5 Ways to Meet Open-Hearted People — Part 2: Local Groups
This is part 2 of the series “5 Ways to Meet Poly/Open People.” In this series, I’m going to discuss 5 different ways you can learn more about “outside the box” relationships (e.g., polyamory, open-relationships, or other forms of ethical non-monogamy), and/or meet other people who are interested in the same things. With some luck, you might even meet someone/s who want to date you! To recap, the 5 ways I’ll discuss are:
1) Conferences — one-time, occasional, or periodic gatherings
2) Ongoing Local Meetings — discussion groups, potlucks, dinners, game nights and more
3) Primarily on-line discussion groups — e.g., Facebook groups, Yahoo! Groups, Google Groups, Meetup, e-mail lists
4) Dating and Social Sites — e.g., Polymatchmaker, OK Cupid, Ko-Tango
5) Crossover Interests — e.g., tantra, swinging, naturists, kink/BDSM
Meeting Open-Hearted People at Ongoing Local Groups
Since the invention of the Internet and before, ongoing local meetings have been a staple way to meet polyamorous, open, or otherwise open-hearted people. Whether it’s a potluck dinner, a discussion group, a hike, a board-game night, or a gathering at a local watering hole, these ongoing meetings provide a variety of locations, price-points, shared interests, and emotional support levels. These days, there’s something for everyone!
Local Meetings offer a number of positive benefits for meeting others, including:
1) The ability to meet people local to yourself. Since most of these meetings cater to a small geographic area, so long as you attend meetings near to you, then most people you meet at a local gathering will also be near you! There is less likelihood of the dreaded “perfect but geographically undesirable” match than you might find at a conference or on a dating site such as OK Cupid.
2) The meetings tend to be fairly small. Most of the local meetings of my experience are in the range of 15-40 people. There are exceptions, such as one very large group of my experience who often have meetings of 50-100 people, or a few tenacious groups that continue to meet with a core group of 6 or 7 people. But in general, you can expect to meet a group of people that will all fit into a generously-sized living room (which makes sense when you realized that many of the meetings actually ARE held in someone’s living room!) A small group of people is easier for most Introverts to handle, and is certainly within most people’s monkeysphere. Smaller groups make it easier to actually get to know people as individuals.
3) You can congregate around very specific intersecting interests. With the vast increase in the number of poly/open people in the last 10-15 years, there are now sub-groups for nearly everything (at least in urban areas; this is of course less true the farther into the heartland one goes.) Want to meet with people who are poly AND knitters? Play D&D or board games with poly gamers? Discuss politics with people interested in multiple partnerships? These are all groups I’ve known to meet regularly for years. Or perhaps you’d like to meet up with only people near your own age, or who are poly AND kinky, or some other combination of interests? (I’ll cover more of this last type of overlap in the final segment in this series.)
4) You can learn skills a little bit at a time. Many of these meetings feature guest speakers, or focus on learning specific relationship skills to support multiple partner relating. Learning something new for an hour or two every month is often much easier to digest — and easier to retain — than trying to do it all at once in a long weekend.
5) Ongoing meetings mean ongoing relationships. It’s easier to meet someone and get to know them gradually over time with an ongoing local meeting than an occasional one. For most of these meetings, there’s a stable pool of attendees, and it’s easy to form friendships, which can possibly blossom into dating relationships or more.
6) They’re usually fairly inexpensive. Other than the cost of the gas or public transit to get there, many of these meetings are free or fairly inexpensive. Some, e.g., those meeting in a public venue such as a restaurant, will cost a bit more. Others are essentially zero, or the cost of a “potluck dish” to share, which can be as little as a bag of chips. And in many cases, even if there’s a suggested donation or fee, organizers will be happy to offer work-trade in exchange for help setting up or cleaning up.
There are, of course, some downsides to meeting others at local meetings as well:
1) If you’re not completely out, or are just curious and exploring, it can be scary to risk attending a meeting near your own home. What if you run into someone you know?? One way to deal with it is to go to a meeting in a nearby town instead. Though it’s also worth noting that if you run into someone you know, it could be an awesome opportunity for mutual support. 🙂
2) Once you’ve been in the community for a while, it can feel like you’ve already met everyone in the local dating pool. If you haven’t found a partner or partners who click with you, that can feel frustrating. Again, expanding into nearby towns or overlapping communities can be quite helpful.
3) Conversely, when you break up with someone/s, it can be a bit awkward. It’s rather like a small town, in that it’s hard to completely avoid someone in the community. The good news is that this gives you an excellent opportunity for personal growth, and to learn how to lovingly set your own boundaries!
4) Some local groups gather in public places, and that can feel awkward to those who are not fully out, or haven’t met each other yet. Often groups meeting in restaurants will use some sort of signaling method, such as having a “table parrot” (e.g., a stuffed parrot) or other similar poly symbol to let people know they’ve found the right spot. Or they may meet in a private back room, to facilitate comfort.
Where Can You Find Ongoing Local Meetings?
Here are a few places to find poly/open meetings near you:
Map of Poly Groups, world-wide. Yes, really! This is an interactive map with listings of many groups in the US and world-wide.
Poly Local Events: http://polyamoryevents.com/ — this is an aggregation site of various Google Calendars listing a variety of events (both local and a few larger) of interest to poly/open people. Pepper Mint’s (in)famous SF Bay Area Poly & Non-Mono Calendar is listed there, for instance.
Meetup.com is an excellent place to find local meetings as well. Search for “polyamory,” “open-relationships,” or similar terms to find meetings near to you. For those local to the SF Bay Area, The Bay Area Poly Collective is an excellent round-up of poly/open events on Meetup.
I do hope this information has been helpful in getting you connected! Next up in the series: Meeting people via primarily on-line discussion groups.
May you always love boldly, safely, and well!
PS: Want to find a T-shirt or a pin to wear to an upcoming meeting? Check out the fun options over at my LoveOTB Zazzle store!
PPS: If you’d like to talk about some specific recommendations for where to meet people, or any other topics surrounding multiple relationships, communication, Paganism, or the intersection of these, I’m happy to do a FREE 30 minute consultation (or a 60 minute one for 1/2 price.) Drop me a line or call me and I’m happy to set up a time to chat with you via phone, Skype or in-person!
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[© 2014 Dawn M. Davidson]