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Local Polyamory Groups

Having a group of local people who are also exploring or interested in polyamory is a wonderfully helpful resource for people new to polyamory and those experienced alike. Most major cities across the US have an established group, if not multiple groups. Check out the below links as a starting place to find them.  Use Google, MeetUp and YahooGroups to check to see if there aren't already groups established in your area before attempting to start your own. 

Here's some resources to go about finding local groups:

http://www.lovemore.com
http://www.polymatchmaker.com 
http://www.laps.org/polyothr.html
 
http://www.polyamory.org/SF/groups.html 

However, a lot of areas don't have groups, or the closest group is a good drive away that makes it difficult to become actively involved.  Or perhaps your local group doesn't quite meet your needs. Never fear, organizing a poly group is really not all that difficult with a little bit of effort and dedication. The last part of this page is focused on starting your own group based on my experience of having been an active organizer of local poly groups since the year 2000. 

Benefits of a Poly Group

Before putting the effort into becoming involved with a poly group, it's a good idea to understand what the benefits are of such groups:

What Poly Groups are Not

It's also important to understand what poly groups are not :

Attending Your First Meeting

Attending a first meeting of anything is a bit scary. You don't know what to expect, you don't know if you'll be accepted, if the people will be friendly, if you're dressed appropriately, etc. And if you're new to polyamory in general, it can be even scarier - as this may be the first time you meet actual poly people.  Will they be weird and different?

Before going, check out the group's website to see what they list for what to expect. They should be able to tell you what type of group they are (social, discussion, etc.), how many people usually attend and what format they use. If there's a discussion group you can join, join it and virtually mingle with other members first. If you're still not sure, don't hesitate to contact the organizers.

A lot of groups start with some sort of 'check-in' in which everyone introduces themselves and tells a little about their involvement in polyamory. This gives you an opportunity to hear from everyone - but it can be a bit scary if you are not comfortable with public speaking. Just take a deep breath and remember - everyone else in the room probably had the same fear when they first attended and they totally understand. Most groups don't put pressure on newcomers to say much.

On your first meeting, there's nothing wrong with just sitting back and soaking it all in. If you feel comfortable, speak up. Remember, people have come to this meeting specifically to interact with others like you - the things you have to say are not invalid. And if you have questions, you'll find that there are plenty of people more than willing to give you their take on it. 

Types of Poly Groups

There are several different flavors of group that you might be interested in. There are drawbacks and benefits to each. 

How to get a group started

Haven't found a group near you to get involved with?  Well, here's a recipe for starting groups that I've found has worked very well that doesn't take a lot of effort:

  1. Create a website. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it needs to tell a bit about the type of group you're starting, where it meets (city) and how to join.

  2. Create a mailing list. Having an e-mail list is very important for announcing meetings and having discussions. YahooGroups (http://groups.yahoo.com) is a great way to go, and they're very easy to set up.  They provide calendars, discussion boards, photo albums, polls, etc... all for free.  There are two general ways to go with setting up your mailing lists:

    1. Have one mailing list that serves as both an announcement list for your meetings and as a discussion list.  If you do this, I highly recommend that you don't have your group completely open for joining and require some sort of membership process (YahooGroups provides this option). This helps keep spammers out, people who are just cruising for sex and anyone else you might consider outside of your group's scope. (In the group I run like this, I require that folks be located locally or state their connection to the area, be over 18, and demonstrate some understanding of polyamory before joining.)  This is easier to manage, however in time you may find you want to convert to the below option. 

    2. Set up an announce-only list where members cannot post, just receive your announcements about meetings. This keeps list volume low, and is less intimidating for folks to join.  Set up a separate e-mail list for just for discussions. You may even want to restrict it to just those folks who have been to a meeting before. This encourages folks to come to a meeting, and creates a 'safe' place to continue meeting topics online - as everyone knows that everyone on the list has made the effort to come to a meeting and isn't a lurker. (It's not uncommon for only about 10-20% of those on an announcement list to make it out to a meeting.)

