>How soon does one tell a prospective love interest that you are a conspiracy theorist? I did a little too soon, with dire consequences.
K.A. / Jamaica Plain
Why are you willing to date someone who isn’t a conspiracy theorist? Because that’s where your answer lies.
You don’t need to find the perfect time to tell your non-conspiracy-theory-holding potential love interest that you’re a conspiracy theorist. You need to find someone who doesn’t especially care in the first place.
One of the dilemmas of dating is the question of when and how to disclose Potential Deal Breakers to a partner or prospect. Some PDBs need to be shared upfront, of course — an existing relationship, an extensive criminal record, a history of herpes. If being with you might compromise another person’s health or morals, disclosure is an ethical matter.
Potentially deal-breaking beliefs are different. For one thing, everyone has them. In a country as diverse and fanatical as the United States, I submit that all of us believe at least one thing that would render us totally unfit for even Facebook friendship with a large plurality of the population. You may feel “out there” as a conspiracy theorist, but trust me, you aren’t.
Which brings me back to my initial point: Why aren’t you looking exclusively within the community of conspiracy theorists for romance in the first place? If the Internet has done nothing else, it has made it unprecedentedly easy for people with offbeat notions to find each other. The fact that you’re open to dating outside the fold — not to mention the whole “willing to write to the mainstream media for advice” thing — suggests that your conspiracy beliefs exist in a kind of psychological silo. They might matter in your relationship to the world at large, but not necessarily in your relationship to other individuals.
Learn to tune in to that vibe in others, especially those with whom you’d like to conspire in that special candlelit way. Some people see politics (or religion or economics or science) as impersonal and vain, irrelevant between friends, lovers, family. Other people find these abstract ideas to be fundamental to their self and values and could never choose a life partner with whom they disagreed on the basic nature of reality. Some folks couldn’t imagine dating a creationist — or not dating one. Others couldn’t imagine . . . well, how to end this example without making a terribly tasteless joke about the big bang?
Anyway, rather than laying your beliefs directly on the line, float some trial balloons in the general territory of relationships versus ideology. Ask a (potential) date whether there were any disagreements in his or her family during the election. Was there Facebook drama? Talk about your cousin who refused to date a perfectly nice girl because she was a Yankees fan, and what does this person think of that? Suss out whether your prospect keeps ideas and relationships separate or whether compatibility on certain questions is a requirement for intimacy.
Once you’ve gathered your intel, you can proceed accordingly. And good luck!
Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.