So You Want to Join or Form a Pack

What is your definition of a pack? How much real life commitment and emotional attachment is implied in being a member of a pack? There is no single correct answer here, because a group of people calling themselves a pack may range from a very casual online roleplaying group to a totally committed extended family who share a house and a bank account and are co-raising children.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to join either of these types of packs, or something in between. Maybe you just want some casual online friends to talk to, and that’s fine. Or maybe you need or want a commitment that is a lot more serious than that. What is critically important is that you need to communicate clearly and honestly to everyone else in the group about what you want to get from being a member of a pack and what you are willing to give in return.

Unfortunately there is a lot of room for mismatched expectations and emotional problems when everyone in the group has a different idea of what the commitment level is. If one person expects and needs the emotional commitment of a real life pack, an online pack might fail to live up to those expectations because the rest of the folks in it are just casually roleplaying. So your definition of pack needs to be clear right up front, and it needs to match everyone else’s definition of pack. Otherwise the relationship is not going to work and somebody is likely to get hurt.

There are some potential problems and downsides to attempting to join or form a pack, especially online. In some situations, a less than mentally stable person may try to set themselves up as a pack leader and get others to be emotionally dependent on them. They crave this kind of power and control over others, but they don’t have the maturity or responsibility or real life resources to be a good pack leader. If the “alpha” of a pack is not a fully mature, responsible and ethical adult, even if he or she means well and wants to offer good quality emotional support and leadership, people can get hurt.

There are some bad “alphas” out there who want the feeling of power and ego they get from leading a pack, but they are totally unsuited to give anything back to the pack members in return for the ego stroking. Or they’re exploitative predators who don’t care about the people in their pack other than to get personal or even sexual gratification from them. These are not healthy situations.

Some people like playing dominance and submission games within a pack. I think that is fine as long as they confine their play to the consenting adults who are comfortable with these roles. But trying to force people to play those kinds of games when they don’t consent is not being an alpha or a dominant, it’s being an asshole. If you are not comfortable with dominance and submission roles, look carefully at the pack you are proposing to join and make sure that they don’t try to push these kinds of interactions on people who are not comfortable with a strictly enforced heirarchy. In particular, it is a major red flag if an “alpha” demands sex or cybersex or overt submissive behavior from pack members who are not interested or not okay with this.

The more casual packs may be easy to get invited to join. “Hi, I’m DarkWolf, what’s your screen name, wanna join our wolf pack chat room on AOL?” If that’s all you want in a pack, you won’t need to invest much time and effort getting to know people first and making sure that you can function well together in the boundaries of a serious committed relationship. On the other hand, if you want a real life pack to live with and sleep with and raise children with, an instant online commitment can’t (and shouldn’t) happen. The higher the degree of intimacy and support and commitment you need from a pack relationship, the longer it is going to take to build that level of trust.

At one extreme end, a “pack” is just a chat room. At the other extreme end, it’s a group marriage, whether or not it involves sex. Some packs are also ethical polyamorous relationships that involve a relationship between two or more members or couples or triads in various configurations. Some aren’t. It depends on the individuals and their different relationships with one another. Most packs, especially online ones, are somewhere in between a casual chat room and a total real life household commitment. As long as everyone is on the same page about what is expected, there really is no right or wrong way to be a pack.

Wanting to be part of a pack is not automatically a bad thing. Being careful about joining a healthy and functional pack with clear and honest communication about what everybody expects to get from pack membership is an even better thing.