This is a guest blog post on the theme of enhancing relationships, to celebrate the launch of Keely Kolmes’s upcoming monthly Relationship Skills Workshop. The first workshop will meet on Saturday, April 11th. The second one, just for singles, is May 16th. You can sign up here for newsletter updates. Those who receive the newsletter will get bonus videos and tips!
“Whole Lot of Driving Goin’ On”: Poly and Kinky in Rural America
People with altsex identities, including the poly kink (PK) communities in cities often feel that they live in a small community. This post focuses on PK folks living in rural settings. You go to a party and there’s your ex. You meet someone you want to date and then you find out that one of their sweetie’s sweeties is your therapist.
But imagine if you REALLY lived in a small town, a town where everyone in town knows each other. There’s one second grade classroom and that’s where your kid goes to school. You can’t go grocery shopping without running into ten people you know. And if you want to see a therapist, even if there’s a therapist in your community, you just may not feel comfortable seeing them. While all professional therapists are bound by confidentiality, the reality of small town life is there are multiple unavoidable dual relationships that may impact your comfort level, especially if you are poly or kinky. (For a great piece on dual relationships being unavoidable and not necessarily a bad thing, I refer you to Ofer Zur’s excellent writings on this topic). People know things about you (or THINK they do) just from living in the same town.
Small towns and rural areas are not necessarily more conservative. Mendocino, Arcata and Ashland are great examples of progressive small towns. There are without a doubt PK people who have been living in these communities quietly for many years just under the radar screen of most people.
But what if you want to date? Do you feel comfortable dating in a small community as a PK person, knowing how hard privacy is to maintain? Especially if you are a “pillar of the community?”
The reality is that if you are a rural PK person, you most likely do a lot of driving to be able to find and date like-minded folks. Dating takes more time. Met somebody online and want to have a simple coffee date? Not so simple when you live three hours away. What if you want to go to a party that ends at 11? Do you really want to drive home?
So living as a rural PK person who wants to date means extra money in gas costs, extra time, the exhaustion that driving long distances incurs, especially on rural roads, and challenges finding places to stay.
Here are some concrete suggestions for people who entertain or date rural PK people to show your support of their situation.
- Offer to pay for their gas – or at least to split the costs
- Offer to do the driving on your date – they’ve already done a whole lot more just to see you
- If you are hosting an event, offer a way for people to spend the night rather than have to deal with finding a hotel or driving home
- If you are dating someone who has come to see you but also has other dates or events scheduled in your area, try to schedule your time with them so that they don’t have a challenge finding a place to stay. For example, if you have a date on Friday night and you know they are supposed to see another sweetie on Sunday, you can change your date to Saturday, see if the other sweetie will change to Saturday, extend your date to two nights, or help them find someplace else to stay.
Finally it goes without saying that if by some chance you do end up visiting them at home, you take your cues from them about how “out” to be.
KARIN WANDREI, LCSW, PHD, lived and worked for sixteen years in a rural northern California county. She does short-term therapy within Rohnert Park and online and loves to work with people in rural communities. Her web site is at www.karinwandrei.com.