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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Poly family

Recently I was at an poly event that was billed as 'family' style. In other words, kids were welcome, nudity was expected to be at a minimum, drinking and other things probably wouldn't be a priority as at some other events.

What struck me after being at the event a short time was the actual lack of community.

I expected to be part of a fair sized family or community but instead everyone was off doing their own thing or paying attention to only their immediate poly family. This was a huge contrast to other poly events I've attended which were not billed as 'family' style yet included a huge sense of community. Everyone hung out together, did things as a group as much as was possible, and even shared meals.

This got me to thinking about my assumptions or inherent beliefs about polyamory.

When I'm around poly folk I tend to assume the people are very open and loving until they prove otherwise. By 'loving' I'm not saying open to a physical relationship but rather they are caring and kind. Obviously there are exceptions but that is my assumption until proven otherwise. I have found often in poly groups that everyone is met with a hug and often a kiss, even upon meeting a person for the first time. I like that and it is one of the things that draws me to polyamory.

Back to my warped analysis. I took a step back, tossed my assumptions and expectations to the curb, and took an impartial look at the question of whether a sense of community is something to be expected in poly families and their extended network of friends.

Within a family I don't know that community is needed. I know several poly families where responsibilities are not shared equally. Some members just seem to exist within the family while others actually run it and support the family being functional. Here I'm talking about families residing under the same roof.

Families with a member living outside the primary household seem to often have a different sense of community. The outside member is invited to the primary house often or even allowed to come and go as they please. Frequently when the outside member is at the primary household they will jump in and get involved with whatever is happening. My guess is that has something to do with a desire to incorporate with the family, to feel a sense of belonging. It may also stem from a sense of responsibility to the family. Because the outside member isn't there all the time it may be easier for them to become involved, or could even be something lacking in their daily life.

Families and their friends network is where things become a bit fuzzy for me. Some families I've been around seem to prefer to keep to themselves about a lot of things. They don't share a lot of affection outside the family, don't involve themselves in community type activities, and just generally seem closed off to anything but light social conversation.

I've also seen families that immerse themselves in the community as a family. They are happy to share their love and compassion with others and welcome anyone and everyone into their circle, whether it be to help cook, discuss family details, or just hang out together. You almost get a feeling from these folks that "the more the merrier" is a conscious choice for them.

The result of my ponderings is this; I don't know. I think that in general, probably because of the lifestyle, most poly folk are more open and caring of others than a lot of people. At the same time I don't think it is a requirement or a fair assumption I've been making. Not that I am becoming jaded but, I will temper my assumptions a bit going forward.

So how do you feel about polyamory and a sense of community or family? Is it something that makes poly attractive to you or not something you even think about? Have you noticed more of a sense of community or family with polyamory or is it just me? Do you interact differently around poly groups or families that convey a sense of community vs. those that are more closed?


  1. I think it may have less to do with whether a person is poly, or whether the event is supposed to be family style, as much as whether the people there are more introverted vs extroverted, and how at ease people feel at a given location or venue. Introverts and extroverts come to poly for perhaps different reasons - introverts because it provides a way to have deep, intimate relationships with selected people without having to constantly party, and extroverts because, well, as you put it, "the more the merrier." While I tend to the more introverted end of the spectrum, I am open and caring of others when the "feel" of an event is right (e.g. when I feel at home). In other words, I don't tend to initiate connections (although I do try to say hello and smile), but when one or more people around me exude a sense of community, I join in happily and begin taking over the task of welcoming others. I don't know what it is about what makes certain events easier than others, but it's a real phenomenon. And I'm not sure that it's really related to people around being poly... it's more a sense of ease that is less tangible. It's the realization that people around you are interested in you, care about you, and are not in their own worried worlds. It only takes a few people reaching out to change the feel of a whole event.

  2. Thanks for the great comment Polly!

    I agree, it does only take a few people to change the feel of an event. I am also usually more introverted but in social settings can become an extrovert at times. When I do, I am constantly amazed at how easy it is to change the mood of an event.