02/20/2013 02:45 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Is Valentine's Day Only for the Monogamous and the Popular?

In some of the online groups I'm in, like clockwork, beginning in November and ending after Feb. 14, I see comment threads discussing the coming holidays and spending time with significant others. But going into this "love season," I realized that being polyamorous has lessened my expectation that New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day be magical. This realization came after years of being alone for both holidays; indeed, when I'm not alone, it's usually by coincidence. As I think back on my last seven or eight years of dating, I can only think of a few people whom I really would have liked Valentine's Day gifts from. And the last time I got a partner a Valentine's Day gift, it was still on my nightstand three months later. That was a wakeup call that I hadn't seen that partner in three months and that our relationship was going nowhere.

I was on a date earlier this month with someone whom I will call Cassie, whom I met at a mutual partner's birthday party. This was our second date, so Valentine's Day was not really on my list of things to bring up with her, but I had some supplies in my bag for an activist action that I was doing for Valentine's Day through my church, and after we sat down with our respective coffee-flavored drinks for dessert, I mentioned to her that Valentine's Day has never been a "big" holiday for me, because I always seem to have partners who either are too poor to do anything for Valentine's Day, don't give a damn about Valentine's Day, or both. She was honest that she didn't give a damn about Valentine's Day either, and I was happy to resolve to avoid that day with her.

The realization that I had a better chance of becoming a cat lady than having a Valentine's Day date every year reared its ugly head when I reached 10 years old and noticed that after a certain grade level, teachers really don't require students to give a little Valentine's Day card to every student in the class. I went to a combined middle and high school where giving carnations was the "in" thing to do for Valentine's Day. How many carnations you walked out of school with that day indicated how cool you were, though some people tried to game the system by having others send them carnations. One teacher I really respected said that she wished that she had enough money to get every girl in the school a carnation, to make things equal. I rarely got any carnations. One year I might have gotten one from a platonic guy friend who sent it out of pity, but it reinforced my conviction that Valentine's Day is for the popular and the monogamous.

I actually am envious of my monogamous friends when it comes to Valentine's Day. I've never heard a monogamous acquaintance complain about their partner wanting to hear "I love you" on that day. I do realize that some people are against Valentine's Day altogether; however, no one ever complains about being thought of on that day.

It becomes increasingly difficult near holidays, any holiday, when the words "fair" and "equal" get thrown into play. Last year I did a price check online to see how much chocolate hearts cost wholesale. During that time period, the number of relationships I was in was up in the double digits. After doing some snooping around online, I discovered that I could save money by buying a dozen chocolate hearts (the big, regular ones, because I'm no bum) for $50 or $60 instead of buying individual ones, even if the stores like Rite Aid or Walgreens do two-for-one sales.

There are some things that I do to make Valentine's Day special for myself. You can do them too:

  • Take yourself out: This might sound funny, going out by yourself just to have it thrown in your face that you are alone while surrounded by couples. However, I do this for New Year's Eve and for Valentine's Day. My dominant has given me permission to get a healthy pizza from a local company next year. Having a girls' or boys' night in is completely reasonable too.
  • When in doubt, remember that Mommy loves you: When I feel really vulnerable, lonely or in need of a pick-me-up during Valentine's Day, I can always expect my mother to come through for me. That could be a card or a phone call reminding me that even though I may not have a romantic Valentine's Day, I'm loved. She's always happy to remind me. Oh, and the chocolate-covered platter she sent me last year has not been forgotten!
  • Pick another day: Do you really, really need the correct date to celebrate? Look at all those people who have Christmas parties on days other than Dec. 25! I just celebrated my birthday with a partner a month after it actually happened. It was nice and quiet and made me smile. Even though our date was a month after my birthday, it was still important enough for my partner to remember it. So why not pick another day that isn't being used by everyone else?
  • Try group dates: Why avoid the holiday just because you have more than one partner? If you are part of a group of partners who are all romantically inclined, why not go out together? I know that some people like discreetness, so maybe avoiding the blatant making-out scene would be wise, but being able to go out and get a pizza or see a movie together would help everyone feel included.
  • Consider whether it's really a "life partner" relationship: I hate this question, and none of my current relationships is leaning toward a lifelong relationship, but it is something to think about. There are different labels that people put on their partners, but at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, "Am I a primary in the relationship? In a year or two, will this relationship exist?" I tend to find myself being my partner's secondary partner or his or her side relationship. Also ask yourself, "Is this relationship romantic? Or intimate?" My primary relationship, where most of my responsibility falls right now, is not intimate at all. I can have some fun with my partner or have a good conversation with him, but he is not someone I am going to go to if I need to snuggle or have a quiet evening at home.
  • Wait till Feb. 15 to buy chocolates: I throw this in here because on Feb. 15, all those pretty, shiny, wrapped-up chocolate hearts will be 50-percent off, and the chocolate will still be good. I've only bought candy for myself at full price once, and that was in college, when I wanted a huge heart filled with nothing but dark chocolate truffles. Other than that one time, I always wait till Feb. 15 to get my candy.

However you decide to spend Valentine's Day next year, please remember that there is nothing wrong with being single, flying solo or celebrating alone. Love is a great emotion to have, and everyone shows that emotion in different ways.

As for me? I wrote a very emotional blog post a few weeks about how my biological clock seems to be waking up, but I'm still alone and probably will be for next Valentine's Day. This year, the partner that I share with Cassie asked her and me out for Valentine's Day, so we utilized the group date plan. It was lovely and guilt-free, and I got to spend Valentine's Day with two important people in my life.