How do you meet and date polys when you live in a small town?

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1:00 Host chat

  • I need your advice? How did you come to be comfy with poly when it wasn’t your idea? Call me to contribute to an upcoming show! 802-505-POLY
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9:05 Topic: How to be poly in small town America?

Listener H writes in to ask for advice on the following questions:

  • How do you meet poly people in a small town when you’re in the Bible belt and not out?
  • Do you ever feel lonely being “poly single”—with a partner but seeking others? How do you deal with it?
  • How do you find the right poly people and determine that they are who they say they are?

And listener Forrest has donated the following three works of art. Email me at with your advice. The first three to respond receive a beautiful, hot work of art!

16:00 Happy Poly Moment

  • Listener K shares a wonderful tale of starting a healthy poly relationship with lots of sexy bed time
  • Aura shared two Happy Poly Moments:
    • As the adults discussed new construction to the house to accommodate a new partner, a kid asked about the new partner moving in and expressed delight that the answer was yes
    • Her husband’s mother gave positive feedback on the family dynamic, outside of any poly prejudice

20:10  Feedback

Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? 🙂 Check out PolyWeekly at Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!


Commenting area

  1. Hi Minx

    Although I live in a smallish city, and not a small town int the bible belt, let me take a stab at addressing the questions posted by H, although I’ll change the order…

    1. Do you ever feel lonely being “poly single”—with a partner but seeking others? How do you deal with it?

    I listened to the episode, and the situation H described is that they are married, and thus have an obvious and public primary partner. Not only that, but it’s a socially privileged primary partnership: hetero and legally married, and (presumably) sharing a household.

    I understand that H feels “poly single,” and people are free to ID themselves however they want. That’s cool. Still, speaking as a solo poly person (which for me means that I am my own primary partner and intend to keep it that way, I don’t consider any of my lovers a primary partner, nor would I want to, but that’s just me), I think it’d be pretty damn hard for a married poly person to get taken seriously by others as “poly single.”

    If that’s the label H believes really applies, cool. But if H is self-applying that label in discussions with poly people, they might want to explore more why they think that label applies to them, and be able to express that clearly. For instance, is that a statement on how H and their partner prioritizes their personal autonomy above their identity as a couple?

    Without more info, it sounds to me like H may be more in the “poly and looking for more partners” category — but “looking for a partner” does not necessarily = single/solo, not even in monogamous culture.

    Labels are a means of identity/expression, but they’re also communication and connection tools. And if you’re trying to connect with people, it helps to label yourself in a way that won’t confuse the people you’re trying to connect with.

    1. How do you meet poly people in a small town when you’re in the Bible belt and not out?

    From what H said, I think the biggest problem is that H and their spouse are not out at all (from the sound of it). It’s really hard to connect with people the way you want to, when you’re actively concealing from view the basis of that desired connection. Especially when you’re in a geographic community where you suspect you’re part of a tiny minority — and especially a stigmatized minority.

    I’d encourage H and their spouse to consider very carefully WHY they’re closeted about being poly. What, exactly, are they afraid of? Sometimes there are real risks, like you have a job with a morals clause and clearly could be risking your livelihood and career. But often what closeting boils down to is that people don’t want to deal with stigma. It’s just easier and more convenient and comfortable to keep “passing” as “normal.” Because that’s what privilege really is: it’s not about thinking you’re special, it’s about thinking you’re normal — and about being perceived by others as normal.

    Being stigmatized is unpleasant and can lead to read loss and pain. So the decision to come out of the poly closet is a very personal one. But if you feel like the closet is hurting you or your partner(s) in some significant way (like, say, preventing you from easily connecting with like-minded community and potentially compatible partners) then you might want to consider how out you can safely be, and work on achieving that.

    The poly closet isn’t really an all-or-nothing thing. Most poly people are selectively out. Things like social media with filtering, privacy settings, or alter ego identities helps make that possible. Or simply just choosing who you talk to about what. But most people meet partners through people they know — and if they don’t know you’re poly, and they know you’re married, most people will assume you’re not seeking introductions to potential partners.

    Also, H. did not mention any involvement in, or attempts to find, local poly or sex-positive groups or communities. That’s a huge opportunity. If there’s no poly group near you, is there some kind of sex-positive community? Even a swinger/kink groups or clubs? Don’t assume that you’ll only associate with people who are exactly like you, seeking exactly what you want, before you’re socialized. All sorts of people outside the monogamous mainstream have a lot in common, and it pays to socialize. That doesn’t mean you have to adapt yourselves to be swingers, or kinky. Just get out, meet people face to face, and discover what you do have in common. That can lead to a lot of great connections and support, including introductions to potential partners.

    And if you really are in a complete poly desert: Are you willing to travel? Go to poly events elsewhere? For example, the next Atlanta Poly Weekend isn’t until June 2014, but there are lots of other events. Be open to the possibility of long-distance relationships, and get yourself on a plane — maybe to CatalystCon west, coming up in CA later this month.

    Or if finding more partners is REALLY important to you and you don’t really like where you live and don’t need to stay there, moving to a more poly-friendly community is an option.

    And while you’re at it: If you’re part of a publicly visible, legally and socially sanctions primary couple and youwant more partners but don’t have much experience, you can avoid a lot of mistakes and get off on the right foot by educating yourself about how non-primary partners like to be treated in poly relationships.

