I have a New Year’s Eve fantasy.

Maybe that’s common. Or maybe it’s because I’m a woman. I don’t know. But for as long as I can remember, or for as long as I’ve understood the romantic undercurrent of New Year’s Eve, I’ve had this fantasy in my head.

Of spending New Year’s Eve with my lover. Of dressing up in my fanciest clothes and going to a party and dancing and drinking and kissing at midnight. I’ve never had that.

I didn’t date in high school. I always went home for Christmas break when I was in college and graduate school, so even if I was seeing someone that winter, we couldn’t spend the night together. I’ve only spent New Year’s Eve with a lover once, and we just stayed home. That was nice, too, and we did kiss at midnight.

The thing is, we’re poly.

And poly for the holidays can be hard when two partners are holiday-level. Monogamy presumes that all holidays are days spent with your romantic partner. But poly couples have to organize schedules like divorced parents or people with step families. Or divide things up like how we ate Thanksgiving lunch with my maternal grandparents and Thanksgiving dinner with my paternal grandparents when I was growing up.

He spent Thanksgiving with her and Christmas with me. Then there was New Year’s Eve, and me wishing for an even number of holidays. It doesn’t help that New Year’s Eve is a sexy holiday, like Valentine’s Day.

She wanted to spend it with him. But I wanted to spend it with him, too.

It didn’t help that he told me she wanted to spend it with him, instead of asking whether or not I did. At first I said maybe we could find a day in January to celebrate our 2 ½ year anniversary. But then, the closer the day drew, the more I realized that it mattered to me to spend it with him.

I suggested the three of us spend the night together to compromise, but she thought that would make her too jealous or be too pressured. As we talked, I could see how upset it made him to feel torn between the two of us. To be able to see both of our sides and not know who to favor or how to fix it.

I realized that I was causing my partner pain, and that I didn’t want to. I realized I was valuing my fantasy over the person standing in front of me. I realized that he was more important to me than any holiday.

There’s no manual for how to do poly over the holidays, though there ought to be. Especially not for when the holidays are charged with cultural baggage and family baggage on top of poly baggage. We’re told that when we find that person to love, we build holiday traditions together with them. Not that we sometimes celebrate alone.

Sometimes nothing can prepare you for the pain of stepping outside the cultural script.

But being able to tell your partner that they’re more important to you than New Year’s Eve, and to hear the same…. that’s worth something. That’s worth a lot. Even if it’s not a midnight kiss.

In a culture which tries to sell us the perfect holiday picture, we can’t lose sight of the fact that the holidays are rarely perfect, even if you’re monogamous.

At the end of the day, I want a relationship, not a fantasy. I want to love an imperfect person and be imperfectly loved in return.

The road can get bumpy when you’re in uncharted territory, but those who can weather the storm come out stronger for it.

Even though I spent New Year’s Eve alone, I came out the other side feeling more secure in my relationship than I might have had we spent the evening together. Life’s funny that way sometimes.

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