  3. Advertise your group. Make sure your site gets in search engines. Get your group listed with the various poly resources online - www.lovemore.com and www.polymatchmaker.com are great places to ask to be listed with a link to your site.  A lot of other sites will start listing you once they find out about you, but don't be afraid to ask any poly group directory to list you. Also, if there are larger groups in metro areas near you, ask them to make an announcement to their announce list about your group.  If there's any Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Transgender center in your area, ask them to list you as well. Put up flyers in alterative venues - such as bookshops catering to metaphysical topics, pagan, GLBT, etc. 

  4. Set a meeting up!  Pick a date, time and location... and announce it to your group.  It's a good idea to give at least a week or two advance notice so that people can plan their schedules. You may want to solicit the opinions of your group members.. but ultimately, pick something that works for you and that you can commit to, after all - you're the one who has to be there. 'Plan it and they will come' is my motto.

    1. Considerations for locations:

      1. Public places to consider:

        1. Restaurants - Getting people to come out for a meal makes it a lot of fun, and gives a bit of a social aspect to a meeting. If you can, find a place that offers a private meeting room and reserve it. This will make people feel more comfortable attending a poly meeting that is held in public (they know their conversations won't be overheard, and don't have to worry about their co-workers or neighbor seeing them). A lot of places offer this for free or for a small fee. Make sure the management knows the nature of your meeting so they can properly warn your servers of the conversations they might overhear. You may encounter resistance here (although, I've personally never had a problem with it), but better to be upfront than to upset your wait staff. If you can't find a private meeting room, pick a restaurant that can handle larger groups. Places where you order your meals at a counter are great, so that people can show up at varying times and then just join your table. But don't be surprised if you don't have indepth poly conversations if you're in a public place. 

        2. Coffee Shops - This makes for a nice casual meeting without a lot of financial commitment on attendees. Unfortunately, because they are usually in public this doesn't tend to lead to a lot of poly related conversations if you have anyone who is shy about their poly nature. 

        3. Community Centers - Libraries, churches (check your local UU church, they're sometimes poly-friendly), colleges, GLBT centers, apartment complexes and neighborhoods sometimes offer free, donation based or low-cost meeting rooms. 

      2. Private Homes

        1. If you or any of your members is comfortable doing so, you can hold meetings in private homes. However, here are some considerations and drawbacks of this:

          1. The host needs to be very very comfortable with inviting unknown people into their home. 

          2. Be sure to very clearly state the agenda of the meeting in your announcement. With confusion over poly and swing, it's easy for folks who aren't clear on the differences to assume that a meeting held in a home is a rouse for some sort of sex party. I've been at home poly discussion meetings where during the break people literally asked 'So, when do we take off our clothes?'.  Also, keep in mind that HBO's Real Sex series once profiled a tantra session given for polys as a Polyamory meeting.. which leads to further confusion over what a poly meeting is. 

  5. Make sure to make newcomers feel welcomed and safe. It's scary coming to a first meeting. People who feel comfortable on the first meeting, almost always come back.  

    1. Specifically greet newcomers when they arrive. Best if this is done individually.

    2. Start meetings out stating what is coming up. If you're doing a check-in, explain the process and what the expectations are. Don't force newcomers to go first, and make it clear that it's optional. 

    3. If you have a handout about the group or about poly in general - give it to newcomers. Check out my Essays section for a draft of such a document our local groups use. 

    4. Stating a confidentiality rule that says 'What is said here, stays here' can help folks feel more comfortable discussing personal information. 

  6. Establish regularity. To establish a group, it's important to establish regularity in meeting. For example, pick a day each month and try to keep the location consistent. (First Saturday of every month at 2pm). This makes it easy for members to remember and plan around.  You must be dedicated to attending every meeting... even if you go for a couple of months with no one or few people showing up. This is why it's important to pick a location you enjoy... because if you view it as a set time each month to do something you would enjoy doing anyway... then it's a lot less disappointing if you have no-shows. Once you have a core group of people who are regularly attending, it becomes even easier. 

  7. Establish leadership. You need someone who takes a leadership role - organizes meeting times and places, gets the word out, greets newcomers, answers group e-mail. It's usually best if you have a couple of core members who help out with this role. If you're finding yourself taking this on yourself, ask others to help. A lot of folks are willing to volunteer, but they like to feel asked to do so. It's very easy the leader to get burnt out after a while.. having others who can take over is very important.

 

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