Top photo by Jack London via Wikimedia
What's Valentine's Day like when you're polyamorous? Hugely different to what it's like when you're monogamous? Or completely and utterly the same, just with a couple more people and a bigger bill at Hallmark?
To find out, I spoke to some poly people—couples and singletons—to see how they do things on the most loved-up day of the year.
Shonn and Veronica, Dating Five Years
VICE: How does being poly play into Valentine's Day?
Shonn: Being poly hasn't taken anything away from it. We're constantly looking for new friends and possibly someone to be a part of our family. It would be amazing to share that day with our third.
How would you like to celebrate Valentine's Day with your third?
Veronica: I wouldn't want to do the same thing every year. We enjoy being pampered—like spas or going to a show. Of course, any suggestions from our third would be welcome; we like to try new things.
Shonn: I don't usually cook, so I would like to cook for my two ladies. I think that would be a pleasant surprise and thoughtful.
Do you ever find a third just for Valentine's?
Valentine's is actually the easiest time of the year for hookups. Lots of disappointed people looking for a connection.
Would you get mad if one of you took the other out on Valentine's Day instead of going as a three?
Veronica: I would only be mad because he doesn't like going out for Valentine's, so if he made a exception for her, that would hurt. But him going out with her in general is no problem. I have a feeling it would be me and her going out alone and coming home tipsy, though.
Shonn: No complaints from me!
VICE: Valentine's Day—how do you include everyone?
Courtney: If you celebrate Valentine's Day as a poly person and you're in a relationship with more than one person, it would either mean excellent time management to accommodate all your partners, or [be a case of everyone] celebrating all together.
What's your ideal poly Valentine's Day?
To be honest, I'm not huge fan of the monetization of Valentine's Day. But if I were to celebrate it, it would just be about sharing the love with everyone you care about, regardless of the relationship. Dinner, drinks, dancing, go home, and get a bit weird.
On previous Valentine's Days, have you bought everyone a gift?
Yeah, I have, but that can be quite tricky, depending how serious you are with each partner. Safest option is to get everyone the same thing.
William and Katie, Engaged
VICE: Is Valentine's Day any different when you're poly?
William: Yeah, totally! We're actually a little bit confused about what to expect for this one because we've never actually both been dating people at the same time on a Valentine's Day. So we're like... shit! Do we send them both flowers?
Would you consider a quadruple date?
Katie: We've discussed it. And both of our boyfriends-slash-girlfriends would say yes. However, we have a feeling they may not get along—their ideologies would clash at the dinner table, to say the least. We started dating them, quite luckily, at the same time about a month ago. So it's still pretty new with them.
Do you think your partners are expecting any gifts from you?
William: We just started talking about it last night, and we're not sure. It's so fresh, and they're both so aware of our relationship and so chilled about it that I have a feeling they wouldn't be.
Katie: As a girl, it's hard to say. I really don't know what my other partner is going to do. I think if I were a "normal" girlfriend he'd probably go all out and spoil me. But being that this relationship is quite new and that I'm engaged, anything too over-the-top could look like he's trying to invade Will's territory a bit.
Does polyamory make celebrating one person harder?
William: Purely financially.
Related: Watch 'Inside London's Polyamorous Unicorn Movement'
So if you both had all the money in the world, how would you both like to celebrate it?
I think we'd definitely be on a yacht in Santorini with 50 million pingers and a mountain of coke—but it'd still probably just be the two of us.
So actually being poly during Valentine's is almost like a way of bringing the two of you together?
Katie: Polyamory, for us, is one of the main ways we keep our relationship with each other romantic and fresh.
William: When you look at the science, the chemistry of romance inevitably fades, but when you're seeing new people, you get those pink clouds again, and all those lovely hormones hit you, and then you can totally carry that back into your primary relationship.
Has being poly changed your view of Valentine's Day at all?
Katie: I think we see it about the same. We're both very romantic people, but also very pragmatic too.
William: On the one hand, it's lovely to have a special day, but on the other, we're also aware that time is a meaningless construct and that the date has just been designed by our corporate overlords to sell gift cards.
VICE: How do you celebrate Valentine's Day?
Tom: I celebrate it the same way most people do—it's a chance to do something fun with a partner or partners, and celebrate and reflect on relationships. I generally put lots of effort into relationships, so I certainly don't think Valentine's Day is the only time in the year to do this.
If you're with more than one person at the time, does that change things?
It totally depends on the dynamics of the relationships—if they're friends or partners too, then I could imagine a situation where we go on a date all together, but normally, I would try to spend some time with everyone at some point during the day, depending on calendars. Christmas and New Year's are actually way harder to mange.
Really? How do you deal with those two?
It'd normally be a very honest discussion with everyone involved, and often, it'd be hard to come to a decision that pleases everyone all the time. Valentine's Day is a lot simpler, because you can always split the day up, or do something with each partner around Valentine's Day—it doesn't all need to happen on one day.
Follow Tom Usher on Twitter.