My partner [29F] and I [28M] been together for a few years and non-monogamous from the start. We live together and consider each other our primary partners. We’ve had a few dates and flings here and there. But for the first time this year, she has a stable secondary partner of two months during the cuffing season which coincidentally includes her birthday. It came up recently that we seem to have different ideas about what the holidays mean and how we navigate them with other partners.Anonymous, Reddit.
She doesn’t see any issue in just divvying up the day and celebrating partly with me and partly with her partner, and I guess I have a more traditionalist view and want the holidays to be special moments for just our relationship. Am I being too selfish and caught up in the romance of it all? Holidays were really important for my family, maybe I just need to tone all that down given that they don’t seem to be as “sacred” for my partner?
I understand where your retro-perspective on your own feelings regarding who your partner spends their holidays can appear as selfishness. After all, much of non-monogamy mindset revolves around finding joy and celebrate in the act of sharing. And in a way, your current discomfort around parsing your partner’s holiday schedules for the first time in your relationship experience with this particular partner can drum up some previously unnoticed relationship insecurities.
It sounds like some of that relationship insecurity arises from the perceived conflict between what you and your partner each envision for the upcoming holidays. You believe that due to your more traditional background that you should spend your holidays with your partner, in exclusion from all others. On the other hand, you perceive that your partner has a more liberal approach to holiday scheduling where she spends her holidays with her multiple partners. And your perceptions of your holiday vision directly conflicts with your perception of hers, which in turn is manifesting in the form of self-shaming (“Am I being too selfish…?”).
It might be a good time to reassess and redefine what that primary partnership actually means for each of you individually and for both of you collectively.
You say that you each consider each other to be primary partners. But it is unclear based on what you have shared that her desire to spend holidays with her other partners constitutes a violation of an explicit personal boundary that you have or a mutual agreement you two made together. Better fleshing out what it really means to be primary partners will help keep the two of you connected and aligned.
Another possibility is that when your partner communicates her desire to spend a part of her holidays with her other partner, you hear something different.
It is possible that, for you, spending holidays with your one partner is of such importance that trumps the current non-monogamous aspect of your relationship. Especially in a year filled with such uncertainty and confusion, your desire to celebrate important events such as Christmas and birthdays with your close, loved ones is valid and fair. And it sounds like you have done your best to express that desire to your partner. But just like your desire to turn inwards and celebrate with your partner is valid, so is your partner’s desire to turn outwards and celebrate with others.
Because the holidays are so important for you, your partner’s desires to spend a part of her holidays elsewhere is instead translated to a more extreme interpretation of “I don’t want to spend the holidays with you” in your head. This mental mistranslation can stem from various sources. It could be an unforeseen jealousy as you realize you will be alone for a part of the holidays. It could be an emotional pushback to a deeper insecurity you might have about this specific relationship. Or it could even be anchored in a desire to harken back to what feels familiar in an otherwise turbulent time.
The truth is that both your and your partner’s perspectives are as valid as each other. And she clearly does want to spend a part of the holidays with you, just not in its entirety. Her desire to spend a part of the holidays with her other partner does not at all invalidate her desire to spend a part of the holidays with you, in the same way that her desire to sexually connect with others does not invalidate her desire to sexually connect with you.
There is a more important discussion to be had than what is to be done about this specific holiday season.
Winter holidays are once a year, but there are many more other holidays to a year. And while you don’t have a stable partner through this particular holiday season, you might for next year’s holiday season.
This is a great time and an opportunity to have an explicit dialogue about what each of your expectations are before finding a compromise that works for both of you. Expecting the two of you to share the exact same vision for everything in life is an extreme relationship goal. A more reasonable perspective to have is to be close enough together that you two can safely arrive to a compromise through negotiation and conversation.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at email@example.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!