Posted on March 27, 2009

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This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series How to Start a Polyamory Group

Sooner or later, you are going to find people that are not only curious about your group, but interested in joining.  While it may sound good to have a group that accepts everyone that is interested in becoming a member, there are people that would not be a good fit. Some may have assumptions or expectations that run contrary to the purpose of your organization (seeing it as a “dating pool”).  Others may want to join in order to gather information on the members for malicious purposes (”outing” people without their consent).  The security and safety of your current members should be one of your primary concerns when putting together an admissions process.

 

Interviews

One option to consider is an interview.   The purpose of an interview is for both parties to get to know eachother in order to determine if their needs and goals align with one another.  If you find out that the potential member is a good match for the group, you can also utilize this meeting to provide them with information on the different resources that the group has to offer.

If you choose to do an interview process, I recommend doing this over the phone or in person.  A person gives off a lot of non-verbal cues (from vocal inflections to eye contact and body posture) that are unavailable in pure text communication (email and chat).   Consider holding the interview at an informal setting, like a coffee shop. 

Encourage the potential member to have their partner(s) present for the interview process. There’s two reasons for this. The first is that it’s easier to relay information directly to all parties involved than it is to tell one person and have them relay it second-hand (the telephone effect). The second is that it truly shows that everyone in that household is aware of what’s going on, and hopefully consenting.   If a potential member says that they are in a relationship, but doesn’t want their SO to know that they are going to join your group, consider that to be a red flag – you do not want to be a part of their dishonesty.

Here are some topics that you may want to discuss during the interview:

  • Polyamory – find out what polyamory means to them. While we all agree on the general idea of polyamory (many loves), there’s different ways that we go about integrating that into our own lives.
     
  • Relationships/experience – How did the candidate find out about polyamory, and what experiences have they had with polyamorous relationships?  Someone who recently read Ethical Slut is going to have different needs than someone who has been in a long-term V relationship. Finding out a candidate’s experience level can help you guide them to resources that may help them. 
     
  • Intentions – What is the candidate looking for or hoping to gain by becoming a member? Some seek out a polyamory group for advice. Others are interested in social interactions with like-minded people. There are others with more direct intentions – seeking potential partners. While there’s nothing wrong with this, educate the candidate on whether or not that is one of the key purposes of your organization.  Be especially wary of those couples that want to join the group in search of the “hot, single  bi babe” that will make their relationship complete. No relationship should need anything (or anyone) extra in order to feel “complete”. 

 

Vouching

Another method of screening potential members is whether or not an existing member will vouch for them.   For this method to work, you need to make clear to the members that they should only vouch for someone that they truly trust – a person with whom they’ve had a lot of personal experience.   You may want to still have an informal meeting with the candidate to relay any information about the group that you feel would be beneficial for the newcomer.

Since this method of screening would only accommodate those candidates that are already socially connected to existing members of the group, you may want to consider having an interview process as a “back up” for those people who find out about your organization through word of mouth or online.

 

The “New Person” Mixer

One practice that I would encourage for your group is having a monthly or bi-monthly social mixer to introduce the new members to the rest of the group.   You can either structure this like a munch, or have the gathering held at the house of a current member.   If your  organization has different project committees (outreach, activism, party planning, etc.), try to have a member of each committee attend.  You want to use this gathering to not only introduce the new people to the group as a whole, but give them an opportunity to see how they fit in and can contribute to your organization.

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