Ask Polyamory Paradigm

Check out my new question and answer blog!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Time for a pruning.

You have heard me talk before about poly people looking for other poly people for dating, socializing, or even networking. Despite a fairly large and growing poly community where I live it seems like people still have a hard time finding other poly people. Social groups are popular and grow quickly. Online poly sites seem to be gaining in popularity. At poly group meetings I often find myself sharing information about poly dating sites or how to find poly people. I recently even wrote an article about finding the poly community in your area.

For quite a long time I have enjoyed the diversity and challenge of finding other poly folks. It has led me on a journey I will never forget. I've seen the Swing community from the inside, the Gay community fairly up close. I've done some exploring in the BDSM community and talked with those building self-sustaining communities. I've learned what it means to be pagan, becoming interested in theology along the way. I've helped start festivals, social and support groups, internet sites, and even a winery. I've written blogs, opinions, reviews, and given quite a few interviews. With everything one of the biggest pleasures, if not the biggest, has been meeting a variety of people.

Recently I've had cause to ponder the exclusion of some people from my (I mean My personally) poly community.

A portion of my community is growing so quickly that it is becoming unmanageable. I won't bore you with the details, nor do I want to provide specifics in the event those from the community may read this, but the problem centers on a social group that has grown drastically in the past few months. In talking with a friend who has been involved in the group with me we came to discuss options for keeping the group of a manageable size. Before long we were talking about specific people in the community, and not long after that I realized we were talking about excluding people. Essentially we were figuring out which people from the group didn't fit with the majority and could be excluded. We were talking about the guy who seems to be interested mainly in finding sex partners and whom we have heard has been "too friendly" without invitation in the past. We were talking about a couple of people who can't seem to give a short answer to any question and dominate conversation with their own agenda. We talked about the people that could be called "fringe", with maybe more of a Swinger attitude than a Poly attitude. Then came the drama lovers and whiners.

The entire time I was thinking that I didn't like the idea of being exclusive when I've spent so much time trying to build an inclusive community. I pondered things a bit more and think I came to the root cause. When we try to build community, whether that means expanding our list of friends or more, inclusion is natural. Without a full social plate people tend to let most anyone into their social circle or community. Once that community is built a bit and has more members you begin to feel like you can pick and choose a bit more. And if it grows larger than you expected outright pruning becomes an option. It changes from being all-inclusive to somewhat exclusive. You begin to be picky.

It was at that point I realized I didn't like how I was thinking. At the next gathering of the group a few people must have been feeling the same way and started pushing the idea of making the group private as well as limiting membership. Having just been contemplating those same things the topic didn't surprise me much when it came up. While some of the concerns about privacy are valid, I think more than a few have to do with keeping the group smaller, more intimate, and with providing the ability to choose who will be included. In my mind, choosing who to include is the same as being exclusive. This is something I'm going to push back against pretty hard. My feeling is that the group wouldn't be growing as big as it is if it wasn't needed in the community. I felt it was needed which is the reason I run the group. To shift into an exclusive model would put the community back into the same position it was before which would mean I had accomplished nothing.

I have seen this happen before with festivals and even web sites so I'm not entirely surprised it happened with the group I've mentioned. What has surprised me is how fast it took place. Fortunately I have had some plans in mind for a while now and it will only be a matter of dusting them off and refining them a bit. Overall, my hope is to keep building an inclusive community. Just like pruning in my yard, I don't enjoy pruning much in my community.

So how about you? Is your poly world all-inclusive at this point or are you starting to think more exclusively? Or are you already pruning? What do you think of the scenario I presented? Would you take steps toward being exclusive or even private, or would you continue to include most anyone?


  1. My poly world actually overlaps quite a bit with my mono-friend world. I pick my friends based on how well we get along and the sort of person they are. Them being fellow poly/bi or queer/non-theist/childfree people factors in only in that this is that much more we have in common. Maybe I'm weird but I've never purposefully gone out looking for friends in any of these labels. They've just sort of show up as a result of us having other stuff in common. :D

    "What do you think of the scenario I presented?"

