That went well

Enjoyable conversation, and a kiss at the end (well, three). An invitation to group sex declined because I don’t know the other people involved, but still. I suspect that I will see this person again.

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Dinner

I have, for want of a better word, a “date” tonight. This causes an odd mix of feelings for me, mostly negative, if I’m honest. Guilt, anxiety, apprehension, a little anticipation. What I’m hoping for is that it goes well; what I’m used to is a horrible flameout. If I see this person, we like each other, and then we continue to see each other, this will be a first for me.

I need to not associate this sort of thing so horribly, though, and the only way to stop is to keep trying and hope it starts to work out. This is taking a very, very long time. If you’d told me, last July, that a year and a half later I still wouldn’t be seeing anyone else, I don’t know what I’d have said. If you’d told me that Carrie would stop seeing other people eventually and we’d be essentially monogamous for a year or more, I also don’t know how I’d have reacted. This isn’t what I was expecting or looking for, and except in the sense that I’m very satisfied with my relationship with Carrie, it’s not what I want.

I keep being made to feel guilty, too, about having expectations, or nebulous desires to “see other people”. Or else I’m made to feel guilty about not wanting monogamy, depending on to whom I’m speaking. Actually, “made” to feel this way is the wrong word; I’m reacting to a deep-seated socialization that the way that, on a gut level, I want my relationships to work is wrong, and that affects me very strongly.

Anyway. I have a date tonight. We’ll see.

Counterintuition

To some extent, I know that I’m making too much of my difficulties here, but I have a lot that I’m unlearning. In most social interactions, I have a strong intuitive sense of how to act–what I’m signaling, what other people are feeling, and the minute reactions that make up that flow of information. I’m good at “reading” people, sure, but that’s a small part of it. I’m also very god at carefully conveying what I want, with or without words, and at fitting in to new situations fairly seamlessly.

That breaks down a bit in situations that involve, for want of a better word, “romance”. I continue to be able to read and respond to a situation, but there’s another layer of information involved that I can’t get at. Maybe I can tell that someone’s interested, but I can’t necessarily tell if they’re available, or if they’re available for what I’m available for. I can’t tell if they’d be understanding or upset if, after enough flirting to establish mutual interest, they found out that I’m attached. I don’t know if that kind of reveal would hurt a budding friendship; in the past, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.

It’s a lot like the way that I feel a bit awkward over the phone or in chat. I’m missing an information channel that I know is out there, that is relevant to the conversation. What’s worse, I find myself trying to deduce the missing info based on even more minute signals, and they just aren’t actually relevant. I’m trying to make assumptions to fill in the blanks.

I’m also operating under a set of unconscious demographic assumptions that aren’t applicable out here, but I also don’t have a feel for the new ones. In Indy, only a minority of people would even be understanding if I made it clear I wasn’t looking for monogamy, even if I wasn’t talking about seeing them; the rest would vary between horribly offended and merely creeped out. People are more understanding out here, but I still don’t have a feel for where that puts things on the flirting-with-the-waitress spectrum.

I’m also not sure where and how I should disclose. If I meet someone I find attractive, in which order should I do the following:

  • Establish mutual interest
  • Mention my girlfriend
  • Indicate that I’m nonmonogamous
  • Ask them out

I’m sure that I’m making more of this than it warrants, of course, and I’ll pick this up over time. I changed a lot of things in my life recently, and catching up my social sense to my new situation is slow but steady. If anything, most of what I’m doing is unlearning a way of acting that never made a lot of sense to me. The default assumption that for most people every interaction is an audition for The One is something that I learned accidentally and would not mind divesting myself of even if it were still useful.

Contact

In the past week, I’ve been approached a few times by folks who seem interested in dating me, and that seem equally interesting to me. That’s an awful lot; about as many as have previously expressed an interest in all the time that Carrie and I have been together. These all seemed a little more serious, too, although we’ll see if anything comes of it.

It reminds me, though, of all the little bits of etiquette that I have yet to learn, or perhaps that Carrie and I have yet to create. I’m not sure when to let her know that someone’s contacted me, or that I’ve contacted someone; most such things peter out before there’s even an actual face-to-face meeting, so right at the beginning seems superfluous, but I also don’t know that it’s okay for me to just drop “I have a date tomorrow” on her–at least, not yet. It would be one thing if this were an open relationship that had been humming along in we’re-seeing-other-people mode for a while, but as of yet I haven’t dated anyone else since (well before) Carrie and I got together. As much as we’re ostensibly open, if I did start seeing someone else it would be a big change in the character of the relationship.

Or would it? I guess I don’t know. The whole thing seems momentous to me, but it’s possible that’s just because I haven’t done it before. Maybe I’m placing too much emphasis on it, but I’m just trying to be sure to disclose as much as possible, and if I miscalculate I want it to be in saying too much rather than saying too little.

I think I’m doing this the right way. I’m waiting until I’ve had a couple of exchanges to bother Carrie with the information, although I may still be disclosing earlier than necessary, as people are still drifting out of contact after I let her know but before we actually meet. I’m letting people know that I’m in an open relationship but that I’m new to the idea. I feel like I’m trying to strike a careful balance between too much and too little info, but it’s possible that I’m agonizing over nothing, and that whether or not this works isn’t really dependent on micromanaging my disclosure. I just don’t know.

The last thing that I want to do is to be unable to date other people. The second to last thing that I want to do is to screw everything up royally and hurt the existing or any future relationships. The third to last thing that I want to do is to hurt people unnecessarily. These are all extremely important things, but they do come down pretty much in that order.

I just feel out of my element here. Anything related to dating makes me feel awkward and out of sorts, like I missed a day of class or something when everyone else got this info.