Monday, February 28, 2011

Things to tell eventually

Sooner or later, the I’ll-do-anything-you-like-to-do phase has to stop; not only is it boring, but it’s also not entirely honest. After all, you must have some likes and dislikes. They’re what make you the person you are, and jettisoning them all in the interest of harmony is a short-sighted perspective. At this point (I’m talking date three or four, max), you want to be honest about who you are and what you enjoy doing. This information is not first tier — it doesn’t need to be understood as the bedrock facts of the relationship on date one — but it is important enough to be risked even if the result is mild turbulence; otherwise, you run the risk of being trapped by your pretenses. If you can’t keep up the ruse forever (and you can’t), it’s best not to keep it up at all. But realistically, at the beginning of a dating experience, we all resonate a bit; we want to be liked and likable and agreeable, and so we soften our own preferences because we want the relationship to endure. But sooner or later, the real you has to come out, and the sooner the better. After all, you want as few unpleasant surprises as possible.
Almost everyone has strong feelings about something. See if I push any of your love or loathe buttons with the following:
  • Aerobics
  • Football
  • Ballet
  • Bullfighting
  • Boxing
  • Sky diving
  • Types of food (Chinese, Mexican, French, and so on)
  • White-water rafting
  • Your date’s
• Perfume or aftershave
• Temper
• Drinking
• Sense of humor
• Socks
Note: As you get seemingly closer to the loath side of the list, it becomes even more important to temper your firm opinions with gentleness.
As you share your likes and dislikes in the name of honesty, be gentle. Telling
someone you’re not crazy about football may be jarring to a die-hard fan, but
you need to be especially careful about mouthing off about your date’s

  • Best friend
  • Parents
  • Dog
  • Hair color
  • Haircut
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Religion

Things to tell immediately

If there’s something about you that you think can affect any long-term prospects and that more than two people know, you may as well ’fess up on the first few dates — especially if you feel that it may blow things. You can try to create an environment that makes sense, but keeping that big of a secret from the get-go adds pressure and nervousness at a pressurized time. If you’d tell a same-sex potential friend, tell your date. If your date is cool about it, you’re relaxed. If not, at least you haven’t invested much already. Information that more than two people have isn’t a secret. If your date is likely to find out sooner to later, you may as well tell sooner rather than jeopardize the relationship once it progresses and the additional factor of trust is introduced (as in, “If you’d lie about this, what else haven’t you told me?”). Any long-term relationship is based on trust. If you can’t trust someone, you can’t love that someone, so don’t start off hiding important facts. The list of things you definitely must share includes most of the biggies in life. You should share this information by the third or fourth date. Any earlier is unnecessarily brutal; after all, if you really don’t fancy one another, why parade the skeletons from your closet? Any later is viewed as a breach of trust (plus, not having shared can get you in more trouble than any upset that telling may now create).
  • Previous marriages: How many times you’ve been married, how long you were married, and how long you’ve been apart. But don’t go into too much detail. See the later section “Keeping Mum.” Notice that you should confess previous marriages, not whether you’re married or separated or in the process of divorce. The reason? If you are married or separated or in the process of a divorce, you have no business dating at all — not until one full year after the divorce is final. I’m not kidding here. If you fit into one of these three categories, you can hang out with friends, work out, paint your house, become a temporary workaholic, take courses, volunteer — but you can’t date.
  • Previous convictions and parole violations: What crime you were convicted of and how long you were in prison. (I’m sorta kidding here, but stuff happens.)
  • Previous bankruptcies: How long ago you filed for bankruptcy and why.
  • Previous kids: How many, how old, whether they live with you, and if they don’t, how often you see them.
  • Previous sex change operations: What can I say? When should you share this information? You don’t necessarily have to share it when you first lay eyes on one another, but before the end of the third date at latest. Confessions of any kind — even “I think you’re swell” — need to be seen and heard in context. The best rule for when to tell is when you’d want to know if you were the one about to hear what you have to say.

Volunteering Information

What information you share — and when — depends on who you are and your level of comfort with openness and who your date is. If your date is open and friendly and accepting, you most likely feel comfortable sharing more. If you’re dating someone reserved, you’re likely a bit less forthcoming. This is called mirroring and survival and common sense. Some people are quite comfortable sharing some parts of their lives and less comfortable sharing other parts. What you’re trying to accomplish early on is compatibility — a good fit. So volunteer what you’re comfortable having most people know about you. The rest you can slowly divulge as the relationship progresses; in other words, you don’t have to produce an autobiography, complete with a slew of your opinions — or your most awful secret or family scandal — all in the first couple of dates. Most people who date have a mini-scenario worked out in their heads of what they want someone to know about them. You, too, can create a mini-script —what you’d tell someone on a long airplane trip, for example, or someone at a party is a place to start:
  • Include a little bit about your factual life: You know — things likewhere you’re from, where you went to school, how many brothers and sisters you have, what hobbies you like, what kind of work you do, and how you spend your free time. In other words, this script can more or less include the stuff you’d put in a personal ad if you had unlimited space and money. (In a way, the early days of dating are a personal ad — you share who you are and what you want — with the advantage being that your date gets to respond immediately, without writing to a post office box.) Age and weight are optional.
  • Share feelings: Worries, music groups that you like, whether you’re a baseball, opera, or chocolate fan, and how the weather is affecting you.
  • Keep the script positive and realistic: Your comments shouldn’t be too negative or make you sound like the best thing since sliced bread. Selfeffacement works only for Woody Allen, and a braggart isn’t much fun to be around.
When you share information, keep the following in mind:
  • As the two of you get to know each other, remember that you really don’t know each other. If the date doesn’t turn out well, this person is going to have all the information you’re now blabbing.
  • Make sure that you’re not using information as a way to bind someone to you too soon and too tightly. This tactic usually doesn’t work anyway, and you’ll hate yourself in the morning for telling someone you don’t plan to see again that your family’s completely dysfunctional and you’ve been in therapy since third grade.
  • Exchanging information is like dancing — you have to move together, or it doesn’t work very well at all. Some people are comfortable volunteering
some things; others are comfortable volunteering other information. Just because you describe the house you grew up in doesn’t mean that your date has to blueprint his family homestead. The key is to make sure that you’re not doing all the talking or all the listening. Once the two of you really get to know each other and have moved from first date to first month to first year, the ratio of what you don’t talk about to what you do does — and should — shift dramatically. After all, you don’t want to not tell anything that, after being found out, will shake the pillars of your relationship. But too much too soon is without a context for understanding.