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How Dating Works?

I've sometimes been pretty amazed at how different people's dating experiences are; it seems there's a maze of different protocols that people are using, and when those don't match up between two people, disappointment ensues. I expect this will not be super relevant to any of my readers, given that we are not in the same city; some of you were people I wanted to date at some point, but at least as of right now it's most likely that if I ever date again it'll be with someone new. My protocols:

This is a finite state machine.

  • CONTACT: First meet someone new. Determine there to be a physical and intellectual attraction.
    • If both are available, either proceed to PROPER_DATE or enter LIMBO
    • If one or both are unavailable, enter BLOCKED
    • If there is no attraction, enter FRIEND or enter BREAK_CONTACT
  • BLOCKED: maintain, as best possible, a friendship. Possibly admit attraction.
    • Foreach blocking relationship(s) unless each such relationship is pretty shitty, remain in BLOCKED. If each is pretty shitty (on its own terms, not in competitive terms), enter DEGRADE
    • If attraction grows too high, enter BREAK_CONTACT
    • If attraction ends, enter BREAK_CONTACT or FRIEND
  • DEGRADE: Degrade existing poor relationship until it fails
    • If it fails, enter either LIMBO or PROPER_DATE
    • If it does not fail, remain in DEGRADE
    • If it recovers, enter BLOCKED or possibly BREAK_CONTACT
  • LIMBO: Remain here until both sides have expressed some attraction or things change
    • If both sides express attraction, enter PROPER_DATE
    • If one person dates someone else, enter BREAK_CONTACT or (rarely) enter FRIEND
  • FRIEND: This is likely an end state. Normal, proper friendship that may have elements of attraction but neither any insult to the person still stinging nor any likely motion. In very rare circumstances this may lead to LIMBO or PROPER_DATE
  • BREAK_CONTACT: This is likely an end state. Things have become too complicated and/or injurious for anything else. Under rare circumstances this may lead to FRIEND or PROPER_DATE
  • PROPER_DATE: A series of 1-3 dates with increasing physicality, emotional sharing, etc.
    • If dealbreakers come up, enter FRIEND or BREAK_CONTACT
    • If the other person decides to enter DATING with someone else, enter BREAK_CONTACT (or in rare circumstances, LIMBO)
    • If things go well, enter DATING
  • DATING: Giving a relationship a go. Monogamous.
    • If things keep going well for a few months, enter LIVING_TOGETHER
    • If things fall apart, enter BREAK_CONTACT
    • If other person cheats, enter PERSONA_NON_GRATA
  • PERSONA_NON_GRATA: This is an end state. No contact ever again. Spread the word to everyone that other person is untrustworthy.
  • LIVING_TOGETHER: Giving a very serious relationship a go. This is possibly an end state.
    • If things fall apart, enter BREAK_CONTACT
    • If other person cheats, enter PERSONA_NON_GRATA

This is clicky. If however you're viewing it is cutting off part of it, click.

In general, I expect that feeling DEGRADE state to be cautiously entered; if someone is very unhappy in a relationship, it might be interesting to gingerly approach the topic, but it should not be entered into when the relationship likely ha a chance to regain health on its own. It should also not involve cheating. The relationship dynamic is such that each person claims the other's affections as their "turf", and they will defend that turf if they can. It is improper to pry at a healthy relationship, and one would also expect that prying to be rebuffed (and if continued, ties would be cut with the person challenging the relationship). DEGRADE is intended to hasten the demise of a blocking relationship that would fail anyhow.

Vendettas and/or structural hatred are also likely in relationships between prospective partners of the same person. Avoiding actual cheating is one way to avoid the extreme of a vendetta, among good-natured people, although structural hatred is still very possible in some of the states reachable in extensions of this diagram to three or more people.

There are other state diagrams possible, of course. This one is also somewhat simplified in that I am at least theoretically open to the possibility of short-term or non-serious relationships, but I have very little experience with them and am not sure they would work for me. It also doesn't account very much for these relationship types in others; chances are I would treat them as not being relationships at all (unless rebuffed). The same kind-of goes for poly relationships; by default if I were to be interested in someone who was in a polyweb, I would probably try to break them out of the polyweb, and if they were interested in me enough presumably they'd do so, otherwise I would expect to be rebuffed. On the outer edges of possibility I could see myself in a polyweb for a limited period of time, e.g. if I were not ready for a relationship for some reason, but in general I do not treat poly relationships with the same kind of respect that I do monogamous relationships and would only likely refrain from attempting to break someone I'm interested out of them if rebuffed, not through my own internal general respect for relationships. Of course, if I could not convince them towards monogamy, that would be effectively a dealbreaker.

In any case, this is at least a reasonable simplification of how I see romantic status.