I am a therapist, freelance writer, community and clinical educator and a Mom who is passionate about good parenting. I will share my thoughts and ideas both personal and professional especially concerning relationships, sex and intimacy, parenting, being a single Mom as well as social concerns.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Help! I’m have started dating and I don’t know
how much to disclose (early on especially)...
You believe in honesty. You want the
men in your dating life to be honest with you, and you want to be an honest
person as well. So where does honesty stop and become too much information? My
clients and friends who are actively dating often ask, “How much do I share
about my past, my sexual history, my family, my finances or my children on
first dates and early on (in chatting or internet emails)?” You might also be confused about how much to ask him early on in the process.You certainly want to get to know him, as
well as gather some information to help you assess your interest and next
steps. You want to learn enough to begin to form opinions of his mental health,
kindness, his attitude about and respect for women etc.
Along the way you have likely received
lots of messages about all of this etiquette. Yet you still wonder what level of disclosure do you offer and
when, and how does informal information gathering about him work?It can be very confusing.
For instance, you have probably heard
that lies by omission are still lies. So do you wonder if that means you must disclose
your address, where your children go to school,your weight, your sexual history,
your financial statistics, or your favorite sexual position ?- (total red flag by the way, of an inappropriate
early date question. Get out!) But I digress. There is a difference between
talking about your favorite author or the value you place on maintaining a
healthy lifestyle on an early date, versus offering information or answering
questions about your sexual history, how your past relationship ended or your yearly
When you are on that first, third or
even 6th date or “meetup”, you want to be relaxed and offer
information about yourself, and you want to ask information from him – but how
much and what topics are reasonable? Being “too open” too early may have bitten you
before or maybe being too “private” has lead to accusations of being closed off.Then there are the “experts” on dating who
advise women to remain “mysterious”. Advice is often contradictory.
Here are some things I suggest you begin to consider as you
formulate your own dating disclosure approach:
1.There is a difference between full disclosure and open communication.
2.Being cautious about your privacy is
not being dramatic, stingy, or closed off. It is simply self protective and appropriate.
Until you have a very good sense that someone you are getting to know is kind,
safe, emotionally consistent and stable – more information about you is more they
can use to hurt or manipulate you. (Trust me I could fill a book with stories
of just such atrocious behavior). It is
very important especially with internet dating, that you are very cautious about sharing too much
important information about your life.
3.Talking too much or too little is not attractive or useful. There should
be some reasonable level of sharing and talking as well as listening. Chatting
about how passionate you are about travel is an example of great starter
conversation. Talking about how your ex treated you badly is not.
4.Lies of omission are only lies (and therefore unethical) if your omission
is designed and intended to make someone believe something that isn’t true, hide
something they deserve to know (i.e. because they are your partner and you are
hiding an affair), or allow them to have false assumptions so as to manipulate
5.That “mystery” element you may wish to
cultivate isn’t about hiding, it’s about letting someone learn more about you
over time, and according to how well the relationship is progressing. It isn’t about
acting aloof - it is about having that
air of self composure that suggests you are a deep person worth getting to know
6.The first few dates should be about
getting a sense of how the two of you relate, keeping it a bit on the light
side and having fun. You are not closed off but you are also not telling your life story to someone you
7.Our level of personal disclosure
should be consistent with how well you know someone, and how well they
respect your boundaries. For instance, it
is appropriate to disclose you have herpes before you have sex with him, but it
isn’t necessary to disclose you were sexually abused when you were a child to
someone you only met a month ago.
8.Privacy is not a
lie. What level of personal information about your
current or historical life is appropriate to disclose to a partner of 5 months
is not the same as to someone you have met up with or hooked up with three
9.Too much information too early and too often can get you hurt
(emotionally, financially, physically, and sexually). Take the time to learn
about your new guy as well. Watch for how he behaves, if he shows integrity
and kindness toward you and the world, appropriately reciprocates information
and vulnerabilities. You need to hold
dear certain intimate sensitivities, slow down on the personal data and in
general think about how you are experiencing this connection.
10.Less is better.
Slow is smarter. There is a lot you can talk about
safely even on a first date that still leave the guy feeling like you were
open, relaxed and fun to hang out with. It is easy to fill hours talking and
sharing about yourself (and finding out about him) that don’t leave you
vulnerable or feeling unsafe.You can reveal
values (like caring for animals), interests (like keeping up with global
politics), passions (like music), goals
(like advancing in your career), or hobbies, to fill many dates before you get into deeply
private information or certain details about your history that you would not
want shared with others.
So early dates, starting chat exchanges
via internet dating, and the beginning of new connections should progress
slowly in the area of self disclosure. You should think before telling
something that feels personal. Is it something you would be OK being posted to
your facebook for instance (because it could be). Until you have enough experience
with him, don’t give away your soul, you deepest wounds or your secret and private
life. With regard to safety, don’t give out very many stats either. Someone you barely know does not need to know your birth
date, your address, names and ages of your children or your social security
number! I say this to draw attention to how we all know we shouldn’t give out
our SSN to unknown sources, but the same is true with personal dating disclosure.
It’s worth waiting and having boundaries
rather than regretting later that you have ended with someone and now he has so
much on you that you feel vulnerable. Also, listen well in those first many encounters.
If there is something “off” about him, it will often show up if you have your
limits, watch to see how well they are respected andkeep listening to him for clues about who he
is and how he behaves.
Disclaimer: this is written by specific request for heterosexual women dating men. I have no intention of leaving out gay or transgendered relationships in my articles.