    3. How do you find the right poly people and determine that they are who they say they are? I totally agree with Minx’s advice from the podcast: judge the character of poly people and potential partners like you would people in any other context: friends, neighbors, colleagues, monogamous partners, etc.

    But I’ll go one further: People can always fools you, even people you’ve known for a long time and think you know well. And people can change, even radically, over time or suddenly. Unless you’re a telepath with future vision, it’s really impossible to know or guarantee all aspects of a person’s character and behavior. Life is full of risks, and intimate relationships especially so.

    Therefore, it helps a lot to know yourself well, and to get very clear and explicit about what kind of treatment/behavior you need as a minimum to engage/stay in ANY intimate relationship (including your marriage). And be willing to update your own personal standards as needed, and to stay vigilant throughout a relationship about whether things are falling below your bottom line — and if they do, whether it’s likely that can change (or if you’re really willing to lower your bottom line indefinitely).

    And — this is the hard part for a lot of people in primary partnerships — be willing and able to stand on your own and walk away from ANY relationship (even a marriage) that becomes toxic, dead, or that otherwise falls below your bottom line in an unresolveable or deeply harmful way. This is where having good life experience as a solo person (whether you’re poly or not) helps a lot. If you know for a fact that you can get along just fine without a primary partner, or without any partner at all, you’ll make much better choices about how you engage with people in all sorts of ways. And you’ll be able to handle it better when people disappoint you, because they always will at some point.

    Being well grounded in yourself gives you far more leeway to forgive and accommodate the changes, shortcomings, and fuckups of other people. It’s when you feel you NEED a relationship — can’t get by without it, are terrified to contemplate even de-escalating or pausing a relationship — that your partner’s flaws become your problem.

  2. Heh, excuse some typos, I was typing really fast….

  3. Oh, and: on being clear about your own personal standards/bottom line for the kinds of relationships you choose to enter/stay in, here’s an example: My rules for myself.

  4. (Sorry so long…)

    I find the coincidental timing very amusing! Only a few hours before I heard this episode and the question about being lonely when “poly single,” I saw a discussion on’s forums about people feeling exactly the same way.

    So, there is one option for how to deal with the lonely feelings: Discuss them online with others in similar situations. and both have discussion sources (PMM has forums and FL has groups). I imagine that other sites do, too; those are just the ones that I know.

    I kind of consider myself in this area of being “poly single,” though that might not be entirely true. I have my husband and our play partner, who is not officially a boyfriend, but certainly fills the role. We’re all closeted (yes, yes, I know), so he describes us collectively as “his girlfriend” to people unlikely to meet us, and we don’t introduce ourselves in “normal life” with any of these terms.

    Basically, none of the three of us consider ourselves “poly-saturated,” and we certainly experience the related loneliness and interest in finding more partners, so I’ll consider that close enough to mouth off… er… share what I do.

    Talk Amongst Ourselves
    We discuss expectations, preferences, thoughts, speculations, interests, potential candidates, and anything else that comes to mind. This keeps our communication channels open, while also letting us vent our frustrations. We share resources (like books, sites, and episodes of PW) and give feedback on each other’s profiles. Since I am most interested in polyamory, I tend to bore the others… er… bring up most of the discussions.

    Read And Research
    I am on my way to being a great polyamory theorist! My actual practice so far might be “monogamish,” but I listen to podcasts, read blogs, read books, read articles, follow discussion forums… It lets me stay on-topic and prepare for the eventuality of me dating, Husband dating, Kinda-BF dating, or any mix of those three. Who can feel lonely while learning about frubble and couple privilege? (PW Happy Poly Moments are awesome.)

    Discuss Online
    Above, I mentioned the forums, which I sometimes use. I also keep a blog and comment on other people’s blogs. Online resources are particularly wonderful, since one can connect with people in different locations, or be pleasantly surprised by how close other people are! Always employ a certain level of skepticism when receiving information and recommendations online, of course. On the one hand, plenty of people do share real thoughts, experiences, and insights. On the other, trolls abound.

    Enjoy Fiction
    My hobbies includes writing and drawing. As sex-positivism and alternative relationships become more important to me, so they also appear more in my work. I also now look more for examples in the creative works of others, including published novels, fan-fictions, and webcomics. Many things I learned about polyamory were the results of searches inspired by trying to get the jokes in the Impractical Polyamory group on FetLife (a humor group; none of the advice/discussions found there should be taken seriously).

    Search And Socialize
    Being lazy (and maybe a little bit poly-saturated, in that my hobbies keep me a bit too preoccupied lately), my searching and socializing is primarily done online. I can do it at my leisure and, if all goes well, then can see about meeting in person. I try to dedicate a set amount of time to reviewing personal ads and profiles. Also, I attend a local munch (again, yea Internet, for helping me find such a thing) so I can simply meet folks with similar interests. Actually spending time with others, even without any romantic/sexual expectations, really helps.

  5. Sorry to add another thing after such a long post, but I wanted to agree with Aggie Sez on the use of “poly single.” It struck me as inappropriate in this case, too. I used it in my response because I wanted to use the same terms as the letter writer, but being married and looking is exactly that: “married and looking.”

  6. Are there any conventions on the east coast for poly like in Atlanta?

    And yes, we are smack dab in the middle of the bible belt in Northwest Georgia. It’s hard to find poly people not to mention the looks from others when we go out together as our little triad.

  7. And for Aggie and Week–how about “poly unsaturated”? 🙂

  8. “Poly unsaturated.” <3 (-:

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