For monogamous couples, Valentine’s Day is easy: buy flowers, chocolate, wine; eat dinner by candle-light; then retreat to … the bedroom.
But for polyamorous people like musician Cass King, it can be tricky. Should she spend the evening with her husband, who she lives with, or her girlfriend she’s dating? And will her girlfriend or husband have another partner asking for their attention that evening?
“There’s this kind of Google Calender lifestyle that you kind of have to adopt,” she said. “Celebrating Valentine’s Day or New Year’s or any sexy holiday is always a kind of a negotiation.”
There are many different ways for people to be polyamorous — “poly” — or non-monogamous. Some do it as a couple and call each other “primary partners,” some navigate as individuals who date a variety of people at the same time but separately, while someone else might have multiple long-term partners but not distinguish between primary and secondary partners.
“I tend to form longer-term love bonds,” explains King. “To me it’s really a family thing. If we are in love, then you are a member of my family,” she said.
Navigating the world as a polyamorous person can be fraught when monogamous “coupledom” is the mainstream model.
“Things are centred around a couple, you know?” King said. “Even the design of the car — there’s two front seats! You think of an intimate café; you’ve got two-seaters.”
And for Valentine’s Day, usually only monogamous couples are included in our conversations and imagery, she said.
“We’re going to have to make some effort to include people who are single, people who have larger-than-two relationships,” King said.
Having an intimate relationship with more than one person, with all partners aware the relationships are not monogamous
Similar to a couple, but with three people
A sexual orientation in which a person isn’t sexually attracted to anyone; however they may experience romantic attraction
In an effort to refocus the evening of Valentine’s Day as “a celebration of love, but not necessarily of coupledom,” King and her band, Cass King & The Next Right Thing, are playing a poly-positive show open to everyone, including asexual people and even monogamous couples, whom she encourages to attend.
“You don’t have to worry about being hit on by a bunch of ravenous poly people!” she said jokingly. “It’s really just a dance … not a swingers’ club.”
Because King’s band is chockfull of poly people, they expect a big turnout from Vancouver’s polyamorous community. The band’s drummer, Adrian Buckley, has been polyamorous for 12 years and expects to have “a couple of partners” in the audience.
Typically, Buckley said he doesn’t pay much attention to Valentine’s Day, but “it’s so pervasive as a cultural phenomenon that you kind of feel like getting swept up in it,” he said.
“This show is kind of an idea on how to celebrate Valentine’s Day,” he explains. “We’re trying to take it and broaden it, rather than reject it” and celebrate “love and the diversity within love. That’s what’s so beautiful about it, that it’s so diverse.”