Categories
Family Polyamory

Navigating Family Gatherings When You’re Not Out

Family gatherings can be difficult to navigate no matter the season. The holidays don’t make them any more or less tricky, despite what we may think. The trickiness comes from the sheer number of gatherings that happen during that time. For 2 months, we get pulled in all directions to spend time with family and friends. Add in a partner, and you have doubled those numbers. Add in multiple partners and… Well, thank goodness for Google Calendar and planners.

If you’re polyamorous, and open about it with everyone, then these family gatherings are easier to deal with. Everyone will assume you’ll either bring multiple partners or trade off, depending on schedules and personalities. If you’re polyamorous and not open about it, you have got your hands full!

Who knows about which partner? Who has met which partner? Are you open with some, and not others? Did Aunt Betty spill the beans to Grandma about your “unique” relationship? Will Grandpa Joe spill the beans to everyone over Christmas dinner because someone poured him one too many cups of the eggnog?

And let’s not forget the effect this can all have on your partners. If, like me, you started your polyamorous journey from an  already established relationship, where family members know your main or primary partner, then your other partners can feel left out. Or like the dirty little secret that you are keeping from your family. And nobody wants that.

Family Gathering Negotiations

So how do we navigate all of the trickiness that comes with multiple partners and family gatherings? Carefully, and with a lot of communication.

The best place to start is to sit down with your partners. If you can do this all together, at one sit down, even better! If schedules don’t allow for it, don’t sweat it. But make sure no big decisions are made until everyone is on the same page and on board.

Then, it’s time to go through the calendar, event by event. Include their family gatherings too. This is a group project, after all. But not the dumb kind from school where only one person did the work. Everyone is pulling their fair share of figuring out how to maneuver through the holidays together.

Important things to ask each other

  1. Who is out about being polyamorous? And are they out with everyone, or just a select few?
  2. Assuming most are not out, which partner has the family already met? And is that partner available to attend those events? And do they want to? Sometimes the answer is no, and that is okay. No one said we have to get along with everyone all the time.
  3. Are the partners that will be staying home for those events okay with how the evening will go? Are they invited to attend as a friend? Or would they rather just sit this one out? This is going to depend on that individual. Some are not okay just being introduced as a friend when the relationship is so much deeper and more intimate than that. And others are okay with it, so long as they get to spend time with their people.

Family Gatherings: Out or Not Out?

A big thing to remember during all of the negotiating is to not pressure anyone to come out to their family. Don’t push that door open for someone who is just not ready. No matter their reason for keeping that part of themselves private. It is up to them to decide if, when, and how to share that information with other people. If you are already out, I’m sure this can be frustrating at times. As one who is still in the closet to some, I can tell you it is frustrating on this side too sometimes. So please be patient with us.

Holiday gatherings can add another layer of stress to an already stressful season for some. Just remember, it’s also supposed to be one of the happiest seasons. If you find yourself stressed about navigating gatherings, then it’s perfectly okay to just stay in. And this year has given everyone the absolute perfect excuse to skip the big family gatherings, so feel free to take advantage of it! But if you want to go out and (safely!) spend time during the holidays with family, remember to communicate with everyone in your polycule beforehand. Ask questions. Be ready to hear their answers.

I hope you all enjoy your holidays, no matter which ones you celebrate. And enjoy the people you get to spend them with.

Categories
Family Polyamory

Easy Holiday Planning So You Can Actually Enjoy Yours

I don’t know about you all, but Holidays are kind of a big deal for us. Gifts and Quality Time are my love languages, so naturally I get very into showering my family with both of those any chance I get. And the biggest opportunity is the end of year Holiday Season. So come November 1st, I am in full Holiday Planning Mode.

Our growing up traditions

In the before-times, when it was just Lovey and I and the girls, the planning and shopping was a simpler affair. Growing up, we always made Wish Lists, for our family members and of course for Santa. It was something I kept up into my adulthood, even if Santa stopped leaving goodies for me.

So naturally, it was something I wanted to bring to my own little family.

Lovey on the other hand had a more conservative Christmas past. His parents didn’t believe in the big commercialization and consumerism. They focused on the religious backing of the holiday. Which meant, for their family, church service, a meal, and 3 gifts each.

My poor little gift giving heart simply could not let that continue once we were together.

The perfect gift

A big part of the holiday planning, for us, is the gifting. The shopping, the wrapping, and the behind the scenes stuff that happens first. Like making those Wish Lists and collecting Wish Lists from our kids.

Once we had received them from both of our girls, Lovey and I would write out our budget and what items we would like to find, as well as who those items would be from. When they were younger, we would label gifts for the girls from their sister. We do the same for Munchkin now. But as they got older, Sass and Crumbs got into the spirit of picking out the perfect gifts for each other. So they get a budget and we take them shopping separately.

We also like to include extended family in all of this. (Did I mention gifts were my love language?) So that means we were shopping and planning for grandparents and aunts and uncles, too. And nowadays we add Boyfriend and Bats into the mix. That is a lot of people to keep track of!

So many events, so little time

Of course gifts is only one aspect of the holiday planning. There are also parties, dinners, kids’ events to take into account. Even if you are not personally hosting or throwing any of these, you still need to know when they are and if you’ve RSVP’d, right? And, if you’re a person of faith, there are also potentially church services and activities to boot!

For us, thankfully, parties are not usually on the calendar. There were the occasional work Christmas parties, but since we both left the work world where those are thrown, we have not had to worry about them. We do get to worry about remembering kids events, though! Every grade in elementary school seems to have its own holiday show planned so we were often going to school on two separate occasions. But again, there was no planning on our part. We simply showed up when and where we were told.

Dinners on the other hand! I used to overlook these in my holiday planning as our circles were smaller and less complicated than they are now.

I enjoy cooking and planning a big meal to share with those I love. However, I also have separate circles for all of my humans. Two, to be specific. One we are openly poly with, and one we are not. Planning and scheduling these sometimes can get a little hairy. But we always seem to make it work.

So by now, you’re probably wondering how on earth I manage to track all of this. And how you can too.

A better holiday planning system

For the longest time, all of my planning was just done in a spare notebook. A different page for all the different things I need to keep track of. This proved tricky more than once when I would need to keep certain things secret from certain people, or when I received Wish Lists. I needed a better system. So I started using a notes app on my phone. But that only worked really well for gift tracking. And none of the other stuff. That all stayed in the stray notebook that kept wandering off.

I finally figured out I needed something I could add loose pages to, something with pockets for all of those gift receipts and scraps of notes, something with categories and a touch more organization so I wouldn’t forget important details. And a calendar to put all the dates and parties and activities on.

Photo of the pages available in the 2020 holiday planning workbook.

So here it is! My printable workbook to organize all your holiday planning. In its 15 pages, you’ll find wish lists and gift trackers for partners, metamours, kids, and everyone else. You’ll also find budget sheets, a menu for those holiday dinners you’ll host, and a shopping list. And, of course, a blank 30 day calendar (with stickers!) to help you plan out all the events, shopping, cooking, and celebrating. Print, (hole)punch, pop it in a binder, and you are all set to plan the holiday season. And actually enjoy the holidays too!

I know the holiday season can get stressful. I hope this workbook can help alleviate some of that stress for you. It has certainly helped me.

Happy Holidays everyone!