When I was in the Army we had these written manuals for almost everything. They were called SOP’s or Standard Operating Procedures. They are the things that explain how everything runs. Writing an SOP means asking yourself about all kinds of conditions and practices and really defining what you know and what you’ve learned to be the best way to do things. You often revise them, especially if you learn something. And I realized I have an SOP of sorts for dating. I’m not new at this anymore and I’ve worked out a few things for me.
It’s not that I think people would ever need to jump through hoops to date me. It’s that I’ve just asked myself a lot of questions and I have found some answers now. Part of that is being an adult for a while. Part of that is being poly for a while. Part of that is bitter experience and part of it is reading other’s wisdom, talking to people about what works for them, and thinking about things. I’ve published 578 blog posts. I’ve also written 48 drafts that I kept and trashed 3 blogs and made about 10 blog posts private. That in no way makes me an expert on bupkiss, but it does mean I’ve been thinking.
I went to coffee after class today and before my next class with a man who’d originally approached me as a dating potential. For various reasons that won’t be happening, us dating, and we talked about where we are at with our dating people. We accidentally stumbled across a few things I have opinions about, and I talked about how I usually steer clear of this or don’t do that, or like this. He said, after one of them, “you have a lot of rules”. He was smiling, but it wasn’t an observation of a thing he liked.
Generally speaking we as a society don’t like rules. We like people who do the right thing, sure, but organization? Followers? People with lots of rules and standards and practices and a lack of beloved free-flow spontaneity? Ahem. How uptight. I have almost never been complimented on my highly efficient organization, or my ability to make lists and plans and execute and manage projects. Nobody likes the person who sits down before the big project to think of all the contingencies and plan the necessary steps and tools and supplies. If done well, people don’t notice it. If done poorly it chafes.
When I go to a new place I like to research it a little. I usually make a list of the cool sounding stuff and when it’s open and where it is and how much it costs. Then when I’m on vacation we can be at some random diner eating lunch and talk about what we’d like to do next. Maybe we just saw something and we wanna do that, or maybe I know if it’s insanely pricey. Maybe we have no idea and we see if anything on the list sparks an idea. People don’t like list makers. Everyone likes to say they are more free and more fluid and more easy going. (But people usually like benefitting from the list.) I don’t plan every contingency or make a rigid schedule that allows no exploration. I just like organizing resources to make my life easier or more fun or less work.
I suppose I’m doing that a little with dating. If you take that too far then I have a rigid rules opus that flushes away all potential and makes exploring a person and our connection not a thing. Don’t have any standards though, and you’re asking for a world of hurt. If you’re poly, you’re asking for a world of hurting your partners too. There are too many people that matter here to have no standards. If I date 19 year old drug addicted trapese artists with 7 children I’m going to interject a lot of drama into my life and the lives I affect.
I realized I have some thoughts or things that work for me.
- I don’t date/fuck/play in interconnected systems much because that doesn’t work for me. I’m not saying I’d never say die, but it’d be less likely. I don’t want to date 2 people Quinky Girl dates and sleep with the same 4 people Traveler did and be part of a system where everyone is with everyone. There is a large poly group here in Seattle called the NSPP, and it’s so huge there are all kinds of people in it. I have no blanket thing against dating a Nispee, as we call ourselves. I just don’t want to date in the interconnected circles where everyone dates and socializes in the same little pool and everything is incestuous. It’s not my style. It’s not a bad style, but it’s not mine. For the same reason Traveler and I told each other we wouldnt’ likely date or play in the burning man circles here. There are thousands of “burners” and I dated one of them and slept briefly with another one of them. They were not especially hooked up in the casual sexual circles of burners though. It was part of their appeal.
- I don’t date new people a zillion times a week at first, especially if we are all groovy and crazy about each other and wanna be together all the time. People don’t make good choices when they are in New Relationship Energy, otherwise known as NRE or infatuation. It’s just science. In the rush of oxytocin we don’t see people clearly and we have little lovey blinders on. Seeing a new person excessive amounts is flirting with this disaster, scientifically speaking. It increases a person’s tendency to fall too fast into things that aren’t a good idea. It’s wiser to get to know people slowly. Generally I’d see a new person maybe once a week. Exceptions of course exist and it’s not a rule set in stone. But it is a good Standard Operating Procedure. For me.
- I don’t make huge decisions about relationship stuff in the first while.. maybe 9-12 months? See the reasons above.
- I don’t fluid bond quickly or easily. I don’t share body fluids with someone I’ve known for a few months. I don’t know them well enough yet to trust my life, much less my partners lives to know that they’d be honest with me about risk if any came up. Truth is it’s ALWAYS a risk because people lie about sex. People in deep and powerful connections have lied. You can’t ever be sure, but you sure as fuck can’t be sure of people who haven’t been in the thick and thin with me and that I don’t actually know, no matter how much I feel like I know them. So I try to use some caution. I also take some risk. We all make these decisions for ourselves and hopefully with our partners.
