Love & Relationships

Poly on Valentine’s Day: Navigating non-monogamous love on romance’s ‘big day’

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On Feb 15, 2017

When the idea came to mind to share my experiences of being a black, queer and non-monogamous womxn, I thought I would have too much to write about and would never run out of ideas. This is my first piece this year and I am suddenly stuck and not as eager as I was when I agreed to start writing again.

You wondering why?

Let me give you an analogy that might sound familiar:

Some of you may remember how it felt when you first came out to yourself and those important to you. After about six or seven years of kissing girls, at 15 I finally accepted my queerness was not a phase and I accepted that my day dreams of the love and family I had envisioned involving a man were never as vivid or as tangible as the ones I had when I saw a womxn in them. And so I was able to fall in love for the first time and I did.

In the first year of coming out, I remember feeling so empowered by this acceptance and knowledge of self, and grateful to be equipped with some new vocabulary that allowed me to express my gender, my sexuality and other views I held close about who I was. I was so charged with confidence and the need for visibility that when I’d join my straight girlfriends  on a night out and meet their guy friends, I’d shake their hands in introduction and smile “Hi. I’m Kgothatso. And I’m lesbian.” I remember saying this, daring them to ask questions so I can practise using all these varied ways I’d finally learned to express myself with.

After a year or so though, I got over it.

Once the acceptance and Love of Self developed and settled nicely, it stopped being so important for other people to know I am not straight. The more comfortable I became with my queerness, the harder it became to explain myself to people who found me queer, which is rather ironic.

My partner does have another partner. I am, what I would call in traditional terms, a ‘second-wife’.

I’m at that place with my polyamory.

Since my first committed relationship, before I knew of the concept and the jargon, themes of non-monogamy crept up. The notion has been around so long I am now going into my tenth year knowing I am not inherently monogamous. This means that it doesn’t feel like the kind of novelty that could inspire streams and streams of essays and stories like it once did before. This, and I have finally accepted that my day dreams of the Love and family I want are even more vivid and almost tangible when I see another partner in them, the continued growth from my ideas of a queer family.

And my partner does have another partner. I am, what I would call in traditional terms, a ‘second-wife’.

My partner (we’ll call her ‘Lover’) and her partner (my ‘metamour’) have been together for four years. I am the first of Lover’s girlfriends’ to have some kind of friendship with Metamour. Metamour and I have a unique relationship which has me seeing and appreciating her for the multi-faceted human being she is, and not just as someone I share a common love with.

IMG-20151012-WA0004-1024x575So in these last few days, a few of my friends and family have been asking me how the three of us manage things like Valentine’s day. There are many things set up in society, and our everyday lives, that keep reinforcing what the norm is. This consequently ‘others’ everything else. Valentine’s Day is one of the many days that sucks me out of the little world Lover, Metamour and I have created for ourselves and plunks me hard into a reality where monogamous relationships (and lets-pretend-we-are-monogamous relationships) are the widely accepted and expected kinds.

Valentines dinner for two.

Romantic getaway for two.

Spa package. For Two.

While most times the first instinct is to defy the norms, sometimes, it gets exhausting and its not always worth the frustration and fatigue it may bring. So, we have fun with it. Communicating , negotiating and planning are common features in most poly relationships so we always have chances to put our heads together and come up with ideas that we all like, and ideas that make sure everyone has what they need and want.

As I write this, Lover and metamour are away for two nights visiting the West Cost. I’ve never been one to make much of the 14th of February, and never had the expectation from a partner or partners either. So when Lover told me her and metamour have plans over Valentine’s Day, I really appreciated not having to deal with the guilt of not really being interested in a day my Lover might really enjoy celebrating. I was happy that my Lover wouldn’t have to deny herself the experience, and could still have the opportunity to celebrate the day with someone just as special and close to her.

I am always ready to admit the challenges that come with being poly especially since it is what most people would rather talk about in the rare occasion the topic ever comes up. But maybe the Valentine’s spirit has rubbed off onto me this year because all I want to do is gush at the beauty and extents of Love I have experienced in my poly relationships. For my Valentine’s Day I want to celebrate how my polyamory has contributed to making me a better person. I want to think about how it’s taught me to give Love and receive Love, and how that Love has been a mirror in which I can see myself slowly morph into the person I want to be. I want to appreciate the trying times for teaching me that I am capable of even more Love and compassion than I was raised to believe a human can possess. And how, to be able to share that Love, I need to exercise it within myself first

So while Lover and Metamour are walking on the beach watching the sunset and sending me selfies, I find myself not too bothered that most things, including concepts and the words we use in conversation, are not yet inclusive of non-monogamous relationships. We have created our own world and still get to dabble in the conventional one. We can still have ‘dinners for two’ and couples’ getaways. We can stretch our Valentine’s all week and celebrate our birthdays at least four times in the month. But it’s not the extra dates, presents and surprises that have me catching the Valentine’s spirit. It is the overwhelming feeling of Love that has me grateful to be sharing in not one, but two people’s lives so closely.

For us, two is company. The three of us? Now that’s a damn good party.

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