Valentine’s Day can present a different set of challenges for some.
“Valentine’s Day can be a tricky one for polyamorous relationships,” says Cora Bilsker, the owner of Nested Heart Counselling.
“It can be celebrated with single or with multiple partners. Some people like separate celebrations and others like to celebrate together. I have spent it with three or four people before, and it has been really sweet.”
Polyamory is the practice, desire or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time, with the knowledge and consent of all partners.
It is a lifestyle that is growing in popularity across the western world.
Bilsker started her practice 11 years ago due to growing demand, particularly in Victoria and Vancouver, for a counsellor who understands the needs of people in the polyamory community. Approximately 90 per cent of her clients are currently in polyamorous relationships.
Bilsker says that most of her clients are between the ages of 20 and 40, and the lifestyle is growing “leaps and bounds,” especially in Greater Victoria, as it becomes better understood.
“At first I had to explain the word to people, and now mainstream news writes about it, and there are Netflix shows showing polyamory and alternatives to monogamy.”
The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) says that behaviours associated with the movement – and in its view are central to it – are gender equality, self-determination, free choice for all involved, mutual trust, and equal respect among all partners.
Zoe Duff, a CPAA spokesperson says the growth in popularity in open-relationships, polyamory, swinging and “relationship anarchy” are seeing more mainstream acceptance.
“New this year are professional bodies considering or formally changing their practices to accommodate individuals in consensual non-monogamous relationships,” she said.
In 2011 B.C.’s Supreme Court ruled that Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada, colloquially known as the “anti-polygamy law,” does not apply to unformalized polyamorous relationships, leading to proponents of polyamory becoming more confident in talking openly about it.
But while polyamory edges closer towards the mainstream and becomes better understood, Valentine’s Day can present challenges for polyamorous partners.
“It can be an emotionally loaded time, but it does depend on the relationship,” Bilsker explains.
More generally, she has advice for people embarking on a polyamorous relationship.
“Making it work, you need a strong sense of self. It’s a journey that will challenge your insecurities and it’s a journey to give you what you need, not relying on just a partner to help you learn about yourself.”