    Inappropriate Man is kind of creepy. (That's the nickname I've made up for the guy who tries to find new sex partners at your events.) He's also representative of the the reason why I've never been to a poly social event. I'm nervous it would just be a place for people to hook up casually. (<<<there's _nothing_ wrong with doing this it's just not something that appeals at all to me. :) )

    I think rehashing the goals and purpose of your group would reduce the behaviour you talked about in your post. Well, other than the people who like drama. I have no idea how to get rid of them!

    I really admire your desire to be inclusive but I do think stronger limits need to be set with those who consistently break the rules. If they don't shape up quickly I'd have absolutely no problem with dis-inviting them in the very near future. Good boundaries are an essential part of any healthy relationship.

    I wouldn't go private unless you have serious issues with the members who are doing things to disturb the group. You may want to consider some sort of initiation or screening process for new members, though. It could be as simple as an introductory email that spells out the rules and asks that they agree before they join officially.

  2. The Preacher's Kid,

    Thanks for the great comments and suggestions!

    The idea being tossed around at the moment is to have a tiered system of 3 groups.
    So, there would be a public facing group open to everyone. That is where new members would land.
    The next level would be a private group where regular group members would exist. (This is being requested due to privacy concerns. Many poly people aren't "out" and as a result are hesitant to post profile information or pictures on a public group).
    The third group would be private as well as exclusive. Members from the second group would be invited to join this group as they are found to have compatible personalities and interests with a much more close knit group of friends.

    I do have plans to post a brief summary of the group, outlining expectations, that would be seen when people join. I think your idea about rehashing the purpose and goals of the group is good so I will try that as well :)

    Thanks again, I really appreciate the input!!


  3. You're welcome.

    I like your plan. It sounds like a good compromise between becoming completely private and continuing with the old style that wasn't working.

    Another thought - will members be talking about the second and third groups in front of people who aren't part of them? Or will they be "secret clubs" (for lack of a better phrase)?

  4. ThePreacher's Kid,

    Thanks again for the input! I'm getting close to implementation and the only thing I know for sure is that things will be interesting!

    The first and second groups will know about each other openly. That's because the second group will exist primarily to protect the privacy of the first group. The configuration of those groups will also be presented when people join so the functionality will be very transparent.
    The third group will be invitation only and neither the first nor second groups will be aware it exists. (This is the group giving me a bit of a conceptual moral dilemma).
    To exist or not exist, that is the question!!

    Thanks again,

  5. From: lovingmorethanone,

    For some reason Blogger seems to be keeping me from making a comment.

    Not that my comments are highly important but I find it nice when others take the time to let me know their thoughts. And if they have similar issues it helps to hear that. So, here's the comment I've been trying to post for several days now. Just in case you are interested.

    I help moderate/run our local Poly group. We are in the stage of building our group. And like you we are rather inclusive. We have those attend who are primarily swingers, from a bdsm group, pagan, Christian (yeah I guess you'd call us liberal Christians, gamers, etc.

    Most, if not all, of those attending are poly. Some are exploring the idea of poly. If they find they don't like it after entering into our discussions, they generally quit coming to the meetings.

    Keep in mind our group is small and yours seems rather large.

    I'd agree about restating what your purposes and goals are. It may be that some don't actually know these.

    As far as the guy looking for sex...well, I see no problem with this being addressed with him. If enough people in your group have a problem of any type behavior, it can be quietly addressed before anything more public or drastic has to happen.

    As far as the privacy issue. Well, hubby and I are not out as well. However, there is a certain risk you take when attending such events and we acknowledged those from the beginning. We faced this fact one night when we walked into our poly meeting to see someone my husband works with. He and the guy both panicked a bit. I simply said to my husband no to worry. He's here for the same thing.

    I don't envy your job in this. But I know that I hang in there with our group because I feel it is needed. Somewhere you can talk about issues and meet people who go through and live as you do.

  6. Lovingmorethanone,

    Thanks for the comment! It is good to know it sounds like I'm on the right track.

    The last few days things are coming together. I'm getting really excited :)

    Thanks again,