- I don’t date people and really don’t invest in people who are in Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It’s just often a losing proposition. If a person’s partner is actually okay with a way of doing things it’s not a secret. Most Don’t Ask Don’t Tells blow up because they create distance and secrecy and increase fear. Usually it comes to a head when somebody decides they wanna know anyway (or can no longer ignore the truth) and then have to face the thing they were avoiding facing by being in a DADT situation. Breakups ensue because they really aren’t okay. Gigantic Drama.
- Same thing with rigid primary/secondary systems. If people are into honoring their existing relationships and treating their existing partners well and preferencing the people that have been there in thick and thin, I can get behind that for a while. I love and honor committments. You’d be a dummy to make a person you’ve known 20 years have equal consideration in absolutely everything to the person you’ve known 6 weeks. What the fuck? BUT… if a person is in such an insecure thing that the couple has to be all protective from the interlopers they say they wanna date, that’s a problem. If I have to hold one person down forever so another person feels okay that’s gonna be a problem. I’d fuck a person like that if they had fun interests. I’d be friends. But I wouldn’t date date a person in that situation.
- I like a certain amount of contact with people I’m dating. It’s not a set in stone thing, but I’d expect answers to calls or texts or whatever in a somewhat timely manner. If it takes someone weeks to answer my text then they dont’ feel to me like they’re that into me. I just don’t want to date someone with that poor of an ability to manage time or who is *that* busy or who doesn’t care to answer contact in a day or so without good reason.
- I sure as shit don’t date someone who disappears for like.. 6 months and then resurfaces with no explanation at all. They don’t even necessarily have to tell me what happened, but they could say.. “Hey.. we were talking about meeting and I dropped off of the face of the planet because I had a personal crisis, family thing I had to handle, whatever, and I wasn’t able to maintain contact. Would you be interested in chatting a bit again and seeing if we might want to meet?”. Sure. 🙂
- I don’t date people who want me to fill a gap. If your wife has a boyfriend and you decided you need a girlfriend now and I’d fit your new “girlfriend-one each” requirement, forget it. If you are open to dating for whatever reason and I personally strike your fancy though? Lovely.
- I don’t seriously date people who are avid daters. There is nothing wrong with being a slut and I like sluts to a point, but some people are more suited than others to dating someone who has their head on a constant swivel. I know my limitations. If I need to worry about having gone to the bathroom too long because my date will have new love and sex interests every 5 minutes, that’d be something I’d struggle with. It’s not a problem with them. It’s a limitation with me.
- Obvious things like an unchecked drug addiction, violent streak, disrespect of women, whatever, are of course also out.
- I am a communicator. I need to date people who can talk. I am weirdly and oddly attracted to introverts, despite the fact that I test over the side of extroversion. I think it’s because I have really strong introvert tendencies on some things. I can wait. I have learned to understand my introvert partner’s needs and am sensitive to them, but my partners just have to be able to talk to some degree. Traveler is an introvert for sure, but he’s able to talk really openly about his feelings when I give him the space. He’s learned to talk a little more and I’ve learned to get a little of what I need not from talking. He took a long time to really open up to me about stuff like what he’s afraid of and what he wants and needs and cares about and such, but he was able to go there. He’s a good communicator most of the time. It’s important.
- I am a very sexual person and anyone who dates me has to be cool with that, and it’s preferred that they are really sexual too. I do have a high drive, but it’s more than that. I’m used to partners having a lower drive than me. It’s more that sex is an open thing for me. I couldn’t date someone who couldn’t talk to me about their passions or couldn’t explore with me or have our own kinds of adventures. There are always things I like or they like that we don’t share. I have a VERY wide set of interests though and I’m open minded to most things. And if I am a little frisky and they aren’t? Well.. they can tell me. The best situations are where if I really need a release they’ll at least hold me or kiss me while I masturbate. It always bothered me how much my ex made fun of me masturbating. No amount of trying to make that okay with us, to see it as a healthy thing we both did (he totally did too) made it a comfortable thing. I don’t think I’d be willing to invest heavily in a situation like that again.
I don’t know. I think I have a lot more thoughts on this, but this is hugely long now, and well.. a lot of this junk is in other posts. I think it’s useful sometimes to think about your SOP. What’s important to you? What works? What doesn’t? It’s good food for thought.
I had a very fun time talking about an S.O.P. with Traveler. I’d recommend it as a conversation with your partner. It’s a fun one.:)