Looking for other like-minded polyamorous peeps in your area but can't seem to find any? Feeling alone on your unconventional life journey?
That’s how I was feeling at the beginning of my consensually non-monogamous life over a decade ago. Thank goodness I eventually discovered the amazing power of community to help embrace the unique and vulnerable parts of me and guide me in the right direction! And the good news is today, you have even more resources available to you. We’ve all heard the quote by Jim Rohn “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” But I’d like to take that one step further because living an alternative lifestyle takes bravery, inspiration, smarts, and the power of community. Try this quote on for size:
“The fastest way to do things you don’t think can be done is to surround yourself with people already doing that. There is no bigger life hack in the history of the world from getting where you are today to where you want to be than the people you choose to put in your corner. They change everything.” — Scott Dinsmore
Environment is everything and that includes the people in our circles! In this article, we will discuss how to find community online as well as learning how to create one in your own neck of the woods. Being a sexual minority is not easy, and when we can surround ourselves with other-like minded folk for emotional support, collaboration, and camaraderie, everyone wins!
Let’s face it: many of us have been brought up being taught that hetero-normative monogamy is the only option available to us. It takes consistent effort and inner work to unlearn and deconstruct what we were told during those formative years. Take advantage of the resources that are available to you and learn directly from others that have gone before you, already made all the mistakes, and can help you navigate around some of the classic landmines. The idea is not to be perfect at polyamory or whatever alternative lifestyle or relationship structure you are enjoying – but to screw it up less than you have to! Love isn’t limited but time is. Learn to use your time wisely such as building a wonderful community around you that you can tap into at any time to get questions answered, feedback received, and hugs and support given when needed.
Strategies for Building Community – Locally & Globally
So perhaps you’d like to start a community from scratch right in your local area. I’m going to give you a roadmap for success to do just that! People in your community will appreciate your efforts, the option and opportunity to show up and come to your event, and to express themselves freely with others who “get them”. What a wonderful contribution! Feel free to put yourself out there and create that safe space for others. What an empowering and meaningful thing to do! Especially for those newbies out there – they are looking for a safe space to learn, ask questions, and be vulnerable in their self-discoveries. Help them be free to ask the questions that are burning in their hearts and minds. Ready to explore building your community? Let’s go!
Build Your Community – Locally
1 ) Consider the Venue Carefully – Your venue choice will impact the success of your event greatly. Bear in mind that folks typically want the event close to their house (accessible), inexpensive or free, with some privacy, and without having to put in much work. So you are balancing the three components of FREE, PRIVATE, & ACCESSIBLE. Ask yourself what venue would be the best option to achieve the results that you desire of turnout and effective community building. A library perhaps? (free and quiet, but not private) A park? (free but not quiet or private) A bar? (accessible perhaps, but not free or private – consider a “quiet” establishment during perhaps a non-busy time such as Monday evenings). If you are considering your private home, bear in mind that coming into someone’s personal space can be really intimidating if you don’t already know the host.
2) Be Inclusive – Do what you can to make your event open and welcoming to people of all sexual orientations, genders, the poly-curious as well as the already practicing alike so that many more in your local community can join you. Outside of your “regularly scheduled” event, consider letting others know in your community if you are going to another fun event they might enjoy (eg. live concert) to help everyone feel included, welcome, and considered. Create an inclusive win-win for all as best as you can.
3) Post Rules to Help Create a Safe Space – Posted rules can act as a tool to filter, especially when hosting a large and/or public event. They can help set the expectations for everyone, so that all have a base understanding for interacting with each other. Here are some sample rules that other poly communities implement using the easy-to-remember acronym: “L.O.V.E.R.S”:
-- Learn – Our events are about learning polyamory and developing friendships and connections in the community. Note this is not a “play” space.
-- Open communication – We are all about open and honest communication. Help us create a safe space that facilitates trust.
-- Verbal consent – Please be sure to ask for and wait for a yes before hugging or initiating any physical contact.
-- Expectations – Leave them at the door.
-- Respectful behavior – Acting respectful towards hosts and all guests is required.
-- Safer spaces – We strive to create a safe space for people of all identifies, including for those that do not identify as polyamorous. To protect other’s privacy, no photos (unless there is consent).
4) “You Are Here Logistics” – Great, you are live at your event! Consider having a sign at your event and make sure to sit right by or under the sign. When people come to possibly join you, be clear by asking “Are you here for [our polyamory event]?” Ask all new attendees if they have read the rules (listed above). If someone breaks them, have a candid and honest conversation with them to re-state the group’s rules.
5) Set The Example – Be ethical, transparent, hold the space, survey / check-in with your community, and be ready, willing and able to have difficult conversations when needed. Consider rotating leaders. Remember it’s not about you. This community you are building is for THEM – the attendees – to help them in their own relationship endeavors. Lastly if you screw up in your efforts to lead this group, take responsibility for that, lead by example, and “own your shit.” You will earn respect and loyalty for being vulnerable and leading with integrity.
Build Your Community – Globally
In this day and age, there are a plethora of online communities, websites and forums. A Google search will bring up a multitude of resources, many of which were not available even five years ago. Use them, and learn from the wonderful and ambitious creators and fellow members.
2) Forums – There are oodles of polyamory-focused closed Facebook groups and forums on social media websites such as Facebook.com and fetlife.com. Just do a search for the topic of your choice, and then ask to join these groups for additional educational opportunities, collaborating, and personal exploration with like-minded folks.
Building up a community in a really powerful and intentional way can be so rewarding, fulfilling, and bring a great sense of satisfaction as well as much learning for all involved. Remember that you are the teacher as well as the student and to check your ego at the door. Then watch as your community members’ relationships and lives open up. What a beautiful experience to give back to others with the wisdom each of you have gained sharing it with one another while supporting each of your respective journeys. That is such an incredible resource to put in someone’s hands! Remember you can create this one step at a time, and have your friends and fellow community members pitch in to help you.
To help inspire you on your journey, I will leave you with this quote:
“If you do something that matters to you, it’s going to matter to the people around you. And that becomes contagious and creates a ripple effect. So what is the work you can’t not do? Discover it. Live it. Not just for you but for everybody around you. Because that is what starts to change the world.” — Scott Dinsmore
Let’s change the world! Together. You can start right in your own backyard. Or on your corner of the Internet.
Source: Special thanks to Tim from PolyChicago for the inspiration and various contributions to this article.
Kitty Chambliss is a polyamorous and sex-positive speaker, author, educator, relationship coach, activist and founder of Loving Without Boundaries (LWB). Since 2012 LWB has over 220 blog posts and 60 podcasts to date. Kitty’s work has been featured in Stories From the Polycule, PostModern Woman, the YoushareProject, the upcoming book Coming Out Poly, and other publications around the globe. She has also been a special guest panelist and speaker on radio shows, international and national conferences and more. She is also a dual-certified (CPC and ELI-MP) relationship coach having graduated from The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC). Lastly Kitty is thrilled to be bringing her upcoming book: Jealousy Survival Guide out to the world this fall. Kitty has made it her life’s mission to make thriving relationships – even unconventional ones – attainable to everyone.