebrate Valentine’s with two or three partners.