During our podcast recording for the coming out episodes, more than half of the folks in the digital room said part of the process was accumulating the language for the concepts of polyamory. These days, there’s a little more public awareness of polyamory (a few more articles in mainstream papers and magazines, a few more tv shows, a couple more radio bits - all of which you might have seen online that might have brought you to places like, well, here) but in general, society is very monogamy-minded and our conditioning is pretty much the same: find one person to “settle down with” and ride the relationship escalator all the way up, and you’ll be happy in the end. Anything off that script, whether it’s more people, relationships that don’t follow a full escalator pattern, or both, are still seen as problematic by society at large for the most part, to the point where young adults often don’t even have words for them easily available.
This was the case for me, and for most of the folks in our coming out episodes. We had to find the language in communities we fell into with various partners who had been in them longer or books that were recommended to us by community members at meetups when we searched using the wrong keywords and happened to find something close enough, and gradually figured out what we were doing and what language worked for us. This process of slowly developing language around communities and amongst ourselves is why some language feels complicated or like there’s a new word every time you turn around. It’s also why there sometimes isn’t a word for the thing you want, yet, and you’re left saying a whole sentence (and why sometimes that’s a good thing!).
I keep saying community, but often, polyamory isn’t an organized thing you come at. It’s something you stumble into because you fall in love with someone who’s doing something polyamorous or polyamory-adjacent (ethically nonmonogamous but not polyamorous) or you both meet someone and feelings ensue and you have to figure out how to deal with that. Let’s look at some common resources and communities that people new to polyamory often have, find, or turn to for guidance when they’re first starting out.
In Person Polyamory Meetups and Community:
This is (in the experience of me and my friends, at least) the least common way to get more information about non-monogamy, but places adjacent to larger cities or that are more densely populated, like coastal areas, often have public polyamory-focused meetups that you can find online through apps and sites like Meetup or Reddit. Even if relationship style is the only (or primary) thing you have in common, it can be helpful to normalize the relationship style for yourself, and be an easy way to make friends who understand, especially if you’re not ready to come out to all your friends and family yet early in a new relationship. You can learn a lot about the different ways people do relationships just by watching different dynamics play out in front of you. Some local groups are big enough or well-established enough to run things like polyamorous board game nights or potluck nights as well. The latter are often by invitation and at people’s homes rather than open to the public, so it takes some attendance at public events before you can garner an invitation.
Online or Written Resources and Community:
This can be on its own or as a spinoff of the other options. Most in-person communities have some online presence and these days that often includes an online forum or group for sharing experiences, information, debating opinions, and so on. (Memes and humor usually welcome.) They often have links to sites like this that are more strictly educational, and keep a list of books that are both 101 and 201 level topics that people might find interesting. New people get steered toward the “Big Books” on Ethical Non-monogamy and Polyamory when they walk in and say “Hey, I’m new here and me and <partner> are trying out this honest, open relationship thing, I’ve been seeing <other partner> for a few months and…” When I was new, there weren’t so many books on the topic. People mostly threw a copy of The Ethical Slut at your head and linked you some articles. We were about to read and start arguing about Sex at Dawn. (But Facebook also didn’t really have groups then. We were on Reddit, it was a Wild West, it was the late-aughts, it was a different time…) These days, there are a plethora of books, articles, and resources, so we can direct people to things that match their interests, and mostly do better than we used to. It’s a new frontier. But lots of people aren’t as nerdy as I am, and don’t want to read everything that comes out on the topic of relationships. They just want to build relationships within their local communities.
Local Kink Communities
Most local kink communities have a fairly robust support system for their polyamorous members. It’s where I built most of my vocabulary, back in the day, to figure out what words I actually needed to search to get the right articles, to find the better language for what I was doing and wanted to keep doing, going forward. “Polyamory” was something I learned in the local dungeon when vanilla spaces only gave me “open relationship” to work with. I had the good luck to be getting involved in my local kink scene around the same time (within a year of) getting involved in ethically non-monogamous relationships. The combination of an open-minded community and one that was already aware of polyamory, so when I lacked vocabulary, there were others who could help me fill in gaps; and a community where there was constant good-natured debate about how polyamory worked, so I got to make up my own mind about how it would work for me, rather than have anyone tell me a one true way, was especially positive.
Hobbies and Conventions
It seems kind of counter-intuitive but lots of communities around ‘geeky’ hobbies are often actually really welcoming of alternative relationship dynamics. Therefore lots of people “bump into” the concept of polyamory at anime conventions, game conventions, sci-fi conventions, comic conventions, Renaissance Faires, and other “I have a hobby that involves a fair amount of detail, maybe dressing up, maybe memorizing a lot of lore” sort of events. Even if these are where you hear of polyamory rather than where you get details on the vocabulary, you can then turn to the internet or books and get more information, and then meet people in person at meetups later. A lot of my friends have alternated this cycle with the in person polyamory meetup cycle and some online dating until they were happy with the amount of information they had, and their hobbies, and their polycule.
Since you’re here, I assume you’ve found the word polyamory. Maybe you saw a video online, maybe you read an article, maybe you found a link here. But you’re looking for more information. (I still am. Maybe it’s because I’m a compulsive reader and I’m pretty sure I’ll always be looking for more information and there will always be something to get from new takes on relationships, but I’m usually happy to read something new about ethical non-monogamy.) We all come from different perspectives to get where we’ve landed and those different paths bring different background and assumptions and baggage. I’m sure that some of the folks who came up with me came to exactly the opposite conclusions I did - because remember I said we had arguments over how polyamory should be done happening all around us? Some of them must have disagreed with me. I look forward to meeting them in the comments section of groups forever and always.
Like this blog? Want to support it and Season 2 of the podcast?
Facebook Ready For Polyamory
If you aren't caught up with the podcast, listen to it here.