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.